Sunday, June 28, 2009


In case you hadn't noticed, Michael Jackson is no longer on the planet. This bothers me not at all. I'm sure his immediate family is much saddened by the event but that is their business and certainly none of mine. I thought his music was dreadful (especially those damned squeaks) and his dancing entertained me not at all. I thought he was a talented dancer (certainly a lot, no an awful lot, better than I could ever be) but it did nothing for me. As an aside I also find a vast majority of the MJ jokes doing the rounds on the blogs very amusing. In exceedingly poor taste for the most but, despite (because of) that, very amusing.

I expressed these views on the fishing website I waste far too much time on and from even there I got set upon by those who obviously thought that he was the best thing since lace up shoes. Their opinion and not one I agree with. Doesn't matter to me what they think of anything (including me) and it would be nice if they reciprocated. But no, they would have me fall in line with their view of the world come hell or high water. I find this very strange. Be evangelical, if you must, about about something that matters - Aston Martin, Earl Grey tea - but Michael Jackson? To my mind a talented nut ball who appealed to enough people world wide to sell 750,000,000 albums. That is quite a lot. This is a number that will almost certainly never be surpassed as the music buying habits of the world have changed forever with the advent of the iTunes Store (which I frequent on a weekly basis), other downloading emporiums and, probably more so, the online theft sites. So an awful lot of people thought he was great. Some thought he was a genius. But not me. So what?

He changed the face of popular music? Probably. By himself? Of course not. Most of the change was wrought by the expansion of his ideas by people in the industry who could see an awful lot of money in it. Moonwalking would have stayed behind closed doors if it hadn't been relentlessly pushed by record companies. And that's fine. That is how the world goes around. Has MJ changed the popular music industry for the better? An impossible question to answer as it is all a matter of taste. I think not. You may think otherwise. Justin Marshall changed the way of playing halfback for the All Blacks. For the better? Same, and I think not.

Amongst other things I have been accused of by my piscatorial virtual mates is a complete lack of taste. I was even accused of liking nothing except country music. There are some extraordinary concepts in those statements. I do not think taste is a thing you can lack. You may have what I think is bad taste or good taste but you can't have none. My taste is just that; mine. The arguments as to why it should or, more correctly, should not coincide with anyone else's are too banal to even bother with. So I won't. The concept of country music being only a gnat's whisker above nothing is amazing. It is insulting to anyone who actually does only like country music; but since when did a well placed insult go amiss? Just to demonstrate that I do have eclectic musical tastes it amused me to look at the items I have given a '5 Star' rating to in my iTunes library.

There are songs by the following artists who are arranged in alphabetical order:

Aimee Mann, Al Stewart, Alanis Morissette, Allman Brothers Band, The Animals, Arcade Fire, The Astronauts, The Belairs, Bic Runga, Billy Idol, Blondie, Blur, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Tyler, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Boz Scaggs, Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music, Carol King, The Cars, The Chantays, Cheap Trick, Chet Atkins, Chris de Burgh, Chris Rea, Coldplay, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Cream. Cyndie Lauper, David Bowie, David Grey, Derek and the Dominoes, Dick Dale, Dire Straits, Dixie Chicks, Don Henly, Don McLean, Doobie Brothers, The Doors, The Duo Tones, Dusty Springfield, The Eagles, Edwyn Collins, Electric Light Orchestra, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Enya, Eric Clapton, Fairport Convention, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Georgie Flame & The Blue Flames, Hayseed Dixie, Heart, The Honeycombs, Hot Club of Cowtown, Huey Lewis & The News, INXS, JJ Cale, Jack Johnson, Jackson Browne, Jason Mraz, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Buffett, Joan Armatrading, Joe Cocker, Johnny & The Hurricanes, Karine Polwart, Katy Melua, Keane, Kim Carnes, The Kinks, Kirsty MacColl, KT Tunstall, Led Zeppelin, Leon Russell, Linda Ronstadt, Liza MInelli, Lou Reed, Lynyrd Skynyrd, M People, Madness, The Mavericks, Meat Loaf, Men at Work, Metallica, The Moody Blues, Norah Jones,Paul Simon, Pet Shop Boys, Phil Collins, Pink Floyd, The Pogues, The Pointer Sisters, The Police, Polly Paulusma, The Pretenders, Queen, R.E.M, Rachel Fuller, Robbie Williams, Roberta Flack, The Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, Sandi Thom, Scissor Sisters, Shania Twain, Sinead O'Connor, Sparks, Split Enz, Steppenwolf, Sting, Supertramp, Then Jericho, U2, Ultravox, Van Halen, Warren Zevon, The Who, Will Sargisson and ZZ Top.

You will see from this that I do like some Country Music but certainly not all and certainly not exclusively. Likewise most other genres. I double checked to to make sure there was no MJ there (wouldn't that be embarrassing?) and there isn't - even when I scan the complete iTunes 'Library'

Surely this is what personal taste is all about. I am very glad that my '5 star' list is so varied. My life would be so dull if I thought along the lines that it should be entirely populated by Kirsty MacColl. I am also glad it is my list and no one can take it from me and make me have theirs.

And I won't do that to you. Promise.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


When I killed 'Granny Herald' and moved to this Blog the idea was that I would expand my musings to more completely reflect what I was up to and not just use it as a vehicle to vent my spleen on the Labour Government, idiocy, climate change bollocks etc. etc.

During the summer I managed to chronicle my fishing (not very good, was it?) and since we mercifully booted the last government into touch I have switched away from politics a lot. NZ politics is going through a period where it bores me. We don't have much of it as we have moved to a more business model of running the country and the current mob have eschewed all the hideous ideology and social engineering that had me tearing my hair out for the last nine years. This suits my ideas of how things should be done. I have taken the opportunity to write about jeans and the weather but we need something new - and some pictures.

So perhaps the time is right to do what I intended to do a couple of years back and expand these scribblings to new places. I'll start off with a tour of my playpen.

When we moved to the country eighteen months ago I inherited the mother of all barns. It has storage space for Africa (I mean you could put a couple of small African countries in it). It also has a mezzanine floor. I planned it that I would break the vast space into five distinct areas - implement storage, general storage, general workshop, metal working area and game lure manufacturing and sales. Having done all that there is still space to restore a 30 foot boat should I decide to do that. Or maybe three or four old Jaguars. Or maybe.......

Right,oh. This is what I need to keep the property spick and span

Couldn't do without a quad and it's yard trailer which I forgot to take picture of.A 250cc two wheel drive Honda - plenty for what I require. Also in this picture there are, from left, a 50 litre spray unit powered from the quad, an Echo chainsaw with a 16" bar, a Stihl 2 stroke hedge trimmer, a Stihl electric power washer, a Stihl weed eater, a 6hp four stroke Honda powered 30" self propelled mower (bought second hand from South Head Golf Club) a Hansa chipper also with a 6hp Honda motor, an old 18"mower (which I don't use) and assorted hand tools. The Hansa is that green thing and can take branches as thick as your(well, my) forearm - marvelous fun. The majority of the mowing is not done by any of that lot but by a 2.4 meter three rotor Fieldmaster park mower towed behind a 42HP Shibaura tractor. However they live in a different shed and ca have a separate post all to themselves later.

We need an area to store a fishing rod or two.

Two Shimano Tiagra 80Ws, four 50Ws, a 16 and a TLD25 and then assorted other bits and pieces. This includes a couple of Abu 7000s which are date stamped 1978. A testament to Swedish engineering that they still function faultlessly.

Now on to the general workshop bit. Nothing special here but I like things to be neat and tidy.

Lets pop upstairs to the gamefishing lure department. This is the Legend Lures headquarters for the Southern Hemisphere. First we have the heads and a few of the bins of skirts. Stock of heads a little low at the moment and I trust this will be remedied in the next couple of weeks

At the other end of the mezzanine is the assembly/rigging area with all the bits and pieces needed for that. Stools are to ensure that customers are all nice and comfy whilst they decide how many more lures they need to purchase - all heart, me.

Back downstairs to the latest area. I have recently rekindled an interest in metal work and machining. This was extinguished in 1966 when I was told at school that in order to enter Medical School I had to take Latin. As I was fifteen I believed them and swapped the micrometer for Caesar's Gallic Wars Book 2. Idiots. I no more needed Latin to enter medical school than I needed a firm grasp of the history of music. Anyway after a brief hiatus I have taken up where I left off 43 years ago.

From right we have a 4X6 bandsaw (I'm too bloody old and lazy to be sawing 2" steel rod by hand), A Ryobi variable speed drill press with a 13mm MT2 chuck and then my pride and joy, a Myford ML7 lathe.

This is the same age as me; we were both made in 1951. It cost me the same as a brand new Chinese 'mini lathe' would have done. Compared to the product from Beeston, the Far Eastern efforts are toys. The Myford is a delight to behold and built like a proper machine tool should be. Good grief we built an Empire with stuff like this. The plastic bins on the wall are filled with all sorts of stuff that you need to assemble around you for this nonsense - measuring devices of all varieties, change gear wheels, spare chucks, tool bits, spare tool posts and on and on. There is also a rapidly increasing library of manuals, reference tables, conversion charts, spanner sizes, thread characteristics etc. I ain't going to learn this in five minutes and I've already lost 43 years.

What am I going to make with this? Dunno, but that's not really the point. Most people seem to make tools. This is very strange. I've started making some aluminium marlin lures but there are many basic and not so basic techniques that have to be mastered before you can make anything.

I cut a piece of rod to diameter and threaded it to fit a nut on Sunday - because golf was cancelled

Monday, June 22, 2009

I'm cold

Shortest day yesterday and so the summer solstice is mercifully just around the corner; well not really but you have to look on the bright side, don't you? However my current concern is the winter branch of the Solstice family. It is bloody cold at the moment even in the North Island. And we are talking the proper North Island now and not silly places like Waiouru or Taihape which might as well be parked in Central Otago for the daft weather they go in for.

I live half an hour North of Auckland, the first wee step towards the 'winterless north', for a reason. I want, nay expect, an almost winterless existence. And I am currently being short changed. Off to the Trades Description wallah as soon as I finish in the fields. This current cold 'snap' has to be stopped. I mean golf was cancelled yesterday due to a frost delay. Our display of red hot pokers around the pond are a display of frost savaged sticks with nary a glimmer of redness to be seen anywhere. The bougainvillea outside the kitchen might survive but who can tell until about October. The avocado tree looks like it is going to go avocados up despite my religiously putting its frost cloth overcoat on at 1600 hours every afternoon. It is not good enough. Where's anthropogenic global warming when you need it? My arse. I'm just waiting for the band of tofu munching weird beards to explain this lot away as being due to my selection of motorised transport.

I sit in complete bewilderment at those who go into raptures over cold weather. 'Look at the glorious winter days we are getting' they purr. Idiots; it's bloody cold. At noon we get a 'glorious' winter's sunny day with the glass hitting 12 Celsius. That's not glorious its daft. At two in the afternoon the frost under the trees still hasn't got past the wet grass stage of evaporation. The sun sinks over the hill and the bloody ice crystals started getting up to flying speed about thirty seconds later. Glorious weather - crap. It is horrible.

But look at all the fun things you can do in the really cold weather. What for instance? Stay out of doors and die of hypothermia. More fun than a barrel of monkeys. Go for a bracing walk in the countryside. I live in the countryside and I even consider driving to the front gate to collect the paper at the moment. Chop wood for the fire. Well if there wasn't winter you wouldn't have to, would you? And Mr Novagas looks after me in that direction. Go ice skating. Presumably like on the Christmas cards with a striped scarf streaming out behind you as you glide effortlessly across a frozen pond - seconds before you fall through a thin bit to die. If you want to get to the other side of a pond walk round the edge as you would in summer. Go ice fishing. Now this is seriously stupid. Fishing is done aboard 43 foot game boats wearing shorts and tee shirts hunting down fish that can grow to half a ton not sitting on a camp stool dressed like the Michelin man hoping fish that are measured in beasts per pound can be coaxed through your hole in the ice. Oh, and you might die whilst doing this because sitting still for protracted periods in cold weather leads to you dying from hypothermia. I read it in a book. Go for a drive. More death - black ice and the such. That is if your car will start because it also hates the cold.

Skiing. Ah yes, skiing. The single most stupid way of spending time ever invented. You spend a shed load of cash to buy really expensive and awful looking clothes and other skiing paraphernalia. You then either fly somewhere at air fares double what they would be in February or kill yourself driving there 'cos the roads are death traps courtesy of ice - black or any other shade you care to mention. You arrive at your destination and get drunk. This appears to be mandatory. And you do this by drinking stuff you wouldn't clean the drains with; all awash with cloves (eh?) and the like. Wake up with a splitting head and repair to the piste (a different sort from last night). Pay more of the dwindling pile of cash to be dragged up to the top of a hill by piece of civil engineering imported from Switzerland that if it breaks will kill you. You then try to get to the bottom of the same hill on your skis/board/bum with out breaking any bones, getting wet, cold or sunburnt. It is not possible to reach your starting altitude without ticking at least three of the above boxes. Pay more money to get on the Swiss death trap one more time and repeat until it gets dark at about 1600 hours when you should be putting frost cloth on the avocados not messing about trying to kill yourself up a mountain. Then you go and get drunk again. Do this for as many days as your money lasts and go home to tell everyone what a wonderful time you had. Terrific.

I think I'll stay at home, indoors, spending my dosh on LPG and sticking matchsticks under my fingernails. Winter sucks big time and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Monday, June 15, 2009


The single most useful addition to the fashion panoply of fame in the history of the universe is the mighty pair of jeans. Supplanting doublets, frock coats, lederhosen (especially lederhosen), dinner jackets, woolly jumpers and even tee shirts the denim jean reigns supreme. In the seventies I thought a pair of Stubbies came close but how naff do they look 11% of the way through the twenty first century? Jeans are the business; they were decades ago and they still are now. I would wear a pair of jeans as my only form of trousering for everything if I could. Dress codes on golf courses and at work dictate that I can't. Well they are daft but the work bit can be fudged at the weekends. Restaurants that don't allow jeans don't get my custom - up themselves plonkers.

I bought my first pair of jeans in 1967, I think. I know I bought them from Lichtenfields in Kingston upon Thames (opposite Bentalls where Eric Clapton and I used to buy our records); a gentlemen's outfitters that has long since bitten the dust. I would like to think there was considerable parental opposition to such a radical purchase but I don't think I was given that rebellious satisfaction. In 1967 I bought a pair of Levis 501s; I have never bought anything else. When the Dave Clark Five were the popular music ensemble of the moment the only choice one had in the jeans department was Levis or Wranglers. Ford or Holden. Shimano or Penn. Levis for me.

It used to be the only choosing you had to do. Walk into a shop and say 'A pair of Levis, please', part with the cash and walk out with the dark blue vestments. Then it started getting a bit harder. Lee Cooper, Lee and other Johnny Come Latelys arrived. No problem. 'A pair of Levis, please', part with the cash......... Then it got really hard when Levis came out with different models. 504, 604, (the 604 was a trolley bus when The Dave Clark Five were in their pomp) 735 or something. These numbers represented different styles. There's baggy, tight (and I mean have them sewn onto your legs tight) even, I think, flared. A temporary hiccough in the jean buying habits but as soon as you grasped the fact that real jeans with straight legs and button flies were called Levis 501s you were right. So it became 'A pair of Levis 501s please', part with the cash........

Jeans are comfy; there is no other sort of trousering that is even worth considering for a long plane journey (except perhaps track suit bottoms but pullease). Jeans are hard wearing. I've never taken a pair of mine to Magdeburg and tried to pull them apart with teams of horses but they are, in my experience, indestructible until they finally fall apart. In fact this has never happened to me as I have never been patient enough to wait the fifteen years of daily use until this happens. Jeans look good. I change mine after three or four years when they start to look a bit tatty. Now here is the problem. My idea of tatty does not, apparently, coincide with Levi Strauss's idea of tatty.

Tatty for me is when they bottom hem starts fraying because you've been intermittently walking on it for a couple of years. Tatty is when they fade so much and selectively that the front of the thighs is a different colour and you can see the outline of your wallet in your left hand pocket even when your wallet is on the kitchen table. Tatty is when the tops of the pockets start fraying.

Now I knew that the youth of today (vide supra Lichtenfields circa 1967) thinks all these tattyness indices are desirable and you can now buy jeans that look like this from 'new'. You shell out one hundred and sixty slides for a pair of faded, fraying trousers. If you pay extra you can even buy them with holes in the knees. Well don't you try that sort of bollocks with me.

But they did. I went into 'Just Jeans' yesterday (golf was cancelled for precipitation reasons) a new pair of 501s to purchase. This was a grave error. They weren't playing the Dave Clark Five for openers. The bird selling the trou had more metallurgy on display than a well stocked engineering shop. No matter. 'A pair of Levis 501s please'. I was handed a pair of blotchily faded, frayed replicas. 'No, not these. Real, brand new ones'. 'These are what we sell these days' was the reposte. I could see her just managing to repress the 'Grandad' suffix. Well not to me you don't. I walk out in the highest of high dudgeons.

Sat down in the middle of the mall and looked around for a trouser counsellor. The habits of forty years, a central pillar of my existence shattered by a spotty, pierced slip of a girl. What was I to do? My wife suggested a pragmatic but difficult solution. Buy another brand. No, not possible. I can't go to the dark side. But I did.

New jeans are a pair of Rodd & Gunns. Made in China. Look OK; no look good, but I didn't say that. Sort of comfortable; well very comfortable, but I didn't say that. I am a shattered man, though.

I'm going to Europe in a couple of months. I think I'll drop into Magdeburg and hire a few horses for half an hour.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bag of feijoas - $2, thirty five points - $170

Of course roadside commerce is not a peculiarly New Zealand pastime but it is certainly well developed here. In the summer I will seldom pass the opportunity to pick up a bag of Kerikeri oranges for a few dollars to be placed in the honesty box. And that box is well named as I wouldn't dream of just nicking the fruit.

Last night I decided to branch out in my range of roadside purchases and eschew fruit and veg for some demerit points. I ended up buying more than I would had I been purchasing from a shop but isn't that always the way with impulse buys? This is the first time that seeing the red and blue strobe lights in the rear view mirror has resulted in a purchase, believe it or not. I have been snapped by a stationary speed camera just the once but this is my first purchase from a mobile purveyor of goods. Several years ago a salesman flagged me down but after a discussion on the merits of his van vs my car I decided not to buy; or more correctly he decided not to sell.

Last night a little different. I got a senior salesman (as befitting my station in life) with three stripes on his arm. Very impressive. 72 kph in a 50kph zone. This on a Sunday night when the only other car on the road apart from myself was the salesman's unmarked truck. We had the pleasantries about my car. 'What sort of fuel consumption do you get from this?' and I thought a purchase was unlikely. But when he asked for my drivers license and retired to his office with it a financial transaction in return for product was looking inevitable. He invited me to sit in the Jag whilst he completed the paperwork 'As you will be warmer'. What a considerate salesman. He returned from his office bearing the goods. A meek protestation that I didn't really want the jumbo pack of points was obviously going to be a waste of time so I tamely promised to settle the bill within the required twenty eight days.

'Could I please count to five?' 'I'll do pi to nine decimal places if you like' This, however, had nothing to do with my grasp of mathematics and everything to do with my consumption of the demon drink. We sailed through that and with a cheery (I am entirely serious) 'Enjoy the rest of your evening' the transaction was over.

I had read that most traffic policing in New Zealand has nothing to do with road safety and was just a revenue gathering exercise. I now know this to be true. My getting done for 22kph over the speed limit for a distance of probably fifty metres (and I'm not just saying this, that is the maximum distance it could have been from turning out of a side road to having to slow for a roundabout) contributed to road safety not a jot. I'm not going to argue that a 50kph limit is absurd for most roads; which it is - I'm not even sure my car is capable of being driven so slowly. Have you tried to drive anywhere not going above 50kph? It's virtually impossible. If I drove from Albany to Papakura on suburban streets at or below the legal speed limit I'd have grown a beard by the time I arrived. I'm not really going to whinge about getting a speeding ticket although I would prefer not to have bothered. I mean one per fourteen years is hardly a burden, is it? The thing that struck me, however, is that there is no pretence that this is anything but a business transaction. The customer service skills were all there. Not once did I get any spiel about road safety. The ticket is made out like a bill. There are boxes for 'Offence 1, Offence 2 and Offence 3' with a 'Total' box at the bottom. Just like 'Bread, Milk and Weetbix' as per Woolworths.

I wonder if I can get Airpoints when I pay.