Newcastle

I was in Newcastle for the National Young Writers Festival, part of the This Is Not Art festival. Most of the time I spent doing festival-related things with all the very talented, very good-looking festival attendees.

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But the festival did not exist in a vacuum. It was in Newcastle and Newcastle was undeniably part of the experience.

When I had a few spare hours I’d go walking around the streets, and this is some of what I saw.

The Beach

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I took a walk down to the beach. It was an almost cloudless warm sunny day, with blue, blue sky. A bunch of teenaged surfer boys sat nearby. The smell of tomato sauce on a discarded burger wrapper, a faint aroma of the ocean. Sweat, bodies, swearing and bragging. Cheap men’s deodorant is sprayed on a cheap man. The best thing, this was September.

The City Streets

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Hunter Street is what I think would be called the main drag. It’s a long street that goes into the heart of the city. It’s ideal to drive up and down on a Friday night. Newcastle has had some tough financial times and there are a notable number of “to lease” signs in empty shop windows.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A flier in the festival program pointed out that Newcastle isn’t a bad place to live if you’re a starving artist. Rent is cheap – both housing and work space. It’s possible to be on the dole and not have to spend all your money on food and rent. And the best thing is, Sydney is a mere two hour train ride away. Damn, if I could get the dole in Australia I’d consider moving there.

The Big Donger

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There’s this lookout tower down by the foreshore which I believe is affectionately referred to as the Big Donger. I had a few hours to kill on my last day and was walking around so I took a walk up it. It reminded me of walking up the Amedee lighthouse in New Caledonia, but rather than a view at the top of a tropical island, instead I had a view of Newcastle’s industrial areas. It was also a little unnerving knowing I was standing inside a big donger.

Go The Knights

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The This Is Not Art festival was not the only thing going on in town that weekend. In fact, most of Newcastle only care about one thing: the Newcastle Knights had made it to the NFL grand final, mate.

The city streets were adorned with the Knights’ colours of red and blue. Some businesses just put up a few balloons, others went as red and blue as they could.

I soon realised that Newcastle was the sort of place where a female, such as myself, would get yelled at by walking down King Street on the way back to the hotel. But as it got closer to match time on Sunday evening, the yells changed from, “show us ya tits!” to “go The Knights!”

I’ve lived in a city obsessed with footy before. I’ve been in Hamilton when Waikato won the Ranfurly Shield and one of those mooloo parade things was held, I’ve seen the streets of Hamilton adorned with red, gold and black, but I’ve never seen anything as major as what was going down in Newcastle.

Imagine a small town, that maybe has a bit of an inferiority complex. It’s managed to get to the grand finals and is up against a team from big city that it’s often in the shadow of. Now, multiple that by 100, add some beer, and that’s kind of what it was like in Newcastle. The Knights had won once before in 1997, and the city of Newcastle was expecting them to win again.

Sunday evening was madness. Me and my rad new festival friends were in search of a pub. The local was closed. We eventually found another that was open. There were a few TV sets scattered around the bar and most of the locals were gathered around those and they were getting pretty excited.

We left and went back to the bar at one of the festival venues. We were sitting around talking and I suddenly became aware of the noise of car horns going off. Someone asked, “did Newcastle win?” Oh yes, they won.

Walking down Hunter Street, we were surrounded by drunk revellers clad in blue and red. “GO THE KNIGHTS!” they yelled. “NEWCASTLE!” Cars drove up and down Hunter Street adorned with ribbons, balloons, flags. One even had red and blue headlights.

One of my posse was a little bit annoyed that the Novocastrians were overshadowing the festival. I got a little cynical and yelled out, “go ambivalence!” But ultimately it was pretty fun being surrounded by all the intense revelry.

Getting a taxi back to my hotel, the driver told me that the Knights were a top team. You see, they had got to the grand finals twice and won twice. I didn’t ask about all the times they hadn’t even made it to the grand finals.

Melbourne: Part Two – The Fold-Out Couch

A couple of months ago I decided to move to Melbourne. Whenever I told people I was going there, a conversation like this usually took place:

Robyn: I’m moving to Melbourne.
Person: Really? Have you got a job there.
Robyn: No.
Person: Oh, is it just a holiday?
Robyn: No.
Person: So what are you going to be doing there?
Robyn: I don’t know.
Person: Errrr… [implodes with confusion]

What it really came down to was I was really bored with doing very little in Auckland, so I thought it would be more interesting to be doing very little in Melbourne. So far that’s been proven true.

(Actually, just as a side note, when I say “doing very little”, I am using the literary technique of hyperbole. I don’t literally mean that I am doing very little, indeed there are not enough hours in the day for me to do all that I want to do. But you knew that, right?)

Melbourne is cool but everywhere you go there are reminders that society has a Serious Heroin Problem. Blue lights in toilets to make finding a vein hard, yellow needle disposal boxes when the vein is easy to find. The sign in the restaurant that says they don’t give out the toilet key to junkies. It’s all very urban and gritty, y’know.

Movies are more expensive here. A full price adult ticket in New Zealand is NZ$12.00, but here I have to pay around NZ$17.00, which totally sucks arse. But the good thing is there a quite a few cool independent theatres that play good films and don’t charge a lot. Sweet as.

Actually, I saw two incredibly cool movies that I possibly wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see in New Zealand.

The first was “The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivieres Pourpres),” which I saw the trailer for in New Caledonia. It was so cool. It was a fairly standard psycho killer thriller, but Vincent Cassel was in it, so that obviously elevated it to a new level of cool.

The other film I saw was “Nsync: Bigger Than Live,” which is an IMAX film of Nsync performing live in concert from the “No Strings Attached” tour. I saw this in Sydney, and it excited me. Not many films do that. I never thought I would be, or could be, but I’m really into Nsync now. I’m not sure words can express how much I love Nsync.

Anyway, back to Melbourne. Trams are fun because there are lots of crazy people who take trams. I have all these crazy-people-on-trams observations I’ve been scribbling down. And I want to go to Footscray, which is where “Romper Stomper” was set, but I’m a bit scared (Why? Russell Crowe might give me the bash?).

Right. That’s quite enough from me. Just to summarise: I’m in Melbourne, Nsync rule.

Tram Tales

One of the things I like about Melbourne is the trams. Given that my experience with public transport has been limited to buses (and yay for the Auckland bus driver who said to the guy who pointed out that the light had changed to green, “sit down and shut up”), trams are a wonderful thing.

Melbourne trams are quite fun to ride on. They are quieter than buses, so there are many opportunities to overhear interesting conversations. All the ticket sales are automated, so it’s possible to go for a ride and not buy a ticket, which is why trams seem to be the transport of choice for crazy people.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been stealthfully taking notes of all the interesting stuff that’s happened on trams. So, if you please, here are some tram tales:

The Apartment Building

The tram passed by a building site where a multi-storied apartment building was being constructed. A woman in her forties sitting near me said to her friend, “I’d like to live in one of those for three months – just to see what it would be like. You see, I always say that I’d never live in one of those units, but I don’t know what it would be like, so it would be interesting to live in one, just for three months, to see what it would be like.”

Elvis and Tongue Piercing

Three people sat in the seats next to me. There was a guy who had big sideburns, big hair and a jacket with “Elvis is King” on it. He and his girlfriend sat across from me, and their other friend sat next to me. The girl started talking about how she and Elvis were going to get their tongues pierced. The other guy said, “do you know what it feels like? Here, I’ll show you.” He pulled a pair of pliars out of his bag and gave them to the girl and told her to clamp them on her tongue and pull it out as far as it could go. After a few attempts she managed to do that, and the guy said, “now imagine a needle going through your tongue.” She decided that there was no way she was getting her tongue pierced if it was going to feel like that, but Elvis didn’t seem too bothered by it.

Fellow Kiwi

A crazy Maori lady got on a tram late one night. She saw some other fellow crazy ladies down the other end of the tram and was yelling at them, trying to start a conversation. The other crazy ladies got off at the next stop and the Maori lady yelled at them for leaving. A New Zealand guy sitting near her had picked her as a fellow countryman and said to her, “there are a lot of us here, aren’t there.” She didn’t understand what he meant, so he said, “us Kiwis, there are a lot of us here.” If he was hoping for a conversation about hokey pokey ice cream or the All Blacks he wasn’t going to get it from her. She muttered something about the government, then got off at the next stop.

Da Bomb

Two guys sitting across from me were talking about stuff. One was Australian, the other from Northern Ireland. The tram passed a cheap car hire place called “Rent-a-bomb”. The Irish guy said that until he came to Australia he’d never heard an old car described as a bomb. But then, he said, it probably wouldn’t be too wise to be talking about bombs in Northern Ireland.

Bewigged Booze Hag

A drunk woman in her twenties got on a tram. She was with some crazy old guy who appeared to be her boyfriend. She kept asking for money or cigarettes but no one would give her any. She yelled out, “never wear a wig! It makes your head itch like Hell!” No one paid any attention to her and she got really angry and got off.

Wuv

There was a scruffy-looking girl with a smelly creepy guy who had his arms wrapper around her. He appeared to think that he was her boyfriend, but she wasn’t so sure. He asked her if she wanted to come with him to a pub, but she said she couldn’t go to that suburb because her ex-boyfriend lived there and had said if he ever saw here there he’d kill her. The creepy guy got off, then the girl kept asking people if they could smell something strange.

Ladies Man

A young man got on the tram and saw a group of girls he knew. They said hello to him. Instead of taking one of the many nearby empty seats, he instead stood next to them. They pretty much ignored him while he was standing there and got off a few stops later. He then sat down in the empty seat they’d been in.

Happy Bon Bon

Two trams were stopped near each other. An old lady was on one and her friend was on the other. She spend the next five minutes maniacally waving at her friend. She’d wave, then look around to see if other people on the tram were looking at her, then she’d go back to waving at her friend. She only stopped when her friend’s tram left.

Worse

The restaurant tram passes the tram I’m on in the opposite direction. The woman sitting across from me says to her husband, “I can’t think of anything worse than eating on a tram.” It took all the willpower I had to not ask her if, say, getting smacked in the face would be worse than eating on a tram, because I think for a lot of people it would.

Directions

This old guy tells the tram driver that he wants to go to a suburb that is basically in completely the opposite direction that the tram is going in, and not even on that route. The driver goes to pains to explain this to the old guy, telling him where he needs to get off and what trams he needs to take to get there. The old guy looks thoroughly confused and says, “I’m getting the train there. Do you go to a train station?”

Attempted Racism

There’s a crazy old drunk guy and a few seats away is a group of Asian teenagers who are joking and laughing. The drunk guy starts saying “chinks… chinks… go back to where you came from…” but he’s not actually talking loud enough for the Asians to hear him. He keeps uttering “chinks” until a guy in a suit says to him, “look mate, if you haven’t got anything intelligent to say, then I suggest you keep quiet.” The crazy guy shuts up, then gets off at the next stop.

Melbourne: Part One

It happened all so suddenly. My father was going to Melbourne on business and arksened me if I wanted to come along ‘cos he had enough frequent flier points for me to fly for free. Yeah, ok.

I kind of forgot about it until about a week before I was due to go, and realised I’d better get excited. So I found myself on the four hour flight across the sea without much of a traditional tourist thing happening.

At Melbourne airport I used the toilets in the area where the baggage carousels are. On the wall near the sink was a unit for the disposal of syringes. So, Australia has a bit of a problem with junkies, and indeed syringe disposal units are found in most public toilets, but who exactly would be shooting up in the toilets in the customs area of an international airport? Maybe I’m missing something here?

There’s a special 20 cent coin made to commemorate Sir Donald Bradman. He was a cricketer, quite a good one, apparently. The first time I got a Don 20 cent, I was really annoyed. See, a few years ago Caltex had this promotion where with every $20 of petrol you got a free rugby collector medal and each medal featured an All Black. So when I got the Don 20 cent, it looked just like the rugby coins and I was annoyed cos I thought someone had tried to use this cricket coin as legal tender and I’d ended up with it. Then I turned it over and saw the Queen’s profile on the back. Oh.

I went to the Old Melbourne Gaol. It was pretty cool. It’s a three-storey-high cell block, and most cells have a small display about a notorious former inmate, or some aspect of the prison. There were a lot of bad arses there, and many hangings. When a fellow was hanged, a plaster mould was made of his head, because back in the day it was thought that the shape of a person’s head could determine their personality and destiny. Nowaday, we know that the size of a person’s arse determines their destiny.

In the place of honour is the Ned Kelly section. Not only is the death mask of Mr Kelly on display, but so is his famous DIY armour. I didn’t actually pay much attention to the display, so I can’t remember what Ned Kelly did, but it must have been pretty bad because he was hanged.

I also paid the Melbourne Museum a visit. It was full of many different things, but two exhibits really stood out.

As a New Zealander, I am supposed to get really angry that the stuffed skin of Phar Lap, who was born in New Zealand, (and if horses could have citizenship, he would have been a New Zealand citzen, mate) is housed in the Melbourne Museum. But as I don’t care, I’m not angry.

Phar Lap, whose belovedness is attributed to the fact that in a time of ecomonic hardship, he was a sure bet at the races, is displayed in front of a red curtain. Creepily, his horses veins stand out under his skin. It should also be noted that Phar Lap is hung like a horse.

Also of interest was the Robinson’s kitchen. Yes, rescued from the set of “Neighbours” was the set of the kitchen of the Robinson’s kitchen. I stood behind the counter and pretended I was Charlene, who’d come over to see Scott and, oh look, Helen’s baked some biscuits! My fantasy was soon ended by the arrival of a bunch of school kids.

I saw “Mamma Mia”, the musical based on the songs of Abba, but we don’t like to talk about that.

I met up with Matt and Olivia and asked them where I could see a real live junkie. Apparently the place to go junkie spotting in on the trams at about ten in the morning, when they’re heading into the city to get a fix. See, we don’t have junkies in Aotearoa. Except in Christchurch. Everyone else just smokes lots of pot.

I should also note that I had a really nice lunch, coffee and dinner with Matt and Olivia and the Melbourne posse.

I also got the names of some cool streets to check out. First on the list was Brunswick Street. It’s a really long, straight street with lots of really cool shops on it. I discovered a shop that sold interesting books, comics, zines and bongs. It was quite a novelty being in a country where it’s legal to sell bongs, they don’t have to be called “decorative vases”.

Another really long straight street with lots of shops on it was Chapel Street. My favourite was the Chapel Street Bazaar, which is the grooviest second hand shop I’ve ever been to. They had Smurf figurines! I also found some books of matches which commemorated the 100th anniversary of Te Aroha, back in 1980. Just what were those doing in Melbourne? Maybe someone’s mum back in Te Aroha send them over?

I had a good time, and can state that Melbourne is rad. Any city in which a right turn is executed from the far left side of the road has to be rad.

Dam

“So, how was your weekend, Robyn?”
“Oh, you know, the usual.”
“Did you get up to much?”
“Yeah, I spat in Auckland’s water supply.”

Scenic Drive is one of my favourite roads in the world. It runs along the top of the Waitakere Ranges (“only 25 minutes drive from downtown Auckland!”) and it’s surrounded by either lush green bush, or spectacular views. It is scenic, and is rightly named (unlike Seafield View Road, which I think should be investigated).

The many times I’ve driven along Scenic Drive I’d noticed a little gravel area with a sign announcing that Waitakere Dam was nearby. It intrigued me. I decided to investigate further.

There are many bush walks and tracks for trampers. I figured I should be well prepared. You know, sturdy hiking boots, global positioning device, scroggin. I ended up improvising with my running shoes, cellphone and a bag of fruit and nut mix.

Off I drove along scenic drive to the start of Waitakere Dam Walk. I was prepared to face the wild. I even had my Swiss Army Knife.

At this point it would be cool if I could go off onto a tale of my journey through the bush, of experiencing New Zealand as it was back in the pre-European days. But unfortunately I can’t. It was very post-European.

For a start, the track was tar-sealed. It acts as an access road for the maintenance contractors of Water Care. So instead of a wilderness walk, it felt like I was walking down the driveway of some billionaire’s country retreat.

I strolled downhill nibbling on my fruits and nuts. There were lots of trees. Cicadas clicked in the distance. Oh, yay!

Soon I came to the dam. I wasn’t really impressed by the dam. As far as dams go, it’s pretty small. I mean, I wasn’t expecting the Hoover Dam, or that big arse one under construction in China, but having seen the Karapiro dam, I thought it might be on par with that.

But the dam itself didn’t really seem very significant compared to the surrounding land. It was wonderful. Stuck in a valley between two bush covered hills. Trees and sunshine! I think now is the bit where I can say that words can not describe the incredible beauty and general choiceness of that area.

Even the long drop toilets were nice.

I walked around the side of the reservoir, then back across the top of the dam. I leaned over the side and had an overwhelming urge to spit in it. So I did. Twice. By now thousands of people have got my goobies!

Having experienced a large amount of scenic wonder, I made my way up to the top. As I was walking up a Water Care ute drove up behind me and the dude stopped and asked me if I wanted a ride. Nice girls don’t take rides from strange men. I told him I wanted to walk back up, and off he drove.

I made it back to the top into the air conditioned comfort of my automobile. It wasn’t quite the epic bush walk I was expecting, but there was some really beautiful scenery and it was really empowering spreading my girl germs to the people of Auckland.

Things To Do III

It’s another year and I’m still only semi-employed. But using the spare time I have in such abundant supply, I managed to get some recent photos off my digital camera and am happy to present them to you as part three of the “Things To Do In Dorkland When You’re Semi-Employed” trilogy.

Adult Concepts

s-adultconcepts

One of my favourite phrases is “Adult Concepts”. As previously noted, realistically adult concepts would refer to things like dealing with putting your aging parents in a rest home or choosing a good accountant. However, adult concepts is just another name for porn. I was walking home one day and saw the local adult video shop had it’s front window painted up boldly proclaiming the aforementioned concepts, and I just had to take a picture.

More Bee

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I was perplexed by the “Corporate Beeburger” graffiti. Things got even more intriguing when I was walking home along a different route and saw some graffiti on the side of a block of flats proclaiming “Bee violence, bee control”. Now, after I put up the photo of the beeburger graffiti, I received an email from a concerned citizen, who said they thought that the bee in question was a reference to the Beehive, i.e. the government. This kind of fits in with the second lot of bee graffiti, yet it is still perplexing.

Buddha

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I have a little plastic Buddha. I’m not a Buddhist, but I think it looks pretty cool and sometimes I rub his head for good luck. The plastic flowers accompanying Mr Buddha have a bit of significance. The purple one is a remnant of a Hawaiian shirt Friday at my old job, and the yellow flower is from the Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day. The Buddha is sitting on a sushi rolling mat I bought from the Dollar 1 2 3 shop. I have never rolled sushi in it.

Delta

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There was this band called Delta and I knew their drummer. Delta broke up (and everyone cried) and had a final concert. I wasn’t on the guestlist, but I scammed my way in (“Yeah, I’m on the list. There. That name.”) and saw their very last concert at the King’s Arse tavern. I took a picture of the entry stamp on my hand for posterity.

James Bond

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A slight detour from Dorkland, we shall momentarily head south to Hamiltron, to the classy suburb of Claudelands, to the corner of James and Bond street where you can see how the street signs read “James Bond”. I used to live just down the road from this sign on Argyle Street. We thought it was really cool to have James Bond so close by. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t think we gave much thought to it at all.

Kingsland

s-northwest

Back up to Dorkland, here is a picture of the suburb of Kingsland, featuring the Newton Road on-ramp to the North-Western motorway. Cool, huh? Well, the cool thing about this is before the motorway was put through all these streets came down the hill, then up the other side of the hill to Grey Lynn. When the motorway was put through it chopped all the streets in half.

Pure Massacre

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And on the pedestrian over-bridge that goes over the motorway, more graffiti can be seen (possibly also by the author of the Bee graffiti). This time it’s the chorus from that rockin’ Silverchair song “Pure Massacre”. I’m particularly impressed by the presence of a hyphen to show that the word was so long it had to be carried on to the next line.

Well, those were a few recently highlights of my days as a semi-employed beegirl in Auckland.

Soon after uploading this page, I received this email from a concerned reader:

Your photos-of-stuff page sucked. Because Kingsland, Hamilton and Bee pictures suck.

So do Adult concepts.

You have been warned.

Jimmy Nuang

As per Mr Nuang’s comments, there will be no more Things To Do. A trilogy is quite enough.

Things To Do II

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this, but since then I’ve gone from being unemployed to semi-employed, or rather, I get to say I’m freelancing.

As a result I have to do things and don’t have as much time to spend dicking around doing nothing. Also, my digital camera and/or my computer has gone mental and as a result I can’t upload any recent amusing pictures I’ve taken.

So instead here is a collection of older pictures that have been sitting around on my computron 2000. In order to give them a bit of cohesion, I have used my creative skills and constructed a jolly fictional narrative. It shall be called “Things to do in Dorkland when you’re semi-employed”.

10 December 2000

So I was out walking one day when suddenly the futility and emptiness of modern life dawned upon me. “Oh!” I thought to myself. “It’s all rubbish!” I decided to turn to drugs to drown my sorrows.

Then as I strolled along Symonds Street a bright red poster caught my eye.

Hugs not drugs

Yes! That was the answer! Life might be a bunch of arse, but it’s nothing a good hug won’t solve. I grabbed the nearest person, a taxi driver going into the Chinese food place to get some lunch and hugged him. I don’t need no drugs, I’m high on life!

With this new-found highness, I strolled down the end of Mount Eden Road and noticed a sign advertising some land the city council was selling.

Comic sans

The use of red was pretty eye-catching, but what was even better was the use of the MS Comic Sans font and double spacing of “M a g n i f i c e n t ! !” If I happened to be looking for some land in scenic Mount Eden, I certainly would not hesitate to purchase it based on the savviness of that sign!

It was but a short stroll to Queen Elizabeth II Square where I noticed a sign outside the old post office crediting the “copywright” of a quote on it.

Copywright

Oh, ha ha ha. “Copywright”. Is that the copyright that a playwright holds on a work?

Still high on life and giggling merrily at the silly things that people put on signs, I journeyed over to Royal Oak where I noticed a sign for a stonemason that looked like the person who painted the sign hadn’t planned ahead and suddenly found themself running out of room mid-word.

Hyphen

But unlike all the other signs that had obviously been designed by professionals, this one had a certain naive charm. And y’know, I expect good signs from signwriters and good walls from stonemasons, not the other way around.

Back in the city centre, I noticed a sign taped to the window of a cafe down Queen Street, advising passers-by that “no change is given for parking metres”.

Parking metres

It’s just as well that I don’t have any metres that need to be parked, then.

I headed off to the Auckland Domain where I saw a food van selling hotdogs, ice cream and other treats parked right next to a couple of portaloos.

Portaloo food

Coincidence? Or is one necessary because of the other?

Tiring of the amusements of the city, I once again headed out into the suburbs, returning to Royal Oak. I saw a sign painted on the window of a bicycle shop suggesting that “[o]n a fine day why not “bicycle to work””.

Quotes

By putting “bicycle to work” in quotes could really mean anything. It might actually mean “On a fine day why not stay at home spending all day on the couch watching talk shows and soaps and eating five tubes of Pringles before you realise how meaningless your life is and start on that bottle of wine you were saving for Christmas.” But I think that a bicycle shop probably wouldn’t go for that line of advertising.

Well, time was getting on so I decided to end the day with a walk up Mount Victoria. Imagine my delight at seeing a woman with a huge bubble butt!

Mighty arse

Well, what an eventful day I had.

New Caledonia

nouvelle-madamoiselleI went on holiday to New Caledonia and I took a notebook with me so I could note down all sorts of amusing anecdotes, but here I am looking at the notebook with “the sexual politics of airline flight” scrawled on it and wondering exactly what it was that I was thinking of when I wrote that. So instead I shall ignore the notebook and instead delve into the inner recesses of my mind. Please also note that I bought a duty-free Polaroid I-Zone camera.

L’Hotel

nouvelle-hotelThe hotel I stayed at was classy, in a very three-and-a-half star kind of way. It had all this Gauguin copies all over the hotel. In my room I had two paintings of topless Tahitian vahiné staring at me. I woke up one morning at about 5.00 am and the sun had started to come up. All I could see were the ladies. Terrifying.

Booze ‘n’ fags

They speak French in New Caledonia. It’s such a classy language, it makes everyone who speaks it classy. Like on the way out from the airport I spotted a billboard reading “Winfield en 25 – Valuer Imbattable”. In English, “Winfield in 25 – Unbeatable Value” is pretty boring and (if cigarette advertising was legal in New Zealand), it wouldn’t really do anything to make people want to smoke. But in French it sounds so cool, no wonder everyone smokes.

That’s one of the cool things about a country with French culture. Everyone smokes. No one asks if you want smoking or non-smoking in a restaurant, because every table is smoking. Maybe someone could organise tours for smokers to places where smoking is allowed?

Where there’s fags, there’s booze. Booze ‘n’ fags. What does the hip tourist drink in New Caledonia? Why, local brew Number One, of course. I was wondering why they don’t call it Numéro Un. Then after a bit of contemplation, I realised Numéro Un sounds like a little little sigh, while Number One is a mighty battle cry. Number One! You can buy Number One every where, but, like most cheap lager, it goes best with pizza.

Le McDonald’s

nouvelle-leronaldNew Caledonia got itself a McDonald’s a few years ago. This was quite exciting for me after seeing the famous “Royale with Cheese” scene in Pulp Fiction. I was going to mosey on in like Vincent Vega and order a Royale wit’ Cheese.

But imagine my shock and horror when I saw the menu board. It just said Big Mac, not Le Big Mac. And what was the Quarter Pounder with Cheese called in this part of the world? Simply a Royal Cheese. In the end I decided to order an M&M McFlurry, or a Meek Flaaree Aym Und Aym, as they say (they didn’t even make it properly, not utilising the mixing power of the McFlurry machine to its full extent).

Dubbed

Now, it is an undisputed fact the the coolest French actor in the entire universe is Vincent Cassel. I was thinking it would be really choice if a film he was in was screening, but as fate would have it, there wasn’t anything. So instead I went to le cinéma and saw “O Brother, Where Art Thou” the latest offering from the Coen brothers. But unlike the version that will end up being screened in Aotearoa, this version (known as “O’Brother”) was dubbed en français.

At first it was weird seeing George Clooney and company speaking French, but after a while it didn’t really matter. I was able to follow the plot without too much trouble. I probably missed some of the finer details, but good on the Coen bros for making a good film that didn’t rely on long passages of dialogue to move the plot.

But I was not to leave the theatre without glimpsing Monsieur Cassel. The last trailer shown before O’Brother was for a French flick titled “Les Rivieres Pourpres”, starring Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel. Hoorah! Coming soon to the foreign section of a video store near me.

Miam Miam!

nouvelle-frootThe food was good. New Caledonia is really expensive so for breakfast most mornings I had some cereal called “Fitness and Fruits”, but a couple of times I had a traditional French breakfast of café au lait (a great wacking big bowl of milky coffee) and pain au chocolat (not unlike a chocolate Danish, but made with similar pastry to that of a croissant).

nouvelle-petitdejeunerThe best French food item, though, was the croque monsieur. Sold mainly at snack restaurants, the croque monsieur is essentially a ham and cheese toasted sandwich, but classier. All the ones I had were made with real ham, not processed meat. The cheese wasn’t processed either, it was gruyére, which just happens to be my favourite cheese. Yes, I have favourite cheese.

The French have a phrase for food like this: miam miam!

nouvelle-evianOne thing that appeared to be cheaper in New Caledonia was bottled water. Evian came in these really cool bottles with a big plastic loop on top so it’s really easy to carry when walking around. The best thing is bottled water didn’t seem to have the same wanker status that it does in New Zealand. h2eau, and all that.

Tourist Regime

You know what was the worst thing about New Caledonia? The tourists. Specifically, the Australians and New Zealanders. The baddest of the bad can be summed up by a couple who I will name Bruce and Doreen, because that’s what they seem like.

They were sitting at a table near me in a restaurant. Sitting with them was a French woman, who I shall name Madame Coco. Bruce was fat and sunburnt, Doreen was fat and sunburnt. Madame Coco was slim and tanned. Doreen was slurping down fruitie mixed drinks. Bruce was drinking beer and telling Madame Coco about the native people of New Zealand, “The Maoris, they called the white people Pakehas which means “white pig” and they called them that because they were canibals. Do you know what that means? They used to eat people. And they thought that the white people tasted like pigs.”

The meaning of Pakeha has caused much debate over the years, but the pork-related potential translation is “long pig”, not “white pig”. But then, if Bruce and Doreen wanted Madame Coco to think of them as white pigs, then so be it.

Parlez-vous?

I did a couple of years of French in high school. I was hoping to put some of it to use in New Caledonia, but given that most people who work in the tourist industry speak English and Japanese as well as French, I didn’t really get the opportunity. Once I said to a waiter, “Je ne parle pas français,” after he started speaking to me in French.

It’s cool being able to say bonjour back to people, and merci or au revoir when leaving somewhere, but anything else was too hard. I think I said merci way more than I’d normally say thanks. My written French was much better, I could pick my way through the menus and brochures I came across that weren’t subtitled. I came to the conclusion that I spoke good French, but I just didn’t have a very extensive vocabulary.

As I picked up more French words I started to get worried that I was forgetting English. That maybe there’s only enough room in my brain for one language, so the more French I learned the less English I could remember. I was trying to think of a word for sheds that you’d find on a wharf (does such a word exist?), and became convinced the the recent additions to my vocabulaire had forced out some English.

nouvelle-startruckThere were lots of amusing English translations, the kind that end up on hilarious email lists. My favourite instance of franglais was a nightclub by the name of Startruck. I don’t know who named it, or what they were thinking, but it’s a doozy.

nouvelle-mcmerci

Things To Do

So I quit my job and now I am, technically, unemployed. This now means that I have a lot of free time (as opposed to before when my time was enslaved and beaten with whips and chains and sang spirituals about how it wasn’t going to let no one get it down?).

So what does one do with a lot of free time? I tried to remember back to 1993 and 1994 when I was on the dole. The only thing that really sticks out was for three Tuesdays running my friend Renee and I saw “Romper Stomper” at the movies, which consisted of eating a giant bag of M&Ms during the movie, then going to Metropolis Caffe for two mochaccinos, then going home and being still awake at 6.00 am writing bad poetry about the caffeine that was gripping my soul.

Not wanting to repeat this, I am having to come up with lots of choice fun stuff to do on my own. Unfortunately this time around everyone I know seems to be in gainful employment and doesn’t have the time to bum around with me during the day.

So this page is going to be all about stuff I’ve done to fill in the hours. Things to in Auckland when you’re unemployed.

Monday, 13 November – I went for a walk.

I walked over the pedestrian overbridge that goes over the North-Western motorway. It’s a very cool overbridge. Possibly my favourite way of crossing the motorway. Anyway, I noticed some interesting graffiti on the bridge:

Beeburger

Yeah, “Corporate Beeburger”. The common catchcry of the whole meat-is-murder, anti-fastfood chain people is “corporate death burger”. Now, you might get it a bit wrong and write “corporate beefburger” which still sort of gets the message of fast food of oppression. But where does “corporate beeburger” come from?

The only mention of a “beeburger” I found on the Internet was in the March 1994 “The Food Insects Newsletter”. It was about the viability of large-scale harvesting of insects for food. Hardly graffiti inspiring.

There’s that urban legend that [large evil burger chain] bulk up their beef patties with ground worms. Could this be a sign that maybe bees are being added in the mix?

So I continued on my journey. I’d been tipped off that there was something very savvy going on at the corner of Great North and Newton Roads. Right across the road from where I used to live, even. I investigated and saw that John Andrew Ford had cyberfied a logo so that “Enhance” became “Enh@nce”:

Enhance

Now, normally “Enhance” would be a really boring name for an automotive financing service, but stylising the letter a so it becomes an @ shows real savvy and know-how.

It’s tempting to get pedantic and say “Oh, but wouldn’t that mean it’s “Enhatnce”?”, or ask what exactly does a symbol most commonly seen in email address have to do with auto financing, but that’s the sort of Knowledge-Based-Economy-knocking that this country has seen far too much of.

Should I ever require financing to purchase a new car, I know where I will be getting it from.

Wellington

I used to live in Hamilton, and so did Mike. In 1997 I moved up to Auckland, and he moved down to Wellington. Ever since then I’d been meaning to go down there to see him, but was too slack to do so. Then Mike said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “I’m having a big piss up for my birthday and you’re coming down for it whether you like it or not.” Choice!

So a fine Friday came along and I jumped into my automobile and drove for eight hours in a southerly direction. I had considered flying down, but as much fun as flight attendants with peanuts and orange juice are, that doesn’t quite make up for such things as the moment when I was driving into Taupo and suddenly the snow-capped splendour of Mount Ruapehu popped up in the distance.

I eventually made it to the capital city. I really like how the motorway was built along a fault line (well, it’s not like there was anywhere else to build it). I negotiated the one-way streets and drove around in a circle until I got in the right lane to get to Mike’s spatial palatial house of desire. His street has a big hill with a tunnel at the end of it, but only buses are allowed through the tunnel. You don’t get that sort of thing in Auckland (or Hamilton, for that matter). In Auckland car parks have been provided so the citizens of the city do not have to lower themselves to use public transport.

That night a cornucopia of delights awaited me. First up was the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. It was claaaassy, but wonderful. We headed to a skanky arse bar for a Private Function. After eating all the dip we left and went to Barney’s, Wellington’s premiere night spot. I wish there were more clubs like Barney’s around where I live. It was totally going off. We entered as the Grease medley was playing. That was followed by that famous tune celebrating a famous gay hang-out, “YMCA”. Other delights to rock the night were “Venus” and “Blue Monday”. If you like watching old men get down and shake their booty in an attempt to impress 18 year old girls, then Barney’s is the place.

The next day was big party day which means, of course, that the guests of honour had to shave their hair off. We abducted Mike’s friend Darryl who was kind enough to shave off the hair of both Mike and his flatmate Helen. We then buried the hair in the garden and prayed to the mother goddess spirit*.

Then party time came at Glenn’s house which used to be a brothel. We know it used to be a brothel because there is a basin in every room. Cool. Mike claimed that I was guaranteed to score at this party, but I didn’t so therefore he is a bloody liar, and probably just said that to lure me there. In fact, I have serious doubts that there were any heterosexual guys there.

As the evening progressed all the fairy bread and jelly shots were heartily consumed. There was the token person-who-drank-too-much, but most people were relatively well behaved party goers.

Eventually the party ended and we went home. I was about to retire for the evening when a glamourous young lady by the name of Ms PollyFilla knocked on my door. She had come home from a busy night out. By then I was very tired so I quickly slipped into a coma and didn’t come out of it until the following morning.

Sunday was tidy up day, and it was discovered that a large amount of beer and wine was left over from the party. Hooray! That’s New Year’s taken care of.

A bit of sun bathing upon the brothel balcony (a.k.a. fire escape) took place, then I demanded that Mike accompany me to Te Papa. He didn’t want to go and said it was crap, but I made him go anyway. But after looking around, I agreed that the Museum of New Zealand was, indeed, crap.

Back to the brothel where cards and trivial pursuit were played and fish ‘n’ chips were eaten. Yay. Then back to Mike’s haus where we watched those boring Olympic sports that no one actually cares about (softball, anyone?).

The next day I bid farewell to the fine city of Wellington. Heading along the motorway I noticed that it didn’t quite look the same as it had on the way there. Then suddenly I saw a sign proclaiming “LOWER HUTT”. Great. I was hoping I could go through life without ever having to go to Lower Hutt. As soon as I could I turned around and got back on state highway one and made my way back up north.

I had lunch at Taupo on both the way there and back. On the way there I at at a skanky doris cafe that did not pretend to be anything else. On the way back I ate at a skanky doris cafe that was trying to be a hip deli. Even service station pies are better than skanky doris pseudo delis.

You know how all those small towns try and make themselves interesting by giving themselves slogans? Turangi is the “trout Capital of the world”, Hamilton is no longer the Fountain City, or “Where It’s Happening”, but now is something like “More than you’d expect”. But the best town motto is for Foxton. It proudly proclaims itself to be “New Zealand’s Fox Town.” What?

I drove through Hamilton without stopping (a first) and then back to my home in Auckland. Oh, what an enjoyable weekend!

* No we didn’t. I think it just got biffed in the rubbish.