Observatory

Dip dip dye

Happy anniversary

Monday was Auckland Anniversary day. Due to its name, much of the focus is on Auckland city, but the anniversary celebrates the founding of Auckland province, which extended far beyond the piddly little boundaries of today’s Auckland City.

Auckland Province was huge. It was basically the top half of the North Island. If you can imagine a horizontal line running just south of Lake Taupo, everything above that was Auckland Province. That includes the contemporary cities and towns of Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, Gisborne, Rotorua and Taupo, as well as Auckland city.

(Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 2598)

Old Auckland Province, held together by sticky tape. (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 2598)

Auckland Province only existed from 1853 to 1876, but it’s kind of cool that the arbitrary geographical area (its southern boundary was a straight line based on the 39th parallel) is still honoured once a year, even if most people don’t know this and instead moan about Auckland City getting the naming rights.

By the way, New Zealand’s Anniversary Days system is a muddle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Department of Labour’s webpage on the holidays has a whole lot of notes about all variations for the holidays in Canterbury, Westland, Otago and Southland. Everyone gets a day off, but when that is seems totally open for debate.

Straight outta Surfdale

Chris McDowall, who does cool things with maps, has done another cool thing with a map. Specially, he’s taken a map of New Zealand and mixed up the place names. This might not sound like much, but the map has a pleasingly uncanny feeling to it.

map

Suddenly my personal history is changed. I was born in Surfdale, moved to Geraldine in the ’90s, also lived in Kakanui and now reside in the seaside town of Putaruru. Last month I went to Hikurangi for a few days, with the bus changing at Akaroa. Earlier in 2003, I explored the thermal wonderland of Martinborough.

See, that’s weird. A nice side effect is discovering all the place names of small towns, suddenly given prominence when attached to a major population. Behold the mountainside tourism town of Rakaia or the earthquake-troubled city of Maruia.

I’ve been thinking of various sci-fi scenarios of why a map of New Zealand would end up with all the wrong place names. Like, it’s a post-apocalyptic world and the survivors are trying to recreate a map of Old Zealand using only a list of place names and vague news reports gleaned from a decaying copy of the olden “interweb”. So that riverside city in the North Island, that must be Surfale, right, because it had an award-winning beach, right?

Read Chris’ blog entry about his mixed-up map here, and explore the map here.

Clothes at the Grammys

Lorde did not wear anything by New Zealander designers. For the “Royals” performance, she wore a white Prada shirt and black Celine trousers. For the rest of the ceremony she wore a black Balenciaga gown.

So that’s interesting. Normally when a New Zealander appears at such an international event, the expectation is that they will support the local fashion industry by wearing something local, as if the New Zealand fashion industry is struggling and needs all the help it can get. Going with international fashion houses seems like a very Lorde move. Rather than making a big statement about New Zealand, she just wore what she liked. Kind of like what most of us do when we get dressed every morning.

Curiously enough, the white sleeveless shirt and wide black trousers combo is not unlike what the cool girls were wearing when I was Lorde’s age, back in the early ’90s.

There’s always talk about women doing sexy dances on stage at such events, but who was doing that? Pink, Beyonce and Katy Perry, aka a 34-year-old doing highly technical and skilful acrobatic manoeuvres, a 32-year-old duetting with her husband about being in love, and a 29-year-old doing a Spinal Tap vs goth dance. They’ve all earned it.

The two weirdest fashions of the Grammy’s were Lorde’s smudgy black fingertips and Pharrell’s hat, both of which had their own (unfunny) twitter accounts by the end of the ceremony. It turns out that smudgy-black-fingertips look is something that’s been popping up in edgy fashion lately. It seems like a refreshing rebellion against all the intricate nail art and neat manicures that were such a big deal a couple of years ago. And Pharrell’s hat is a Vivienne Westwood number, originally designed for her Buffalo collection in 1982, and it featured on the head of her husband Malcolm McLaren in the Buffalo Gals video. So you know what all that means? Whether you like it or not, both of these looks are going to work their way into mainstream fashion in a more dilute form, like a smudgy fingertips kit from Farmers and a Buffalo hat from Glassons.

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Observatory

High, a lie

Vienetta

Regular readers will know that I have a thing for UK Big Brother. The celebrity version is currently screening, and it’s turned out to be one of the best CBBs ever. I’m not sure why, but at least for me, one of the highlights was seeing Lionel Blair swearing like a mofo.

Anyway, here’s a clip of “controversial” (or at least nutty) Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones. The back story – fellow housemate Luisa has been given a secret task to make Liz laugh, while Liz has secretly been told that she must not laugh. So while Luisa tries to bring on the lolz, Liz launches into a monologue of such misery and deadpan wit that it would make Morrissey look like a paragon of self-esteem.

Oh hai

For a while I’ve had this irrational fear of the sport of jal alai. I think it’s because the players have a basket strapped to their right hand, looking like a horror-film serial killer inspired by the fiddler crab.

Anyway, I thought it was a bit silly being fearful of jai alai, so I set about doing some exposure therapy, in the form of watching a bunch of videos. There was a 1988 promo video about the sport in America, a more recent short Spanish-language documentary about the old codgers who go along to watch games in Miami, a 1994 game featuring two Spanish legends.

By that stage I was feeling pretty relaxed about jai alai. But then I went too far. Feeling overly confident, I watched a video of a guy exploring an abandoned fronton (playing venue, and there’s just something so creepy about “abandoned fronton”). So there’s this guy wandering around a giant arena in the dark, with only a weak LED torch for illumination. And then there are the strange noises. It was terrifying, and it instantly vaporised all my happy feelings about jai alai.

Vice

By the way, jai alai features in the opening titles of the Miami Vice TV show, one of the many icons of Miami that’s jam-packed into the minute-long sequence. I only just realised it was jai alai – I’d previously thought it was baseball, or something like that. It still creeps me out, though.

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Observatory

Thrills galore

Health and safety

Yesterday the ACC announced that it was cancelling its health and safety training programme after realising that it wasn’t actually having much effect. It’s a bit complicated when you consider that some of the training was provided by trade unions, with ACC minister Judith Collins reckoning it was just a scam with trade unions using it to promote unionism.

Well, I did this training, back in the mid ’00s, when I’d volunteered to be a health and safety rep at work. I literally only did this because no one else would and there was promise of chocolate biscuits at the meetings. It turned out to be a giant pain in the arse, forcing the reps to become the no-mates killjoy person who’s always telling people to remove the potential hazards from their work station.

I went on a two-day training course at the Employers and Manufacturers Association. I could have also done it at a union, but the EMA was really close to where I lived, and it was in a cool brutalist building.

The course was full of people from all sorts of different kind of work places. In one exercise, we had to list potential hazards in our workplaces. All I could come up with was cables that people might trip over, but my coursemates were coming up with really dramatic stuff like “The truck could slip off the edge of the narrow hillside road to the mine, causing death” and “The giant pot of boiling fudge could tip over, causing third-degree burns to the fudge makers”.

The guy taking the course seemed to be a contractor, and was operating on autopilot. Not so much like David Brent, but someone who was reciting The Office scripts. At one point when he was setting up the projector, it just showed a blue screen and he quipped, “It must have been a blue-sky day!” There were lolz. The next day he make the same joke in the same situation, but because everyone had already heard it (and we were tired, and wanted to go home) no one laughed. There was a look of confusion and hurt on his face.

He was also very excited that I worked in television, and sat down next to me at lunch, wanting to have a big conversation about the recent changes in upper-level management at TVNZ. When he realised I was just a girl who made captions for television programmes and not management, he wasn’t interested in continuing our conversation.

After the training I came back to work not with a new skill set of health and safety knowledge, but rather a bunch of anecdotes about the weirdness and awfulness of it all.

I don’t know if the EMA’s health and safety training programmes continued like this, but I’m actually less bothered by the potential for union propaganda and more bothered by it just being a boring-arse use of two days.

Wherevz

Here’s an excerpt from the Lyttelton Times from 19 May 1858. It’s from a column summarising all the latest news coming from the government’s Gazette publication:

Lyttelton

So, hilariously, while the Lyttelton Times has totally heard of Port Ahuriri, it is being all “wherever that is” about West Whaingaroa aka Raggiz. Yeah? Well, no one in Rag Land has ever heard of you, Littleton, etc. So there.

The Lyttelton Times is also delightfully dismissive about Lyttelton losing its official name “Port Victoria” – like, no one even calls it that, anyway. Even though Queen Victoria was the reigning monarch at the time (coming up to her 21st anniversary), it seems everyone was all a bit sick of all the bloody Victorias around the country.

The Room Two

I’ve been playing The Room Two, the sequel to the popular mobile app game The Room. (It’s no relation to the film The Room, though there is a really cool and funny unofficial game for the movie that tells the story from Johnny’s perspective and explains the fate of Chris R.)

The Room was a puzzle game when the player finds her or himself in a mysterious room with a strange puzzle box that needs to be unlocked in order to, uh, make things happen. The Room Two takes that and expands on it.

For a start, there are several different rooms, with different things to explore, like a model pirate ship. Rather than being focused on the central puzzle box, there’s stuff to be used in the whole room.

But really, a game like this is all about the puzzles. They’re about as enjoyable and challenging as the first game. There’s a hint system so if you get stuck, it will give you hunts to nudge you in the right direction. I actually think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t used the hints and had just figured out everything myself. But I’m so impatient. I need to know where the key is that opens the golden casket and unlocks the skull that opens a portal to another dimension.

The only thing that was a bit annoying was the gloominess of the game. Because everything is so dark and shadowy, it’s actually quite difficult to see the screen clearly, hunched over an iPad mini on a bright summer’s day. Therefore, it’s easiest to play in the dark, which makes all the spooky bits that much more spookier.

I just really like games like this, ones that require a bit of thinking and exploring and puzzle solving. And if there are a few cheap thrills along the way, I’m even happier.

The Room Two iOS (iPad only), with iPhone and Android coming soon.

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Web culture

Te reo Maori 419 spam

My dad received a scam email in te reo Maori. It’s a run-of-the-mill 419 scam, the “someone has died and had given you millionz of dollaz!” type. In this case, the generous cadaver is – according to Google Translate – “billionaire Business Mogul Late Mr. Moises Saba Masri, a Jew from Mexico”.

The idea behind these obviously stupid spams is they filter out all the smart people who can immediately spot the nonsense. What it leaves is the highly gullible, the type of people that a scammer knows will be worth spending time working on to get them to part with their cash. Putting the email in te reo adds an extra layer of implausibility to filter out even more.

So is there a te reo Maori speaker who’d read this and be all, “Wow, I didn’t realise I knew any billionaire Mexican Jews. What a kind and generous fellow”? I doubt it, but it’s interesting that te reo has made it onto the radar of the international scammers. Yay, New Zealand!

Update: A few people have pointed out that te reo Maori has recently been added to Google Translate, which is the weapon of choice for 419 scammers. But check out this info from Julian Wilcox. Intriguingly, Samoan and Tongan aren’t in Google Translate.

Update 2: Fairfax have written about the situation. The reporter asked me for a comment but – I am so lame – I forgot to reply to her email.

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Observatory

Sounds like

1. Moderna popklassisker

Thanks to a recommendation from Jackson of Capture, I’ve been working my way through the episodes of Hitl├ątens historia, a Swedish TV series about the stories behind modern pop classics. A couple of the episodes are subtitled, but with the ones that aren’t, it doesn’t really matter. All the profiled artists speak English, and with 80% of Swedes being fluent in English, the programme doesn’t rely on overdubs so it’s really easy to follow along with the interviews, even when you can’t understand the minimal Swedish narration.

It’s easy to look at the subjects of some of the episodes and dismiss them as naff, but one of the best things about Sweden (and much of Western Europe) is they don’t have the same obsessions over cool as we do. So they happily dig into “Take My Breath Away”, the sappy love theme from Top Gun but – oh – it was written by the mad genius Georgio Moroder so there has to be a good story or two in there. Ditto for “Wind of Change” – when both Russian metallers and German housewives are singing along, something powerful is a-happening.

Peter Saville explains the design ethos behind the "Blue Monday" single.

Peter Saville explains why the holes in the “Blue Monday” single cover were such trouble.

Here are the episodes, all available free to watch online until mid February.

2. Miami sound machine

According to the New York Times’ dialect map quiz, I sound like someone from yonder down south Florida way. I’m not sure what that accent sounds like, but I’m imagining it being like a cross between Don Johnson in Miami Vice and Pitbull. I’m sure if I actually went to Miami, I would not sound like a local. But then Miami has always seemed like one of those places that attracts random people from all over, all with secrets, so perhaps I would fit right in.

3. A room with several views

In the gap between Christmas and the New Year, when I was in the midst of a sleep-deprived cat-sitting zombie-like state, I watched the documentary film Room 237. It looks at all the different conspiracy theories that surround Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining.

The idea is that Kubrick is a control freak and a perfectionist, so nothing in the film is there by accident; everything is deliberate. So when a single frame makes it look like an in-tray on an office desk is protruding from a man’s groin, it must be deliberate sexual statement, not just a coincidence spotted by someone who’s seen the film too many times. Because if Kubrick hadn’t wanted the desk penis there, he would have reshot the scene, right?

The film itself is excellent. The various conspiracy theorists and overthinkers are never seen on screen. We just hear their voices, going into detail of their favourite thing. All this is illustrated by extensive footage from The Shining, as well as other Kubrick films. And it’s just as well. If the film didn’t illustrate the cryptic maze of the Overlook Hotel’s corridors, I’d be forced to watch The Shining and plot out the illogical geography myself. And then I’d probably obsess over it and start formulating my own theories.

The thing that all the theorist seem to be missing is that when The Shining was released in 1980, home video was in its infancy. Back then, if you wanted to watch a movie over and over again you had to pay to see it in a cinema. It wasn’t until a few years later that people could rewatch The Shining and obsess over all the posters, canned goods, luggage and corridors of blood.

And then there’s the guy who organised a screening of The Shining playing backwards and forwards at the same time. This reminds me of the screenings of The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon as the soundtrack. But at least the Oz/Floyd experience is honest about being a stoner favourite.

In the end I was just all a bit sick of the conspiracies. It reminded me of the worst bits of film studies at tech. If you look for hidden depths and secret meaning everywhere, soon enough you’re going to start making stuff up. Sometimes an in-tray is just an in-tray.

And you can watch the whole film here.

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Observatory

Spicks and specks

As I write this, I am severely sleep deprived. This is as a result of having to look after Princess Min-Minnz for the past week. She is an elderly cat (18 – old enough to vote, drink and own semi-automatic firearms) who spends most of the time sleeping, except at various times of the night. Because she’s old, she can’t run off and look after herself, so she requires assistance. So much assistance. I wonder, is this sleep-deprived zombie state the same sort of thing that my friends with babies keep moaning about? But then, I guess you can’t shut a baby out on the deck once the sun comes up.

Because of this situation, I am too tired and uninspired to manage any sort of coherent or entertaining year-in-review post. I tried writing something and it read like a police statement. In July the witness saw the film Sheen of Gold at the Auckland film festival. She described it as “really good”.

Pft. Who needs words? Instead here are some Instagram photos I’ve taken over the year:

And here is my favourite moment from 2013, stopping by the Bee Gees Walk in Redcliffe, the small Queensland town where the Gibb brothers grew up. The town figured it ought to commemorate its most famous ex-residents with a gap between two buildings turned into the Bee Gees Walk. There’s a statue of the trio as boys, but this “Spicks and Specks” era mural of the bros was my favourite part of the experience. And Barry Gibb is a spunk.

Bee Gees

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Observatory

Season’s greetings

1. Secret Santa update

This year’s Secret Santa has proven to be a million times more enjoyable than my previous experience in 2011.

My package arrived. It contained two gifts, which were very entertaining to unwrap. My Santa person took the novelty gift route, giving me a toy basketball hoop, saying s/he knew I didn’t like netball, but hoped basketball was more my thing. (This, oddly enough, is true. I used to watch the weekly NBL games on TV in the ’90s and I almost saw the Lakers play in LA in 1994.). S/he also gave me a notebook and a pen that looks as if ’twere a twig that is surprisingly difficult to write with. The twig-pen seems like some sort of Cold War spy device, like it should contain a compartment for microfilm, to be left behind the third rubbish bin past the duck pond.

Meanwhile, my assigned Secret Santa person has received their gift and they <3 it. It seems to be just the right thing for them, which is a bloody relief. I stressed about it, you know.

My Secret Santa commented on the nice card I sent, and I also liked the card that my Secret Santa wrote me. My friend Dylz received a bloody Samsung Galaxy Note and a Galaxy Gear – which is insanely generous and is actually the perfect gift for him, being a gadget-loving lad who always tweets about the things he loves. But amongst my other pals, a lot of the joy of Secret Santa comes from the personal touches – a nicely written card or letter is all it takes to bring a metric truckload of Christmas cheer.

2. To the market

Map

I like a good map. This one is from a sandwich board alerting passersby to the Raglan Creative Market. It’s got to be a few years old now, because Tongue and Groove cafe is now called The Shack, the information centre has moved, and the “toilets” location is now more excitedly the home of the brand new fancy museum. Still, if you’re standing at the corner of Bow Street and Wainui Road, this map will get you to the Creative Market. The next market is on Sunday 12 January 2014, and there’s a special Auckland Anniversary Weekend three-day market from 25-27 January. It’s quite good.

3. Forty minus one

It was my birthday a couple of days ago. This is what happens when your birthday is in December – because everyone is so focused on Christmas, you have to wage a massive PR campaign in order to get people to pay attention to your birthday. But this year I couldn’t be bothered, so I took the minimalist approach, like Beyonce’s album launch.

As a result, my birthday greetings were from family, a few friends and Google. Google will always care.

I’m 39 now, which is – oooh – one year from 40. I’m not even sure what 40 is anymore. It used to seem really old and decrepit (viz. “Life Begins at 40″), and then it moved into the lively but naff cool-dad stage. Now I look at people in their early 40s and some of them seem tired and middle-aged while others seem youthful and energetic. Why, it’s almost as if there’s no such thing as being in one’s 40s and that it all comes down to individual personalities.

I’ve just discovered terrible world of “things to do before you turn 40″ lists. I found one list that included must-dos such as “go camping”, “go abroad” and “go to the beach”, which are actually compulsory, government-mandated activities for all young New Zealanders. In fact, a lot of these lists have things I’ve already done: learn to play a musical instrument, make sangria, get in your car and just drive, take an improv class, learn to change a tyre, get a new hairstyle. All this ordinary stuff in my life becomes epic life-changing events if it’s added to a list. Hey, that was easy.

And then it’s always 40 things to do before you turn 40. Twenty before 20 or 30 before 30 are easier, but 40 before 40 becomes a mammoth, all-consuming task. It’s almost one per week.

I could be like my aunt who chose six labours to complete before her 60th birthday, like baking six loaves of bread. Another of those things was reading the first 600 pages of “Ulysses”, but she impressively managed the whole damn thing. Years ago I read about a third before I gave up, so maybe that could be a thing for me. And at least it’s more substantial than those weird tasks like “don’t forget to breathe”.

So maybe the first couple of items on my list shall be:

  1. Finish reading Ulysses.
  2. Come up with a few more things to do before I turn 40.

Hmmm, I think I feel another couple of items coming on.

  1. Explore historic Northland.
  2. Learn to say “Hi, my name is Robyn. I am 40 years old.” in 40 languages of the world.

Whoa, check that out. I’ve already achieved one thing! Let’s update the list:

  1. Finish reading Ulysses.
  2. Come up with a few more things to do before I turn 40.
  3. Explore historic Northland.
  4. Learn to say “Hi, my name is Robyn. I am 40 years old.” in 40 languages of the world.
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Observatory

Cruel winter

1. Norti by nature

I stumbled across this Christchurch street scene on Google Street View. At first I thought someone had hilariously vandalised the sign, then I realised it was done by a Google algorithm when it joined together shots from two different cameras.

2. The bubble

Lorde recently did a Ask Me Anything on Reddit. While it was going on I was browsing through the questions and noticed this one, which made me smile:

So I took a screen shot and tweeted it. And then my tweet was retweeted and retweeted and it’s now been retweeted 76 times. With this came replies, which weren’t specifically directed to me, but I got them all because my name was in the original tweet.

At first things were funny (“face palm!”) but as the retweets moved from friends to friends of friends and beyond, they started to become political and angry and abusive towards Americans. The weirdest reply was someone who was trying to say “No Child Left Behind? My arse!” but wrote the significantly different “No child left behind my arse.”

Maybe we’re just all going a bit bananas from this scorching hot New Zealand winter heat.

3. Olde Zealand

The British Library has uploaded over one million images to its Flickr account, scans from old books in its collection. So I did what any good New Zealander would do. I searched the archive for “New Zealand”.

Much of the images come from 19th century books that examined this strange new country, a world of volcanic landscapes, fossilised giant birds, strange insects, and brown people who look a bit like white people. Here are but a few photos from the collection.

Here are a couple more that I found. Weird Region is a great name for a book about New Zealand.

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Places

Oh, possum!

On my last day in Napier I visited Opossum World, as recommended by an anonymous tipster. Opossum World is a store selling products made from possum fur, but out the back is what purports to be an educational display about the menace of the possum. It’s essentially a massive anti-possum propaganda exercise, and it makes me wonder if it was created to appease tourists horrified by the slaughter of innocent possums for the fur trade. I mean, if you’re coming from Australia where the possum is beloved and protected native animal, it’s going to be horrifying to find it treated like this in New Zealand.

Such is Opossum World’s contempt for the possum, they don’t even call it by its proper name, instead borrowing the name of the possum’s North American cousin, the opossum. Maybe it’s like an admonishment – “Oh, possum!” Or a troublesome drunken Irishman, O’Possum.

Here are some highlights of the strange world of Opossum World.

The Bridge of Remembrance

Bridge of Remembrance

Past the gloves, past the hats is the Bridge of Remembrance. But is it not in memory of all the dead possums. Instead it commemorates the “70,000,000 opossums consuming 21,000 tonnes of vegetation per night”. Except humans are responsible for destroying two-thirds of New Zealand’s native forest. And the current estimate of possums in New Zealand is now only 30 million. And the Bridge of Remembrance is made of wood.

It knows

Stare

This possum can see into your soul. It knows you know it is dead. It knows you know it was murdered while it was trying to get some food. It will appear as a vision to remind you of this the next time you are at McDonald’s enjoying a replica Georgie Pie pie.

The miracle of birth

The spawning

This is the extent of Opossum World’s anti-possum propaganda. This taxidermied possum is demonstrating the joy of birth. The mother possum has just given birth to the tiny possum kitten (kitten!) that is in the process of crawling into the mother’s pouch. Except the mother possum looks like there’s a demonic alien about to burst out of her stomach, whereupon it will eat all the native birds it can find and then crap on your windscreen. All that’s missing is flickering red LED lights in the possum’s eyes.

The joy of motherhood

Feeding time

On the left, a young possum rides on the back of its mother. On the right… WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? Oh, it’s a possum that is too big to live in its mother’s pouch, but can still fit its head inside to suckle from its mom’s teats. The mother looks startled and mildly annoyed and appears to be attempting to run away. This is the possum equivalent of a 20-something young adult who still lives at home.

Man alone

Lonely hunter

And here is the lonely possum hunter. He’s been out shooting at night and has some possums to gut. He’s all by himself out there in the bush, man alone. Here he is taking a break and contemplating his life, wondering if all those dead possums have all been worth it. It would be nice if, just once, the native birds would say thanks for all the hard work.

Opossum World is located at 157 Marine Parade. The next time you’re in Napier, you should go there. Better than a winery tour.

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Observatory, Places

Palaces

1. Napier

I’m in Napier this week for a short break. In the heart of the ’00s, I used to go travelling, find the local internet cafe in town and update my LiveJournal. Now technology has changed to the point where I can do all that from the comfort and privacy of my motel room. Or sitting on a bench down by the waterfront, squinting at my phone.

I like Napier. It’s a nice seaside town in a very English way, and New Zealand doesn’t usually do that. Probably because we like our beachy areas wild and untamed, not with long beachside boulevards with minigolf courses, aquariums and swimming pools.

Of course, it helps that Napier has all the stylish old buildings from the 1930s. Though in the spunky new MTG Hawke’s Bay (aka the museum) there was an old plan for a grand Brighton-style Marine Parade, complete with a palatial building called the Coffee Palace, right across the road from a grand church. Sadly, these plans were never realised, missing the opportunity for Snoop Dogg’s 2002 song “From tha Chuuuch to da Palace” to have a special tie to Napier.

Coffee palace

2. Hastings

I hired a car and drove to Hastings. Somehow it’s hard-wired into my brain that Hastings is north of Napier, not south, so on the drive there I kept thinking I was driving along a thing peninsula of land because – huh – I didn’t realise there was also sea on that side, etc.

Hastings seems quite sensible compared to Napier. It makes Napier seem like a dandy flapping about, all like “Look at us! We have art deco!” while Hastings is all “Yep, we’ve got it too, and a K Mart.”

The last time I went to Hastings was on a family holiday in 1985 or so. The only thing I remember was finding a really cool nightie at Farmers, with pink and yellow geometric panels (I was 10; it was the mid-’80s). Hoping for lightning to strike twice, I went into the new Farmers. It’s just like all the other new Farmers. The sleepware section was filled with the usual boring things – those t-shirts with comedy slogans. A sheep with its wool in rollers and “dreaming of ewe”. I miss the ’80s?

3. Latte bowls

Ujazi

One of the things I discovered from Cafe Culture New Zealand is that some of the cafes haven’t really changed much since 2000. Cafe Ujazi in Napier is one of those. As I walked past it, I noticed an empty latte bowl sitting on an outdoor table. Lattes served in cafe au lait bowls, that very New Zealand invention, have all but vanished from the serious cafes of major metropolises, but it’s heartening that they’re not yet uncool in the provinces. And really, you haven’t lived until you’ve slurped down a giant bowl of hot chocolate, with melting marshmallows bothering your nose.

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