The national costume

kate

Oh, look. It’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, at the state reception held for her and her husband in Wellington. She’s wearing an elegant black gown with a silver fern motif on the shoulder, designed by UK designer Jenny Packham.

It’s been praised in the media for its referencing of New Zealand’s national emblem. But wait – it’s a strangely familiar design. Let me think…

Oh, that’s right. It’s what almost every Miss New Zealand wore in the national costume section of Miss World and Miss Universe in the 1980s.

As I discovered recently when I trawled through two decades of Miss World and Miss Universe contests, there’s a certain awkwardness and uncertainty when it comes to New Zealand’s national costume. It seems no one’s really sure what it should be, but the one thing that keeps recurring is the black frock with a silver fern.

So ok. The Duchess of Cambridge has officially made it a thing, so let’s declare it once and for all: New Zealand’s national costume is a black gown with a silver fern motif. For both men and women.

It might not be to everyone’s liking, but let’s just be thankful that the duchess didn’t take inspiration from Miss New Zealand 1985:

1985-miss-world-head2

It’s OK, mate

I don’t really know much about rugby. I’ve only ever been to one rugby game, which was in 1990, when I wagged my fifth form typing class to see the Hillcrest High first XV play some visiting school. I remember being vaguely impressed by those “line out” things.

17 years later, I haven’t even watched a rugby game on TV. When I see one, it just looks like a bunch of guys running around on a grass field, and sometimes skidding over lines or kicking the ball into places that makes the crowds cheer.

But I’m a New Zealander. I live in New Zealand. And therefore I can’t not be exposed to rugby in some form. It’s everywhere.

And this year I was kind of getting into the Rugby World Cup commentary and discussion over at Public Address’s Some Foreign Field, and enjoyed I the lively podcasts from the lads (and occasional lass) at The Dropkicks and I was thinking that this whole rugby, All Blacks and Rugby World Cup thing might be worth getting into for entertainment purposes.

But, well, I didn’t get around to it, and now the All Blacks, aka “we”, have lost the quarter-final against France and everyone is really really bummed. Or something starting with F that Anton Oliver was bleeped saying on the news tonight.

I understand that the people of Aotearoa are angry with the ref for turning a blind eye to a forward pass and/or the coach for his controversial resting and rotation policy and/or the players for sucking. But despite all the misery (and, oh, there were some miserable people out there on the streets today), people aren’t giving up. They’re not saying, “Oh, we’ll never win the Rugby World Cup!” They’re saying, “Now it’ll be 24 years until we win the cup again!” There’s hope.

The thing is, New Zealand is the one country in the world where rugby union is the be-all, end-all sport. Other countries, like Wales and various Pacific Island nations, do like the egg-ball game, but most countries are hot for football. Only New Zealand has its national identity sewn up so tightly with rugby.

But what I don’t quite understand is why the Rugby World Cup is considered the last word in rugby supremacy. I mean, the Olympics are another quadrennial competition, but we don’t discount the non-Olympic sporting competitions – regional and word championships – that happen in the interim years.

And what happened prior to 1987 when there was no Rugby World Cup? Was there a niggling fear that perhaps, while the All Blacks were quite good, maybe they weren’t actually all that good? Not even!

I reckon if we can love New Zealand, if we be so nationally proud that we call New Zealand Godzone, then surely it’s enough to know in our Aotearoan hearts that the All Blacks are the best rugby team in the world regardless of how they do in any Rugby World Cup competition.

Winning the World Cup should be the icing on the cake, not a definitive statement on how good the All Blacks are.

Oh, cheer up.

Dis

Damn it.

“Before the match, Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker and syndicate head Tom Schnackenberg stressed that the [hull] was not the team’s ticket to success. But 3.9 million New Zealanders disagreed and were adamant that the Black Boat was a rocket ship.”

I wish the Herald would not write shit like that. I wish they would not make such gross generalisations.

When my mother was pregnant with me, she and my dad went out on a yacht. I think that’s the closest I’ve ever been to being on a yacht. I’m not interested in yacht racing and I can’t somehow attach extra value and meaning to the New Zealand boat solely because it’s run by New Zealanders. And conversely I can’t find space for hate for the New Zealand guy on the Swiss boat. I mean, here’s this guy who is so skilled an talented that he’s risen up and been offered a really excellent job that means he can do what he loves and be able to do so for the rest of his life and we’re supposed to hate him for that? No, that’s not right.

Loyalty is a two way street. If Team New Zealand want me to be loyal to them, they also have to be loyal to me.

Rugby

Someone posted this in a local newsgroup:

If only I was one of those many Kiwi’s in the crowd at todays game! Good on ya “All Blacks”! Making us proud once again! And not to mention our “Lomu”!!!! Making once again – a superb try! The strength in that guy is amazing! Hell, I am on cloud nine right now! Its 6.30am – but to hell with it – I’m gonna celebrate with a beer!!!

Reading between the excess quote marks and exclamation marks, what the poster was pissing their pants with joy about is that the New Zealand rugby team beat the English rugby team in a match.

This is apparently a big deal. So much so that people are meant to be very excited about it and say things like “Mate, did you see the rugby! We totally kicked England’s arse!” to which one is to respond, “Maate!”

Ok cool, but don’t drag me into it.

I tried to like rugby. For about a week I put in a concentrated effort and attempted to be a rugby fan. I watched the beginning of a game, y’know, all the pre-match stuff where they had interviews with the team members (disturbingly enough all wearing the same shirt). Then the game started and I found myself looking at a bunch of guys running around on a field of grass.

That’s the thing, when I look at a game of rugby, it has no form or structure for me. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s some guys and a ball. Sometimes they kick it, sometimes they pass it and other times they run with it. Sometimes they do something and the crowd gets very excited and cheers.

I was at the supermarket a while ago and the checkout girl said, “What did you think of the rugby last night?” Having no idea to what she was referring, I said “I don’t watch rugby.” She looked at me like I had just said that to avoid conversation.

The New Zealand Rugby Union had a thing called “Blackout Day” where everyone was encouraged to wear black in support. All these goths started complaining about Blackout day. “We wear black all the time,” they said. “People will think we support rugby.” Oh they bloody well will not.

Yes, rugby supporters wear black clothes, but not black mesh tops with black PVC pants, not Bauhaus t-shirts. And yes, rugby supporters have been known to paint their faces, but not all white and not with eye liner and black lipstick.

Despite what goths might like to think, there’s pretty much no chance of one being mistaken for a rugbyhead. I was going to suggest that goths should stop complaining, but that’s never going to happen.

I could get all worked up over rugby and those rabid supporters of the sport who would go so far as to call someone like me unpatriotic, but I will decline from doing so.

Instead, I shall politely refrain from participating in the culture of rugby. When someone says, “Did you see the rugby on the weekend?” I shall reply, “No, maaaate.”

New Zealand

I’m sick of the attitude that so many New Zealanders have. That New Zealand is a small insignificant country at the bottom of the world that no one knows of or cares about.

Actually, it’s not really New Zealand vs the Rest of the World. It’s New Zealand vs America. If someone from Brazil spoke of New Zealand, no one in New Zealand would care. If a Malaysian pop star said she liked New Zealand, it wouldn’t really matter, but for some reason America is different.

This is how an average American (by American I mean from the USA) is supposed to react about New Zealand:

“So, tell me what you know about New Zealand?”
“Noo… Noo what? Noo Zealand? Where’s that? I’ve never heard of Noo Zealand. It’s a country? Are you kidding? Are you sure you’re not making it up? I think I’d know about it if it really was a country. Is it part of Australia…..”

There’s also the problem of complementing the country. It goes like this.

“So what do you think of New Zealand?”
“It’s a very beautiful country with some wonderful scenery and I’ve met so many wonderful people.”
“No it’s not. New Zealand is really ugly and it’s polluted and all the locals are uncultured slobs”
“So what do you think of New Zealand?”
“It’s not very good. There’s too much pollution and all the people I’ve met are real assholes. I wish I’d never come here.”
“No it’s not. New Zealand is really beautiful country with wonderful people”.

It’s like playing the devil’s advocate to whatever opinion of New Zealand is presented. It seems like it’s really hard to take a compliment and equally as difficult to take criticism.

It can not be denied that New Zealand is a relatively small nation, but that does not mean insignificant. But most New Zealanders revel in any mention of the country on American tv or movies. Even if it is something as meaningless as someone mentioning the work “kiwi” (referring to the fruit), it is still enough to get a New Zealander excited. It’s as if instead of the person saying “I am going to eat a kiwi”, they say “I am going to eat a kiwi, which is a fruit that is not a native plant of New Zealand, but it is named after a native bird of New Zealand. New Zealand is a great country”

So, the basic theme is, New Zealand is a small, insignificant country that no one knows about, especially Americans, and it is a wonderful clean, green, unspoiled paradise. But if you are an American and you know anything about New Zealand, even acknowledge its existence, then there is something wrong with you and if you like New Zealand then you are really wrong. But if you don’t like it then why’d you bother coming here. Go home if you don’t like it.

I don’t know what has caused this attitude, or if it will change over time. But I’d like to see a stop to it now. This attitude has been responsible for a whole lot of really bad, poorly made New Zealand-promoting web pages and it must stop.

What a country.