May 2008


Garrick is right when he points out that some people are just whingers. Back when I lived in Melbourne a local pub was having untold trouble because a block of apartments had been built next door. Because there was no prior usage rights the pub, which was a landmark and had been there for decades, had to immediately implement sound-proofing and the like.

Now, personally I think that this type of whinging is ridiculous. Apart from enduring the endless blare of car alarms (seriously people… what in the hell are you thinking? Car alarms are the most pointless thing in the world. When was the last time you responded to one that wasn’t your own?), if you’ve moved into the city, or near an existing noise, then you have made a choice.

And that choice includes putting up with whatever ambient noises existed there before you moved in. Purchasing an apartment next to a cathedral, and then complaining, is downright stupid. It’s not like you could claim you were unaware, it’s a four story high salmon-coloured building with a bell tower on it for christssakes.

Whingers, every one of you.

This one is easy.

Steam yourself some rice. This couldn’t really get any more simple. Bring it to the boil, switch off. Put two tea towels on to keep the heat/steam in. Let sit for 20 mins. Should end up looking like the photo on the right.

While that’s steaming, get yourself out the left-over curry you made two days ago. And heat it up. It’s had enough time to sit and for the flavours to really blend nicely. After all, if you’ve gone to the hassle of roasting and mixing your own curry powder you want to enjoy it.

Oh, the recipe is in The River Cottage Meat Book. And it’s a cracker. Serve on top of the rice.

When you’ve eaten that, get the home-made yoghurt out of the fridge (you can make 2 litres for about $4), add some runny honey from the Waitangi Park markets (some Russian guy in Otaki gathers it), and put it over some of the frozen boysenberries from Moore Wilson ($7 for a kilo! Great value).

Then enjoy the rest of a lazy evening.

Buried beneath all the kefuffle around tax cuts and other high-flying, highly political items is one wee gem that I’m glad snuck through, and under the radar.

Free off-peak public transport for retirees.

Now, Poneke is still working, so he’s obviously not as stoked as I am about this one, but it’s still something someone like himself (who uses a lot of public transport) should be pleased with. Personally I’m stoked about it because it’s a way I can see my taxes going to someone I know, and directly contributing to making their life a little easier.

Second Chef’s parent’s are both retired, and both live here in Wellington, but out in the hills. Her grandmother on the other hand lives on the flat, and it’s a fair old hike between the two places. Consequently Second Chef’s parents spend something like $80 a week on buses getting to and fro, and that’s a large amount of money in anyone’s books.

So as of [the day this promise actually happens] they’ll be able to travel out to see granma without slowly bankrupting themselves!

As I say, I’m stoked at this initiative. The elderly as always at risk of social isolation, and something as simple as free off-peak travel can make a very large difference to their ability to socialise not only with their family, but with each other. In fact… that’s probably a blog in itself. We need more elderly people mixed into our communities. Too often they’re isolated into their cohorts and kept away from the younger generations.

Anyway, I’m wandering off into about how tying a onion to your belt was the fashion at the time. The short of the story is that this is a good, and simple, idea that should have been thought of before.

Second Chef’s parents are still highly mobile (in fact, you could barely call them “elderly”), but her Granma is not. That $78million will be making the lives of a lot of older New Zealanders a heck of a lot easier… Subsidising public transport, increasing it’s usage, and hopefully leading to its improvement is probably a secondary benefit!

Now why are you laughing boy? It was a serious business, let me tell you. There I was, not much older than yourself, and I’d stowed away on a ship outbound from New South Wales.

What? Well, it seemed like a sensible idea at the time. The gold rush was starting to wane and being a lad it was looking like there wasn’t much of a fortune to be made. So, I packed up my swag, took what gold I had and snuck aboard.

We were barely a day into the trip when I was found by the crew. They’re small ships you see. So they dragged my up in front of the captain and he asked me all manner of questions, mostly trying to put the fear of God in me. You know, the usual stories, how they cut up stowaways and use them for bait, how they make you swab decks until your hands are worn down to the wrists, all that kind of stuff. But he shut up when I showed them my small bag of gold, and asked why I hadn’t just paid a passage in the first place!

Tell you what, there was some hilarity when they heard my name, how was I to know that “Tibby” means “ship’s cat”? The captain thought that was just the thing, and so it stuck, and the ship’s cat I was. Now there’s a job you’d avoid if you could. I was fetch and carry for every sailor aboard… But I kept my gold at the end, having worked out my passage.

What? The name? Well, I was found an orphan you see, wandering there in the gold fields. I never knew what happened to my parents, or where they might have come from. Who knows! I used to wonder if they hadn’t been murdered by other gold miners, or perhaps fled in the night from the attacks of the savages. But women weren’t common in that part of the world in those days, so now, in my older years, I think I was likely just the child of a midwife, and maybe I one mouth too many to feed.

But still. To cut loose a toddler like that. Thank the Lord for the kind-hearted people who took me in, and raised me.

Still! It’s not like they had to feed me for long! I was working for my supper in no time, and soon on that ship bound for Otago with my own money. And proud I was.

What? Oh, the name! I’m an old man you forget sometimes.

“Tibby” was the only word I could say when they found me you see. And so they named me that. The thing with the ship’s cat was just a coincidence like. But it was a name fair enough, and so now it’s yours as well. A humble beginning, but a beginning all the same.

F,FLP

Of the commentary surrounding this week’s budget the most genuinely funny statement was included in this, from David Slack:

This is Tax Cut day. The islanders are standing on the deserted airstrip, waiting for the cargo.

I laughed. Loud.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a cargo cult is a peculiar type of religion that sprang up in the Pacific in the early Twentieth Century, and particularly around the Second World War. The gist is that the islanders saw all this amazing stuff being unloaded off boats or falling out of the sky under parachutes, and were awed. Obviously all this food and all these goods actually belonged to them, and not the greedy Europeans who had possession of them.

These were tribal, subsistence peoples with no understanding of how or where these things were produced, but were smart enough to know they wanted more. So they built their own airstrips, marched around like soldiers, and waited for the cargo to magically appear. And that, I fear, is the human condition.

I find this all fascinating, not because of the tax cut element, but because of the cult of entitlement that New Zealanders seem to thrive on. It’s odd, because on one hand Kiwis love to trumpet their “No.8 Wire”, DIY culture, but on the other hand are very quick to throw up their hands and shout “the Gubbermint” has to do something!!.

And example is farmers. I’ve grown up listening to farmers banging on about ‘townies’, and ‘bludgers’. Then, as soon as some type of natural disaster occurs, they’re first in line asking for a hand-out to see them through the rough patch. So:

  • Losing your job under massive restructures and going on the dole? Not a rough patch.
  • Chopping down too many trees and experiencing floods and erosion? Rough patch.

The justification for this type of logic is that farmers work hard for the good of the nation, and are therefore entitled to support when they need it. Now, they do have a point. I produce very little to enrich the nation, while farmers actually export things. And that’s what New Zealand actually needs. Not more construction workers or office drones. That said, the hypocrisy that has always aggravated me.

In general though the culture of entitlement seems to run hand in hand with a default position of “blame the gubbermint”. Perhaps it’s the fact that successive governments have supplied or built most of the countries infrastructure, or that we’re only 20 years removed from a “cradle to the grave” socio-economic model, but “the gubbermint” is always considered the driver in our economy.

But petrol prices and high commodity prices are something “the gubbermint” has no power over. Whether Labour or National are in power will have absolutely zero effect on the rising prices we’ve being experiencing. ‘Market forces’ means just that, the market drives prices. You’re paying more for your petrol or food because someone, somewhere, is willing to pay more than you, and that pushes up what you have to pay.

For some reason though, people behave as if they’re entitled to low prices. And as if they’re entitled to over-capitalise on their homes and then be rescued from their own folly. And when something goes wrong, something like interest rates climbing in response to limited international credit and inflation, or commodity prices rising on the strength of economies we export to, then that sense of entitlement manifests itself as anger at “the gubbermint”.

And that’s why the cargo cult reference is so damn funny. Because people look at their pay packet and see that less than a third of their pay disappears in taxes they immediately default to “I’d be better off if I had that money.” But most people wouldn’t. If they had that extra money their mortgage would just be a third bigger… and they’d be suffering even more under the credit crunch.

But still they line up, looking at the heavens, and expect someone else to rescue them from the situation their choices have put them in.

Some days at work are just, like this…

But then on the other hand, this is Ian Svenonius reading from The Psychic Soviet.

There you go. Feeling normal by comparison.

This week we have special request from Will for green pea risotto. I made a non-vegetarian version, but you can easily leave out the meaty ingredients and it will still be 100% terrific.

Here’s what you need.

1.5 litres of stock, any kind. I used chicken and it cost $5.80

1 lemon, and some fresh basil (we had the former sitting about, and the latter is a potplant).

3 shallots (dunno how much they cost, they’ve been in the pantry for yonks).

Maybe 25g of butter (but we had none, and used half tablespoon of olivani).

2 or 3 cloves of garlic.

Maybe a cup and a half of frozen peas. (again, already in the freezer)

400g of rice. Try to use arborio if you can. This much cost me $2.15

2 glasses of white wine (about 400ml). Doesn’t have to be flash. I used some we had sitting about, probably cost around $2.50.

And the pricey one. 120g of parmesan, $3.30.

So it’s roughly $15, and is actually 4 serves! That’s less than $4 per person!

Risotto is a great dish, and easy to make. The main thing to remember is to heat your stock, and don’t neglect the dish. And here we go. (more…)

If you aren’t familiar with Elsdon Best, all you need to know is that he’s a ethnologist who studied the Tuhoe people and codified a great deal of their oral history. He’s also thought to have been a little proprietary with their information, so he remains a somewhat controversial character.

Anyhow, one of his books is Māori Religion and Mythology. I collected the two volume set in hardback maybe 15years ago with nary a glance, placed them on a shelf, then in a box, then on a shelf and have hardly looked at them for years.

So my aunty is visiting from Auckland, and she’s interested in my collection of books on mythology, and takes down the Best. And is consequently a little surprised. Because this is the cover: (more…)

I was nine years old when I set out from England. Nine. I was born on Sheppey, which is in the Thames Estuary by the way, and put to sea like all the men of that small island. The war with Napoleon was over, Wellington having seem the little bastard off, and the sea seemed the natural place for an additional son.

But it served me well. I saw much of the world from the deck of many a sort of ship before leaving the whaler Catherine and finding my feet here in New Zealand. Like all good wanderers sometimes you just need a clear place to stand before you can stop the roaming, and this was as good as any.

After I took up with Pairoke we settled on her family’s land just south of their pa, that’s a kind of picket fort by the way, there were still the occasional war between the tribes in these parts, which goes to show, you can travel 12,000 miles and still be surrounded by people wanting to kill one another… and I took up farming.

Farming, can you believe it. Farming! These local Maori didn’t need a fisherman you see. We’d long since taken all the whales from these waters, and the locals could fish well enough for themselves. So farming it was. Me, as sailor for twenty years. Farming. At least I still had a cutter to run when the salt had cleared too much from my veins.

We cleared the land and placed on it sheep, cattle, and horses. And it was this trade that the locals wanted. It was strange in those days of New Zealand. There was a tension between the British setting up in Petone and in the South Island and the local tribes, that Arthur Wakefield was an arrogant petty aristocrat, and it occasionally split over into bloodshed. But I? I was welcomed.

And so here I am now in a paddock. Every man who comes here knows you could make a fortune in these waters, and here I am, moving into husbandry! If me old dad could see me now. Tell you what, he’d be amazed, his boy, landed gentry.

We’re even thinking of putting a tavern up on the roadside, to try and capture a little of the traffic heading to Port Nicholson. Now that would likely spin a pretty penny… A pretty penny indeed.

F,FLP

Being a pedestrian these days I’m spending more time noticing the insane behaviour of road users. There’s something about people locking themselves into a metal and plastic box that creates a massive personal space and a concomitant righteous indignation at others intruding on “your rightful property”, the road. I’m come to more or less expect this attitude from drivers, but… from a cyclist?

Seriously people. Sure, you can imagine that your petrol taxes pay for the roads, but that doesn’t mean you own them. It only means that you’re paying for all the wear, tear, (and eventually) pollution you’re causing.

And again, how can a cyclist have this same attitude?

So here’s the senario. I was crossing Taranaki Street here in Wellington, at night. I checked to see if there were any cars coming on my side of the street, and then walked to the median strip. If you’re not familiar with Taranaki Street it’s four lanes wide.

And yes, I am crossing ‘illegally’ against a green light. But hey, I checked if there were no lights bearing down on me, and there wasn’t, then I’m safe to cross. Now, I’m just about all the way across the street, when out of the dark looms a cyclist, yelling at the top of his voice about pedestrians getting in his way!

The dude’s lucky I didn’t push him off his bike. I swear, some people need to just chill the hell out. The guy didn’t have any lights on his 10-speed, didn’t have any reflective gear on, and had all of 7-10 metres of the street to choose from, and only 1 metre occupied by me. But, apparently, I’m cramping his style, and he needed to swerve towards me to make his point. In fact, he might have even crossed a lane to do so?!

You Mr. Stranger on a crappy bike, are either a whinger, or a fool.

Addedum: I know that this was a slightly fatuous use of the whinger label, but… it’s better than a post entitled, The Mentally Ill – Annoying.

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