April 2009


Since I’ve already had occasion to whinge about the use of leaf-blowers I thought I’d follow it up with a little bit of evidence. The first thing I’ve done is sent in a request for information to the City Council, and they’ll soon be getting details out to me about where else people are complaining about this particular noise. There’s also a letter in both the Capital Times and the Wellingtonian. Apparently the DomPost ignored me.

Further good news is that I’m not the only person in the building who’s annoyed at Transpacific Industries (the cleaning company), it looks like a committee is forming. An the one thing you do not do is mess with a Wellington committee.

If you’re not aware of what’s been going on, Transpacific has acquired the contract for street cleaning and has taken to the use of a leaf-blower (which is a noise akin to a lawn-mower) at around 4am every morning. From speaking to the guy at Transpacific this is because it is the most efficient way to get “sticky” or “tricky” dirt like cigarette butts and small papery rubbish off the footpath, and out into the street where it is swept up by one of their (relatively quiet) trucks.

No problem with that reasoning from me. It’s an efficient approach, only uses one man so it says ratepayers money, and they’re apparently using low-decibel leaf-blowers. And after all, this is an urban environment, you have to put up with a little noise. We for example never complain about drunks singing, buses, trucks, goddamn boy racers, bottle bins, pubs, or parties.

But let’s look at the issue at hand.

One: The leaf blower is a loud, droning noise active nightly at 4am. This is contrary to the Council’s own regulations about cleaning noise between the hours of 8pm and 7.30am.

Two: The one man working efficiently has been closely observed by me. He’s frequently a dude wandering aimlessly pointing his leaf blower almost randomly at walls, footpath, trees, cars, whatever. At least if he has a brush and shovel he’d be forced to approach a bit of rubbish and actually pick it up or sweep it somewhere.

Three: They aren’t actually cleaning the street. And here’s my evidence. All these photos where taken around 7.30am, a couple of hours after the blower came through, so not too much time for the rubbish to mount up.

Here’s my neighbourhood: Cuba St.

And here’s the rubbish, starting walking along the road from the right, then back down the left of the picture.

Thing is, you want to say, “but that’s only tiny bits of rubbish – except for all the bags of crap and bottles – why is it a problem?! Whinger!” Because… that’s why they’re using a leaf-blower instead of a brush and shovel.

And some days the rubbish isn’t there at all.

Windy days.

And while I think of it, do you see a pattern? If not let me point it out to you: smokers are lazy.

I’m unsure of my age. I’m old enough to sit up, but not old enough to speak more then a little. I have no memory of the event, but it is his favourite story of caring for me. It has been told on so many occasions, to so many people, over so many years, that I have a permanent third-person memory of the event etched in my mind, one in which I can see the two of us in the kitchen at their house in Te Aroha.

My only genuine memory of the house is of sunlight entering a living room. I’m lying on the floor playing with plastic toy soldiers, and landing craft. There is a couch or divan nearby, and one of my uncles is seated on it. He is perhaps 8 or 10. The wallpaper is striped in a 60′s style. It’s this memory that infects the next.

He always tells it as though it is the most incredible event he’s witnessed. My grandmother has left the house for some reason, and he is in charge of feeding me. “One weetbix”, while he has breakfast of his own to cook. I can clearly see myself sitting up in a high-chair, watching him. “Nom nom nom,” he says I say, “Nomnom.” Apparently this piques his interest, and he decides to feed me another weetbix. And another. And a peice of toast. And another. And some of his cup of tea. And another piece of toast.

“Never bloody seen anything like it,” he’ll say, “you just kept eating, and eating, and eating, all the while saying nomnomnomnomnom.”

I’ve heard this story since I was 5 years old. Every time it is near identical, which speaks to its truthfulness, and I have always seen it as little more than an example of his gentle teasing of me for being bigger than the average. A fun story to tell incredulous girlfriends he meets; a warning, if you will, for he is a true-blue family man.

But I’ve come to see it as something more. This is a tale of caring, and probably one at a time when my mother herself was unable to care for me. I can see now a pattern in which she fell into and out of ability to manage care of my brothers and I for herself, and so lended heavily on her parents to take us.

While this isn’t a controversial act, many young women rely on this type of help, it is deeply ingrained in the history of us, a necessity we came to take for granted, his steadfast and unconditional reliability in the face of difficulties she imposed on herself. And all this despite a deep undercurrent of the shame she was causing him, and worse, my grandmother.

F,FLP

Well, the not so wee man is coming along nicely. We had the 5 month Plunket visit yesterday and the nurse was very taken with him, but who wouldn’t be, right?

And he is definitely the bumper crop. Weighting in at a healthy 10.2kg, and 74cm tall (that’s 22.4 pounds and 29.3 inches for those still using the old money), he’s definitely a strapping lad.

After what we thought we initial problems with food, he’s onto the solids, and has taken to it heartily. Thus far:

  • baby rice: likes? check
  • banana: likes? check
  • avocado: likes? maybe
  • kumara: likes? find out tomorrow.

In other news, he has two bottom teeth cutting through today! This is well good news, until he bites someone… Probably Second Chef. And they’re sharp little blighters, bound to hear a yell any day now.

And the fathering experience on average?

I bumped into an old flatmate this evening, and could only say that the experience has been positive. There’s those day when he just yells all the freaking time, but then there’s the time you come home and from work and he just wants to look at you and smile, for minutes on end.

Then he’ll throw up on my shirt or trousers.

All in all, if you and your partner are talking about it, or just thinking it over, just go for it. Even if you think you can’t afford to. It’s worth it.

Originally I wanted to call this post “what I did on my holidays”, but the “how to’s” seem to draw in more Google traffic!

And what we did was go to Dunedin in the extremely sunny Otago and, among other things, gather seafood! Yay! Kaimoana!!

What we have here is two buckets of bluff oysters, and two of the local cockles. Awesome. Actually… do the kids even say “awesome” any more?

Now, cockles are easy, you just cook them the same way as mussels. But that’s another post. Oysters though… Oysters are tricky. Fortunately I’ve had to shuck dozens, and dozens, and dozens, and dozens while working in service.

So! All you need for this is two things: a decent oyster knife, and an oyster!

I should come clean and state that I’m not certain that these were *actual* bluff oysters. They did however live in the shallows of a local bay though, and we collected them at low tide. Naturally this was a lot of fun, involving freezing cold water, leaky gumboots, a boat trip, and a lot of scrabbling about.

So here’s what you need to do.

(more…)

Of the Cityscape fantasy books I’ve been reading lately, this is one of the more enjoyable. I’m becoming increasingly keen on the concept, because it removes a little of the need to suspend disbelief, other than towards the obvious issue of “magic”, and it grounds the stories in a relative terra-firma.

And Neverwhere does this, strangely, in London.

Neverwhere is the tale of a Richard Mayhew, who upon moving to London from Scotland finds himself adrift in a meaningless life. He has a great job, the perfect fiancee, and mostly importantly, prospects. But one day he finds himself confronted with a conundrum, to ignore a girl who has collapsed on the footpath in from of him and continue to a party with the all-too perfect Jessica, or to help her. Being a decent chap, he does the latter, and a new world opens up beneath his feet.

And it’s a great one. Gaiman applies all of his ability to tell fables in this book, and it is at lines conversely laugh-out-loud funny or deady serious. Like Stardust, its is basically the hero tale, but is told with just enough spin to make it genuinely interesting.

Highly recommended.

It seems to be the perpetual Summer of my old town, and we’re at their sunny flat. It’s an unstairs place with windows on three sides, warm, and comfortable. I remember spending extended periods of my early childhood there when they took us to give respite to our poor mother; growing three boys on your own seems to be far from easy.

She is there, although, we are not to call her She, which means “the cat’s mother” for an unknown, Grandmothers-only-reason, and leaning out one of the windows. She has her hand extended and is offering a small crumb of bread to the hardiest of urban birds, a Sparrow.

I learnt much about Sparrows that summer. I’m the only child of my age to know that the males have variable plumage, while the females are plain. I learn that they nest just off the coast on Goat Island (and am confused when I discover than near every bay or beach in New Zealand has the same set of rocks off the coast. Do the Sparrows live on them all?) I watch the Sparrows in the evening, flocking together in the sky, just above the town’s houses, and spiralling across the rooftops, South-East to North-West, heading to the island to roost, and graceful, swarming ballet.

For now she is still, itself something of an oddity, and calmly offering the crumb to the bird’ male, and curious. It sits in the window frame on a sill at its base, and hops forward and back, its head tilted, eyeing her and the bread in turn. I move slightly to get a closer look, and it takes fright. “Almost ett from my hand that time!” she says.

The bird is a project you see, one she has been working on in increments for weeks. A labour of an idle housewife who rightfully gave up working to raise five children, but retired to a life of women’s magazines and daytime TV upon their departure from home.

She has never learned to drive, because it is unlady-like. She smokes, but only Cameos, which she one day leaves upon the counter because the Doctor has informed her it is bad for her heart. Those cigarettes sit in that spot for two years, untouched, evidence of a battle of wills won in an instant. She is meanwhile fond of a glass of wine, but only in moderation. And she is, it seems, the self-regarding Daughter of rural gentry of a sort. A Taranaki sort. Bitterly and Imperially racist, and passionately dedicated to a Monarchy that appears to regard us as on outpost worthy of little but distain, despite our fawning, unrequited love.

And is herself a small bird of a woman. I can see her now, flapping her elbows in the way elderly ladies of a generation ago do to dance, chirping along happily to Perry Como, or the most full object of her adoration, Bing Crosby. She is big-breasted like a Robin, colourful, perky, happy. And she loves me deeply I can tell, though my brothers she appears to despise.

F,FLP

Great book. I enjoy Stross best when he’s mixing social commentary with his story, and Glasshouse is a good example. Set in what can only be described as Big Brother of the future, the novel centres on a former solider who’s escaping the world into an intended rehab. But… he’s being pursued by unseen enemies who may have followed him in.

Not too bad a premise it seems. It turns out that the glasshouse is question is a experiment in trying to understand social dynamics in a ‘dark age’ of approximately 1950-2050AD, and there we have a series of what are at times extremely funny perceptions of how we currently organise ourselves. In particular, the commentary of TV voyeurism is laid out in the form of a game whereby participants compete to be most authentically C20th. Which leaves us looking at our own behaviour… askance.

I do have one reservation though. Are there any Stross books where he uses something other than first person?

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