The long white cloud

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Another trip up to the Hunuas regional park and another brush with the pig-hunters (you may recall that we met some hunters the last time we were there). This time the hunters had caught a pig. I asked to see it (when in Rome ?) and one of the hunters gleefully obliged, except it wasn't the whole pig just it's severed head. I had assumed that these guys caught the pigs as a source of food, and for me at least, it gave the barbarity a figleaf of acceptability. But no, the guy explained that they couldn't eat the meat due to it being tainted by DOC rodent poison (truly the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible).

You may recall the allblacks handbag story from last week or as I like to call it the "Umaga handbagga clubber clobber shocker". Well, in true wharholesque fashion, the handbag got it's 10 minutes of fame (considerably longer actually) and was purchased on trademe (think NZ Ebay), for over 20,000 dollars ( incidentally the bidding had got up to over 100 million dollars through some mischievous bidding )

Now about this big football competition that is starting in the next few days. It is most odd viewing the build-up from another country. To be sure they are very keen on football over here, and the TV coverage is superb (every single game is being shown live and each game is being replayed). But there is no world cup hysteria of the sort witnessed in Blighty. England is still the team of choice for most Kiwis and certainly the bulk of the build-up coverage probably mentions them more than any other team. However, there is no sense of hysteria, so much so that for the first time in probably 20 years I can watch a world cup with relative objectivity about England's chances. And from where I am sitting the emperor has got no clothes on and his arse is pretty much blowing in the breeze ( my prediction - out in the quarters to Holland/Portugal/Argentina , with Beckham given a red card *).

And while on the subject of footy, have started playing for a new team. There is only half a season left and so I decided to play for an over 35's team thinking that I could ease myself back into the fray by playing with a bunch of fogies. What a mistake ! These guys are division one and really good. The first game I played they were 5-0 up at half time, and were probably good enough to beat Scotland (no major boast I realize).

* I reserve the right to rejoin the frenzied mob without prior notice, should England indeed proceed beyond the quarters

Monday, May 29, 2006


This week the gaffer and I have been trying to get more into the kiwi way of life, and so decided to settle down and watch the super 14 final. Which is identical to the FA cup final, except that the ball and the goal posts are the wrong shape and the ref never seems to spot that there are too many people on the pitch or that half of them are committing hand-ball. Still, despite that , we decided to watch like “real” kiwis and pinned our colours firmly to the mast of the Wellington Hurricanes (go “Canes !”). The reason that they garnered our support as opposed to the Christchurch Crusaders (boo!), was for the entirely sportsfan fickle reason of being from the North Island , and being the underdogs. But the whole thing turned into high farce anyway, because an hour before kick off a thick pea souper fell over the whole ground reducing visibility to about three feet. But instead of sensibly calling the match off, in that typically stoic kiwi fashion they just played on, making for an all-round comic affair. The close-up action the cameras could just about deal with, as could the commentators. Hoowever, on the long-shots (the bulk of the coverage), the commentators just repated for an hour and a half, that they could not see anything, and towards the end simply started speculating as to what was happening on the pitch. At half-time much of the crowd left the game to go and watch it down the pub, so that they could at least see the close-up shots. Anyways, the Canes lost, the Crusaders (Aders ?) won, and to add even more mirth to the event, the newspapers reported the following day that the Canes were involved in some sort of bust-up in a nightclub , that resulted in former all black captain Tana Umaga , hitting one of his berserk colleagues with a woman’s handbag, after the bloke had punched another night-clubber in the face. And after this sternest of reprimands from Umaga the guy promptly burst into tears (quite literally handbags).

We have recently discovered that the house seems to have been infested with some sort of mite (and no that's not a thinly veiled attempt to deter visitors). Either fleas or bed bugs, we are not sure which. But I appear to be their food of choice, and most mornings I wake up with some bites on my person, whilst the gaffer on the whole appears to be escaping unscathed. I have started researching the whole thing on the internet in order to formulate my plan of attack (do you know how much stuff there is out there, regarding flea infestation ?). I am a bit reticent to have the whole house fumigated - though it’s definitely an option - mainly because of my asthma and the fact that we would have to vacate the place for 24 hours. Instead I have decided to set up a flea trap (cunning eh?). Basically it involves suspending a lightbulb over a shallow dish of water, the idea being that the fleas jump towards the light and then fall in the dish and drown. No really. Apparently some people swear by this, so what the heck I will give it a go. Will keep you posted, I know you are all intrigued..

Two big stories here at the moment. The first is the queen’s 80th birthday. Whereas over in the UK any mention of a royal event triggers calls for an end to the royal family and various impromptu vox pox that reveal our indifference to Liz et al, over here it’s really quite different. People see her as a genuinely important person and (inter)national treasure and seem to get all misty eyed at the thought of her having aged yet another year. Personally I feel that this has more to do with the extra public holiday that they receive, rather than any genuine sense of patriotism.

The other big story here is about New Zealander Mark Inglis, who became the first double amputee to reach the summit of Mount Everest on prosthetic legs. I am not sure whether the story has reached the UK, but in a nutshell Inglis and his party discovered a dying British climber David Sharp at the death zone of Everest (over 8000m) and left him there and continued their journey. The story was not meant to end in this ignoble fashion. Inglis , whatever you think about him, is a quite remarkable character. A picture in the Star Sunday Times, showed him shortly after the Everest expedition sat in a hospital bed , four of his finger tips were jet black with frostbite (all but one will almost certainly be amputated ) and with further signs of blackness along the stumps of his legs. He is considered something of a national icon and has worked tirelessly for charity since he and a colleague both lost their legs to frostbite on Mount Cook almost 20 years ago. The ascent of Everest just being his latest in a long list of achievements. The abandonment of the climber on the mountain however, appears to have changed the way the NZ public now perceives him. The story would possibly have blown over, except that Sir Ed, voiced his disgust at the action of Inglis’s party (for a completely different perspective on this BTW, click here). Hilary , not for the first time has been voted the most trustworthy person in NZ, and is pretty much considered royalty over here, and a condemnation from him - together with the recent rescue of another climber Lincoln Hall - could have serious implications for Inglis who is heavily reliant on sponsorship deals.