Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Everything all the time

Jeez, it's been woe to go in three manic weeks. Time for a decent blog post. In this issue: Census, Student Loans, what's happening with Labour, Balmy Palmy, and a note that Great Things Are Afoot.

As some of you may know, I've been helping Jeremy Greenbrook out doing some census delivering and collecting. It proved to be an enlightening experience, which I am not at liberty to tell you anything about. I have been sworn to secrecy by many oaths, at least three to big and powerful government departments, as well as a number to jaded householders. Suffice it to say, it's something I would recommend everyone tries once.

I got a call from Mr RRB (Rugby Racing Beer) in Orkland during census week. "I am not fucking filling this in," he said. "Mate, it almost asks me how big my dick is." He accused me of selling out on my Right to Privacy cred, working for the Machine. Which sort of hurt, coming from someone who works in the finance market. Of all people, I thought RRB would realise the importance that good information has on good decision-making.

The questions aren't asked to piss people off, but to get a five-yearly snapshot of NZ. The information provided in available to anyone who wants it. For example, it helps researchers such as your truly to have something to back up our hunches and arguments with. For RRB, I said that it's important for his three kids to have the correct number of health, education and welfare provisions allocated to them. Without accurate numbers to go off, the electorate with the most eloquent pork-barreller gets the funding. Funny how Tauranga has a new toll-free bridge while Orklanders might be forking out for a bridge they finished paying off 20 years ago. RRB did his duty and completed the census online, a less painful method of necessary evil.

The census job also helped provide a cash cushion for my return to university. Yep, I'm back at Vic doing Politics Hons, student loan set to maximum. I'd be stupid not to. Just as well I'm thoroughly enjoying my papers while I'm clocking it up. The best value so far is Margaret Clark's Contemporary Political Thought. If Margaret was cast for Star Wars, she'd be Yoda. There's a hundred pages of reading material handed out every week and a discussion on last week's readings. For the second hour, we chew the fat at Ilott Cafe where the Professor shouts for coffee. I'm researching post-capitalist theory and Ralston Saul in particular. Fucking brilliant.

The most fun class is DEAF101, where I'm learning NZ Sign Language. As Rodney discovered last week, NZSL is full-on. It's also full of distinctively kiwi twang. It's not Total Communication, it's not British, US or even Oz style, although it has links to all of them. It's ours. We made it ourselves. I promptly went out, bought the dictionary and looked up all the swear words. I learnt sign for 'Bossy Bitch' from an extra-curricular tutorial. I might have never got round to learning this great vernacular if it weren't for The Insiders' Guide to Love showing it off, so thanks guys whoever you are.

I have no problem at all with making NZSL the third official language. This shit is indigenous. It doesn't exist anywhere else. It's valid and alive. And it's not as if you'll need to subtitle the paperwork or anything. I wonder how much fun it would be to give a maiden speech in NZSL? Speaking of which, it's about time for me to clear the air, if only for a moment. I am now officially a paid-up member of only one political party; Labour. I will not be attending the Act conference later this month. I don't see the point. Labour is in need of new blood, and I hope to be part of the much-needed rejuvenation that is needed if Labour is going to be able to salvage some long term goodwill.

It must be getting heavy going for Helen and Cullen pushing all that shit uphill. While the DBP pustule lies festering defensively in his portfolios, Dover Samuels has taken a mighty step into the arena, taking the piss out of Department of Conversation Minister Chris Carter and Fisheries Minister DBP over the Whangamata marina veto. As well he should. What's the PM going to do? Fire him? Talk of dissention in caucus does little to stem the perception that Labour V is about to go nova.

It all makes my weekend in Palmy look almost painless. I stayed with Miss Tigger, who is slumming it in a gargantuan student flat while studying Vet Nursing at Massey. She pays $35 a week for the largest bedroom, has a backyard big enough to play most team sports in and still have enough space for a wilted vegie garden. It hadn't rained there for months. The lawn was a uniform brown tapering off into the distance. Unlike Wellington, which is full of evergreen natives and shrubs, Palmy is littered with imported trees. Literally. Their leaves are falling off everywhere.

After meticulous preparation, involving many beers and a bottle of bubbly, we headed into town for St Pats. Melody Lane had been cordoned off, a band playing at the far end, the Celtic Inn doing a roaring trade. Across the narrow lane, the err, other pub featured a couple of scantily-clad women serving the beers from a chilly-bin. One was Asian, the other blonde. Neither was likely to have ticked Irish on their census forms, but I'd put money on their profession being strippers. Miss Tigger corroborated this by saying she had seen the dark-haired one at Firecats not so long ago.

We moved on to Guvnors Tavern, which I remembered as The Royal (followed by The New Royal). That night, the venue was hosting Palmy's premier death metal band, Hellborne. Their T-shirts feature the Palmy clock tower with an upside-down cross, and one of Miss Tigger's flatmates is in the band. We got there too early, the band still setting up. We had to content ourselves with stories about that girl over there by the bar who is so-and-so's ex-girlfriend who's also a real psycho bitch. How the long winter evenings must just fly by.

We excused ourselves to play some pool down the road at what I swear used to be a Westpac bank. That's one thing Palmy is good for. Drinking, just so long as it's quantity you're after, not quality. For example, you can get decent change back from your $20 note for a couple of drinks but don't expect a slice of lemon in your vodka, let alone lime.

It was inevitable that we'd end up at Firecats, where I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of strippers. Miss Tigger went to the bar and ordered a bottle of Bernadino, a vile alleged wine I haven't touched since I was underage. After my first vodka however, the Bernadino seemed somehow more appropriate for the circumstances. To our left was a couple of paraplegic men getting their kicks. On our right, two old geezers enjoyed the show, wishing both of us a good night on their way out. Across from us were the usual louts, getting a grope but not slipping a bill for the pleasure. Bloody plebs.

We parked the Bernadino behind the bar and went out for a ciggie, where we bumped into one of the stippers' flatmates. He was hanging around outside as he didn't want to pay the $10 cover charge, seeing how he flatted with one of the workers. The bouncer wasn't impressed with this and that's where we met him. He invited us back to his really cool pad for a beer. Miss Tigger is the first to admit she has the attention span of an ADD fly when drunk, so decided this new idea sounded great. Although I had been quite happy, ensconced in a bar distracted by beautiful women strutting their stuff, I felt obliged to keep watch over this flighty one.

The really cool pad was up a few stairs overlooking a dreary Broadway intersection. Palmy Broadway is not London Broadway. Even with a really vivid imagination, one cannot see the slightest resemblance. The flat was cramped and squalid. A couple sat in the lounge in their own private universe. The host served up a can of Double Brown beer, something I have not had since I lived in Palmy nearly twenty years ago. After a few swigs, the taste threw back all the associated memories. Things went all Grosse Pointe Blank on me. I managed to excuse myself in time to get out the door and throw up over someone's car.

I was in Palmy to help RRB, down from Orkland with the whanau, tidy up some unfinished business. After a hard day's slog, Mrs RRB and the kids went out Ashhurst way for the night, while RRB and me had a few quiet beers in town. The Fitz looked a shadow of its former self. It's just not the same without all the broken glass and wall-to-wall vomiting. We were about to leave after one jug, when a paralytic party of 21st birthday bashers staggered through to relieve the dullness. We had a good yarn with the group over the second jug before sliding back out into the street in search of more life.

It wasn't to be found at the Indian restaurant we chowed down at in George Street. Although the food was good tucker, only one other table was occupied. Everyone must have been psyching themselves up for another hurly-burly week or something. The attentive hostess told us that people do not go out on Sunday nights in this town. Our forlorn search for a busy bar continued to Aqaba, which was the busiest place we'd seen all night. It was just a shame that indoors was pantingly stuffy and everyone was leaving at the ripe old hour of 9pm. We gave up at the Celtic Inn. If we had wanted to drink by ourselves, we would have stayed at the house.

On the walk back, we confided that we had both arrived in Palmy with open minds. We were both evaluating moving back to Palmy. For RRB, he was thinking of his family. For me, I was thinking of my sanity. We had both surmised that our hopes would not be improved by
a move to Palmy. John Cleese was absolutely right.

Good news everybody! This is one of the last posts for A new site, with greater potential, is currently being tested. This will go live sometime this month, just as soon as I've manged to wangle the watchama-call-it with the thingme-bob.