Hiding In Your Cupboard

Hiding In Your Cupboard
Banksy's desecration of the Palestinian wall

Tuesday, 31 July 2007


I have finally met the Prime Minister. Frankly it was about time... even then we were separated by a glass door panel. I was three minutes away from a face to face meeting, possibly even a handshake. However, at the last minute I was turfed out of the waiting room (for the second time), to make way for Helen and her “people”. Despite this I managed to catch Helen’s eye – and there was certainly an exchange: an exchange between political rebel and political stalwart.

Why am I referring to myself as a political rebel – I hear you ask? Well, on the same day that I met Helen Clark – I learnt that the New Zealand government had agreed to the filming of Parliamentary sessions but in exchange had outlawed the use of images of parliament or MPs being used to “satirise, denigrate or ridicule”. What a bunch of children! I thought Mr Blair was a bit of a scaredy-cat when he tried to describe the media as a Feral Beast – but this takes the biscuit. The TV companies have said that they are going to ignore this ban but the crime is a serious one – laughing at a politician while using an image of him in Parliament (i.e. actually being a politician) puts a person in contempt of parliament which is an imprisonable offence.

One politician virtually cried when a reporter described him as “examining the insides of his eyeballs” when he was caught asleep. He claimed that journalists weren’t funny and that they should consider a different career if they wanted to be comedians. Ironically enough for the politician if the comment isn’t funny it doesn’t meet the criteria for satire or ridicule and whether such a comment could be said to denigrate someone is fairly dubious. So it seems that as long as journalists remain tacitly humourless they can say anything they like.

I.e. it is permissible to say:

Politician A is a liar who is responsible for the deaths of many innocent people.

But not:

Politician A smells of Poo.

This leads us, prima faeces, to the conclusion that Politicians would rather be known as mass murderers than smell of poo.

This arrogance on the behalf of the politicians makes clear their dim view of the general public. Why are Blair and the New Zealand government so concerned about their portrayal in the media? Essentially, because the message they are trying to communicate via the media is often torn to shreds by the time it gets to the electorate. Blair complains that he has tried to convey the facts via other forms of media (i.e. his website, carrier pigeons, Morse code and smoke signals) but to no avail. This is bollocks – Blair and governments world-wide have made only perfunctory attempts at embracing an alternative media that scares the wits out of them because they struggle to control it (Blair is a famous, and strangely self-congratulatory technophobe – which is fairly shameful for a leader of one of the richest countries on the world).*

When they get upset at the media’s treatment of their press releases they are essentially upset because they want the media to act as their direct mouthpiece with little or no comment. They fear that the general public are essentially too stupid to read through the lines and make their own analysis.

If they are so concerned about straightforward “FACTS!!!” being communicated to the public (which they are strangely reticent about when it comes to issues such as cash for honours, invisible weapons of mass destruction or accurate rates of inflation and unemployment) they should take the responsibility of publishing them themselves and then we can all breathe a sigh of relief and tear them to shreds anyway as they will probably be doctored beyond any sense.

I could write for ages on this subject but I fear a rant coming on so will stop myself here.

I have procured another, slightly better paid job for the next few months. One problem… I have to start at 7am. Starting at 7am is for morons… the sort of people who say things like “you wouldn’t recognise hard work if it punched you in the face” or “twenty pounds!!! You were ripped off mate. If you had driven up to Hastings, got on the 32 bus, got off at Wimpole, swum through a Ford, jogged up a mountain, scratched out your eyeballs with a feather and then eaten your own appendix you could have got that for 19 pounds.”. You know the type – inevitably a bit ruddy in complexion, simple in the eyes and prone to laughing at the wrong bits. They quite often get to work early for seemingly no reason whatsoever except for the fact that they don’t have the concentration span required for sleep.

So I’ve been lumped with that entertaining lot. I can’t wait to become a student again and then get a relatively interesting job.

Jayne’s job however, is much better. She has met a lot of her caseload now and it seems pretty interesting. The lengths that people are able to go here for children who are having difficulties put the UK to shame. I can’t go into too much detail though as most of what she does is confidential.

Jayne’s first school meeting provoked much merriment. After walking in to the room and introducing herself in a professional manner she stepped on what turned out to be the school dog.

In all seriousness the head-teacher said:

“I can see the school dog playing a really important role in the speech therapy you are delivering.”

In what sense?

“I’m very sorry I am unable to make my appointment today but Rover here, he’ll take charge. He can’t fucking speak but that’s no matter nor can the children.”

Anyway – I have to scoot.

Hope everyone is well.

Lots of love

Jayne and James x

* Blair has said that he is going to use his early retirement to learn how to text message. Come on Tony, my Gran can send Text messages it requires the simple skill of pressing a button and reading. Surely you can read and press buttons Tony?

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Whoops forgot to post this bit - start of blog 24/6/7

Apologies for the unreasonable length of time since the last update of this blog. Jayne and I have been extremely busy trying to avoid being unemployed and homeless. With these two objectives now achieved, I feel its appropriate to take half an hour paid leave from my Temp job to cover the last few weeks.
Our week in Sydney was short: perhaps too short… for me the end of a period of travelling is always quite poignant. You can’t help but think of all the things you may have missed or whether you could just throw everything to the wind and spend the rest of your life traipsing round, scraping the bottom of your rucksack for change or socks. A life without routine can either be extremely fulfilling or extremely frustrating. The last minute decision to jump on the next train to nowhere compared to the realisation that you have missed sun rise at the Taj Mahal/Angkor Wat/ Great Wall of China because you lost track of time/ overslept/ got engrossed in your book. The proximity of New Zealand and a tightening of funds magnified the prospect of a return to routine and brought with it feelings of panic mixed with converse feelings of relief.
We were able to stay at our friends Jen and Ben’s place in Sydney, who, as it turned out, lived in the building next to the Palladium in Pyrmont. Four years ago, myself, Pat, Adam and Charlie rented a flat here and stayed for about six months.
On an exciting note of reunion I managed to track down my good friend Hannah Roughvie who went to York University with and also travelled Asia with me. I hadn’t been in contact with her for about four years and somewhat flukily managed to get in touch a couple of days before we arrived. Hannah arrived in Sydney about three months after I did (four years ago this is) armed with a school rucksack, a duty free bag full of Marlboros and about 200 quid to her name. She then proceeded to stay at my flat (invited of course) and work as a fishmonger.
Now though, she is well on the way to becoming an Australian resident, manages a home for disabled adults and is expecting a baby sometime soon. She has the dubious honour of being my first pregnant friend (being the first that is not that it is dubious for her to be pregnant – she seems over the moon about it and I have no doubts that she’ll be a really excellent mum).
Jayne and I have carried on mine and Patrick’s habit of doing ridiculously silly things while checking in at airports. On our way out of Sydney we were convinced that we would be able to print a copy of our New Zealand visas at Sydney Airport.
On arrival we were told that there were no printers at Sydney Airport.
The international Airport of one of the most important cities on Earth doesn’t have a printer. They sell plates of oysters (who in God’s name eats oysters before a flight?), and you can buy a pair of Gucci heels but you can’t print anything… anywhere.
Consequently, when we presented at New Zealand immigration I was slightly worried that we might be refused entry (seeing as we had a single ticket, were short of the required amount of money to emigrate by about 2000 and had no evidence at all of being in possession of a valid visa). I didn’t help matters by saying that we had arrived from “Symbmy… yeb, thabs it Sybmy” as my throat went a little dry.
Fortunately, after routinely asking us whether we had jacked up heroin in Vietnam (and us correctly saying no), the immigration officer let us through without seeing any documentation at all. He gave us a year long stamp and that stamp is the only thing that any employer has bothered to look at since I have been here. They have no idea about my work status… I could be planning to bring down New Zealand by subtly undermining their bureaucracy. It could happen NZ… one illicit shift in a cafĂ© could be enough to bring your entire economy down… watch out.
Our first couple of days are spent in the centre of Auckland which I feel was a disappointing start for Jayne. Auckland has to have one of the least inspiring city centres in the world. Wolsey Place and the Peacocks in Woking have more charm and slightly better clothing shops (you’ve got your Madhouse, your Olympus Sports, your Burtons and the Next Sale that sees hordes of tragic mid-thirties wannabee Bridget Jones’s cueing from Dawn to get their hands on that pencil skirt made from 40% polyester by a blind, 2 year old monopod in China using a spoon and some spit). It is Aucklands suburbs that really give the city its character.
You have districts like Ponsonby and Parnell: wide avenues lined with trendy shops, excellent cafes and restaurants and reasonably trendy cocktail bars. Then K Road with its all night club venues, dirty gig venues, vintage shops and proliferation of cheap sushi. Further out you get places such as Mission Bay which are near to the water and are laid back and pleasant to stroll around and have a good nightlife. Unlike any other city I have been to, Auckland is littered with excellent restaurants. On my street alone there are three restaurants that would possibly be classified as one star Michelin restaurants. They are also fantastic value – the best restaurant here charges about 40 pounds for its Menu Degustation – 8 courses of foodie heaven and only another twenty eight pounds for a quality wine to match each course. As soon as Jayne and I are rolling in it I shall update those who are culinarily motivated with some reviews.
We eventually, and perhaps short-sightedly, find shelter lodging with a little old lady called Marilyn. She is the owner of an extremely hungry Pointer called Hetty. So hungry indeed, that when I left some frozen chicken in a bowl to defrost I was not unsurprised to find Hetty hiding under a duvet shivering combined with a mysterious absence of my chicken.
Marilyn lives next door to a chap called Ron Davies. Ron is very gay, although it was news to Marilyn, and also used to present the Kiwi news. Jayne met him first and was told that he was writing a novel. When she asked him what it was about he replied egnimatically that it was about “an extremely disturbing incident involving himself and a professional rugby player which he couldn’t possibly go in to at that very moment”. I have met him just the once. He was helping Marilyn paint the front of her house and spotted me leaving with a couple of DVDs that I was returning to the shop.
“Hello lad,” he said. “What have you got there; porn?”
It was a bit like Jon Snow asking you if you you’re a legs or a tit man. Marilyn chimed in…
“Porn. I didn’t know they rented out porn at that shop.”
Being fully confirmed as not only a watcher of porn but the flagrant type who rents it from public video stores and then flaunts it in peoples front gardens was a little unsettling but neither of them seemed to mind very much.

Sunday, 1 July 2007


My career as a hard hitting news journalist took its first teetering steps this Friday as I spent an evening at TV New Zealand’s offices courtesy of Janet, the producer Jayne and I met a couple of weeks back.

The building is a white affair situated next to the hypodermic Skytower (a vertical lollipop of tacky bars, glitzy casinos and a pretty decent theatre). Slightly nervous, I tried listening to the Libertines to gee me up before I met Janet. Unfortunately, the reception staff were unable to find her so I soon found myself sitting in the recording studio waiting room with the shows guests.

The show I had come to see is called “Eye to Eye”, it’s a topical debate programme with a focus on Maori affairs and is hosted by Willie Jackson, a lugubrious and combative interviewer with a compensatory bald pate. The set up is simple, Willie in the middle, Maori’s on the left and Pakeha on the right. In comparison to Australia, where the relations between Aborigines and settlers are excruciatingly embarrassing, relations between Maori’s and Pakeha are relatively cordial. There are however, some stresses but New Zealand seems to play these as a strength. Things aren’t perfect but in my opinion New Zealand is a good example of how a multicultural society can survive; its willingness to debate the issues of race frankly and honestly removes their taboo and enables real change or action in a way that the two opposing facets of political correctness and voluntary racial segregation never will.

Before Janet arrives a camp production assistant waves me in and invites me to sit down. The guests are already there – helping themselves to a corporate cheese platter (they always contain that mysterious pale white cheese with a green wax coating; origins unkown) and sandwich selection (with obligatory and much-hated seafood cocktail (two words that should never be combined – not even in the murkiest depths of Hell, other contenders: crab stick)).

The guests introduce themselves to me, confident that I know them. Unfortunately I don’t so I have to assume a look of ever increasing mild astonishment as I shake each hand.

A Maori lady who looked to be in her sixties implored me to eat the food. Consequently the first few minutes of my career in journalism were spent eating spicy chicken legs.

Janet soon arrives and whisks me away to watch the news being recorded live. The room is just as one would imagine, an impressive bank of television screens fronted by an imposing, Maginot line of technology. The news team busily count in various different reporters and cue prerecorded interviews and graphics etc. Janet introduces me to Tate Urale – the producer, who offers me a beer and tells me to ring him for some experience. (YAY!)

Next I see a few offices and the Newsroom (where the news is received and stitched together). It is a Friday and there seems to be much opening of wine and beer, journalists seem to perch on their desks like chicks eager to fly into Auckland's after work bars.

Next I watch the debate, which interestingly enough, turns out to be on immigration. Awkwardly enough, it turns out that the Maori lady, the leader of the Maori First Party, is against the current level of immigrants from white countries (her argument being that they were restricting opportunities for Maoris – I have no facts to bolster either side of this argument so I won’t bother expostulating). I wondered if she was annoyed at offering me the spicy chicken wings after hearing my Anglotwang (my new word readers). Perhaps that small amount of sustenance was all I needed to avoid starvation and thrive on this Island restricting others from attempting to get a career in writing.

The guests on the Pakeha side of Willie included the rather maverick Minister for Immigration who sported a funky leather jacket. This garb would be worn with a mountain of self-consciousness by any British politician (think Hague in a baseball cap or a lank haired Blair twiddling with an out of tune guitar); but this guy pulled it off. Not completely, but perhaps in the way that Harrison Ford might just pull off the next Indiana Jones movie.

After the debate I met Brendan, New Zealand’s leading weatherman. He is literally all smiles. I think I could have told him that his grandmother had just been died and that God had decided to give up on the weather idea (it was always flawed in my opinion) and he would have just smiled at me and said “aw shucks” like a Hanna Barbara cartoon.

After a short conversation he thrusts a bag of fresh red snapper into my hands and tells me he caught it that day in his Kayak. It was the Kiwi version of a depressed Michael Fish reluctantly proffering me a bit of his lukewarm kipper in a bygone Shepherd’s Bush greasy spoon.

Or being given a fish finger by Andi Peters.

I cooked it Thai style and bloody lovely it was too.

It was a very interesting evening indeed and to top it off Janet asked me back next week to watch the recording again. Except this time they are questioning the Prime Minister. I’ve been here 4 weeks and I am about to meet Helen Clark (big chin et al – google her Anglophiles). Any suggestions as to what I should say to her are extremely welcome.

Must scoot


PS. Amusing moments of the week so far:

Our new Irish friend pointing at my cuboid Gastro-chip exclaiming “Is that a… no it can’t be… is that a potato! Its so impressive what they’ll do with them these days.”


“Pirates of The Carribean, oh I liked it, three hours of Johnny Depp. But I didn’t understand it, far too many different storylines”.

Really… – I just remember the single pirate themed one. Perhaps by storylines she meant post-modern Johnny Depp references.