Archive for May, 2016

Ka mate Ka mate

the warrior within

the warrior within

A fierce and rousing haka, the good old ka mate ka mate. It creates fear and terror in the hearts of those who face it. Ka mate is only one version of a Maori haka, but it is the one that has been adopted as the iconic national haka of New Zealand. I heard someone recently complain about the length of time a school prize giving took because whenever a pupil of the tangata whenua received a prize, they received a rousing haka from a section of the audience, stretching the ceremony by a couple of hours longer than it could have been. It became most poignant when an Asian girl took a major prize of a multi-thousand dollar university grant to polite applause, followed by a local boy winning a reading skills prize for which his supporters leapt to their feet with hearty slapping of thighs, quivering outstretched arms, bulging eyes and protruding tongues. It is a rousing chant, no question but is this just taking it a bit far? It is a war challenge isn’t it? There should be a time and a place for a war challenge and I am not sure a school prize giving is the time or place.

Te RauparahaThe subject came back to my mind because I am reading a very well-written book on colonial New Zealand in the deep south (Johnny Jones, A Colonial Saga by Diana Harris). The author of the ka mate chant, Te Rauparaha,  features in some of the chapters. He was a chieftain who had fought his way down the North Island, Maui’s land, until he established his stronghold for the Ngati Toa tribe, on Kapiti Island.

But he was a chieftain who had ambitions to plunder the south island, Pounamu (greenstone) land. This land was the homeland of the Kai Tahu tribe which was a merger of the original inhabitants, the Waitaha who later merged with the Kati Mamoe when they arrived from the North Island in the fifteenth century who then, in the late seventeenth century, intermarried with the Ngai Tahu from the North Island’s east coast. By the time the pakeha arrived, most of the south island was under the united tribe of Kai Tahu.

But I preamble to explain how I rediscovered an interest in Te Rauparaha’s ka mate haka. He did lead a war party from Kapiti Island down to the south island when his war party slaughtered the people of Kaikoura before moving on to Kaiapoi where Te Maiharanui’s pa was located. Te Maiharanui was the spiritual leader of Kai Tahu. Te Rauparaha sent his chiefs in ahead to have a chat, but Te Waiharanui was taking no chances and so when he invited them to dinner they discovered that they were actually the menu. They ate Te Rauparaha’s chiefs for dinner. Literally. True story.

Te Rauparaha was well displeased and sometime later conspired with a pakeha ship’s captain to hide his warriors on the ship when it came into Akaroa harbour and lure Te Maiharanui and his family aboard to trade for muskets. They were captured and then Te Rauparaha’s war-party attacked the local villagers, butchering, eating or enslaving them before returning to Kapiti. He took Te Maiharanui back to Kapiti where he was killed. A year later the tribes down in Otakau and Waitaha heard that Te Rauparaha was back in the south island, causing mischief in Kaiapoi so Te Whakataupuka from Ruapuke (the island off the Southland coast now known as Stewart Island), with Taiaroa and Karetai from Otakau, put a team together and set off to have a word with him.

Long story short the southerners gave the invaders a bit of a spanking up at the salt lake in Marlborough and then dined out well at the after-match. But they were disappointed that they did not actually capture Te Rauparaha who had run off during the battle and then swam to an escaping waka, threw one of his warriors into the water, took his seat and paddled for all he was worth.

I was dismayed. I had an image of Te Rauparaha as being one of those stand and fight to the end guys. Death or glory. Aotearoa’s very own Geronimo or Musashi. Fearless in battle; inspirational in leadership; not a man who would throw one of his boys to the enemy ovens while he ran for his life. How could this man Te Rauparaha be the author of the our national warlike challenge, ka mate, ka mate?

So I looked further into the history of the ka mate ka mate haka. As it turns out, Te Rauparaha was on the run from his foe (he’s starting to make a habit of this running away from a fight thing). Anyway, he made his way to the village of a friendly chief, explained his predicament and was promptly put down a deep hole and the chief’s wife obligingly sat on the opening to hide him. When the enemy came storming through they couldn’t find him so they raced on. Some tales diplomatically refer to it as a kumara pit, other historians conclude that if the deception was created by the wife sitting on the opening, then it was far more likely to be a long-drop public toilet. So anyway when it’s all clear, the wife gets off the hole and Te Rauparaha is helped up whereupon he creates his ka mate ka mate haka in recognition of his close brush with death. This haka celebrates successfully hiding from his foes down a public lavatory.

Translated it goes:

I may die, I may die, I may live, I may live (repeat)

The hairy one (a gentleman would have averted his eyes) allowed the sunlight to reach me

One step up, then another and another, and lo! the sun shines,

All Blacks haka When we sing the New Zealand anthem at these games we sing it both in Maori and English. I am relieved that we do not translate the ka mate haka into English. It sounds a fearsome, warlike, fight-to-the-death challenge in Maori, but loses a lot of its message in the translation. It would be a tad embarrassing if a few burly Saffas or French understood the true meaning as they faced the haka in a world cup final; and as for the Aussies, that just would not bear thinking about. I just hope this blog is never translated into French or Afrikaans. Fortunately the Aussies’ literacy skills are quite limited so they are unlikely to be reading past the headline. But apart from that, do you think that chants extolling the glory hiding down a toilet when the bad guys are after you is the sort of response we should be encouraging among our vulnerable young at school prize giving ceremonies??

Compare Ka mate with the Ko Niu Tireni (New Zealand) haka written by Wiremu Rangi for the All Black Invincibles’ tour of the British Isles.

The final chorus is:

Ka Tu te ihiihi (we shall stand fearless)

Ka tu te wanawana (we shall stand exalted in spirit)

Ki runga ki te rangi (we shall climb to the heavens)

E tu iho nei, tu iho nei, hi (we shall attain the zenith, the utmost heights)

The great George Nepia led this haka. The British were a bit stunned and bemused by this war chant following their “God Save the Queen”. But when Nepia led it on their 22nd game in Llanelli they performed it to a crowd that had just finished a rousing rendition of “Land of my fathers”; and if anyone can mob-sing it is the Welsh. But a newspaper report said that when Nepia led the haka the crowd was so silent you could hear a pin drop. At the end of the haka the crowd took up the challenge as one with another impromptu rendition of “Land of my fathers.” Respect!

The we then beat them 8-3.

Ko Niu Tireni  works for me on the rugby pitch or in the school hall. If I need someone to watch my back, give me Wiremu Rangi of the 28th Maori Battallion over Te Rauparaha any day. I would vote for this Ko Niu Tireni haka to become our national anthem as well as our national haka.

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Love, love me do…

I received an email from my friend Dan from some foreign Qantas lounge while he was en route to the mysterious Orient. Dan was mortified that only hours after departing our shores and desperate for news of his homeland, he cranked up his laptop and pointed it to New Zealand News websites only to be inundated with breaking news about some Love me dowoman from a reality TV show who had fallen out of love, or fallen in love and it was someone else who fell out, or something. Whatever had happened, Dan was outraged that when he wanted updates on the dairy prices, the crime statistics and the latest earthquake in Christchurch (a pleasant 4.7), what dominated the website was the outcome of the Bachelor TV reality show.

I thought Dan was just grumpy from air travel stress and just needed a gin and an eye mask, but when I turned on the 6:00pm TV News I understood what he meant. I don’t mind it being on the News, but this is the story that you expect as a bit of light relief at the end of a News bulletin, right alongside “and now, a horse with a two metre foreskin….” Instead, this Bachelor story led the News and the newsreader seemed so genuinely solemn about it. What is it about that Peter guy who often reads the News? He weirdly seems to brighten up with a grin to read particularly gruesome piece of News involving death and destruction. It’s almost as emojiif emoji symbols are part of the cue card system and that someone in the background keeps amusing himself by putting up a happy face instead of a frowny face.

I have seen this Bachelor Show, but only in bite-size bits, as I channel surf looking for either a decent movie, Sherlock Holmes or David Mitchell, Lee Mack and Rob Brydon on Would I lie to you. The little I have seen always brings out the responses like “oh you have got to be joking’; ‘this cannot be for real’; ‘who would humiliate themselves like that?’ ‘What a bunch of airhead skanks’; ‘Who would ever date that silly cow after seeing this?’ or simply ‘What a plonker.’

Not all of these comments were directed at just one episode. I see less than five seconds of each show at a time as I channel surf and the comments are therefore spread out over many shows. So it is a well balanced and consistent reaction based on a valid representation of the entire series.

I know every generation since Socrates has despaired for the next generation and still here we are. Socrates wrote “The children now love luxury. They have contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” 2400 years later, here we are again. Replace ‘chatter’ with ‘twitter’ and I couldn’t have put it better myself, Socrates, old son.

But, and it is a capital BUT, now we have reality TV shows that old Socrates didn’t have to consider. Ok maybe a bit of cooking or house reno reality is tolerable, but when it comes to the intimacy of dating from the ‘getting to know’ a complete stranger to expressing feelings of deep love and commitment? Well doing all that on TV, and in open competition with a harem of other airheads, that is really something else again. That is just cringy. But, what do I care? When I was a lad, we conducted all our embarrassing dating disasters in privacy, with generally no more than one witness whose version of events could always be disputed (nahhh it was me who dumped her, mate).

So let these children worry about it being re-played in HD at inappropriate times in years to come by their children’s friends. I just smiled knowingly and thought of this is as the just the folly of youth. Until I opened the local paper today when I, as usual, scanned the cartoon on the Editorial page. Today’s cartoon featured Donald Trump, not the best cartoon I have seen but, as fate would have it, the slightly exaggerated sweep of his hair directed my eye to a letter-to-the-editor beside it. It was written by a Betty Ferguson of South Dunedin. Her caption in her letter to the editor read “That’s no way to treat a lovely lady“. This was Betty’s response to the outcome of the Bachelor. I just chuckled in mirth as dear old Betty went into bat for the badly-treated ‘Fleur’. She claimed that Fleur Verhoeven, the blue eyed blonde, was ‘inspirational’ while ‘that dark haired (do you really mean dark-skinned Betty old dear?) Naz Khanjani should have been asked to depart from the contest for her behaviour.”  And on and on until finally claiming that she was proud of Fleur and wished her every success in the  futureI googled and found a photo of Betty Ferguson in the local paper; she is a sweet, little white-haired 92 year old who makes Anzac posies

As I discovered, the Bachelor drama was all about victory having been snatched from Fleur after the prize-giving. The carefully crafted insinuation by the Bachelor producers’ PR team was that the ‘ex’ (that dark-haired woman!) had humped the groom right after the engagement party. This minor indiscretion caused the groom to question his commitment and call off the wedding. That was a smart move by the Bachelor’s producers and PR team. They get all that drama and publicity for the next season’s show without the cost of filming and airing it. 

But oh Betty, you sweet, caring (but possibly slightly bigoted?) little old lady; all swept up in a reality TV show that you thought was actually real. “Badly-treated” was actually “badly-acted”. So it’s not just the young generation who have totally lost the plot. Betty, you have brightened up what was starting to look like a dull day.
SocratesAnd so, Socrates my old cobber, what pearls of philosophy do you have about this Bachelor reality TV show?

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I Love Fish&chips

So how far would you go for a really, really good paper parcel full of fish & chips?

Best cafe discI was raised on fish and chips, and oysters that I watched being shucked by my dad just before being dipped in batter and deep-fried; and whitebait that I would scoop out in big handfuls from a sterilised kerosene tin; and crayfish (I was the one breaking off and eating their legs, as I stacked them for my dad, just seconds after they had emerged from a boiling copper). I just took it all for granted back in those good old Best Cafe days.

But fish&chips sort of fell out of favour when the Americans came to town to convince us that fried fish was bad for us and that fried chicken, mc burgers and pizzas were the all new healthy and ‘cool’ diet for a take-away treat and so, since the eighties we have sort of sold out our heritage. And with the declining popularity came, to my mind, declining standards in good old style fish and chips. It has become much harder to buy some fish and chips and, hand on heart, say that the fish was fresh, the batter crispy and golden and those chips were just yummy.

2016-05-10 17.00.49But when I happened upon the Akaroa Fish& Chip shop a couple of years ago, my taste buds were transported back forty years. This was true old school fish&chips. Located right on the Akaroa harbour-front, the fish were almost jumping out of the water straight onto the table. And this guy knew how to make a very, very good batter that did what it was supposed to do: crisped up quickly and encased the fish to protect it while cooking in super hot oil and result in it coming out of the pan as just ‘melt in the mouth’ delicious seafood.

So, in answer to the opening question “how far would I go for a really really good feed of fish and chips?” The answer is 900 kilometres round trip as it turned out. We got the craving again this week for a feed of fish and chips and so set off for Akaroa. Actually it’s a good thousand k’s when you take in a bit of running around. Throw in a bit of accommodation and, to many people, that would possibly seem an excessively expensive meal. But look at this parcel; I can just see your mouth-watering.

2016-05-10 17.08.38And knowing what you would say about a 900km return journey for fish and chips, I began to think of all the places I might want to go in the world and what I might like to experience. I roughly calculated how many tens of thousands of dollars it might cost me to buy a souvenir T Shirt at Niagara Falls, to take a photo of the Colosseum in Rome and to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. 2016-05-10 17.03.25Where, amongst all these experiences, would I put eating that parcel of fish and chips, washed down with a beer from the local Four Square and looking out onto that view? To be honest I would put it well up there and no contest for best value for money, even with 900kms driving. Then just to show that I can think on my feet, we actually had two meals there, so that really halved the cost on a per meal basis. By the way, that was an excellent sausage as well, no doubt hand-made by the little butcher shop around the corner.

As I pondered all this, while the water lapped in harmony with my thoughts, and as I noted saw the very modest sprinkling of tourists around me I began to muse: if the goal of Tourism New Zealand is to encourage overseas visitors to travel beyond the gateway cities to experience the essential New Zealand, then why, oh why, do they not use the Akaroa fish and chip shop as  a poster icon for a NZ Tourism campaign? Why do we not share this very special experience with the world and attract hundreds of thousands of overseas visitors to this little secret place of ours? Then I thought, nah f*ck them, let’s keep this one to ourselves.

FOOTNOTE: Joy to my heart. After three decades of being out of the family, the Best Cafe in Lower Stuart Street has come back to the family through Jessica Marks, the daughter of my cousin, and her partner Brent. The traditional old school fish, oysters and chips has returned. Prepared and cooked the way fish and chips are supposed to be. The old family batter recipe. I did happen to be up at Akaroa recently so went back to try out their fish and chips again and, with complete absence of bias, I am delighted to announce that the Best Cafe of Dunedin once again is the best fish and chip shop in the land.

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Not a pot to piss in

That’s how gran would describe someone who had really reached the bottom rung of our civilised society. It also applies appropriately to the perception of a city that has lost its civilised ablution and waste disposal infrastructure.

I don’t like to claim to be prophetic but you, good loyal reader(s?) will recall my departing words last Thursday when I predicted Cave Dull  would cry ‘budget constraints’ when faced with issues of maintaining our water and waste infrastructure (the essence of our civilisation) while conveniently ignoring the costs of his pet cycling project. You can understand that, from his perspective, no-one (that I recall) ever got a knighthood for their contribution to waste and water infrastructure. Even Thomas Crapper is a mere commoner. Whereas the list of Knights of the Realm is filled with self-serving, tax-squandering bureaucratic twats and our Dave means to be placed high amongst their ranks.

So it is uncanny that in this Thursday’s ODT, front page, Dave says once more ‘we need to have a conversation.’  This time it is not the end of times for South Dunedin, but rather we need, apparently, to start making some serious cut backs in our spending and, you guessed it dear reader(s?) top of this list, at 70% of total cuts to be made, are the water and waste services, including essential maintenance. And the elephant on the list of cost savings is, again you guessed so well done,….. the cycleway project. Not a mention whether all that cost earmarked for the grand cycleway is still absolutely essential.

So what is still simmering away in the background on the great cycleway project? To save you trolling through DCC archives, let me clarify that there are in fact thirty-seven (37) sub routes identified in the great Dunedin cycleway scheme, just have a look at this link. The priority #1, you will recall, was the South Dunedin cycleway network which contained six sub routes. And, if you want a laugh, just have a look at the “Lower cost excl. contingencies” column. Someone popped in, just as the thin edge of a fat wedge, that this 25 km project could, without unforeseen contingencies, theoretically cost $497,000. We expect a few unexpecteds, of course. But at the halfway mark of 12 kilometres the cost was up to $5.5 million dollars. As Peter Sellars would have said, that’s an awful lot of pies. So then they stopped to start the fix up of all the cock-ups, and the cost has gone over the six million dollar mark. That’s an awful lot of contingencies. Now they are halfway along the Dunedin to Port Chalmers route with no idea how to get the job finished. They suddenly realised there is no easy way to put a cycleway along the second half of the route. Yes it might have been a good idea to work that out before they did another half-cocked job, but half-cocked jobs seems to be our DIY Mayor’s modus operandi. He might say we are looking in hindsight, we might ask why he did not use a little foresight. Can you even imagine what the “contingency” cost will now be to get from halfway to Port Chalmers to all the way to Port Chalmers? But following the six South Dunedin routes, only partially completed and still waiting to be fixed up along Portobello road, and the four harbour circuit routes, also still to be finished, there still remain on the plan:

8 x Northern city routes,

6 x Hills routes

3 x Town belt routes

6 x Dunedin – Mosgiel routes including Dunedin to airport and Dunedin to Outram

1 x Dunedin to Central Otago and Southland route
Dunedin city cycle network

I wouldn’t have thought there would be much cost in a Town Belt cycle network, just a sign saying “road closed to all cars.” Put a 1.5 metre cycle track right through the Town Belt and there is no room left for a car width.

The original “budget” (stop snickering you at the back), was $27 million. Council has already put us on notice that the real cost may be closer to $100,000,000. That’s a hundred million dolleroes in case your eyes watered with all the zeroes. Who will ever forget Dave Cull’s statement (ODT Letters to Editor response, 7-11-15) that a 3-400% cost increase was NOT a budget blowout, it just means that the project would cost three to four times more than he originally thought. That sort of sums up that this project is happening, come hell or high water (but that is a sore point with him building a cycle network over the South Dunedin area which he also claims will soon re-claimed by the rising water table).

And so when Dave Cull draws up his hit list of projects that may be deferred or abandoned in order to meet the budget, it is the urgent maintenance on the water and waste pipes of the city that tops that list. The city plumbing, he presumes, is just a whimsy. What, in his mind, is so strategically critical that it is a non-negotiable item on the city’s plans is that we can in future ensure that cyclists have a separate lane up to the top of every bloody hill in Dunedin as they return home on a cold, blustery winter’s evening after a hard day’s toil. That and that they can cycle to the airport to catch their flight.

So there it is; keep voting in the same Council, dominated by the Greater Dunedin Party (ironically the GDP) of Cull, McTavish etc, and this cycle project will continue to suck the money from essential city infrastructure. We may, in twenty years of this policy, become “the city of cycles” if that is their objective, but we will also be a city smaller than Invercargill and  our water and waste pipe system will be as crippled as was Christchurch’s after the quake; but for Dunedin there will be no emergency Government bail out for what was nothing other than Council neglect.

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