Sunday, February 26, 2006

And now, a word from our sponsors......

Okay, so I have to admit, not everything in New Zealand is perfect - the television over here is pretty poor, but I think even the Kiwis will tell you that! Programmes that were scheduled for 30 minute slots in the UK are on for an hour here, with commercial breaks peppered everywhere. Sit down to watch a film at 8pm and you are still there at midnight!! And the more you get towards the climax, the more adverts they throw in. As if that's not bad enough though, they don't even put the adverts in the right places. The last 15 minutes of a film will be so full of commercial breaks that it last 40 minutes, by which time, they must have run out of adverts, so the film ends and they go straight into the next programme. This leaves you sitting there for 5 minutes trying to figure out the ending, until you realise it's actually a different programme you are now watching!

And the best scheduling cock up ever? We sat watching the Winter Olympics the other night. We spent 30 minutes watching blokes in spangly suits ponce about around an ice rink, on the promise that the downhill snow boarding would follow afterwards. Cut to commercial break, make a brew get comfortable, back to the Olympics, only to find that some idiot had put the wrong tape in and the programme was showing the same gut-wrenching rubbish over again.

Now clearly the director or someone must have noticed this, but you just get the feeling they hope no-one out in TV Land will notice - perhaps they think we are so numbed by the figure skating that we'll just think our minds are playing tricks?

"Really sorry boss, I've put the wrong tape in - we are now replaying the last 30 minutes all over again! What shall we do?"

"Aw jeez, you've really buggered up this time... we can't change it now, just keep it rolling and hope no-one notices!"

But, as with everything in New Zealand, the good far outweighs the bad, and most of the adverts are far superior to the programmes they interrupt.

There's the drink-driving add that graphically shows what happens when a half-cut teenager trashes the car. Personally, I'm all for this kind of shock ad and the slogan says it all really

"If your mate's pissed, you're screwed!"

But I think best of all are the radio ads, particularly those on Radio Hauraki - probably the most anarchic radio station I've ever heard.

There's the insect killer that is rather aptly names "Bugger Off!". You get some bloke promoting the virtues of the product, in a machine-gun style rapid tirade for around 20 seconds, then the cheerful jingle follows......"bugger off, bugger off bugger off!"

Then there's the door handle company that advertises its product in song........"get your hands on our handles, get your fingers on our knobs"

And the windscreen company that promise to repair cracks without a trace......"show us yer crck, show us yer crack, show us yer crack!"

Probable the best though, only because it is so bad, is the guy who advertises his own audio and speaker company. He's clearly so pleased that he had reached the intermediate reading level that he feels the need to proclaim it to Radioland - you can practically hear his finger sliding along the page as he - reads- each - scripted - word - in - an - expressionless - stilted - monotone!

In fact, he's only just outdone by the countless downtown Auckland massage parlours and knocking shops that advertise the variety of their products at various times through the day.

You just don't get that kind of quality from the BBC!!

And before I go, I just thought you'd be pleased to know that I'm really picking up the language now for sure. I learnt a new word today but it's still taking me a minute to register the fact that Kiwis swap all the vowels around. "Dickhead" is apparently a period of 10 years. I nearly spilt my coffee when a very nice lady told me "Oh, I've been doing it dickhead now". It was only a second or so afterwards I realised she was talking about the length of time rather than the quality of performance!

Gone Fishing

Unfortunately, my finances don't yet stretch to the purchase of a boat so, I've opted for the other mandatory acquisition of every serious minded New Zealander - a sea fishing rod.

I now while away my free time sitting down by the marina, surf casting to absolutely no avail whatsoever. Having fished a bit as a kid back in the UK, I'm used to having those days where you spend all day catching bugger all, and I know that, even on those days there's still entertainment to be had when fishing.

Never more was that proved right than yesterday! Having soldiered through my five year old's birthday party, with eight screaming juvenile banshees running around, I decided to treat myself to an hour's relaxation with the fishing rod. And what a treat!!

I was sat there minding my own business when two oriental lads turned up with the longest fishing rods, and the heaviest fishing weights I have ever seen. Now these guys were serious fishermen clearly, as denoted by the jovial tinkle of little bells at the end of each rod. They baited their hooks and the first guy cast out - yep, he'd definitely done it before, a masterly cast, with the huge weight taking the line sailing waaaay out into the bay.

And he's just sitting down for his watching vigil when his mate also starts casting out. Now something tells me this guy perhaps hadn't fished to often. It was the little things that gave it away, not the way he stretched his arms, arched his back, whipped his rod behind his head in preparation for a monster cast.....but more the way he smacked his mate right in the forehead with the huge fist-sized weight on the end of the rod! As you might expect, this sent his mate down like a sack of spuds. The best bit then was when he picked himself up and they started wrestling and arguing volubly in some unintelligible language. I haven't a clue what they were saying to each other, but I think the gist was that the guy wasn't too chuffed at his mate braining him with a huge piece of scrap metal.

Things settled down a bit and they both lit a cigarette, had a quick chat about technique, and our hero tried another cast. This one wasn't quite as spectacular, but he'd definitely improved his backswing. Whipping the rod back like a true professional, he sent the line through the open passenger window of his car and deposited the squid off his hook onto the inside of the driver's side window. How he failed tom smash the windo with the weight I'll never know! He was clearly puzzled when his hook came back empty, and I didn't have the heart to point out that his bait was currently rolling down the inside of the car window. Fortunately, his mate found it when, clearly still stunned, he decided to finish his cigarette in the comfort of the car.....cue further unintelligible and noisy rantings when he realised he'd sat on the squid.

Whoever said fishing was boring!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

G'day, how's it going....

....which is Kiwi for "ey up"

Only five weeks and already I'm picking up the lingo!

Got to apologise but this is going to be a long one - first chance I've had to do any kind of real update.

So, where to start when it comes to writing about this fantastic country? Well, I could start with the car salesman who sold me a car AND allowed me to drive it away for only a $50 deposit, and not batting an eyelid when I told him it would be five days before I was able to pay him. I'm still trying to find the catch but, quite honestly, the car is well, just sweet, as they say in these parts. Fair enough, the sat nav will only guide me around Japan but hey, let's not be picky now!

Then there's the estate agents - they seem to come in all shapes, sizes and styles, but basically fit into three general categories. First there's the bog-standard, common-or-garden bloke in a suit. Then there's the Rita Fairclough type that come in all shapes, but generally only in the general colour scheme of rich auburn, permatan and gold - this breed is the most prevalent it seems. But then, and this really blew me away, then there's the piece de resistance that is Brett....pronounced Britt. Brett is far and away the most fantastic and fascinating estate agent I have ever met. So where to begin describing Brett? Well, start off with your average Hell's Angel...imagine a multitude of artwork that is a testament to the skills of the various tattoo artists of Auckland - initially striking to me were the tribal tattoos crafted into his scalp, until of course you noticed the flowing dragons writhing down his neck under his mullet cut and into the expanse of chest (pronounced 'chist' that was on show. But surely the most captivating of all was the colony of penguins on an Antarctic glacier situated on the vast, and barren icy tracts of Brett's under forearm. Now I have to admit, I don't normally stare, but I have been pretty fascinated by the array of tattoos on display around Auckland, including in the office. However, all of this paled into insignificance when I caught the flash of gold in Brett's mouth. Initially, I dismissed this as nothing more than the kind of flashy dentistry frequently sported by 'gangstas', but I was shamed by my initial superficial dismissal when I realised that the two gold fillings on either side of his two front teeth, appeared to actually be some kind of design. After a couple of minutes holding a conversation with Brett's teeth, I realised that they were in fact two small golden scorpions! Now why can't all estate agents be like Brett? The world, I am sure, would be a much happier place!

And then there's the car number plates - It took me a couple of days to realise that there is no rationale to New Zealand car registration plates and, for a small fee, you can have absolutely anything you want, so long as it doesn't go beyond 6 digits. So, 2L8 FU is perfectly acceptable. as is DEVIL, SATAN, HOTGAL, SXESU, SUKYOU - all real number plates seen whilst driving around Auckland. It's a wonder I haven't crashed so far, I spend most of my time trying to fathom out what the number plates are trying to tell me! (Perhaps more puzzling though is finding from a search of the main registration plate website that"BuryFC" is not available!! And here's me thinking i'm the only bloke in New Zealand with a Bury FC window-sticker in the back of the car!)

And if that's not enough, there's the bungy jumping. Now from what I can make out from looking around me and a couple of conversations with coleagues, most Kiwis seem to have a death wish and will jump off anything that is more than 10ft above sea level. Not only that, but they seem happy enough to do this with nothing other than an industrial strength elastic band attached to their legs! (Which leaves me wondering - who first discovered the elasticity required to avoid a) collision with the fast approaching earth and b) ripping your feet off at the ankles? But I digress)

We had a trip up the Skytower -the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere, and something like the 13th tallest building in the world. You can whizz to the top in glass elevators. And at the top of the tower you can walk on glass floors, or look out on a 360 degree panoramic view of Auckland.....and watch complete idiots jump off the top before your very eyes, reaching the bottom in only 16 seconds, attached to nothing more than a larger than life office supply!

Marvelling at this spectacle, one thought came to my mind.....WHY????

And some general stuff? Well, this is a place where people kayak to work, where people wear flip flops (jandals) everywhere...that's when they wear shoes at all. Nobody looks at you oddly if you walk round the supermarket barefoot. and fashion is something that is set by everyone - you can wear anything, any time, to any event. For instance, after spending the first two weeks in shorts and sandals, we had an appointment to see the school principal to register the kids - not being too sure what to expect, I made an effort and wore a polo shirt with cargo pants. The principal arrived in shorts, sandals and a t-shirt. At least he had the decency to cast me a sympathetic glance when he realised the sweat was running down my body and collecting in my shoes! He briefly explained the school uniform policy but confessed his greatest difficulty was getting the kids to keep their shoes and socks on for longer than first registration! Even better was to come when we found out a bit more about the curriculum. My four year old daughter has four lessons a week at the beach learning surfcraft. Seems here they put a lot of emphasise on being safe around the water. Where I come from, if you fell in the water there was a good chance you'd die of concussion from hitting a Tesco trolley before you had chance to drown!

And then there's the commute - five weeks ago, I was crawling down the East Lancs Road at an average speed of 15mph, dragging my sorry soul the 12 miles into Manchester. Now, I hop on the ferry for 45 minutes and watch the world go by. Even better, on the way home, I sit on the outside deck, nursing an ice cold beer. NOW THAT'S COMMUTING!! they say in these parts.

Ah well, enough for now - got to conserve my energy for the yachting trip on Saturday!

Catchya (which I think means ta-ra)