Saturday, June 24, 2006

Get thee behind me foul demon

G'day folks. I'm back - apologies for the lengthy absence but I've been rushed off my feet doing bugger all, and enjoying it immensely!

Now, having been in New Zealand nearly six months, I guess I've lost the rose tinted spectacles and I'm starting to see beyond the white beaches, swaying palm trees and wide open spaces. Oh don't get me wrong, I still love the place and I'm still generally at peace with myself and the world...well most of it anyway.

But it's at times like this that you do enjoy the refreshing taste of reality from time to time. So yes, I'm already starting to drive like a psychopath, I get cold from time to time and I'm hooked on fishing. But I still don't miss England and I have as yet not felt any urges to visit "The British Shop" - a local retail outlet where you can buy icons of traditional British culture - llike Paxo and Wotsits - at exorbitant prices.

But England seems to be following me!

This week a brand new, much awaited, shopping centre opened on the Southwestern suburbs of Auckland. Phase 1 currently comprises of a 'Warehouse' (kind of like an upmarket Wilkinsons) and a Foodtown. It's not even finished and already the car park is too small to cater for the expected number of punters, the police had to shut roads to ease congestion on the motorway, and motoring chaos reigned...because yes, you've guessed it, the centre is situated right next to one of the busiest motorways in Auckland. And if that's not bad enough, in true British out-of-town-shopping style, there is only one motorway exit on and one off, and the motorway heads somewhere important, like the airport. It also heads to Hamilton, but don't be fooled by that, no-one goes to Hamilton intentionally - people only go there by mistake (but therein lies another story)

Now you've got to admit, that has British Town Planner written all over it!!

At the risk of losing you all here, let me share a theory I have held for as long as I can remember. Now I'm not a particularly religious man, in fact I'm not at all a religious man. However, I do have this firm conviction that Hell exists, and the folks that populate the place have a LOT of fun with their eternal competition. It's a very simple competition - we humans have a reserve of things like care, consideration and goodwill, all wrapped up in the Milk of Human Kindness that courses through our veins from birth. And what determines where we end up is how much of this leaks out during life. And that's were Hell comes into it!

In the true ways of all despotic places, there is a very strong and thriving competitive hierarchy down in Hades - Naturally Lucifer is the boss, with a plethora of Earls, Dukes, Archdukes, Barons, demons and imps all jostling for position below him. But it's a flexible hierachy, with advancement dependent solely on achievement. Picture your average demon, harbouring dreams of greatness. So he sits plotting away for his crowning glory, when suddenly he's hit by an inspirational thunderbolt......"Hellfire and damnation, I've got it....Milton Keynes! Let's create a place with two-way roundabouts, streets with only numbers - no names, and we'll make them all look exactly the same. If that's not going to drive the humans mad, what will?" You've got irate businessmen getting lost and stressed out - heart-attack material or what? And then mums/dads screaming at innocent kids when they ask "are we there yet? what do you mean we can't get home?". Plus the obligatory few American tourists wandering around, looking confused as they stare at maps and mutter words like "dawgonne, I'm sure we've been here before." (Mind you, that's probably a coincidence. Most American tourists wander round looking confused. I think they are struggling to work out why they aren't in Boisie, Idaho).

Anyway, I digress - Within days, the Milk of Human Kindness is leaking out everywhere (adding to the traffic chaos no doubt) and souls are cascading down to Hell faster than ...... whatever it is that goes really fast. Anyway it's not long before they know they are on to a real winner. Add a few concrete cows and hey presto, our humble demon is now the dark Baron Degvond of Hades.

By the way, it's a well known fact that the demon who came up with the Milton Keynes idea was a little lacking in confidence. Not wanting to go out on a limb, and being a sensible chap (in as much as demons are) he made a scale model first....and called it Warrington!

So what has this got to do with a new shopping cente in Mt Wellington? Well, you can see how it works down in the Underworld now - advancement by achievement. So you can imagine just how pissed all the other ambitious Underworld high flyers get with this. There's only one thing for it...they need to come up with an idea better than Milton Keynes.

So a bit more of eternity trundles by and months, years, decades go by until suddenly.....young Krazvon (until now something of an under-achiever) comes up with the idea to top it all.....Out of Town Shopping!! And here's how it works, you build a huge complex, preferably indoors where you can control the flow of oxygen. You site it somewhere just off a key arterial route (so not only to you get to the people who go by choice but also those just trying to be somewhere else) and ensure there is only one way in and one way out. Chuck in a food hall selling various forms of artery-hardening muck purporting to be from all four corners of the globe, but in reality is just a multi-coloured range of monosodium glutamate and guar gum. You do your homework and try to predict the number of visitors, then you divide my say four to determine the number of cars and you design the car park to hold approximately two-thirds of your predicted number. Even better, you design the car park in the shape of some mysterious satanic sigil which constantly flexes and changes....then place arrows strategically so that they say "EXIT" but really they point back to the entrance. And there you have it - CHAOS! People honking at each other, kids crying, parents screaming, dads fighting in that daft, posturing middle-aged way that dads fight ineffectually, lost kids, traffic chaos, overheating cars, innocent passing traffic missing their holiday flights......

Something like that makes Krazvon a dead cert for a Dukedom as a minimum.

The thing is, and this is what I really love about New Zealanders, they are just too nice to get it quite righ. They take a perfectly good (in the satanically bad sense of course) idea and they don't quite do it properly. You see, as soon as they realise they've been a victim of some satanic horseplay and folks are suffering, they try to fix it to save your soul. So within a day of the place in Mt Wellington opening, there are announcements on the radio and notices in the press.
"Please stay away from our new retail park, don't come here".
Now it could be me, but I'm not sure that's how PR is supposed to work in retail!!