II've suddenly rediscovered the essence of being Kiwi which is waking up in the morning to a blinding light,getting out of bed to a freezing room specially designed to keep sexual activity and lust down to a minimum and facing the world from your own home. Can't be Kiwi without a house either owned or rented and the worst part of the damage done by the two Friedmanite heros, Roger and Ruth is that there's been a big increase in rent payers (and rent)because of the rise in house prices and the failure to build state housing for rent. People have to own to become as miserable as the rest and to feel the pain of interest rate rises designed to punish them for being insufficiently Friedmanite.
The cause of this rhapsody is that after three weeks of living in motels,an essential inductioin process into Kiwism and other people's houses we have now moved into na lovely white house with a garden (to be neglected and a washing rotisserie and two dustbins. Home at last in the University house provided for the visiting fellows but maintained (because a condition of being a visiting fellow is to be DIY incompetent as all geniuses are) by the U of C Property Services Department.
Morning has broken like the first morning-or rather like my first in NZ when I was dazzled by the light and could look out from our little house then in Dunedin now in Christchurch and see ungainly lumps of school kids,the lads in short pants the girls in St Triinians school uniforms and listen to the omnipresent sound of lawnmowers-then pushed, now petrol butNo dead Kiwi can know he's reached heaven unless he can hear not an angelic chorus but the sound of lawnmowers. Now there's also the occasional mad jogger (often with a rucksack either to make it more painful or to show his nationality)No housewives or be suited men. There were then going to the bus. Now they drive past hastening to join the enormous traffic jams getting in to town It's surprising with the Centre of Ch Ch still looking like a building site,so many people want to drive there. At lest earthquakes create parking spaces
It's like being in paradise but now without Aunt Daisy or the succession of Australian soaps like Doctor Paul. Linda has immediately gone out and bought all sorts of things we don't need. I've lounged around and watched Master Chef Australia and read books (not provided). Linda is making plans to produce a Kiwi counterpart which I've suggested should be Master Chef Pies,or even Master Chef Stewart Island but given that the only local content on TV is endearing animals and country Calender I doubt if they'd finance it. Better to turn our lovely front room into a restaurant and work therer while I'm away lecturing.She appears not to fancy that idea.
Induction to work has now begun and it's probably easier for a camel to pass through the eye oif a needle than it is to get a job at the University of Canterbury. An invitation to lunch with the Vice Chancellor sometime in January or February. A visit to the registry to be photographed and issued with a pile of documentation on rights and responsibilities and what socks to wear. The issue of a pass. NO fingerprinting and burly security men dressed as cops who look as though they're carrying guns though its probably only a pepper spray for breaking up student parties. There are also posters warning the students against sex, booze and dope though those used to be the main reason for coming to Uni in the first place.
Then a quick tour. The university is now in big concrete blocks where I taught in a tin shed in town . I never wanted to move to Ilam in the first place. A university should be urban so that anyone can get to it and there are all the supporting services like pubs rather than suburban as Canterbury now is. There its going to epater le bourgeoisie though the staff own houses round about and its easy to surround with A ring of steel if the students revolt. But today's students aren't revolting.Just numerous-14,000 as opposed to the 2000 when I was here.
My only duty in these early days of settling in is to speak to the graduates and award winners to congratulate them and tell them how much better off they are than in my bad old daysThe meting is in the Keith Jackson Room (when we told Ben his son that there was a room named after his father he said "dad would have wanted a strip of coast") We mistook the floor and went to the sixth rather than the fifth.Finding no Keith Jackson room I opened the door of the only staff member who seemed tl be around and asked where the Keith Jackson room was.HIs face clouded "I'm sorry to have to tell you but Keith Jackson passed away ten years ago"
The students ,when we found them were a lovely group and unnerving because they listened respectfully to my retrospective ramblings-a totally new experience for a politician.Not a heckler in earshot though to be honest I'm so deaf I'd never ha ve heard them anyway. I'm going to like the transition to lecturer. They were probably shocked by my recollections of how Canterbury used to be a hot bed of the left with Wolf Rosenberg and Winston Rhodes publishing the NZ Monthly review ever issue of which was the same because it explained why the revolution hadn't come yet--with Bruce Jesson and Owen Gager (NZ's favourite-probably only- Trot)and Mike Hudson-later economic adviser to the British CP. Those days are gone. Now its the Ruth Richardson College of Friedmanite Knowledge and she even has an honorary degree here in recognition of her achievement of wreaking more damage than the earthquake
For the rest we've explored Christchurch,explained to people how they need to build a few hills because its too flat. and seen parts Ive never seen before because when I worked here we didn't have a car. Went out to Sumner which is lovely but marred the visit by falling flat on my face after missing a step so I'm all cut and bleeding but this being New Zealand people rushed to pick me up and brush me down (perhaps because they didn't want too much blood on their sea front)
The Sumner medical centre bandaged me up beautifully,a feet repeated next day by the University Medical centre.It cost only $25 though the bandages must have cost more
. We got home to find that our sponsor and guardian angel Bronwyn Hayward who's looked after us so well had been concussed by being hit on the head by her husband closing the garage door. Before they treated her at the hospital she had to be interrogated to make sure it wasn't domestic violence. I've told Linda to beware or I'll grass on her.
Bloodied and wounded. But it's still great to be here.