Wednesday, 9 December 2015

from Paradise Lost to Jihardi Brides

Can't stay happy forever. Even in N Z where hedonism has replaced presbyterianism as the national religion-which is probably why they abolished Sundays. We could have stayed longer in Wanaka. We should have stayed longer in Wanaka-sun healthy walking beautiful lake but daft as brushes we decided not to because of the pull of a few days in Dunedin which I assumed would be paradise re-visited and the place where I'd been so happy when I first arrived.  Now it's Frigidaire re-vested.
So we set out assuring ourselves there was plenty of time and we could call in at "all the little places"on the way there. There wasn't and we didn't because I'd chosen what I was later told is the longest and most boring way to Dunedin with only one stop of interest in Clyde. So we arrived in heaven tired, thirsty and hungry to find that  global warming has made it part of Antartica-freezing cold, no sun and a wind cold enough to take the balls of brass monkeys which had had the sense to move North only to find that we could only get to our motel on George St by going miles North then coming back because the Santa Parade (something they never had when I came) had taken over George St.

All my happy memories froze and had to be put into cold storage. This is vest and overcoat country where the smart shoppers wear anoraks as well as the compulsory rucksack and the even smarter ones stay home and put the electric fire on. I'm sure it was never as cold as this in my time. It can't have been or I wouldn't have survived though it was the base for Operation Deepfreeze.

Apart from temperature it's not changed a great deal. No DIC any longer, Arthur Barnett's horse  (sadly in need of a coat of paint) survives but not Arthur Barnett's shop. Wardell's has gone but Radio 4XD "coming to you from the roof of the Calder McKay company"may still be here but not on the roof because Calder McKay's  gone too. The industrial area has lost all the jobs but gained a new coat of paint. The Hillside railway workshops are gone, along with the railway sold for peanuts to union busting Wisconsin railway which closed most of the track down and fired most of the workers before selling it back so the station is now an art gallery cum museum of sport thronging (like our motel and the shopping streets) with Japanese tourists taking photos of the stained glass windows and the decorative tiles. The plaque outside says opened by Sir Joseph Ward Minister of Railways in 1905 but there's none to say "Closed by Sir Roger Douglas" It's a marvellous symbol for Dunedin: "wonderful,planned with great hopes now dead but redecorated" They're now struggling to save the law courts opposite and preserve them. 

Lunch at the Best Cafe (best place for whitebait patties) with Stan Rodger and Anne. He's gloomy about the state of Labour because the old core the trade unions and the working class vote are gone and now its a question of pursuing causes like the environment, feminism and being kind to animals (except Sheep) all over the place.He's just back from a re-union week end for all the Labour MPs elected since 19935. Roger Douglas came but not Prebble and few from the 1999-2008 cabinet. Sounds like a good occasion. But like us you can't hold a party together on memories,and invocations of Michael Joseph Savage.Marvellous as they are.

Next door the  Early Settlers Museum is as good as ever. A new wing on Maori but still the room of pictures of the early settlers looking down disapprovingly and sternly at the hedonistic generation that's inherited their city with  four computers giving their names and the ships they arrived on .Bet they're wondering whether it was all worthwhile when they see their successors. Still anything was better than Scotland at that time.

In the evening we went to hear the Dunedin City Choir's Messiah. I've heard it in Huddersfield but this was as good-if not quite as exciting. But it brought together the old Dunedin : grey haired (even the women-who in Britain would have dyed grey hair blond are all white, not a dark skin in sight, all nice and all old and all quick to evacuate and go home to bed when it was over. Very few rucksacks so its not a your audience but a good many anoraks among the Harris tweed jackets.When Linda comments to Diane that it's an old white audience Diane replies (truthfully)"but that's what we are" Dunedin is the last resting place of old,good, nice New Zealand qualities which get fewer as you go further North until you reach Auckland.

Town is full if mums and dads kids and cameras for degree day when the graduates all in colourful hired gowns march up the main street to the Town Hall to get their degrees. (George St should be permanently blocked off for everything :a parade a day keeps the blues at bay)It's a great occasion which we never had in my time. Right too for the Uni to display how many kids and how much money it brings into Dunedin. The University is Dunedin now with old industries gone to Australia the only industry is educating South East Asia. And Southland

Highlight of the visit though was seeing Jim and Emily Flynn who worked with me in Canterbury but now looks like a marxist sage with a beard and grey hair.Jim as brilliant as ever though he's only written three books since I last saw him two years ago. and as acerbic on NZ politics. His view is that the Alliance should never have gone into coalition with Labour but should have retained its freedom to bring in its own bills. Jim Anderton,he argued wanted to so something before he retired so he joined the government and the party fell apart. What it should have done was hurt Labour which it did by steeling their votes. It got 18% on its first election and 14% at the second big enough to pressure Labour into moving left to bring them back rather than to the soggy centre as it did.
In his view Rogernomics triumphed because the Labour Party had no ideaology no thinkers, no schools and lacked the backbone of the unions to keep it true to the workers and Helen Clark's government wasn't able to pull it back to Labourism still less socialism because they'd ceased to be socialist in any sense. So Roger triumphed because there was nothing to oppose him and no one to point out that it was all barmy. 

Rings true except of course it isn't as easy for one of the two major parties to move left because of the fear and hostility that would be generated so Labour parties get pulled to the centre to win=unless there's a crisis and now there's no hope there either because a sufficiently high proportion are sufficiently well off to make them scared of the changes Labour needs to make. Go home in gloom and despair.

Cheer up next day when we visit an old school (Southland Girls) friend of Linda's and spend the lunchtime reading through old school magazines for the fifties including  the accounts of Southland coming third in the speaking competition for the Anthony Eden Cup in Gisborne

But Wednesday for a change is warm and sunny, Now Dunedin City of my Dreams looks lovely . Its the perfect size for a city in the perfect situation surrounded by the perfect country and kept alive by its wonderful University. How lucky I was to find myself here (largely by accident) half a century ago. Apart from the weather Dunedin's perfect and its even more so now that it's retired from the real world. You cant promote it on the slogan"Dunedin a Great City to Retire to"But it is. Reminds me of Vic Oliver's joke when he came here "What a beautifully laid out city. How long has it been dead?"
I laughed at it then. I resent it now. 

Shock Horror. The head of the security intelligence service (SIS) a woman naturally, tells a parliamentary committee that there may be up to a dozen Jihadi brides from NZ. That will surely give Jihadists better living conditions and cleaner lavatories.

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