Sunday, 17 January 2016

Back to my roots and searching for Seddon

Lectures going OK though I'm still too deaf to hear all the student reactions. Most of them seem what students were when I was  here the first time fifty years ago, middle class, status indicated by many apple computers-the biggest and the best-facing me as I lecture and by one lad who came up at the end to correct me about Fisher & Paykel on the grounds that his dad is Finance Director. I'd told the story of my Fisher & Paykel fridge as an illustration of the difficulty in penetrating new markets. Purchased in London and carted up to Grimsby (all of 200 miles)  I'd used it as a New Zealand show case proudly demonstrating its gleaming lines to awed visitors as an example of NZ's best  (though I later learned it was made in Australia). Then, suddenly it conked. Could Fisher  Paykel bring it back to life? They couldn't. No service outside London. Just the kind of difficulty British car manufacturers had faced in selling cars in the EU. So I rabbited on about firms transferring production to the larger market and the son torpedoed me by pointing out that F&P hadn't. Only fridges had gone to Oz (where they need them). The rest stayed in NZ though they'd left Dunedin and moved to Auckland.

But the point came home to me. I'm living in middle class NZ not the real dinkum Kiwiland..Middl class house. Middle class suburb. Middle class friends. Visits to Sumner rather than New Brighton. Time to begin the hunt for King Dick Seddon. Is he still here? 
Is this still  God Zone or are we in Sauvignon Blanc land?

So we went, I hoped, West but ended up in Hanmer Springs which is about as working class as Cheltenham. In fact its streets are called Harrogate, Cheltenham and Bath as it sets out to be a cross between  Denver Colorado and the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.It had more tourists than inhabitants and all of them the middle class I was trying to get away from. I could tell because they all wore long trousers not shorts like me, and none of them carried ruck sacks so they couldn't have been Kiwis.

I remembered not to drop my haitches or say "She'll be right" and we stayed in a superb up-market motel, the St James, run by a Kiwi adaptable  who'd been agricultural counsellor at the embassy in London under Bryce Harland, then Chairman of the Plunket society, now retired to motel keeping and doing it very well.

We went to the Springs. Much better and a lot less smelly than the Blue Lagoon with several pools at varying degrees of temperature (we chose 28 degrees because people were lolling unconscious in anything over 30). First swim for me since California months ago.

Then on over the Lewis pass to Seddonland or more exactly Reefton- sad and struggling  but wonderful to visit with a mining museum which must be the biggest collection of bric-a-brac outside ebay (they don't have ebay here in NZ) and all the mines closed except a new gold mine which is proposed but will only employ 8 people.,a Zen shop (closed-no demand) two fish and chip shops and a superb town hall and a masonic hall both apparently empty. People talked but most of them were pissed and all said they loved it but it must be like living in the Falklands with  nothing for youth to do and nothing for anyone else either except drink and porn, the burial tools of decline. 

Beautiful but sad and no trace of Seddon. You could buy a house here for 90,000 dollars (fifty thousand quid) pull down the blinds and abdicate from the world. We chose to move on instead. First to Blackball-even sadder with the Blackball Hilton for sale,no facilities at all and a lovely little museum open to the world but uncurated. This is  the birth place of the NZ Labour Party. Still no trace of Seddon. Or anyone else in fact.

Then on to Greymouth, fifty shades thereof and all of them pretty black-though pretty is perhaps the wrong world. What a dump. Nothing to do and no one to do it with. The only attractive place was a new jetty with plaques commemorating all the people who've drowned crossing the bar (not Monteith's) No miner's hall. Nothing open.  We decided to move on and back to safe middle class land over in Canterbury.

Via Arthur's pass where we discovered the Top Kea Con. The main cafe has outside eating tables. Take out your sandwiches (all encased in gleaming plastic) and the Keas fly in and pinch them. Go back in to protest and the signs say no replacement if the Kea steal your sandwiches. As they stole mine. Calculate for ten stolen sandwiches at $4 -50 a pack and the cafe is clearly making a fortune from letting you feed their birds.

If they had to replace them as collateral damage then they'd have machine guns at either end of the verandah and arm every customer with lethal weapons to kill the bastard birds. But that would be cruelty to animals and reduced profits. Much more profitable to let the bustards feed on you. At least it stops them feeding on the rubber from engine casings and windscreen wipers. 

 There is some social justice. Keas don't pinch the people's pies. Probably because they're soggy and would fall apart in the air.So it's the snobs' sandwiches in their gleaming packets that attract them.

Back to Christchurch in the pouring rain. Hire purchase hedonism has clearly replaced socialism Seddon has been relegated to the declining west coast and Kea Hardie is reduced to pinching sandwiches. It's all very sad. And wet. On to lecture Five. Blackball and after.

Just read a great book. "Not our problem", self published by its author  Ian Cowan a very funny account of the mess National created by putting businessmen in charge of the health service to make it more businesslike and save money. Lots of new mangers, accountants, lawyers and PR men but fewer beds and nurses and longer waiting lists. It deserved to sell but self publication is hard work. If Jesus had self published the bible we'd still be reading Woman's Weekly.

Best joke of the week The amazing Marina Hyde describes the engagement of Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch as Jerry and the Pacemaker.  It's the way I tell 'em.

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