Thursday, December 19, 2013

Len Brown's peccadillo


The online Oxford dictionary defines a peccadillo as a 'relatively minor fault or sin" and gives this example 'the sexual peccadilloes of celebrities aren't necessarily news'. 

Well around the espresso machine that's what a lot of people thought at first and they talked emphatically about how Len Brown's private behaviour had nothing to do with his public position as Mayor of the Auckland supercity.  It was a matter for his wife and family, not for us.  His private behaviour was completely separate from his public behaviour.  There was a bit of chuckling and some really good jokes about the Ngati Whatua room profile being raised and a few winks and links to Clinton and Monica.  Yes, we are a first world city with a naughty public leader.  It's all a bit of manly fun and has nothing to do with his performance (ahem) as a mayor.

I dispute that.  Any man who is prepared to successfully and systematically deceive his wife for two years is highly likely to deceive his colleagues and all stakeholders in the Super City including of course, ratepayers.

After extensive media interest there has been an audit by Ernst and Young (EY) who trawled through 10,655 test messages and 3,142 phone calls to find that 1222 texts had been sent to the other party and that 153 calls had been made.  Not exactly a smoking gun given that Ms Chuang was a member of the ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel.  The findings of the expensive EY audit, costing a ball park figure of $100,000 have brought up a short list of hotel room upgrades and a few free hotel rooms.  Only nine nights out of 74 were freebies.  Read the full report here if you like.

Right now His Worship the Mayor is feeling beleaguered and very down in the mouth but according to the New Zealand Herald (NZH) of Monday December 16, 2013 'Mr Brown said he would pay his personal costs for legal advice from Phillip Skelton QC, but would not pay any costs of the review.' Mr Brown also comments in the NZH, "However, I accept that as Mayor I am subject to a higher standard of public accountability, and in this context I should not have accepted the free rooms offered to me, and should have disclosed when I was asked about it in October."  Yes - but you didn't.

The office of the Mayor is a big one and in many ways his team separates him from his council.  Apparently it was designed that way to enable the mayor to make more rapid changes and was seen as being a necessary part of the new strategic structure.  This positioning also makes him isolated and vulnerable.  He is vulnerable, as we have seen, to blackmail and snipes from his detractors.  But the isolation has left him in a bubble where he no longer feels responsible for his actions.  he is almost untouchable and that often makes people feel more powerful than they ought to.

Did he really think he could get away with it?  Was he na├»ve and easily seduced or is it another version of an old, old story?

The review has resolved nothing, his reputation is neither in tatters nor has it been restored.  But is this a man who you can believe, let alone believe in?  It is more than a peccadillo.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Recipe treasure: Biddy's Marvellous marmalade

Here is an inherited and brilliant recipe from Biddy in England. It is ridiculously simple to make with none of the usual cutting, shredding and so on.  Try it and see.

Biddy’s Marvellous Marmalade

2 litres water
4lbs grapefruit (approx 4 big ones)
8lb sugar/3.6kg
2 lemons
  1. Scrub fruit
  2. Put in a saucepan with the water and boil slowly with the lid on until the fruit is soft (about 2-3 hours)
  3. Take out the fruit and cut up with the knife and fork – liquid will run everywhere so watch out!
  4. Measure liquid in pan and make up to 1 and a half litres
  5. Add sugar and fruit
  6. Bring slowly to the boil and dissolve sugar
  7. Then boil fast for 20 – 30 minutes, adding the juice of the 2 lemons about half way through
  8. Pour into sterilised jars

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Welfare opportunities.

 ‘Yeah well they’re living off the pig’s back aren’t they, about time they got a real job, just bringing up kids and don’t even know who their dads are or where they are?’  Single parents on the DPB are a soft target and the arrows have landed on them once again.
There is a much more expensive group of beneficiaries who are living off the taxpayer and these ones also get generous travel and housing allowances.  They get subsidised food at the staff canteen.  They get generous superannuation and there seems to be no requirement for them to rejoin the real world of work after 5 years to refresh their understanding of what it can be like looking for a job.  Some of them get these benefits even after they have left their jobs.  Their salaries always go up without them needing to negotiate or strike or beg.  Are you getting it yet?

The murmurs are getting louder, the gulf is widening between those who have and those who don’t, those who have a sense of entitlement and those who are entitled to nothing.  There are those who have a job and those who want one and can’t get one because, like the emperor’s new clothes, the jobs don’t exist. 

Welfare opportunities, the ones you never hear. (Please hum or whistle to the tune ‘Career Opportunities’ by the Clash).

While out and about mulling over the state of the nation I found these messages and like them a lot.  Sure they won’t change the world but let’s amp up the discontent until everyone starts to give a damn and dial down the apathy to what is happening around us.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Don't come and see our new ensuite, we don't have one.

I went through a phase of visiting open homes recently and was staggered by the large number of bathrooms  and ensuites which renovated and new houses have.  Where does this obsession with plumbing and cleanliness come from?  Is it the new modern to show friends your ensuite or kid’s bathrooms?

How about only having one bathroom in your house, or should that be in realestatespeak ‘your home’?  Instead consider a return to the one family bathroom and the luxury app of a separate toilet.  If you have hordes of kids then put in another toilet which is accessible from your backyard/garden/deck.

This isn’t nostalgia talking, there is likely to be an environmental cost for each additional bathroom or ensuite. At the very least these bathrooms require more plumbing, more drains, more whiteware, more cleaning, and more maintenance and add thousands to construction or renovation costs.  Why not use the space in a different way, to create a separate study ,music room, homework centre, small factory for child labour making crafts to be sold on the wayside in these straitened times or anything else you can think of?  Maybe it is all about the matching towel sets required to furnish these spaces?

As I write this I realise that any family will not shit or wash more if they have more than one bathroom but that  family members could do it all simultaneously.  Is that enough of a reason to add another bathroom?  You don’t need another bathroom – you just don’t!
Don't come and see our new ensuite, we don't have one.
Note:  Own snap of real bathroom

Friday, May 11, 2012

Goodbye Graham Viskovic

A few weeks ago a friend of mine died.  Happens all the time right?  Except I didn't know until yesterday when I thought I would post something on his wall as I hadn’t seen anything from him for a while. When I got there it was clear from the messages that he had died about a fortnight ago.   

I worked with him about 10 years ago. He was very bright, very funny, about 12 feet tall, a rascal who wrote the book on Commercial Law in New Zealand and had a varied and wonderful career in the law profession.  He was a wonderful storyteller and regaled me often with many stories of wild nights and even wilder parties.  He talked about law firms and how they worked and had been an important figure in the Law Society.
When our paths crossed he tutored individual students in Commercial Law in a tertiary institution.  I was his manager which really only meant that I organised his time so that the trip in from Huia was worth his while.  He had moved out to Huia and renamed himself the Huia Hermit around the time he developed diabetes which for a while made absolutely no difference to the way he lived. A bit further on he stopped drinking.   I used to keep bananas around on his days to keep up his blood sugar so that he didn’t turn into a complete shouting raver.  Even when he did he was fun and kind and lovely. 
So far, so good. 

I left that place of employment and ran into him once at Lynmall when he ventured in to town and I went down the road.  I moved to the North Shore, worked on the North Shore and he was my friend on Facebook.  He asked me out for a visit to see the Spring but I didn’t go, not because I didn’t want to, I just didn’t get around to it.
This started me wondering once again about the nature of virtual friendship, we think we are connected but we are not.  I take snaps and share them online but is it because I want to share the experience or is it because I want to have my experience, possibly my competence validated?  If I go to Cuba and don’t put up any snaps, does that mean it didn’t happen?  If I don’t post, does it mean I am not doing anything virtually worthwhile?

What's the take home message?

Love your friends  and hang out enough with them so that you know when they die.

See you round Graham.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back to it, the impact of reality.

After the halcyon days of the hols with bonus sunshine and most excellent good times with a couple of family birthdays as well, it is time to ... get back into it.

I feel a bit wintery and diminished as a result but I look forward to adaptimg to the impact of reality - unitl the next break of course!.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Cracked but not broken - end of term.

Here is a favourite cup and saucer which was given to me by Shirley who lives in Port Waikato.  It was after a happy overnight stay with her.  I wrapped it in clothes and tenderly packed it.  Got home and in a woolly dog rush of enthusiam tipped out the contents of the bag.

Cracked but not broken.

A bit like all of us at one time or another but it is Good Friday with clear blue skies, hot cross buns and a day of pure idleness ahead.  Oh yeah,the beginning of the school holidays too full of promise with lists and reading to catch up on.  For Easter I am reading Roger Ebert's Life Itself and Martin Edmond's Dark Night Walking with McCahon.  The latter is a follow up to my visit to the McCahon cottage in French Bay which was a wonderful experience.

This is from outside and catches some of the second growth bush around.  What you need to imagine is the birdsong and the sound of fat wood pigeons gorging themselves on the puriri tree.

The deck was the party space, with lots of 'dally plonk' being drunk.  At least one person fell off it into the bush below.