Thursday, January 31, 2013

End of the oneth month

I had a panic attack at work today, just as I was about to go home. I have no problems dealing with them but they do slow me down.

Today one of the call centre guys used the word "oneth" when reading out a date. It's the thirty-oneth of the oneth today; tomorrow will be the oneth of the twoth. When I think about it, there's no reason why we shouldn't say "oneth" for higher ordinal numbers that end in one. The word "first" is really a superlative meaning "nearest the beginning" (just like "best" and "most" are superlatives); it has nothing to do with the number (or digit) one. It's therefore a bit strange that we use "first" in combinations like "twenty-first" and "thirty-first" which have nothing to do with being nearest the start. But that's English for you, and unlike that bloke at work, I'm not going to start slipping "thirty-oneth" into conversation. (By comparison, premier is French for first, but they say vingt-et-unième for twenty-first.)

My short-term memory (seconds or minutes) is a lot better than it was when I moved into this role, but my medium-term memory (a few days) is as bad as ever. Sometimes I'll ring up a medical centre to ask for information about a patient; I'll often end up leaving a message. When the nurse rings me back two days later, I might vaguely remember leaving the message if I'm lucky, but I'll have no idea of the specifics. I might have left other messages on other phones in the intervening period, and that only makes matters worse. I always imagined my experiences were normal, but I've since learnt that other people do remember specifics of phone messages and other work tasks from days earlier. It seems that when I leave the office in the evening I empty my brain of everything I did that day.

Wellington (and the rest of the country) continues to bask in glorious summer weather. I've been amazed by the number of kids busking in the streets, trying to make a few dollars before school starts. This week I heard one girl singing "it's not about the money, money, money..." You know what, I think it is!
They'll have great weather for the Sevens. They gave out a few free tickets at work for Saturday, but I can't make it (I'm tramping) and anyway free would be too expensive for me - someone would have to pay me to go. I must sound so anti-fun with that last sentence, but the whole dressing-up-and-getting-hammered thing isn't really my cup of tea. I've always found the actual rugby games good to watch, but that's not what going to the Sevens is really about.

There were tragic scenes in Brazil last weekend as more than 230 people died in a fire at a nightclub, most of them from smoke inhalation. You can read an excellent article here about the reaction this terrible incident has generated, in the media and in Brazilian politics. It isn't pleasant reading. These are important times for Brazil - they've got a big population and a booming economy but massive inequalities between rich and poor, and major problems with violent crime. The spotlight will be on them as they stage the world's two biggest sporting events in 2014 and 2016.

Here are some pictures from Saturday's walk: a view of the city, a shot taken in the opposite direction with the South Island mountains in the far distance, and an iconic (I know that word is badly overused) fern frond. What great weather we had. I should also mention bush lawyer, a plant we saw a lot of. Its hooked spines will snag on anything.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tennis talking points

So Djokovic racked up another major title on Sunday by beating Murray. I correctly picked a 3-1 win for Djokovic but the match didn't pan out as I imagined it might. I never expected two such brilliant returners to hold serve 31 consecutive times before Djokovic finally broke. A turning point came in the second tie-break where Murray picked up a rogue feather off the court between his first and second serves, then promptly double-faulted. That's a situation I often encountered in my low-grade stuff: a leaf, a bug or (most commonly) an errant ball would stray onto the court after I missed my first serve. Do I remove the offending object (upsetting upset my rhythm, making a double fault more likely) or pretend it isn't there?
I'd say Murray is now world number two behind Djokovic, even if the official rankings say something else. His serve has become a lethal weapon of late; it'll make him increasingly difficult to beat.

Here are a few talking points (Warning: if you don't like tennis, please click the back button!)

The first time I went to Wimbledon I saw a match on an outside court between two Latin Americans who would have better suited to a clay court. I couldn’t get over how hard they were larruping that ball and how fast they were moving, usually behind the baseline. Until then I’d only seen professional tennis on TV, which simply doesn’t do justice to the power and athleticism on show. That was in 1998; since then the physicality of men’s tennis has moved to another level – it’s almost like boxing now.

Equal prize money
This issue keeps coming up. Men play best-of-five at the Slams and women play best-of-three, so men work harder, so they should get paid more. Right? Well I happen to agree that men should get paid more than women currently, not because they play longer matches but because they offer a far more attractive product right now (ugh, please excuse the marketing speak). Since 2005 we’ve seen no end of awe-inspiring edge-of-the-seat men’s matches, but over the same period on the women’s side I’m really racking my brains. Certainly Venus v Davenport in the 2005 Wimbledon final, but then I’m struggling. And which female players really bring in the crowds any more? Sharapova, the Williams sisters, and that’s about it. It wasn’t always like this. In the nineties there were so many great matches involving Graf, Sanchez-Vicario, Seles, Novotna – even Hingis had her moments – while some of the men’s finals (like Sampras v Ivanisevic in the 1994 Wimbledon final) were sleep-inducing.

Three sets or five?
This follows on from the prize-money issue. To make things “fairer”, it has been suggested that women play best-of-five at the majors or that men play best-of-three.
I don’t think women playing five sets throughout the tournament would get bums on seats, so I reckon that’s a non-starter at this point in time. Plenty of early-round women’s matches finish 6-0 6-1 (or similar); I’m not sure what playing another set would achieve. However I could certainly see them playing five sets in grand slam finals and probably semi-finals as well. Too often a women’s final is over in no time.

As for men playing the shorter format, for the love of god NO! Yes it’s hard to win seven best-of-fives in a row, but winning a major is supposed to be hard. The longer format allows for so many more twists and turns, and it’s those fluctuations that make for classic matches. To illustrate, there are three ways of winning a best-of-three-set match: WW, WLW and LWW. But go to a best-of-five and there are ten ways: WWW, WWLW, WLWW, LWWW, WWLLW, WLWLW, WLLWW, LWWLW, LWLWW and LLWWW. If matches are going too long, change the court surface, the balls, the rackets, the strings, whatever, don’t change the match format.
I also think the Masters Series events (or whatever they call them now) need to have five-set finals and the season-ending championships absolutely need one.

What a great invention the tie-break was. Some people liken it to a football penalty shoot-out but in reality it’s nothing of the sort. A penalty shoot-out bears little resemblance to what came before (and is therefore, in my opinion, a really crappy way to decide a match) whereas a tennis tie-break is … more tennis! (A couple of caveats here: I’m happy for deciding sets of big tournaments to be tie-break-free, and as for the super tie-break that some events use to replace deciding sets, well that’s an abomination).

The very fact that two players have reached 6-6 in a set would suggest that they are evenly matched, so you’d expect most people to win roughly half their tie-breaks over a large sample size. But this clearly isn’t the case. Pete Sampras had a very impressive record, as does Roger Federer who’s won almost two-thirds of his 500-odd tie-breaks. What’s even more impressive about Federer’s record is how many of those tie-break wins have come at the business end of grand slams (he won all four breakers he played in the quarters and semis in Melbourne). How has he managed it? I’m guessing his mental fortitude has a lot to do with it. He also has a presence, an aura, which comes with being the Greatest of All Time, and I’m sure that intimidates opponents at the crucial moments of matches.

It’s often been said that tie-breaks favour the better server. I think that’s a myth; it has no logic behind it that I can see. If anything the tie-break should help the returner, who now longer has to win (at least) four points against the serve to prevail. Yes, John Isner (big server) is up there on the list, but Ivo Karlovic (another huge server) isn’t.

The calendar
There is often talk of player burn-out, and it’s one reason why some people want to eliminate five-setters on the men’s tour. I don’t think the match format needs changing, I think the calendar does. For a start, why does one of the biggest tournaments take place two weeks into the season? They should move the Aussie Open to November or March (when it isn’t stupidly hot) or, if they must keep it in January when people are in holiday mode, move the off-season to February and March. The tennis season doesn’t have to run on a calendar-year basis – look at other sports like football. There needs to be another week (or two) between the French Open and Wimbledon to give players more time on grass. Perhaps most importantly, they need to reduce the overall number of tournaments.

How you enforce it I don’t know (decibel meter?) but something needs to be done. It’s not fair on the opponents of grunters and it’s not helping the image of women’s tennis at all. I saw a match between Maria Sharapova and Li Na at the Australian Open in 2005 and Sharapova’s grunting was so loud as to make the actual game secondary.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Welcome to summer!

What a marvellous weekend of weather we've had. So Wellington does get a summer after all. Not every year obviously, but I shouldn't complain.

I'd like to think I made the most of the sunshine. Yesterday I went tramping; we set off from the club just before 7:30 (I took my car) to do the Wainuiomata Catchment walk through an area of bushland that is normally human-free. The park ranger met us at the entrance and gave us a guided tour of Drummond Ridge and Skull Gully (a name that conjures up vivid images and also made me wonder where the word "skul(l)duggery" came from). The ranger pointed out fauna and flora along the way, although there isn't much fauna and that's by design. Last August they did an aerial drop of 1080 poison, they have lines of stoat and possum traps at regular intervals, although they do have a population of wild pigs, hence when they find a trapped possum they often find only its head. He was an expert on matters ecological; intervening in ecosystems is such a fine balancing act - by solving one problem you can so often create another. The trip lasted seven hours, although we did take fairly regular breaks. To be out in the open air for that length of time, and to get moderately heavy exercise, did me the power of good (thankfully we only got dappled sunlight so didn't get too hot). I can still feel those endorphins now. I'll put up some photos in my next post.

I hadn't been home long from the tramp when I went over to my cousin's place for a barbecue. She's off to America on business next week - again. Her three boys are such a nice bunch of kids.

This afternoon I had a swim in the sea, for the first time since I've lived in Wellington. I swam at Seatoun; I'd hardly call the water warm but (unusually for me) I went straight in.

I tried to listen to the womens' tennis final but I fell asleep early in the second set. When I woke up Azarenka had just completed her comeback to beat the unlucky Li Na. I couldn't believe some of the negative comments that were made following what was quite a dramatic three-set match. I'm sure much of the negativity was due to the result - Azarenka got a bad rap for that time-out she took towards the end of her semi-final. Some people had this to say: "What a shocking match: 16 service breaks!" I didn't understand that. How does a lack of service breaks imply a high-quality match? All it means is high quality of serve.

The men's semis were both enthralling in their own ways. Djokovic's demolition of Ferrer recalled Federer's dismantling of Roddick in the 2007 semis. I watched that match six years ago - in which Federer looked like he could just about walk on water - and by all accounts Djokovic flicked the switch over to god mode on Thursday. Andy Murray's victory over Federer was much tougher, but when I had a look at the stats, it seemed Murray was the better player by some margin and Federer did well to take the match to five.

As for the men's final, it's a tough one to pick. I make Djokovic a slight (maybe 55:45) favourite; I'll go for a four-set win for Djokovic, 6-4 7-6 2-6 6-3. Overall it's been an interesting tournament that has raised a number of issues, not least the question of equal prize money for men and women. I'll try and explore one or two of these issues in my next entry.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tennis comeback?

There's been some good news from my brother: his ex has chucked in her job and left the country (she's freezing her butt off somewhere in the north of England - she can't do much damage there). Hopefully this whole saga will now blow over and he'll be able to get on with life.

I've almost finished How To Be Good which is a shame as it's been a jolly good read. I found Hornby's depiction of "Barmy Brian" quite thought-provoking, especially the bit where Brian (he's about fifty) tells Katie what it's like to cook for himself (badly!) following his mother's recent death. There are shades of (Barmy?) Bazza, who also lived with his mother until she died in 2008. As Hornby says, "love ... is as undemocratic as money, it accumulates around people who have plenty of it already: the sane, the healthy, the lovable. I am loved by my children, my parents, my brother, my spouse, I suppose, my friends; Brian has none of these people, and never will ..." There are a lot of Brians in this world, living, breathing human beings, existing outside of society, unloved by anybody. OK, some of them have made a choice to live like that but most haven't, and it's all very sad. For some reason I've always found those sorts of people interesting, probably because I only really exist on the fringes of society myself.
By the way I find Tom (Katie's ten-year-old son) to be extremely unlovable!

After work yesterday I dashed to the Green Man (a bar quite close to work) to watch the tail-end of Serena Williams' shock loss to her compatriot Sloane Stephens. I was wishing I hadn't bothered (there was no sound and you couldn't watch it without something going on - like a game of pool - between my eyes and the screen). The underdog Stephens looked to be playing a blinder, and I was impressed by her fighting spirit after she lost what I thought would be the crucial game at 3-3 in the third set. I've never been a huge Serena fan, and Stephens seemed amiable, so I was happy with the result. (I'm always amused by Serena's official weight. On the Aussie Open site she's listed as 68 kilos, but they don't say which parts of her anatomy are included. Her bum? Maybe that's just her bum.) Sharapova fell heavily to Li Na in her semi-final this afternoon, and Stephens' excellent Open came to an end in her semi with Azarenka just as their match was getting exciting.

I've been following the tennis much more than I thought I would. I'm sure the no-poker thing has played its part (I don't miss the poker but I do miss having an "escape" - the tennis provides that to some degree). I emailed a comment (about tie-breaks) to their radio team and was surprised to hear it read out on air by Richard Evans, my favourite commentator. I'd like to make another comment about the weight of rackets. All this talk about tennis has made me at least consider taking it up again. I basically quit the game when I came to Wellington. At various times tennis has done me an awful lot of good, but it's also caused me a lot of angst on occasions, I'm a bit apprehensive about getting back into it. They're in the middle of the current season, so it's likely I'll have to wait till September in any case. Whatever, I need proper serious exercise on a more regular basis (I've put on weight and certainly feel more lethargic); at the weekend I've got an arduous tramp planned - hopefully that will help.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tennis and tats

I got sucked in again last night, in an even worse fashion than the night before. I listened to the commentary of Djokovic vs Wawrinka, an absolute belter that finished at quarter to four (NZ time) this morning. I slept through the fourth set which Wawrinka won on a tie-break, but was glad (kind of) to hear the fifth set which reached a spectacular crescendo in the 22nd game. At the end of surely one of the best last points ever, I couldn't tell who had won it because the commentators were in awe. I felt a bit sorry for Wawrinka at the end; he played the match of his life and he might never get the chance to beat a superstar at a grand slam again. Today Chris Bowers said it was an even better spectacle than last year's final. I wonder whether Bazza stayed up to watch it.

So I've been pretty sluggish today, which thankfully is a public holiday in Wellington. I got up late, worked on my puzzles for a bit (I want to get a portfolio together to send to Australia) and read some more of Nick Hornby in the sun on the bank of the Basin Reserve. There happened to be a closely contested four-day cricket match going on. I'm guessing it was some top-grade club match but I really had no idea. Every now and then I'd get a whiff of pot smoke.

At the beach yesterday I was struck by the sheer number of tattoos on show (I know I've blogged about this subject before). One bloke had "Fuck the World" across his upper back. Seriously man. I'm not ante tattoos per se - people can do what they like - but I find some of them (like that one) really distasteful. I'm sure the prevalence of "tats" is on the increase. It feels like half the population now have them. I've always thought that insurance companies could use tattoos as a pretty reliable rating factor for life policies.

I didn't meet Tracy for lunch last Thursday because she was ill. On the Monday (the day of the autism meeting) she had iron pumped into her intravenously over several hours. She's been ill quite a lot lately and it's a bit of a worry.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Scar tissue

Today I went to the beach at Days Bay near Eastbourne, as one of the anxiety group meet-ups. It was an absolutely glorious day. When I lived in Auckland - particularly when I flatted in Milford - I went to the beach all the time in the summer, and I'm sure all that vitamin D did me a lot of good. I also played a lot of tennis, and I was generally a happy chappy, even if work drove me nuts. I thought of all these things when I arrived at the beach today, and would have happily just lay there by myself and drifted away.

I couldn't drift away though because there was a group of us. We went to a nearby café and chatted. There was one woman I hadn't met before. It took me a few minutes to notice. Your arms. Her forearms - not her wrists but further up - looked like my wooden chopping board. I found the extent of her self-mutilation really distressing. I was surprised she didn't wear a long-sleeved top, even on a summer's day. She did wear a lot of jewellery though. When I got home I tried to get some handle on why people - especially young women - cut themselves. It all just seems so messed up. Speaking from my head-banging experiences which I hope are now behind me, I can think of one logical reason: the physical pain helps to relieve the mental pain and creates a sense of calm. I found this creepily illuminating "warning" for anyone wishing to cut themselves.

My work colleague was also at the beach today. She's been off work ever since she broke her arm at the function in early November, and doesn't expect to be back till March. She's clearly had a lot of crap to deal with other than her arm, which has pretty much healed now.

As usual after about two hours of socialising I hit the wall. At that point I was wishing I'd brought my book. After a couple more hours I was able to go home.

Last night I listened to a tennis match on the internet until the wee hours. I've done that kind of thing before, but usually it's a really important match like a final or semi-final. This match however was a third-rounder between two Frenchmen: Gilles Simon and Gaël Monfils. It was typically French as they used guile rather than power to try to gain the upper hand. They were closely matched but Simon won the first two sets, then he got injured and attempted to hobble over the line against Monfils who wasn't 100% either, and suddenly I was hooked. The mercurial Monfils snagged the third set and Simon tanked the fourth 6-1. Oh dear. Fifth set. I'm losing sleep here over a match that ultimately won't matter because the winner will surely get taken apart by Andy Murray in the next round. But it was fascinating in its way; it reminded me of the 2004 Roland Garros final. There were some very long rallies in the fifth-set breakathon in which just about every game went to deuce. For the record Simon got over the line, 8-6, as the clock ticked past 2:30.

Djokovic has made a shaky start to his latest match, losing the first set heavily to Wawrinka, but I still think he's the favourite to lift the trophy. It'll be between him, Federer and Murray, with the impressive Ferrer being in the mix too. In fact I'd love Ferrer to win it - he's a little guy (by tennis standards) and it would be nice for someone of his size to win for a change. In the women's, neither Kimiko Date nor Laura Robson won their matches so that record-age-gap match won't happen.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Roped in

Dad has been made vice-president of the indoor bowls club at Woodbury. He can't stand bowls, and likes committees even less, but somehow (laughably) he managed to get roped in. He said there was no-one else left to take the position, and all eyes were suddenly on him. That an indoor bowls club with maybe a dozen members should even have a committee and that some of its members take it very seriously is in itself laughable.

My boss got the bottom grade in our annual assessment. That grade is supposed to be reserved for the bottom fifth of managers, but if 80% of the company's managers are better than him I'd be surprised. I imagine he's assessed under different criteria to the ones I would use (as long as he's personable and doesn't leave me in the dark, that's fine by me). We sit at adjacent desks, we're close in age (he's just a few months older than me) and even though our similarities pretty much end there, my boss and I get on well. He's a typical lad I suppose. He gets drunk a lot, despite being married with two daughters under four (getting hammered regularly after the age of thirty is another item on my don't-get-it list: yes I got drunk a few times when I was younger, but the price I paid the next day was never worth it, and the novelty quickly wore off). He likes cars, gadgets and labels. He talks to (argues with?) his wife a lot on the phone: I often hear him getting defensive.

Nick Hornby's How To Be Good continues to be excellent. How is such clever writing humanly possible? It all feels so effortless. All the UK pop culture references, such as S Club 7 and a short-lived digital TV channel, mean I can pinpoint accurately when it was written (1999-2000).

Kimiko Date has won through to round three in Melbourne, as has Laura Robson (a pom who was born in Melbourne) after her bruising three-set match last night. If they both win their next matches they'll play each other. There's an age gap of 23 years between them; that would surely be some kind of record in a grand slam.

The depression group have got an outing to Days Bay on Sunday. I'll be going. It's a long weekend here by the way.

It's a year tomorrow since my grandmother died. I miss her a lot.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sugar Man - must see!

On Sunday night I saw Searching for Sugar Man at the Paramount on Courtenay Place. It's the best film I've seen in years, no exaggeration. What an incredible story. You couldn't make it up. I picked a good time to see such an uplifting movie (boy did I need a lift). Rodriguez's songs were amazing too, so soulful, so genuine. It's not hard to see how his records sold so well in such an oppressive regime as South Africa in the seventies. I'd still like to know what the hell happened to the proceeds of those sales, but that wasn't really an appropriate question for the film to answer.

I saw Julie again last night. It can be hard work sometimes. She rambles, you get all the he-saids and she-saids, and if you're really lucky she might eventually get to the point. She showed me a psychiatrist's report which used the extremely poncy (but accurate) word "circumloquacious" to describe her way of talking. At times I can hardly blame her for wanting to dodge the issue, which is often distinctly dodgeworthy. It's all very sad and I feel powerless to help. She'll need to go into a rest home and is (understandably) having difficulty in coming to terms with that. Sometimes I manage to steer the conversation (if you can call it that) into more positive territory, and on occasions we'll talk about my "issues". Last night she warned me about getting into relationships with people on the autistic spectrum (she was in a 30-year-plus relationship with an autistic man).

On that note I'll be catching up with Tracy tomorrow for lunch. It's funny, a few times I've been about to tune out of her station when I pick up a faint signal. I'm hoping I might eventually hear her loud and clear. The two guys who normally disrupt the autism group were absent for Monday's meeting. This made for a more pleasant experience for everyone. Danielle didn't have an easy Christmas - her father didn't treat her well - and she was almost in tears as she talked about it. I met her tonight at the tramping group. I'd signed up for a trip this weekend but they've postponed it till 2nd February.

On Monday we got our performance grades at work. There had been plenty of talk about them, to the point where even I started to care about what grade I might get. Sort of. They only had three grades which were shared out 20:60:20 or thereabouts. I was happy to get the middle grade; to my surprise it seemed I didn't just scrape it.

They're into round two at the Australian Open. I'm not following it as closely as I used to, but one result stood out a mile from yesterday's first-round matches: 42-year-old Kimiko Date's 6-2 6-0 win over 12th-seeded (and 30-year-old) Nadia Petrova. Date reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 1996 after a remarkable run of comeback three-set wins. In her semi she blitzed Steffi Graf in the second set to level the match and another comeback looked likely, but play was suspended for bad light, her momentum was lost, and so was the match the next day.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Killer joules

I’m not really part of society. Everything I do is meaningless. Those two facts (I think they’re facts) are reflected in my current mood. Neither of today’s phone calls helped.

This morning I called Julie to ask if she wanted to see a film with me. She wasn’t in a good way at all. In the last year or two she’s alienated a lot of people (admittedly some of those people did her more harm than good); today she made a good fist of alienating me too. Then Dad called me. I couldn’t hide my low mood. When the future of their other son is giving them sleepless nights the last thing they need is to worry about me.

I don’t normally buy takeaway pizzas (as much as I like them) but on Friday I ordered a “meat lovers” from Domino’s. The energy content of each pizza was displayed on a board. My meat lovers had 7000 kilojoules. That’s seven million joules isn’t it? All I remembered about joules from my physics lessons was our teacher’s bad puns about jewels, duels, Jules and maybe even Jools. But although I wouldn’t have known a joule if it punched me on the nose, I didn’t like the sound of seven million of the little buggers crawling in my pizza. How many joules were in a calorie was anyone’s guess (do they even convert?) but a quick Google before tucking into my pizza told me it contained two-thirds of my recommended daily energy intake. Feeling guilty I ate five slices and saved the remaining three for yesterday’s lunch. Last night I had had trout which my cousin’s boys had caught at Taupo. It was tasty and far more wholesome than the pizza. Talking of fishing, tonight’s news featured this bloke who stole a 13 lb bass from a Guernsey aquarium to win $800 in a fishing competition. What on earth was he thinking? He stole the fish on 9th July last year. Someone commented that he should have waited five days – for Bass Steal Day.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A simpler life

I got back two hours late on Wednesday; as we came into land we were buffeted by winds that reached gale force that evening. I was fortunate not to be stranded at Christchurch overnight. I'll try and avoid Jetstar next time. It's nice to be back. My time in Geraldine made me feel even more alone than I did already. On the flip side, the fact that I don't (and will probably never) lead an interdependent existence makes my life a helluva lot simpler (note I didn't say easier).

On Thursday I really couldn't be arsed with work, and with my boss (and most of the office) being away, that didn't matter too much. My motivation did improve on Friday. It's been a bit of a "nothing" weekend. Yesterday I went to the market, then got my hair cut, trying not to talk any more than was necessary. I looked at dartboards in Rebel Sport next door to the barber's but didn't buy one. Last night I saw my cousin; we talked at length about my brother's "situation". Today I saw Julie but didn't stay for long - I struggled to keep awake in this hot weather (we hit 28 today).

I've just started reading Nick Hornby's How To Be Good which seems to be about relationships, interdependence and all that stuff that's foreign to me :) It's very funny though.

I see that the average house price in both Takapuna and Devonport has crept above $1 million. Holy moly. That is the average (i.e. mean) however, not the median, so it's skewed by those outliers that sell for several million.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Glad to be heading home

I’m having a coffee at McDonald’s outside Christchurch Airport – my flight to Wellington is delayed by 70 minutes. I’m quite happy to be heading back. The high-stress Christmas wasn’t anybody’s fault – certainly not my brother’s – but I find even a normal Christmas (if there is such a thing) hard work. People are judged, analysed, scrutinised. Comparisons are made. When I was a trainee actuary, people wanted to know how many exams I’d passed since my last visit. Sometimes that figure was zero. Now I’ve got a menial job that only just pays the bills. After all the promise I showed as a kid, my relatives must wonder where everything went wrong. And of course I’m always single. “There must be something wrong with him.” As for my brother, all of his gossip has dispersed through the family like wildfire. No wonder he wants to jump on the next plane back to the UK. If only he could. Having Mum’s Australian friends over hasn’t been easy as we’ve all had to pretend everything is hunky-dory.

My brother and I went to Timaru for the New Year fireworks display. We parked outside the sailing club (to enable a quick exit after the fireworks) and while we were joined by a blue penguin we reminisced of a simpler time. In 1989 we often swam there. The water wouldn’t have been warm but at that age we didn’t care. Occasionally our older cousins took us out in a boat. A large family contingent would be there; we didn’t do much but that didn’t matter – everyone had more time then. For a town the size of Timaru, you couldn’t complain about the fireworks. Four or five times we said “this is it” but each time there was more. We had one unsuccessful attempt at the chocolate wheel and briefly watched the show at the bandstand. There were three female singers who looked like blokes dressed in drag. Almost inevitably they performed Gangnam Style.

Yesterday my brother and I hopped in the car. We drove as far as Methven (nothing much was happening there as you might expect in a town that functions mostly as a base for skiers). He was subdued and unusually for him he didn’t want me to stop anywhere on the way back. It was sad to see him like that. Last night we saw Mental, an Australian film, at the cinema in Geraldine. It didn’t do much for me. I’m not sure Aussie humour ever does. We did have a bit of chuckle when borderline personality disorder was mentioned. My brother’s ex-girlfriend (ridiculously) “diagnosed” him as having the condition.

The darts final took place this morning. After Phil Taylor’s bizarre antics following his semi-final victory, and general cockiness (I couldn’t imagine having POWER tattooed on my arm), I hoped van Gerwen would win. For a while it seemed he would, but he made one or two strange decisions towards the end (such as aiming for bull’s eye early in a leg) and couldn’t quite keep up what had been a very high standard of play. Mum has showed a surprising level of interest in the darts; I don’t know what her Aussie friends made of it. My guess is not a lot. My brother wondered whether the referees (one hundred and eighteeee!) still spoke like that when they got home. Could you pass me the keeeetchuuuup? Would you like a cup of teeeee? For some reason I found that utterly hilarious.

It’s back to work tomorrow. I don’t mind that, especially because it’ll be pretty quiet. My plane has been delayed by another hour. Bugger Jetstar. At least I’m travelling pretty light so I should avoid another $70 fee.