Thursday, September 5, 2013

Not so hot

My parents have been lucky with the weather on their visits to Wellington, but their luck ran out this time. Yesterday things turned particularly nasty. I said goodbye to Mum and Dad this morning as they drove off to catch the 8am ferry but it was cancelled and they were soon back on my doorstep. They caught the next ferry early this afternoon and are probably still driving home now.

Last night we went to the "Splash" watercolour exhibition at the cathedral. It was officially opened by Bill English, who encouraged people to buy on the night, but very few red dots appeared. Among the well-known professional artists, and people like Dad who's professional but not well-known in New Zealand, were a lot of dabblers. My parents, especially Mum, found the whole thing a bit disappointing. The market for watercolours isn't what it was. The average age of the clientèle (if you could call it that) was very high: younger and middle-aged people no longer seem to be interested. The show runs for two weeks though, so Dad might still sell something.

After the exhibition we ate at an inexpensive Malaysian restaurant. Just like last time we went there,  a big group was celebrating someone's birthday. Loudly. We walked home in the strong southerly and near-horizontal rain.

Talking of paintings, I now have one of Dad's originals on my wall. It's one of two paintings of Wales that Dad did for my brother and I when we were small. He's given me a print of the other painting, which appeared on the cover of my grandmother's book. I've been looking forward to having some of Dad's work. I also now have two family photos, and an old edition of Risk (early seventies?) but the most practical addition to my flat is a dining table. It's the one we had when I was growing up - Dad paid eight quid for it at an auction.

Mum and Dad did a few bits of DIY such as painting the window sills (which needed doing) and generally moving stuff around (which really didn't). Mum would ask me what I thought of the position of this or that and I just said, "if you're happy, I'm happy." It's funny, I live here and I pay the mortgage (well, try to) but it often feels like it's my parents' place rather than mine. I don't mean to sound ungrateful - I do care about what this place looks like, just not as much as they do.

As usual I had tried to debate the pros and cons of property ownership with my parents, and got nowhere. They're blinkered on the issue. They're always looking at houses, leafing through the  Property Press, peering through real estate agents' windows. And more recently, actually purchasing properties (they now own three). At least Mum can see that the property market is harder to negotiate than it once was, but Dad views it as a guaranteed path to prosperity. "The best time to buy is always now." I have bought a spacious, well-designed, well-kitted-out flat in a handy location. But it's also caused me a lot of stress and I've felt little of this sense of freedom that your own place is meant to provide. All this seismic stuff obviously hasn't helped, but there's this pressure to keep this place looking a certain way (how my parents think it should look?) that didn't exist when I wasn't living in my own place. It's perverse isn't it? It's comparable to the difference between a temporary job (pressure off) and a big, scary permanent one (pressure most definitely on). There's also the issue of being in a body corporate, which does impose real restrictions like not being allowed pets.

On Monday night my parents stayed with my aunt and uncle in Palmerston North. Tracy was well enough to invite Tom and me over to play board games that evening. Tracy's mum was there, and the state of her flat made me feel envious. There was stuff everywhere and her mum couldn't have cared less. She also has a cat which would be nice. We played two games. The first was called Biblios. You had to collect sets of coloured cards, some of which would be auctioned off at the end of the game. The rules were simple but there were a lot of strategic decisions to make; if I'd thought more carefully, or been luckier, I might have won. The second game was Takenoko, that bloody panda game, and again I drew all the wrong colours and finished last. When I got home I unpacked the Risk, colour-sorted the hundreds of blocks (representing armies) and tried to figure out the game. I found the world map quite funny. I never knew the Ukraine was so damn big, or that South America consists of only four countries. New Zealand has conveniently been left off the map altogether. Would I be right in guessing that most non-Russian Risk players have never heard of Irkutsk, Yakutsk or Kamchatka outside Risk?

On Tuesday night I played Scrabble with Mum and Dad. I recently bought an egg timer (I'll soon be eating a lot of eggs) and thought it would be a useful addition to the game because Mum is quite competitive and can take an age to put down a word. Unfortunately an egg timer doesn't really work because you have to wait for it to drain. Shortly after abandoning the timer Mum took almost ten minutes to make PORN. It's been worse. Mum was annoyed that she hadn't drawn an S and I'd had two. Oh no, I thought as I picked the last remaining S. To make life easier for everybody I "uncheated" by swapping it for another letter when no-one was looking, and she got the last S. Mum disallowed my EX (for 25) near the end of the game, I let her have her way even though it's most definitely a word these days, and I was stuck with the X at the end. I still won with a score of 215.

Apart from the economic benefits it could bring Auckland (and New Zealand) should Team NZ win, I really don't care about the America's Cup. It's all about big money and big egos. I heard the American team start on minus two points (due to their "cheating") and therefore need to win 11 of the 17 races to claim victory, but surely it's 10, right?

I left work a little early today, went to the gym, and watched Millionaire Hot Seat. Compared to the original Millionaire, which is an extremely well-designed game show, Hot Seat leaves me cold. Today there was a woman who went on an impressive run of right answers (many of them educated guesses), only to fall at the last hurdle. Her wrong answer saved the TV company $99,000, and I'm guessing that's why Hot Seat was introduced.

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