Friday, 23 November 2012

Chelle Rae's HOT, Honestly

One of the perks of having children is accompanying them on outings you might not otherwise qualify for. Attending a boy-band concert, for example. Mashing it out in the mosh-pit to Nashville heart throbs, Hot Chelle Rae, at the Wellington Town Hall last month, has definitely been one of the highlights of my year. Honestly.
 ‘Mum, you’re the only mum in the mosh pit,’ teenage daughter, complained.
‘The sound is best here,’ I replied, undeterred. As was the view. I lapped it up, just like all the other females (less than half my age) squished in around me. Meeting the lead singer, the guitarist, the bass player and the drummer, while out shopping earlier had naturally heightened my joie-de-boy band. ‘Yeah come on mom get in the photo,’ they flirted. I giggled and obliged. Teenage daughter told me I looked like a cougar. Nonetheless, I half expected a dedication, to her of course. She would have called that golden.
Anyway, I wasn’t the only oldie in the mash-that-is-the-mosh, I had my sister with me. And who’d want to be one of those sad-o ‘rents at the back, watching disapprovingly at the waving warm sea of half-clad innocence for two hours.
Naturally the audience was 95% female. I was fascinated. A new generation, yet the personas were unchanged (social media comments aside). The betarted sluzzers in the queue, flesh exposed, caked in makeup. ‘I’m so totally gonna to make this my profile pic,’ said one in repose on a parking bollard. ‘I’m gonna move to Wellington with my boyfriend,’ said another, about 14. The moody beotch leaning against a column with the baby faced, barely moustached boy. The nerdy girls, the innocent pretty girls, the plump girls, the painfully tall girls, the limp haired pimpled girls. Appearances aside, they were all there for one thing: The promise that those cute boys on the stage loved them back. Honestly.  
‘We love you Wellington,’ said Ryan, the lead singer. ‘We’re having the best time up here. Are you?’ The screams were deafening. Each teenage dreamer, together yet alone in her own private heaven. I blocked my ears. And my nose.  BO, toe jam, mild perspiration and warm damp hair mingled into one pongy perfume. The bouncer-dude up front should have sprayed Lily-of-the-Valley Impulse, not water on the crowd. Intermittently a limp young thing got hauled up onto the stage, by the water sprayer man, and put in the recovery position. I was glad I’d come to chaperone.
The few males present had dates. One 20-something boy, spent most of the main act macking and pushing his way back and forth, with his completely out of it girl. She almost fell over several times, despite the mesh of bodies. At first, I figured she was bladdered, but all that tongue diving mmm? One thing was certain – unlike the rest of us, every carefully penned lyric was lost on her. She’d have no memory of her $90 night, teenage daughter and I agreed.
At one point two giraffe girls pushed in front of us. Then before I could say; hey, we can’t SEE. They fished around in their bags, donned heels and grew another six inches. The cheek. Meanwhile, a crop topped, denim-undie clad child squeezed in on my right. Holding fast in the mosh, was as fulltime as waving your cellphone. But Ryan was a showman and I’d been sent the links, I knew the words. Their out-of-love anthems were catchy. Honestly.
The next day, a music reviewer wrote of the; “popcorn-crunch of this mallrat muzak”. Poor thing. His feet weren’t in his teenage-girl-shoes. He wasn’t swaying in the mosh. He wasn’t wearing a white t-shirt with the band members’ names scrawled in indelible marker. He wasn’t living a new and imaginary love-life, just for one night. He didn’t know the words. These over-cologned, clean cut, incredibly polite and heavily tattooed young musicians playing their first headline act, revelled in the air-splitting girl-screams reverberating through their mics. They played two encores. And they too scanned the audience (especially Nash) looking for… something.  Love?  Marriage? A date? What, whatever.
Two girls called, Albany & Renee, held a plaque, it said it all: “Honestly, (we) Like it like that, Tonight Tonight”.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Don't Use The Barbecue Inside

It’s usually around this time of year I start craving a hot, gritty beach holiday.  Last year I dragged the family from Queenstown to Henderson Bay, a pristine beach on the skinny finger-bone of land that runs the last 100 kilometres to the very top of New Zealand.
‘Don’t use the barbecue inside,’ our host said, while showing me around the spotlessly clean cottage I’d rented off the internet.  Is this guy for real? Don’t I look like a kiwi?  
‘Don’t leave the taps running, we’re on rain water,’ he continued. I must have given him the stare. ‘Believe me we’ve had Asians turn them on (taps) and leave. We’ll come in everyday with fresh towels.’
‘Oh don’t worry about fresh towels,’ I said. Wondering where the good old kiwi bach holiday had disappeared to.  ‘We’d love to catch a fish. Could we borrow a couple of lines?’
‘I used to lend them but, oh honestly people drop then in the water. Wreck them. We come in everyday to collect the chook food. You put all your food scraps in here.’ He pointed to a tiny pedal bin. I cursed every night as I scraped the veg scraps into the silly thing off the oversized chopping board.
‘Separate the bottles and cans. We’ll collect those daily too.’
Did I look like a lush now? He rattled on about fishing spots, dolphins and huge rocks that turn into spa pools at low tide. Then he took me round the back and showed me how to fill the header tank. I figured I’d got the thumbs up.
As soon as he left I opened a warm beer. After a thrown together meal, I left the Ev and the girls watching the weather on TV and headed to the beach with Jasper. The 450 metres to the beach car park turned into 700. Typical. With our rain coated backs to the wind we plucked tumbleweeds from the sand dunes. They skittered along the damp beach, as did tiny sea birds looking for dinner. An ancient Pohutakawa hung like an umbrella over the sand.
‘It’s too slippery to climb,’ said Jasper. He picked up a raw and empty crayfish tail. ‘I can’t wait to catch a fish,’ he said. ‘Me too.’
The next day we woke to blue sky, the first of our trip. We slathered ourselves in sunblock and hit the beach. Gentle waves peeled along the huge bay; husband surfed, while the kids and I played in the surprisingly cool turquoise sea. We rolled in the hot white-blond sand between swims. Four crumbed humans in Pacific paradise.
I visited our host. He was in a better mood. He gave me four fish hooks and told me about a Chinaman who’d caught a ginormous snapper off the rocks with a cheese sizzler. Sounds promising.
That afternoon we went in search of the wild horses of the Aupouri Forest.  They go down to Ninety mile beach to frolic in the waves at dusk. We drove west and pretty soon spotted a herd of about 15. A grey mare with a bay foal at foot watched us from the safety of the pine trees. We parked and walked the last ten minutes to a deserted 90 Mile Beach. I looked up to see Jasper’s naked bottom charging into the wild west coast surf. Peals of giggles and the whole family followed suit.
The next day we drove north to Paua. The dazzling white silica sands of Parengarenga lay like a mirage over the inlet. Hundreds of motorhomes were parked up; their elderly owners fished off the jetty. ‘Are the fish biting?’ I asked.
‘I caught a five foot sand shark this morning, about 9am,’ offered one man from his deckchair. ‘Couldn’t land it.’
The kids managed to hook a couple of tiddlers. Nothing edible.
That evening we took the surf caster down to the rocky point on our beach.  I mentioned the Chinaman. Ev caught a smallish silver fish and used it as bait. Cast after cast came back empty. I had a go. A good size fish, possibly a Trevally chased my bait to the surface then dove again. Nothing.
Meanwhile in the adjacent rock pools, Jasper was fishing with the aid of his snorkel, flippers and flipper bag. ‘Mum I caught a fish in my hand. If I get four more we can have one each for dinner.’ Sadly he returned defeated. ‘I was shivering so much I couldn’t get them.’
The next day we drove into Houhora for supplies. Extended families fished off the wharf. ‘Uncle I caught a squid,’ a little boy yelled. Our kids wanted to try their luck with the locals. It was scorching. A fully dressed young girl bombed into the water beside the fisher-kids. ‘Phooee that was a tsunami,’ laughed a man, probably her grandfather. Fresh snapper was being loaded off two fishing boats into refrigerated trucks. Criminal.  
On our last morning about thirty dolphins were pirouetting above the breakers, some touching bellies mid-air. We watched in amazement. I bet they’d chased in a school of fish. Almost worth a surf cast. Or a dash for cheese sizzlers?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

She Always Wore a Hat

My Nana wore a flapper style wedding dress and carried an enormous bouquet when she got married. She loved parties and people, tennis and matching hats. Perfect for a vicars wife.

My Nana read interesting snippets out of the paper and took up dressmaking. She scrimped on material so there was always a patch over a seam in a poignant place like centre front.

My Nana was widowed young so she took up traveling. She collected crystal hand bells and souvenir match boxes from the cities she visited around the world. She’d appear like an over adorned Christmas tree at the end of each trip, beaming as she sauntered off the plane.

My Nana wore orangey-red lipstick and grew a bristly kiss. She bought a white Mini Clubman and rode the clutch like a fury to morning teas around the village. On the days the tar melted, she’d collect us for a swim in her toweling housecoat; you could hear her roar streets away.

My Nana loved a good suntan. Her lower legs came to look like her crocodile handbag. ‘Just doing the fronts today dear,’ she’d smile from her sun lounger, while wasps nibbled at plums on the grass beside her in the Hawkes Bay heat.

My Nana had terrible bunions; it was surprising her feet could get into those rows of going-out shoes. Her bedroom was a treasure trove of handbags and water colours and clip-on earrings. Her glass topped dresser held a black and white museum of memories.

My Nana kept her hair dye in the bathroom cupboard. She used, ‘Cha Cha Gray’ and mostly left it in too long so her hair turned a flattering mauve.  

My Nana tried to discourage my love of ponies. She said girls that rode horses ended up looking like them. She had a friend who looked like her poodle. I could see her point. She also told me I was kind and could be a nurse when I grew up.

My Nana liked sherry. When I got my licence I’d drive up from Onga Onga to visit, she’d pour me a couple in her blood red crystal glasses, as we chatted in the drawing room. I’d be shickered by the time I left.

My Nana was never a great cook. But when she started making toad in the hole from sausages peeled off the bottom of her fridge, she went into a home. She complained Mr Witherton-Jones had terrible manners when he slurped his soup beside her, and she wasn’t staying long.

My Nana used to hold parties in her room and invite her favourite nurses. She always had a cask of Blenheimer under her sink. ‘It’s so refreshing,’ she’d say.

My Nana sometimes went missing. But she always wore a hat!

Monday, 5 November 2012

London Calling

People told us we were mad. Every time we mentioned taking three children around the world, their nostrils flared. ‘What a nightmare.’ Seven countries, seven weeks, seven pieces of luggage? No sweat. Late January 2010, we set off on: Ev’s 50th Birthday World Tour.
First stop LA. Second, the Motherland. We were jetlagged after arriving at Heathrow.
The blurb on the Wormwood hotel’s booking page recommended taking the Piccadilly Line to Kings Cross. We arrived without losing a bag- or a child, hauled our luggage up to road level and walked a damp five minutes to our hotel. It was the first of five I’d booked. That became my excuse. The customer reviews had been favourable, almost glowing. But in London for 65 quid per room per night, you get what you pay for. Doodley squat. It was a dive. Those slurred comments must have been from young backpackers gadding about on their first OE. Or on P.
We were checked in by the brown cow-eyed manager, with a thick gold chain so tight it seemed embedded in his impressive neck muscles. I nicknamed him, The Pimp.
‘Do you have luggage storage?’ Ev asked.
‘Yes, but it cannot lock,’ replied The Pimp.
Ev humped a few bags in the direction of left luggage, but promptly backtracked after discovering it was a hallway.
‘Breakfast is from 7am – 9am, included in price.’
I couldn’t wait.
Our rooms were at the top of a narrow Victorian staircase on the fourth floor.
‘You don’t expect us to all sleep in here do you?’ said Eloise, squeezing her bag down between the beds.
‘I told you London hotels are pokey. They’re all like this,’ I said.
After storing the ski gear bags in the kid’s shower box. Ev jimmied their detached toilet seat together with the metal hinge that wasn’t inside the bowl. My paranoia of losing Jasper on the tube suddenly morphed into him inadvertently circumcising himself.
Flying in from LA our time clocks were completely up the wop. That first night was a horror show. The girls wouldn’t stop wrestling in their double bed, while Jasper practiced trampoline moves in his single.
Eventually they dozed off. But woke again at midnight. A nude Ev stormed across the 50 cm hallway. Jasper came and joined me. I opened pottles of UHT milk and searched for airplane lollies to appease his acute hunger. We spent the next three hours fighting the duvet cover, extra scratchy in places from the cigarette burns of previous guests.
At five to nine the following morning we all staggered down to breakfast.
‘Good morning,’ said a thin eastern European woman, dressed in a synthetic white uniform. ‘Toast?’
I asked for brown but it came out white. Every morning. And every morning the breakfast table contained at least: 35 hardboiled eggs, 50 pieces of pinkish square ham and 50 pieces of yellow square cheese, fanned out precisely on white dinner plates. I wondered who ate those eggs and how they rotated them. The dining room only seated fifteen.
Each morning we took with us five pots of the yoghurt claiming to be strawberry. We stored them on our window sill with a carton of fresh milk, alongside the guttering chocker with fag butts and tobacco-tea.
I noticed our expressionless breakfast attendants changed into blue synthetic uniforms and became chambermaids from ten am. They worked and chatted in pairs, their guttural dialect hushed if you got too close. ‘Where are you from?’ I asked one morning.
‘Russia,’ came the reply.
The bed sharing had its drawbacks. The second morning was spent de-lousing myself and the kids in our mouse’s shoebox sized bathroom. Ev had departed earlier to check out the Bermondsey Light Rail. Fair enough. It was his 50th birthday.
We met up at the Tate Modern, Southbank at midday. All freshly hair-washed, smelling of tea tree oil and other more toxic chemicals. The children tucked happily into beef lasagna with tomato jam and vegetable crudités, in the airy seventh floor restaurant with views of St Paul’s Cathedral. I wrote on Salvador Dali postcards. I described our fun time in London; the joys of the Ritz powder room, the enormity of the Cullinan diamond in the coronation crown, the gruesome torture rack at the Tower of London. And of course our salubrious accommodation, the bathroom now downsized in print to, ‘the size of a box of mouse tampons’.
The following day we took the Eurostar to Paris. We checked out early so we could buy a picnic for the train. It wasn’t raining. Relief read on all our faces as we stood on the pavement, wheelie bags at the ready. Only we couldn’t find our room key. Even with its enormous metal tag.
‘We will charge you 25 pounds replacement,’ said The Pimp.
A thorough search took place. I grimaced as I handed over the crisp cash. 
‘This money will be returned on receipt of lost key,’ said The Pimp and smiled for the first time.
And people told us we were mad.

(image: The Ritz Powder Room)

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