Semi-Disposable Swedish Furniture
Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
124Trip End Ongoing
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But I'm trying Ringo... I'm trying real hard.. To be the shepherd."
-- Pulp Fiction
April in Auckland arrived.... And it did it cold.
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly your body adjusts to the current climate. Well, adjusts may not be the word... Complains is the word. When you're stinking hot and soaking your t-shirt in cold water before putting it on and going to bed in thirty five degree heat you pretty much would give anything for sub zero temperatures... and then of course you get them and within a few seconds you want to be on fire, just to restore the feeling.
We had a lot to do in Auckland that was neither easy or interesting. Visas were needed, as were medicals (don't even get me started). And then it was a simple case of getting tax numbers, which was in no way simple (in fact, neither of us has one yet). And poor Jonny and his Citizen's Advice Bureau Australian Tax Rebate adventure.....
Suffice to say that if I was to judge New Zealand on the competence, efficiency and quality of it's government departments and workers... well, all things being equal I think I'd rather be back in Moscow.
And that's swearing.
But fortunately for my Kiwi colleagues, I never like to be quick to judge.
Here's something about being a backpacker that is both good and bad, depending on how you look at it. We live a semi-disposable lifestyle. Everything we do, we do for as long or as short as is prudent, viable, or wanted. Nothing really matters, and nothing is for keeps. Semi-disposable jobs come thick and fast, as do semi-disposable relationships, taxes, CVs, flats, friends. Sometimes for us a one-night stand is a little too much like commitment. It is either a wonderful life of freedom and whim, or a rather empty existence of hollow promises and lies.
We are to the world what IKEA is to furniture. And my only concern is that if someone ever asked us to hand craft a beautiful mahogany bed from only the finest materials, we wouldn't know how because we sold the skills up the river for fast cash and Swedish meatballs.
I suppose when you've been doing it for long enough it becomes flat-pack or nothing.
Semi-disposable CVs are a personal favourite of mine. I have four different ones. It's not that they're exactly a pack of lies, it's rather that they are each carefully constructed to make it look like every job I've ever done I've done for the last ten years... And the rest I just make up as I go.
Oh, and while we're on that subject, a massive thank you to Mr Lee, Mr Madden and Mr Webster... Between the three (or is it two?) of you I think I could run for Prime Minister.
Jon's been working as an English teacher since about the second week here, which is all cool. I have a slightly more sporadic approach. The last couple of weeks I've been working as a temp, a researcher for some massive international company called Alcatel Lucent that I had never heard of but apparently everyone else has. I'm not allowed to talk about what I do, because I had to sign a many paged confidentiality agreement, but suffice to say I it turned out to be a lot more interesting than I thought, and not nearly as interesting as it could be.
That job finishes next week, but I've picked up a cushy number as a consultant manager for some trendy bar in the trendy part of town. It's recently been bought by a couple who know their business but don't really know their bars, and they wanted a manager, which I wasn't willing to do, because my mother, my liver, two of my best friends and all of my ex-girlfriends agree isn't really good for me. Instead, I work their mostly when it's closed, sorting things out for them and pretty much have free run to try out ideas to get them more business. Pretty nice, because if things go well (which they will) I have a rather nice profit-related-pay clause written into my contract. And if they don't.... Welcome to the IKEA experience.
Anyway, April in Auckland began with our Amazingly Alliterative April Auckland Alcohol Amnesty Adventure, or AAAAAAA for short, or AA for shorter.
It was a rather necessary requirement. After a six month long Friday night we both felt a little time off the sauce could only be a good thing.
And I've got to say, we started with the best of intentions. By the third day (the third!) I had gone the longest without a drink in three months. By day seven it was six months. By day ten it was four years. If I had lasted the month it would have been ten years without breaking a sweat.
Trouble was, on day twelve I was working a bar as a casual (read - illegal) bar tender, in an AIDS fundraiser gay burlesque night, and when seven-foot high 'Simone' offered to buy me a few shots to take the edge off the cabaret (read - transvestites lip synching to Britney) my resolve crumbled in a second. Imagine my surprise when Simone turned out to be a fella....
Still, a shag's a shag.
That last bit was a joke... I find I have to watch that a little more over here than in the UK. The Kiwis, unlike the Aussies, have a rather different sense of humour to us.
We have one, you see.
Anyway, twelve days of sobriety was enough to make a point.
Jon lasted four.
It's not that I'm not trying to embrace my friend Sammy L's words of wisdom.... It's just that I'm not trying that hard.
Today is ANZAC day, which is a public holiday in fair New Zealand and Australia. For the uninitiated, it means Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, and it is effectively the equivalent of Remembrance Day, right down to the poppies.
In 1915 Churchill thought to take Istanbul, gaining control over the Black Sea and kicking the Ottomans out of the war before they had a chance to get stuck in. A large force of Australians and New Zealanders formed part of an Allied invasion that was supposed to be simple, but ended up with eight months of having the shit kicked out them by the Turks, and an eventual loss. The day, 25th of April, marks the first day - The Gallipoli Landing.
Still though, this is the day Australia and New Zealand choose to celebrate and remember all their war dead. And why the hell not? Despite the fact that they lost, and despite the further fact that they were fulfilling their ties to a Crown long lacking in reciprocated loyalty, they stood up and fought.
The tenacity and resolve of the ANZACS went down well back in the UK, with the press dubbing them "The Knights of Gallipoli".
A lot of Aussies and Kiwis make the pilgrimage to Turkey every year to be on the beach for the dawn service, which is no short trip.
I'm no great historian or academic - I'm not even much of a person. But I always remember the bit at the start of Braveheart where Wallace senior gets told they can't beat the English, and he responds "We don't have to beat them. We just have to fight them".
I suppose, when all is said and done and accounts are settled, that is more than enough.
The ANZAC Ode:
They shall grow not old,
As we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning
We will remember them.
Lest we Forget