Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Looking For Jeeves

Rumours have abounded for some time that Jeeves has been seen in Canterbury, New Zealand. Being an amateur sleuth I concluded that after Cup Week and the recovery from that very short rugby season in Canterbury, the true men of Canterbury would come out to play cricket. Since cricket is a great interest of Jeeves, in fact he's not only played but watched many games with old Bertie Wooster that he may be in Christchurch. I looked for a hotel which would suit his needs and appeal to his taste and styles. I found The Weston House which was strategically placed on Park Terrace (at No 62) overlooking the Avon River.

The Weston House

One of the most English of scenes anywhere in the world and one that would have instant appeal to Jeeves. Their website indicated that one of their rooms was booked for a while and the other was available so I polished my shoes bought a new suit of a suitable style, pressed my shirt and on with my old school tie which is oh so Christchurch. I was met at the door by Stephanie, the host, and a man called Len whom she introduced as the gardener. I new there was a certain life and discretion about this couple which would appeal to Bertie and provide the sanctuary he would require. I enjoyed same Sauvignon Blanc with Stephanie and wandered down the road checking out eating establishments and wandered back and sat on a scotch for some time. I retired late and not concerned that i was yet to find Jeeves. I indicated that I would be in for breakfast about 8am but rose early around 6am and crossed the bridge and walked in Hagley Park. I chose not to wander too far so as to be able to keep an eye on the entrances and exits - ensuring Jeeves could not slip by unnoticed! There was no sign of an early departure so i wandered back in for brekkie at 8 o’clock to find that Stephanie was the chef and that the gardener was the butler. My god this would never do in Jeeves' day. Then again everything in Weston House was in shipshape and Bristol fashion and the front lawn in the soft morning sun was only waiting for a bowling couple. I decided that if Jeeves wasn’t there he may be in one of the provincial towns. Canterbury is very flat and a cyclists dream. It also has lots of vintage cars and I had spotted a classic old Bentley on Park Terrace as I read the morning Press after breakfast.

I had heard on the grapevine that a well known chef, Jo Seagar, had recently established a cooking school and restaurant in Oxford. This part of rural Canterbury many consider the heartland and others in New Zealand refer to as loosehead Len country.

Jo Seagar's at Oxford

The cafe has taken over really a whole block in Oxford and there is some talk of in future years it being renamed Seagarville. This would never do for Jeeves and Bertie Wooster would be appalled. How could you change such an upstanding British name for such a crass American one? It was a grey day but the welcome from the staff was made in the very sincere way that country folk have was one which would also have been appreciated by Jeeves.
This day the cafe is full of independent older retired folk. Jeeves would approve, this means grey linen trousers and a blazer. Although there were more common folk dressed in women's sweaters and dungarees. The menu is full of very hearty options for lunch and also wondrously decadent cakes. I settled on a game pie with a salad. It was definitely a fine pastry crust, and again, is just so Jeeves. I washed it down with a pint Moulson dark which was served at room temperature, another clue as to why Jeeves may turn up.
The room is decorated with photographs of Southern men, tin sheds, and sheep. Mind you if the dairy industry has their way, the photos of sheep will be replaced with those of jersey cows. Jeeves would not approve and Wooster would be horrified.
My wait person was a strong boned local lass with ruby cheeks and bright red hair. She was strong and obviously capable of much work but she was firm in a very feminine way. I described the possibility of Jeeves or even Bertie Wooster being here, she was not fazed and said that they often had many gentlemen and their companions at Seagars usually for lunch and in the early afternoon.
On this information I ordered another pint of Moulson's Dark, slipped into one of the largest tub seats I have ever seen and knew instantly that Jeeves would be at home here and the food and the good ale too would appeal. There was even a copy of the writer Stevan Eldred-Grigg 'Oracles and Miracles'. Oh Bertie would be suspect of this book.
After an hour I concluded that Jeeves would not be in, the sun was slipping its shadow and I decided I would head to the port town of Lyttelton, the major entry port for Christchurch and certainly exit for much of the exports of this province, and also when the Queen Mary came to the south island this is where it would berth. I wandered along London terrace on one of the beautifully preserved historic streets and saw the empire hotel which Bertie and Jeeves would have been very happy to have been at.

I drove back over to Christchurch and headed for Sol square, an area of Christchurch reminiscent of Soho - without the theatres but with certainly enough interesting bars and cheap burlesque hot spots - Jeeves would now have approved!

SOL Square - South of Lichfield, Christchurch

I returned to the Weston house and again the hospitality and warmth was enough to suggest that this would be the home for Jeeves.

Day two

I headed out for the historic railway town of Rangioria.

Cafe de la Gare Rangiora

This is an area of fine English homes that would remind one of Suffolk or of Kent. At the railway station I came across a fine French restaurant named CafĂ© De La Gare – NZ food with a French influence where I enjoyed a fine meal of pork belly with a side of cider glazed red cabbage.

I also enjoyed some impressive cheese but sadly no Pate de foie Gras. My meal was washed down with a fine Rhone from nearby to Lyon. This town is revered by Catholics for producing two leading personalities who established their faith in New Zealand. Bishop Pompallier whose remains were returned from France to the Hokianga in 2000 and Suzanne Aubert who founded the Sisters of Compassion here, she is well on the way to becoming our first saint

Sadly as I drove through the green fields of Canterbury so long Devon, I concluded that I could not find Jeeves. Never mind, it was a fantastic trip!

New Zealand's Environmental Title: Post Copenhagen 2009

In October 2008 New Zealand was awarded the International award for Responsible Tourism and at the recent 2009 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards Whale Watch Kaikoura was the overall winner, and also won the 'Marine Environment' category. This is a big deal, sadly despite the efforts of the tourism industry, it has largely gone unnoticed.

Part of the Helen Clark legacy was to leave us well positioned on the way to becoming a sustainable country.

We have wandered off this trail with the current administration. However all is not lost.

Professor Harold Goodwin who awarded New Zealand this award visited here in July this year.

When I raised the concerns that others in your feature have mentioned he was confident that we could maintain this status if we worked on sustainability.

Fortunately for New Zealand, the tourism industry, Qualmark with its environmental grading system, ECCA, and our national airline Air New Zealand which has a Qualmark Enviro Gold rating, all carry the flag towards a sustainable nation.

Even a small company like Whale Watch Kaikoura alone has a turnover of NZ$10 million annually and carry 100,000 passengers a year on this environmentally enlightening journey.

They are among the hundreds of tourism businesses that have been assessed for a Qualmark enviro grading are in the forefront of this movement. The Great Ponsonby Arthotel is proud to share with them a prestigious Qualmark Enviro Gold standard rating.

Nick Smith is out of touch by rating New Zealand as a nine. No one believes this. What he lists as achievements are really a work in progress, the question being only timing regardless who was in government

The last twelve months with biodiesel being scrapped then reinstated at the cost of real investment which had been committed, the proposal of opening up national park for mining, moving away from mandatory control over light bulbs and water use in the name of personal freedom is Nick’s legacy to date. In short a giant step backwards.

The defacto Minster of the Environment is Air New Zealand chief, Rob Fyfe who courageously has stood up for carbon reduction and for investing in alternate fuels which we can grow on sewage. This is responsible commercial and social leadership. Surely this is the leadership the government should provide?

When Norman Kirk refused to raise the level of Lake Manapouri in 1972 this decision positioned New Zealand well. Not only do kiwis enjoy this wilderness and some us celebrate this as our great environmental victory it is it also produces tens of millions every year in foreign exchange. This is not the only environmental victory in NZ, in fact there are many, but it is the largest and significantly the most internationally recognised and celebrated.

If John Key was unable to stand up at Copenhagen and re-establish our credentials on green issues that would have served New Zealand well. Perhaps if he had future historians may judge him to be in the same league as Kirk. Though the verdict is far from out this will be some challenge but let’s be optimistic. He is well aware of the challenges that face our exporters and economy. The losses this year of Hoki contracts in America and the United Kingdom because they can't be sustainably fished is surely a warning to us all.

Two issues that should be understood this year is the huge impact peak oil will have on our economy and the effect that global warming will have on our Pacific neighbours and in turn New Zealand. Interestingly in the recent rally for the planet the Tuvaluan community were aware and they made their presence known in Copenhagen as well. Congratulations are due to them.

We must recognise that these issues are real. Sadly we are not talking about them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Yacht of Giants

Saturday evening at the Auckland Maritime Museum was the launch of Lion New Zealand Charitable Trust. This is the vision of William Goodfellow an entrepreneur who has established Sail New Zealand and Explore New Zealand.

The Trust is philanthropic and will provide boating experiences for kids who may have never seen the sea, let alone been in a wonderful yacht. Sally and I are proud to support and partner with Bush and Beach, Fine Wine Tours and Explore New Zealand to provide a prize as part of the fundraiser at the launch.
The launch was a cocktail party, not the usual party we attend. I don’t own a jacket and I was concerned about wearing my suit as I would be underdressed. I need not to worry as I had forgotten it would be full of yachties.

Sally who looked like million dollars and I were among the first to arrive there. Melissa Prentice who works for Explore New Zealand organized the event was at the door as the meeter and greeter which she did with warmth and it was really great to see the expression on her face.
She was assisted by bevy of young women in black cocktail frocks. They were the New Zealand young olympians who mingled and spoke with all. Not only are they great ambassadors for their organization but they also added another layer of glam to the evening. If they were after high rollers they were making a mistake talking to us ,then again Sally did look like a million dollars.

Generous amounts of finger food were continuously on the go and fine wine and beer provided by the sponsors flowed.
William Goodfellow is not the most conventional of blokes and his informality was the key to the success of the night and will also make the Lion New Zealand Charitable Trust not only successful but fun.

The serious business of the launch was the multimedia event with film footage of the Whitbread 1985/6 around the world challenge also the Sydney to Hobart 1986 race. There were interviews with Peter Blake and others from the crew. Both these races were tough not only for the boat but in human terms. Roaring 40s are not a sailors dream, I have sailed with a few thousand tons of a merchant ship beneath me. Give me the adventure but calm water any day. Sally’s stomach was turning even watching the footage of the huge waves so I knew she would not be bidding on being the 18th man on the Sydney to Hobart Race.

The MC , Tony Stevenson a trustee of the Lion New Zealand Charitable Trust is one of the funniest men I have heard in a while. The first speaker was William who spoke of the history and his love of Lion New Zealand, (Lion was sitting in the harbour in front of the museum looking absolutely majestic) his vision and commitment for the trust. The next speaker was Graeme Dingle in a cocktail jacket too. Graeme has made a lifelong commitment to mountaineering and the advancement of opportunities for underprivileged children. In my high school years Graeme was doing these amazing things in the mountains and also writing great books about them. At that time he shocked New Zealand by taking a woman along to the mountains and sharing the great adventure with her. Yes, these things did shock New Zealand in those distant days. Old friends Waka Attawell and Gaylene Preston have made documentaries with him. His speech was colourful, passionate about trusts he has been involved and others that he has founded. These trusts coming together is not much short of a marriage made in heaven. He was the first giant of the evening to speak. And another very funny man.

The next speaker up was the Honourable Dr Jonathan Coleman, who is Associate Minister of Tourism. He is also the Member of Parliament for Birkenhead and fifty or so of his constituents were there and all would have voted for him. Birkenhead Point is one of the great maritime areas of Auckland with steep streets leading to the sea. Beautiful villas including one of our Best of Auckland members sits on one of these streets. All of which are named after the great Liners (i.e. Awatea, Wanganella, Mariposa) who sailed in and out of Waitemata for decades. They were owned by great shipping companies such as Union Steamship, Matson and Huddart Parker. The qualities of these villas with the exterior verandas covered in wisteria are testimony to these once prestigious ships and companies .Jonathan’s contribution was generous and well received. He paid tribute to William’s entrepanuership and what he has achieved. Jonathan and I shared the stage a few months back at a sustainability seminar and he is a genial nice guy.

Next speaker up was a battered PJ Montgomery who chaired the panel discussion with past crew member of Lion NZ including Grant Dalton, Kevin Shoebridge and Simon Gundey. PJ is a great public advocate for yachting New Zealand. He has done more to explain the value of America’s Cup than a football team full of politicians have managed to this date. They talked of their Whitbread challenge and Sydney to Hobart races. They were the last amateur crew in big time yacht racing and gave up 18 months of their lives without receiving or expecting a dino. Their contribution will again be recognised by their support for the Lion New Zealand Charitable Trust. They entertained the crowd with great stories and there was that easy comradeship and humour between them that sailors have. They acknowledged Peter Blake and his family and like Blake and Dingle these guys were also the other giants. A loose description of giant I think, is a comment by Dr Martin Luther King speaking at that great march on Washington DC about the measure of the man being by the character of his soul. All of these men possess this character. 1984/5 was the time of change in New Zealand. We came more outward looking and a confident country and these blokes in many ways epitomised and represented some of this change. They not only sailed for themselves and the yacht but for New Zealand too.

The public came behind Lion and their crews aided by the then a commercial network owned by Radio New Zealand. Throughout Aotearoa was a network of radio stations and among their staff were journalists and hosts whose charter included telling stories and promoting our people and our endeavours. This I speak of through experience.

Not to be forgotten are the sponsors. They are essential to any event or cause. Original Lion sponsors many of whom have gone under in crash of 1988 added a little humour to the night. Some of them took some of my money at this time too.
Another like Tom Clark, a sailor, a manufacturer and benefactor have passed on. Tom’s Crown Lynn crockery is now highly collectable and Kiwis are proud to own his crockery.

Steinlager is an original sponsor whose product kept me watered all night long and the purity of their product left me in the good shape next morning. Yes, Steinlager lives up to its claims and also provides the missing link of 1980’s adventures of Lion. If you go to the movies and watch the Steinlager add, David Lange comment from the Oxford union debate “we can smell the uranium on your breath” booms out. I mentioned to Grant Dalton who confirmed that Lange was around.

But the success of the evening must go to William, Mel and their crew, William’s energy and integrity will insure the success of this trust to sail into a great future.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rail or Road


The debate on this important decision has yet to consider the inevitability of the rising cost of petrol, reducing vehicle use and petrol tax revenue.

Smaller electrical vehicles with a limited range are only a few years away. All this will happen. The global recession has delayed this from occurring and New Zealand has yet to feel the impact or to notice global change.

Within five years world oil production will peak. More oil fields will come on stream but they will not be the size of existing fields and oil will not be as easy to extract .Oil prices will rise

Hybrid cars will become more popular however they are only an interim solution.

Global automobile companies are developing electric cars .Britain and other nations are developing electrical recharging stops they also charge higher registrations for larger cars. New Zealand is not even considering these changes

We know from recent experience people vote with their feet and use public transport when petrol prices increase.

Our advantage is cheap hydro, geothermal some wind and solar power. Electricity is the fuel of the future so

this is where our investments should lie.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More Silk Than Saville Row

Hemi, my canine friend, and I noticed in Redmond Street a couple of Jags, a BMW and a Bentley too. This is at the Three Lamps end of Ponsonby an area of eclectic shops with friendly shopkeepers– far from the fashionable evening cafes and eateries of mid to South Ponsonby Road.
Turning into Three Lamps we saw a crowd spilling out of Dymocks Booksellers into the street; we noticed wine and nibbles were being freely distributed to those nearby. Hemi was hungry and I was thirsty. Being opportunists we availed ourselves of the generosity flowing our way.
We quickly found out the crowd was there for the book launch of Peter Williams’ (QC) Petals of Memory. Peter is one of NZ’s leading QCs and is a public face supporting unpopular causes – like prison reforms and Palestinian rights. He is also a competent musician, sailor, and as John Yelash says, a bush poet.

Among the tales that night were poetry and yarns from the sailing days, and stories of protests against nuclear testing in the Pacific. The strength of the poetry is in Peter’s passion, which flows out though every line. Among the 120 people present there were prominent judges and lawyers. Their cloth was of the finest, but the real quality was Peter’s poetry. (Judges and Queen Counsels are not a common sight in Ponsonby)
Bohemian artistic and once working class Ponsonby has never been for them with the exception of Peter. Rumour has it though, that in a previous time more than a few of the Silk were regulars at Flora McKenzie’s brothel in St Mary’s Bay.

Peter’s book, with its striking cover paintings by Ronald Jorgensen and Terry Clark, (both clients of his and major figures in our folklore) is warm and tender and tells of Peter’s great love of life, adventure and his care for his fellow man. He was not short of praise for the women he married and his beautiful daughter Katie who was in attendance.

His poetry was read by among others, John Yelash, well known sailors, legal folk, and Peter himself.
Much of the talk was of his great yacht Fidelis, one of the fastest yachts in the Pacific, which won the Sydney to Hobart.
Among those there to pay respects to Peter were Green MP Keith Locke and Ballu Khan, the Fiji-Indian born business man who Peter and his partner Heeni Phillips represented in the High Court in Suva last year. Also, Joe Karam, who steadfastly led the successful campaign to free David Bain over the years.

I first saw Joe in action in 1969, as a full back for St. Patrick’s College Silverstream Rugby team where he kicked four penalties to defeat Wellington College 12-9. I knew he would be an All Black but never realised that he had so much compassion and sense of justice. As a lonely tyke at Wellington College, that game was one of my finest days at the College.

Returning to the book launch. The atmosphere was one of both electricity and warmth with Peter Solon wandering through the crowd playing his violin tunes. The added colour of the poetry made this one of Ponsonby’s great nights.

I happily paid for the book and would have easily paid more for the performances.
Great poetry, good red wine, as well as a wonderful woman - my partner Sally, and our great dog Hemi made this night the best of times.