Category Archives: Sport

The Carnival Is

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For the last week I’ve had a very persistent earworm; The Carnival Is Over by The Seekers. It’s because I’m working on the Wellington Sevens and the only story/topic of conversation is who killed the event and how dead is it? I’ve asked strangers, colleagues and rugby enthusiasts all week if they’re going and they either laugh or scornfully say no!

The party is over and no one’s keen to go to something so uncool.

Who killed it? An editorial in the DomPost said ‘don’t blame the fun police’. (I like the idea of fun police… better than un-fun police).


I could give a well-reasoned answer to what’s behind the demise, but as I work on the event my lips are contractually sealed (across all media). But I’m a writer so I must find wiggle room to engage.

This is my 10th event. That’s a lot of being at the centre of 30,000 people in full carnival mode. Dressing up, undressing, cross-dressing (but only males), full mask, partial mask, getting hammered/tweaked, singing, dancing (only females) with work colleagues, friends, family and strangers. I’ve seen it’s at its peak. It was wonderful, and awful.

February 2008 (my first Sevens) was a different world. I was in an empty house in a new city with a pregnant partner I had known for less than a year and the Global Financial Crisis was about to smash into us.


Whatever happens this weekend, as an on-field comms tech I shall continue to get paid to turn off very fit, hot sweaty men (and the occasional woman). I’m an okay de-fluffer. It’s better than having to turn them on, I suppose, but isn’t that the point of Carnival?

The train is passing the stadium. The conductor has just said ‘bing-bong bing-bong!’ on the intercom and welcomed us into Wellington. Everyone is in good humour. Game day is on.

 

Confessions of a De-Fluffer       Ghosts of Sevens Past

2 Days in Christchurch (part 3)

No Escape

It was hard to prise myself out my funky room at BreakFree on Saturday morning. I was four floors up, isolated from any noise with a generous (for NZ) 500MG of data.

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I opened the blind and saw the sun rising in the east as a steady stream of fluro-jacketed re-construction workers walked into the CBD through the empty waste of Cashel Street. Apparently their request for parking privileges as they rebuild the city has been declined.

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After some quick stretches (often hard to achieve in a studio room) I went down to the gym to do 15 minutes on a bike. I have a torn meniscus at the moment (cartilage in the knee) and can’t run (or sleep or sit or stand without discomfort), so low impact is the only option. It was great to get the heart going and to stretch the tendon on the same leg that was operated on 3 years ago to correct Haglund’s deformity. The Achilles’ takes a long time to heel. A 7mm bone spur was shaved off and the tendon scraped clean. I haven’t been able to run properly since and when in bare feet have the disconcerting sensation of feeling the cup of the Achilles’ on my heel. It’s not painful. Tendons are just slow to re-align. If I press on the scar on my heel an electric shock fires to the other side. It’s because tendons are piezoelectric, like a crystal in a turntable stylus or the starter for a bbq. The cells all line up and fire as one.

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After a shower in the coolly opaque en-suite I took my bags to the lockers at the bus exchange ($2 a locker for 24hrs). It was warm and sunny (in the sun) but the cool Easterly meant many people were in jackets (especially the South African rugby fans in town for the game against the All Blacks). I regretted wearing shorts. But that’s spring in Christchurch. I headed to the Pop-Up ReStart shops by the Bridge of Remembrance to look for a pressie for my mate who’s just turned 50.

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I went straight to Hapa and found the perfect thing as soon as I walked in the door, a pretty-as solar-powered retro Kiwi caravan nightlight. Lumilight is a UK company that does Alpine chalet lights, and a (surprisingly random) selection of NZ ones (Wool Shed, Otago Hotel!? etc).

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Then it was off to C1. Being a sunny Saturday morning it was packed with a long queue at the counter. On a tight schedule I nearly went somewhere else but I love the place (and food) so much. A group of Merivale/Rangi girls behind me whined about the wait, fussed over their friends who weren’t saving their table right, gushed about things on their phones, and repeatedly pushed into me trying to make the line go faster.

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I didn’t really want a big breakfast but I still chose the Super Choice Bro. Because I had to travel the city. Backwards and forwards. And because of the name.

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As I sat outside scribbling in my journal, ready for a half hour wait, I watched groups of mums rush to grab tables and big-bellied rugby fans look at the café with confusion.

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My pretty-as macchiato appeared after 3 minutes. My killer kai took 7. I was amazed. So fast, so beautiful. Not a hulking pile of fried stodge. The matching oblongs of smoked bacon belly and hash brown were almost too stylish to eat. Almost.

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Then down to South City to the only florist that seems to be open in the CBD, stopping briefly to drool over a couple of bass guitars in the window of CJs music store (where I bought two basses in the ‘80s). I wanted flowers to take to my grandparents. I hadn’t been in a long time. It’s tricky when you don’t live in town any more. I used to go with my mother but it’s nearly five years since she went to ashes, too.

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Tempted by the garish multi-coloured chrysanthemums at the door I settled on simple daffodils (they’re up everywhere in Chch). The florist said she hates the chrysanthemums and laughed. They’re dyed in Japan and people love them but they’re impossible to make an arrangement with.

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I headed back up Colombo St with my three bunches on daffys to catch the bus out east. The driver said I didn’t need to buy him flowers, and laughed. And then three tourists got onto the otherwise empty bus and sat right in front of me making me even more self-conscious. It was the refs for the All Blacks vs Springboks test that night (I do comms for rugby in Wellington and had worked with them a couple of weeks ago). They were sightseeing, killing time before the game, but didn’t recognize me.

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Feeling amused, and slightly aggrieved that I couldn’t escape work, I listened to the Australian video ref school the French officials how to speak NZild English. It was funny and awkward but I didn’t want to surrender my anonymity (or explain the flowers). When they expressed amusement/bemusement at the 185 white chairs lined up on Manchester Street as a memorial for the victims of the 2011 earthquake I spoke up, becoming a tour guide for a block or two before saying gidday (and explaining the flowers).

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I’ve been going to the crem in Linwood since the early ‘70s after my grandmother died when I was 6. My grandfather, Sandy, finally joined his Flo’ in the mid ‘80s. Immigrants from Scotland, they escaped the post-WWI slump in the 1920s. With most of the large family they had in Christchurch now moved on themselves I expected their stone to be untended. But there were flowers. It made me happy. As I kneeled and cut the stems of enough flowers to jam into the plastic vase a small boy ran up to me. “Don’t run in here, Latham!” his grandmother called out behind him. “Do you have a granddad Russell, too?” he asked.

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It’s hard knowing how to remember the past. I try to always think well of it. After touching the stone 3 times, feeling the loss a little less each time, I took the remaining flowers to look for the memorial of close family friends I had yet to pay my respects to. They had loomed large in my life. Throughout my childhood and teens I had spent many holidays with Aunty Marie and Uncle John. Their metal vase had no flowers, and 13 holes. Exactly the number of flowers I had left.

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It was now noon. Time to bus back to town, retrieve my bags and head out to New Brighton to listen to music, drink and laugh, escape and remember the past.

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Game Day

 

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Today is grey and cold.

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Tonight the All Blacks are playing the Wallabies in Wellington.

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I’ve never bought a rugby shirt.

Or a rugby ticket.

 

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Or had a beer at the game.

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But I’ve been to more All Black tests than I can remember.

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Either working for television.

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Or for the match officials.

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I may have eaten a pie.

Or two.

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Spent time relaxing backstage.

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But tonight I wish I was in the crowd.

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My  8-year old is here, seeing her first All Black test.

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It’s a moment I would love to have shared.

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The only Test I wasn’t paid to attend was in 1981 with my father.

The Springboks at Lancaster Park.

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There were riot police with batons and barbed wire on the pitch.

People screaming for blood.

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I’m glad I got to see it.

And my daughter never did.

Ghosts of Sevens Past

I’ve just completed my second day setting up for New Zealand’s biggest dress-up party/bacchanal (which features a little rugby on the side).

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Te News-style Billy T Jameses(s) 2010

I wrote it about last year it in my Confessions of a De-fluffer post (at least, I attempted to before the 35,000 revellers overloaded the cell-towers attempting to hook-up with each other, post selfies to InstaBook and hashtag ‘groupies’ to TinderSnap).

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An interesting costume can provoke interaction 2009

So if you’re unfamiliar with what I do give that a look as this post is covering slightly different ground. It’s not an explanation of the Wellington Sevens or which team is ahead on the points table, it’s a look back at some of the photos I’ve snapped from the sideline over the last eight years as I marvelled at the bizarre sight of one of the least dressy-up societies in the world dressing up (as opposed to the usual down), albeit for a weekend.

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Where I hang 2012

Essentially, my job is to turn referees off at the end of a game. Not hard given my advancing years (and the exposed flesh of the revellers). I’m paid well for it because if I get it wrong then the world ends (at least, in terms of live TV sport which, as everyone knows, is more important than brain surgery). Of course, I am belittling my skills, but that is the droll nature of those who work in sound.

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Dress for all conditions 2010

But the crowd doesn’t really interest my TV/soundie mind, it’s the writer in me who is intrigued; the student of history and religion and drama (with a particular interest in festivals and display where the normal rules of society are inverted and people are given licence to behave in ways that cause scorn or incarceration on any other day of the year).

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Always a pack of Smurfs in the house 2009

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Things hot up in 2013

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Year of the Black Swans 2011

After eight years standing on the sideline in rain and shine, it seems that there are basically only a handful of costume options. Like Carnival and Halloween there are the usual suspects of straight-out-of-the-box Superheroes and/or slutty fill-the-blanks (exposed flesh is important for both genders). There are also very straight men (in both senses of the term) taking the opportunity to cross-dress (while cross-dressing women seem rare). There are also large groups of people dressing en-masse, which can be quite effective visually (this option also gives the unconfident somewhere to hide).

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How many Adam & Eves(s) does it take…? 2013

But what catches my eye are the lateral thinkers who create a visual pun or seize on a pop culture reference of the day.

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Home-made Bucket fountain 2009

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Passionate Susan Boyles 2009

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Them Crazy Horses won them 7,000 bucks in 2011

Of course, there are also some people who go to watch rugby in a form that is so TV friendly it will debut at the Olympics in Rio next year, but they are a fast-dwindling minority. So much so that an event that up two years ago sold all 35,000 tickets in minutes, still has 14,000 tickets unsold the day before kick off.

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Everyone loves the Kenyan team 2011

Why is this?

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They know exactly what’s going on 2012

The media is full of theories but my 2 cents would be that it has fallen foul of its success. That is, like a lot of human endeavour, what made it strong has proven its greatest weakness. Because people go to dress up (and piss-up) many find it unappealing.

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Fun for the whole family  (& the rarely spotted cross-dressing woman)  2012

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You may meet a player 2013

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Scored a Frenchie! 2013

Yes there are other factors, but from where I stand singing along to songs that nearly 40,000 voices know

Alice, Alice…who the fuck is Alice?

We found love in a hopeless place/ We found love in a hope-less place

All I can think is I’m glad they pay me to be there.

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Not the sort of visual pun I meant 2012