Jun 4, 2015 etc
Plant a garden
A garden is an earthy delight. It can help you cut back the food bill, be pretty or just give you something meditative to do on the daily. First, you need soil. It can be in pots, planters, or even your lawn. Dig in some weed-free compost. Add seedlings. Stake and cover them with netting to avoid attacks from cats and caterpillars. That’s the easy bit.
The tricky part is the daily maintenance. Gardens need daily watering in the dry months, regular fertilising and frequent weeding, or you end up with a weed patch.
Be careful, though, because it will change your personality. Before long you’ll be gazing fondly out the window at a dull grey drizzle and remarking how it’s good for the garden.
• Ride as many as possible. Helensville Riding School specialises in adult lessons for novices and experienced riders. Take lots.
• You’re probably already choosing the colour you like, but it’s more important to look for good feet and a kind temperament. Get a vet check and/or have a horsey friend try it out. Ride it in a variety of situations before committing.
• There are lots of places to graze a horse in and around Auckland. A basic field with no amenities won’t cost much but if you want a dressage arena, stables, someone checking or feeding the horse regularly, the costs will soar.
• You need a permit to ride at some of Auckland’s amazing locations (such as Woodhill Forest), but Muriwai Beach is free. We’re well-served by pony clubs and venues where you can compete in everything from dressage and eventing to western riding. If you want to take your horse to any of these places you’ll need a horse float and towing vehicle — kerching!
• There will be at least one moment every winter when you will be wading through ankle deep mud clutching a bale of hay and wondering why you didn’t choose an easier hobby, like chess, say. You will probably also get fried by the electric fence, fall over in the mud, fall off the horse and become over-friendly with the staff in your local A&E clinic.
• Horses teach you so many things you’d never imagine at the outset: patience, determination, body control, courage, compassion. Horses are a source of frustration and joy in equal measure.
• You will meet lots of other horsey people. Some of them will be quite interesting.
• If having nicely manicured fingernails is important to you, forget the whole thing now.
• There is no feeling in the whole world as exhilarating as cantering down an empty beach on a huge, powerful animal that you are just a little bit scared of.
Adopt a dog
If all you’re looking for is a friend, visit the SPCA in Mangere. They adore their animals, are meticulous in helping you, and provide health-checked, microchipped and vaccinated animals.
For purebred searches, try Dogz Online, a website listing dogs by breed and age, and connected to breeders throughout New Zealand. There are also specific breed outfits like Labradoodle Land and the German Shepherd Rescue Trust.
If you’re going to buy a puppy, it should be at least seven-eight weeks old and fully weaned. Check for clean eyes and ears, and how old the mother is (she should be over a year, but not older than you).
Get really good at something
Natural talent is not what gets people to the top.
It was Malcolm Gladwell who popularised this idea with his book Outliers. What you need to excel are: desire (you must want to do it); a mentor or slave driver (someone to keep you focused and driven); opportunity (chances to shine that come your way); and at least 10,000 hours of practice. The Beatles got all that playing long nights in clubs in Hamburg; Bill Gates got it in school in Seattle; Dan Carter practises his goal kicking all the time.
Best example? Mozart, the supposed poster boy for slack-arse genius. Despite what they said in the movie Amadeus, Mozart was pushed and pushed by his father, knocked off his 10,000 hours while barely into his teens and kept driving himself all his life. 10,000 hours, by the way, is 2.74 hours every single day for 10 years.
Learn to dance
Some people are born dancing queens. Others become dancing queens. And others have dancing-queen status thrust on them by impending weddings. Here’s the thing: sooner or later, everybody has to get down.
If Beyoncé is your inner queen, check out Auckland Dance Company’s Beyoncé classes in their Kingsland studio. If you’re more about the booty shake, try Twerk It Out’s twerking classes in the central city. For the gentlemen who wish to meet and charm the ladies, there is Ceroc dancing (studios in Eden Terrace) and salsa (Latinissimo has a studio just off K’ Rd).
Join the crew on a racing yacht
There’s midweek evening racing out of Westhaven Marina right through the season, and boats are often looking to build up their crew rosters. Call 021 560-436 for details.
We know, it’s terrifying. Apart from sex with a new partner, there are few other activities in which it’s quite so obvious when you’re shit. But it’s not true that some people can’t sing (or can’t get better at sex, for that matter). A Birkdale course called Reclaim Your Voice could be just what you need. The folks there say that if you think you can’t sing, it’s not because you’re tone deaf, but because the natural process of learning as a child was disrupted.
Perform stand-up comedy
Start by embracing your most humiliating memories. That time your mother found you naked, tied up with fairy lights and covered in Nutella? You have to tell it. Find a friend with passable comic taste and run them through your jokes. You’ll hate it. You’ll wiggle, fidget and prefix every joke with, “Let me explain…” Just do it. Work out what’s funny and what makes people laugh from shock.
Antonia Murphy, who wrote Dirty Chick, told us: “The first horror I encountered with my chickens was the cloaca. It seems the chicken has a single opening which handles everything. It’s her intestinal, urinary and reproductive aperture: the cloaca is the chicken super-vagina. I have no idea how they control them. At any moment, this same hole could produce urine, a turd or an egg — a fact, I imagine, that must fill their lives with grim surprises. Our randy rooster is always pinning the hens down for a ‘cloacal kiss’. It’s positively unnerving. Our chickens all have little bald spots from his ministrations.”
But another owner told us: “A warm egg straight from your feathered friend’s super-vagina is a great way to start the day. And more social delights await. Observing a group of hens chatting, preening each other and bitching among themselves is relaxing — and can also be reverse-anthropomorphised to good effect when thinking of your own friends.
“Randiness aside, a rooster is a fruity addition to your flock. Our tall, black-and-gold stud strides about in a macho yet strangely feminine fashion. Add a choker and heels and you’ve got Eddie Izzard doing a spot of gardening. They’re not just feel-good fluff — chooks can become an essential sub-plot in your life.”
A martini is an excuse to drink gin (or vodka), invented in the days before refrigerators.
So there’s a great palaver about chilling the liquor by shaking it with ice cubes that are then discarded. These days, it’s easier to keep your gin in the freezer, and ridiculous that bars don’t do that.
Because it’s technically a cocktail, there is another palaver about how much vermouth to use and whether to add olives or a twist of lemon. A dry martini is made with dry vermouth, not sweet. A dirty martini has a swirl of olive brine in it. A hundred years ago, two parts gin to one part vermouth was the norm. Less vermouth is common now. Winston Churchill used to allow vermouth in the making of a martini as long as it stayed in the bottle, and the bottle stayed on the other side of the room. It was acceptable to nod in its direction. Julia Child, on the other hand, liked an upside-down martini, with five parts vermouth to one part gin. Your local bartender will almost certainly say they have a secret way to make the best martini, and if you trust them it won’t hurt to try it.
As with all alcohol, the best version of the drink is the one you like the most. Also, the immutable truth it’s so very easy to forget: the next martini will never be quite as good as the last one.
Buy the coolest car
Jeremy Clarkson might be right to describe himself as a dinosaur, but not because he punches people in an age when that sort of thing is not okay. What’s fast becoming Jurassic about his world is the internal combustion engine. And humans driving cars propelled by them.
The coolest cars in the world today are fast, run on a mixture of electric and solar power, are locked into patterns of driving so safe you can barely force them into the wrong lane if you try, luxurious to ride in and beautiful to look at.
The biggest-selling luxury car in America is… a plug-and-play Tesla. The other luxury brands are chasing it hard and mid-range brands like Nissan and Toyota are doing the same. There’s a revolution on the way in vehicular transport, and it’s only a few short years away.
Make a record
Easy. Write your music, on a guitar, a synthesiser, an iPad, whatever. Record it by learning ProTools, Ableton Live or Garageband, or hiring a producer at an actual studio. We hear Joel Little at Golden Age is pretty good. Get it mastered. “If I’ve paid to get my music recorded and mixed, why do I need to get it mastered?” you may ask. You just do.
Release it by putting it online: you can put it on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Amplifier yourself, or pay someone like Digital Rights to do it for you.
Get CDs pressed at Stebbings and sell them online, at shows or through a distributor like Flying Out, Southbound or, if you’ve got some clout, Universal. If you want vinyl, contact Zenith in Melbourne.
Become an art collector
Warhols used to sell for a hundred bucks and now they’re worth millions. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that? Plus, there’s the added cachet of being all sophisticated and that.
If you’re interested only in financial returns, put your money in an art investment fund. But if you want something to hang on your walls:
• Buy young. Top New Zealand artists are expensive. But they were all unknown once. Go to end-of-year art school shows. Take a punt on someone you’ve never heard of.
• Do not — we repeat, do not — raise your hand. An art auction is no place for a newbie. You’ll be eaten alive.
• Read art magazines. Art News, Art New Zealand, Art Collector. Figure out who people are talking about, and most of all, who you like. They’re your walls.
• Talk to art dealers. We’re blessed in Auckland with some excellent ones. All want new collectors. It’s in their long-term interests to look after you.
Probably 80 per cent of coffees in Auckland are flat whites. Which means, somewhere right now, there’s a barista making a bad one.
First impressions count: the crema (the thick froth on top) should look golden and taste of coffee. If all you can taste is milk, it’s a bit shit. That’s true for the rest of the coffee, too.
It shouldn’t be too hot (or it may burn the coffee grounds and your tongue) or too cold (or, you know, it’s just cold coffee): just right is when you can drink it straight away. The aftertaste should linger and be a little bit bitter.
Most importantly, make every day “be nice to your barista day”, and they’ll take good care of you. Make sure they know whether you like double shot (which should be the default) or single.
Buy a boat
Work up to it. According to the latest Trade A Boat readership survey, people take on average two years from deciding they want a boat to actually buying it.
First, what’s it for? Family cruising, fishing, waterskiing, overnighting to Kawau Island? And what’s your budget? $15,000-$25,000 will buy you a nice little second-hand trailer boat, but it’ll be more like $100,000 for a launch or a new trailer boat.
Look on tradeaboat.co.nz and pick up a copy or two of Trade A Boat magazine. Some of the boats for sale have videos of experts trialling them. Deal with a reputable dealer or broker. Go to the Hutchwilco Boat Show, May 14-17.
To decide if a boat’s the one, get an independent survey (brokers can recommend surveyors). With a trailer boat, look at the hull condition, engine maintenance, fuel-tank hours, batteries, bilge pumps and electrics. If you haven’t owned a boat before, ask the salesperson to take it out with you and show you its features. Check what warranties are available.
Buy the right gear, including lifejackets that fit the intended passengers, flares, VHF, fish finders and an epirb. Sort out storage: Auckland has many berths, dry stacks and moorings available under different management structures.
Do a day-skipper course (and also show your partner how to work the boat). There are women-only courses available. Join the Coastguard (who you will need when your battery dies on you), and your local boat club, where the seasoned boaties will be happy to help you with your new pride and joy.
For more information and useful links: discoverboating.co.nz
You can’t do it using the Agatha Christie ruse: reading the last chapter. In Eleanor Catton’s doorstop it’s only one page long and consists of two disembodied voices conversing in the dark.
So, try this. First, marvel over the structure, how chapter one takes up half the book, and each successive chapter is half the length of its predecessor, like a nautilus-shell in cross-section, like Zeno’s arrow, like the sparrow that flew in ever-decreasing circles until it disappeared up its own bottom.
Second, to quote the author herself, “drop the A-bomb”. Astrology, that is. There’s one character for each sign of the Zodiac, and all their actions and interactions are influenced, if not pre-ordained, by star-charts. Note that the local rag in 1866 was called the Hokitika Star and claim that the novel extensively references contemporary horoscopes: tall handsome strangers, promises of vast wealth, women who are not what they seem. It’s a safe bet.
Third, cite Dante’s Divine Comedy as a hidden source. It’s also meticulously structured, full of astrology, villains and star-crossed lovers. And you’ve never read it, either (see “How to bluff your way through a conversation on Dante”).
Back against the wall? Start an argument about whether gold miners would have smoked cigarettes in 1866, when pipe-smoking was the norm. A lapse in verisimilitude or a deliberate nod to post-modernity? Or, as a last resort, ponder why both of NZ’s Booker winners are door-stoppers set on the West Coast (see “How to bluff your way through a conversation on the bone people”).
Write erotic fiction
As we all know, E.L. James is the new J.K. Rowling and BDSM is the new Quidditch. So, if you want to live off storytelling, you’d better start writing bra rippers. The key rule of erotic romance (yes, it is romance) is to have a happy ending. Leading up to that, your plot is just a boy and a girl who have difficulties and eventually solve them.
Remember the rules for all storytelling: (1) readers want to know what happens next, so cut out all those irrelevant sidetracks; (2) write characters your readers will care about; (3) as the climax nears, things should get worse before they get better. Write lots of sex. Use the sex to reveal things about your characters, so readers will know it’s not gratuitous.
There’s a powerful argument, considering the track record of James (and Rowling and Dan Brown) that mega-success requires an overblown, pedantic, clichéd writing style, and we’re sorry but we’re not sure why. In our view, you should not use silly euphemisms. Writers who favour “member,” “length” or “my sex” will all go to hell to be poked with fiery butt plugs for all eternity.
A cock is a cock.
Oh, and Jean Drew (founder of Romance Writers New Zealand) says, “Never keep your hero and your heroine apart for more than 10 pages.”
Understand modern art
A “state house” on the waterfront, phallic clouds in New Lynn, Billy Apple hanging his receipts on the wall and calling it art. They actually are taking the piss, aren’t they?
Well, the artists say no, they aren’t trying to make fun of us. But they do hope we’ll stop thinking of art merely as something to delight us with pretty colours and subtle brushstrokes. We all believe we know how to think and feel about things, but they’re trying to find fresh ways for us to do that, so that we might have fresh new feelings or understand things differently. They make it hard sometimes in the hope that we’ll work harder at it — maybe because the rewards might be greater or they simply want us to resist easy answers.
Don’t ask, “Is it art?” because the answer lies down a rabbit hole. Better to allow the artist to say that it is, and then think about what they’re trying to say with the art, and how, and whether you think they’ve done it well. Art is a conversation, say the art critics, which means it’s always worth asking, “Is it good art?”
Write a wedding speech
Don’t read out some jokes you found on the internet. People get enough of that on morning radio.
Don’t be lame. Don’t be predictable.
People like to hear a story they’ve never heard before. It might be about the happy couple, or your own experience of being married, or not. Take your time, paint a picture. Describe where and when and how and why this thing was happening. Quote the people in the story. Use their words, speak the way they speak. Hit the punchline, get the roar of laughter.
If you’re worried, don’t panic. There are people who write speeches for a living, like Metro contributor David Slack.
More ways to make your dreams come true in Auckland:
Illustrations by Beck Wheeler.