Friday, April 13, 2007

I know a place / where the sun always shines

I’ve not been posting a lot in recent days as I’ve been involved in six days of intense wedding-ing with some 50 odd (or odd 50 as the case may be) New Zealand visitors to this isle. That, aside from the obvious nuptials, has involved a fairly arduous, but very pleasurable, regime of talking and drinking. Oh, and snorkelling, swimming and drinking again. We can, at the very least, say that we left a barman in a little bale on Nusa Lembongan a near perfect recipe for one of New Zealand’s finest recipes…the mighty 42.

(As an aside, I’m not talking about the vodka…The 42, four shots of Stolly vodka, poured in a tall glass filled with ice and then topped to the rim with Rose’s Lime, was an Auckland institution for many years. It was the invention of De Brett’s Bar Manager, Phil Rykers, and the name came from the PLU button on the cash register in the House Bar in that lost institution. It would not be an understatement at all to say that the 42, throughout the nineties, probably accounted for half the drinks sold in the various bars around Auckland’s High Street, and the drink developed a life of it’s own as Watermelon and Chocolate, amongst many, 42s arrived on the street.)

I haven’t been in the company of this many New Zealanders since….well, since I was in New Zealand. We New Zealanders are not a common breed in Bali, or elsewhere in the east, despite our much touted “you find Kiwis everywhere” meme. You do, but just not in the same numbers as you tend to find other nationalities, even this close to “we are a part of Asia y’know” home….

And it’s cool. I like mixing with all sorts of nationalities, and do so on a daily basis, but there is something vaguely warm about the conversation one can have with a compatriot, who….you understand…knows….

Although it’s a funny thing now, but two years out from Auckland, and, indeed, six months since I visited, there is a difference too. I can find little interest in the controversy over the child smacking laws, or the Police scandals I’m told have enthralled the country in recent months (or even know what the outcome of both was). New Zealand politics have quietly slipped away from my sphere of interest, and I find myself looking even less at the online NZ Herald than ever before. Just about the only thing that I find myself following is the music industry, simply because its in my blood, although from a distance that seems to be quietly slipping below the waves (if the atrocious current New Zealand number one is any indication, perhaps faster than we all thought, I mean…is that what it’s come to?).

But New Zealand is still the nest and I look wistfully and longingly at the images I see from time to time in the media (although a trip to Sanur Beach soon cures that), and note with a strange pride that CNN here when it does its plug as the channel which talks to the world’s leaders, has our Helen to front of screen. They’re funny old things, those loosely patriotic strings.

And it’s with all that in mind, both Brigid and I have watched the few New Zealand shows on cable. There are a couple of truly horrendous TV dramas courtesy of the ABC…shockingly bad (and yes I understand what they were trying to do, but it failed badly)…the sort of thing that would probably never have made it to air anywhere else. We cringe and laugh at the same time. I’d like to be able to say something positive about NZ’s television drama over the years, but it’s impossible to do so with the fingers on both hands crossed.

Then there are the food programs. The star is Taste New Zealand, with Peta Mathias. She’s described on the TVNZ website as “flamboyant”, and she may be to middle New Zealand, simply I imagine because of her trademark hair (having none, I notice these things), and the irreverent way she approaches her shows, but once you leave the conservatism of NZ that description is probably less appropriate. But regardless of that, her show, and her presentation style are very, very easy on the eye, and travel extremely well. She's smart, sharp and does one of the best food shows on the food channel here. We watch it with some odd Kiwi (and I hate that word, even more so after I realised that to most Indonesians it means little more than a shoe polish from Jakarta) pride. She stands head and shoulders over many of the terrible English and American cooking shows we suffer through, such as the barbeque with excessive vigour types, or the only just past the cheese on toast-isms of Antony Worrall Thompson, but then, before we get to cocky, Allison Holst actually did do cheese on toast on one of her shows, bless…..

Yes Taste New Zealand is good, and, as I say, travels very well. In this (like most of the world) non Rugby playing region, she may well be the most famous New Zealander, if we wisely pass Russell Crowe on to Australia (is it just me, but is RC fast slipping into ‘the whatever happened to basket’).

So yes, Taste New Zealand, high marks and a worthy ambassador for the country. But which bright spark decided to pass on The Filth Files to the rest of the world. Of course in this part of the Asia, there are many who would look at the programme and murmur…uhhh…so what…witness the photo herein, taken at the close of business in the locals’ meat market in Denpasar. Here it is vaguelly ironic, and I would hazard, bemuses many.

Seriously, however, with New Zealand trying (and largely succeeding) in selling itself as a clean, green, environment, to the world, one must seriously question the wisdom of the global selling of The Filth Files. You really have to stand back and ask yourself, what in gods name were they thinking? The world knows little enough about New Zealand, and much of what it does know comes from a incredibly expensive, long term marketing campaign, from our government, only to have a TV production house sell, everywhere (its on UK TV too), a show saying very loudly “many of our restaurants are absolutely filthy”.

The thing is, we all know that…but we don’t need to broadcast it.

And here’s a starter for ten, since we’re talking hygiene and High Street….which club in that streets, some years back was shut down by the health department because the owner had turned off the hot water to the glass washers, and refused to buy detergent. I’m not saying, but suffice to say it happened after I sold it……