The trials and tribulations of a life down under

Latest mail from my brother down under came in on Saturday. Grab yourself the obligatory cup of tea and get settled for a great read. I've managed it three times and found something new each time.
Hi Fay,

I’m changing the format of my weekly e-mails to you because I’ve thrown my back out and just feel like a general ramble on why “I’ve got it tougher than you with your cancer thingy”. Okay, so I haven’t really got it bad, you know that, but I have got a really bad back.

Ever since Sam was born (and before that Eva) we’ve co-slept with our babies, but now he’s fifteen months old and Juliette’s working he seems to have got into the habit of using Juliette’s nipples as a dummy from 4am onwards.

Obviously this makes her tired for work and while I could say “who cares, I’m catching zeds” I don’t because “a happy wife means a happy life”, so I get upat 5.30am and take him off to lay on top of me on the sofa. I don’t (or didn’t) mind because this was like an hour or two long gravity assisted hug from Sam and it allowed Juliette extra time to sleep, but it has put pressure on my lower back which has felt like someone has gone to work with a couple of baseball bats.


This has had the unfortunate effect of making me grumpy and making me walk like I’ve pooped my pants. I just can’t straighten up. I’m walking like Donald frigging Duck sometimes. It also means that I’ve found it hard to sleep which is compounding the problem because the less I sleep the grumpier I get, the less my back heals and the more I start thinking about gold toilet seats. Let me explain …

The other week Stephen Fry was in the New Zealand news because he was working on the up coming Hobbit film when he tweeted that the broadband service here was crap. He was right of course (despite afterwards finding out he was borrowing someone else’s broadband and it had reached its cap or something). We tried to get broadband but we’re 6.4 kilometres from the main exchange which means we shouldn’t be able to get it at all. I was told this by a telecoms technician who came round to find out why it had dropped off after nearly two weeks of working okay.

“You shouldn’t be able to get broadband on anything over 5 kilometres,” he said. “But we have been for the last two weeks, “ I said, “but now it’s not working.” “Well,” he continued, “that just proves the point.” Thanks.

So we looked around and picked out a satellite broadband provider that would happily take five hundred of our dollars up front to provide us with a pain free internet service. We chose a company called “Skynet” despite my misgivings that Skynet is the self aware computer system that tries to destroy mankind in the Terminator universe. “We’ll send around a highly trained technician to see if you can receive our service” said the blurb. So I phoned up and someone said they’d be around pronto.

Someone did turn up and they got out they highly technical machinery, fold away satellite dish and state of the art Windows 7 diagnostic laptop and came back to me and said that “yes” we could receive their signal. Oh wait, that’s not what happened. What really happened is that someone just came around in their pickup truck with a ladder on the back, climbed up on the roof in their size nine shoes and squinted at a dot on a far away hill. The Mark I Eyeball wins every time apparently.

“You’re the luckiest b*stard in the world,” he said. “I am?” I shouted up to him hoping for some more good news along the lines of winning lotto numbers. “Do you own a chainsaw?” he shouted back. “No,” I shouted, “Pity,” he replied, “there’s a tree across the way there that might block your view in a year or two years time. You should nip over and cut it down. Farmers don’t give a f*ck about trees.” “No, but my neighbours might when I drop a tree across the road,” I thought, in my head so as not to offend the only person between us and You Tube. “What about if I just lopped off that branch?” I asked. “Yeah, that would do it too,” he said disappointedly. Skynet, you see. Evil.

So that was why a couple of days later he was sat in our living room testing our new satellite broadband and opening up a conversation that I can only describe as “fascinating”.

“Watch the news much?” he asked casually. “Yes, all the time, terrible isn’t it?” I lied. I don’t watch the news much and I’m happier for it. “The trouble with the world economy,” he said, “is that it’s based on capitalism.” Okay, I can work with this. I’ve watched Star Trek and it’s moneyless universe and all. I’m down with the Occupy Movement. Grrrrr, bankers. (Not really, but you know, broadband. Actually I would like to kick a banker in the nuts, but one of those bonus bankers who can spunk millions up the wall in an afternoon and not someone from my local branch that wears a name tag saying “Hello, my name is DEBORAH”). Happily his pet subject wasn’t capitalism but the solution to riding out the world’s financial problems. He was just warming up to it.

“Gold,” he said. “That’s where to put your money. Do you know blah, blah, blah?” He’d mentioned a New Zealand politician that I wasn’t familiar with and didn’t recognise her name. “Yes,“ I said dutifully because I’m a bad person, willing to humour and befriend anyone who doesn’t seem an odd sort and is connecting us up to broadband. “Well,” he said, “she put a million into gold and now it’s worth eighty million.” “So she had shed loads and had the nous to make it even more of a shed load then,” I thought, “dragged herself up by her million dollar boot straps”. I didn’t say anything of the sort really because you know where I’m coming from re. broadband.

“I’ve put my money into gold too,” he said. “Wow,” I said back, because you know, gold is gold and if he said he’d put his money into garden gnomes I’d have been happy to chat about the ones with the fishing rods are the most popular but you don’t seem to see many garden gnomes with mobile phones out texting their mates as to where the best fishing spots are.

But gold, big bars of gold that take two hands to lift no doubt, that’s impressive. “How much have you got?” I asked, “Fifteen thousand dollars worth, every time I go up to Auckland I get some.” Fifteen thousand dollars is about seven and a half thousand pounds. I’ve got a wedding ring worth four hundred dollars. My images of a pallet load of gold bars a la Fort Knox was fading. “Where do you keep it?” I inquired thinking of some ultra secure Mission Impossible bank. “Oh, I keep it at my house,” “What under the mattress, ha, ha, ha,” “No, I’ve got a safe. You can get some really cheap safes these days.”

I’m sure you can get some cheap safes but cheap safes to me are like getting a cheap parachute or a cheap smoke alarm. I wouldn’t want a cheap safe, I’d want a f*cking expensive safe that was made of something Superman would suck air through his teeth before tackling. Fifteen thousand dollars worth of gold would be two, maybe three Kit-Kat bars of gold I reckon. Hardly a nest egg to ride the global financial storm. But then I was thinking about Kit-Kats and how they’re the only product that when they screw up and miss out the wafer the customer is happier for it. I once got a four finger Kit-Kat that was all chocolate. I was like “Who wants to touch me?” and the thing was most people would be like “You lucky, lucky git” like if they didn’t realise that if I really wanted an all chocolate chocolate bar I should have got a Flake.

So we got broadband, I’ve thrown my back out and I’m in bed thinking where would I keep a few thousand dollars worth of gold so that no one would get to it. And then because I’m sleep addled I realise that the best place to keep it is in plain sight. We’re doing up our bathroom so let’s get a solid gold toilet seat. We’ll do up our bathroom like we’re 70s pimps. Purple, leopard skin prints, gold toilet seat. A place where cool and groovy pimp types would be happy to “drop the kids off at the pool” – Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch, Tony Hart from Take Hart, you know the type.

But then there’s the downside to having gold toilet seat. First off it would be super cold in the mornings. In winter you wouldn’t want to touch it with your tongue in case it sticks to it. But then there’s the second problem; if you’ve done your back in like I have there’s no way you’re going to be lifting it before doing a wee. Happy wife etc.

Jeez, I’ve just read that back and it sounds like I’m writing a Sunday morning column for a newspaper. It’s not intentional.

I hear you off into surgery on Wednesday so I’ll send you something early on Thursday to cheer you up. It’s totally because I’m thinking of you and not because I’m off camping on Friday with the SCA and won’t have access to the internet till Sunday, promise.

Take care. Don’t peg out on the operating table or anything because then I’ll be very cross with you.

Mark xxx

Hey you,

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