Thursday, February 25, 2010

House room

It's seven years, now, since I sold my last owned house in England. (It feels less. I still think of it as home, sometimes, even though I hadn't lived there for two years before that.)

It's six months since we moved into our first owned house in New Zealand. We've replaced the windows with good double-glazing, restored the garage to its proper use (rather than the half-assed workshop space so beloved of Kiwi males), and furnished it with some of our own things, but largely with stuff looted from the in-laws. The king-sized guest bed, the dining table and chairs, several other chairs, the sofa - all donated by Susan's side of the family.

Also about six months ago my parents, fed up with storing such of my possessions as I hadn't brought over yet, crated them up and shipped them over here. They took a while to arrive - I think they might have come via Somalia, among other places - but come they did, eventually. Then they had to wait for me to get off my backside and chivvy them through customs and biosecurity. I finally got the boxes home and unpacked last month.

The first thing I noticed, in unpacking - no, make that the third thing - was that quite a lot of this stuff wasn't mine. (The first thing was that the packages were held together with enough parcel tape to secure a small moon launch. The second was that they contained enough scrunched-up newspaper to constitute almost an entire edition of the Sunday Times. No wonder they weighed so much.) As in, I'd either never laid eyes on it before, or I had but I knew damn' well it belonged to someone else. Clearly, my parents had decided to retaliate by making me store some of their stuff. (We now have a Czechoslovakian-made 12-setting tea set, which is vaguely familiar but quite definitely Not Mine. I'm mildly curious to learn where I've seen it before.) And there's a medium-sized pile of books that my father may have thought I'd enjoy, and maybe I will, but he can't possibly have imagined were mine...

It's amazing how much you can fit into your cupboards, once you start exploring their innermost recesses and apply what you learned from Tetris. But cupboards thus filled are not - comfortable. They lack a belt to let out. They become dense, precarious places, without room to move and breathe, and accessing parts of the content starts to feel like outfitting a polar expedition.

And so last weekend, we decided to act on my mother's suggestion of buying a sideboard or dresser, to increase our total storage space. Another wriggle in the inexorable settling-in to middle-class existence.

Now, furniture is one of those industries that is much, much better done in Europe than it is out here. We looked, halfheartedly, for antique shops, but failing to find what we wanted, we made a beeline for Danske Møbler (which, we reasoned, must surely sell decent Scandinavian-designed furniture at exorbitant prices).

DM has a huge, modern-looking (if you're from the 80s) showroom in Mt Eden, which we saw from afar while house-hunting, and it was the work of - ooh, about half an hour - to find it again. It's the kind of showroom where, when you amble in, there's a brief period when you wonder whether it's supposed to be open, because there's not a soul in sight, and there is, wonder of wonders, no muzak. Eventually you become aware that the place is, in fact, staffed - but discreetly, like I imagine the public reception room of MI5. You can stroll all around, get your bearings, take the measure of things, before some suave assistant materialises at your shoulder and offers to help.

I like it. Maybe I'll go back just to enjoy the decent sofas and drink the free coffee.

In the end we settled on a beautifully scuplted, rimu dresser - about 20cm lower than I'd have liked, but it will fit the space under the dining-room window to admiration. It has lovingly bevelled edges and rounded corners, feels smooth and solid to the touch. One of the drawers has a cutlery-drawer-like divider lined with felt. I think it was maybe meant for a casino rather than a kitchen, but never mind, at least it's not green felt.

It's due to be delivered roundabout early April. (Why, exactly, does furniture take so long to make? Answers to the comments section please.) Until then, the cupboards will just have to suffer in silence.

Friday, February 12, 2010


It must be officially late summer now.

You can tell because the cicadas, having spent four months gently chirping to one another when no-one was looking, have launched their bid for full aural domination (FAD). You can't open a window, currently, without being deafened by the continuous roar of insects desperately signalling about... oh, the flag, the All-Blacks' new lineup, or Proust, whatever it is that cicadas care about.

Seriously, they're loud. By mid-morning, walking anywhere outdoors is like being flanked by invisible cheerleaders.

Maybe they're just wishing Happy New Year to everyone. The Chinese New Year festivities start on Sunday, and go on for four weeks. We're sending out cards this year, mostly to apologise for our disorganisation in not having sent Christmas cards.

Which reminds me: a very happy Year of the Tiger to both all my readers. Be well!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Creativity, RIP

What exactly is modern copyright law trying to encourage?
To: CBS Productions, NBC, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, Comedy Central, et alia

From: Sue, Grabbit & Runn, Solicitors at Law

It has come to our attention that a significant number of your productions are located on or near Manhattan, New York, USA. During the course of a number of these productions (listed in Appendix A), the distinctive skyline of Lower Manhattan is used as a background, to identify the location, to establish key plot-relevant context, and to brand and publicize the product.

This skyline is the creative work of a number of architects, but it is generally acknowledged (including by your own networks: see Appendix B for references) that one of the most prominent contributions of recent times was the work of our client O. bin Laden.

Our client assures us that he has never granted permission for images of his work to be used in your productions, nor can we find any record that such permission has ever been sought. We are seeking damages for this infringement in the amount of 60% of your gross earnings from these productions filmed since September 2001.

Moreover, we have strong evidence that the great majority of your producers, writers, directors and camera crews are fully aware of our client's contribution. Therefore the failure to seek permission can only be attributable to a wilful and deliberate policy on the parts of their employers, i.e. you. Accordingly, we will be asking the court to assess maximum statutory damages of US$150,000 per infringement. We will be seeking full disclosure of the number of times each of the infringing works has been distributed to the public, and to how many people, but preliminary research suggests that final damages will be in the region of US$14 trillion.

The infringing use of our client's trademark 'Al-Qaeda' to refer to incidents not authentically created by that organization or any of its licensees or affiliates is currently the subject of a separate action.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

H. Grabbit

Now to see if this blog gets deleted for praising or glorifying terrorism.