Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mit Reklaw’s Truth on X Factor NZ

New Zealand’s X Factor panel comprises four pompous individuals who like to pass themselves off as discerning in the field of music. To watch the show however, one could be forgiven for perceiving their presence as nothing short of fatuous.

Mel Blatt, former British female pop artist endeavours to portray an air of unimpressed nonchalance, while the other female judge and supposed current pop artist, Ruby Frost, doesn’t try to portray much of anything. She is what she is. That is to say, vacuous. Speaking of which, Stan Walker, also a current pop star, demonstrates his obtuse intellect in a number of ways, not least of all verbally. Finally there’s Daniel Bedingfield. Now he is an interesting character. Former or current pop star – who can really tell these days? – flamboyant in dress sense, metrosexual hairstyling in perhaps more areas than one and ultimately, pervading a gross deficit in masculinity that would cause most red-blooded males to cringe in their man-caves.

Admittedly though, when Bedingfield is not weeping over somebody’s performance, he is probably the most likable, or at least inoffensive, judge.

Blatt’s forced strident demeanour coupled with a genuine British accent is almost laughable, raising the question: why would a former All Saints member be required to make up one quarter of the panel on a New Zealand singing show..? The answer in my opinion: she is the closest thing they could find to Simon Cowell – another obnoxious British usurper. Interesting then that the producers felt they needed to include Bedingfield’s British influence; also the fact that despite his apparent Maori heritage, Walker’s fame was discovered on the X Factor Australia, yet is revered by the NZ public as a Kiwi pop star, so placed on the judging panel of a Kiwi pop show.

A worthwhile inquiry might be into whether anyone gave Walker a trial run before putting him in such an exalted position; perhaps made sure of his ability to form basic sentences. This leads me to wonder furthermore, if anyone has noticed the way that when it comes time to pass down the performance critique, Walker rarely goes first, preferring to sit back and listen to what the other three have to say before uttering with a mystified, almost stupefied look about him, ‘Cheer bro, I agree wif what the ovvers said eh, yous need to use what yous have got…’

Startling inadequacies in rudimentary English notwithstanding, Walker does fill his seat well.

Frost’s cute disposition, pasty skintone and ever-changing pink hairstyling does little to endear her to the masses either – unless the masses consist entirely of pre-pubescent boys. Although as the panel’s one complete Kiwi, perhaps leeway ought to be afforded – besides, it can’t be easy propagating a music career as an artist of which nobody’s heard.

Mit Reklaw’s Truth on Perspective

Perspective is the single most important, yet widely under-appreciated, aspect of life.

Perspective is what makes us who we are; what makes us think and act the way we do. It is something that affects everybody and although many of us either dismiss, or fail to acknowledge perspective, without it, we would cease to see, cease to feel, cease to understand or to appreciate. Your perspective on life is what allows you to decipher the good from the bad, it allows you to feel the way you do about… about everything.

Take this for example: a father stands in the shower with hot water cascading over his back. To him, this is bliss – or so his perspective tells him. He shuts off the shower, leaving the temperature unchanged. A minute later his 5-year-old son enters the stall and is immediately scalded by the same water that his father, only a minute before, found so blissful. Sure, the kid’s skin is softer than Dad’s, but it is the child’s perspective that registers this.

Now to a less tangible example, a family in a first world household expect that when they flick a light switch, the light will come on. They expect to turn on the tap to have a plentiful supply of clean water. They expect the toaster will scorch their bread, they expect the washing machine will launder their clothes. A family from a third world way of life, conversely, will be thankful for every liberty that they receive. They might flick on a light switch, only to be reminded that the modern convenience of electricity has yet to reach them. Their tap might be more of a communal set-up, in the form of a large rain-water tank out back – so what happens if there is no rain? They fetch their water from the muddy little stream behind their shanty – the same stream in which they bathe and launder their clothes… the day that this stream runs clean, oh that is a fine day indeed.

A wealthy man from an affluent suburb is effectively the same person as a man who lives in a corrugated iron hovel whose only currency is fruit and grain; yet it is perspective that makes these two men so very dissimilar. The wealthy man becomes angry if his receptionist fails to pass on an important message and becomes despondent because he subsequently misses out on a lucrative promotion. The man whose wealth lies within the well-being of his family becomes angry because a poacher shot his pet goat, meaning there will be no milk for his family; he becomes despondent because his children are dying of malnutrition – a predicament which could have been avoided had his goat still been alive.

People in  the first world really have no right to ever be angry, resentful or depressed. Seriously, wake up and look at the rest of the world; look at what you have compared to what they will never have. It doesn’t bother them simply, because they don’t know any better. You can’t miss what you’ve never experienced and you can’t experience what you do not have.

Mit Reklaw’s Truth on Indecision

Let’s make the world a better place, pull our heads in, make up our fragile little minds and stop being so damned undecided about everything.

Assertive people who know how to make decisions without hesitation are what keep this existence prosperous; these are the same folk who, at the pub later that that night, can recount the actions of their day without a lot of ‘kind ofs’, ‘likes’, ‘sort ofs’ and to a lesser extent, ‘you knows’. These are real people who know how to get things done.

It’s the speech that is most irritating. Do we need to add an element of doubt to everything? Is it even possible to ‘kind of’ go somewhere, and ‘sort of’ do something? Here are a few examples that should illustrate just how inane this style of speech appears on paper, therefore, how idiotic it probably sounds in everyone’s ears but your own.

‘Oh, sorry, I can’t, I kind of, have a boyfriend…’ (What’s that then? Are you on a break? Are you his secret admirer? Are you unsure of his feeling towards you… what?)

‘We got in the car and then kind of just, left…’ (So, what? The car didn’t start first time? You drove very slowly? You took a long time to decide if you were going to leave… really?)

‘Then I like, grabbed him and I sort of, just slapped him right across the face…’ (Oh, I understand. You tenderly caressed his cheek with your hand.)

‘Me and him, yeah, we’re kind of like, you know, well, we’re sort of, married…’ (I see. Kind of like sort of married. So clearly the officiator was unqualified. No? Vegas wedding perhaps..? Separated and not living together? Ah, then it must be a de facto arrangement..? Come on, I’m going by what you’ve told me… What then? How about just saying what you mean!)

One might believe that with maturity this horrific display of indecisive speech would be straightened out, but no. It’s been seen in adults as old as fifty. It’s not cool. It’s not casual. It’s not the least bit endearing… it’s downright ambiguous and frustrating. So how about we kind of like, sort of work out what we mean to say prior to opening our uneducated little cake-holes, and let’s just articulate precisely what’s on our minds.

So does that kind of sound like a good idea? Or perhaps it’s sort of what you were already thinking..? Non-committal much? Yeah, nah, kind of.

Nice one.

Mit Reklaw’s Truth on Teachers

Amid a tremulous economic climate where expendable cash levels are dwindling and unemployment is on the rise, nobody it seems, is doing it harder than our educators.

For as long as people have yearned for knowledge, there have been people equipped to educate them. Similarly, for as long as there have been teachers, there have been people to take them for granted. What many of us ignorant folk don’t realise is the lengths to which these fine people must go, every day, in order to perform this specialised task. It seems illogical that one superhuman entity is charged with controlling a rabble numbering upwards of twenty and yes, one would be forgiven for thinking that these must be among the highest paid individuals on the planet.

They’re not though.

A teacher’s starting salary in New Zealand, is below the national remuneration average. Even once they have cemented their spot in the industry, clocking up countless hours before a whiteboard, before a throng of restive rapscallions, they can never expect to become wealthy people. A little known fact is that, while most every other industry in the world has undergone regular pay increases, the teacher’s salary has remained more or less constant. Teachers themselves have needed to keep up with regular up-skilling and refreshing of qualifications, in order to meet the ever-changing demands of the student body, so why isn’t their pay reflecting of this dedication?

In the UK the situation is equally as dire. A developing trend is pupils achieving lower grades in schools among the more affluent areas, simply because these facilities cannot attract quality teachers to their doors.

In the US, Microsoft founder and former Chairman, Bill Gates is undertaking work to ease the funding deficit in schools by making the audacious claim, “Lower teacher salaries, raise class sizes.”

Back in NZ we have school-age children not attending classes, we have teachers who are qualified to teach but on account of low wages and high living costs, are forced to find employment elsewhere; we have public schools dilapidating through a further lack of Government funding… We have an utter bloody shambles in our education system.

Why though, do we as a nation not cherish our educators – why are they not the most embraced people in the world? They have certainly committed to one of the most important jobs in the world, given that without education, this nation would come to an obtuse standstill. So why are we not more appreciative of the work teachers do? Is it perhaps because at first impression they only work a six hour day? Fact. A typical teacher arrives at school before eight, stays at least until after four, then brings home enough bookwork to keep the most adroit accountant busy for days. So is it because their job appears easy, reading formulae from a textbook, computer screen and such? Easy, eh? Are you a parent? How would you enjoy having two kids at home all day? Multiply that by ten, then try to teach them something. Yeah. So easy.

New Zealand. Look after your teachers. Cherish them, embrace them, love them for what they do for your children. Don’t lower their salaries and in fact for a better idea, raise them tenfold. To quote a hackneyed phrase, ‘Children are our future’. True as that may be, it’s a bleak future if the aforementioned youth grow up uneducated.



Mit Reklaw’s Truth on Modern Speech

What is up with modern-day speech patterns? Must all questions take the form of a negative? Do all responses require the same treatment?

Confused? You probably are, because those three queries were all put to you in a regular, neutral format. Here’s an example of the alternative: Are we not concerned with modern-day speech patterns? Do we no longer know how to ask neutral questions? Are all responses not heading in the same direction?

So why is it happening? Is it just a form of natural vernacular evolution? Is it just the way modern dialect is going? Do you see? This is how we used to ask questions before some pretentious dick-wad stepped up with his pompous tongue and tried to make himself (yes, of course he was male, they always are) sound more intelligent than he really was.

Do you not think it was a good idea? Did it not sound good to you?

You might notice also, this pretentious dude, pompous though his tongue may be, is of a largely monosyllabic tongue, and that’s just my point. Often this kind of technique is used, perhaps sub-consciously, by a low-intellect speaker in order to bolster his oration – did someone say pretentious? Questions around the negative do have their place, indeed, they usually have a more emphatic quality about them and for that reason, are ideal for rebuke, for scolding or sarcasm but not for regular usage, and certainly not all the time. The emphasis is soon to wear off if that is all that someone is hearing.

Regarding vernacular evolution, for sure, this is a real thing. In fact, if we go back half a century and eavesdrop on a generic conversation, we will hear the beginnings of the speech patterns which are currently being derided.

Example given: ‘Heavens above, companion of mine, my faithful steed has stumbled upon a fallen log along the pathway and for now at least, I fear is rendered incapacitated. What ever shall I do?’

‘Oh mercy, you are correct in your verbose analysis, my dear friend, but worry not. You will ride with me, for we shall not let this ostensible impasse halt our progress.’

‘But friend, surely my allocation of aid intended for those impecunious souls in the next settlement, will prove overly burdensome for your steed alone, thus I think, I must return to the village and seek assistance.’

‘Do not be foolish, good friend o’ mine, it may be onerous, but it shall be done. Do not you have faith? Have not you laid your trust in the Almighty?’


Yeah. Pretty sure it’s in there somewhere, try those last couple of lines.

As you’ll see, negatives in questions have been a developing theme probably for as long as speech has been reciprocated and as much as it can be effective, it can also be overdone. The best way to lose an audience is overuse of a word, phrase or oration technique.

So with regard to negative queries, do you not think it sometimes necessary?

Sometimes, perhaps, but sure as hell not there.




Mit Reklaw’s Truth on Child Poverty

New Zealand is considered a first-world country, yet in so many instances, the treatment of our children would indicate otherwise.

            Let us take a trip back to primary school in a comparatively destitute area of New Zealand in the late 1950s. These kids are provided with free milk (often to go with a free breakfast), free health-care and free education, all at the Governments expense. Now come back to the same area but in the modern age. Look around. See the difference? We have children being shipped off to school having not eaten breakfast and with nothing but a wizened bloody apple core in their burlap sacks for lunch. Really? How can a child be expected to function on next to no sustenance? How can they be expected to learn? How can they be moulded into our future doctors, nurses, architects, builders and the like? How can they be expected to stay awake and assimilate anything in the least, when all their malnourished little bodies want is to shut down to conserve energy?

The plight in which many of these offending parents find themselves is of a financial nature. Not enough money to go around, they reckon. The problem with this is that what little wherewithal they do have, is often not being prioritised, not being channelled; not being distributed prudently. Thus the child misses out. But surely, an unrelated bystander might think, when a woman gives birth to a child, that child immediately becomes the most important feature of her life, thereby earning the right to be first in line for rudimentary human support, meagre as it might be. Surely..?

In a perfect world, yes.

Alas, in a world where gambling seems to focus its clutches on the impoverished; cigarettes and alcohol are the drugs of choice for those who cannot afford them and chocolate biscuits, hand in hand with soft drinks and crisps, are believed by these poor souls to fill part of the ‘Eat Lots’ segment of the food triangle, the terms money and sensibility, have become disparate entities. These parents are probably the result of a childhood similar in nature to the one that their children currently face.

Can I get a Let’s Break the Cycle over here?

This is where the Government comes in – or at least, where it should come in. The average, annual cost of raising a child is $14 000. If a low income couple bring in a total of $28 000, that’s half of their income that they should be spending on their offspring. Be honest. Most low income families have more than one kid. So $14 000 becomes $28 grand. $28 rolls into $32 and so on. The New Zealand Government needs to step in. Public schooling is supposed to be free to those who want it. So why is it not? Why are New Zealand’s poorest families still having to fork out for school fees, for stationery, for uniforms and for other schooling essentials? Why is the Government not offering more help?

All public schools need to be providing a free breakfast for those kids who turn up hungry. So what about free fruit? God knows most of today’s youth don’t get that at home. What about free food in general? It’s public schooling, it’s supposed to be Government funded – so come on Government, start funding. Personally, not a big fan of hand-outs, but come on, the situation is dire. At this rate, 20 years from now, we’ll have raised a generation of insipid lack-wits.

Children are our future. This much is fact. Education shows people how to make the right choices; how to choose the correct path. This is also fact. So why, in world childcare standings, does New Zealand languish at third from the bottom? Is it that we as a nation just don’t care that much about our kids? Or is it that our Government is just not that focused on the optimal upbringing of our up-and-comers?

Mit Reklaw’s Truth on Prison

New Zealand has 19 operating prisons. The New Zealand Government therefore, funds 19 prisons. Each of these prisons pose an average, annual cost of $91 000.

Do the math. That’s a lot of money that we as the New Zealand taxpayer are, some might say wasting, on derelict souls. Add to that base rate, the unexpected costs of incarceration – cost of riot clean-up; cost of increased staffing to help maintain order; cost of damage done by prisoners, to their own living quarters, often with instruments made from items, given to them, in an effort to benefit, their own standard of living.

On October 1st, 1995, the Department of Corrections was formed. Its annual budget is $1.1 billion, with total assets worth around $1.9 billion. That’s a lot of money to invest in people who the public have already condemned; then to make that battle appear even more futile, are the recidivism statistics: 70% of all released prisoners reoffend within the next two years. That sounds bad. This sounds worse: 52% of those released, supposedly rehabilitated prisoners, return to prison within five years.

So what the hell is the good in locking them up then later having them return to society, only to then, have them complete the cycle?

Oddly, these statistics are not what’s bothering me. No. It’s the fact that these criminals, some who have committed transgressions that us regular folk would see as downright unconscionable, following a light-hearted conviction, are allowed to continue their existence more or less as they please, while ignorant radicals continually lobby on their behalf for an increased standard of living.

I wonder if these people realize, how many other people, how many struggling families in NZ are forced to live in abject squalor because they have nobody to lobby for them.

Admittedly, the lobbyists aren’t even the worst offenders in this case. Driven by our own sense of senselessness, it’s the two most filthy words in the human vernacular running the show this time: Political Correctness. We as a nation believe that we really should give a damn about the mistreatment of others – even if they are pond-scum. We think that we suppose we probably should care about stuff that isn’t even really worth caring about, because it seems to be the fashion at the moment.

Truly, and this is perhaps to be my most controversial statement ever, I believe that when a person commits a deed against mankind which is viewed by those in higher places, to be an outrightly deplorable, therefore jail-able transgression, that person has effectively foregone his or her right to be treated like a human being. Thus human rights no longer apply. We need to publicise that fact. Granted, the ‘throw ‘em in a hole and forget about the bastards’ philosophy, should only apply to the worst offenders, but let’s be fair, most moderate offenders don’t cause a great deal of trouble.

Honestly, it can’t go on like this. The country is in enough financial dismay as it is, without pouring money down a tube to feed the lowest echelon of society. To circumvent any PC issues, there needs to be plaques in every visible corner of a prison: ‘Misbehave Even Once, You Will No Longer Be Treated As A Person’. Put them up high, too.

Solitary Confinement. What a fine couple of words. If inmates act like idiots, throw them in, slide under the door a tray of gruel three times daily; if they want to act like shit-heads, let’s treat them as such. If they like to break their toilet, let them defecate in the corner. If they like to rip up their mattress, let them sleep on the floor. If they like to break mirrors and cut themselves for attention, let them bleed. Hunger strike?  Tell me, Mr Prison Official, are you hungry? Then don’t worry about it. He’ll eat when he’s ready.

People think that unless prisoners are content, they will act out. This makes no sense. They shouldn’t be content. It’s prison. Living there is supposed to be discouraged. It’s not though, is it? Why do you think recidivism is on the rise? Prison is too damned pleasant. Still, despite enjoying better living standards than a lot of NZs decent citizens, our precious little convicts find the time to riot, start fires and ultimately, cause the staff a lot of trouble that they don’t need, let alone deserve.

So why continue throwing money at a problem when it’s having no effect? If anything, I’d say their funding should be cut each time they cause unrest. People need to be so terrified by the notion of winding up in incarceration, that the very thought of committing a crime is tantamount to dying a painful death. July 2011, smoking was banned. That’s a start, but really it’s nothing. Hell, even us law-abiding smokers can’t light up anywhere except our on own back lawn anymore.

We are a soft nation, this much is fact. Simply telling ourselves to harden up, might not be a satisfactory solution. So how about we just do it..?

Mit Reklaw’s Northward Bound: steady as she goes

The opportunity came out of nowhere, slapping me across the face like a bitter southwesterly gale. After being on a waiting list for so long that I had begun to feel forgotten, the letter, the invitation to fly to Auckland to liaise with a specialist team of Doctors and Neurologists, who would then assess my suitability for an experimental neurosurgery, was cause for more than just a little excitement.

It was only around seven years late.

9 December, 2000. This was the date that my life took an unfortunate turn. A car crash, more serious than any regular person would care to imagine, devastated my hitherto prosperous life. As a 17-year-old apprentice diesel mechanic from rural mid-Canterbury, if someone had told me that on that night, I would sustain an injury which would result in a nine day coma, a 14 day stay in I.C.U., then around two months at Burwood Brain Rehabilitation Unit; an approximate total of three months spent in hospital, with the damage to my nervous system being such, that the years to follow would be overshadowed by an increasingly dominant tremor of the limbs and neck, I’m sure I would have responded in something resembling disbelief.

Nevertheless, this is the way that fate tends to manifest its, often unwelcome, presence upon our lives.

So it was set. The Canterbury Health Board had diligently arranged on my behalf, flights, accommodation; along with travel from and to Auckland airport. I was scheduled to fly out of Christchurch on the 20th of May, shortly after midday; so that morning was spent putting together everything that might be needed on the trip. As the return flight was set for the very next day however, and I didn’t feel a change of clothes would be necessary, my luggage amounted to a meagre assortment of bananas, apples and a container of nuts, strewn about in the bottom of a small travel bag. Then slipping into the side pouch the only truly important items, identification and itinerary; I was good to go.

On arrival at Christchurch airport, I went over my – already thoroughly perused – itinerary, reassuring myself for the umpteenth time that once in Auckland, there would be a Shuttle driver standing at baggage claim, holding a board bearing my name, who would then take me to my hotel. Sorted. My anxiety quelled – at least for now – I boarded the plane for my debut domestic flight. Realistically, it was anything but stimulating; in fact the one modicum of joy to be taken from the excursion, were the small television screens above every few rows of seats, which folded down to offer a constant game of Q and A. Landing in Auckland, I felt almost twice as knowledgeable as when I had stepped onto the plane.

Following the signs to the baggage claim was a feat that I scarcely managed to pull off and once there, I scanned the area for my taxi-man. There were people everywhere – except for where there should have been. My man was nowhere. Pulling out my itinerary for the 203rd time that day, I verified that I was in fact in the correct zone and yes, I was exactly on time. So I waited. Ten minutes later deciding that an assertive demeanour was required, I approached a solitary figure who I had already assessed as a quintessential taxi driver – large, suit-wearing, complexion which only comes through years of pack-a-day smoking – and asked this man if he could assist with my quandary. The man immediately stood, only too eager to help, took my itinerary papers from me, quickly scanned them, smiled and in a raspy voice that could not have been more expected, motioned for me to follow him. Out of the airport we strolled, the huge man showing surprising alacrity; onto the footpath, where he pointed at a Shuttle van, assuring me that it would take me where I needed to go.

At this point, it ought to be noted, the entire preconception that I previously held, alluding to Aucklanders being snobby, arrogant, conceited and largely unhelpful people, is currently being blown out of the water.

The Indian Shuttle driver took me expertly through rush hour traffic, managing along the way to hold a perfunctory conversation in broken English, directing my future movements and pointing out major landmarks, until pulling up at Waldorf Apartments, letting me out and wishing me well. At least I think that was what he said.

I entered the building via a concrete staircase – as  it seems that in Auckland, most every building starts underground – spoke to the pleasant receptionist, took the lift up to the 14th floor, found my room, inserted the key-card and passed the threshold to my room. After checking out all the rooms, closets and cupboards, although satisfied with my living arrangements, I was somewhat disenchanted about the lack of complimentary food. So casting off my luggage I stepped back out into the corridor and took the lift back down, meeting several ebullient characters along the way. Passing reception I acknowledged the attractive girl at the counter and, in defiance of my mother’s wishes: ‘Don’t get caught on the streets of Auckland after dark’, strolled up the stairs and into a rapidly falling dusk.

First order of business, food. I was ravenous and in search of a Subway. Recalling the Shuttle driver’s flailing arm in response to my question about this, and given there were only two choices anyway, I turned right and began walking. I had left a Canterbury where everything was cold. I had entered an Auckland where everything was uncomfortably warm. My preferred pace – faster than most but slower than some – had to be lowered to avoid the prickles of early perspiration affecting my chest and back. At this point, the thing that I found most noticeable about Auckland, was the people – the people themselves were nothing special, it was the density of their numbers that amazed me.

People on Christchurch streets are sparse even throughout the day; this was an Auckland evening and pedestrians ruled the night.

I wove in and out of the throng, eventually coming to my beloved Subway, just where my Indian friend had promised it would be.

Back up to my room, I stepped out onto the balcony, breathing the fumigated Auckland air and feeling that shiver that runs from one’s rectum all the way up to their nape. I was high. Glancing around I saw massive edifices, all equal in stature to my own; but it was looking down, that was the killer. I was so high my eyes were unable to focus even on the pavement below. In a moment of insanity I visualized what it might be like to vault the safety rail and hurl myself the 30 odd metres to the ground. I wondered what it would be like; how it might feel to land, back first, on the roof of that green car down there. That shiver came over me again only this time, it was accompanied by a strong hit of vertigo. I gulped, returned to my room and devoured my foot-long, roast beef Sub.

Similar to the ambient Auckland climate, inside my room was warm. Uncomfortably so. So taking off my coat, my third departure in as many hours was on the cards. In the spirit of adventure, this time I wandered left. With no idea of where I was going but with all night to get there, I began inadvertently trailing a group of pretty Asian girls. They soon dispersed; I continued walking. I was experiencing a chronic case of the dry horrors, so stopped at a 24hour Superette for a bottle of water. Most of the people I encountered, I observed, were youthful. Many, who I encountered, were not only youthful but also female. A high percentage of those people, who were female, were in fact, attractive girls. That being so, and me feeling as though I was in a different time zone, I showed no inhibitions when it came to striking up conversation with the aforementioned. Oddly, the majority of these caught-off-guard pedestrians, were indeed, responsive. I couldn’t believe it. This was supposed to be Auckland: region of the condemned; home of the malcontent. My misconception was well on the way to being inverted. This was brilliant. I didn’t want or expect anything from these girls, I was just having a great time chatting with pretty young women from a different place, and with an undoubtedly dissimilar outlook on life to the one’s with whom I’m accustomed to speaking.

At that point I was about done. I was hungry, my feet were sore, and people were now mistaking me for a drunk. I had decided to head back to my room and thought, that when it comes time to recount this tale, I had best have some specifics to add, lest my story should come off generic and uninspired (or possibly fabricated). I glanced up and down the street in search of a road sign; alas, there were none to be seen. A strolled a little farther and looked again; nothing. Then I saw a pretty girl walking my way – it didn’t matter how gently I endeavoured to stop people, they always looked startled. This case was no different. Putting on my best (fatigued) voice, I asked: “Pardon me Miss, my name’s Tim and I’ve just flown in from mid-Canterbury this evening for an appointment with the brain doctors at the hospital tomorrow and this being my first time in Auckland I don’t really know… anything, about where I am…”

The cute brunette looked at me, her initial look of terror having given way to a broad smile: “Oh-h. Why are you going to the brain doctors’? Is your brain sick?”

I stifled a smirk, compelled to fire back, ‘Very’, but restrained the impulse. Instead, I replied: “Yeah, it ah, has, issues… What I was wondering though, I can’t see any road signs, could you please tell me the name of the road we’re on..?”

Her face changed again to one of disbelief as she said in a loud voice: “Are you serious? Buddy, you’re talkin’ to some random stranger on Auckland’s K Road!”

I’m dumbfounded: “Seriously? K Road? This is the infamous K-fuckin’-Road?”

Giggling like a schoolgirl: “Yeah buddy, this is K fuckin’ Road alright!”

Concluding that the innocuous vibe I was taking from NZ’s most notorious street must have been on account of it being a Monday, I thanked the girl and made my way back to Waldorf Apartments.

Symonds Street was in sight and I breathed relief that I could finally cease the madness, when from my left peripheral, I spotted a young Maori boy keeping precise step with me, while spitting every five-or-so steps. Thinking this peculiar, as I have an unusually large stride and at the time, I believed I was covering ground quickly (also nobody needs to spit that frequently), I slowed and took a long slurp from my water bottle. The boy overtook me and also slowed. I halted and took an even larger sip from my bottle. The Maori boy walked around me and stepped forward, blocking my path. He fired off a garbled line of speech. At the time I recall thinking of my mother’s words, but thinking additionally, ‘Why the hell would this boy be picking on me? I’m almost a foot higher than he and I can’t imagine those puny fists could do much damage, so even if he does have a knife – which he probable does – I’m hardly perturbed…’

Then I caught the last few syllables in his string of rapid-fire: “…real dry eh, can I’ve some water bro?”

So the kid’s thirsty, that’s all. My heart rate decreased by half.

“Yeah just hang on bud,” I replied, taking on more pull on the bottle before offering it to him, “it’s yours.”

“Oh, cheers bro…”

I didn’t stick around to hear the remainder of his ingratiation.

Twenty minutes after that, I was asleep.

The next morning I was up early. I choked down a few bananas, showered, dressed, put everything in order, went over the day’s plans in my head one final time, grabbed my bag with all its contents replaced, took the lift down to the basement to indulge in a complimentary, continental breakfast, then left Waldorf Apartment Hotel. A brisk walk out to Symonds Street then down to and over the bridge – crossing a river with name unknown – and arriving at Auckland City hospital. Hordes of commuters surrounded and bustled with me for the duration of the walk, impressing me for the reason that if this were Christchurch; despite the shortness of distance, the apathetic southern souls would likely fire up their automobiles to avoid embarking upon even the slightest stint of exercise.

That was the major area of favour that I took from Auckland: they are a fit city. I’ve visited Dunedin and they are but far the fittest, with most every resident being either an avid walker of runner, but Auckland, you come in second. Christchurch, you lazy, insipid, lethargic pieces of lard, lift your game.

At the hospital, I was amused to see that, after travelling up one escalator to reach the reception, I was now on level five. Querying this ostensible misnomer with the delightful lady, she remarked with a grin, “Well technically Sir, we are the fifth floor.”

My confounded gaze must have betrayed my thoughts because she continued with that endearing grin.

“You see Sir, this is level five; the level where you came in, the ground level, well that’s level four … then there are three levels underground!”

Auckland hospital is massive. It is bigger, more vast than one person can easily fathom.

I was directed by the nice receptionist down a corridor, up a lift then along another hallway, to the Neurology Day Stay. Disorientation notwithstanding, I made it on my very first attempt. Checking in at the front desk there, I found myself in brief conversation with a middle-aged woman who had apparently undergone a Temporal Lobectomy in an attempt to free her from the rigours of epilepsy. Surgeons had removed a large portion of this cheery woman’s brain because seemingly, that particular part was giving her seizures. I couldn’t quite believe it. I found myself thinking of the end of movie ‘Hannibal’, and the guy (Ray Liotta) who had been the unwilling recipient of open brain surgery, and how that had affected him – but this lady appeared fine. It certainly had not affected her sense of spirit, anyway.

Some time later I was called by a Dr McAuley. As I followed him through the door, I was powerless to avert my gaze from the supposed stroke victim, sitting there with a distorted facial expression and with mouth hanging wide open, reciprocating my stare as I passed. Dr McAuley took me through to his office, where the observation really began. He asked me many questions regarding my earlier life; he asked me the specifics of my injury, the effect that it takes on my current ability to face life.

All of my responses could be summarized in just a few words: challenging; difficult; soul destroying

He took me through a variety of physical tasks and actions in an effort to gain understanding of what kind of movements aggravate, and what actions exacerbate the tremor most severely. After a few hours of this I was mentally and physically exhausted, and with that, comes the tremor at its worst. At about the two hour mark, Dr McAuley left and came back another two other smartly dressed men: Dr Snow and Dr Simpson. Both specialists gave me a cursory inspection, then with fleeting regard requested that I demonstrate the nature of my affliction.

So it began again.

I didn’t have the heart or enthusiasm to put much effort into anything that I was doing and thought that on account of that, I was going to be told that my situation didn’t warrant a $100 000 plus, surgery. When the so-called demonstration was over, I looked at Dr Simpson. He glanced at me, then quickly away. A few more seconds of silence passed. I was famished and bereft of vigour. Finally, the good doctor stepped up.

“Well that’s the worst case of rubral tremor I’ve seen,” he said equably.

I was silent for a few seconds, before inquiring: “Excuse me?” I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing, “What do you mean, worst?”

“I haven’t seen tremor of such a violent, uncontrollable nature in anyone.”

“I understand that,” I said quizzically, “but mine is largely an intention based tremor; surely, Dr Simpson, you would consider those people with resting tremor are worse off than me..?”

“Perhaps, yes, people with Parkinson’s have resting tremor, but it’s nowhere near as violent as yours.”

“Fair enough,” I said, for some reason feeling almost indignant, as though I needed to stand up for the tremor (as if it’s ever done me any favours), “but the fact that I effectively have a reprieve from the tremor when I sit down, I mean, when I’m completely comfortable and at rest, the fact that I can still relax in my conservatory, being relatively still and with the sun on my face, in my mind, makes it … less bad.” (I cursed myself later for that lapse: ‘makes it … less bad?’ What the hell was that? I’m an intelligent man. It doesn’t ‘make it less bad’, it ‘mitigates the severity’.)

Then aside from Dr McAuley’s slow and terribly thorough reiteration of the facts, risks and dangers of the potentially impending surgery, the reason that I had come to Auckland was over. Still with time to kill until my scheduled pick-up, I ambled aimlessly through the hospital’s dining and waiting area, bought and devoured another foot-long morsel from Subway, sat outside in the drop-off area, talked to a lovely British girl with a recurring bladder infection; then finally, boarded the Shuttle and headed back to Auckland airport.

Aboard the plane I collapsed into my seat, such was the drain of the day. I peered out the window to see the airport runway on a grey day, but vision was distorted thanks to a big greasy mark, left presumably, but someone’s big greasy head. Taking out my handkerchief and busying myself with the task of wiping it clean, I shifted my focus from the inside glass, to the outside. During the time that it had taken me in the role of window cleaner, the weather had changed from dry and balmy, to decidedly wet. Rain fell in torrents. Claps of thunder could be heard. Flashes of lightning could be seen illuminating the plane cabin.

One and a half hours after our scheduled landing time, the plane from Auckland arrived in Christchurch. One and a half hours after the plane landed, after grabbing another foot-long for tea, I made it home.

Nice one.



Story by Mit Reklaw.

Photography by Holden McGroyn

Edited by Ivonna Tinkle



Mit Reklaw’s Truth on Sportspeople and Brain Damage

As modern sports become rougher, tougher and more intensely battled, it seems the people who play them, are becoming stupider, cockier and less conscious of personal well-being. Concussion. That is the word for the day. Need another? Repeated concussion. This form of injury is plaguing today’s sportspeople and the worst thing, most of them are not even aware that it’s happening.

            One would be forgiven for believing this form of injury is exclusive to players of contact sports; as previously stated, I forgive you. While head trauma, or concussion, is also prominent  in other sports, the main problem here is that because players don’t expect they will ever sustain a concussion, they are unaware of it when the injury does befall them. You might be thinking, ‘But that’s just silly, of course someone knows when they’ve been concussed, their noggin hurts’, or some other misguided interpretation; but the alarming fact is, it is thought that over half of all head trauma cases go undetected, thus untreated.

On the topic of treatment, there is no pill or medicine to take for concussion; all one has to do, is not do what they were doing. Example given: an equestrian competitor takes a fall from his horse, what’s the first thing he does? He follows the adage of course – gets right back in the saddle. Moments later he falls again. This time he’s knocked unconscious. Most likely, this competitor has now suffered permanent brain damage. The reality is, in that first fall the rider collided with the ground so heavily that although his skull contacted nothing, his brain contacted his skull. This caused contusions on the surface of the brain. Allowed time to heal, this kind of trauma is harmless. A similar injury only minutes after the first; brain cells die, brain tissue undergoes wasting – this is permanent. The following week this rider takes another fall. The next week, another. Week after that, it happens again.

He can’t work it out.

Those two concussions he sustained the previous week affected, among other things, his equilibrium so now, this equestrian champion’s sense of balance; in fact his entire sense of coordination is impaired. He might work past this, but it will likely involve years of practice; years of learning something at which, although he was last week adept, on account of two concurrent head knocks his brain has effectively forgotten this ability.

Other non-contact sports where head trauma is a feature include: hockey, squash and football to name only a few.

As one would imagine though, contact sports are where the aforementioned injury occurs most frequently. Rugby union, rugby league, gridiron and ice hockey are just four of the worst offenders. In rugby union when a player sustains head trauma, team doctors impose a routine stand-down period of six weeks. Neurologists recommend at least eight. In rugby league if the same injury occurs, the player is usually back on the field a fortnight later – three weeks if the knock was particularly severe. Therefore, when this player finds himself trapped in the bottom of a ruck fending off errant elbows, knees and boots to the head – the head of his already traumatized brain – he can only hope that come time to talk to the media, it will not be his speech that is affected.

Similar to the rest of the human body, the brain takes time to heal. The difference is that a sprained wrist, a torn hamstring or stretched ligament of the knee, disallowed appropriate healing time, is not going to pose the same level of detriment to the player as an insipid brain. The brain is a computer. Our brain is our personal computer. Without our computers we would cease to function – would cease to exist. More care needs to be taken with brain trauma in sports; indeed, more knowledge needs to be gleaned.

After all, in this modern age where computer science is at the forefront, shouldn’t we be taking better care of our own?