The Glorious '45
Clearly, I’ll be watching headlines from the Middle East like a hawk from now on. But it could be argued that moving to Beirut is one helluva way to sidestep dealing with a mid-life crisis.
I’m 44 in December. And if not now, when? And what an antitode to being grim and dire bloody 44 years old. I mean, really, is there any more an uninspiring age to be than 44? Except 54 of course. 42 and 43 don’t seem too dire by comparison, and even 45 sounds a lot better. 45? The prime of life. A Colt 45, 45rpm, the glorious ’45 of the Jacobite rebellion in Bonnie Scotland, the end of WWII. Good old 45. But 44? Well, you have D-Day, and then in 1844… Engels and Marx meet in a Parisian cafe. 1744 was halfway through the Seven years war, and er… that’s about it. So like, 44, uninspiring number right? I’d do just about anything to forget I’m 44 later this year, and this seems one way to go about it. I just hope I make it to 45.
Again. I’m not quite as blasé as I sound. I just returned from a meeting with a bureau chief of one of New Zealand’s better known TV stations. There’s a possibility they might employ me from time-to-time, to file reports from Lebanon, ‘Our Man in Beirut’, sort of thing. The international component of New Zealand television news is so short it’s practically subliminal, but you never know. As far as most Kiwis are concerned, and I suspect it’s the same for most Americans, all anyone ever does in the Lebanon does is sit around in darkened rooms plotting the overthrow of the West. However small a role I might have to play in demystification/clarification, it’s one I relish.
In a week and a day, I’m outa here. I am beginning to measure the time left available in half hour blocks. And do my best to keep you posted…
As I write this, it is a cold and grey day in Auckland, New Zealand on the fag end of a winter that has dragged on too long, or at least a spring that refuses to begin. But it probably wouldn’t matter if it was a sunny day at the beach, eating oysters from the shell. The bittersweet realisation that I’m one of those New Zealanders who is better cut out for expatriate living isn’t something that is going away. What on earth was I thinking? I came back to NZ a few months ago, with a view to… I forget what now: I think it was something to do with having a crack at living a normal life, whatever that means.
It reminds one a little of the movie Straight Time, an oft overlooked 70’s classic.
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There had to be some secular sleaze to this city of sacral demeanour. Well, it turned out there was, and I was to certainly meet it head on. It was not so much that the murkiness of Kraków infected my soul, but that I swallowed darkness in black rivers of Guinness and bourbon and alleyways and ashtrays, of night -time and gentle lies. I was a man living in the shadows, and when the Americans and British and so on all picked up and left to fly home for Christmas with their families, I stayed on alone in my gloomy but atmospheric apartment. At night, I would pace up and down the gas lamp illuminated lanes of the Planty, the park that surrounds the old city; or stride alone in my long black coat and riding boots through the streets of the old town. I would (frequently) stop to take a short or a long or a what-have-you in (almost) any of the three-hundred underground cellar bars. At times, I felt like I was the only English speaker left in the city. I began to like it. I drifted among crowded rooms like a ghost, sealed off from people by a language barrier and a force field of melancholia.
The Continent began to thaw in March, and so did I in the brilliant Polish sunshine – but it had been an interesting few months.
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Monday evening Stateside, on June 1st the day that is Queen Elizabeth II’s official birthday. Mark you, that’s her official brithday, which is different to her actual birthday, which is on April 21st.
The idea being, that a consistent birthday celebration whoever the monarch, removes any element of un-necessary confusion throughout the Commonwealth. Except that in the UK, the birthday celebrations are on the first, second or third Monday in June. In Australia, it is the second Monday of June, and here in New Zealand, the first.
Interestingly, Fiji, which has been a republic since the 1980s, continues to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.
Some curious facts about the reigning monarch and Royal family:- The Queen has some 310 residences. Her ‘Royal Collection’ of Art has been estimated at around 20 billion dollars. The recently opened Queen’s Collection gallery in Buckingham Palace only displays some 0.01% of her entire collection at any one time. The collection’s 600 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci are alone valued at around six billion US dollars, which, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks, is “more than I earn in a fortnight.”
“These Americans are terribly vulgar.”
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Image by Chris Gin via Flickr
This is an excerpt from my shamoir (shabby memoire), a thinly disguised autobiographical novel called A Guide To The Smoking Section, which betrays how I used to feel about the idea of any kind of ‘A-List Auckland’. But as I said in my previous post, we’re keeping an open mind…
…On a chilly day in the spring of 1997 Alistair Paine sat at his keyboard, giggling softly, typing the story that would, in less than a week, make him a social pariah in Auckland New Zealand. It went something like this:
“American travel writer Paul Theroux, who has the kind of job I want – that of wandering around the world dishing the dirt on every place he goes, has noted that New Zealand is a land of comfortable shoes. Paul, you’re too kind. This is a nation of bare feet, of grubby and sandy toes protruding from thongs, flip-flops, or ‘jandals’ as they’re known on the ground in N Zild. Jandals, sandals, stubby shorts, singlets and towelling hats, t-shirts with slogans like ‘I’m here for the beer’. Read More »
As my attentive, switched on readership will know by now, the Jet-Set Hobo is currently posting his despatches from his old stamping ground of Auckland, New Zealand.
Right now, between Flight of the Conchords, Lord of the Rings, the All Blacks, a clean-and-green image and the success story of New Zealand wine, the quirky little backwater that the Jet-Set Hobo grew up in has become quite achingly hip and trendy. As a place to visit at least. Certainly foodies and wine buffs and anyone in love with the great outdoors will have little reason to be disappointed in a trip here. (Though it does rain a lot, it must be said).
Thirty years ago NZ’s prominence on the world stage was limited to the occasional rugby victory making headlines and the fact that everybody knew there were a lot of sheep in this country. Read More »
Incidentally my name for Uruguay, the country of which Montevideo is capital, is “the land that forgot the time”. Well, it’s a phenomenally sleepy seeming sort of place, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The other thing was that four or five times during my weekend long stay there, people stopped me to ask me the time. People! It was almost always the same looking guy; some semi-passed out dude in shorts, sitting chilling in a doorway, or under the shade of a tree. I had to wonder where the urge to know the precise hour suddenly came from. Did they all have important meetings that they couldn’t miss? Anyway, that’s how I came up with it…
Retro Gym mural