What a treat to be on Mt Ruapehu in perfect weather and on good snow for a few days over the school holidays. Since then, the rain has melted away much of the snow. When I visited Turoa with family and friends, I had not skied for 30 years, but I quickly discovered that, as with riding a bike, you never forget how to lose control on skis, cross them at the front and fall over. With a combination of good snow before the holidays and a fine long-range weather forecast, Turoa was packed. We had a good time partly because with no newspaper or radio and a ban on the TV in our rented house in Ohakune, we had a news blackout. It reminded me – not for the first time – how much we in the media are vectors for spreading other people’s misery, mayhem and moaning. Time out from the news is good for your mental health.
- On our last morning in Ohakune I shot up to Turoa hoping to find in Lost Property a pair of skis we’d hired for my younger daughter. I thought I’d returned them to the hire shop the night before, but on checking the barcode I’d discovered that in the crowded ski racks outside the skifield cafe, we had accidentally picked up someone else’s identical skis hired from the same shop. No one except me was particularly perturbed by this, not even the hire shop. It seems there is a life cycle of hired items that swirls around until, like eels coming back to spawn, they miraculously turn up at the place they had left. But I was worried, so had driven up the mountain and checked Lost Property to no avail. I returned to my car, but the second I began to edge it forward, it slid sideways on the ice, stopping just centimetres away from the car next to me. I dared not try again and I imagined I would have to hitch-hike down the mountain, hire chains, then hitch back up.I was in a dark mood and it wasn’t even 9.00am. I asked a parking attendant if there were chains I could borrow and he said, “Hang on a sec”, then radioed a chap called Daniel who arrived in a 4WD ute. After whipping out a tow rope, he had my car shifted in less than a minute, and for no charge. I took $20 out of my wallet and asked if he would please buy himself a beer after work. He raised his hands as though I was going to knife him. “Oh no,” he said, “we’re not allowed to take money, I reflected on some people’s inherent decency, and also on how much we take for granted living in a country where tipping is frowned on. “Your skin is enlarged.”and anyway, this is our job.” If I was insistent, then I could tell his employer, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, that the road crew had been helpful, he said. That’s all. As I drove down the mountain, I reflected on some people’s inherent decency, and also on how much we take for granted living in a country where tipping is frowned on. Thank you, Daniel. In more than one sense you rescued my day.
- Although I would like to comment on the case in which John Terry, the captain of the Chelsea and England football teams, was found not guilty of racially abusing a black Queens Park Rangers opponent during an FA Cup match, it is hard to write about. The preponderance of words starting with “f” and “c” makes it awkward for a tasteful magazine like this, although in the event it was only the inclusion of the adjective “black” in between the f—ing and the c— that got Terry into trouble. The British Parliament certainly intended to make racial abuse an offence, but perhaps the unintended consequence of the law is that the worst invective that even the most foul-mouthed person can come up with now seems acceptable, just as long as race does not feature in it.