Our Free ‘EcoMatters Sustainable Home Check’…

Yesterday afternoon, NZ time, a guy came round to our house, asked me a load of questions, complimented our toilets, tried the shower, asked me some more questions, gave us a load of free lightbulbs and then drove off!

Now, I realise that this may sound like an account of a dream I had yesterday afternoon, while slumped out on the cosy lounge suite, but I promise you: it definitely happened!

The visit was down to EcoMatters Environment Trust, a charitable trust based in Waitakere, West Auckland that aims to aid those wanting live a more sustainable lifestyle. We first heard about the offer of a free Sustainable Home Check at the monthly market here in Swanson (coincidently on our first weekend in Swanson, as ‘Westies’!). An project called ‘ Sustainable Ranui – Swanson’ had a stall and introduced us to their ideas and offered us the free visit.

The visit was most impressive. Our advisor began by asking questions about our property, before moving on to questions based on our water and energy usage habits. He then began the practical tests, such as measuring how much water our shower passed in a minute, the temperature of our fridge and freezer, checking our water thermostat setting and our home insulation.

The whole process represented extremely good value for money, seeing as it cost nothing, and to then receive a number of freebies, such as re-usable shopping bags, an water aerator for a tap and some low-energy lightbulbs was extremely useful (haters, take note, these are NOTHING like the original energy saving bulbs. They have been vastly improved since you last ‘used’ them. There is definitely no need to ring up Newstalk ZB when the Prime Minister is on and waste his precious air time with stupid questions like “Are you going to make us all use energy saving lightbulbs?” like one lady recently did!).

The whole process helped slam home to me that New Zealand is definitely a world leader when it comes to environmental and community initiatives. I would urge anybody who qualifies (Waitakere City residents, I believe) for a free home sustainability check to book one in right away. It will cost you nothing and will save you more.

Valentine’s Day – What a Load of Horse Shit, Cattle Crap and Dog’s Dung…

So this Friday 13th will depart and on will come another unfortunate day: St Bloody Valentine’s Day. Great!

It’s that day where we are all told, en masse, to be more romantic to each other. Or get smacked full on in the face! The TV, the radio, newspapers all have their say in it, which is fine and most of it is of good humour and enjoyable. But then, the shops get involved. I mean, they bloody would, wouldn’t they? Even shops that have never had an interest in selling cards want in. You can pick up a so-called ‘Valentine’s gift’ from the fruit and veg market, with a shoe purchase, fish and chips, even a new bathroom order at this time of year can be supplied complete with giant stuffed red heart, ‘cute’ little bunny (and red ribbon to, it seems, strangle the bunny with).

I don’t want to be told when I have to be romantic. Life isn’t scripted out that way. Spending hard earned cash on paper cards printed in China just because everyone else is doing so doesn’t ramp up my quality as a partner. Likewise, paying a February 14th tax on dinner out is equally unappealing. How does my partner feel about this, you ask? Well, she’s fine with it. We’ll still have a great weekend, only we always have great weekends, so we don’t feel the need to put the weekend that happens to fall in the middle of Feb up on a pedestal. Thanks for asking, though.

Of course, if you are a believer of the current world economic downturn (or whatever your local term for it is: general tightness?) then you may wish to go out and spend, spend, spend this weekend. So, by all means, do. Just buy stuff that is useful to you. Swap that $30 box of Belgian chocolates with a carbon footprint the size of a cow for, I dunno, a drill. Yes, you will still be using that jet ski in two weeks time, while the heart-shaped tea bags won’t last that long. The massage oils can go, just a regular can of motor oil will do (for the car, of course). Just be sure to remember: All women like flowers (that is NOT a generalisation, just the truth – some men do too, if the truth be known).

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve got the self-thought and personal intelligence to make this weekend your own. Really, only losers need buy the ‘Perfect Valentine’s In A Bag’ kit and only really very special losers will purchase said kit and then not bother with the instructions. Have a good one!

UK Garage Makes a Comeback… Not on the Club Scene, but on my Car Stereo!

I recently dug out some old discs with some pretty remarkable music on them. I say remarkable meaning that it had (and still does have) a knack for getting a dancefloor going. It’s over a decade since UK Garage made its mark on pop music history and what a time that was!

The real heart of the scene was in London, but since I lived in Guildford back then, I was confined to bopping to N ‘n’ G in Bojanglez nightclub on a Monday night, and the SU, of course! That’s not to say they didn’t snag some big names down there: Norris Da Boss, Dreem Teem, Luck and Neat, Oxide & Neutrino, Creed, even Matthew Beal, all had their turn as part of Surrey’s Garage scene.

For what seemed like years, we danced every night away to the DJ’s selectas, jumped in the air when asked “Who want tha ree-wind?!?” and even cheered and screamed “Bo!” when a remix of the theme to BBC series ‘Casualty’ was spun in!

UK Garage disappeared back underground sometime in the early noughties. It semed the pop-buying British public weren’t as up for its deepening, darker sound. The masses liked catchy lyrics like “Somethin’ In Your Eyes”, the high-paced rolling breaks and bass of “Ripgroove”, the remixed classics like “Let Me Be Your Fantasy”, the funky delight of “Funk On Ah Roll” and they loved the sleazey/cheesey MC sending every record out to all the ladies’ backsides or the gents’ car stereos. The sound started to lose its pace. The beats became more broken and, dare I say, darker and grungier. The chanting of catchy lyrics like ‘Re-Re-Wind’ and ‘Sam-boo-caa’ in the club was over. Jaimeson’s “True” acted as something of a sentimental revival in 2004, proving the point that garage chart hits are mostly made of fast-flowing, dancefloor pumping stuff, but UK Garage never put its chart hat on again. It had grown up and given birth to genres like grime.

So that’s what UK Garage was like for me. It never failed to show me happiness, right before my eyes. It never seemed like it was movin’ too fast, just made the bodygroove. Some would call it fate that it didn’t just fly bi. Not a bad habit, more a liferide. With a little bit of luck it will bump ‘n’ grind again. Imagine.

“When the bass is thumpin’, you feel invicible, like nothin’ can hurt you, nothin’s gonna kill you. It’s great, cos you can drive all fast & not die.” – Gary, Benfleet, UK

“UK Garage is da best!” – Gerald, Southend, UK

“Cruisin’ to tha 2-step sounds makes your life betta!” – Darryl, London, UK

“Garage music makes every girl horny.” – Dave, Littlehampton, UK

Thank You Mrs Bryant!

I feel it totally necessary to bring credit to the primary school teacher whose efforts towards me (and thousands of other kids) early on in life rendered me with a knack for knowing Beatles’ lyrics.

Every Friday morning would have but been wasted were it not for Jo Bryant (and Mrs Partridge on keys) dragging us all into the school hall to sing childish covers of ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Ob-La’Di Ob-La-Da’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’, along with other uncredited ‘hits’ (‘The Age of Technology’ – anybody?) that were catchy enough to remain with me to today. I can seldom remember an educational session delivered with such passion and energy, from the cheek-rubbing warm up through to the medleys that only a mother could love.

Word of Mrs Bryant passing on did make it round the Plumcroft Primary School alumni, but I can definitely say every bit of energy she dedicated to Friday morning choir lives on today. I may not have gone on to learn a thing about music creation, but those lessons sure helped with the music appreciation!

Thanks Jo Bryant!