New Zealand Revisited

It was in February of 2018 that we made a trip to New Zealand. Ostensibly a golf tour, my prowess on the golf courses came up quite short of my expectations. (I have often said, that “if you lower your expectations in golf, you may often meet them.”) My original blogs from NZ covered about 16 days, requiring a lot of scrolling, so I won’t repeat them here. I prefer to hit some high points mostly unrelated to golf.

The Kiwis are wonderful people. Always friendly, always courteous, always curious about their guests. Kiwis (along with Aussies, of course) have their unique accents and very interesting colloquialisms, of which I will list several:

Gu-dye – good day, but the way the Kiwis say it, it comes out “Gu-dye”
Banger or snarker – you are probably familiar with “banger” as in bangers and mash, but a snarker is also a sausage
Pong – stink
Sparrow fart – sunrise
Greasies – fish and chips
Shark and taties – also fish and chips
Bradbury – succeeding against all odds (named for Steve Bradbury, an Aussie Olympic short-track speed-skater who won gold in 2002 after all his opponents crashed) – as in “did a Bradbury”
Pommie – a Brit
Up the duff – pregnant
Main – the primary dish of a meal. The Kiwis use “entrée” to describe the first course
Chook – chicken
Full tit – you might think it has to do with a yet-to-be milked dairy cow, but it means to go at full speed
Good on ya – well done (sounds like “gudonya” – one word)
Flannel – face cloth
Frenchie – a condom
Jaffa – a term used by country folk to de-mean city folk, as in “Just Another F**ker From Auckland”
Jandals – flip-flops
Skint – no money
Stubbies – could refer to short bottles of beer, or short shorts on men (the latter are quite often seen in NZ and are not that attractive)
Dairy – convenience store
Take-away – if you want a coffee, or anything “to go,” ask for “take-away”
Dunny – toilet
Togs – bathing suit
Fart sack – sleeping bag (fart sack may be a universal term)
Gummies – rubber boots (Wellingtons)
Skux – good looking dude. Skuxx – really good looking dude
Goon – an Aussie term meaning box wine
Bugger – damn (often heard on the golf course)
Thunder box – my personal favourite. An outdoor bathroom. Passed along by one of our Aussie golfing mates

Famous Kiwis

Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw is New Zealand’s most famous rugby star.
Richie is a god in NZ. You don’t even have to say his last name. “Richie” is like “Leonardo” in that respect (that would be Da Vinci and not DiCaprio). Richie led the NZ All-Blacks to two World Cup championships and is the most capped rugby player in history (“cap” is an international test match). He was appointed captain of the All-Blacks at just 24 and went on to be named the World Rugby player of the year a record three times before retiring.

Today, there is evidence of Richie everywhere: commercials for dairy products, headphones, MasterCard and more. Air New Zealand produces very entertaining flight safety videos (have a look on Youtube) – where you can see Richie doing a spoof of “Men in Black.”
While in a bar just a few days before leaving NZ, I put the “Richie” theory to a test. Seated at a table next to us was a young man from Auckland. I asked him, “if I said Richie to you, what would be your response?” He said, without hesitation, “McCaw.”
Yes, that is Richie in the following photo. A dude. Well actually, a skuxx.

In January, 2017, Richie married Gemma Flynn, a field hockey player who played for New Zealand in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. Gemma, of Maori descent, originates from Tauranga. This is Gemma in the following photo. A dish.

Richie and Gemma will have attractive, very athletic children.

Sam Neill

Probably New Zealand’s most prominent actor. You will know Sam from the “Jurassic Park” movie series, “The Hunt for Red October,” and more recently “The Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (a terrific movie that also features Julian Dennison, a young Maori actor). Sam was born in Northern Ireland into a military family and at age 7 moved with his family to New Zealand, his father’s home country. Although Sam holds British and New Zealand passports, he considers himself a Kiwi. Sam owns a winery named Two Paddocks in the Queenstown area; as of this writing he is 71 and unquestionably a skux; and he is a former stutterer who, he says, occasionally stammers.

Rachel Hunter

That is Rachel in the following. She is a bit of a dish, even at 48 (although not 48 in this photo). Rachel is a model and actress, but you would be hard-pressed to remember any movie or TV show in which she was featured. More importantly, she has been a model in the “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue, and posed nude in a 2004 issue of “Playboy.”
Perhaps Rachel’s biggest claim to fame is that she was married to Rod Stewart, before separating after nine years and two children. Rod is currently married to a woman who looks remarkably like Rachel Hunter. And Rod, now Sir Rodney, has been married three times and has fathered eight children with five different women. For that and a little bit of music, he was knighted by the Queen. Rachel is a native of Auckland.

Peter Jackson

Sir Peter Jackson is a three time Oscar winner, as a director and writer. He directed the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies. While Jackson has received accolades for his work with the trilogies, his breakthrough came with his direction of, and screenplay for, the movie “Heavenly Creatures.” This is a film worth seeing. Based on the true story of two teenage girls who murdered the mother of one of them, the movie marked the debuts of Melanie Lynskey (a Kiwi herself and played Rose in the TV series “Two and a Half Men”) and Kate Winslet. The girls in real life spent 5 years in prison for their crime and were ordered never to see each other again. One of them, Juliet Hulme, changed her name to Anne Perry and is a successful novelist (and the subject of a previous blogue posting). She has written almost 50 books, most of them murder mysteries. Sir Peter was born in Wellington.

Keith Urban

Keith was born in Whangarei on the North Island. As a New Zealand country music performer, he has won four Grammy awards. Keith moved to Australia as a teenager and began his guitar playing and singing career. You will also know Keith as the husband of Nicole Kidman. Nicole was born in Hawaii and moved to Australia early on. The couple live now in Sydney, Australia. Nicole was previously married to Tom Cruise. Apparently likes to tower over her spouses.

Kiri Te Kanawa

Dame Kiri was born Claire Mary Teresa Ralston to a Maori father and Pakeha (of English ancestry) mother in Gisborne, where Captain Cook first landed in NZ. She was put up for adoption at the age of five days. Dame Kiri was raised by the Te Kanawa family and given the name Kiri (for “Bell”). Her adoptive father was Maori and her new mother also of European descent. From her earliest days she began to sing, first at home, then locally, then into Australia, and on to London for formal training. She eventually made it to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as an understudy to Teresa Stratas. Dame Kiri is pictured in the following. Lovely.

Jonah Lomu. Jonah was the youngest rugby player ever to play for the All-Blacks, starting his career in 1994 at age 19. At 6”5” and 265 pounds, it would be hard to imagine bringing Jonah to the ground. Even though he was diagnosed with a serious kidney ailment in 1995, which ultimately required a transplant, Jonah still managed to become one of international rugby’s all-time great players. Unfortunately, Jonah suffered a heart attack and passed away at age 40.

King Tawhiao

Proclaimed the Maori king in 1863, he served until his death in 1894. King Tawhiao (Tukaroto Matutaera Te Wherowhero Tawhiao and whose image follows) rose in rebellion to the British governor’s demand that there be no “dual sovereign;” that fealty was to Queen Victoria only. Tawhiao went to war – a war that resulted in the loss of Waikato – vast tracts of land for the Maori, and seemed to cement Britain’s colonial tradition of, “once I have moved into your house, you will need to find a place to live elsewhere.

Russell Crowe

No one seems to want poor Russell. He was born in New Zealand and supposedly applied for citizenship in Australia in 2006. Word is that his application was denied. Russell is well known for his dodgy behaviour, including fights and just plain rudeness. While visiting New York on one occasion he threw a telephone at a hotel concierge. None of our Aussie friends on this tour had good words for Russell. “Arsehole” seemed the sum of opinion. Although Russell was born in Wellington, he completed much of his schooling in Auckland, which some might say could qualify Russell as a “Jaffa”.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Born in Auckland but definitely not a Jaffa, Sir Edmund, along with the Nepalese Sherpa, Tensing Norgay, became the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest. The year was 1953, and the ascent was regarded then as a remarkable achievement. Since then, however, there have more than 5000 successful attempts. But Hillary and Norway made the ascent without the benefit of ropes and ladders, and with a rudimentary oxygen apparatus. When Sir Edmund was not climbing mountains, he tended bees.

Anna Paquin

I include Anna Paquin here for a few reasons: yes, she is a citizen of New Zealand; and yes, she is well known as an Oscar winning actress for her supporting role in The Piano, at age 11. But of note is that Anna was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, my home town.

Graham Kerr

Graham Kerr (pronounced “care”) may not be a citizen, but he is well known in New Zealand. A Londoner, Kerr moved to New Zealand to join the Royal NZ Air Force as a catering consultant. From there he moved to a NZ television cooking show. Years later, he emerged (in a series taped in Canada) as “The Galloping Gourmet” – in a breezy cooking show that lasted three years. Possibly not a chef to be taken seriously (one critic called him, “the Liberace of the Food World”), Kerr has largely disappeared from public view, despite having written more than 30 books. He now lives in Mount Vernon, WA.

You might have expected a photo of Graham Kerr, but instead you get this.
The giant weta is the world’s largest insect. It is the size of a sparrow. I felt a bond as I held the little fella in my palm. Fortunately, the giant weta is confined to a small area north of Auckland. On the plus side, there are no land snakes or other reptiles (crocs for example) in NZ. Australia on the other hand …

Some other facts and figures regarding New Zealand:

• It has been said that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand. Not even close. There are some 4.5 million people in NZ; and as of June 2016, there were 27.6 million sheep. I personally saw about 7 million of the latter
• On top of the sheep population, there are more than 10 million head of cattle, two-thirds of which are dairy. There are almost one million deer that are “farmed”
• The NZ national badminton team in the early 2000’s adopted the team name “The Black Cocks.” There were complaints and the name was dropped
• The only land mammal native to NZ is the bat. All other mammals were brought to NZ by humans
• The Kiwi is the logo for the Royal NZ Air Force. The Kiwi is flightless. A certain irony there

• Harrington’s Brewery in NZ produces a beer named “Sobering Thought”
• NZ has 400 golf courses, more per capital than any other country
• More people in New Zealand die each year while lawn bowling than scuba diving
• The Moa was a flightless bird that stood 12 feet tall and weighed in at 500 pounds. Moa were hunted into extinction in the 15th century. The lady in the photo following is at no risk. Moas? Herbivores

 

The Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur

This little guy (Cheirogaleous medius) is native to the western coast of Madagascar. And he (let’s go with “he”) is typically quite small – as an adult weighing in at about a third of a pound. Lemurs are primates, and thus closely related to humans. The fat-tailed dwarf lemur is famous within the scientific community as the only primate known to hibernate for extended periods. This lemur will hibernate for up to 7 months – remarkable for any member of the animal kingdom. He will gorge for months during the wet season, feeding on fruits, flowers and bugs, storing fat in his tail, which may account for as much as 40% of his body weight. It doesn’t really get cold in Madagascar, but it gets pretty dry, and our lemur goes into hibernation. What scientists find intriguing about this hibernation is its length and the extent of torpor. Torpor is defined by decreased metabolism, heart rate and body temperature. While in torpor, the lemur’s heart rate will drop from about 180 beats per minute to four; breathing will decrease to one breath every ten to fifteen minutes; and body temperature will match that of the ambient temperature.

On the western coast of Madagascar the ambient temperature may drop to the low 40’s (Fahrenheit), taking with it the body temperature of the lemur (his usual body temperature matches that of ours).

Lemurs and Sleep

Humans enjoy two types of sleep; REM or rapid eye movement sleep, and non-REM sleep. We dream during REM sleep, while non-REM is restorative sleep. For humans, non-REM sleep is vital. But lemurs during hibernation seem only to experience REM sleep (no way to know if they dream), leaving scientists to wonder if they sleep at all. Animals deprived of non-REM sleep die over time; but not the fat-tailed dwarf lemur. It is a curiosity that is still being studied. Another curiosity is just how scientists are able to derive their data. They have to attach EEG sensors to the tiny foreheads of the lemurs. Similarly, they have had to implant sensors in a handful of the lemurs to measure body temperature. Gotta have small hands. Future occupation for a certain politician?

Does any of this matter?

Duke University is at the forefront of research into the behaviour of lemurs, especially how the brains of dwarf lemurs deal with hibernation. Could hibernation extend human life? For example, could a hibernate state be induced in patients waiting for the availability of an organ to be transplanted? Or could the metabolism of astronauts be managed to enable them to endure months of travel, absent the large quantities of nutrients necessary (as in the “Aliens” movies where Sigourney Weaver rises from an extended sleep, still looking quite fit and dishy)?

The CBC

I believe that taxpayers’ dollars are well spent on CBC Radio. Over the years I have enjoyed “This Country in the Morning” and “Morningside” with Peter Gzowski; “As It Happens” especially during the Barbara Frum years; and now “The Current” where the story about the fat-tailed dwarf lemur recently was broadcast. CBC Television? Love the news, but will pass on “Schitt’s Creek.” So thank you, CBC Radio for the lemur story.

Madagascar

Madagascar lies off the east coast of Africa and is the fourth largest island in the world – not that much smaller than the state of Texas. (If anyone asks; only Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo are larger islands).

From the air at least Madagascar is a gorgeous place. Having broken off from the Indian continent more than 80 millions years ago, its flora and fauna are unique. About 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else. Lemurs, for example, are endemic to Madagascar. While lemurs are cute, there are a lot of things in Madagascar that are not. Lots of big bugs you would not want to meet. The hissing cockroach, below, is 2 to 3 inches long.

Spiders, scorpions, giant centipedes and malaria-causing mosquitoes abound. Plenty of snakes, none “overly dangerous to humans” (whatever that means). The good news? No lions, hippos, or crocs. But still not a place for me. Only four golf courses; just one an 18 holer.

My advice? Gather the grandkids and watch the movie.