Shoppin’ in the summertime: SHOPWATCH special food n’beverage edition

Shoppin’ in the summertime: SHOPWATCH special food n’beverage edition
With Christmas and New Year excess abandoned and a healthy, dry January stretching ahead – oh, who are we kidding? Whether you’re planning a virtuous fruity detox or still polishing off the last of the cake and biscuits with no end in sight, you’ve still got to eat and drink, right? Check out a few of the goodies around town right now that are sure to make summer drinking and dining that little bit more fun.
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Mmmm, ginny.

Sours are slowly infiltrating the beer mainstream, and there’s not much more refreshingly, er, sour on a summer’s day than one of these. If you’re not used to them, they take some lateral thinking. Less beer, more sauvignon blanc, but without that grapey, winey quality one would naturally expect from wine. Tuatara’s special release GnT Citrus Summer Sour is an accessible starting point; cloudy and quaffable, with echoes of its spirituous namesake, but nowhere near as boozy. Trust me: sours are great.

Heading up a mountain but unwilling to face life without cocktails? Has vacuum flask inventor Stanley got the product for  you! The Stanley Adventure Happy Hour System – available at good old Ballys  – comprises a sturdy cocktail shaker, jigger, citrus reamer and two steel rocks glasses, meaning you can toast your triumphs in style, provided you leave enough space in your backpack for the scads of booze you’ll require to build your drinks with. The cups are doublewalled, so I guess theoretically you could use them for hot drinks as well.

Ballantynes also stocks ruggedly styled Stanley hip flasks – for emergencies, naturally -and rather cool steel shot glasses in a case that you can clip to your pack with a carabiner. As to how sensible it is to get cracking into the shots in the wilderness, I cannot possibly say, but these are certainly good looking sets.

 

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For the tramper who has everything, and possibly also a drinking problem.

Refreshed and ready for use at last, Carlton Courts is gearing up to house several new hospitality spots. Sun Dog Diner’s appealing logo and promise of “hoity toity comfort food” caught my eye in particular: it’s run by the owners of Mamacita’s Mexican food truck and looks set to be worth checking out. Like a lot of new businesses, it  has a gorgeous website without much actual information on it yet, so for updates, visit the Sun Dog Facebook page. Plans are to open later this month.

Also refreshed in that area is Kanniga Thai. now known as Mama Ree Thai Street Food. I’m yet to try it since it changed names, bur new customers are raving about it on TripAdvisor, and its new signage is certainly cute. Street food seems to be the hot thing in Christchurch at present, which is why I also urge you to visit Delhi Belly in Victoria St, which is worth it for the starters alone – and not pricey, either. Like the decor, the food’s a little different to what we’re generally used to in Indian restaurants, but it’s very worth expanding your horizons.

It’s become almost obligatory for cafes to serve a pile of ingredients so you can put your own sandwich together – deconstructionism is so mainstream now – and sometimes it is a bit annoying. But Vespa, beside Strange’s Lane, is getting it right when it comes to serving its (delicious) affogato. If there’s one thing you do want to control, it’s the moment the hot espresso hits the cold icecream.

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Coffee poured and ready to scoff.

Speaking of affogato, you can make it with gelato too. Jed and co at  Rollickin do. You can enjoy their superior gelati, coffees and  other dessert delights late into the evenings now at their cute cafe in the former Auricle space on New Regent St. What better excuse?

Stay tuned!

Shopwatch is an occasional shopping column focused on the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand. All reviews are independent and unsolicited. Any WordPress advertising is unrelated to content.

I Shopped With A Zombie: the return of SHOPWATCH

I Shopped With A Zombie: the return of SHOPWATCH
Legendary (snigger) Christchurch shopping column SHOPWATCH is back from the dead and gone all internetty for the new millennium, a full decade after everyone else. Didja miss me?

About six years ago I wrote what was to be my last shopping column for Presto magazine. It never went to print, due to the massive earthquake of February 22 2011, which put paid to the publication’s usual source of advertising – Christchurch’s small CBD retailers. Presto, like town, was dust, and Shopwatch had nowhere to go.

I considered taking it online, but then  Neat Places  appeared, doing such a good job of profiling Christchurch’s quirker retailers that I couldn’t really see the point. By then, too, it had become clear that writing for publication outside my place of employment was frowned upon. 

Now I think it’s time to bring it back. Still independent and unrepentantly underperforming on SEO, here’s Shopwatch!

Beer-loving friends of the internet! Do you love a tasty, hoppy brew, but fear all the horrid headaches you’re bound to wake up with after all the obligatory annual get-togethers with old buddies for backyard cricket and beers this season? Then let me recommend Garage Project’s Fugazi. Flavoursome and delicious, but clocking in at a mere 2 per cent alcohol, it’s excellent for the long session. It’s on tap at Pomeroy’s and may still be available to buy in a can at  The Beer Library  in Sydenham. Or you could order online.

Smoke with your beer? There’s not much nicer than a apple-scented shisha of a summer evening, the Middle East’s finest invention since hummus. However, if you’re a fan of the hubbly  bubbly but not wild about the attendant mess and fuss, why not get it delivered direct to your home or party by Shisha 2 Go? Nicotine and nicotine-free options are available by the hour, with all the setup and cleanup carried out by staff onsite. For restaurant shisha you can’t do better than Boteco  in Kilmore St – the food is variable but the dancer’s great and a shisha in the garden there is just lovely.

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Surreptitious cellphone snaps do not do these Plush garments justice.

Fans of Carolyn Barker’s late-lamented Plush – rejoice! The last of Carolyn’s stock – including her covetable coats – is on sale at Paua of the Pacific in Re:Start, a newish shop with an abundance of wearables, alongside its core product of paua prints. It also stocks the most delicious glitter jelly shoes seen since I* brought my silver pair home from London in 1995. They are a perfect frivolous match for Hapa’s frivolous fairy dust necklaces.

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Glittering prizes for your feet at Paua of the Pacific.

 

Hapa remains a favourite, although The General Store often nips at its heels for giftware and random stuff for your house. When you’re looking for gifts for the world’s coolest infants, though, Hapa is hard to beat. Recently spotted gems include onesies with Oma Rapiti on them, snuggly little Ewoks complete with hooded cloaks, and adorable felt tiger booties.

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I said ADORABLE! Even out of focus, am I right?

 

Meanwhile, Cosmic Corner has pulled out a few more fashion stops with the addition of some Hell Bunny wear for the pin-up crowd, and reborn 90s “global traveller” threads for everyone else. With the 90s being largely a reworked 70s, it’s therefore somehow appropriate that Cosmic is also a spot where you can still buy Kama Indian Love Oil, to give you that authentic hippy miasma. Rather than share my scuzzy cellphone snaps, I’ll  let Moses and pal alert you to Cosmic’s general fashion coolness in this slick promo:

Also spied and worth pursuing:

  • Anodised aluminium pendant lights with a 70s vibe, LED clip lights for displaying photos and chalkboard tape at South City ‘s Just Incredible
  • Brightly coloured fish-shaped bags, fresh casual summer frocks in every shade, and utilitarian but always useful Thai fisherman’s pants in camel, at a South City stall
  • Moana Rd gift/decor products at Paper Plus, including an LED string light nestled in a lightbulb inside a mason jar, which surely takes Airspace styling to new heights
  • Plain black suede-look ballet-style slip-ons with black and white heart lining at the Warehouse, which will allow you to run around pretending to be Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face on a serious budget
  • Victoria St’s new 24-hour convenience store, Symrose’s Superfresh, which claims to contain a “Cafetaria”. This obvious bit of ESL in the heart of the fancy  rebuild makes me happy, because it’s nice to see something so clearly not corporate in the city alongside the big money options.

In the last, never published, Shopwatch column for Presto, I made reference to post-quake chic, unaware that we were about to get a belting that would knock our charming “dinner party under the table” stories into a chasm. It seems only fitting, therefore, that I dutifully point out the remnants of this fad spied at Merivale’s Corso di Fiore: mismatched dinnerware that suggests two differently-sized items have been glued together. It’s a love-it or hate-it product. There are glasses, too.

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See?

Stay tuned for more Shopwatch whenever the mood takes me, probably shorter and more link/pic heavy as ye olde print shopping column creaks its way into the 21st century!

Till next time, some time….

Shopwatch is not supported by advertising and all products and stores mentioned here are included because I like them, think other people will like them, or occasionally find them hilarious. From time to time advertisements appear below this content: this is supplied by WordPress and is not related to Shopwatch in any way.

*I’ve given up calling  myself Shopwatch. You know who I am, right?

Christchurch, remixed

Christchurch, remixed
 I don’t need statistics to tell me Christchurch is not monocultural. I see evidence to the contrary every day, and it fills me with hope for the future.

When a city is rebuilt, the wanderer’s eye is particularly drawn to artists’ renderings of what will stand where now, there is bare land or rising steel. Onsite billboards present an idealised vision of what to expect; a permanently cloudless summer sky, gleaming glass, pristine walls untouched by tags or lichen. Little clusters of people hang around these perfect buildings, often a little translucent, like future ghosts.  As we walk through patches of wilderness to reach these little islands of growth, we search, sometimes hopelessly, for the familiar, and examine the new.

I started paying particular attention to who populated artists’ renderings – spoiler: white folks – not long after an outcry over a campaign designed to promote living in the CBD, which featured almost exclusively white or white-appearing professional people.  Some time before that, my then-employers had released a series of posters that sought to depict the exciting variety of typical local newspaper readers: several white people and a dog.  Between the two of these events – which I found people generally responded to with some variation on “but Christchurch really is super white and monocultural, it’s just reality”-  I began counting obviously non-white faces as I went about my day in the CBD.  I’d usually hit between nine and 15 in a 10-minute walk, before I got bored with counting and started thinking about something else.

When I say “CBD”, mind you, I’m not talking about a bustling metropolis, or even the moderately active small city that Christchurch used to be before the 2011 earthquake. I’m talking about a still fairly sparsely populated part of town. It’s a place tourists visit, and it’s a place where international students and new migrants gather to study English. Many of them, it’s true, may not live within the Four Avenues.  But they work or study here. And many would live here, given the option.

I am a white person from a largely white family. Growing up, I really did live in a largely white town. It’s not any more. It hasn’t been particularly homogenous for at least 20 years. Not if you look around. Christchurch may statistically remain overwhelmingly “European” – 83.9 percent of Christchurch city residents surveyed in the 2013 census identified as such, though some of them probably also identified as something else – but it is changing. More of us are Maori. More of us are Chinese, or Indian, or come from the Philippines. More of us are a mixture of all kinds of things. There have always been Kiwis whose ancestry traced to neither the British Isles nor Hawaiki. They’re just more noticeable now.

I don’t need statistics to tell me Christchurch is not monocultural. I see evidence to the contrary every day. Hazara women in sludgy greens and browns examine bargains at the Warehouse. Sweet-faced young Sikh men sporting winter-weight turbans step back to let me on the bus ahead of them. Taxi drivers come from Africa or Afghanistan. People whose origins I can’t readily identify are everywhere, speaking languages I don’t know, and some that I do. The homeless guys who line the streets behind cardboard signs – most of them aren’t white.  While it makes me sad and frustrated to see the latter, and while I fear the rebuilt city will exclude the non-monied majority, I love the rising diversity of my town.

The streets, the map, even the land beneath them have changed. When the ghostly figures who stride around the fantasy version of our future take flesh, they’ll be Kiwis with many lines of ancestry. And that’s a good thing.

A little cafe reading

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Longing to see the latest cafe reader  but too far from any cool participating cafe to be able to grab a copy? Now you can buy online!

One of the delights of May was receiving my copy of the Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader vol 10, which features, among other things, a short story by me. This absorbing little quarterly zine can be found in select venues around New Zealand and periodically in random places around the world, where  Jim Wilson, like a  Johnny Appleseed of Kiwi writing, has scattered them. Jim’s work putting New Zealand writing, and particularly poetry, on the street (sometimes quite literally) is to be applauded.

As a sometime professional editor, I was delighted at the careful and collaborative process by which my short story made its way to print. I received two print proofs by email and even a check on a word choice from a fellow contributor who was proof-reading the issue. And the contributors are paid. Seriously old-school and so appreciated. Would contribute again.

Vol 10 is now available in a Kindle edition at Amazon. The small cover price goes to covering the costs of producing the readers and supporting New Zealand artists. Check out some past editions too!

It’s been far too long since this blog was updated.  Many things going on in Flaneuse-world that have conspired against me. But I hope to be able to blog a lot more frequently soon.

Call it leveraging

We have  professional homeless people in Christchurch these days. They set up pitches outside shops and malls and ply their trade with small cardboard signs atop hats or ice cream containers. They are usually men, frequently Maori, and usually, it appears, in cahoots.  Men on the streets! Getting cash donations just for sitting there! People are outraged.

I’m not. These men are only doing what a neoliberal  society has been telling them to for a long time now. They are monetising their situation. They are leveraging off their misfortune. They are taking something they are good at – living rough, looking rough, being addicts, being mentally ill perhaps – and turning it into a job. Really, we should be pleased. We should congratulate them on their entrepreneurial initiative. If I were Mike Hassall  I would be negotiating rights with Bravo for a reality show called The Real Homeless Men of Christchurch, which is the obvious next step.

But but but, he’s on a benefit, you say? So are a lot of  working people, who need and get top-ups for accommodation, childcare and other necessities of life. But but but, he’s not paying tax on all the money people give him! Neither is Google. Neither are some people with offshore trusts. Neither are tradespeople who do cashies for pals.  LOTS of people avoid paying tax. LOTS of people resent paying tax. LOTS of people who resent paying tax comment on articles like the one I’ve linked to, expressing their fury that grubby men on the dole drink alcohol and take synthetic highs while taking additional coins from the public. Chances are these Furies, or their bosses, drink alcohol and take synthetic highs – or organic ones – on the weekends. Highs that they buy with the money they earn with the sweat of their brows. Just like these guys.

Begging is not an easy game. Begging is a performance. Begging is sitting on a hard footpath for hours, in burning sun or freezing rain, looking needy. Begging is watching people avoid your eyes. Or pity you, or judge you. Begging is knowing someone more criminal than you may do you over and take your day’s earnings. Begging is having conversations with people who want to know why you’re not at work and whether or not you spend all your money on booze and smokes. Begging is laying it out on the line: I am a useless waste of space. What will you do to change that? To make me go away? To make yourself feel better?

Of course some of them are going to be dodgy. There are dodgy people in every profession. But I think we all know that most of them are just plain inadequate. They are life’s losers. They’re not very good at toeing the line. They have been dealt a bad hand with a few cards missing and they’re just doing what they can – perhaps all they can.

I like to think that once, we were a more compassionate society. I’m probably wrong. But back then the rights of the individual fell below the needs of the many and the callous disregard I see for these men’s wellbeing and fury at their visibility seems to reflect  a society that now celebrates  success for the individual at any cost. That means minimal controls. We want freedom to do whatever we want. To dress how we want, say what we want, buy what we want, see what we want. If  a non-regulation haircut, say,  or  a spot of accidental racism are no big deal, then  nor is a bunch of untidy fellows parking up outside Ballantynes with a dog and a kitten. They are exercising their rights to do what they want in their pursuit of happiness and a living. They are poverty entrepreneurs seeking angel investment. If they are offending or frightening Ballantynes’ customers, well, maybe the customers just need to be less sensitive.  Right?

Meanwhile so many of us continue to say no to welfare, except maybe a little bit for the deserving, saintly poor who don’t smoke or drink or have kittens and dogs to feed. We say no to tax, and no to beggars in our back yard. We want all the coins. Actually we need all the coins, because there are few protections left for us if we lose them. But let’s not think about that. Let’s watch reality TV instead.

 

 

 

 

 

How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

1999
Mommy, why does everybody have a…

I wasn’t a big fan of Prince. That’s not to say that I actively disliked him – I didn’t – or that I thought he was overrated – no way – or that I wasn’t blown away when I finally saw footage of him performing. Like most women my age I nursed a teeny, unfathomable crush in the 80s, and after his unexpected death last month I was watching the clips and reading the analyses along with everybody else. But unlike when other musical heroes have passed on – I devoured my just-left-home soundtrack Hunky Dory  again when David Bowie died –  I did not want to wallow in the music I knew best. Specifically, I didn’t want to listen to  1999. Of course, Facebook had other ideas and I was forced to confront it.

The song was released late in 1982, but it would have been later than that in New Zealand. I associate it with being 19 or so, maybe 20. I have a very clear memory of being at someone’s house when this album was being played, feeling strongly that something was wrong, but unable to articulate what. I now recognise this as a flare-up of the kind of depression I’m prone to, which had landed me in hospital four years earlier and continued to dog me till I discovered SSRIs in the mid-90s, which have kept me more or less well ever since. At the time all I knew was that I was unhappy and uneasy, unreasonably so.

But it’s 1999 specifically – not Little Red Corvette, say, which is on the same album – that sparks this feeling. And I can’t just put this down to my Henry James-level sensitivity to music.  Sure, Christopher Cross’s Sailing makes me feel agitated and cold, not because it is deeply uncool pop rock with a seasick-making noodly riff – when it was released in 1980 I, too, was deeply uncool – but because it was charting shortly before my psych admission that year and played constantly. To this day I cannot so much as think about Wayne Newton’s 1972 track Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast without tearing up, and my dad didn’t even go anywhere. It was just the concept. 

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Shudder.

 

Pitchfork’s Maura Johnston calls 1999 the greatest album ever made about partying as a way of staring down oblivion. Well, I was far too scared of oblivion to stare it down. The idea of people partying in the presence of small children while carrying bombs that they presumably intended to detonate soon was too horrifying to contemplate. It should feel far worse today in these times of suicide jackets but it doesn’t. It just seems low-grade hedonistic in the way the early 80s were, with our DIY fashions and limited access to serious luxury and drugs.

It’s been sixteen years since two thousand zero zero and we did not, after all, run out of time. Or if we did, I didn’t get the memo. The Millennium Bug proved to be nonexistent and microwaves everywhere continued to function. Subsequently lots of things happened – pseudo love, true love, heartbreak, London, more love, more heartbreak,  my  town falling  down,  and yet somehow I am  doing all right. Life is insecure and possibly short. Good music, good food and good company will not change that, but they surely ease the path.

I exited high school very literal. Like most A students I couldn’t bear the idea of anyone thinking I didn’t know something or that I was bad, so the idea that someone might deliberately create an unreliable narrator, write a first-person take on a challenging character or just explore something they didn’t actually believe in took a while to sit well with me. Combined with that always iffy mood and its close relative, obsessive thinking, it meant songs and artworks that I now appreciate sometimes scared me. I laugh at and feel sorry for Past Me now in equal measure. (In the sixth form I became very worried that I might get stigmata, which would mean I would have to be holy and therefore not have sex. You have no idea.) I’m glad that, unlike Prince’s mates, nobody I knew was predicting the end times when that album surfaced. Perhaps it was because we were nuclear-free, at the bottom of the world, or not particularly Protestant, or just never read any newspapers.

Today the obsessive thinking issue has largely subsided, remaining only as a susceptibility  to earworms. The more unsettled I am, the more earwormy I become. Visiting New York City I was beset by Famous Blue RaincoatTake The A-Train and  the theme music from The Nanny – horrifyingly,  in that order – because I took said train to meet someone in Clinton St and subsequently rode another line several times that ended in Flushing, Queens.

It’s a pretty good trade-off.

 

In the doughnut city: night

In the doughnut city: night

“It’s like a cross between parkour and tag,” the young man explained. “Mostly tag.”

Like when you’re five, his friend had told me earlier. They were a friendly bunch – early 20s, mostly white, seemingly sober, and unfazed at being approached by a proper grownup while they ran, jumped, swung and clambered up workmen’s ladders in an activity that probably wasn’t strictly legal.

This game of tag was taking place in the dark on a weeknight,  on a bunch of scaffolding and platforms that hovered above the river in the space between two sides of the Victoria Square bridge. Officially known now as Hamish Hay Bridge, after the former Christchurch city mayor,  it has a hole in the middle, to reveal the tram railings that once carried traffic across it.  It’s notable, apparently, for being the oldest iron and stone bridge in the country, all curlicued railings and sturdy sides. Normally you can look straight through to the water, not far below. Punts, kayaks and ducks are all that can pass under it. But, as my new friend points out, falling from the top piece of scaffolding onto the metal platform now sitting above the water could definitely do you some damage.

Young men are notoriously fearless creatures, thrilling at their own still-new strength, or so it’s always seemed to me. These ones move fast, bashing themselves heedlessly against iron, shouting to each other, landing with heavy clangs. It’s a refreshing change from what I know of boy racer culture – no cars, for one thing, obviously. No music, no booze, no drugs that I can see. Just adrenaline and laughter in the dark.

Nearby, in Victoria Square itself, another, larger bunch of people – also early 20s, mostly white, seemingly sober – practiced playing with fire. Kerosene made the night air tangy. Six, maybe seven young men and women took centre stage on the circular, paved section of the square,  staffs and poi aflame.  Ringed around them, friends and supporters watched and chatted. There’s invariably at least one person with a doumbek or a cajon at these things, playing vague undefined rhythms, so there was probably one there. They meet regularly and I see them often. Sometimes I watch. Mostly I just pass through. They seem like harmless kids.

Not so many years ago, before the quakes, when the Crowne Plaza hotel building still occupied what’s now called the Commons, skateboarders discovered that the circular, brick-paved section in front of it was an excellent place to ride and play. This spot was just across the bridge, within spitting distance of where these young men and women are playing now.  Naturally the management of said hotel, which was a little bit flash, did not approve and there was a great deal of pearl-clutching about how the skateboarders’ wheel noises might disturb the sleep of international travellers 10 or 12 storeys above. Christchurch likes to think of itself as a tourist-first sort of place, which is why we run a dinky tram service  for them even though the last real tram quit our roads in 1954, and once moved a quaintly hidden fountain to the edge of the street and painted it in brighter colours so they couldn’t miss it. Of course, all the best cities in the world pretend not to care about tourists at all, because they are largely focused on the needs of the people who live and work there, and the resulting textured human stew is what makes tourists want to visit in the first place. Imagine New York City if everyone had to go to bed at 10pm. Imagine London with nothing to do but look at Beefeaters all day. For that matter, imagine Queenstown with nothing BUT snow sports.

Late at night, on the Commons, there is sometimes music; the sound of someone flexing their fingers on the covered piano, retracing old exam pieces, perhaps, with no pressure to do it well. It’s haunting; magical.

People who don’t spend much time in here call this the dead centre of a doughnut city. But death is the fertiliser of life, after all, and here in our mucky dustbowl all manner of rare and lovely things grow, unconstrained as yet by the need for tidiness and cultivation. I fear we’ll lose them, when the rest of the grownups return and start laying down the law.