The greater the number the bigger the trouble

Numbers have been swimming around me this past fortnight. I'll jot them down before I forget.


Dollar fine for creeping through a stop sign in Richmond. I'd turned at the intersection a hundred times before and never quite clicked that it was a stop sign. Best not to mention this as a defence. “Any reason for not coming to a complete halt?” asked the courteous young policeman. Very young.

“None,” I replied, trying not to spray him with crumbs from my date scone, and slipping the coffee cup out of sight.

150 - ouch. I've since been through the five stages of grief: anger, denial, alcoholism, plastic surgery and listening to country and western music. It still hurts. The banjos, I mean.


Percentage increase in my new house insurance premium over last year. From $551 to a thumping $911. Double ouch. The aftershocks of Christchurch roll far.

Not a word of warning, either. Just the bill and a pamphlet of amateurish spin blaming an increased EQC levy, higher reinsurance costs for the company, and the GST rise. Um, GST went up two years ago, reinsurance is the company's problem, not mine, and yes, the EQC levy has jumped $100, but if I deduct that from the increase, it still amounts to 47 per cent.

Brace yourselves, homeowners, for a similar hit.

“Want to talk it over?” the pamphlet says soothingly. Call the special 0800 number.

That would have to be 0800 ARE YOU JOKING!


A new friend and I discovered we had lived in the same area of Auckland, delightful Waiake on the North Shore. “What street?” she asked, and I couldn't remember - despite living there for a decade. Dr Google cured the brain fade. Grasping for comfort, I reasoned that I have moved around a bit. A list took shape, setting a minimum benchmark of three months' residency. Yes, I've had 33 homes. Shameful.

Moving house is stress on a stick, and yet Kiwis do it every six years on average.

My old Mum would decamp at twice that rate. We learned to recognise the signs. It started with the little comments of dissatisfaction: The garden didn't get much sun; the kitchen was small; the windows were the wrong shape. Next thing she would announce a sale and purchase.

She had a good eye for property so never lost money on her dealings, and we always threatened to put castors on all her furniture.

She's finally settled - in the Marsden Valley cemetery (another choice pozzie). After her memorial service, we did a tribute drive-by of her former houses in Nelson - or as many as we could get to before darkness fell.

When I visit her grave I take her up the real estate supplements. You never know.

The upshot of 33 is, I've decided to stay put for a while, even if the carpet is getting tatty. And the bathroom door sticks . . .

A generation or two back our forebears might live in one house all their lives. And stayed in one job too. A gung-ho workmate says the huge firm he worked for in Britain didn't like employees being in one job for longer than 18 months. I was stunned. Surely it took four months to get a handle on the new role? They didn't want you to learn it, he replied. They wanted you to question why it was done that way, and find fresh approaches.

I needed a lie down.


Cheers for Laurel and Andrew Ketel, the couple who bagged HRV over its aggressive telesales tactics. Local franchise owner David Atoa promises to make changes. This is no rogue agent, David. It's a toxic culture. And it may infringe the copyright on my soon-to-be-released business programme, Decidedly Unproductive Marketing, or DUM for short. Briefly, it's the concept of driving five customers away for every one you attract, or losing $5 for every one you save.

DUM is already well-proven with robot phone answering systems, bellowing TV ads, and low-rent catchphrases such as “Show us your crack.” Aw, no, I'd rather show you the door.

This week I had a call from a worthy charity seeking donations. I turned them down flat because it's a “no” to any tele-marketing now. That's the HRV effect - they poison the well for everyone.


Out of a box. Last Sunday's Cherry Blossom Festival laid on great entertainment, superb food - green tea gelato, yum - and stunning kimonos. Mother nature came to the party with trees bursting in blossoms.

My daughter is teaching in Japan, not far from our sister city Miyazu, as it happens. She's bowled over by the scenery, the festivals, the people . . . and the weirdness.

Her toilet has a heated seat. Most loos are equipped with a button that provides music to cover the sound of your activities. She came across a public toilet with a button marked “Butt Zoom”.

No, it remained untouched. “You don't want to be pushing random buttons in a Japanese toilet,” she advised. I pass that on.