OPINION: Look, everyone talks about how figures don't lie but in my book there's more smoke and mirrors surrounding numbers than anywhere else, writes Pat Veltkamp Smith in And Another Thing.
It's a long wait between census results - five years this time - and yet don't they give the most interesting read, headed off for immediacy only by a new telephone book showing who has moved where and with whom.
I know of two adjoining small towns in south Canterbury which once looked much alike and in every census they always had an identical population.
Then one town lost two industries and the other gained one, a different one, and yet for the past three censuses their populations remain the same, an identical figure repeated then in publications like the AA accommodation guide.
Maybe they have been taking one and guessing the other matches, which once it would have.
I will have my eye on those figures when they are released.
When people give you a number, you hardly know if they want a medal or a sympathy hug.
Like someone will say, "I have had four headaches in the past five years".
Is that good, bad or meaningless?
Or a guy will say, "I have had seven cars in the past 30 years".
So what, what does it mean? Is that a lot or has he done it hard? Who knows?
Sometimes in chat a woman might say, "I had three children in five years in Oamaru" - and then pause for a response, and what should that be - great, or tough?
The other day a learned gentleman told me that New Zealand had 30,000 deaths a year.
Whoa, 30,000 - that's the total population of a city like Timaru.
It is almost like the whole country renewing itself.
There are always new little people coming in over the horizon - but 30,000?
Or do we make up the numbers through immigration?
On any one day there are over 500 people over the age of 100 in New Zealand with perhaps the oldest lady at 110 living contentedly with her family about her here in the south.
But numbers may be safer than weights.
Asked for a recipe, my Greek sister-in-law said take a pound and a half of fresh eggs.
A pound and a half?
"Maybe a kilo?" she said.
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