Sunday, December 03, 2006

Apparently 54% of British people want to emigrate


I am often asked by people in NZ, why we left everything we knew and moved from the UK to New Zealand.
My response is always the same. 'Quality of life'. Which for me is fishing, diving, boating & sunny weather. The interminable grey days we endured in the UK all but had me open a vein. At least in Auckland, grey days are rare even in winter. But the real truth is I was sick and tired of the 'scum' I encountered on the streets. Britain might be one of the most tolerant countries in the world, but it also boasts a seething underclass. Made up primarily of disaffected youths, who'd think nothing of beating you senseless for daring to look at them. I was reminded of this when we visited family and friends this July.
The following incident occured on our very first day back in the UK.

Barb and I paid a visit to our dear friends in Bramhall, a leafy some would say 'posh' suburb on the outskirts of Manchester. As Phil was at work, we invited Debbie to join us for a lunch time drink in a local country pub.
It was a glorious summers day and I left Barb and Deb in the beer garden, while I got the drinks. As I moved from the bar carrying two Gin & tonics and a glass of lager, my path was blocked by 3 men. The youngest about 22, the others in their 30's. All were seriously obese and suffered from a rash of tattoo's. I walked towards them smiling and the young guy sucked in his belly in order to make room for me to pass. Sadly his effort was insufficient as his friend remained slouched over the bar supping his cider, oblivious to my arrival. The young guy indicated I could get through the narrow gap he had created. Wittily, I pointed out that if I were to attempt to squeeze past them, I would be in danger of 'back-ending his mates rear, and that would be wrong as I hardly knew him. At this suggestion, his mate turned to me and gave me his finest Vulcan death stare. He eventually moved, I thanked him and minced past. All the while he stared menacingly at me. Muttering 'unbelievable' under my breath, I sat at our table and told the girls what had happened. Deb wasn't in the least surprised.
Just then the 3 stooges decided they would flaunt their flaccid bodies in the sunshine. They sat with a big boned woman, who rocked a miserable baby in a buggy. Fat arse handed his beloved a pint of cider and settled his enormous bulk next to her. I shuddered as an unwelcome image of them copulating, flashed into my brain. The baby, who was probably desperate for attention, threw its dummy onto the floor. Jabba the Hut, picked it up, sucked it clean and went to hand it to the child, then thinking better of it, he dipped it into his cider before shoving it into the poor wretch's mouth. I wanted to dash to the airport and escape back to NZ there and then.
In a recent survey 54% of British people said they wanted to emigrate, makes me wonder what's wrong with the other 46%?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Squeal like a pig boy!


Well where to start?

Last year while making conversation with a guy, let’s call him Kevin, (a diminutive yet tough builder working on our house) I recklessly suggested that I would love to go on a pig hunt and video the experience.
So imagine my surprise when Kevin knocked on my door last Thursday and said, “I’ve come around for a beer”.
As we had nothing but a bottle of Pinot Noir in the house, I suggested we go to a local bar. He was obviously in the mood for a session because four rounds later and he’s becoming more matey by the minute.
He told me of a recent pig hunt he had been on and how he had spotted an enormous blue boar.
Apparently it's a giant animal with culy wurly tusks, designed to disembowel man or beast foolish enough to get intimate with it.
“Hey if you want I’m sure I can get you an invite for the next hunt, even though you’re a Pom”. He said belching on a mouthful of beer. Perhaps it was the wine, or the fact that I believe I should get out of my comfort zone, but I accepted gratefully.

I arranged to meet up with psycho killer Sat 9am, buy grog (copious amounts of beer) and drive into the bush. There we will trek into the bush with pig dogs, specially trained to track big bugger off pigs and once cornered, Kevin will shoot the baaaastaaaard with his Grandad's .303. "Probably killed a few f*****g Jerries" this gun he boasted.
He then told me how to 'clean' a pig. I spluttered on my Sauvignon Blanc as he went on to say:
'First you string the baaaastaaaard up and make a deep cut around its anus. (Gulp) then you cut off the penis, and whip off the balls, being careful not to puncture the sack or you'll taint the meat. (Oh God no) Then slice down to the throat, lean in with both hands and scoop out the entire innards. A diner on a nearby table glowered at me. Kevin went on to say that he would drop off some wild boar sausages for me to try. However, he did explain that in order to attract said big bugger off
pigs to the bush in question, he kills wild goats or passing sheep, guts them and leaves them to rot and stink. This I'm told is heaven for pigs as they snuffle up huge quantities of maggots and rancid meat.

Promises to be an interesting flavour these sausages.

"The f*****s will eat you if they get the chance" he gleefully told me.
So I went to a gun shop to buy 'bush pants', also it must be said, to fondle the guns on display. A black and silver ‘Marine’ pump action shotgun caught my eye. Very much, a designer weapon. At $1200 I could feel my trigger finger twitching on the credit card. Then the shop owner approached me and asked what kind of hunting I did. ‘Just pheasants, pigeons, ducks’ I lied. Changing the subject quickly I told him of the pig hunt. His eyes lit up. He then assailed me with stories of evil boars, giant tuskers, maimed hunters etc.

In my dreams I'm being repeatedly gored by an enraged pig. While a crazed Kevin shrieks with laughter.
I hardly slept Friday night, when my alarm went off, I literally leapt out of bed, completely wired.
Drove north to meet Kevin and then make our way to the bush. Now I don’t know whether it was my imagination, but as I approached Kevin’s road, cars coming towards me or behind me, seemed to be driven by angry, no furious people. One guy was weaving behind me, desperate to pass, on a narrow suburban road. When he eventually passed me, his exhaust roared and backfired. Once he was safely out of sight I shook my head and mouthed ‘wanker’. I parked the car and knocked on Kevin’s door. Now as I said Kevin is a builder, yet his house was in a state of disrepair. I very nearly tumbled over the rotted wooden railing as I leaned on his deck feigning nonchalance.
He invited me in to meet his long suffering wife Rita. I noticed that his .303 gun was propped casually against the wall. His kids a baby named Amy was in Rita’s arms. While a 3 year old called Tom, washed dishes in the sink. The boy picked up an enormous carving knife that his parents didn’t seem to notice. Part of me wanted to scream ‘Nooooo’ and rescue the boy, but instead I pretended not to see it, as he scrubbed at it enthusiastically.
Oblivious to what I felt was a ’gutting’ waiting to happen Kevin described what might happen that day.
It would seem that the day would be taken up with hunting pigs, the afternoon with heavy drinking and the late evening murdering Possums.

Thoroughly motivated, we drove to his friends’ farm in the hills.
The journey took an hour or so, but felt considerably longer. Perhaps his car became a confessional, or he likes me in a manly way, but he told me of his violent almost criminal past, his views (quite radical) on everything from homosexuality (very much against) racism (for) and sexual equality (bollocks). Eventually we pull up at a shabby looking farmhouse.
A shabby farmhouse owned by two brothers worth a least $13 million.
A pack of wild looking dogs milled around the car, barking furiously. Knowing that pig hunters train their dogs to be ultra obedient, (if a dog doesn’t obey every command, they are shot) I was reasonably confident my testicles were safe and climbed out of the car.

A rough group of men sat drinking ‘Woodies’ 8% Bourbon/coke mix, surrounded by a thick carpet of cigarette butts. The men eyed me suspiciously, were my bush pants too new I wondered? Or could it have been my goatee? A little too gay perhaps? I was introduced as one of the top men at the BBC, not wanting to embarrass Kevin, I didn’t correct him and from that point on had to smile when one of the group suggested I was going to make them famous. The guns and dogs were loaded, we got back into the cars and drove to Kevin’s secret pig hunting spot.

The Quad bikes were unloaded from the trucks, Kevin with his .303 strung over his shoulder roared up the forest track on his trail bike, followed by a guy named ‘Mushy’ (so called because of his one inch penis with the a head resembling a Death cap mushroom). Later on that day, Kevin asked Mushy to show me his famous penis. Mushy happily obliged. I wasn’t quite sure how long to look at it, too long and you risk being thought of as a Homo, too short a time and I may appear, well, rude and unappreciative.

Much later on that day, and after plenty of grog. Kevin wanted to demonstrate the tightness of his buttocks. He dropped his trousers, grabbed an egg and without wetting it – shoved it up his arse.
He then strained and attempted his party piece, crushing the egg. Hmmm, if this happens, his anal area would be covered in wet, stickiness. Perhaps the drink affected him, because the egg was withdrawn intact. No bacon and eggs for me in the morning.

Now in this part of the world men are men and ‘Homo’s’ are an abomination. Why is it that men indulge in such bizarre behaviour and why, oh why do these hairy hunters, wear the tightest fitting shorts, long socks and gum boots?
In the UK they be pummeled senseless on any building site, for wearing such clothes.
Trying hard not to look at the cut of their pants, I jumped aboard one of the Quad bikes along with three other passengers and laboured up the hill in pursuit of the others. The dogs ran ahead, overjoyed to be in the bush, in search of pig. I noticed a sign on the quad bike warning of ‘Death or serious injury’ if more than one person rode the machine. Five of us now hurtled downhill, along rough tracks, narrowly avoiding the ditch on either side of the track.
All the while a shotgun muzzle pointed directly at my face. ‘Don’t worry it’s not loaded’ said the bear of a man who called himself Matt. After 20 mins or so we stopped and allowed the dogs to smell the air.

Nothing, not a sausage.

So off we went deeper into the bush. We stopped at a point that overlooked the valley. Len the svelte, tight short wearing brother of bear man, clambered over rotten logs, braving vicious gorse thorns to look down into the valley. The dogs had spotted something and so we all followed the man with bleeding legs. Suddenly seven or eight wild pigs appeared below. Kevin’s huge boar, another slightly smaller male, followed by a sow, various piglets, plus some teenager pigs. The dogs were close behind, then all disappeared from view.

Seconds later the most appalling sound split the air.

The dogs were silent, but there was no doubt they had cornered a pig. A pig screaming in terror isn’t a sound easily forgotten. While we waited, Len and Kevin made their way into the valley, following the sound of mayhem.
The screaming continued for a horribly long time. Eventually it stopped, which I was told meant the animal was dead.
There were no shots fired, so that could only mean one of two things: Either the dogs had killed the beast or Len/Kevin had slit its throat.

In pig hunting, the dogs give chase, and corner the pig. The pig desperate to escape will attempt to lose the dogs, but good hunting dogs will grab the poor animal by the leg, face, anything they can sink their teeth into and hold the wretched creature until the man with the knife ‘sticks it’. If the pig is a dangerous big boar with tusks, then a single shot to the head is the answer.

After twenty minutes or so, Len reappeared covered in blood. A short distance behind Kevin struggled under the weight of a large black pig, straddling his back, ‘piggyback’ style.

The pig seemed to be smiling.

As he got closer, we could see that the ‘smile’ was due to the fact that the animal’s snout had been virtually ripped off.
The largest, most aggressive dog had been holding the pig by the face, another by the back leg. The others snapping at it, disorientating the animal. Kevin triumphantly threw the pig to the floor and collapsed, exhausted. It had already been gutted and the blood was vivid against its black body. I couldn’t help but notice a row of teats leaking fresh milk.
I later found that the first squeal we heard was a piglet being killed by the dogs. The mother probably came back to help and was then set upon by the pack.

As Len explained this to me, one of the young boys who had accompanied us on the hunt as a thirteenth birthday treat, stood with his two friends and stabbed the corpse with his hunting knife, paying particular attention to the pigs bloody and gaping rectum.

The pig was eventually loaded onto one of the quad bikes and we made our way back to the trucks.
Back at the farm, the pig was taken to a large shed, placed in a cavernous chill room and left to bleed.
A barbecue was lit filling the shed with thick smoke. Wild boar sausages, bacon and yet more pork was taken from the overflowing freezer and placed on the grill to thaw.

The men sat in comfy chairs it what can only be described as an abattoir, drinking beer, bourbon mix, home made port etc. Huge bloodstained chopping blocks, complete with worn out knives lay in front of us, ready for butchering the pig.
That however was for tomorrow. First we had to drink grog, get pissed, then when it was dark, venture out into the night with shotguns.

Possums are a protected species in Oz, but a serious pest, causing destruction of native trees, Kiwi’s, fruit etc, etc in New Zealand. Having said that there really can be no excuse for what was to follow.
Around midnight we piled into two 4x4 vehicles and with high powered torches blazing, drove up and down dangerously hilly terrain looking for Possums.

An adult Possum is about as large as a domestic cat. It looks rather like a teddy bear with a bushy tail. During the day, they stay out of sight. It’s at night they venture out. Unfortunately for them, their eyes glow in the dark giving their position away.
All we had to do was shine the torch into the trees, wait for the telltale glow and shoot the ‘baaaaaastard’.
Most of the time the Possum was dead before it hit the ground, but occasionally one would sit there stunned, at which point the young lads would be sent in to finish the poor bugger off.
A combination of stabbing and stamping, was greeted with raucous laughter from the men.

While it’s easy to see the destruction they cause and the sheer numbers that are present, it was unpleasant to see such contempt for an animal.

My turn to murder a Possum came in the pig shed.

As we approached the shed, a large Possum sat at the doorway. It moved calmly inside as we approached. With the lights on full, we could see at least three Possum sitting in the rafters. The pigs snorted as we disturbed their sleep.
Kevin handed an ancient shotgun to me and said ‘Go on mate’. This gun looked like a toy compared to the ‘designer’ shotgun I had looked at a few days before. I took the gun and aimed at the unfortunate creature.

The recoil was more than I expected from such a small gun.
(In fact, four days later and I have an enormous bruise in the shape of a gun butt, on my shoulder).
The Possum dropped into the pig-pen and to my horror, started crawling away, leaving a thick trail of blood behind it.
The others laughed at my incompetence, I watched appalled as the pigs advanced on the bleeding animal and started to eat it alive.

When we returned a little while later, nothing remained of the Possum, not even a scrap of fur.

Possums surely cannot be very intelligent. No sooner has a neighbour been blown apart by guns or eaten by pigs, when they rush to take over the roosting place vacated by the last victim. The surrounding area was literally crawling with these animals.

Now alcohol and guns are obviously a deadly combination, and so it should be no surprise to know that there was an incident. As one of the men was handed a shotgun, it went off accidentally, luckily no-one was hurt.
Big Matt, who had drunk strong beer/bourbon for a solid fourteen hours or so, was still sufficiently aware to call it a night.
We left the carnage behind us and went back to the abattoir shed for more drinks.

At around 3.30am we piled back into the cars, to travel all of 100 metres to the farmhouse.
I was handed a grubby pillow and duvet and fell into an untroubled sleep (troubled sleep would come later).
Apparently the others sat up watching porn, obviously no penises involved, lesbian action only for these lads.

The sound of a young child shouting woke me about 8am.
I stumbled into the living room to find Kevin wide awake and raring to go. Matt appeared, inevitable bourbon and coke and fag in hand. We were to open the gates for the cows, then off to the river to pull in the net for Mullet.
Now sober, the journey over the undulating farmland, was a nightmare. The wreck of a car (Suzuki Vitara) bucked and dropped as we drove over ground I wouldn’t attempt in a Range Rover.
More than once my head slammed into the roof, doing nothing to ease my banging headache.
Quite how Kevin and Matt could do this after a solid days drinking, was beyond me.

Everywhere we went, there were dead Possums, grisly evidence of the killing spree the night before.

Down at the boat ramp the others had hauled in the net, full of Mullet, along with Oysters and a Flounder.
Back at the shed, the barbecue was lit once more and the smoker fired up. Len appeared, still in his tight shorts, perhaps he sleeps in them? The dead pig was dragged out of the chill room and the grisly business of butchering the animal begun.
Using a razor sharp knife, the feet were cut off, then the beast was hung from a hook. Thankfully there was little blood, as Len proceeded to slice around the back legs, then slipped his hand between the skin and the flesh.
Rather than using a knife to skin animals, Len favours the ‘punching’ method, where the skin is literally punched off the body.

Before long the animal was completely skinned, the head was severed and it fell to the floor. All the while, an audience of salivating dogs watched patiently for scraps.
With great finesse, the pig was disassembled. The best parts of the animal were cut out, followed by the ‘roasts’. Then the flesh between the ribs was removed, along with sections of the body not easily carved into full joints.
This meat was for sausages. The prime chunks of flesh were then bagged and placed in the boot of Kevin’s car as a gift to me.

I was asked if I had enjoyed myself and as you’d expect, I was effusive in my praise. In all honesty, I did enjoy myself. They are a great bunch of lads. Although a grisly experience, I learned a lot. It was an opportunity to experience another way of life. A life where killing and butchering, is the norm.

I doubt if anyone in the UK, or Auckland for that matter, would understand what appears to be brutality. Most of us like our meat sanitized. We want to believe the animal didn’t suffer. The truth is, most of us, would become vegetarians if we had to kill and butcher animals ourselves.

Once I arrived home, I offered a large leg of pork to my neighbour. Although he thanked me, I wouldn’t be surprised if the meat went straight into the bin. My family, were also unenthusiastic. Jak did cook some of the meat at a beach barbecue and pronounced the meat superb. Barb still looked unconvinced. Much to Richard’s disgust, I’ve decided against buying a gun.
Even though it is matt black, silver and sexy.

IF, I do go again, I’ll ask if Rich can join me. Perhaps such an experience will cure him of his blood lust.
I’ve promised Kevin and the others a DVD of the hunt. They all wanted to know if the sound of the dying pig could be heard on the video. Unfortunately, the squealing is very faint on the tape and so I downloaded a squealing pig SFX for the edit.
Hopefully they’ll be convinced, even though it doesn’t sound quite as horrifying as the real thing.

After my hairy hunter exploits at the weekend, Barb and I went to a Nail Salon. I enjoyed my first ever pedicure.
It was sheer bliss.
Just as long as Kevin, Matt and Len don’t find out, I think I’ll be safe.

Monday, February 20, 2006

One for Getty Images


Well we've lived in NZ for nearly 2 years now and we love it here. It really is a magnificent country. The only downside (apart from the driving, of which more later) is being so far from family and friends. So obviously we try really hard to encourage people to visit us, experience the Kiwi lifestyle and hope that like us, they become intoxicated enough to take leave of their senses and escape dreary old England.

Talking of dear friends, the very lovely Jez and Sian Clark have just left us after a whirl-wind 2 week visit. They left bleary eyed on Sunday dreading their 27 hour flight back to Manchester. Still they have over 800 photo's and DVD to show anyone unwise enough to show too keen an interest in their visit to NZ. Look out for a delightful shot of butter, shot in the posh Orbit restaurant in Auckland - the composition is pure genius. The Keen sandal against an azure sky is special too. He might however omit the candid shot shown here of himself reclining on a sun bleached tree at Goat Island.