Archive for the 'Kiwi culture' Category

Babies on a plane

Aeroplane café, Mangaweka (click for image credit)

Aeroplane café, Mangaweka (click for image credit)

There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror – Orson Welles

Those of you who read my last blog know that I am off to a wedding in Ireland in May.

Getting over there should be relatively straightforward. Just twenty-odd hours in a plane. Eating tiny reheated meals, sleeping, not sleeping, worrying about deep vein thrombosis or terrorists, reading, watching back-to-back-to-back movies. No big deal, right?

Normally. However, this time my baby daughter is coming with us. By the time we take off, she will be 13 months old. Too old to sleep most of the way. Too young to be glued to the television. In other words, trouble.

Don’t get me wrong. My daughter is a happy and laid-back wee thing (most of the time). Nevertheless, I am petrified she is going to end up being the demon child everyone on the plane wants to throw out the emergency exit. You know the one that kicks the back of your chair, clambers over seats, wanders aimlessly down the aisle, screams for hours on end or tries to get into the pilot’s cabin.

I can’t claim the moral high ground either. I normally dread sitting next to small children on long-haul flights. However, this time I’m legally obliged to. I can still remember one particularly horrific flight to London, listening to the banshee wail of a baby in an adjacent row. On and off for 12 hours. The tiny tot eventually fell asleep somewhere above Kazakhstan. At the time, I had harboured thoughts of duct-taping its lips together. Now, with a child of my own, I look back at that baby’s milk-splattered, hollow-eyed parents with a mixture of admiration, pity and dread. Mostly dread. Oh God, that could be me soon.

I am not alone, it seems. Over 70% of travellers surveyed by a British travel website in 2014 wanted to see child-free areas introduced on aircraft, while another 30% said they would pay extra to be on a flight without children. Parents have hit back at the cynics, arguing that an ‘aircraft is not the opera’ and that passengers have unrealistic expectations about children and noise levels.

Hoping to avoid the indignation of fellow passengers, I dipped into Te Ara in search of clues to this parenting conundrum. Specifically, what parenting practice would best deal with a restless baby trapped 30,000 feet in the air? Stick with the traditional authoritarian approach and rule with an iron hand? Lock her in the overhead compartment the minute she starts crying? Perhaps not. Instead of physical restraint, maybe I could try a more permissive style, guiding rather than ordering if you will – even if this means walking her round the plane several hundred times. Perhaps it is better to cut off any tantrums at the pass and try ‘helicopter parenting’ for the duration of the flight – hovering around my little princess, attending to all her needs and wants. Does sound exhausting though.

The journey could be worse though. The longest continuous stretch we are in the air for is 14 hours. Imagine being on a canoe from Polynesia in the 1300s. How many tired and grumpy parents were tempted to use their children as shark bait during the perilous journey to Aotearoa? Fast forward to the 19th century, and the ships carrying British emigrants from the UK to New Zealand still took up to 120 days. Given our current budget, we may well have found ourselves in steerage – the 19th-century equivalent to economy class. Food was terrible and conditions cramped. Just like Qantas. Many passengers suffered terrible seasickness and disease spread quickly. A noisy child would have been the least of their worries.

What do other people think? Are there any brave (or foolhardy) souls out there who have travelled long distances with their children and survived? If so, share your story (and helpful hints) below. I would really appreciate it.

Names to conjure with

Transsexual Cindy Lewis holds her changed birth certificate, with her new name and female gender (click for image credit)

Transsexual Cindy Lewis holds her changed birth certificate, with her new name and female gender (click for image credit)

Last week, my wife and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. But it was also five years since we both took on new names. To mark our marriage, we both took my wife’s birthplace (Lincoln in Canterbury) as our new surname and my birthplace in Australia as a new middle name.

This is quite a change from past practices. In the 19th century, as Te Ara’s article on marriage and partnering explains, ‘A wife was known by her husband’s name, becoming, for example, Mrs John Jones.’ Today, many women keep their surnames when they marry (as men always have). But what are some other reasons why people might change their names?

Religion provides one reason. In the 19th century, many Māori took on new names when they were baptised as Christians. The founder of the Pai Mārire religion, Te Ua, was baptised Horopāpera (Zerubbabel) in the Wesleyan church. He then changed his name to Haumēne (wind man) when he became a prophet, because he communicated with God on the wind.

Māori have also used naming to commemorate significant events. Tāmati Ngāpora of Ngāti Mahuta went into exile in the King Country with the Māori King, Tāwhiao, after the Waikato War of the 1860s. Ngāpora took the name Manuhiri (guest) to signify that he was in exile in Ngāti Maniapoto territory.

Sometimes people change their names to escape prejudice. New Zealand’s first government-appointed balneologist (expert on medicinal springs), Dr Arthur Wohlmann, was an Englishman, but changed his surname to Herbert as a result of antagonism to his German-sounding name during the First World War.

Changing names can be a way of starting a new life, particularly for those with a criminal past. The confidence trickster Murray Beresford Roberts, on his release from jail in New Zealand, moved to Australia and became John Malcolm Cook. However, his identity was discovered, and when his wife learned of his real name the marriage fell apart. He married again, under another false name, but soon afterwards was jailed for making a false marriage statement.

Writers and other artists sometimes choose new names for their creative endeavours. Iris Wilkinson is much better known as the writer Robin Hyde, a name she had first given to a son who did not survive.

A change of name can also go together with a change of gender. Transgender people can now change their gender, as well as their names, on their birth certificates. Cindy Lewis, a male-to-female transsexual, was issued a new birth certificate in 2005 showing her new female name and with her gender changed to female.

But whether changing your own name or choosing a name for your child, you can’t just pick any name – there are limits. The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995 says you can’t choose a name that is offensive, too long or resembles an official title or rank. So the parents who wanted to call their son ‘4real’ were denied permission to do so, although they said they would go on using the name anyway.

What are your name-change stories?

Kapa haka on show

Te Matatini stalwarts Te Waka Huia perform a haka on the first day of racing at the Louis Vuitton Cup in San Francisco, 2013 (click for image credit)

Te Matatini stalwarts Te Waka Huia perform a haka on the first day of racing at the Louis Vuitton Cup in San Francisco, 2013 (click for image credit)

The world’s largest biennial kapa haka festival is being held this year in Ōtautahi (Christchurch). Te Matatini began as the Polynesian Festival in 1972. The famous rōpū (group) Waihīrere won that year and are still performing today.

There will be 45 kapa standing on the atamira (stage) this year over the three competition days. The rōpū will have spent months training to deliver a 25-minute show. Preparations as a performer include becoming physically fit, eating healthily, learning words and actions, poi, haka, weaponry and choreography.

Each rōpū will perform seven different types of waiata (songs):

  • waiata-ā-tira – choral singing
  • whakaeke – choreographed entry
  • mōteatea – traditional chants or dirges
  • poi – movement with poi (ball attached to string)
  • waiata-ā-ringa – action song
  • haka – war dance
  • whakawātea – choreographed exit.

Each of these waiata showcases a different skill. My favourite is the whakaeke.

Waiata performance is only one of many things being judged; a few others include te reo Māori (the Māori language), composition, male/female leader and costume. The top scoring three teams from each competition day will perform again in the finals. My guaranteed four picks are crowd favourites …

  • Te Waka Huia
  • Te Whānau a Apanui
  • Te Matarae I Orehu
  • Te Pou o Mangataawhiri

And I hope one Kahungunu group.

This year, if you can’t be at Te Matatini, you can watch it live via Māori Television’s Te Reo channel.

Quiz: Kapa Haka

The evolution of television

Glued to the goggle-box – a 2006 cartoon (click for image credit)

Glued to the goggle-box – a 2006 cartoon (click for image credit)

Yesterday I bought a cable to connect my computer to the television. Now I’ll be able to stream TV programmes on demand, and watch them on the big (well, 30-inch) screen. This isn’t new, but if you read my blog about going digital, you’ll know it takes a while for me to catch up.

It got me thinking about how much television viewing has changed since it was introduced more than 50 years ago.

Auckland was the first region to get television, in June 1960. The service began just one day a week, but by July had increased to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and to five weekday broadcasts in October. Services to Christchurch and Wellington started in 1961, with Dunedin following in 1962.

Schedules published in the NZ Listener in June 1960 for NZBS TV Channel Two Auckland record that a selection of British and American programmes  (opening with The adventures of Robin Hood) were broadcast in a two-hour slot from 7.30 p.m. Closedown was at 9.30 p.m! The line-up was interspersed with a couple of short studio items.  On opening night Studio Two featured the Howard Morrison Quartet, and on another night was ‘a musical interlude by Pat McMinn and the Crombie Murdoch Trio’.

News was flown in from the British Commonwealth International Newsfilm Agency (Visnews). Most other programmes were also imported, and as a Listener article reported, ‘A balance has also been struck between their places of origin. Nobody will be forced to listen to, say, American voices all night.’

However, Kiwi voices and local content were scarce in the early days of television. Māori programme content was even rarer, as Tainui Stephens outlines in the Māori and television – whakaata entry. Programmes featuring Māori were generally limited to light entertainment or were made from a Pākehā perspective. The establishment of a Maori Production Unit in TVNZ helped to change this with the production of series such Koha, Waka huia and Te karere in the 1980s.

There was a significant rise in the production of local content in the early 1990s, likely a result of the establishment of the television funding body NZ On Air in 1989. This was a time that local documentaries made by independent production companies flourished. The setting up of a third television channel  – TV3 – also provided an outlet for more local programmes and for competition.

In the Television entry, Trisha Dunleavy outlines the history of various genres of television, including our enjoyment of rural programmes such as our longest-running series, Country calendar.  She also describes three main eras of New Zealand television history – scarcity, availability and plenty.

That brings me back to the digital plenty now accessible to me through multiple platforms such as streaming from the internet. We are a small island nation, and personally I enjoy looking outward to what the rest of the world offers. Equally, I love to hear our voices on screen and to experience New Zealanders’ unique stories and perspectives.

This month Te Ara is highlighting its entries about television. I hope you enjoy reading about its history in New Zealand, marvel at how far it has come, and perhaps wonder how you’d like it to develop.

PS I would like to acknowledge Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision for collecting, preserving and making accessible our television history; also NZ On Screen for showcasing it.