Friday, January 15, 2016

Funny Business

Master jokesmith and all-round funny guy Jimmy Carr has been touring the antipodes with his Funny Business show recently. The self-styled “hardest working man in comedy” (which he admits isn’t that impressive, being similar to “tallest dwarf” or “healthiest Scotsman”) gave two performances in one night in Wellington – the first having sold out, and either his tour schedule or venue availability necessitating the double whammy. Fortunately, as I’d booked early, we were in on the first sitting at 8pm rather than the later (billed as starting at 10:15, but actually started after 11:00pm according to my source).

I perused the Entertainment website to find somewhere away from our usual haunts for dinner, and we ended up in the Cuba Street Bistro. It may surprise you to learn that this is a bistro on Cuba Street. They serve typical bistro fare. We both liked the sound of the crab ravioli, so I had it as a starter whilst Nicola had it as main course. I followed with the pork 2 ways (pork belly and a pulled shoulder pastry sandwich) served with red cabbage, while Nicola started with the duck liver paté – served with “grilled bread”, apparently. Looked like toast to me, but hey, who’s arguing?

The St James Theatre in Wellington is undergoing a bit of a renovation at the moment, whilst they rip out what was The Jimmy and install a new Mojo in its stead. We were upstairs in the circle. We took our seats when the bell rang, and looked on expectantly. The pre-show projection listed a number to text if you had any questions, comments or heckles that you wanted Jimmy to respond to (or, in the case of heckling, just hear).

Before the show started, he enjoined us not to record the show on our cell phones, pointing out that (i) you’ll never listen to it again and (ii) the best way to enjoy the show was here and now. He then launched into the show.

Jimmy Carr is an old-fashioned kind of comedian. He doesn’t do the whole stream-of-consciousness thing with different characters, situations and long stories, like Eddie Izzard and Bill Bailey…he tells jokes. Lots and lots of jokes. Many of them are very rude, about people, or groups of people. No-one is safe from his scathing wit. Oscar Pistorius? Maybe he just really, really needed to pee. Teachers were also a favourite subject.

At the start of the second half, he read out a number of texts he’d received. Some of them were jokes (recycled from other comedians, I would hazard) and some were comments on the show. At the beginning of the show, he’d promised us “an hour’s worth of funny material, crammed into two hours”, and one wag wanted to know when he’d start with the funny material.

We left at around 10:15pm and had to fight our way out down the stairs and through the foyer, as the theatre management didn’t seem to have given much thought to managing a theatreful of outgoing people at the same time as a theatreful of incoming people.

What rhymes with orange? No, it doesn’t.

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Before we left Whangarei, we went to look at the AH Reed Park and Whangarei Falls. AH Reed Park is an area of natural bushland with kauri trees, with a walkway which takes you through the forest at a reasonable height, so you can look down into the forest as well as looking up above. The falls are just outside town and feature a pleasant walk from the top level of the river down to the bottom, with plenty of opportunities for picturesqueness in between.

Driving north from Whangarei, we stopped along the way at Matapouri, to take a quick walk along the way to Whale Bay, one of New Zealand’s best beaches, and not accessible by car – you have to park and then walk quite a way to reach it. We planned to walk along the headland track but the tide was in, and you can only get round there when it’s out, so instead we went over the ridgeway track instead.   

We arrived in Paihia in the middle of the afternoon, on a sunny day when the temperature hit 30°. Hot for New Zealand! We immediately found our accommodation, the Swiss Chalet lodge, and then headed in to town to get our bearings and also to stock up on breakfast supplies from the local Countdown. On our first evening out, we dined al fresco on the pier at Alongside Bar.

Unfortunately, the weather was on the turn and a system full of rain was headed for Northland for the next few days. The next day, Nicola did her best to hit the beach, but the sun soon disappeared and the day turned grey. We decided to go to Russell and try a couple of wineries over there. The first, Paroa Bay Winery, was fairly new. We spoke to the owner about winemaking (he’d formerly been a brewer at Kingfisher in India) and tried all his wines, finally taking a bottle of sauvignon blanc because it tastes nothing like a “normal” savvy b, but has a far fruitier flavour, driven by melon and pineapple. The setting there is really nice, and we were able to stroll amongst the vines.

We stopped in at Russell for some lunch, and then went to the other vineyard in the area – Omata Estate. Once again, a great location, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by the wines, and the winemaker himself seemed less than convinced by them – he told us he only makes sauvignon blanc because he has to, not because he wants to. I felt that the wines all tasted somewhat insipid and similar, and that his heart wasn’t really in it. His spiel seemed largely aimed at tourists and as there were several groups tasting at the same time, I didn’t really get an opportunity to talk about the wines. Probably just as well, and we left empty-handed.

The next day was a complete washout, with heavy rain most of the day.

Our final day the rain eased somewhat, and we drove out to try some more vineyards around Kerikeri. Two of these were closed – presumably because of the weather – although there seemed to be plenty of people around willing to give them a go anyway. We bumped into some people more than once at the various vineyards we did go to. The first we visited, Fat Pig, was the best, and we chatted to Tereza, the Czech Republican wife of the winemaker, who told us about their vineyards and the set-up around Kerikeri. Many of the wines they sold were from other vineyards which did not have a cellar door, and they all used the same winemaking equipment form Marsden Vineyard, which unfortunately was one of the vineyards not open today. The next two vineyards we visited were busier (one had a restaurant, and they seemed to be directing most of their attention in that direction), and again, with several other groups in at the same time I didn’t really get a chance to talk to the winemakers.

We stopped at a Palm Bistro on the way and listened to Luna Chix playing whilst we had our burgers for lunch. Then, as it was still raining, we headed back to Paihia.

Tonight is our last night before flying from Kerikeri back to Wellington, where the rain will have probably have caught us up.