John Clarke/Fred Dagg.

The late, great John Clarke/Fred Dagg on the meaning of life. An excerpt therefrom.


“Of course, in the 20th century, we have produced a fair array of theories about what life’s actually about and probably the existentialists take the buttered confection for getting closest to thinking they had it all worked out. They used to hang about in the Paris area, which is in what we used to call Gaul, and talk about how terrible life was and how they didn’t know if they’d really get to the weekend. They reckoned life was a pretty dreadful business and was filled with a thing called ennui.

“Now, ennui is a terrible thing, and seems to have roughly the same effect as terminal boredom. Ennui actually is a French word meaning Henry. And the story goes that once you get a touch of the Henry’s, it’s all downhill and the only way to relive the symptoms is to whip down the harbour and pull a wave over your bonce and call it a day.”

The full piece is here. 

Rest in Peace. Reports through from Sydney this morning he’s died, aged 68.

Clarke was the closest New Zealand has come to a genuine comic genius. An original, one who, mostly, based his humour on the way New Zealanders talk rather than by just adapting a sketch from Monty Python or Stan Freberg or the Frost Report to local conditions.
He first appeared to a wider audience on Country Calendar in the mid-1970s, just as the country’s economic reliance on pastoral products and the Brits was being pulverised.

He was a breath of fresh air, in so many ways: mostly because of how he talked.

It was very buttoned down Kiwi, but with an ornate side to it: “It’s a wee bit horrendous, this towngoing,” a diffident Dagg mutters in a voice over as he is seen parking his Landrover in Wellington’s Harris Street.

He laughed at the way we talked, but it was a laughter without jeers.

Clarke had the true comic’s gift of being able to show what was funny about New Zealanders but in a way which, somehow, celebrated rather than sneered at it.

There was always a sense of heart, a generosity of spirit, as he laughed – or rather, as he showed us what was funny.




Rugby World Cup: NZL 62, FRA 13 

So , things went reasonably well in the quarter final against France after all. 

But we would not be New Zild if we were not already fretting about the semi final* against the ‘Boks next weekend. 

I once met an English bloke who had played for the Poms’ schoolboy rugby team against their NZ counterparts. The English schoolboys were coached by a former Lion and Welsh rugby forward.

Giving the lads the benefit of his experience, he instructed them New Zealand teams are not motivated by a desire to win.

They are driven, overwelmingly, by a fear of losing. 

This conversation took place in early 1999. Reviewing the ABs results of the previous season , I suggested it was a fear which seemed to have been been, regrettably, overcome. 

Joking aside: the focus now will be on the Ancient Enemy: the Springboks. Who, of course, appear to have got over any fear they mght have of losing by spectacularly coming a gutser against Japan. 

Rugby World Cups are meant to operate like this. The idea is they will raise the standard of less-well-performing rugby nations – espeically, it has to be said, those with the money to hire expertise from the more well performing rugby nations. 

We can see that, too, in the  strong likelihood Argentina will be in the other semi-final. 

Anyway, this morning’s result is not too foul. I rekkin we can feel a bit chuffed about it, without, of course, going berserk or anything.   
*There are people on the Twitter joking about the way we call semi finals ‘semis’ as though it is some rude thing. It probably is, but I’m not going to look it up. 

A note on Beer and Beervana

‘Find yourself at Beervana’ the banner stretched near Wellington’s Cake-tin Stadium recommends those who draw near.

It is a strangely new-agey slogan for Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 9.42.10 amsomething associated with beer. Self actualisation amid the hops seems a stretch, somehow, although I suppose beer has been associated with rites of passage in New Zealand since time immemorial* so there is some sort of link to matters of meaning there.

Beer has changed. It isn’t flavourless, oversugared swill any more.

Wellington has become, for reasons which may not be totally clear, the craft beer capital of the country as well as being, you know, the real capital.

It is great for Wellers to be associated with something which didn’t have its origin in politics or government or those bloody hobbit movies.

Or does it?

OK, we can, thankfully, skip the political angle.

But I rekkin the emergence of craft beer as Wellington thing is linked closely to the Peter Jackson movies.

Firstly, something was needed to replace coffee for my fellow Wellingtonians to get precious about. Peak coffee snobbery in fact was reached sometime in the mid-late ‘90s – (for Auckland this happened around a decade later) and a replacement was a long time coming.

But the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings brought a new wave of people to the capital.


In this case, extras who played hobbits. Who, in the way of fillum extras everywhere, had to spend a lot of time hanging around waiting for the film technical folk to get film technical things just right.

You can see what happened.

Someone, one day, surveyed this bunch of intense, nerdy, short, bearded blokes hanging around listlessly with nothing to do, and had an idea.

“[click of fingers, lightbulb going off above head] BEER!

Not just any beer, but crafty, fussy beer these fillum types can make a big deal about. Beer which, it is claimed, is “hand crafted” – a term which always triggers a mental image of someone kneading the stuff.

And thus an industry was born.

Do not get me wrong. There are a couple of brew in this lot which I love. Tuatara comes tops – their Helles is a fantastic lager, and I’m a recent convert to their Copper-top.

Hallertau also has a couple of very good products – again, the red brew, ‘Copper Tart’ has a fine flavour which goes well with curries.

A darker brew is the Hallertau Deception. I’m quite a fan of dark lagers – I really miss Christchurch Dux de Lux brewer’s Hereford Dark Lager.

Anyway, enough of this.

Beer is for drinking, for talking over – not about.

*when Wilson Whineray retired from the All Blacks

Grog – lessons and tips

The Christmas party season is coming up. Summer Bacchanal and all, season of fruit pies, plum duff, beaches, barbies and sandflies.

And lots and lots of alcohol.

So please take the foregoing as a different version of the usual seasonal warnings from those po-faced finger waggers who get paid to deliver those sorts of warnings.

Although an extremely well behaved type these days, I’m blowed if I’m going to turn all pious about other people letting loose. Just get someone else to drive, and try to keep the noise down if other people are trying to sleep, OK?

I stopped drinking – voluntarily – when I decided to try for law school and I vowed I would not drink again until I got accepted.

My pledge became academic (hah!) part way through that year when I got glandular fever and managed to get hepatitis at the same time. The liver has never been the same since, and these days I confine myself to the odd glass of wine, the odd beer, and, on occasion, a good single malt to round off the week.

Until my mid 20s I liked Jim Beam and beer. In that order. And on occasion I was very silly and paid for it in the usual ways..

So here’s a few lessons learned, generally the hard way.

Drinking and children’s playgrounds

Drunks are often attracted to children’s playgrounds after dark. It seems a real hoot to play on the gear in the middle of the night when you’re completely chooked.


The sequence of events, many moons ago, in Picton:

1. Drink a lot of cheap wine. (mostly Blenheimer, although someone* had the bright idea at one point of mixing vodka with it.
2. Think – woohoo! Trampoline! EXCELLENT!
3. Run out to trampoline, which is quite a way away.
4. Take flying leap onto trampoline, landing double footed in the middle of it.
5. Yell “YEEHAA!!” or something equally profound.
6. Fail to take momentum into account.
7. Notice a slow uneasy feeling in pit of stomach as the rebound hits, going up up up…
8. Notice in particular the nice forgiving trampoline drift slowly back below and – THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT – behind.
9. Look down and realise the Marlborough earth, at the tail end of a long, drought-stricken summer, is a bloody hard thing to land on at speed, drunk or sober.


1. Don’t drink them on an empty stomach.
2. Don’t then think, Ooh, I need some sustenance, and grab the nearest thing available.
3. Especially if the nearest thing is a handful of pineapple lumps.
4. ESPECIALLY don’t do this just before taking part in an impromptu public speaking competition.


I used to get the urge to climb things. This is strange, as I was pretty bad at it, but a lot of people try to do things they are bad at when they are pissed.

On the way from a do at the old Press Club in Auckland, yelling suddenly “Stop the car!!!” the driver (who, some years later, capped off a distinguished career as Editor of the New Zealand Herald)  hits the brakes, everyone thinks I need to chunder.

But no. We’re going past a building site with a large crane and I have decided I can climb the crane. Right Now. I leap out of the car and run towards it. Got up a few rungs before three of the guys from the car hauled me down. (I actually have no memory of doing this, but the friends who pulled me off it do, and they showed me the bruises.)

Lunchtime drinking:

Be very wary of lunchtime drinking if you are going to be drinking in the evening as well.

A rule of thumb – which I found to be accurate – is that, to get an idea on the impact on your system, double every drink you took at lunchtime, and imagine ingesting the lot in one go at 6pm.

That’s roughly what happens if you start drinking again in the evening. I don’t know why.

– for every drink of alcohol, drink a glass of water. Amazingly effective.


Milk thistle. This is a herb which is very good for the liver and which can even moderate the effect of the post-drinking headache. It’s a wonderful discovery. You can get in most chemists and health shops and even the supermarket these days.

Before you go to bed – glass of Berocca. Use it to wash down a couple of milk thistle pills.

For breakfast:

Lambs fry, bacon and fried sput, along with orange or grapefruit juice and coffee.


*Possibly me. Details of the precise chain of causation are, for reasons which should be reasonably obvious, somewhat unclear.