Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Work has been pretty frantic lately but we are grateful to be busy. I must get at least 5 CVs a week from graphic designers looking for work plus the usual misspelt, badly laid out attempts from graduates. Unfortunately, we are unable to help any of them.

It's been so busy that I only realised it was my birthday at about 11pm the night before. Is this how it goes? I'm not one to obsess about a birthday and what the next year holds and all that navel gazing stuff but this one almost missed me completely.

When it came it just seemed like any other day. Most of the day I didn't even remember except when the physio wished me happy birthday and then gave me a present of another cast on my hand. (I broke my arm again back it Feb, now I've got De Quervains Tenosynovitis - google that one!)

Anyway, its gone now for another year so that was easy. Hopefully next year our graphic design agency will have grown enough for me to take the day off and will have earned enough for me to buy that Joe Satriani signature model guitar: the black dog which I have coveted since I was 16.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

kiwi chippy

Now it’s Summer, we're having a few nights of fish n chips by the beach. What could be more kiwi?

Fish n chips seems to have been a british invention and in the 80s was the UKs most popular food - it has since been eclipsed by another very british (sic) food - the curry.

Back back to good ole fush an chups. Some things inherent in the UK fn'c experience haven't travelled well. The absence of vinegar, for example (though the chippy we went to last night had some). In england its salt and vinegar all the way - ketchup is an extra but aioli in particular would be met with some completely blank looks.

Recently, I was in a flash Ponsonby bar/eaterie and when I asked for vinegar with my order, I had to explain in detail to the confused waitress, exactly what it was for. She didn't seem to get it but nevertheless requested some from the chef. Chef seemed just as confused because it arrived 3cm deep in a ramekin - I was expecting it in a shaky plastic bottle.

Most annoying about the kiwi fish n chip experience is the waiting around. Christ, you lot, do you really tolerate as part of your everyday existence?? I know, I know, you are all now shouting "Phone first and order." but why? If you phoned a British chippy, they'd think you were mad or a prank call - nobody phones a chippy. But they do here.
Why? Well, heres the root of your problem New Zealand, because you take too bloody long to cook your chips.

Here is a winning idea from the UK chip shops: cook your chips before and keep em hot, simple.

Now don't start with me about soggy chips blah blah blah, only best cooked from fresh because that's bullshit. If I'd seen actually freshly peeled potatoes cut up in piles then you'd have me but I've seen chip shop chips and they come frozen in a bag, so there's your lecture on freshness out the window.

As a chippy owner, you know that you sell x amount of chips and you know your busiest times, so with that info you can cook off 2kg of chips and be confident that they won't be sat around for more than 3-5minutes. In comes your customer, their fish order goes in the fryer (2-3 mins) out comes the cooked fish, whack in the ready cooked chips and Bobs your uncle: customer served in optimum time.

The knock-on effect. Less waiting times, shorter queues means more customers. News of faster service will spread like wildfire, cos lets face it, no other bugger is doing it, and that will bring you more customers. All you then need to do is franchise the idea and CLEAN UP. You'll be sitting on a mountain of cash! Just don't forget the frickin' vinegar.

Monday, September 29, 2008


The business has had an 0800 no. since it's inception. Before we started trading, we made a list of a whole series of numbers which we thought would roll off the tongue and be memorable (important as were advertising on the radio) but when it came to it, only one of the fifty or so we came up with was actually available. It was a good one: it had repetition and identical paired digits, so we bagged it.

However, these past four months we have taken more wrong numbers than business calls (as well as crank calls, but that's another story). Firstly, we found that a power company had wrongly listed our no. as an emergency no. for power outages on their recorded voice service. This happened during the "weatherbomb" storms a little while back. Thanks for that.

We've had all sorts: a man asking me to explain how to use sunblock, a woman in Greymouth who had lost her cash in a vending machine. Hold on...Ha! I've just taken another call while writing this - an Austrian woman trying to her european TELEKOM calling card - for fucks sake.

I answered one call in the wee hours of the morning - we have relatives overseas, it could have been an emergency, and I assumed it was - only to get a recorded message.
What's going on?

We have one persistent junk faxer but the no.of wrong numbers is off the charts.

So, please dial carefully. When the person you think you are calling answers, stop and listen to what they say. If it's 'Good morning, brighter design" then don't launch in to your grand speech about how you want your money back, where you live, how old you are or any other nonsense. We've got a business to run.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stupid Stupid Stupid

I was already late and although I was right outside the offices of a client, I couldn't find a parking space anywhere.

"Stuff it", I thought, and swung into a scabby looking Wilson carpark. Not their usual city standard. Unmanned, no cctv and no barriers, just an dim underground area with about 50 spaces.

I parked up and in the dimness I grabbed my stuff then hurried off to the meeting.

Hours later, I returned to find I hadn't quite grabbed all my stuff - but somebody else just had.

As I turned the corner to see the boot of the car open, my brain immediately made the connection and told me what I'd missed. Sheepishly, I reached down to my pocket hoped to feel the contour of my black iPod under my fingers. Nothing.

As it was so dark and the mp3 player was black (yep, past tense) my eyes didnt register it as I scanned the car before leaving. However, someone who had obviously been looking carefully in to cars in the carpark with a torch had spotted it and it was fair game.

They'd drilled the lock through and helped themselves. Although I shuddered when I thought about the loss of all the extra songs I'd collected up from offices I'd contracted in over the last 3 years, I had absolutely no sympathy for myself.

Leave stuff in your vehicle and it will be stolen: fact.

After 9 years of living in London, nobody know this better than me.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

60s legend

Last night we played a gig with a legend: Dave Ball from Procol Harum. If you know the song "A Whiter Shade of Pale", thats them.

It was a short notice offer (came in on Sunday night for gig on the Thursday) but one I wasn't going to pass up. I'd seen Dave play with Billy TK jnr which was great but at a few others gigs I felt the backing band didnt really do him justice - fluffing through songs like Stormy Monday and Aint Nobody's Business without attention to the original chord changes. Personally, I felt that was almost insulting the man. If you don't know the actual chords to those classics, then you didnt deserve to be up there with him.

Anyway, the rest of the band were available and dead keen, so in minutes we accepted the gig.

We hadn't played together for almost two months but when you have been playing for as long as we have (20 years +) it only takes a few numbers and you lock right on in.

So Thursday came and along came Dave, a fellow pom and probably the tallest man on Earth - well okay, on stage. He's over 6 feet 4. He'd borrowed some gear, very kindly donated by Adam Renata of The Jukes: a 62 strat and a 50watt Marshall half-stack.

I used to have one of these in the UK and during soundcheck I felt the familiar breeze around my ankles as the power and the volume forced the air out of the way.

"We're a quieter band than the rest of them", I explained. Its proof of a really good band if you can actually turn down and play so that people can talk over you. Its bloody difficult and takes alot of discipline.

This time we didnt play as quiet as that but found a good level where everyone was happy and could hear eachother. Even if the sound out front is excellent, poor onstage sound makes for a shit gig for the musicians.

Scribbling down a set order that was "Dave friendly", we were also joined by the great blues harp player Craig Bracken. Craig joins us often and its always ace to share in his musicality and listen to him wail.

We kicked off promptly with just the Los Diablos 3 piece: a couple of Stevie Ray numbers, one by Gary Moore, a T-bone Walker, a Jimi Hendrix then Hard Times by Ray Charles. Then Dave and Craig joined us.

The rest of the night ran on rails with Dave taking some beautiful solos, both fiery and melodic. A special moment came for me when I began one of my solos with an excerpt from Hideaway by Freddie King (John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Clapton also did a version) and as I came to the end, Dave stepped in and picked up the Hideaway theme once again. It was one of those "You know it and now you know that I know it too" unspoken moments. You couldnt stop me smiling all night.

Actually, I did stop smiling when I thought my 2IC guitar had been stolen. After flustered searching and a call home (did I really leave without it?) Turns out there was a case of mistaken identity: my guitar and the guitar Adam lent to Dave looked almost the same (different necks, same sunburst body). But when a mate of Dave's turned up with another guitar Dave began playing that one, so Adam took his back. Dave broke a string a few numbers in and so reached for the back up and grabbed mine instead.

Phew, I started the 2nd set with a few self-penned delta blues numbers but was a bit off-balance mentally for a few more than that.

All in all though a great night with great music from some great musicians. Thats why playing live is always the best.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It’s business time!

This is a shameless plug, but I don't care. If you've been wondering where I've been for the last couple of months, I've been starting my own business.

Advertising and graphic design has been my career for about 12 years so after some great stints at places like DDB, Metromedia and Ogilvy, I've decided to do things on my own terms. So, everything I've learned from working in London agencies coupled with the mixed bag of stuff I've done here plus how not to do things now manifests itself in my agency:

Graphic Design | Advertising | Branding | Web

In the 16 days we've been trading we have picked up 5 clients by word of mouth alone - one being a radio station website redesign. This morning at 8:26am I very proudly listened to our first radio ad and so now wait for it to yield our first callers.

When we were setting up the company, the girl at the bank told us that a loan wouldn't be a problem. Then, after she'd opened our business accounts the news came that they weren't going to give us the money afterall - unless we gave them our house as collateral.

As we were only asking for about the same amount spent on the average credit card, I told them to "Get fished!" or something like that. Really they should prevent their personal bankers (she was a ditzy 22 year old) from commenting on loan applications and raising expectations.

When I asked them how much they would lend us, they said: nothing, zero bucks, nada. I was disgusted. Even more so by a phonecall from a haughty branch manager telling me that it was too high a risk and that many businesses in the area were folding under the economic downturn.

"Are they graphic design businesses?", I asked.
"Yes", she said.
"Well, according to my research there aren't any in the area", I said - and that seemed to touch a nerve.
"Listen", she said "I know about graphic design because my son is in the business."
"I see", I said thinking: BOLLOCKS, just cos your son works in that area doesn't make you an expert, you're a banker.

Anyway to cut a long story short, we went somewhere else, got the money, got better service and are now in the process of moving all our fortune to the bank who gave a shit.

So, those of you requiring big city creative on a small town budget. You know who to call.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


I've spent alot of time with my family lately. My mum and my aunt came to visit for 2 months and it was great to see them - we've been apart for 3 years - but just like Christmas, you always hope it will be different but it never is.

My family seems compelled to generate a constant level chatter and faff, a running commentary on things like their quest to find their glasses they put down 5 minutes ago and other gems of inane minutiae.

I could spend an hour in a room with my mother and be exhausted simply because she's used up all the air in the room with these perambulations while I haven't said a word. I love her but I just don't understand.

Is it a generational thing? Do old people just faff about? Will it be my fate also? Why can't they just sit still and relax for one hour? Is it a retiree crime to have nothing to do, even when you are on holiday? Why do they make you feel guilty for answering "no" when they ask if they can help?

Entwined in all of this was a generational code of conduct to which my mother opened my eyes to this visit. Things like: waiting to be asked about things instead of doing them when they wanted. e.g. I was expected to enquire "Would you like a cuddle with the baby?" or "Would you like to here stay a few more days" when all the while I had had assumed the stance - ironically taught to me by my mother - of you're all family and you don't need to ask permission. You are the grandmother, cuddle your grandchild when you want. You are my mother, of course you can stay.

So things became complicated for a variety of reasons but not helped by this invisible stalemate of they are waiting to be asked, but I don't know I need to ask them and although I learned some things, the inevitable happened: a family spat. Well, it started as spat then became the proverbial mountain from a molehill, I forgot to say my family also have a penchant for the dramatic.

An example of this is that my mother once didn't speak to another family member for seven years. It took the death of my father to eventually get them to talk again.

Every family holiday I can remember had a spat of some sort, sooner or later, unfortunately I can't remember what came next, how things were resolved or how we went forward when we were all trapped on holiday together - I was too young or too selfish to care.

So, I don't know how this leaves things as the rest of their last week was spent in monasterial silence, despite my many attempts to resolve things and in the last hours I discovered my mother had done one of the most spiteful and bloody minded things I've ever known her to do. Frankly I'm stunned by her hurtful flourish and really feel that something has been broken beyond repair.

From afar, she continues to communicate her frame of mind but cutting her name off address labels and getting other people to write the address on things she sends me. Its all so childish.

I've have only spoken to her once since and our conversation of the everyday topics was awkward and heavy with the elephant in the corner syndrome.

doom and gloom

I heard on the radio yesterday that "unemployment is up, over and above previous forecasts". In the paper last week was a "downturn on the way" headline and there's not a day goes by that there is a report of the continuing "housing slump."

The fact was that unemployment was indeed up to 3.7% when predictions forcecasted 3.6%. A difference of 0.1% and hardly a significant deviation for that sort of headline. The downturn was in fact a projected downturn and the housing "slump" was actually just a levelling off a housing prices and sales - which means the media finally had to stop bleating about the housing market being a runaway train.

My point is that nothing much happens here in New Zealand (thats how we like it) which makes it hard for journalists to win positions on the front pages. Consequently there seems to be a blanket practice of extrapolating the most shocking and scare-mongering of headlines from even the most trivial facts.

When reading the headlines you think to yourself "Shit, that sounds serious" but tucked away in paragraph 6 is the bare truth without the "wannabe ladder-climbing journo spin". From then on you think "Well, in context thats not as bad as they made out." Its probably then that I stop reading. Its ruining the media's own credibilty.

Some things are true. Fuel is expensive, dairy products have climbed in price. There was/is a drought in Australia. Biofuel is using corn. But the graphic I saw in the Herald that showed all these things linked as symptoms to every other ailment of the economy was just bullshit. Most people who saw that would have come way with "Well, thats it then: we're officially fucked!"

Come on, you media tossers. Don't you see that the more airtime or column inches you devote to peddling doom and gloom the greater the pessimism of Joe Public and actually, ITS NOT THAT FUCKING BAD.