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Niamh Meister-Leifburger

Before we married, Andrew and I agreed he would wear his wedding ring for a minimum of 6 months.

In return, I would take his surname.

Well, it wasn’t written into the marriage vows – and anyway, Andrew only wore his wedding ring for 3 months. ALSO, my ulterior motive for the request was the expectation that the band would become an extension of his finger. In the event he was involved in a terrible accident resulting in severe arm trauma and his left hand swelling alarmingly, he’d fight off the doctor advancing with motorised cutters, deliriously screaming, “Get away from my ring! You’re not having it!”

Since that situation never came to pass, it seems pretty clear to me it constitutes a breach of said agreement rendering it null and void.

However, over eight years after the happy day when we yoked ourselves to each other till death or a misunderstanding involving a transsexual called Clarabelle and secret offshore bank account do us part, I applied for a new passport.

In fairness, I always intended to change my name. One reason I didn’t was because Andrew and I thought we might be able to engage in dodgy tax fraud that somehow turns out to be legal if I were still Shaw (in retrospect, I’m not sure how we envisioned that working). Another is I never got around to it. And finally, I wasn’t gestating a crotchfruit. If The Asset weren’t imminent early in the New Year, I would have waited until my passport expired in August 2012 before I became Niamh Meister-Leifburger or whatever Andrew’s surname is. I suppose I should really look that up.

Last time I renewed my passport, all that was required was a call to the Irish Consulate asking them to make out a passport in the name of Niamh Shaw, thanks a million.

THINGS HAVE INDEED CHANGED.

Three months ago, upon my request, the Consulate General of Ireland sent me a passport application form. I knew it was for an Irish passport because, hilariously, it included an information pamphlet on how NOT to take a passport photo, with pictures of random people wearing clown noses and sticking their faces up against windows etc.

To issue a passport in my married name, I had to submit our original marriage certificate (The Consulate General of Ireland evidently doesn’t trust Notary Publics) – and my original birth certificate to verify my maiden name. If I wanted my original documents returned – along with the new passport – I had to include a self-addressed sign-on-delivery courier bag. Rather makes you wonder what the $160 fee was for – for which the only accepted payment was a bankers’ cheque.

The passport photos – four according to the application form, although the supplementary documentation stated two – had to be confirmed as a true likeness of the applicant by an authority figure, e.g. a policeman or, you know, librarian.

I have no idea what the big deal is about getting a passport. I mean, they’re not exactly rare. Pretty much everybody has one.

Anyhoo. It took a while to put the application together. Andrew took some photos and I selected the image which looked least like I was contemplating assassinating John Key. After spending an hour on MS Paint arranging it in a collage, I took it to the pharmacy to get it printed.

Then I went to the police station.

“I’m looking for someone with the appropriate authority,” I announced at reception, spreading the forms across the counter.

“Well,” said the personable Jason, “you’ve come to the right place, ma’am.”

He was required to write the application form’s unique reference number on the back of two of the passport photos, and sign them.

“Do you have a black pen?” I asked. “Because it says on the form you need to use a black pen. Oh, and if you can find a pair of scissors- no, wait. I have some here in my bag.”

“What else do you have in the bag?” he asked, suspiciously eyeing me snipping up photos.

“Nothing I wish to disclose, thanks.”

Jason got so carried away by the power vested in him that he signed all nine of my passport photos.

“Don’t want you coming back,” he said.

“Oh, come on. Are you trying to tell me I’m the dodgiest character you’ve seen all week?”

“Don’t know. You might have a bomb strapped to your waist.”

“No, no; it’s a foetus I swear.”

Policemen are MUCH more fun than Customs Officials. Except, I suppose, when they’re trying to get you to breathe into the nozzle.

Off I went to NZ Post to mail the application – which was where/when I found I’d forgotten my original passport.

Back at home, Andrew pointed out another problem.

I’m not even sure how to coherently relate this. Ok, so. Look. *sigh!* You see. On the form was a box for my signature. And I kind of panicked and put the wrong one. Well obviously it was my signature – I mean, I wrote it – only it didn’t look like it usually does. It’s like I had a fleeting personality change halfway through signing, resulting in a squirmy bit in the middle. I think I was intimidated by the stringent instruction to keep within the lines of the box, which was WAY too small to adequately express my personality.

In any case, after I had written my signature – outside the box, with a wobble in the middle – I realized it was supposed to have been witnessed by an authority figure.

So before going to the police station, I Tippexed it out.

It almost looked like I hadn’t touched it at all.

Jason hadn’t noticed anyway.

But THEN I got home and made the mistake of saying to Andrew, “Do you think it matters my signature’s blue?”

And he said, “No, but the TIPPEX MIGHT BE A PROBLEM.”

Seriously, I don’t know why I bother talking to him. It always ends in tears.

Since you can’t download the application form off the Internet, I sent off to the Consulate General of Ireland for another. Then I printed more passport photos and returned to the police.

I wasn’t looking forward to explaining The Tippex Affair to Jason – or persuading him I wasn’t stalking him. Apart from exceptional circumstances I’m not really into that and anyway, to be honest, I prefer firemen.

Thankfully Jason was off giving out speeding tickets, so I got Angela. She was evidently more clued in than Jason since she actually asked to see my ID. Although I’m glad I didn’t get her the first time around, because no doubt Angela would have detected Tippex.

However, when she went to stamp the back of my passport photo it rolled up into the stamp and, when she finally prised it out, my face was covered in blue ink.

The information pamphlet on how not to take a passport photo hadn’t mentioned anything about not having a blue face, so I licked it a bit and scrubbed it with a tissue from up Angela’s sleeve. I sent it off, even though I still looked like one of my recent ancestors was a full-blooded Smurf.

Two days later, the Consulate General of Ireland called to say our marriage certificate isn’t valid.

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Tagging: a national crisis

I love the news in this country, where tagging (graffiti) is considered a national crisis. Yes, yes, of COURSE I might feel differently had I ever had ‘scank’ scrawled across my living room window in a neon pink barely legible hand and spent days trying to scrub it off with an abrasive cleaner.

But you know New Zealand is a wonderful place to live when front-page news is: ‘Woman mauled by pet cat’, or – my personal favourite – ‘Man kicks hedgehog’.

Most days, the first thing I do is throw an eyeball at Stuff. Boy, was I glad I took that extra ten minutes this morning. What a treat! Had I been successful in tuning in The Rock, it would have been the perfect start to the weekend.

First up, Auckland’s annual Boobs on Bikes parade. Can I just state upfront that I have every respect for any woman taking her top off at this time of year. I’m sure Queen Street was a tit bit nipply yesterday.

The organizer of the event, arc-welder Steve Crow – oh, sorry, no, my mistake; that would be PORNOGRAPHER Steve Crow – pledged to distribute 12,500 vouchers for a full-length hard-core porn film worth $20.

“There is a lot of evidence,” said Steve, “that ready access to porn actually reduces the incidence of rape and other sexual offences in society so I thought why not get behind this evidence and help do something to try and reduce the shocking levels of sexual and violent crime in our country.”

Go Steve the porn humanitarian! I can’t wait to hear how he proposes to combat tagging.

Next, Man drove off in ambulance as friend treated. The 22 year old Dunedin man – he’s gotta be a scarfie – called paramedics when his buddy fell four metres over a concrete wall and fractured his skull and vertebrae. After they arrived, he drove off in the ambulance, no doubt giggling insanely. He can’t have been going very fast, because the flashing lights didn’t come on and one of the paramedics caught up with him 50 metres down the road.

Senior Sergeant Steve Aitken, demonstrating a commendable gift for understatement, said, “Alcohol could be a significant factor.”

His ex-friend was taken to Dunedin Hospital.

And finally, The Vatican rejects the resignations of two Irish auxiliary bishops following their reported involvement in the Roman Catholic Church’s cover-up of child abuse.

I don’t understand The Vatican, these servants of . . . God, is it? The Vat’s ongoing response to the child abuse scandal continues to confound, although if the Roman Catholic Church condoned it in the first place – which it undoubtedly did by suppressing and denying reports of abuse in the first instance – then denying it is a minor offence in comparison. But surely denying a crime on this scale is like attempting to conceal a corpse with a hanky covered in holes?

If The Vat refuses to account for its involvement and cover-up of sex abuse scandals for moral, ethical and – what’s that word again? – oh yes, CHRISTIAN reasons, it should probably do so for the PR.

Monsoon bucket of suck

In the weeks leading up to the move, everything that could go wrong went wrong.

Well, ok, maybe not EVERYTHING. I suppose Husband could have succumbed to a critical mid-life crisis and left me for a pole-dancing accountant. But strictly speaking, that’s more deviant than ‘wrong’. So I stand by my original statement, as long as I don’t have to defend the position or address any pointed questions about it.

Three weeks ago, we were driving down Opanuku Road when we heard a strange noise coming from the back of the Hilux Surf.

At first we ignored it, because it was virtually indistinguishable from all the other strange noises coming from the general vicinity of the car. However, within a short space of time/distance, an expensive ‘CLONK!’ could be clearly heard – and felt – reverberating joyfully above the cacophony of mechanical acoustics.

After we pulled over, I tramped back up the road in my three inch heels in search of mobile reception. Then we all – my parents, Husband, Jed and I – milled disconsolately around the deceased car until rescued by Flame Haired Titan.

While the Surf flirted with the scrap heap, the parents magnanimously gave up custody of the MR2 during the last week of their holiday. Yet the 2-seat MR2 was not ideal for salvaging packing boxes, nor even transporting two humans equipped with 35kg dog. I was also anxiously conscious that the Surf was scheduled to relocate us and a trailer to South Island in less than 10 days.

Andrew discovered that, by disabling the rear differential, he could operate the Surf in modified four wheel drive. We coaxed the car to a garage; later that day, someone called to inform us that – as suspected – the rear differential was poked; he could replace it with a second hand part for $1000; and he had just got a limousine in for an emergency service so could we collect the Surf because there wasn’t room to store it – oh and he closed in 10 minutes, so before then.

Andrew decided to do the job himself. When he extracted the differential with a lot of swearing, two of the teeth on the cog were completely snaggled, shards of metal in the surrounding oil.

He managed to source a second hand rear differential for $275 on Trademe (when we turned up to collect it, there were about seven Hilux Surfs parked outside this dude’s house; according to his business card, he was a ‘South Auckland Toyota Surf Parts Consultant’).

Then Andrew spent two mornings rolling around under the car covered in grease and oil. I maintained a continuous supply of coffee and occasionally handed him a spanner. There was a tense moment when he removed a section of engine to facilitate the fitting of the 55kg diff, then couldn’t figure out how to get the complex and rather-crucial looking piece back in. With my assistance (I inadvertently hit him with it) he eventually manoeuvred it into place.

That crisis narrowly averted, I received the proof of About Time from my editor, who required a response within a week. For Smart/Casual, this stage of the production process was a soul-sucking, energy-sapping, time-consuming, will-to-live diminishing, hive-scratching, panic-attack inducing suckfest unrivalled in relentless tedium.

Proofing About Time was no different, except for the added frisson of packing crockery between adverbs. Also finalising the moving company, booking the ferry, changing address, cleaning the house, selling items, cancelling accounts, and setting up electricity at the new place. When I called Telecom to request a new landline, there was already a request pending for that address; this took another half a day to sort out.

Three days before we were due to move, the radio reported a fire had broken out 200m from our new house. People evacuated the area, the main power lines between North and South Island were shut down, and helicopters equipped with monsoon buckets were brought in.

For a while, we weren’t sure whether we even had a house to move into.

Destiny’s grand design

We woke up to blazing sunshine yesterday, so decided to venture out to Riverhead with the mountain bikes.

“It’s going to rain, though,” predicted Andrew gloomily.

I ignored him, because:

a) Husband is a pessimist who often asserts things with no basis in reality or the NZ Met service; and
b) we’ve been together nearly 12 years (look, it would be virtually IMPOSSIBLE to pay attention to EVERYTHING that comes out of the man’s mouth) (although barf always gets my attention)

While I organised coffee to go, snacks, finances and dog balls, Andrew loaded the bikes on the back of the car.

As we trundled down the drive, tiny pricks of rain settled almost imperceptibly on the windscreen. Along Mountain Road it started drizzling in earnest, intensifying to rain with a definite spatter effect up Candia Road. By the time we reached Swanson, it looked like a blizzard outside.

We pulled up outside The Station Café and made a dash for it across the carpark; me with a couple of old magazines clamped to my head, Andrew using the dog to shield himself from the driving rain. Sitting miserably moist and lightly steaming over a couple of coffees, we agreed there was no point biking.

Driving home, the rain eased up, the sun sullenly emerged from behind the bank of clouds and, by the time we pulled into our drive, the elements were entirely agreeable. So we could have gone biking after all.

Evidently, the cosmos had other plans for Husband and me.

These plans being investigating the leaking differential on the Hilux, and lying on the sofa reading respectively.

Depressing that destiny’s plans for us are so pedestrian.

Hopalong

Today I wore shorts.

Far from being a grand gesture to welcome summer with open arms and double helpings of cellulite, I was thinking more along the lines of saving a pair of trousers getting drenched and slathered in mud. But hey, at least it was warm enough to wear shorts. In fact, doing jumping jacks while sprinting up the road, it was almost TOO warm.

So I set out to terrify woodland creatures and inflict psychological damage on my dog. Jed was so traumatised by the spectacle that he occasionally mistook my leg for a stick. Evidently a particularly large, squashy stick that emitted nuclear quantities of fluorescent energy.

For the last two days, dog-walking duty has fallen on me, since Husband sprained his ankle. Nothing exciting like commando-rolling through a plate glass window, or trying to execute a complex move in a sexually charged tango with a fat French double agent. No, I’m afraid it was all rather mundane. He was out walking. I like to think he’s talking it down. E.g. maybe he was attacked by a crazed squirrel, or fell down a pit lined with wooden stakes?

One way or another, that’s his Olympic dream in tatters.

He couldn’t have timed it better. Not only has the weather been savage, but the height of his recuperation coincided with rubbish relocation. Even I didn’t have the heart to send an injured man off down the drive with the rubbish, when every second step elicited a raw scream of pain compressed into an anguished grunt.

Husband is still lurching around the house and his trousers keep falling down around his knees. I’m not sure how this is related to spraining his ankle, but it must be. Unless you believe in coincidence. Which I don’t.

AWW!

090317 Porn star dog

So, you know how Jed recently blew away the competition to take the World’s Best Dog title? Well, here is your opportunity to own some of his genes. From the same breeder and parentage as The Esteemed Jedster:

Red curly coat retriever puppies

AREN’T THEY JUST THE CUTEST ITTY BITTY LITTLE FLUFFY THINGS YOU’VE EVER SEEN?! I’m working on Husband to get a playmate for Jed. I particularly like the little fella third from left, who reminds me of my late paternal grandmother – although I might have to find another angle to convince him

Flashback to the 1970s

Husband aspires to a style of dining that could be described as ‘fine’. He treats mealtimes as if he were in a top class restaurant.

“Right, may I have . . . let me see . . . lamb chops with a balsamic reduction, potatoes au gratin, with a side serving of braised asparagus, and for dessert maybe some baked Alaska, or chocolate truffle pudding would be acceptable.”

“No. The choice is cheese on toast.”

“Or?”

“Toast.”

Seriously, I enjoy cooking and make an effort to feed us well. I would be MORTIFIED if Husband were to succumb to malnourishment. Therefore I keep the fridge well stocked with all sorts of yumminess: shredded chicken, shaved ham, smoked salmon, bacon, eggs, a variety of cheeses, pickles, chutneys. I make him honey toasted muesli for breakfast, and ensure he always has spare rations. I prepare dinners carefully balanced with the optimal blend of carbs and protein.

Since it is easy to revert to potatoes, salad, and whatever form of protein happens to be wandering around the freezer, I try to be adventurous within Husband’s tolerance levels. I avoid foodstuffs Husband spits out (anchovies; mushrooms; olives; vegetables in large, concentrated quantities; artichokes) and am selective about ingredients that make him retch depending on his humour and barometric pressure (rice and pasta).

Yet we still have conversations like the following:-

Husband: What is this? <prodding with finger>

Me: Peppered fish with zesty lime salsa. Mmm.

Husband: Meh.

Me: How much do you want?

Husband: None. I’ll just go hungry. *sigh!*

Me: THIS IS NOT A RESTAURANT! YOU WILL EAT WHAT IS PUT IN FRONT OF YOU!

Me: I HATE THAT I SOUND LIKE MY MOTHER!

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