Speaker by Various Artists

Life After Birth

by James Littlewood

Whereas it's been chilly lately and whereas we're new parents and all (more on that later), therefore we've been hibernating round at the statey, lately. And yes, we've been catching up on a bit of the telly. It's a warm, forgiving kind of medium that's always there, seldom very interesting and therefore unlikely to disappoint. I like the level of interactivity it involves, too.

You don't like it? Surf. Still no good? Turn it off. This talk of interactive TV as somehow being more than that - frankly - makes me nervous. But not as nervous as Alain de Botton makes me. The very name makes me wonder if there's something wrong with me.

It may be a sign of my advancing years (first child and 40 on the near horizon), but I've learned to hate writing about stuff I hate. I used to prefer it: giving something a good panning always made me feel superior (to the subject of my derision, if nothing else). Now, I just find it a drag. Being judgemental just involves so much correctness: it's not worth the time it takes to articulate it.

And that's why I think I've got the jump on Alain de Botton (ha ha). He's simply no fun. You have status anxiety. There is no escape, only distraction. Admit it, you can think of at least 3 people better off of than you, right now, before you reach the end of this sentence. Forget it. Do something else. Go out and have fun. Steal candy from a baby, abuse your elderly neighbour, indulge in workplace bullying, whatever. Write a blog. Alain de Botton is the smart set equivalent to the page 36 chocolate recipe, right opposite the page 37 fad diet.

If I read her correctly, Jane Clifton suggested that one of his contributions to philosophy was to be sledged by such diverse tomes as the Guardian and The Australian. Apparently, de Botton actually performed a philosophical service by enabling those journalists to indulge their own knowledge and insights, while they simultaneously (and correctly) discarded his. Really, it's too weird.

So anyway, the last time I was here I was about to have a baby, or at least she of the ugh boots was. Bongo turned up two weeks later than the Expected Date of Delivery. This - they say - is totally normal, a view completely contradicted by the fact that one more day and we'd have been off to National Womens'.

But no. Contractions came at three a.m. Out of bed at 6.30. Fireside brekky at 7.30, and from there we do not shift, eating and drinking all day. Things start heating up at about 3 p.m. Into the birth pool once or twice, best mate around to make the tea (and keep that fire stoked), midwives, buckets, towels & hot water yadda yadda yadda and Bongo showed up at 7.15, just in time for the neighbours to get away for NZ Idol (yeah, I didn't feel like writing for a while afterwards).

The best advice in the whole thing (other recent parents may empathise for the amount of advice we had to absorb) was to light the fire before doing anything else. Amazing! Guys take note, just because your beloved partner's every synapse, bone and fibre is convulsed to breaking point under the forces of parturition, there's no reason not to indulge a little bit of the old romance! Keep the lighting low, for God's sake. The last think she wants is to be overly visible, or to be distracted by having to look at anything else. Stinky Jim's Sideways collections were useful too, providing just the right kind of laid-back noise you can really RRROOOOOOOOOAAARRR!!!to. God help mothers who don't have the vocal training she of the ugh boots had. God help the neighbours of those who do.

Big ups also to the Balmoral Midwives' Collective. Guys take another note: during pregnancy, your partner will appreciate the presence of strong, intelligent, chatty, well humoured, and gutsy women who like nothing more than helping other women thrive in the most womanly process of their lives. "Are you going to light the fire?" she asked, glancing eagerly at the fireplace. "Huh?" said we. "It's a sort of a - tradition" she whispered, keen as hell. Take a bow, gals. They write things in your Plunket book like "3 days: lovely, lusty, and loquacious. Breastfeeding like a pro." You can't buy that kind of support. Really, you can't. The government provides it free. Amen.

Which is more than it does in the business of paid parental leave for men, or for women who are self employed. If she of the ugh boots had established a company on the day she left her job a year previous, and then employed herself (under her own company directive), rather than simply freelancing under her own name, then by the time of the birth she would have qualified for the paid parental leave, and even transferred some or all of same to - ahem - me, if she'd wanted. But on paper, she didn't qualify, even though she'd been doing about the same amount of work for about the same amount of money as she had when, as a full time employee, she would have qualified. Seems grossly unfair from our lookout.

I know it's kind of old news now, but "Interesting" is the word I would use to describe Grant Dalton's success in securing sufficient sponsorship to get Team New Zealand to the 2007 America's Cup. It would also describe the Government's decision to contribute $30m odd to that sponsorship package. I don't know how they figure its value, but it is important to remember that as a sponsorship, it is only partly about the sport.

Here's what makes the A.C. a truly unique event, unlike any other sporting event. It's not the money or professionalism; all sports suffer that. It's not the ego; don't go there. It's not the apparently ambiguous status as a sport at all; of course it's sport - it's just not on a paddock, which tends to confuse some people. What makes the A.C. unique is that it is the only international sporting event - to my knowledge - that the winner (i.e. the defender) gets sole right to host (I suppose it would be gentlemanly of me to invite challenges to that assertion).

So if the government decides to join the action, its contribution has to be set at a level that will both help build the team's budget to a competitive level, but not be so great as to offset whatever gains flow from winning it. But remember, winning it also means defending it, which also means funding it again. How long does this process carry on? I see the AC featuring in the 2043 budget ... I see continuous victories between now and then ... I see a nation enslaved to the world's 0.05% wealthiest elite in 4 year cycles ... I see ngati whatua cleaning up on the royalties for the team births at the Viaduct and the space used over the seabed to hold the racing ... I see a sponsorship deal ...

Of course, they could always throw - say - half the government's A.C. allocation at the Auckland festival or AK05 or whatever it's called, which has the distinct advantage of not having to be won by anyone in order for it to be hosted again and again, ad. infinitum. Seems like a steal.

Currently accumulating all the baby sitting points possible to try and make it along to a film or two, now it's July. Haven't even scoped the programme properly yet, although looking forward to new doco by Florian. My only tip: ignore every English speaking movie that's already won an award.