Speaker by Various Artists

So long, Dick. Hello, Bob.

by James Littlewood

I think the stress of swapping houses is over-rated. I've never lost a spouse, but I've lost a sibling, and you can take it from me that moving house is much, much less stressful than that.

It wasn't that I didn't like Three Kings: quite the opposite. In fact, our little street of staties and ex-staties reminded me a lot of Ponsonby when it was still cool in the 1980s. Why was it cool? In one word: diversity. Omigod. Is this the rosy, unimpeachable glow of inverted snobbery I feel inside me?

I remember the junk shop run by some old guy with a life size, blow-up, Cheshire-grinning Prince Charles in full military regalia propped up on the footpath, a hand-sketched speech bubble cheerily proclaiming: 'I'm a wanker!'. The store is long gone, but the guy? I guess you can still feel the ghosts of eccentricity, even though the cafes have all got the same menu.

So our little corner of Three Kings reminded me of that, regularly. It's diverse in other ways as well: ethnically, culinarily, psychologically ... Videon up the road, all to be sorely missed. But Bongo's getting to the crawling age about now, and who knows, we may even want to give her a sibling in the fullness of time, so we traded the 2-bedroom statie for a place in the bush and 10 minutes walk to Titirangi Village. So it's bye-bye Dick Hubbard, hellooo Bob Harvey.

I've heard that Waitakere City Council has a good track record in environmentalism, although I've yet to determine this for myself. All I know is they don't pay for my rubbish to be collected, so that would seem to be one mark in the debit column of the environmental ledger. On the other hand, I also read that there has been a 30% decrease in the amount of rubbish generated by each resident since 1998, which must be about at least several points in the credit column (although whether it's the council's credit or the residents' I guess is debatable). Are these two facts in any way related? Does anyone know?

And in today's Western Leader it turns out that the Kereru (Wood Pigeon to colonials) population is three times greater than it was seven years ago. This is apparently all down to pest control, and according to the hard-copy only paper, the Waitaks boast a lower possum headcount that any other wooded region. This would appear to be more credit still, but the paper doesn't mention whether this is the lowest possum rate per acre, or just simply the lowest, which itself would be explained by the fact that the waitak's is also one of our smallest national parks. Overly literal? Prove me wrong.

If anyone in ARC has anything at all to do with Project Forest Save, can you please update your website and let me know? Apparently, you're the ones responsible for the pest reduction that caused the kereru increase, but nothing's been done (according to your own site) since 2002.

Bottom line: our property is covered in kauri, manuka and punga, there's a huge bush reserve on our back doorstep without even a track through it, the roads for miles around are only populated one house deep, and in general there appears to be more than enough of the Waitak's to go round. On the one hand, there is simply no way we could afford this house anywhere closer to - say - Western Springs (yeah right). On the other hand, this kind of house doesn't really exist anywhere East of Titirangi Village anyway.

And on the subject of environment, great disappointment of the year had to go to the recent U.N. decision in November not to impose a moratorium on the apparent chaos that is bottom trawling. Only a dozen countries on Earth indulge in this barbaric practice, and NZ is one of them, so the next time you think you're getting a deal on your orange roughie, remember: this may be your last chance to eat it before it is fished to oblivion.Greenpeace, the UNand 1,136 scientists have the facts.

Thanks to those who gave feedback on my don't-shoot-I'm-only-half-Australian comments. As Rob O'Neil pointed out, one reason that Aussies are better talkers than Kiwis is because they're more Irish, while Kiwis are more Blighty. And everyone knows the Irish are better talkers than the English.

This is probably it for me this year. Only plans for summer are to get the house sorted, enjoy the uninterrupted native bush, enjoy bFM's traditionally off-beat holiday line-up and gear up for the onset of AK05.

I'm interested to see Kirk Torrance's (Stickmen, Fish Skin Suit) scripting debut Strata. Producers Taki Rua aren't as well known in Auckland as they are in Wellington, where their productions have made immeasurable contributions to both contemporary multi-cultural debates, as well as to any kind of sense of New Zealand dramatic form.

Keep an eye out for Andrew Foster's production of Clockwork Orange and if you think you've seen all the Shakespeare you can stand, try his Villains rolled into a single show by the inimitable Englishman Steven Berkoff.

God knows what this will be like.

And the outside runner must be The Death of Klinghoffer by John Adams, of Nixon in China fame. Pro: he's one of the minute number of very cool things to happen to opera in the last 50 years. Con: being an impossibly expensive (and therefore dying) art form, NZ Opera can only see to give it a concert performance, rather than a full production number. John Adams without the images is a bit like watching the news with the sound turned off. Still, you could say the same about Wagner, but their concert performance of Das Reingold a few years back was one of the best operas I've ever seen in this country, so you never know.

Anyhow, thanks to RB for the postings, big ups to you readers for reading and backfeeding, and my apologies to all for my atrocious spelling. See you next year.