Island Life by David Slack

Tomorrow Is Another Scarlett

There are very few things I've written here that have generated as energetic a response from the readers as a post that featured Uma Thurman, Scarlett Johannnsen and assorted other beauties. I like to flatter myself that it was the humour of the thing, but the excited tone of the replies told me it had more to do with purdy pictures of scantily-clad and attractive young women.

So it was no great surprise a month or two later to see a sharp trend-watcher like Rob O'Neill spotting the potential and choosing the smouldering Scarlett as the NZBC muse.They were already offering a banquet of magnificent diversions; once they added Scarlett, they had the perfect ice sculpture. I return to the table each Friday with anticipation.

My envy is not limited to ice sculptures. I also fancy working to the unscripted plot Rob has been following since the beginning of the year, nosing the bonnet of his small but perfectly formed sports car out onto the road every morning and driving wherever the mood and a full tank of 91 will take him. His last report had him in Picton, listening to a Neil Young cassette. Not to everyone's taste, to be sure, but I could enjoy great helpings of it.

Seeing he's so good at taking the germ of an idea and nurturing it to its full flowering, I offer him this: the rhythm of driving the length of State Highway One is occasionally punctuated by a set of traffic lights. I like to think it says something about the unevenness of the nature of life in New Zealand:

Welcome to our biggest highway! Wind down the windows, feel the breeze, open up the engine and enjoy the ride; oh, by the way: occasionally your exhilarating ride will come to a dead stop if the lights turn red.

It's quite startling. Just as you've comfortably settled into miles of momentum, you come to an entirely arbitrary halt. You feel surprisingly dislocated as the rhythm of an hour or more of fast open road-driving closes down in the blink of an eye to nothing.

You strike it in Huntly.

The last time I went though Waikanae and Paraparaumu it was still happening.

I would guess there are a few dozen other spots where the same thing happens. Perhaps there are more. I imagine Transit New Zealand have it all methodically collated, but all the same, I can see an entertaining diversion here for a man in a sports car tooling around the country without a deadline.

Why not get a photo of every set of traffic lights on State Highway One from top to bottom? Awanui to Bluff. Or Riverton. Or wherever SH1 runs out.

You could throw in a shot of the nearest tearooms and pub, if you want to broaden the cultural dimension. Perhaps Doddery Old Fart has a few pictures already.

It's your blog, Rob, but can I humbly suggest that in between the pictures of Scarlett, an evolving series of traffic light shots could offer just as exotic an allure to the nation's deskbound blog readers?

On a day like this I get especially wistful about the whole idea. This was the time of year - when we were students - when my brother and I would be out on our motorbikes finding an empty open road somewhere in the North Island and opening up the throttle. Leaning into the corners on the Napier-Taupo road in the late afternoon summer sun.

An office can't compete with that; all it has to offer is the call of the mild.

While you're settling into a 10.00am meeting in some air-conditioned boardroom, Rob may well be pulling into a West Coast town and deciding which pub he'll pick for lunch. As you clear away the dishes, he may be tucking into whitebait fritters on a remote beach, watching the sun set on the Tasman.

As you crawl home in the early evening Auckland traffic and fret, for all you know he may be coming down the red carpet aisle of a movie premiere in Invercargill. Scarlett will doubtless be on his arm.

In response to your as-yet-not-emailed question: no everything's fine here at my place. We have just had a lovely evening at Narrow Neck beach and I'm contentedly rubbing against my book deadline.

I just fancy the notion of doing what Rob's doing. It's the sheer sense of liberation of not having to be anywhere or do anything in the middle of a glorious summer that sounds enormously appealing. And I have a sneaking suspicion I'll never get around to photographing those traffic lights.