Jeremy Wells
Jeremy Wells on cricket

Jeremy Wells: Provinces packed with perils, even if just passing through

A 21-year-old man took a radio station manager hostage and demanded the on-air DJ play  The Rainbow Connection  by Kermit the Frog. Photo / Supplied
A 21-year-old man took a radio station manager hostage and demanded the on-air DJ play The Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog. Photo / Supplied

Following my diatribe last week about tattoos, homosexual opening partnerships and Whangarei's food and beverage standards, I've been inundated with correspondence - mainly from disgruntled members of Northland's hospitality industry angry at the negative depiction of their city's eateries and drinking holes.

Mike from Chances in Whangarei wrote: "We had the English cricketers here when they were visiting last week and they seemed to enjoy themselves. Without sounding too crass they seemed more than happy to sample a bit of the local merchandise." Interesting.

While many local bar owners were keen to correct my assertion that Whangarei possesses the worst apres cricket facilities in the North Island, others were keen to exaggerate the plethora of beautiful beaches which adorn the Whangarei hinterland. Wrote one: "There are over 500 beaches around Whangarei - how many does Auckland have?"

First, let me state for the record that I have nothing against Whangarei as either a place to pass through quickly or to settle down and call home. I also have nothing against the superbly proportioned Cobham Oval. In fact, quite the opposite. With its big boundaries, massive grass embankment and collection of administrative Jennian-style boundary houses, the Cob is a ground for the future.

On a personal level, it's important to note that some of my best non-sporting moments, both professionally and non-professionally, have occurred between Mt Hikurangi and the Brynderwyns. In 2002, I judged Miss Northland at the Whangarei Events Centre - a night of glitz and glamour featuring Miss Mag & Turbo Kamo, one of the most beautiful women I've ever laid eyes on. The after party remains a blur, but the generosity of the locals is something I'll remember forever.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Wanganui. In 1998 I passed through the River City with a TV crew and we stopped for a bite to eat in the recently gentrified Victoria Ave. From a distance, we noticed a strange man creating a disturbance as he walked down the footpath towards us. As he got closer, it became apparent he was molesting the hair of passersby with a pair of orange-handled scissors - the same ones Play School presenters referred to as "snips".

Quick as a cockabilly, our camera operator took him out using a combination of mixed martial arts and some moves he'd learned watching the late-80s classic American Ninja. Fortunately, hair grows back but my affection for Wanganui never totally rejuvenated.

I recently learned of another unusual incident which occurred in Wanganui in 1996 when a 21-year-old man took a radio station manager hostage and demanded the on-air DJ play The Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog. Unfortunately for both the hostage and offender, his request couldn't be realised - Star FM didn't own a copy of the hit song and in the days before the internet, had no way of playing it. The situation became tense. People's lives were being threatened over a song about rainbows performed by a Muppet. Luckily, there was a transtasman police rugby game on that day so Wanganui was teeming with fuzz and after a tense few hours, the hostage was released and the offender was apprehended.

That moody banjo intro to The Rainbow Connection would never sound the same again.

During Sunday's ODI in Hamilton, the ground announcer attempted to introduce musical gags during the game. He played You Can Ring My Bell when Ian Bell copped one in the groin and Arms Wide Open by Creed when the English bowled a wide. Nobody laughed.

At the end of every over, spectators were also subjected to differing forms of aural abuse from speakers dotted all round Seddon Park. I looked for somewhere quiet but there was no escape. It seemed like the musical intrusions were ruining the atmosphere.

By the end of the game, I was thinking about Star FM and The Rainbow Connection.

- NZ Herald

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