Deborah Coddington
Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Polite guests don't tell us how to behave, Mr Bills

Peter Bills has plenty of advice for Kiwi colonials ... rah-rah. Photo / NZ Herald
Peter Bills has plenty of advice for Kiwi colonials ... rah-rah. Photo / NZ Herald

His lordship has spoken. Peter Bills, rugby writer for Independent News & Media, caused a brouhaha last year by grizzling in the NZ Herald that a glass of sauvignon cost more than he's paid to write sentences such as: "Those who can see beyond the immediate and peruse a horizon faraway, hitherto not yet glimpsed by most, invariably profit from their foresight."

Try not to giggle. He's not talking about Dan Carter's goal kicking but preaching to us about our national identity.

And remember, rugby writers are thus qualified as experts on everything. Such a shame Bills wasn't here last week; we missed his proclamations on Fashion Week. Judging by his photo, he's the epitome of sartorial splendour - wispy moustache, bouffy side-hair thinning on top.

Day-wear for this man-about-monde would be tracky-daks (all that air travel) over white singlet tucked into Y-fronts (it cost John Major an election and, no, that's not a spelling mistake).

On Wednesday, Bills lectured us again in the Herald on how to welcome visitors coming here for the Rugby World Cup.

If we "ordinary Kiwis" (for that is what he calls us) treat them well, he says, this will reward us in the future.

No shit, Peter? Gee, we never thought of this idea.

This preaching's a bit rich coming from someone whose own country is still reeling from the burning, sacking and looting of its main cities - or did you not notice that, Mr Bills?

Are you not ashamed the whole world watched as young men pretended to help one of the wounded, but instead calmly helped themselves to items from his backpack?

In case you haven't noticed, Mr Bills, New Zealand too has suffered major catastrophes this past year. We've lost 29 lives in the Pike River mining disaster. Good men went down into a mine and never came back. Their families - a whole community - still cry.

But they don't run around burning the place down.

Christchurch - did you go to Canterbury last year, Mr Bills? - is devastated. Right now families are facing the gruelling evidence of the coroner's inquest as they hear how their loved ones died.

But did the youth take advantage to loot and steal? No - there has been enormous fund-raising and outpourings of aid for Christchurch people. Not whingeing.

Do I sound defensive? Too right I do. We're so over being told how to behave. Last week, it was Kevin Roberts telling us to take off our hoodies; that we touch, pause but don't engage.

Well, we're not going to adopt the missionary position and think of Mother England any more. We're on top. We're hot. If our top restaurants, wines and clothes are expensive, Mr Bills, it's because our top chefs, vineyards and designers are better than yours.

Catch up, Mr Bills. What do you mean by "ordinary Kiwis"?

Do you know the history of this country beyond what you've obviously Wikipedia-ed? How's your te reo coming along? Been to a marae? Do you even care, beyond the information you research to patronise us in your columns?

They would be funny if they weren't so distasteful. As you put the latest one to bed, our Parliament stood in silence to honour Corporal Douglas Grant, 41, a member of our SAS troops who was shot in Kabul on August 19. He died a hero, Mr Bills, and he died rescuing your people from the British Council building.

He left behind a wife and two children and I, for one, cried when I saw the photograph of his funeral on the front page of the newspaper. Soppy, yes. But it sort of explains why, after 100 years of sending our boys away to save your citizens from the guns of death and destruction, we find your carping tiresome.

So perhaps you might remember that when you order your next latte, glass of wine or beer. Smile first. Engage. Talk "to" us, not "at" or "down" to us. We're not a lesser form of British people just because some of us are white-skinned. We are New Zealanders. We have big hearts, but not endless patience. And we do not have "stupid" tattooed on our foreheads.

- Herald on Sunday

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