JOAN: I really have to put this out there! I am steaming mad, unusual as this might sound! It is Thursday the 17th and my internet is still not available. Following my experience of the last three weeks, I was heartened to be informed by Spark that my broadband would be re-installed last Friday evening. It was!
However, the internet was still not working.
On Monday, after another long wait on the end of the phone, it was suggested that my modem might be at fault. I dismantled it and took it into the Spark store in Trafalgar Square.
"We don't test modems", was their reaction to my further explanation. I moved on to the branch in Victoria Ave. A young girl listened to my whole story then informed me that they didn't test modems either. The senior gentleman at the counter suddenly became deaf and retreated to the staff area.
The young girl followed and then returned, as did the "manager" (?). When I asked what I should do at this point in time, she suggested that I take my modem to a friend and ask him or her to test it for me! I was staggered! This reply from a firm technically savvy enough to communicate with me online without human contact but whose own internet availability at their outlets would be affected if they tested my modem!
I went home shaking with rage. I rang Spark Faults. A call returned to me after 70 minutes was cut off during my explanation. I tried again and 30 minutes later was promised, without doubt, that a technician would come out to see my predicament by Thursday morning, at the latest. It is now Thursday at 1pm and nothing has happened. I have rung Faults again. They inform me that a technician from Chorus should have visited this morning. I have just spoken to Chorus on the phone.
They can do nothing until Spark contact them again!
Friday at noon.
Yesterday afternoon I agreed to purchase a new modem in order to check if the old one was the problem. The new one did not work. I managed to contact Vern, a manager at wherever the voices emanate from. He said I would need a visit from Chorus and, if the modem WAS alright, he would refund our $70. Nothing since.
Friday 1.30pm. TRIUMPH. A lady named Maria Ryan, who was both gracious and sympathetic, called and then sent along a technician. Jovial and knowledgeable, Doug from Chorus informed me that he had found the fault outside of my home ... it was not my fault.
He also informed me that I should not have been obliged to buy a modem as, under contract to Spark, the modem that I had was theirs and they should have replaced it, had it been necessary, for free. In forcing me to buy another one, the legal responsibility of it became mine! What a journey! Still to be sorted out is bills for usage that I have not had! That is for next week. In the meantime I am about to read the 1854 emails in my box!
MIKE: The Whanganui Literary Festival began with a fascinating talk by Nicky Hager, the journalist whose investigations have caused so much angst and anger among the authorities, especially politicians. Quiet, earnest and thoughtful in his address, nothing sensational in his delivery, he explained the various steps required for his books to come to fruition, the constant driving force behind all of them being his demand for freedom of speech. His major theme was that too many people in positions of responsibility are being actively discouraged from airing any concerns they may have by well hidden, insidious pressure.
Specifically he mentioned two main blogs, both of which lie within the domain of government supporters, and which are used for the purpose of denigrating and intimidating outspoken opposition.
Hager stressed, however, that, despite the police invasion of his home last year, he firmly believed that there was no threat to his personal safety, and that our country provided as safe an environment as anywhere in the world - a positive comment. The length of the applause at the end was a fine tribute to a brave, uncompromising and impressive man. We need more like him.
There were obvious links between that speech and the address given by Dr Jarrod Gilbert, author of Patched: the History of Gangs in New Zealand.
Prior to the 2014 election, statistics were issued by a Government office stating that 34 per cent of crime involving hard drugs was gang related. Suspicious of the figures, he delved more deeply into this article, making use of the Official Information Act. When pressured, the then Minister of Police, Anne Tolley, produced the correct figure of 4 per cent! Suppression of information, distortion of facts - should we not be concerned about this trend in our country?
The award winning fiction writer, Charlotte Grimshaw, explained how she wanted to make NZ voices heard in her work. Was her writing influenced by the policies and personalities of this country?
Well, "an enormous foreign internet tycoon" may have slipped unconsciously into her novel, but the character of a Prime Minister was not based on John Key. I must read it and see for myself. In question time she commented that, in her opinion, "the media is in an alarming state". In a later session, the term "media-ocracy" was used by Joan Rosier-Jones. Isn't it surprising how closely that resembles "mediocrity"?
The creator of Detective Tito Ihaka, Paul Thomas, provided an entertaining and humorous session for his audience. When asked, at the start of the interview, what was the essential component of crime fiction, he blandly replied, "A dead body", adding that his chosen genre was often regarded as the poor cousin of regular fiction, since there was only one basic theme.
After relegating Agatha Christie to the role of "fictionalised Cluedo", he explained how Raymond Chandler had changed the social structure of crime novels, with Ross Macdonald adding a psychological element.
Thomas also had a statement to make on our present society. Auckland, where he was brought up, had been transformed, he felt, by money, inequality of wealth and social dislocation.
All these authors were clearly concerned by various factors of our society, but the one that remains firmly in my mind was that of Jarrod Gilbert. Which age group is most likely to be killed in NZ? Children below the age of three. A sobering thought. He saw violence against defenceless infants as the main issue of the day. They need protection.
JOAN: Amdram Theatre looked sensational for the Opening Night of Blue Eyes. Drinks and luscious nibbles were on offer for the full-house crowd.
New black curtains enclosed the walls and new, round tables with black cloths completed the illusion that we were in a nightclub.
We were able to focus on the stage, simply but cleverly committed to a piano, drum kit, bar and, separated by excellent lighting throughout, a small area where the gorgeous Karen Ellett, with her theatrical voice to die for, told the simple but moving story of her supposed mother's passion for the great Sinatra.
Shelley Walls and Denise McNeill have their own Whanganui fan club. I am a member since forever!
Dressed in sultry gear and oozing sensuality, they sang the Frankie hits with skill and aplomb.They were, as I expected, wonderful. The great surprise of the night was David Griffiths. Whanganui-born and a skilled musician he also sang us the golden hits of Sinatra. His voice was cool and intimate and clever. He sold each song brilliantly and we all loved him!
The skilled hands of Abigail Livesay on piano, the handsome Michael Smyth on clarinet, Michael Franklin-Browne on drums and Dave Griffiths on guitar and bass brought us excellent arrangements of all these compositions. I can't but compliment the lovely Ian Jones for his barman extravaganza!
Every detail was thought through and I congratulate Graham Dack, Iutita Kilmister and all the cream of our Whanganui back-stage crew for a perfect evening out. April Phillips, who wrote this piece, would be proud, as we are of her, ex-Whanganui singer and playwright. Thank you all.
The next production will be Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, just in case I haven't told everybody in the city!