Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ring them bells

Bells are being rung in Auckland today as the first Rugby World Cup chickens come home to roost.

These graceful migratory birds have taken more than two years to get here. Veteran birdwatchers say their arrival could have been predicted from the day Murray McCully was made Rugby World Cup Minister.

On the Auckland waterfront, crowds gathered to see thousands of chickens landing on Mr McCully's head and shoulders.

They will stay there for some time to come, along with the albatross already around his neck.

In some cultures the chicken is considered a bird of ill omen.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An anthem for our times

On the eve of one of the most momentous events in New Zealand history, it seems right to pause, reflect and—yes—pray for the men about to go into action, bearing the hopes and dreams of a nation on their shoulders. I know that tonight, and indeed every night while the Rugby World Cup is on, men and women will gather and pray to whatever gods may be for the safe return of our boys, bearing the necessary silverware. Around many a humble hearth tonight, hands will be joined and voices raised in songs of acclamation. But what will they sing? The words of our national anthem, though rich in lyric resonance, don't seem quite appropriate for the occasion. Humbly, as just one New Zealander wishing to play his part, however small, in the quest for imperishable glory, I offer this new version.

God of Nations, if you're there,
Now's the time to show you care.
Hear our Rugby World Cup prayer:
God defend our All Blacks.
Keep them safe from injuries,
Guard their hamstrings and their knees.
Till the final's over, please,
God defend our All Blacks.

Men of every other team
Think that they can steal our dream.
Help us prove that we're supreme:
God defend our All Blacks.
Put more power in Carter's boot,
Make our scrum beyond dispute,
May our tactics be astute
In the forwards and the backs.

God of Nations, get this straight:
Failure we just will not tolerate.
If you really are our mate,
End this 24-year wait.
Help the ABs go for broke
Or they'll be a worldwide joke.
If you're such a decent bloke,
God forbid the All Blacks choke.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Phil

The nation's eyes were on the Southern Ocean today when Labour leader Phil Goff was given back his freedom and released into the sea.

Thousands of New Zealanders have taken this plucky little chap to their hearts since he was found stranded at the top of the Labour Party.

Bewildered and lost, he kept making flapping motions that—scientists say—were a desperate attempt to get people's attention.

Dubbed 'Happy Phil' because of his fixed smile, he survived for months on a diet of dead rats.

But his keepers inside the party were growing increasingly concerned about him.

When they said it was time for him to go, the navy came to the rescue.

The frigate Helen's Legacy weighed anchor at 51 degrees south earlier today and Happy Phil was brought on deck.

Though a little reluctant to go at first, he was soon walking along a specially designed plank, helped by a few encouraging nudges from keepers equipped with long poles.

A final prod, a last smile, a splash—and he was free.

'It is a far, far better place he has gone to,' said skipper Captain Ahab Cunliffe.

Happy Phil has been fitted with a GPS tracking device so we can all follow his progress. First he went left, then right, then left again before doubling back on his tracks, then standing on his head. Scientists say he may never be the same again.

The Helen's Legacy was last seen wallowing in heavy seas, with a terrible list.