Posted by: scribe9 | April 10, 2010

Autumn is a six-letter word

Today felt very fall-like but isn’t, because New Zealand doesn’t have fall. It has autumn, which, like all the other standard seasonal words, has six letters.

Whatever one calls it, the season means cooler nights. In a house like ours, it means much cooler nights. Not only is there no insulation in the walls or under the floors (I’m not sure about the attic), but there’s no weather-stripping (weathers-tripping also works, if you think of it as something to keep various weathers out) except on the front door. Doors and windows are wooden, and so are the frames they close into. Over the near half-century this house has been here, some have warped. And in the bathroom, the mandatory jalousie window at least doesn’t have its slats fixed open half an inch, as in many older homes, but there are gaps above and below the slats and in the metal frame. The old keyhole on the back door is one of the classic big ones you can look through; I should tape it over. And of course there’s no central heating, and the gas heater in the living room won’t be hooked up until May. Friends of ours are renting a three-year-old house that presumably has insulation but doesn’t have central heating. Kiwis like to tough things out.

I’ve invested in flannel sheets, flannel nightwear, and a fleece robe—I already had fuzzy slippers. Today I felt like I was camping; it was quite cool when I first got up, and then gradually the day warmed up to 70. I opened all the draperies to let in the sunshine, and closed them again after dark. They’re all lined with insulating cloth, which doesn’t seem to do much to keep in heat, and they’re also mildewed, because they trap the condensation on the windows.

The turn of the season means the sports emphasis is changing, as ovals on which cricket was played become ovals on which rugby is played. New Zealand is having an increasingly difficult time keeping up with bigger, richer countries. It has exacerbated the problem in rugby by requiring anyone who’s going to play on its national team to play on a professional team within the country, but New Zealand teams can’t come close to paying as much as teams in Britain or Europe. And it has run into difficulties with its national cricket team, because some of the biggest stars earn a lot playing cricket in India and are worried that the seasons might conflict.

I mention this not out of love for either sport, but because it epitomizes the challenge to New Zealand of being a small country playing in various big leagues, including the OECD. There are murmurings here that New Zealand is no longer—or soon will not be—a true first world country. I’m not sure how much of that is driven by the preoccupation with keeping up with Australia.

But as cricket becomes a northern hemisphere sport for the season, I leave you with this simple explanation of the game:

“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.

“When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

“When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.

“When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!” [Paul Henson, Taupo, letter to the editor of North & South, April 2010.]

Piece o’ cake—not much different from baseball.

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