Archive for April, 2006

Taxi Talk 2 – as in the Russell Lights 9/8

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

A passenger in my taxi the other night commented how much Russell had changed. Seems they’d last been here about thirty years ago – in fact (they said) it was the summer of 1977 and the first issue of the RUSSELL REVIEW had just been published.

I was lucky enough to find a copy of that RR. Inside, Editors (Eva Brown and K Burrows) had described it as “a non-political publication dedicated to the protection of the natural and human resources that still exist in the Bay of Islands.”

They said it was their belief that democracy was invented to empower people to have a say in the running of their own affairs, and hoped to provide a forum for everyone who has the future of Russell, and other villages like Russell, at heart.

So not much has changed there – that’s what the RR and the RL are trying to do today.
But there have been changes (of course). In those days, the phone numbers were all three digits, and Heather and Linty Lindauer were oysterfarmers. Trisha Clifford and Nat Davey had just been born. The back shop was an IGA, and Craigs owned the Front Shop. Duncan Hawkins was our butcher. And Russell had just got its first ambulance, thanks to the efforts of the Lions Club, which was then very active in the community.

James Laidlaw was a notable cartoonist living right here in Russell (see his first cartoon in the RR – courtesy Russell Review).

Frank Miller represented the Russell Riding on the Bay of Islands Community Council – so in those days Council staff and elected members knew that York St was Russell (and Yorke St was somewhere else). Frank commented that he bent over backwards to help ratepayers and residents but had to ‘work within the confines of many and varied statutes’.

So that hasn’t changed!

Another thing that hasn’t changed has been the high standard of penmanship and artwork that makes up the Russell Review.

“Technology has changed, sure,” said my passenger, “but Russell is one of those special places where you always seem to have more than the average number of talented people – THAT hasn’t changed.”

We do indeed have a taonga. The current issue of the Russell Review, still with some copies on sale (at the Russell Bookshop and other devoted outlets such as the Hardware), covers those topics in detail – focusing on the history and the environment and the creative, skilled artisans that live here.

The 2006 issue celebrates Catrina Sutter’s work, the work of two jewellers and the years of wearable arts in this community. It interviews special people such as Beryl Boerop and Joy Comley and some of Russell’s families such as the Rishworths and the Daveys. No Russell Review would be complete without upskilling our history, and aspects of the French connection and Fitzroy’s contribution are explored.

Local projects such as the funds raised for tsunami relief, the Environmental Expo and the Okiato-Russell Walkway are also covered. You can get a good look at what Russellites are like from reading the RR – and it’s great value for $10.

Here’s a bonus! Averil (at the Russell Bookshop) will also let you order it over the internet or phone! That friendly service epitomises the friendliness of this community.

Which reminds me, when I was in her shop the other day, there was a man with a screaming, bellowing baby in a backpack. Well, the man kept repeating softly, “Don’t get excited, Matthew; don’t scream, Matthew. Don’t yell, Matthew. Keep calm, Matthew.”

Averil, with her wonderful smile, said, “You certainly are to be commended for trying to soothe Matthew.”

The man looked at Averil and grinned back. “Madam, my baby’s name is Angeline,” he said. “It is I, who is Matthew!”

Taxi Talk 1 – as in the Russell Lights 9/6

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

It’s really interesting driving a taxi. Well, it’s not a taxi, really. It’s a shuttle.

What’s the difference?

Don’t ask me… in all the paperwork, exams and other rigmarole that one goes through to run a taxi service, nowhere did I find a definition for a taxi and shuttle!

It was explained to me, however, that a shuttle has a prescribed list of fares to and from specific destinations, and there is no requirement for a sign or a meter. And, by law, it’s necessary to carry a list of the fares on the front of the shuttle, and signage on the doors.

Some passengers are horrified by the prices, comparing them to Auckland prices.

I was called out one night to the wharf, to take two people to Okiato. When they heard the fare, they refused. They told me how much the cab fare was from Paihia to Opua, where they had left their craft, and decided they’d go back the way they came – by passenger ferry to Paihia, and then by cab to Opua.

Of course when you add it all up, it would have been quicker and cheaper to ride with me, but they didn’t understand.

Visitors to Russell often complain about the prices here.

A backpacker moaned about the high cost of using the internet downtown, comparing the prices to Auckland prices. Yes, but… Auckland internet cafes are huge, 50 to 100 computers, and their patronage isn’t seasonal. There are sometimes queues at Enterprise Russell in the summer, but you could get through with one or two computers midwinter.

Tourists don’t realise how hard it is to stay alive during the winter months, so you can still be in business the following summer. In fact, one fare raved on and on about next time they came back they’d fill every crevice in their suitcase with books, office supplies and pharmaceuticals, so they didn’t have to buy them here.

I tried to explain what a valuable service our chemist and our bookshop provided. And if they did that, they were doing these local retailers a disservice. Can you imagine life in Russell without the pharmacy, or if Averil wasn’t here to brighten our days?

Some people just don’t understand. Perhaps rather than telling us how to fix things, they should think about the consequences of their actions.

One of the best bits of advice I was ever given, when I bought a home, was not to change anything for a year, when I’d lived in it in all seasons. I’m so glad I took that advice – by the time twelve months was up, I’d changed my original plans quite dramatically. I understood what it was like living in the place throughout the year, got to know the views and the wind and the rain that came at different times of the year. I’d learned where the impact from neighbourhood noise and traffic would come from at different times.

Over the years I’ve seen other people fall into this trap. People come to Russell, fall in love with the place, its history, the green spaces, the ‘quaintness’. Then they go about changing it, before they really understand what makes Russell special.

It’s little things like a babbling brook that gets put into an underground pipe. The birds that used to come there for water now go elsewhere. It’s not the same any more. Yes, these may be little things, but they all add up to uncontrolled change. We need to think about change and how we can make it less intrusive, before we put our plan into action.

My little shuttle service may not be historic, but I try to make it a pleasant experience, for locals and visitors alike.

Which reminds me of a funny story I heard this summer.

Dave was one of the policemen who assisted Colwyn this summer, and he pulled over a car which was being driven without a rear light.

Turned out the driver was a tourist. When he was told about the missing rear light, he leapt out the door, ran to the back of the vehicle and groaned. His wife also jumped out and came back, berating her partner.

Dave quickly explained, the offence wasn’t that serious.

“Isn’t it?” said the driver’s wife. “Where’s the caravan gone, then?”