Some people say it is hard to shift nikaus. Other people say that’s all rubbish and they’re no problem. A lot have been tried and I’ve seen, and heard of, a good number that didn’t make it. But not all. In Mission Bay there are a couple at the intersection, beneath the clock, that I think were done by the council. They looked rocky for quite a few years and I for one wouldn’t have bet much on their survival. Also, I’m pretty sure they weren’t exactly molly-coddled before, during, or after the operation. But they’re okay now, so it’s not always bad news.

 

But there’s one I’m pretty sure hasn’t got much of a tenure on life. It’s at the top of College Hill, in Ponsonby, outside an office. It sits well in the space and has always been a bit of a potential icon, and it’s a pity that it has never gotten going properly, especially because just around the corner in Margaret St. are a good bunch of mature nikaus left over from the old houses that used to be there.

 

I was coming back on the ferry from Waiheke one time. There were quite a few passengers, though it was a cold and grey day. I was looking for a seat, near a window, but equidistant from other passengers, especially women on their own. Someone once said that the middle-aged bachelor’s sex life is made up largely of glances. I haven’t looked into why this is- probably at that age one likes the thrill of potential contact, but baulks at the investment of energy required to achieve it. (“Boo, hiss” from the feminists.) I couldn’t help catching the eye of one or two but our eyes met like similar poles of a magnet. Anyway up near the front of the boat was an almost empty “compartment” so to speak, with a woman in it who wasn’t into eye contact. Feeling a bit encouraged, I sat down near the window, only to be hemmed in almost immediately by three more women, dark-haired Yugoslavs: grandmother next to me, mother, and then the daughter with flashing eyes. But I was already booked, by the non-eye contact woman almost opposite.

 

Now we were underway, the little harbour slipping past the windows. Other people sit down around the cabin and the place becomes quite crowded. Out into the swell we go, and now I can see the wake we are creating. And this woman is looking straight ahead and not at me under any circumstances. It’s a bit hard to take. Look at this older guy not far away, would he want to talk? No, he’s looking blank too. No-one talks on public transport, I know, but I’m squirming a bit. The cabin walls have no pictures to look at, no-one is being easy to watch, even the waves out the window reject my interest. I can’t get up and leave- the Yugoslav ladies have me hemmed in.

 

I have nowhere to turn.

 

Okay, I have no choice, have to face it. Bending forward so the whole compartment is not included I speak to the non-eye-contact lady a question as to what might be her destination in town, deus volens? It turns out she’s happy to talk with old Duluoz me. Under this encouragement I say some daft things. At one point a child nearby cries out and this seems to call for comment. Forgotten what I said, but immediately the old Yugoslav lady comes charging into the conversation saying “children are a burden to women”. Well I can’t let a statement like that pass, and aver “they don’t have to be”, as the movies have taught me. “Do you have any children?” asks grandmother. “No” I admit. “Are you sure?” she says. What a cheeky, fat old Yugoslav lady! I have to laugh- still feel like laughing about it.

It turns out that the main lady I’m talking to is the one who sold the nikau to the landscaper for the College Hill place. And she said he didn’t prepare it in any way, but just dug it out and hauled it away. So its poor progress is not too surprising. I would say a wise person should take all possible precautions when shifting nikaus.

Brent Hubbard