Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War, by Mike Nichols (2007)

I had a quick trip down south over the weekend, out to Bluff in time to see the one place that sells meals close, so back up to Invercargill I went. There, I faffed around so much that by the time it was time to eat, only McDonalds was open. No Bluff oysters for me. Coming home Saturday, I wandered around a bit, out to Riverton (nice Havana coffee at Mrs Clarks cafe and a great banana cake with more coffee at the Beach House) and then up via Otautau to Winton. Not really wanting to stay, I pressed on, thinking that if there was something showing at the St James in Gore, I'd stop.

So, that's how I got to see Charlie Wilson's War: it was due to start in 15 minutes. I'd often thought about seeing a movie at St James, it is one of those old school movie theatres, still has the old vinyl seats, and this was my chance. I'd only been sitting a few minutes when I remembered that I'd decided I didn't want to see Charlie Wilson's War. The trailers did not augur well, either; something truly dire called The Ironman and then two more so bad, I've blanked them.

But, I actually quite enjoyed this movie. Old Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is a bit of an old style politician - lots of girls, drugs, booze. He's spent several terms in office basically doing nothing, but piling up favours by being agreeable. But he gets his nose rubbed in what the Russians are doing in Afghanistan: seeing the plight of the refugees stirs him to action, which I thought was quite an interesting commentary on what makes politicians tick. He gets himself oaired up with a rebel CIA agent, Gust Avrakatos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and they go to work, enlarging the CIA budget for covert ops in Afghanistan. It wasn't clear how long it took, but over the course of the movie, they went from a $5 million budget (which, when you're facing the latest Russian attack helicopters, is nothing) to a staggering $1 billion. Along the way, for reasons of secrecy, so no-one would know of US involvement, they had to put together a mad deal involving Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan! Quite what the point of the secrecy was, I have no idea, because as soon as the plan looked feasible, the chairman of the US committee funding things is in the refugee camps, making speeches.;

But, in the current climate, it was kind of cool to see a movie showing Muslims jubilant at their ability to shoot down the Russian helicopters. And there is a sting in the tail with direct relevance to Iraq: America was great about going in guns blazing to sort things out in Afghanistan, but that then left things in a hell of a mess, with no willingness to clean it up. After getting up to the billion dollar commitment to arms, Wilson can't get a million to rebuild a single school.

Of course, with actors like Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks playing the lead, this is a movie aimed at a popular audience, so it was never going to get bogged down in seriousness. At one point, they even went for farce: Wilson is trying to get a serious briefing from Gust, but his antics in a hot tub with some strippers are about to hit the press. So,Gust gets to brief him for half a minute, then has to leave so Wilson can talk to the "jailbait" (his pet name for his secretaries), then they have to leave and so on. The farce ends when Gust reveals he knows the story anyway - not by listening in, but because he'd bugged a bottle of Scotch he gave Wilson.

I don't think I've ever seen Amy Adams in anything: she played Wilson's administrative assistant, went with him on his various trips (but there was never anything untoward between them). I found her to be very impressive - am looking forward to seeing her play Julia Powell.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Amnesia Moon, by Jonathan Lethem (1995)

Lethem is known to me as writing fine novels of New York life, such as Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude, which I plan to read one day. It came as something of a surprise to see this book sitting on the library shelf, as the blurb refers to it as being a novel of the future and the cover makes it look like a bad horror movie (it actually has "A Road Movie" as a sub-title).

Something has happened to America (maybe the world, but it never gets a mention). No-one is quite sure what, or even when it happened, although many call it "the break", when "a weirdness came over the USA" so the nation was all broken up, localized, everyone living in someone's dream. Each district has become a Finite Subjective Reality, which is why no-one can really explain what happened: each place has its own FSR and this generates its own myth about what happened. (Not surprising, in that the novel is a group of different pieces Lethem wrote and was then inspired to join together.)

In Hatfork, Wyoming, they say it was bombs which created mutants out of the human race; in Los Angeles, they're under attack from aliens, while in San Francisco, well, that place was so weird to begin with that no-one noticed the appearance of antiGrav cycles and robot televangelists.

Chaos, or Everett, or Moon, or Everett Moon (it all depends where he is) lives in the old cinema in Hatfork, where he seems to live a slothful life, his only activity being to get booze and act as go-between for the local bigwig, Kellogg, and his town. He's lived her for what seems to be a decade, but has no idea what came before. He has these awful dreams, as does everyone in the district. Little does he know that he can generate his own dreams, dreams which have the power to re-shape society. Not really sure why Kellogg doesn't tell him earlier, but when he finally does, Chaos does a runner, along with a very hairy young girl, Melinda.

Their progress seems to be more a result of accident than design although getting to California does appear to have been an objective. They get there via a couple of interesting places - one which is covered in a thick green fog, where the populace has no desire to see what might exist elsewhere. Then there is the Strip, where every shop glares with (solar powered) neon but there's virtually no-one to see it. The one business still functioning is McDonalds: such is the rigour of their rule book and the simplicity of the staff running it, that all they know is how to run their McDonalds. They don't seem to notice they only have one customer - a hippy who rescues Chaos and Melinda.

Then there's Vacaville, where all the residents have to move twice a week, leaving everything behind, and where the only shows on TV are gameshows featuring the local government officials. Here, people are citation mad, a notion Lethem has a lot of fun with. Everything seems to run on a calculus of luck - those who have poor luck get sent to "Bad Luck camp"; presumably, those with the best luck become "government stars". Its a mad sort of place, made worse when someone decides to distort everyone's appearance, as if they're in a funhouse. This gives great power to the government, as they retain the ideal body image: "everyone is in love with the Government".

But, ultimately, all these places are diversions: we get to the heart of the story when Chaos is cajoled into going to San Francisco, where he realises all of his pre-Break friends are. But there are those who want to use his power for their own ends; he can be used to dream a society as servient as that of Vacaville. Ilford Cole has some power to dream; he can change people from one thing to another (which leads to a brilliantly surreal chapter, told from the point of view of a gold clock) but it is not enough. Of course, for Chaos to ever actually do anything, whether it is for Ilford or to prevent his mad plans, he needs to first believe in his own power to conjure.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Rachel Papers, by Martin Amis (1973)

A friend has recently encountered Martin Amis's work; her raving has inspired me to go back and read some of his earlier work - I don't think I've read anything he's written since The Information. I had vague memories The Rachel Papers being about an obsession with a girl, one I had enjoyed meeting in his pages, but very little else so when I noticed this on display at the library, I picked it up. Amis certainly hits the ground running in establishing his character and tone:
My name is Charles Highway, though you wouldn't think it to look at me. It's such a rangy, well-travelled, big-cocked name and, to look at, I am none of these. I wear glasses for a start, have done since I was nine. And my medium-length, arseless waistless figure, corrugated ribcage and bandy legs gang up to dispel any hint of aplomb. (On no account, by the way, should this particular model be confused with the springy frames so popular among my contemporaries. They're quite different. I remember I used to have to fold the bands of my trousers almost double, and bulk out the seats with shirts intended for grown men. I dress more thoughtfully now, though, not so much with taste as with insight.) But I have got one of those fashionable reedy voices, the ones with habitual ironic twang, excellent for the promotion of oldster unease...
The main thing about me, however, is that I am nineteen years of age, and twenty tomorrow.
He's an odd wee fellow: he has documented everything about his life, with folders of material devoted to his various family members, and others devoted to particular themes, such as Conquests and Techniques: a Synthesis. And so, he has The Rachel Papers. The novel is a countdown, from 7 p.m. through to midnight - not that that was his time of birth, but it is a time chosen for "dramatic edge and thematic symmetry" (his mother's parturition was "prolix and generally rather inelegant") - in which he accounts for the past three months. This time has been occupied cramming for the Oxford entry exams, watching the relationship between his parents turn to shit, finding he has issues with his father, and
seeing his sister and brother-in-law (with whom he is living) go through a terrible time.

Naturally, a girl called Rachel tends to dominate. Being a teenager on the brink of wandering "into that noisome Brobdingnagian world the child sees as adulthood", sex is a major pre-occupation.

But Amis deals with it in an entirely different fashion from anything I've read; sex is often something over which teenagers angst because, well, they're not getting much or over which they brag. For Charles, it is something to be endured; as a teenager, one has an obligation to oneself to experience sex. As an adult, that obligation shifts, and is owed to the partner. Here is what seems to be his first time:
Anyway: Gloria. I imagine that the older man thinks it's going to be hell and is often agreeably surprised to find its not quite, not quite as bad as he had excellent reasons to fear. With the youngster the very reverse is true. Gloria and I undressed like lifeguards, and without actually separating. I always forget the full drama of the change that came over her the minute she was underway. In normal circumstances, with her embarrassment in any kind of pre-coital conversation, her unassumingly pretty face, the stiff-limbed movements: you were a plaything of her unease. Once underway, though, Gloria would have been able to detect few noteworthy points of contrast between sexual arousal and rabies.
For him, the enjoyment is very shortlived (he even claims to fake it once), but then he has to spend hours seeing to Gloria's continued enjoyment. And yet, when he meets Rachel, he is convinced all will be different. His meeting with her is pretty cringeworthy - they're at a party, he notices her standing alone "like myself, excluded rather than merely detached from the festivities" which convinces him she must have soul. So, after watching her, thinking shes "fairly formidable, a bit out of my league really", deciding she's half Jewish on no evidence at all, he moves in for the pull:
'Hhullo,' as if someone had just informed me that this greeting had an initial h and I was trying it out...
'I notice you haven't got a drink.' This was an excellent line because there usually followed: 'Are you giving this party?'
After a bit of pretentious nonsense from him:
'Look, I ought to help clear up,' said Rachel.
'Nonsense,' I said. 'Don't do that. Leave it to whoever was frivolous and conceited enough to give the party.'..
'No, I really will clear up.'
'What the devil for?' I asked.
'Because its my party.'
Weeks later, he's wanting to call her, wondering if she'll remember - with such a crashing introduction, she's hardly likely to forget him! He is sort of sweet, however, poring over his notes, trying to get prepared to talk to her. Then, when he finally has a date, he's equally endearing in the time he takes to prepare for her - pity that to her, it is just a cup of tea, to which she brings her friends (and boyfriend). Ouch! But somehow they start dating, Charles always playing a role; for example, he's taking her to see the Blake exhibition at the Tate. Rather than just see what's to be seen, he goes along the day before the date "decked out like a walking stationery department, also with a pocket edition of the poet's work and the well thumbed Thames and Hudson", so that he has some views and speeches to deliver.

This compulsive need to be organised carries on into their love-making; he keeps his room in a state of "red alert", every move he makes is as if he is playing chess, adopted to trigger a counter-move on her part. And so we have a scene like this:
With my left hand I was making swirling motions on Rachel's stomach, outside her jersey, not touching her breasts but coming mischievously near them sometimes. Thus I maintained a tripartite sexual application in contrapuntal patterns.
What is lacking is any sense of joy on his part, any desire for her, or any feeling of exploration. Instead, it is a mechanical formulaic sort of love-making; the tragedy of which is that it works. I think the only genuine moment between them was the result of an accident; they're going to the movies, but "owing to the mendacity of the girl who answered the telephone" at the cinema, instead of the intended French New Wave feature, they find themselves at something called Nudist Eden. This is a documentary set in a nudist camp:
The camera patrolled the grounds, examined, the facilities. Grubby colour, low-budget incompetence; it had a nightmare quality: you can't tell whether you're going mad or whether everyone else is going mad: you stare around the cinema to check your bearings; you expect the audience to make some gesture of spontaneous protest. What was more, the producers could afford only middle-aged actors and actresses.
The thing sounds awful, and quite dodgy as well; Charles is quite worried that Rachel, with her posh tastes, will hate it, but after a scene in which the old nudists are trampolining vigourously for several minutes, she's all "I love this sort of thing". Only then does Charles truly look at her and think "goodness, I really do like her. A novel turn in our relationship. What had it been up to [now]? It didn't seem like affection, far less desire: rather a kind of gruelling, nine-to-five inevitability."

There is a period of a couple of weeks which are hardly recorded in his notes: during these two weeks, Rachel has moved in with him while her mother is away. While they do seem to have connected at times and had lots of sex (nine times one night), the close proximity is also showing Charles there is only one thing to do. Of course, being the kind of fellow he is, he can't sit Rachel down and talk things through; instead, he sends her a letter. I was left wondering what will happen to him; is he going to realise in the future that the Rachel he chased after, won and then rejected was simply a construct in his mind. What if he had allowed for more spontaneity and not only looked more often at who she was but also at what he really wanted?


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Goodbye, Wee Friend

Today, I said goodbye to a companion of one year's standing. Although I'd not given him a name that had stuck (I tried out Klauss but it didn't last long), I was quite fond of himHe came off trademe in a hurry, because the Council had decided my previous vehicle was cluttering up the neighbourhood and not worth anything, so straight to the dump for Webster. By way of test drive, I brought this one back from Christchurch and then for a quick jaunt up the west coast. He never let me down, not until I tried to get a warrant. Even then, I was tempted to get the work done (around $800 - $1000) but he only cost me $650 and so commonsense prevailed. I put him back on trademe on Sunday; by the time I came into work Monday, my asking price had been met. Today, the cash was brought to me and, I assume, he was taken away from his park.

I'll miss him, partly because very few people drive Opel Kadett GSI's in this part of the world, and partly because he had quite a lot of pep. More than his replacement, a Subaru, which frightens me with its enigmatic messages to "check engine". But my new car has one thing going for it; the previous owner had had the foresight to instal a very widebore exhaust pipe. So, I might not wear a backwards baseball cap and sit so low that my forehead is level with the dash, but I at least sound like a boy racer.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No Country For Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy (book) and Coen Brothers (movie)

It is impossible to say what I want to say about this movie without disclosing at least one important detail of the plot. I've now read three of McCormack's works (No Country..., Blood Meridian and The Road) and they all share the same characteristic; their central figure, hero if you like (although as heroes they have their flaws) dies. In Blood Meridian it is the kid, the father in The Road and now Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin).

He's a pretty ordinary sort of fellow; you can't get much more blue collar than a welder. He lives in a trailer park in Texas with his wife, Carla Jean (Kelly McDonald). As he says, towards the end of his story
Three weeks ago I was a law abiding citizen. Workin a nine to five job. Eight to four, anyways. Things happen to you they happen. They don't ask first. They don't require your permission,
Out hunting one day, he comes across a bloodbath in the desert; several dead bodies, a bunch of drugs and, that most American of conveyance, some trucks. He's smart, he can work out there must have been a fellow who got away
with the money. He's brave, maybe a little foolhardy, because he decides he'll take the money. He must know the kind of people who'll have an interest in it but he wants the good life. the risks must seem worth it. I love the way he tells Carla Jean about what he's done. He walks into the house with a satchel of money, around $2 million:
She looked at him over the back of the sofa and looked at the television again. What have you got in that satchel?
It's full of money.
Yeah. That'll be the day.
And that's it; he doesn't press the point, and she doesn't believe him, just asks him to get her some cigarettes. Of course, a point does arise where she's forced to believe him. I like their relationship; there's a kind of dry humour to it and she actually has a rather touching faith in him. It doesn't come out in the movie very well but Llewellyn really loves his wife. For a start, of course, he takes the money because of her. But there's a telling episode in the book, where he picks up a hitch-hiker, a young woman; she's pretty persistent in her offers to him. They've had a few drinks and she wants him to change his mind about saying no:
All right. You aint changed your mind have you?
About what?
You know about what.
I don't change my mind. I like to get it right the first time...
I'll tell you somethin I heard in a movie one time, she said.
He stopped and turned. What's that?
There's a lot of good salesmen around and you might buy something yet.
Well darlin you're just a little late. Cause I done bought. And I think I'll stick with what I got.
This episode was so truncated in the movie, I really don't know what I'd have made of it without having read the book.

Now, the money is owned by some pretty bad guys, and there are some cops after him too, but they're not Llewellyn's major threat. That would be Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem),
who is given an extra level of menace by his choice of weaponry. The book leaves a little to the imagination, but there's a scene in a hotel where his equipment can be heard coming down the corridor. He has this trademark way of blowing out the locks in doors, and using the same device to punch a hole in people's foreheads. When he's not using that, he delights in having rifles with ostentatious silencers.

He's an implacable threat but, in his own special way, a man of his word. He promises Llewellyn that if he doesn't hand over the money, he'll kill Carla Jean. Llewellyn's life is already forfeit at this point, but he can still save her. When he doesn't, well, then Chigurh has to keep his promise.

McCarthy presents this in his characteristic flat style, where something quite dramatic can happen, such as a killing, but be told as a simple continuation of the mundane. The one variation is that he has an alternate narrator, who turns out to be Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), the old sheriff, in a state of despair about the state of the world, one where a couple would rent out rooms to old people and then kill them but "they'd torture them first, I don't know why. Maybe their television was broke.":
Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction and I don't want to confront him. I know he's real. I have seen his work. I walked in front of those eyes once. I won't do it again. I won't push my chips up and go forward and meet him. It aint just bein older. I wish that it was. I can't say that it's even what you're willin to do. Because I always knew that you had to be willin to die to even do this job. That was always true. Not to sound glorious about it or nothing but you do. If you aint they'll know it. They'll see it in a heartbeat. I think it is more like what you are willin to become. And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard. And I won't do that. I think now that maybe I never would.
This is how the novel starts! Despite the loss of several of his men, and his sympathy towards the Mosses, the good sheriff never really gets involved.

The movie is pretty faithful to the novel, with some liberties taken towards the end of Llewellyn's life. One thing made clearer in the movie than the novel was that Chigurh seemed to have an odd fascination with older women, particularly those who were running accommodation establishments. When Chigurh was going about his daily life, if he encountered any resistance, he'd normally just kill whoever got in his way. If he's feeling kindly, he might flip a coin. But he went into the trailer park where the Mosses lived, and asks where Llewellyn works:
Sir I aint at liberty to give out no information about our residents.
Chigurh looked around at the little plywood office. He looked at the woman. Where does he work.
I said where does he work.
Did you not hear me? We cant give out no information.
A toilet flushed somewhere. A doorlatch clicked. Chigurh looked at the woman again. Then he went out and got in the Ramcharger and left.
I really liked this: she's fairly much a loser, to be her age, working in a shoddy little office and yet she stands up to him, almost parodying the snooty kind of refusal a five star hotel would give ; he just accepts it and mooches off. This happens all over again, at another hotel.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Delirious, a film by Tom DiCillo (2007)

I think this film was too angry for me truly enjoy it. Steve Buscemi did a fine job of portraying Les Galantine but, well, Les is a bit of a scuzzball. He's a washed up photographer, tired of following celebrities around, tired of being a paparazzo but lacking the energy, will and probably talent to do anything else. His big moment was back in the 1970's, when he took a photo of Elvis Costello with his hat off. He still talks of "the shot that's heard around the world" but he's not going to get it - the one photo we see him get is sold for $700, finds its way into some trashy magazine and completely offends his parents. His apartment is a disgrace, he obviously has no money to speak of and no prospects. Not really a lifestyle to be proud of.

And so he vents - the film opens with him swearing furiously because he is being denied access to the latest singing sensation, K'harma (Alison Lohman, who also did a fine job).
In an odd sort of moment, he takes a homeless fellow, Toby (Michael Pitt) under his wing - gives him a job (unpaid) as his assistant and a place to sleep, in a cupboard. In an equally unbelievable moment, Toby and K'harma see each other and it is love at first sight. Sure, he's pretty and all, but he's a homeless bum who claims to be an actor. A singer who is moving "ten million units" and launching her own fragrance (Instant K'harma) is going to take him back to her hotel, right?

And so we end up with a fairly conventional sort of rom-com, with the ups and downs one expects from a rom-com provided by Les's job as a paparazzi - he's invited to K'harma's birthday party, Elvis Costello is there
and the inevitable happens. I think the one departure from convention is that there's no prolonged "will they ever get it together" period; things happen pretty smartly. I think the most enjoyable part of the movie for me was towards the end, when Toby has found himself in the limelight thanks to being in some sort of truly atrocious "reality serial killer epic", and his manager and K'harma's manager are battling over who should have precedence on the red carpet at the awards ceremony. In front of all their fans and about a million cameras, Toby and K'harma entwined themselves in each other. Sweet.


Northland Trip - Stage Nine (Final)

I was in Opononi just two nights before the end of the year, the place was hotting up and I had no organised place to stay. I had to keep moving, as I still had ground to cover before New Year's eve, so moved on. First stop - Rawene, just a few kilometers up the road and far too soon to think about stopping. It is not a very big placebut literally on the water's edgemeaning the cafe can give a pretty good view of the inner HokiangaTo leave, I could go back, go east to Kaikohe (not a pleasant option) or go northYep - another ferry crossing, this time to Kohukohu. This place has quite a reputation as an artists' hangout, and when we were kids, the parents would once or twice stop for a drink in the pub, leaving us to our own devices. The place always seemed interesting but when I was there, mid-afternoon on the last Sunday of the year, it was very quiet. Two people in the pub (yet it had nowhere for me to stay) and a handful in the Waterline Cafe, and that was about the only sign of life.

I am pleased by the way these small communities have embraced cafe culture, and produced quite nice venues. I was a little surprised to walk in to this particular cafe and not only find a jazz band, but one I had seen before, somewhere, Queenstown I think. Their name has disappeared into the mist, but listening to them was a very pleasant way to spend some time.

But with no place to stay, I had to move on, heading south towards Whangarei, wondering how far I'd drive. As I was nearing Okaihau, it struck me that I could camp in the forest, up Forest Road. There were indeed people getting ready to stay the night but, well I had no food, no torch; it would be a long night unless I made a mad dash to Kerikeri for supplies. It seemed a bit silly to go back down to the bottom of the forest, as I remembered in my days as a boy scout (truly - I lasted all of three weeks) there was another camping area at forest headquarters. And thus I spent my last night on the road in the Puketi Forest Conservation Campsite.

No doubt I would have looked daft to onlookers; since there were mosquitoes by the million, I had to install a deck chair inside my tent, with the zipper closed tight and a torch dangling from a hook in the ceiling, so I could get some reading done.
The forest in this picture is the Puketi Forest; the farm land is the farm I spent my teens on. Here is our house and a couple of random shots of the farm, land which had been solid bush - blackberry, gorse, fern, rubbishy trees - when we took it over:
Heading south, I struck it lucky in Kawakawa. One fellow had obviously not spent a lot of time there or, indeed, in the north, as I could see him say to himself "holy f*ck" as he drove up the main street, and encountered a view something like thisThe train only runs a couple of times a day, so it was a bit of a fluke to see it - not that it is worth going on, as it simply runs from one end of town to the other. After that little excitement, it was time to head south, for a bit more quality library time, to find my motel and to hit the town for New Year's Eve. Not a good plan, as it happened; Whangarei was not exactly going off, so it was back to the motel with Chinese takeaways (a bit of an anti-climactic end to the year but at least they were very good Chinese takeaways).

New Year's Day was spent pottering around in the car, then on the 2nd, after a nice breakfast down at the town basin (where I was served by yet another familiar face from Dunedin), it was time to drop the car off (goodbye car)
and make the long bus journey back to Auckland.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Northland Trip - Stage Eight

Near the end now. After leaving Pouto, I spent a bit of time in Dargaville, which looks rather nice from this angleIt was more than a little odd to go into the museum and find my childhood doctor as an exhibit, looking better than he ever did!I liked these as wellA Saturday afternoon in Dargaville has little to offer, even the tea rooms were shut so after checking out the Boxing Day sale at a pretty much deserted Warehouse, and a farewell look at the Northern Wairoa River I went to Bayley's Beach. Now that I am a proper camper and all, I checked into the camping ground and had my tent up and beer in the communal fridge within a matter of minutes. Dinner was at the rather wonderful Funky Fish cafe which was just through the wall from my tent; some thoughtful person had even installed a gate. Something must have frizzed my brain, as I have no photos at all. So, take my word for it that I drove on up through the Waipoua Forest, via Trounsen Kauri Park and Donnelly's Crossing.

North of there, at Morrells Cafe in Waimamaku, I found the best lamington EVER!
It wasn't really like this one, except that it did have deep chocolate covering and the long cocounut shards. But it was huge, the sponge was as light as a Krispy Kreme donut while the chocolate was crunchy, providing a nice contrast. Surprisingly, when I bit into it, there was cream and jam in the middle - these things were completely indetectable from the outside. So good were these items that I drove back the next day for a second go.

Up the road, over a hill

and you have the rather fabulous Hokianga Harbour, with Omapere to the east a little of the entranceI would have loved to stay here
but it was sold out weeks ago. Instead, I found a nice old backpackers, the House of Harmony at Opononi, pigged out on fish and chips and all was well.