As you probably know, I’m off back to New Zealand in a month or so. When I say a month or so I mean I set off a month today. At the time of writing this, this time next month, I’ll hopefully be boarding my Singapore Airlines flight to New Zealand, by hopefully I mean I’m hoping the flight is on time. Obviously I would normally fly Air New Zealand but I wasn’t inclined to pay a full third of the ticket price extra for a flight on an aeroplane.
I understand from all I’ve heard about Singapore Airlines that there are worse ways to get about the world. I also get to ride on the giant Airbus so that will be an experience in itself.
I could have got a slightly cheaper airfare on an obscure Chinese airline but, well you know. Look at the statistics. I’m a fan of a good safety record in an international air carrier. It’s one of my funny little things, like being afraid of sharks. I have no desire to combine air travel and sharks.
I digress; there was a point to this post. It’s one of nostalgia and for the purposes of noting a passing into legend of a legend. This post is titled the extinction of the Falcon. It’s not about birds of prey.
I’m going home to a New Zealand I last spent any significant time in, in 1996. I imagine it is a very different place in some respects to the New Zealand I last left in 1996 and first left in 1991. I understand they have a thing called craft beer in New Zealand now. It sounds like it is brewed by the sort of men who drink real ale over here in England while sporting a beard and wearing a homespun jumper. They gather in groups in village inns and bore for England on the merits of one real ale over another. I don’t like real ale. You know what real ale tastes like? Like a cold beer that’s been left on the bar over night to get warm and flat. It’s disgusting. It tastes like the dregs of a flagon of Tui the day after a good party. I don’t like to drink it.
I’ll come back to the beer though as it’s part of the story, about the extinction of the Falcon.
Recently Ford Motor Company, or Ford, to the general public, announced they were going to cease production of the Falcon in Australia. If you are not from Australia or New Zealand that information would have escaped your attention completely or have had no impact on your consciousness at all.
If you are from New Zealand or Australia though, this is quite significant. If you are a Ford or a Holden person from NZ or Auz, this is life changing news.
You see, New Zealand is a modern civilised country full of educated, creative and clever people doing nice things among the magnificent scenery. They have all sorts of new cosmopolitan things going on there that I am looking forward to finding out all about.
When I left though, back in 1991 there were two national dividing lines that would never be crossed by the people each side of them.
In those days and before, when you were born in New Zealand, you were brought up in a household that was Ford or Holden, Lion or DB. Simple. You could be Ford and DB, or Ford and Lion, you could be Holden and Lion or Holden and DB, but if you were born Ford, you would not grow up to go Holden. Same with Lion or DB.
Let me explain. The big local car manufacturers in Australia are Ford and General Motors, the Aussie version, which is Holden. They assemble them in New Zealand out of parts shipped over from Australia I believe. But they are Aussie cars really. Their flagship cars are the big six cylinder models which most of New Zealand and Australia chose over the smaller cars they also make. They are called The Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore.
They are big powerful cars, one of them is a Ford and one is a Holden. They were a battle line in steel and rubber. If the Montague’s and Capulet’s lived in New Zealand and had cars? One family would have had a Ford and the other a Holden. And if you called one by another name, it really would not smell as sweet. It would be a Ford or a Holden. A Father would most likely be denied and a son refused if they decided they would go out and spend the family cash on the wrong car.
One of these two cars is coming to an end. One is not. Half of Australia in particular will have to walk as they certainly won’t be buying a Holden Commodore for their six cylinder transport. Will they buy a lesser Ford? I doubt it. It’s not a Falcon. What’s the point? There will be Australians gathering to mourn at the Factory in Geelong. The polar bears will be happier though as the big Falcon is not terribly carbon friendly or something like that which is probably what has killed it. The signs of the times have bought us to a place where the legendary Aussie Ford Falcon is going to become extinct very soon. I see some unrest in the pubs and bars when the Holden fans offer something less than sympathetic to the Ford People on the demise of their preferred method of moving about.
That’s how it was back in 1991 anyway. I believe other cars are available now.
R.I.P The Ford Falcon.
This brings me neatly on to beer. As I mentioned, apparently the Kiwis have lots of ‘craft beer’ to drink now? There are many micro-breweries and artisans creating a locally focussed refreshing beer for the good people of New Zealand to use to quench their thirst. They get very thirsty after a hard day explaining to tourists where the Hobbits are most likely to be found.
The big boys of Beer in New Zealand though are Dominion Breweries (DB) and Lion Nathan (Lion), which is now owned by the Japanese Beer maker Kirin. Lion sold out to the Aussies years ago. Dominion Breweries sold out to Asia Pacific Breweries who then sold to Heineken. I know!! But when I was young, the dividing line that wasn’t Ford or Holden was Lion or DB. If you were born into a DB house you would go thirsty rather than drink Lion and vice versa. They drink Lion in the big city and the rough parts of New Zealand. DB is the beer of the ‘heartland’.
Our home was a DB home. We lived near the Tui Brewery at Mangatainoka. Tui is like a local version of DB in the south central North Island. It’s available nationwide but I always thought of it as our local beer. It tasted like home. Stop it, you know what I mean.
Let me give you a couple of indicators of the strength of feeling about the old Lion/DB divide.
My brother was acting barman at a party once in Auckland, the bar was a bathtub full of ice, so he was really a bath man rather than a barman. The bath had numerous bottles of Lion and DB in among the ice as there were philistines as well as normal people attending the party. A bloke my brother didn’t know the pedigree of asked him for a beer. Brother enquired which one. The bloke snorted and replied ‘a real beer!’ Brother now is forced to choose a real beer for him from a bathtub in Auckland, which is the natural home of Lion. So he reaches for and hands the bloke a…. DB…..Imagine if he had chosen incorrectly? Well he wasn’t going to of course as DB is real beer and Lion is weasels piss. The bloke took his real beer and drank from it gratefully. No drama.
I lost a bet once in Auckland. The price of the bet was a slab of beer. As I said, Auckland is Lion territory so my work colleague wanted a slab of Lion Red as was his preference. I now have a huge quandary! I’ve got to go into a shop and pay money for a slab of what I think of as weasels piss. People seeing me buy it might think it’s for me! The shame would be unbearable. I had to honour my bet though. I took a sack in to the shop and made a big point of telling everyone I’d lost a bet and the beer was NOT for me.
I put it in the sack and hid it under some stuff in the boot of my car. I drove very carefully to my colleagues place so I didn’t crash and die. Imagine the fire brigade finding Lion beer in my car. I would spend eternity with people thinking I was a Lion drinker. No, not having that! Imagine if my friends and family had found out and I couldn’t explain? I’d have been buried in an unmarked grave, in Auckland.
They were challenging times when you were thirsty or needed a lift somewhere.
So, there you go, New Zealand is a young, dynamic and beautiful country now apparently largely without invisible dividing lines of cars and beer. I’m not sure I’ll be drinking that Craft stuff though. I’ll have to spend some time getting to know the beers again. I’ll think of it as research into what makes New Zealand beer tick. The important things I’ve missed out on while I’ve been away. When I have my beer in the evening I’ll tell myself I’m re-learning things about my country. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’ll probably drive an old Land Rover.