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Damian McKenzie: Hamilton’s greatest thing since the invention of things?

Chiefs livewire Damian McKenzie will start at fullback for the All Blacks in the first Bledisloe test. Self-confessed Wannabe Rugby Mum Angela Cuming takes a moment to appreciate the many talents of our (adopted) hometown hero.

 

First let me say that Damian is practically family. My Aunty Marion and Uncle Peter have a grandson who went to varsity with Damian and they are good mates and one time he brought Damian over to their house for dinner. I am insanely jealous about this because my Aunty Marion is an amazing cook and by Uncle Peter loves having a few beers and telling people everything that is currently wrong with the state of modern rugby and I feel if I were there Damian and I would have become firm friends and probably snuck out early to go to Shenanigans for a Wild Turkey and Coke.

 

He probably would have looked at me like this when he was suggesting we go for a beer:

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My Aunty Marion later reported that Damian was a very nice young man and very quiet and polite. This was a couple of years ago and I predicted then that he would be an All Black before too long. I based this prediction on a few things, most notably the fact he seemed to be playing very well for the Mighty Mooloo Men of the Waikato Rugby Union.

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Damian made his debut for the Chiefs in 2015 and was named in the All Blacks squad in 2016.

I for one am very happy about his sudden rise to rugby fame. I am what you called a Wannabe Rugby Mum, or WRB. I have three little kids and my dream was for at least one of my children to one day play rugby for New Zealand. Then I ended up with three boys and I had to re-think my ambitions but I figured the All Blacks were about as good as the Black Ferns so my dream was back on.

As an WRB I have a very special place in my heart for Damien. A lot of it has to do with his smile.  His wholesome, cheeky, yes-I-know-I-am-a-little-bit-cute-but I-don’t-have-time-for-romance-I-am-here-to-play-rugby-and-I-call-my-mum-every-Sunday smile.

I love that he’s not the biggest bloke on the field. That he’s probably had to work harder at training than a lot of his team mates, that he’s had (and still has) doubters questioning his ability to play at the top level.

My little boy Tommy is not yet two but already loves running around with a rugby ball. Tommy is an identical twin,born at 34 weeks. He was in NICU for a fortnight. If ever he decides he wants to be a professional rugby player I will tell him about Damian, about how he was never the biggest or strongest but he had the heart of a lion and when it comes to playing for the Chiefs or the All Blacks that’s what counts most.

Damien4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did I also mention Damian’s smile?

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Sometimes he switches up his smile and he does this:

Damien2

 

And then he does this:

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People say Damian was a surprise selection to start as fullback for the first Bledisloe game in Sydney but people who said that must never have watched him play rugby because he’s always been a standout on the field.

I asked Mr Angela, who when not letting our cats out at 5am or cleaning baby spew off the rug, is  Very Respected rugby writer Paul Cully.

He says Damian is ”brave, fast and has fancy footwork” and he wasn’t surprised at all to see him selected at fullback.

”McKenzie plays above his weight,” he said.

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”He is definitely the real thing.”

And finally, if ever there was any doubt about Damien’s skills as an All Black, let my Google image search results have the final word.

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And Damian, if you are ever over at Aunty Marion’s again please feel free to invite me along. It won’t be weird at all, promise.

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Auckland Dads for Hamilton Living // Episode 1

Listen, every movement starts with one person -right?

It’s no different with the latest craze to hit the Auckland Dad* Scene, where the hottest ticket on offer is the city of Hamilton, where the houses are more liveable, the commute is more palatable and the weekends are for doing Things Dads Like.

For years now, we’ve had a long-distance relationship over the internet with Auckland Dad, Max Johns, who has finally moved to Hamilton with his young family. Or rather -moved back to Hamilton, given this is where he is originally from, before going onto wreck havoc and mischief elsewhere. He’ll tell you all kinds of factors were considered in the decision to move to Hamilton, but we maintain that all it takes is one twitter account shaming you non-stop for living in an inferior city (Auckland) over a number of years.

Max isn’t alone in the decision to move here.  Hamilton’s suburbs are filled to the brim with de facto members of Auckland Dads for Hamilton Living (or, as we like to call it AD4HL), of which we’ve also made Max de facto club president without his permission. What we do have his permission to do, however, is give the internet an authentic account of what it’s like to be a young Auckland family that’s just moved to Hamilton in the last month or so.

Max has really kindly agreed to provide us with snippets of discovery, re-discovery and insight into what it’s like to move to Hamilton, through easy-to-digest photos and the occasional written observation.

So here goes, Episode 1 of Auckland Dads for Hamilton Living

Saturday 27 July  Chiefs v Crusaders Semi-Final at Waikato Stadium // Dad Level +100

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Tuesday 1 August Daily Commute with the Kiddo // Dad Level +578490

Max says: In Auckland, our 2-year-old had a 25 minute car ride to day care every day. And a 25-minute car ride home again. In Hamilton, the trip looks like this:

k_LL4LCf

 

 

Not a bad life so far! Stay tuned for more episodes from Auckland Dads for Hamilton Living. In the meantime, if you have questions or comments, feel free to pop it on the blog or talk to Max himself @mxdej.

Peace out

xoxo lovethetron

 

 

 

*also Mum Scene.

 

Peachgrove Rd Countdown: The happiest place on earth

 Angela Cuming reflects on her son’s happy place in Hamilton.

 

When my son Charlie, who is three, has been especially good or adorable I will treat him
by taking him anywhere in Hamilton that he wants to go. And every time he says he wants to go to the Peachgrove Road Countdown.

So we climb into the car and zip down Wairere Drive and his little face gets red in
excitement and he pulls against the car seat restraints and basically goes nuts until he sees the car park.

He has to be held back because he will try and run straight into the supermarket.
When the sliding doors open he starts to skip and sing loudly his Countdown song. ”I am
having so much fun, Charlie is having so much fun, I love the Countdown”.

I suppose it may seem odd to some that a little boy loves a supermarket so much, but for
those who know and love the Peachgrove Road Countdown this will really not be much of a surprise. It really is the best supermarket in Hamilton, probably the country.

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That Charlie loves it is a no-brainer. They have a basket of free fruit on offer for kids, and
they all make a beeline for it when they walk in.

You sweep around the corner out of the fruit and veg section and find yourself close to
aisle number three – the Golden Aisle – which is labelled ”stationery and confectionery”
but really should be renamed ”Hot Wheels cars and Kinder Surprises” because that’s
basically all that kids want from there. (It’s also handily near the wine section, but be
careful because I once got distracted there comparing the cost of Aussie v Kiwi merlots
and Charlie wandered off – although to be fair I quickly found him hovering near the Hot
Wheels).

But it’s not the convenience of having the chocolates and wine so close to each other that
really makes this supermarket great (although it’s a big part of it for me, to be honest). What Charlie, and I, love about the place is the people that work there.

I am sure somewhere out there on some motivational Pintrest board there is a saying that goes something like ”A supermarket is only as good as its staff is great” and if it exists then surely it was created with Peachgrove Road in mind.

We love everyone that works there. We love the security guards that Charlie thinks are police officers and who go along with the ruse because a little boy is looking at them with awe and wants to touch their police badge.

We love the brave souls who are out in the freezing rain rounding up trolleys and who always stop and help customers lift heavy bags into their cars, all with a smile and a genuine warmth. We (actually just I) love the younger staff members who still ask me for ID when I buy my cheap wine and still listen to all my lame jokes about how I am only buying the wine to cook with and one day I may put some in the food (it’s all in the delivery).

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There’s the lovely women who serve us on the checkouts who patiently wait for Charlie to hand over his Kinder Surprises to be scanned and then let him start eating them before they have been paid for. They are the women who ask me how my three boys are and remember I have twins at home and genuinely want to know if I am getting enough sleep / time away from them / wine and who scan the store Club card because I am always too muddled to remember to bring mine with me.

They are the staff who have not made me feel like a complete dick when I did a massive
shop and then realised I had left my wallet at home and made jokes to stop me from
bursting into tears when I dropped a cartoon of eggs on the flood out of sheer fatigue and
who tell me about their kids who are grown up and never come home from Christmas and remind me that my own kids are growing up fast and to not take anything for granted.

They laugh at all my lame jokes and don’t judge me for buying a tin of baked beans for my dinner while the cats get roast chicken and don’t judge when Charlie opens up a Hot Wheel while he’s still wandering the aisles and always seem to have cans of sugar-free V on sale.

So thank you, Peachgrove Road Countdown. You may just be a supermarket but to my
little boy you are his favourite place in Hamilton and this tired wine mum thinks you
represent everything that is good and great about this wonderful city we call home.

Angela Cuming is a Hamilton writer who has three boys aged three and under. She hasn’t slept in four years but has drunk a lot of wine and has done a lot of grocery shops. Follow her on Twitter @angelacuming.

Hamilton playgrounds: Power Rankings

Playgrounds are a little like bars. They all essentially perform the same function but their design and overall appeal can vary markedly.

Here in Hamilton we have just about as many playgrounds as we do bars (still no bar/playground combo, yet)  but are they all the same?

We sent out Hamilton mother-of-three Angela Cuming into the wilds to compile the definitive Tron Playground Power Rankings for the winter of 2017.   

 

# 1 Steele Park

Corner of Cooke and Grey streets, Hamilton East.

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The Steel Park playground only opened in June but it’s already top of the Power Rankings because it’s just so darn wonderful.

It’s got a real community feel and a good mix of equipment, including those annoyed in-ground trampolines that kids love and parents desperately try and avoid falling into.

What makes this one so great, however, is that unlike a lot of other playgrounds it is actually near shops and cafes and stuff, and that means it is near COFFEE.

Yay: Being next door to Duck Island Ice Cream.

Boo: Being next door to Duck Island Ice Cream (try waiting until your kids are on one of those trampolines and sneak away).

 

# 2 Claudelands Park

Boundary Road, Claudelands.

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This is not a very fashionable or trendy playground and that’s why I love it so much because you are always guaranteed a good mix of parents who don’t want to parent that day and are happy sitting on one of the benches and letting their kids go nuts running around.

It’s a good place for a bit of hands-off parenting because it’s basically in the middle of a big field and your kids can’t run off anywhere or get up to mischief.

It’s actually three-playgrounds-in-one, with separate areas and equipment for babies and toddlers, primary school aged kids and bigger kids (and grown ups). There’s a flying fox and undercover tables and benches if you fancy bringing a picnic lunch, and it’s handily located right next to Jubilee Park if you want to combine a walk through some stunning native bush while you are there.

Yay: There’s a flying fox and you can watch grown men and women relive their childhood in varying degrees of success.

Boo: The genius who designed it decided to landscape the garden beds with millions of tiny little gravelly rocks. Expect at least one of your children to eat some of it.

 

 

#3 Potter Children’s Garden, Parana Park

Memorial Drive, Hamilton East.

ParanaPark

Small but perfectly formed, this park is like a Victorian fairy tale come to life, with bird aviaries, giant statues and sculptures for children to play with, gorgeous gardens and a front row seat of the Waikato River. There’s not a lot of traditional playground fare like swings and slides, but trust me you kids won’t mind.

Yay : The fountains and shallow ponds your kids can play in.

Boo: The fountains and shallow ponds the ducks like to play (and toilet) in.

 

#4 Hamilton Gardens

Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton.

HamGardensPlayground

If I could have designed a playground when I was seven years old this would have been it. It’s whimsical and wonderful with a giant stage, caterpillar statues, decorative bird houses and a wonderful giant worm to slide down.

There’s also an amazing tree house that only big kids can climb up into, giving parents a much-needed break from bored teens asking to be dropped off at McDonald’s while the little kids play.

Yay: You can bribe kids into leaving early by promising them an ice cream from the nearby Hamilton Gardens cafe (also sells coffee).

Boo: It is smack bang next to a car park so you have to be on red alert for wandering toddlers.

 

#5 Minogue Park

Tui Avenue, Forest Lake, Hamilton.

MinouguePark

First up, do not rely on your GPS to find this park because you will quickly enter Dante’s little know seventh circle of Hell: a tired and bored toddler in the back seat repeatedly asking where mummy is driving to.

But once you do find it this playground is pretty special, with a  mix of old school stuff like roundabouts and swings and cool new stuff like those great/annoying mini trampolines. There is also lots and lots of sand, plus this great big wooden structure that funnels water along a series of channels. It’s got a bike track that runs around the perimeter of the playground so a good option for older kids.

Yay: Because it’s a bit out of the way it doesn’t get as crowded as other playgrounds.

Boo: The bike track means you are constantly freaking out that a kid on a BMX is going to knock your toddler over.

 

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#lovethetron Flash Fiction Challenge

Following the success of the First Ever #lovethetron Flash Fiction competition a few weeks ago, and back by popular demand, it’s the Second Ever #lovethetron Flash Fiction competition! 


The Rules:

Each time, we will give you a piece of Hamilton inspiration on the blog. It may be a picture, a character, a phrase or something else Hamilton. After the post has been published, you will have exactly 24hrs in which to send in 140-character stories to us via Twitter.

Every story must be in response to the #Flashfiction tweet that is sent out by @lovethetron. If we don’t see it, we can’t promote or include it.

Each story must contain at least one character, setting somewhere in Hamilton (doesn’t have to be real) and an action. Each story can be no longer than 140 characters. Brownie points if good defeats evil or people live happily ever after or we see the downfall of Auckland.

You can enter as many times as you like. After 24 hours, we will select the top 4 stories for people to vote on.

Ok, ready?

Your #lovethetron Flash Fiction Challenge

Deadline for entries: 1pm, 22 June 2017

Inspiration:

Your inspiration is this Hamilton image from @JMiddleton_imgs 

Voting open for the #lovethetron Flash Fiction competition 

The first ever  #lovethetron Flash Fiction competition has now closed.

Over the last 24 hours we were happily flooded with entries that ranged from gory bloodbaths involving the Mayor and his ‘Red Baron’ through to fantastical reimaginings of commuter transport.

As per the rules, and with great difficulty,  we’ve picked our top four stories for you to vote on via Twitter.

So here goes…

The inspiration for this #Flashfiction challenge was the picture below by @durningalison

The Top Four Stories

A. The chopper caused a chorus from the kindy kids. All except one, who watched it land beside the hospital with quiet eyes and vivid memories. -@ALJwrites

B. ‘Why must you go?!’ the child cried. ‘I’m wearing the wrong outfit,’ she said sadly. All the women understood -she hadn’t gotten the memo. -@chamfy

C. After surveying the land of Caigerdom, Squire Brian & his team gathered to design a new city. The King sent Red Baron to put a halt to it. -@NZVic 

D. Jealous of the quality of our music, an Auckland Overground Push was launched against Hamilton Underground Press. -@HtownWiki

Get voting! Link here.

xoxo lovethetron 

An Open Letter to Jack Tame from the City of Hamilton 

Dear Jack Tame,

It is our understanding that you will be gracing our fair city with your presence on Friday 9th June. 

It was supposed to be a secret, but people sometimes tell us things *shrug*/*wink*.

Listen, Hamilton knows how it feels to be you. We see you every morning sitting next to Hillary Barry, hoping for some of that reflected Hillary Barry glory and we know you’re thinking “I know I’m cuter than her and I definitely have better hair so why doesn’t New Zealand notice me?!’

It’s a little like how we feel sitting next door to Auckland day after day, hoping someone will notice us. We may be young but we’re pretty great too, just like you. So, we definitely feel you, Jack Tame. You’re the Hamilton to Hillary’s Auckland. Except Hillary didn’t cause a housing crisis. Or a transport crisis. To be honest, she’s quite lovely. But you see where we’re going with this.

Jack Tame: the Hamilton to Hillary Barry’s Auckland

We think we can help you, Jack Tame. Or we can help each other, rather. We think your little trip to Hamilton is your chance to become really famous. More famous than Hillary. Think about it -Hamilton has 190,000 people and you’ll be here without Hillary* to be the big star and steal your thunder.

That’s a potential 190, 000 new people to join the Jack Tame Fanclub. You know we’re making sense.

Now we know it’s not possible for you to meet them all in one day. God knows the candidates in last year’s local body elections tried. But this is where we think we can help. You see, Hamilton has its own set of celebrities that are more world-famous-in-Hamilton than Hillary Barry is. You get them on side, you get Hamilton onside.

You’ve got to listen close though, and follow our instructions to a tee.

This top-secret high-profile event you’ll be at tomorrow (the one Steve Braunias says we can’t talk about) -some of Hamilton’s most famous celebrities will be there. They go by the name of the #HamiltonMafia and your challenge is to get in with them.

How do you get in with them? Selfies, obviously.

You need to go up to each of the people named below and say the following line:

“Hi I’m Jack Tame and I’m a huge fan. Can I have a selfie with you please”

After which you must proceed to post the selfie on Twitter with the hashtag #lovethetron. 

The Hamilton celebrities you need to find are:

  • @BrianSquair
  • @Angela Cuming
  • @hornykitten
  • @cateprestidge
  • @JessMolina
  • @webtaniwha
  • @nzvic
  • @chamfy
  • @iain_white
  • @WGDurning
  • @garyfarrow
  • @Ceriphinz
  • @dynamicmediaNZL

We promise a selfie with them is what it takes to get you to the next level, Jack Tame.

Don’t believe us? Fair enough. We know that the reality is that you might not want to be a bigger star than Hillary Barry. It’s nice to be the smaller fish. But still, it’d be great if you could help a brother out and show Auckland/the internet that you #lovethetron. We Hamiltons should stick together, after all.

xoxo lovethetron 

*we don’t actually know if Hillary is on the guest list.