It is extremely troubling when you feel that April Fool’s is no longer relevant, as things that happen on a daily basis make the average April Fool’s joke look fairly bland. The biggest April Fool’s joke of course was Siouxsie Wiles winning New Zealander of the Year. It’s a bit like Dancing with the Stars – the programme was discontinued because we ran out of celebrities and started pulling out ‘stars’ that no one had ever heard of. This award has gone the way of Nobel Peace Prizes and has become totally political; as someone said, this should be known, not as ‘New Zealander of the Year’, but as ‘Biggest Labour Supporter of the Year’. There. Fixed it for you.

But prior to that, the thing that made me feel as if, to quote the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey, I had ‘gone through the Looking Glass’, was the news that Prince Harry, also known as Harry Markle, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or better still, the Ginger Nut, has taken on an impressive role as a… Chief Impact Officer at BetterUp Inc, a San Fransisco based company that provides employee coaching and mental health assistance to those that need it. Clearly suffering from significant mental health issues himself, the wisdom of this appointment is at best questionable, but there is nothing like an HRH to boost a company profile.

But what is a Chief Impact Officer, and why exactly would Harry be a good person to offer mental health counselling? He has no training, no qualifications, no professional experience. Sure, he is married to a nutcase who has admitted to mental health problems herself, but being fragile and shallow hardly qualifies him for this role. The truth is that Harry is trading on his family connections, which seems particularly rich after the way he has treated his own family. The irony of this cannot be lost on everyone, and yet the company will be flooded with interest from people who want to connect with an HRH. The job title is a long one though. In the trendy world of Californian hyperspeak, his title should be reduced to something more palatable. How about CHIMPO. There. Sounds much more appropriate.

CHIMPO at work. Image credit The BFD

The world is full of examples of celebrities taking on jobs for which they are in no way qualified and things ending badly. We have just been reminded of this, as the ongoing Mainzeal saga has taken a new twist, meaning that the company directors, of which former PM Jenny Shipley was one, may have to fork out considerably more money to the creditors of the failed company, and their insurance will probably not cover it. No one in their right minds would have taken on former schoolteacher Shipley to run a construction company, but clearly, the board of Mainzeal at the time was not in its right mind. It might be a good look to have a former prime minister on your board, but that doesn’t mean she knew anything about company management or about construction. I hope that more money is awarded to creditors; after all, it is always the tradies who end up doing all the work and also paying the price of these people’s enormous and misguided mistakes.

Somehow, I can’t see Harry (sorry, HRH) being a CHIMPO for very long. Someone will be mean to him, or maybe he will actually be expected to work for a living, and we can’t have that.

Clearly, the Dowager Countess and I have a lot in common, because I read an article last week which really takes the cake – or, should I say, the cucumber sandwich. I am one of the last remaining people on earth that believes that local councils are there to provide services to ratepayers. Don’t ask me why I still think that, because it is clearly a very outdated view, but then I really was born last century. However, it seems that I am completely wrong. While Wellington City Council has clearly failed in its Let’s Get Wellington Moving campaign, it seems that a meeting between a couple of councillors and the transport minister, Michael Wood, has caused such a stir in the council that mayor Andy Foster is calling for an independent inquiry into council governance. While the mayor is trying to blame party politics, that particular line makes no sense when the transport minister, someone who could make a real difference to actually getting Wellington moving, is a Labour politician. Maybe Foster wishes it was not so; me too, but there it is, and independent inquiries into council governance are not going to get Wellington moving. As regional council chairman Daran Ponter pointed out, “leadership has to come from somewhere” on the issue and… well, clearly, it is not coming from the mayor any time soon. And I thought Justin Lester was bad…

But finally, I have saved the best – and the worst – until last. While still on the subject of councils being there to provide services to ratepayers, I came across this article last week, which mentions the fact that Hamilton City Council now has a newly-established role of “local play advocate”, in the form of Damien Puddle. And there was I, thinking that local councils employed engineers, building inspectors and town planners but now we have play advocates. Apparently, the whole idea is to turn Hamilton into a more active and fun-loving place, and the council has taken it upon itself to do it. Never mind about your water supply, getting to work on time or having your rubbish collected, Hamilton, it is all fun and games from now on. One of the outcomes is to reimagine Hamilton as an urban playground, with a connected network of play opportunities throughout the city.

How wonderful. Trouble is, most of the ratepayers are over eight years old, and many of them work for a living… or try to.

To prove his value to the city of Hamilton, Mr Puddle introduced himself to councillors by setting them a challenge. He asked them to build a duck out of pieces of Lego within a few minutes. Apparently, Mr Puddleduck had tried the same strategy with council staff, so everyone had the same opportunity to waste time and play with Lego.

This is where your rates are going, Hamiltonians.

The object of the exercise, in case you were wondering, was  “just the joy of playing and participating”.

Hey, that’s fine, guys. Just not at work. Do it on your own time. Right? Do it at home with your kids.

So, if you go to work for a living and try to do a reasonable job, you are probably becoming outdated. It is far more important to consult princes over mental health or play with Lego, for the joy of it. You too could become a ‘local play advocate’ or a CHIMPO. Obviously, you need no particular experience for either role, except possibly having played with Lego when you were young… before you were 8, anyway.

As for that looking glass… it gets closer by the day. Here I come, Dowager Countess.

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The World Has Gone Mad

Ex-pat from the north of England, living in NZ since the 1980s, I consider myself a Kiwi through and through, but sometimes, particularly at the moment with Brexit, I hear the call from home. I believe...