The year that was.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas – and if you’re anything like me you’re hoping to survive the frenetic last few shopping days and then settle down for a breather, some sun and an unnecessary amount of food.

This year has flown by and it’s that time when we start to reflect on what has been, and what is to come.

The year that was 2015. A wild whirl wind roller coaster. Sad, happy, frustrating and uplifting but above all else, memorable.

So here’s my take on the year that was: a mix of the public and personal highlights and talking points.

A change in New Zealand flag?

A hot topic this year with what appears to have minimal support and a lot of controversy. Is it an uneducated decision, waste of money, the history is too precious under the current flag… We have ourselves a contender and I for one am quite happy with it. Voter turnout was low but that has minimal reflection on what we are actually voting for.

Actually changing the flag, if we do, will cost a couple of million dollars and in the scheme of things- not something to cry over spilled milk for. We spend the money on public consultation so that you can exercise your democratic right.

Further, for those who want to argue turnout represents interest, that is the true beauty of democracy. All the Government can do is offer the chance. If you choose not to take part, that’s your free choice and as such you’ve just lost the right to complain don’t whinge about not participating.

I voted for the Blue and Black, the black is us, it’s a colour we fly high, our international sports teams are identified with it,  it’s got the stars and the fern, it’s perfect. I have never wanted change for change’s sake, I’ve wanted change because we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a statement about who we are and where we’re going.

Now we have the contender, the new flag on the block. Now we have a chance to really make a choice when the two go head to head in 2016 that’s when it really starts to count. That’s when we’re going to see people really get engaged, because it actually matters.

My great hope is we can keep it civil as the coverage gets greater. If you spend any time on Facebook and Twitter you get a lot of abuse for taking a stand. Intelligence is out the window and replaced with 140 characters or less. That’s the sort of debate we want to avoid. You want to retain our flag? Good on you, I respect that, and hopefully for those of us that want to change it, we have some decent arguments as well.

Think about it, don’t dismiss it with the superficiality some have. Don’t write it off as a vanity project or a waste of money. Give it the kudos it deserves. Come to any conclusion you want, but come to it having exercised the brain a bit. After all, even if you’ve been dragged into this reluctantly or even kicking and screaming, whinging won’t change it or make it go away.

It’s happening, and it’ll happen whether you’re part of it or not. So given that … why miss it?

All blacks on top of the world

The best World Cup final, after the finest tournament, won by the greatest team this year in October. The mornings were early but the passion and the heart was there with them every step of the way.

There are plenty of successful sporting sides. More than a few have established dynasties. Only the rarest both triumph repeatedly and do so with the sort of style and swagger that lights up future generations as well as their own. This All Blacks team are now at that sanctified level: drawn from a rich heritage unlike any other, taking their sport to heights that none before have touched.

It is not simply that with a world up final 34-17 win over Australia they have become the first team in history to retain the Webb Ellis trophy back-to-back and three times in a row. But in winning their World Cup for a third time, they have both a cluster of superstars who will still be cherished another 50 years on and a blend that no-one who has seen will ever forget.

The host country witnessed both. The opening try from Nehe Milner-Skudder was a talent that no other team could have conjured up: and a sight of what’s to come for the future of this team. Then there’s my main man Conrad Smith with his steps into space that only he had seen, Aaron Smith on his inside by instinct, and our humble talent of a captain Richie McCaw with his black-shirted magic.

This was a night for those in black to shine, just as it has been so often over the past six years and even when doubt started to knock on our doors, even if Steve Hansen, the coach who has masterminded it all, the last man onto the victory podium and hidden away behind all his players when the old gold pot was hoisted. He had us all in hysterics with his dry wit: Do you have more up your sleeve?, Hansen was asked. Hansen gave a typically dry response: “Just my arm.”

Thirty nine tries in just over six weeks and seven victories. 1,339 caps in the starting XV. Two World Cups in two attempts, after four long years of pressure, patience and skill. And in the international retirements of so many greats – Carter, McCaw, Nonu, Smith, Mealamu and Woodcock – there is sadness.

Instead, as the crowds dispersed and the night loomed for another four years, there could be only celebration – of a team like no other, of a group of players who have made excellence seem easy.

Fleetwood Mac

On  November 21 we donned our rain ponchos and braved the Auckland sky for a chance to witness one of the greatest bands to do what they do best.  I  listened to my Mum’s old advice and took an extra layer.

The concert  saw thousands of us Mac fans drenched in the beginnings of a storm, barreled by wind and generally, just a bit miserable. Some left and others complained. We didn’t wait for the storm to pass, instead we learned to dance in the rain.

If you’re at all familiar with the beautiful sound of Stevie Nicks  you’d be convinced the songstress played the storm to her own beat.

“I don’t care for sunny weather / I like the change of seasons better  / I love the feel of rain upon my face”

“Thunder only happens when it’s raining…When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know, you’ll know”.

And we did know because there aren’t many concerts you get the opportunity to witness in your life that can captivate you for over three hours straight.

Despite the fact that everyone was soaked through and freezing cold, we were still dancing to the sounds of Lindsey Buckingham’s rock voice and insane guitar skills, Christine McVie’s fingers moving over the keys and her rasping voice belting out the songs, Mick Fleetwood bashing away at the drums, John McVie on bass, and, of course, the songstress herself, Stevie, belting the classics right across New Zealand.

Television

What a year for it. The scramble to update schedules and stop audience leakage set in motion the most tumultuous year for television New Zealand has known.

It was 365 days of chaos: lengthy relationships were severed, huge franchises ground to a halt and whole genres once considered untouchable were abandoned by the side of the road. Redundancies, loyalties dying and money running thin- 2015 was destined for the year of big change.

It began and ended with TV3. Although what happened at the network this year looked like bad decision-making and often was, to be fair, it was also a result of the channel’s hand being forced by the rapidly changing audience behaviour of their demographic. Heck, we could barely keep up! Things started so brightly. TV3 sailed into the year bold and bright with the ever wanted reality TV, and lots of it. So we had X Factor on for what felt like every night of the week and it was great. Until it wasn’t.

The show fell apart very quickly. A singer convicted of a particularly brutal manslaughter was given a deeply sympathetic airing. That sin was soon forgotten when judges Willy Moon and Natalia Kills shocked the nation with a bizarre attack, and then we just stopped watching.

In large however their downfall happened to be down to a single catastrophic error of judgment that followed: the slow, excruciatingly painful execution of Campbell Live. The show had been rating indifferently over the past year, but perhaps it had something to do with the launch of the infamously controversial Paul Henry who couldn’t decide between late night or morning in what seemed to eat up the entire news department’s promotional budget.

But it happened, John Campbell was axed after 10 years on our screens. First came the tears, then the wrath. The whole channel bore the fury, and its ratings remain grim to this day.

It was an awful year for television current affairs: 60 Minutes, now showing on Prime, announced it will cease local reporting, 3D was buried and the introduction of internet based television like Netflix and Lightbox sent viewer ratings for Sky down the drain.

That leaves only TVNZ.  It looked to be flying high, keeping most of its schedule as it was and enjoying terrific numbers off the back of it or so we thought. Redundancies circled and came with no remorse. Not that it’s for sale yet.  But after the year we’ve just endured, who knows what 2016 will bring?

The importance of an upcoming holiday

A new job, a graduate, a blog, new friends, old friends, family, death, life and everything in between. A holiday is great to reflect on all these wonderful personal and public achievements. Rest is so important and I will be doing a lot of that. I hope everyone uses the next few weeks to recharge the batteries and take 2016 head on.

My quote of the year: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain”

 

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