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Scenes from "Lipstick 1" in Southland

Upton-on-line went in search of heartland New Zealand yesterday on board the National Party campaign bus in deepest Southland.

Ice creams were bought in Clinton. But, since it was pelting down, roughly 8 degrees, and there was scarcely any hokey in the hokey pokey, the Mainland utopia remained at large.

Between Clinton and Gore, Arthur Anae (National's Pacific Island MP) emerged as a crooner of some ability. But this answered no real questions.

Just as we were getting desperately sick of Dean Martin ad nauseam, Eric Roy found the bus's microphone and began a lengthy commentary on every woolshed and field-crop along the route. This was heartland New Zealand - wet, muddy and multiplying like triffids.

National's resident Southerner, Eric Roy, showed that personal politics thrives in the south when he chanced across a senior citizen in Balclutha. Didn't Mr Roy know so-and-so in Waimumu? But, of course, Mr Roy was good friends with everyone in Waimumu! Upton-on-line marvelled at the intimacy of provincial politics.

On to Gore and a visit to the site of the art gallery project prompted by Baltimore based collector and ex-New Zealander, James Money. Gore will shortly become an international centre of excellence in African primitive art as a result of his generosity. All of this is to be linked (subliminally of course) to Gore's role as a frontier distributor of illicit alcohol between 1902 and 1954.

Next stop was Edendale's celebrated cheese factory that is now processing a maximum of 3.7 million litres of milk a day - a meteoric rise from just 500,000 litres a day six years ago. The knowledge economy was pulsating from every tanker load as upton-on-line was informed that every Japanese television screen was impregnated with Edendale-sourced technical casseinates. Eric Roy sagely intoned: "better cows, better grass, better people". The bus was uplifted.

And on to Invercargill, where the Dutch community was celebrating a half century in Southland. Jaded by the rhetoric of treaty partnership and politically correct pronouncements about bi-culturalism, upton-on-line was deeply moved by a special gathering of Dutch settlers and their descendants. The purpose of the evening was to launch `Journeys of Hope' by Louise van Uden - an account of the emigration experiences of 130 Dutch settlers in the early 1950s. Children sang, mouth organs flexed and choirs trilled. Josie van Empel pulled off a Chopin Nocturne with exemplary skill. The Southlandish Dutch registered their cultural rootedness with flawless aplomb.

The Dutch have been the hardest-working, least complaining immigrants we've welcomed this century. Poised midway between British whingeing and Germanic obsessiveness, they are upton-on-line's top nation builders. And without their dependence on good coffee, we wouldn't even have begun to know how to ask for a latte.

Finally, dinner at Louis' - Invercargill's raw outpost of cafe society. The proprietors had to battle the last bastion of institutionalised socialism - the Invercargill Licensing Trust - to even establish themselves. Sensing an environment charged with social and cultural revolution, Prebble's Rebels found their way to the same establishment and were soon zeroing in on our table. Eric Roy and Ben Shipley proved more than a match for these experimental libertarians - good New Zealanders, fresh from management school at Otago Uni with only a whiff of Waco Texas about them. ACT candidates are a breath of fresh air after the earnest intonings of so many hopefuls.


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