Time for ordinary folk to vacuum up awards

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
In the wake of a Queen’s Birthday honours season that celebrates the achievements of the excellent  and the wealthy, it is time to consider the successes and failures of the little people, writes David Loughrey.

Queen's Birthday is a time to laud.

We laud long and hard each year on the first Monday of June, and we take the day off because lauding requires quite a lot of energy, and is surprisingly tiring.

As a community we take a cluster of people in our collective arms and raise them high above the seething crowd; we give them certificates and official titles and bestow upon them a whole day of boisterous, exuberant love.

They, in turn, silently squeal with delight, while on the surface acting modestly and deflecting the lavish flattery to others.

The recipients this year did fine acts for the community in spheres from kayaking to dermatology, from comedy to equestrian sport, from the cheese industry to wrestling, from quilting to bonsai, from agribusiness to the Presbyterian Church.

The awards are generally richly deserved by recipients who selflessly serve the greater good.

But in all the hubbub and ruckus that surrounds the big weekend in Dunedin, perhaps we should take care not to forget the small achievements of those  challenged by quite simple acts but still give them a go.

Some are unwanted and often much resented daily tasks, acts of such a necessity they are required not just once but time and time again, acts that simple souls are forced to do for as long as they are on this demandingly menial planet.

Then there are acts we take on with every confidence, only to discover they are far, far beyond our abilities and at which we fail terribly. Finally, there are acts we approach with a level of zeal and discover are at the very edge of our abilities, but by gritting our teeth and calling on the higher god of duty we deliver as best we can.

So here, unadorned, in their own words, are the stories of three simple, quiet, decent Dunedin people who tried reasonably hard at the tasks required of them, but were never given an award.

Take George*, who is responsible for vacuuming the carpets at his St Leonards home.

"I vacuum as needed, you know, the living area, rumpus room, office, my bedroom ...

"We’ve got a wood burner, as a result there’s all sorts of debris, ash, refined particulate, and at the same time living in a rural area you get all sorts of pollen, so I think the house needs a lot more vacuuming than it gets."

George uses a cordless, bagless, stick-style vacuum cleaner, rather than the more traditional models many use.

"I hate those things," he says.

Instead, his sits in a recharging dock and can be easily accessed to clean up any sort of dust or lint, with no need to find a plug or press the button that automatically rolls up the electrical cord at the end of play, but never does it very well.

"It’s changed the whole vacuuming paradigm."

However he still hates vacuuming.

"I’m drawing the lawnmower analogy.

"You start mowing a lawn, you do one bit, you see you’ve done, like, one eighth of the lawn,  you see instant results.

"With vacuuming, there might be slightly less particulate matter once you’re done, but it’s just not the same clean-lines-instant-results you get from lawn mowing."

Despite that, he keeps doing it.

"I don’t like dirt and mess, especially in the carpet.

"Also I’m a 26-year-old guy living with his mum and I’m not paying rent.

"It’s the least I can do, really."

Jono took on the task of wallpapering a room in his recently acquired Northeast Valley home, his motivation a sense of duty  he should do his best to improve the city’s housing stock.

Well, that was part of his motivation.

"I also wanted to rent the room."

The former owner of Jono’s home had left the wallpaper in the house.

"I felt pretty confident, it seemed really easy, just put the wallpaper in water and then put it on the wall.

"But the bits come off the side, it’s very sloppy, you have to cut it to length and make sure they’re all even.

"Just as soon as you’re on the third length the first will start bubbling, and the sides come off, and you have this scraper thing and you have to scrape it down ...

"I got it all up, but then just a few days later the sides had all wilted, they didn’t stick properly, and then the man who did my carpets ripped some of it.

"Then I ripped it all down and painted it.

"It turns out painting’s way easier."

For David, a simple shelving task at his Mornington home turned into something much harder than he thought.

"I bought five lengths of melamine shelving, and four brackets for each one.

"I realised pretty quickly there were four holes in each bracket for screws, two screws for the wall and two into the shelf,  and that I had 20 brackets all up, and 20 times four is 80, so to put up five shelves I would have to drill 80 holes.

"I wasn’t too happy about it."

But the worst was yet to come.

"The walls were made of Gib, and it was pretty old, and I had to drill a hole, insert a plastic toggle, and insert the screw into that.

"But sometimes the toggle didn’t take, and the screw would not hold, meaning a trip to the hardware store for bigger toggles.

"I was pretty ratty, mainly because it seemed like too much effort.

"It turns out buying pre-made shelves is much easier."

*Real names have been used in this article.

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