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I’ve been arguing this question with friends: "Which is the greatest comedy duo to have graced the screen?" We discussed Princes of Daftness like Morecombe and Wise, The Two Ronnies, and Dud and Pete. Then just when it seemed we had an all-British final, up popped an American team — Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau — for their movie The Odd Couple.
Who would Uncle Norm choose?
Lucille Bowl, Riverton
I’d go for Harry and Meghan — or are royals a separate category, like puppets and muppets?
Lemmon and Matthau were off-screen buddies who wrote each other now-prized letters. Like this one from Lemmon, urging Matthau to put his savings into an eco-friendly farm project:
"A group of us are considering investing in a large cat ranch near Hermosillo, Mexico. It is our purpose to start rather small, with about 1million cats. Each cat averages about 12 kittens a year, skins can be sold for about 20c for the white ones, and up to 40 cents for the black ... A good cat man can skin about 50 cats a day," Lemmon advised.
Next door, the Lemmon consortium would develop an equally fine rat ranch, thus creating a virtuous dietary cycle: the cat farm cats would be fed rat farm rats, in turn nourished by used cats, fed by the next rats (et cetera).
"Let me know if you are interested," wrote Lemmon. "As you can imagine I am rather particular who I want to get into this."
Dear Uncle Norm,
I am flummoxed by the attitudes of some of our citizenry to the plight of Queenstown, now minus its tourism lifeblood.
These people say we should reduce tourism’s onslaught on our natural resources by getting rid of the riff-raff and concentrating on "high-end" tourists, i.e. rich sods. Then with their very next breath, the same critics lambast Queenstown for pricing out locals by developing high end services and prices aimed at said wealthy visitors.
Queenstown can’t win either way.
Dis Gusted, Glenorchy.
That auld Scots economist Adam Smith decreed an "invisible hand" sat behind his revolutionary economics law that supply and demand determines prices.
That was 1776. In 2021 this "invisible hand" is called Covid-19, and we can’t fix Queenstown until the world finds ways of living with or beating the virus.
The tall poppy criticism of Queenstown is as nasty as it is inane. Queenstown is this country’s capital of small have-a-go entrepreneurs. They’ve all played a part in developing what was, until Covid-19, the country’s most valuable export industry.
Like tourism or not, the hard times aren’t their fault, and they don’t deserve the knockers.
Dear Uncle Norm,
I am a royal princess grappling with a weight problem. I am a slim size 6, and do regular modelling assignments, which my student friends envy.
But back home skinniness is unacceptable. If you have money and position, you must show you are rolling in it. My mother, our robust queen, usually gets around her estates in a Bentley, but she was carried to her coronation in a palanquin born by six noblemen. My grandmother — roughly the same circumference as your own Queen Victoria — required the more customary eight.
Last time I was home, my auntie, who is Mum’s chief lady in waiting, gave me a severe dressing down.
"Princess, you’re not pulling your weight," she said.
"Put on fifty kilos, or I shall recommend stopping your allowance, and sending food parcels instead."
I now do two burgers, fries, and a litre of Coke for breakfast, and still can’t fill my jeans.
"I want to be fat like you. What’s the secret?" I asked my college rector when I visited her for counselling.
I now have an official warning for violating the rector’s human rights and sense of self-worth. What can I do?
HRH, Princess (name and country not supplied).
This is tricky, your highness. All I can suggest is you double your fries too, sit diligently on your backside, and stare at SKY. You will discover that many around you are willing to set you a good example.
But your rector’s rights violation? Ma’am, you are guilty, (very), of calling a spade a spade. And while Kiwis like to think we’re plain spoken, we aren’t.
When subjects become ticklish, we discard established words, and substitute weasel ones that seem more palatable. If you’d asked your Rector how she got so "cuddly", "full-figured" or "voluptuous", you may have escaped unscathed.
But only possibly. There is no truly polite word for fat. Yet most adults are fat. We dislike ourselves being fat. And we also dislike other people being fat. Nobody thinks fat is cool except, it seems, in the fatocracy that is your mum’s very cool kingdom.
Unfortunately, such a blissful paradise cannot last. Someday the modern world will arrive with skinny bikinis, diets, and WHO morbidity statistics. Meanwhile, Princess, viva la muumuu.
- John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.