Last weekend I visited Auckland, city of sails and signs and sounds. Come Friday night, we headed for that holy grail of gaudiness and over-stimulation: The Arcade. No matter what your favourite colour there is a game to match, complete with looped theme tune and special effects lighting. From Dance Dance Revolution to Air Hockey and Photo Booth, this parody of city life provided the colour and bustle and crowds and sensory overload that I have missed.
Growing up, such busyness was always just background noise – something that I was not consciously aware of but was nonetheless slightly comforting. It was not until spending time away from the bright lights and street corner preachers of Queen Street that I realised how much I had been screening out. Impromptu street theatre? Ice cream parlour karaoke? How did I not notice these before?
Ashburton, with a smaller population, has less on the radar, but there are still entertainment options, many of which you would never get in the city. Take the cow milking competition in the Tinwald Tavern, for instance. The concept was simple: whoever could extract the greatest volume of milk from their’ cow’s udder by hand in one minute was the winner. Being a city girl, I had never really considered the possibility that bovine mammaries might form the basis for a competitive sport, let alone one that was spectator friendly. It certainly gave new meaning to the term ‘brown eyed beauty’.
A recent chat to a local revealed yet another unique entertainment form run in the vicinity: the Methven sheep racing. Not content with annual motorcycle races, the town went one step further, introducing theRacing Baa Blacks to the repertoire of street circuit events. Auckland tried to stage a similar event as part of the Rugby World Cup parade last year, but it was shouted down as a no-go. Sheep don’t know how to obey traffic lights, and their droppings would have posed a hazard to inner city cycle couriers. While the question of droppings remains, contending with red lights is not a problem in Methven.
Perhaps the rural nature of Mid Canterbury has been sending out subliminal messages, because my big city arcade visit concluded with an equine twist. I couldn’t resist trying out the plastic horse video game from the early 1990s, and although the realism of the ride was slightly lacking – I am yet to hear a real horse announce ‘stop crashing me!’ – my choice of entertainment option does say something about the way my large animal horizons have broadened over the last year. Who knows, next time I’m in Auckland it could be to pitch a new game to the arcade, based on competitive cow milking. ‘Udder Frenzy’ could be the next big thing…
Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian