Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Because New Zealand Marmite tastes like vomit

Look, it does, all right? I will not brook any argument. The entirety of New Zealand may be in mourning for the New Zealand Marmite factory, unexpectedly shut this week after some earthquake damage, but believe me, they are dangerously deluded: it tastes revolting, and its absence from the nation's breakfast tables ought by rights to be celebrated as a chance to reclaim the national palate. New Zealand marmite really does taste like vomit. This is not a recent discovery of mine, but the first (of several) fundamental and passionate disagreements with my other half about food. He brought it back to England reverently, after our first trip here. I tasted it and spat it out. Clearly I was channelling my inner toddler because I've refused to have anything to do with the stuff since.

I am kind of wishing that I had done the same with my middle son's kindergarten, because it really hasn't been great, and I should probably have followed my initial instinct and pulled him out at the beginning. Instead I chose to keep on chewing, hoping that the taste would gradually get more palatable. OK, it's not been disastrous, but it seems to have followed exactly the same pattern as I observed initially: idiotic and rude junior staff, with great manager doing her utmost to make up for the general ramshackle quality of her subordinates. My son does adore it there, which I keep telling myself is the only important thing through gritted teeth (much as I used to stop myself throwing the New Zealand Marmite out of the cupboard by reminding myself that that disgusting brew meant a great deal to my husband). But he screams a lot in the mornings when I drop him off, which has two tricky outcomes:

1) it means that I really, really, really need helpful, co-operative staff who can assist me in getting him safely and happily into school and
2) it means that I really, really, really need the disabled parking space, because I regularly have to carry him kicking and screaming from the car into school.

You wouldn't think that either of these would pose a major problem. It's not as if an earthquake had just taken away our parking space, the same way it shut down the Marmite factory in Christchurch this week. And the grumpy unhelpfulness of the staff predates the great New Zealand Marmite shortage, so it can't be that they are having to try Vegemite (or our vastly superior British Marmite) instead, and having their mornings ruined as a consequence. If the manager is there, she rushes to greet me, takes my screaming son and lets him calm down with a mixture of sensible firm ignoring the hullaballoo and interesting distraction with his favourite activities as soon as he is ready for it. If she's not there, the others just ignore me and him, so that I have no option but to leave him screaming in a crumpled heap on the floor. Trying to be charitable, I thought that perhaps they were deaf, until the morning when one of them looked up at me as I passed, and said "Don't forget to sign him in." No help, no reassurance for the child, just "don't forget to sign him in." I nearly hit her. Probably good that I was holding my son at the time.

And the parking space, dear Lord the parking space. Every single day for a week there has been someone parked in the disabled space (I was using it, with the consent of the community centre, prior to our receiving the badge: but it seems that in the last couple of weeks, the entire kindergarten community has decided that it is theirs. It's hard not to feel paranoid). Since having my bright orange badge, I have been emboldened to challenge people - not by leaving a nasty note on their windscreen, but just asking politely if they have a badge, or a medical reason, or permission from the CC to use this space. Excuses I have received so far are

"Oh, someone gave me permission...er, no, it was one of the other mums, she said it was fine to park here as long as it was only for pick-up and drop-off times." Oh, well perhaps I should find another mum who says it is fine for me to nick all the kindergarten cash from the office, no one would complain then would they? Because I have permission to take it.
"Oh, well, but I'm only taking up half of the disabled space." Well that's OK then, lucky I only have half a car to park. Maybe I'll only take half my son into school.
"Oh. Well I'll be gone in a few minutes." Yes, that would be the few minutes in which I need to drop my son to school. Hey, here's an idea, why don't YOU come late, then it would be even easier?
"Oh." (Cheeky smile, this from a dad who was in an estate agency-branded car) "Well, I thought I would get away with it if I was quick." I appreciate your explanation of your work ethics, but this isn't a dodgy house deal.

So I do the school run with my hard hat on, and then every now and again run into one of the lovely mums who HAVE befriended me, who want to show me my son's painting from the morning that they helped at kindy, or who have just remembered that so-and-so at church has three autistic sons and would we like her number? At that moment it's like the friendly taste of familiar and unattainable British Marmite, that lovely stuff sprinkled on my toast which I long for all the more now everyone is talking about the other. Which is good, because it stops me feeling sick the rest of the time.

However, apart from the morning scream-a-thons (which are generally unrelated to kindy, more to do with not finding the specific hat he wanted, or not having the right kind of weather, he is the only child I have ever met who genuinely believes the rain is my fault, recently he asked me to "stop it raining with your seatbelt"), my son seems fine: happy and settled. I guess for him it's what he's used to, like I'm used to British Marmite and these insane Kiwis to their foul black brew. I'll try to put up with it for his sake. Just as long as they don't try to ruin his palate for life by giving him New Zealand Marmite too.


  1. Ouch! That's so mean about the disabled parking space. I think you should go on politely challenging people. I always found that when challenging (whether it was a dad parked on the pavement outside the primary school, or an illegal fisherman frightening the swan on its nest in the wildlife area) supreme politeness KILLS all opposition. It's like a subversive bomb under them.

    My feeling is that if the boy adores it, well that does make up for a lot. At least you KNOW the staff are like this. My eldest went to a private nursery where all looked wonderful on the surface, and years later she told me that there was one staff member who regularly made her cry and stood her in the corner.

  2. I agree - NZ Marmite is totally yuck. I am a vegemite lass myself ; )

  3. My next dinner party - blind taste-testing of Vegemite, Marmite and English Marmite... there may be a drinking game element I could tie in too.

  4. Aaaaaghhhhh those parking space excuses made me so cross. And vomity marmite too? Yuk. Thanks so much for linking up to the BritMums special needs linky, it is great to discover your blog xxxx

  5. Sorry to hear about your kindy, it does sound a bit rubbish.

    I agree totally about NZ Marmite. And in case you didn't know British Marmite is available everywhere here- in Foodtown, New World etc - it's called "Our Mate" and is in small jars, exactly the same sort of packaging as the UK jars but they're not allowed to call it "Marmite" (because of the NZ stuff, obviously). It's about $4.50 a jar but it's worth it!

  6. Thank you for that, anon, I shall go and look up "our mate" immediately.

    And thank you for dropping by, Allforaleyna, I like your blog lots too. (sorry if that sounds too fawning)

  7. I love the confidence your son has in you and your seatbelt.