A little while ago -- following a remarkably irritating encounter with the Christchurch City Council's booking system for children's swimming lessons which still has me gritting my teeth when I think about it; a system based, I assume, on close observation of railway ticket offices in the Indian subcontinent -- I canvassed opinion about starting a new blog solely for complaining purposes, entitled I Am Disappointed.
The more I thought about it, the more the idea seemed to have legs. And as is my way, grand visions rose like coloured smoke before my eyes. After a while when it gained momentum it wouldn't just be me complaining; I could secure complaints for 'I Am Disappointed' from all over New Zealand, maybe from throughout the Anglophone world. Anyone who wanted to complain about anything could have a forum to do so. Ex-boyfriends, bad architecture, swimming lessons, the frequency of school holidays, the selection process for New Zealand's participation in the Venice Biennale: all disappointments would be grist to the blog's mill. It could be funny. It might be useful. It would be enormous.
Via Twitter, at least, there was general approval of the idea, albeit with suggestions for alternative names. 'You are a disappointment to me', suggested one correspondent; 'What, is that it?' proposed another. The inimitable @styler mentioned that she was herself thinking of "starting a blog called 'I fucked up' but I'd be so busy I'd never have time to fail big in future". And @Hamish_Keith chipped in with 'Fresh Disappointments Delivered Daily', which had me fantasising about a masthead designed by Dick Frizzell.
There would be legal issues, undoubtedly, as some of the complaints might be a bit near the knuckle, but the problems could probably be got around. And I'd have to make sure the complaints were interesting, rather than just whinges or insane rants. And the blog would need a brand: it would need to narrow its focus. It couldn't deal with everyone's complaints about everything, that would break the internet. Perhaps it could specialise in art-related complaints? Thus enabling me to shoot for the big McCahon I AM (disappointed) masthead. Although that would mean I couldn't include my feelings about:
1. Christchurch City Council's antiquated booking system for children's swimming lessons which requires you to turn up in person at 8am on a single school day each term and queue for about 45 minutes (have I mentioned that?)
2. The fact that the gigantic house being built down the road has just had a two-storey barrel arch craned into place as an architectural feature, thus making a frigging mockery of the Christchurch City Council's supposed architectural guidelines for its Special Amenity Areas;
3. The fact that toys in Kinder Surprise eggs almost always come readymade these days rather than being the sort you have to put together (actually, this is one of the small guy's peeves, rather than mine, but it's heartfelt).
Then I realised it would actually be quite a lot of work to read through and vet the submissions, and that it would probably be a bit of a downer being a clearing house for other people's complaints (not unlike being a curator at a public gallery again, in fact). Also, aiming to operate in a territory marked out by the intersection of talkback radio, Hamish Keith's 'Cultural Curmudgeon' column, and the admirable New York-based keep-em-honest blog, How's My Dealing, might not necessarily be the recipe for a quiet life. So I've decided not to do it, after all.
But if I had, this week I'd be considering the forthcoming closure of Te Papa's brilliant research library to the general public. I've used it often over the years, and I've always liked how it's literally open to the public; you can walk right into it, sit down and start reading. You run into Te Papa's curators there, when they're working on something: and if you need help with a reference, in my experience the staff are quick and knowledgable. It's been reported that from November you'll still be able to use the research library on certain afternoons, but only if you make a previous appointment. I'm sure it's a necessary matter of cost-cutting, an internal management choice between this and that and so on, and I do note that they're planning to digitise more of their research collection, but I wish they hadn't chosen to cut the open library access: I liked and admired how the set-up of Te Papa's library announced 'We're open for scholarship. Ours, and yours.' It was a good look.
So, I wish the public swimming pools would digitise their booking systems, it's ridiculous to have to turn up in person as if the internet had never been invented: but I loved the fact you could turn up in person as a member of the public to Te Papa's research library. No doubt the swimming bookings will be online at some point, but I'll bet that it will prove considerably more difficult to reopen Te Papa's library to general public access in the future. It's the sort of thing that, once done, is surprisingly hard to undo.