John Lennon’s song Imag­ine was re­leased in 1971. Here is 1971 New Zealand in a nut­shell. Not an im­ported nut­shell in those days though, prob­a­bly a wal­nut, writes Ruth Spencer.

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Here is 1971 NZ in a nut­shell. Not an im­ported nut­shell in those days though, prob­a­bly a wal­nut, writes Ruth Spencer.

Imag­ine it’s 1971. It’s easy if you try: no frack­ing be­low us, above us only ozone. If you’ve ever dreamed of wear­ing flow­ers in your hair and spend­ing a year in bed like the Lennon-Onos, wel­come to our some­what ac­cu­rate lo­cal guide to liv­ing like it’s 1971. Set aside some time ev­ery evening to rinse out your ny­lon blouse, be­cause smok­ing in the work­place is manda­tory. You spend your tea break (white with one and a gin­ger­nut) day­dream­ing about run­ning off to join the po­ets at Jerusalem, but your hair’s too short; you have to keep it that way to fit un­der the wig. In­stead, head home to the flat and light a joss stick. It makes shep­herd’s pie in front of Coun­try Calendar feel a lit­tle more ex­otic, es­pe­cially since you’ve ex­per­i­mented with a lit­tle curry pow­der in the mince.

Fri­day! Time to watch the only movie that’s play­ing at the lo­cal cin­ema. Bad luck, this week it’s Pufn­stuf. Half­way through you’ll buy a chocdipped ice­cream, be­cause there’s noth­ing else to do while the INTERMISSION screen is up — but at least it’s a break from Pufn­stuf.

On Satur­day there’s a cricket test ra­dio broad­cast, so in­vite a few friends over to sit on the pa­tio and lis­ten. Your con­ver­sa­tion dur­ing the many lulls touches on Kiwi troops with­draw­ing from Viet­nam. Bax­ter, you men­tion cau­tiously, said Holyoake would never be able to scrub his hands clean. Your mate Dave asks if he’s tried Swar­fega. An ad comes on for a new restau­rant fry­ing Ken­tucky-style chicken in Auck­land. Eleven herbs and spices! You can only think of seven — and one of them is salt.

Now you’re hun­gry, so spend sev­eral hours try­ing to get a char­coal bar­be­cue to light while a card­board tray of raw sausages sweats on the bench. This is a Na­tional Pas­time, re­quired of all New Zealan­ders. It will be­gin to rain some­time in the third hour. Even­tu­ally some­one will go and get fish and chips, re­turn­ing with steamy win­dows and a news­pa­per bun­dle drip­ping with ac­tual drip­ping. The bar­be­cue is also drip­ping — but not so ap­peal­ingly.

In 1971 craft means cro­chet, so beer is a swappa crate of 750ml brown bot­tles. It’s only been a few years since the 6 o’clock swill and we still buy bulk. If you pre­fer wine, grab a nub­bly bot­tle of Muller-Thur­gau. Your teeth will be as sore as your head on Sun­day morn­ing but at least you’ll have a chic new can­dle holder.

Sun­day’s for wash­ing and do­ing the hoover­ing, a late roast lunch with peas the colour of Span­ish moss and an aim­less drive around. No shop­ping, New Zealand is closed on the week­end. Imag­ine all the peo­ple, wait­ing for a mall.

Broad­way, New­mar­ket, July 5, 1971.

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