I like all of it; brightness of summer mornings, big open skies, lazy afternoons, scented summer nights … and of course long days of holidays when each and every hour belongs to me to do (or not) with it as I please. For a limited number of days at least.
In New Zealand summer arrives in December and that means that most of us combine end of the year festivities with annual holidays, aka – BBB (Beach, Batch, Barbeque)!
While there is certainly no shortage of beautiful beaches in New Zealand either by the lakes, rivers, or sea, batches and barbeques have undergone some transformations over the years and are now somewhat fleshier with price-tags to match. Still, as most Kiwis know – no price tag should be allowed to stand in a way of proper Kiwiana summer and to that end camping grounds (either organized or freedom ones) remain popular and well-attended as I observed on my recent trip to South Island.
Even though I spent my early years and couple of more recent ones on the North Island, South Island remains very special to me. Not only because I lived there for more than ten years, but also because my daughter still lives there as a student at Otago University in Dunedin.
And so it is no wonder I could hardly wait to finish work on Christmas Eve and board the plane to take me from Wellington to Dunedin. Seeing my daughter and my two dear friends waiting for me at the air port in Dunedin was truly wonderful! We had a lovely Christmas in Dunedin, city with strong Scottish heritage, breathtakingly beautiful peninsula and home to New Zealand’s oldest University. While once the centre of gold-rush economy, nowadays the city is dominated by its University and income its generate.
After Christmas we travelled further South to visit picturesque little township of Roxburgh nestled in truly amazing region of Central Otago, famous for its landscapes, bike-treks, stone fruit orchards and mighty Clutha River on which one of the earliest hydroelectric dens was built. Our friends who own and operate local hotel – Goldfields, extended to us their warm hospitality including trip to nearby rodeo in Millers Flat and ever popular Pinders Pond so named after the original owners of the land.
It was a hot and dusty day almost custom made for the local cowboys and cowgirls to show off their skills some of which were rather impressive! Not to mention unmistakably masculine odour; smell of horses, human sweat, dust, tobacco and leather. I can almost hear my grandfather next to me. And in some of those tall, green-blue eye boys with broad shoulders and large, working hands – I can almost see him.
After few more days basking in the company of my daughter (yes by that time she had rather enough of her mother constantly trying to hug her, like hugs and kisses can be bottled up and taken with me -:)) I left for Christchurch, city I once lived for a long time, including horrible times of earthquakes and where I have some of my dearest friends.
Before the earthquakes, city was known as a ‘Garden City’ for its beautiful gardens and overall very English atmosphere including punting on Avon River. Nowadays city is still very much under construction, but large and significant developments can be observed everywhere.
To say that I had a lovely time with my friends in Canterbury would not do the justice, perhaps ‘wild times’ would be better description!
The last leg of my journey took me from Christchurch to Picton via magnificent Coastal Pacific Scenic Route, courtesy of Kiwi Railway. The train journey took five hours and that means five hours of watching truly wonderful scenery of bushy hills and rugged Pacific coastline. The train’s open carriage provides opportunity to really enjoy the views as you travel very close to Pacific Ocean.
Once in Picton it is only a short walk to board the ferry across the Cook Strait. At the peril of sounding like a promotional tourist brochure, I must say that sailing across the Cook Strait is absolutely amazing. While I have crossed it before, every time is different; the beauty of Marlborough Sounds, wind that always blows across the Strait, (known as ‘Roaring Forties’) smell of sea and then approach to Wellington’s harbour after three hours journey.
Disembarking from the ferry, I thought how wonderful it all was and how fleeting.
Familiar streets of the city came into view and I knew that another year is now ahead of me … year, I decided is to be of solitude and writing. But of that – another time.
Well since it is your birthday I suppose I better write to you. You may choose to call it a birthday wish but I would not go that far. It sounds rather sentimental, and as you know I dislike sentimentality. Besides, I hope you do realize there is nothing more pitiful than a sentimental middle age woman.
In any case, we have been together for a long time since that July in 1965. The summer was hot that night you arrived, and I knew from the first look at you there will be mixed luck and bumpy rides. You did not land as any respectable new-born would, but rather scrambled and fought your way out. There was hardly anybody waiting for you, I grant you that. Still you could not wait to scream for your share of dirt and oxygen. Will of steel and heart of dove.
I wondered why I was assigned to you on the first place. It was a well-known fact that I much prefer well-rounded, respectable families. They produce children who grow up with clear goals and boundaries. They become level-headed and practical beings. Industrious and productive. They always make something of themselves. Find their path early and walk on it steadily. They ended up well accomplished and with something to show. One is proud to have followed.
And followed I have. You dragged me from one side of this earth you inhabit to another. Then one more time and back. Even now, in your old age I hear there is still more to come. I am starting to really worry there will be nothing at all to show at the end. Nothing but what we started with; dirt and oxygen. I can only contemplate the damage it will do to my reputation.
Since apparently you were bestowed with lots of potential. But they always say that, don’t they? I suspect it was just a marketing trick to get me on the job. Despite the terrible lack of audience and serious absence of any means. May I also point out to you that you have not improved those circumstances either. Which just stands to show, and I have to say it again; my dear girl one cannot make it in this world with just resolve and love. Are you listening?
Yes, I know I have said it all before and on many occasions. And, yes I do know it is too late anyway. Still one must try.
It is true we stood together in that rain of shells and steel and death while sun turned colour of blood and madness. You did turn away from it I’d say that for you. Barefoot worrier. I was rather proud of you then.
I guess there were few other occasions you made me proud. But I cannot dwell on those now. Time is running out I better warn you. No, I am sorry you cannot suck me now. My assignment is for life. Besides it is not up to you or me for that matter.
Yes, there are few other little things I have to point out to you before to shut up. For a start don’t you think that is about time you stop dreaming? And what about that constant scribbling everywhere? Writing poetry. I see. Like when you were 17 years old. Still about love? Still looking for heroes? Oh dear!
It is getting too late tonight. But I really do think it is a high time you pull yourself together. You know settle they call it. I am sorry to have to say it again but one really must take what one can. It is just dirt and oxygen otherwise trust me.
Happy birthday dear girl,
Your Life Coach (they used to call us Guardian Angels in the old times).