Archive for February, 2007

The Big Trip – Day 17

Mostly listening to: some random jazz stuff in starbucks
Eating: dodgy chinese food
Coffees: mucho grande lattes
Place names of the day: armagh st/sydenham/belfast – all in christchurch

Si managed a total of 14 and a quarter hours in bed last night. Though that’s more than just a night. He has a capacity for sleep unrivalled. I was too hot in the sleeping bag and too thirsty from the indian we had last night. I had a bad night’s sleep.

We got up at 1105. The latest i’ve been up in NZ since I came here. Again it was grey and a bit cold. Weather has not been kind to us in christchurch. We went to a nearby beach and walked along the front and it felt a little bit like newcastle on a cold day. Not quite what we had planned.

Talked about how we’d improve ducks. This mostly involved redesigning them with bowler hats, canes and possibly a monocle.

The afternoon, I spent between a bookshop and starbucks, while si and ruth got their souvenir shopping done. I could spend a lifetime between bookshops and coffee places. Though no matter where you go, there’s always someone sitting in the comfy sofas, like they live there or something.

I bought the rather ambitiouslt titled ‘a short history of the world’, coming in at a tidy 665 pages. I never really liked history at school and anyhow it was only ever about some irish blokes and the spanish armada. Now I have a bit more interest. If only for getting the answers in pub quizes and being able to say that i’ve read world history.

Si and ruth are playing cards. Or rather ruth is beating simon at cards. They play either rummy or some kind of competitive speed solitaire that I don’t understand. So far simon has thrown one tantrum and thrown all his cards away, and currently he appears to be strangling morsies. Wedded bliss. He now appears to be sulking. Most entertaining. Oh, he’s just lost again…

The Big Trip – Day 16

Mostly listening to: (DJ Morsies on the ipod) the feeling, the fratellis, damien rice, jose gonzales, the magic numbers.
Sleeping on/in: a bunk bed in a ‘lodge’ in a holiday park. Has very much a halls of residence vibe. There’s even some pumping bass coming through the walls now… It’s 9.10pm, can you not see we’re trying to sleep?!?…
KMs: 3460
Coffees: two huge ones. Winner
Eating: indian (from restraunt called two fat indians)
Weather: cloudy, just started raining. Not amused.
Place name: Belfast (suburb of north christchurch)

Our volcanic paradise was a bit different this morning. Covered in cloud it just wasn’t the same. We took a rather scenic, if not undrivable, alternative route into christchurch.

Right at the beginning of the drive I noticed a new wee lamp on my indicators on the dash. Kind of like a genies lamp. Rubbing it brought forth no genie. Next option was to be low on oil.

Now i’m not particularly good on car maintenance. I have a perfectly good father for that kind of thing. And the car is a little (10000 km or so) overdue for a service and even a wash. So the oil light came as little of a surprise.

So like men we popped the bonnet and looked at what was under the hood for a while. There was a small family of possums and some dirt from 1972 and this dirty great thing known commonly as ‘the engine’. We nodded knowingly, as men do.

The problem with the car is it’s japanese. So the manual is in japenese. So when the light comes on telling you to look up pg 37 of the manual then it’s not much use.

We dipsticked the oil (i can do that much) and found that the level wasn’t where it was meant to be – between the two marks. In fact it was not even on the dipstick at all. Not good.

We went to petrol station and talked knowingly about oil to eachother in the shop, neither of us having a clue what to buy. The shopkeeper (a middle aged woman) came over and pointed us away from the screen washer we were erroneously looking at, towards the oil. And after she’d persuaded simon that buying oil for a petrol car would be better than the diesel he had in his hand, we were off.

Next problem was getting the stuff in. I found the oil cap easily enough. It was helpfully marked ‘oil’. The problem was getting it in without spilling it over the hot engine. This was where the manual really came in helpful, as rolled up it made an excellent funnel.

Done with the oil, we proceded to check a few other things. Which wasn’t so much checking as asking eachother ‘what do you think this bit does then?’ give me a human body any day. Not that I understand them any better, just that that they’re more likely to tell me!

We found a tupperware type tub, similar to the one for the windscreen washer fluid. It was marked simply coolant and in someway connected to the radiator. Using the the brain cell between us, we figured it was for cooling the radiator. Though the tub was completely empty and gave the impression it had been for some time. Car seems to work without it anyhow.

Car maintenance 101 over, we hit the road.

Spent the afternoon in christchurch, drinking coffee in the square and walking round the botanic gardens watching ducks.

Ducks have featured rather heavily in this holiday. Partly because they’re the only creatures that don’t want to run away when si tries to befriend them. I have to say that it’s rubbed off on me, and I could now quite happily spend an afternoon watching ducks in the park.

We did see a rather ‘plumpish’ couple feeding the ducks and considered that maybe they were trying to lure the ducks to capture and eat them. Dear knows what they thought we were up to – si was trying to sneak up on sleeping ducks so he could pick one up.

I imagine there’s laws against that kind of thing. Though I supose it would be a point of interest in your CV – criminal record – twice arrested for duck lifiting…

The Big Trip – Day 15

Mostly listening to: barenaked ladies (three albums in a row), muse (black holes and revelations), polyphronic spree (both in sequence as they were meant to be)
Sleeping on/in: lovely wee cabin in a volcanic crater near christchirch
KMs: 3250
Eating: mussels/lamb/crème brulè
Coffees: at least 3
Weather: stunningly sunny and warm till we decided to eat out side and then the clouds rolled in big style
Place name of the day: mount misery

Half of the east coast of the south island done in one day. Pretty good going. I was developing a pressure sore (from the position on the accelerator) on my right heel by the time we made it to akaroa.

I still love driving. Give me a full tank and a full ipod and i’m a happy man. I could drive all day beofre getting even in the slightest bit bored. Maybe I should have been a lorry driver. Though the obesity and the haemoroids would put me off.

I’ve put the poor wee RVR (the car) through a lot. Poor thing. It needs a service and some new tyres. And perhaps a clean. But then, it’s been six months so far and hasn’t been cleaned. I’m not hugely into cars in any way. I like pure functionality. Dependability. My next car will be a 1980s volvo or audi estate. Big old battered thing for all the kids and the dog I don’t have.

Akaroa is a tiny wee village in the crater of a volcano just east of christchurch. It’s not been a volcano for quite a while now. In fact I think it’s losing its touch and seems much happier the way it is. It managed to form itself a natural harbour when it blue so now there,s good fishing and dolphins swim round the crater too. Nature does weird things eh?

We’ve managed to get a lovely wee cabin in a camp site overlooking the harbur. We’ve kind of given up on the camping. Sand flies being a big reason. Plus we’d spent so little money on accomadation so far that we figured we could splash out a little near the end.

And yes i’ve said it. The end. Si and ruth leave in three days and I have to make my way back north and back to work. Normal everyday life (whatever that may be) seems a long time ago, and a long way away.

The Big Trip – Day 14

Mostly listening to: dave matthews band, the frames
Sleeping on/in: same place as yesterday. Though have moved inbetween.
KMs: not much more than what is was
Coffees: two. Hadn’t had one by lunch and was getting a sore head
Weather: sunny

Dunedin is famous for speight’s beer. One of the top points in the lonely planet was the tour of the brewery. Always up for trying anything.

Facts learned. One: hops comes as pellets resembling dog food. Two: breweries have a tendency to explode.

Spent the afternoon at tunnel beach. Aptly named. Some guy in the old days (insert historical date as appropriate) liked the beach so much he got his servants to cut a tunnel from the cliff down to the beach so that he wouldn’t have to take a boat there. I need to get me a title and some servants. Seems like the way forward.

Spent the evening reading. Well me and ruth did. Si spent the day unsettled that there was no one to play with him.

We’ll put that down as a quiet day.

The Big Trip – Day 13

Mostly listening to: van morrison (live in san francisco), spin doctors (pocket full of kryptonite)
Sleeping on/in: cabin in a holiday park
KMs: 2680
Coffees: 1, plus a cup of tea i’m currently enjoying
Weather: windy, very windy. sunny
Beard up date: made a lunge for my throat this morning, so it had to go. Was definitely going ginger.

The place we stayed in last night was decent enough. A tad cold. plus the fact it only had one shower for about 25 people. We decided we’d try somewhere else. So we’re back in a cabin in a holiday park. Lovely stuff. Has a tiny fridge in it that goes ‘doyng’ every time the compressor comes on. Makes us giggle every time. Reminds me of cartoon knicker elastic snapping. Not sure what that says about me though.


Took a trip round the otago peninsula, which juts out from the south of dunedin. Beautiful place. Managed to visit an albatross colony (which was very windy) and 2 sea lions. The sea lions we just came across while walking across a deserted beach. Kind of a pleasant surprise. Got to within 5m or so of them and then felt bad about scaring them. Simon, i’m sure, isn’t a pretty sight to a sea lion trying to have a kip.

Went looking for penguins but with no joy. Apparently wrong time of year.


In the end we rolled up to one of the main surf beaches and took the kayak out on the waves. Surfers hate kayakers so we tried to stay as far as we could away from them. Plus me and si were in charming matching wetsuits and looked completely amateurish, so the further away from anyone the better.

Surf-kayaking is a recognised international sport. Si and ruth are actually friends with the world champion of surf-kayaking. He’s a biolgy teacher from norn iron. Gets to go and compete all round the world. I think it’s the way forward, become really good at a sport no one else knows about.

When I decided to (or rather ended up in by chance and default) medicine, my GP said to become a specialist. To specialise in a small area and to continue to know more and more about a certain small field. And as you specialised and you knew more and more about less and less, then eventually you’d reach the point where you knew everything about nothing.


The kayaking was fun. We got trashed by every wave in sight. Si kept getting whacked on the head by the kayak when he came out. Not the safest of sports. But we were kids again playing in the sea. It was cool.

Back at the cabin, we got a chinese (weird, no prawn crackers, no fried rice and lots of cabbage in the satay. What is the world coming to?), and played scrabble.

Morsies pulled out ‘stormed’ as the first play of the game, using all her letters and getting a 50 point bonus. Game over, move one.

So me and si just grumbled and moaned and tried to make out that she cheated. She ran home with a 245 point victory. Makes you sick… Made si even sicker, he’d just been beaten in table tennis by her.

Doyng… (tee hee hee…)

I used to huff something shocking when it came to scrabble as a kid. I was the youngest in the family and therefore the thickest. And I always struggled in the earlier bits of the game. And then the huffing would start. I’d sulk, cause I wasn’t getting my way, i’d play crap on purpose, and put down nothing but three letter words in a show of contempt. I remember once quitting in a huff and going and sitting in the loo and crying after one. This was not nearly as long ago as you might think.

Pride. Always pride. My ego, and my need to be right, to be better, to have attention and approval. I don’t get so upset about scrabble as I used to. I’ve moved on to bigger and better things to be a complete self-centred prick about.

If it was only scrabble then I could probably laugh at myself (the one thing the devil cannot take is to be mocked…). But now my head (and heart) sees myself as much too important to laugh at. That my petty little wants and desires are far too important to stand back and laugh at.

When I make it to where i’m going – and i’m sure I will, cause someone else is driving… Then i’m gonna spend an awful lot of the time laighing at myself. Laughing at the things I took so seriously.  At all the petty grievances that I let weigh me down. If you could only see yourself…


The Big Trip – Day 12

Mostly listening to: snow patrol, ledd zepplin, jonny cash
Sleeping on/in: a very cold wee room in a house on a hill in dunedin
KMs: 2470
Coffees: 3 so far. Inculding the largest latte (a bowl) i’ve ever seen
Weather: cloudy, bit chilly. Belfast in summer really
Place name of the day: butts rd
Beard up date: prickly with ginger tinges, bit concerned about those really…

Slept and slept and slept some more. When all the sleeping was done, I just lay there for a bit.

Had breakfast in gore. All the cafes said to take off your boots before entering. I could see all the muddy farmers obliging. Good eggs.

Uneventful drive to dunedin. I guess that’s why most kiwis live by the sea or by the big lakes. The bits in the middle of the country are just endless fields of sheep and cows.

Dunedin was founded as a southern hemisphere version of edinburgh. Dunedin being the celtic name for edinburgh. And not unfortunately, named for the band of fighters in the lord of the rings.

It reminds me of belfast. Well the fact that i’m wearing three layers (something i’ve not done since leaving home) reminds me of belfast. Plus it’s a student town and the main shopping street reminded me of the lisburn rd.

Me and si went to the museum. Ruth went to the cadbury factory. I draw no conclusions from that.

The museum was cool. I like museums. Have made a resolution to go to more. They’re mostly directed at children so I like them.

Ruth got free chocolate and cocoa beans. We ate the cocoa beans. They weren’t very nice.

Ended up in the cinema again. If only cause it was cold and grey and we couldn’t think of much else to do. We watched ‘the good shepherd’ which was long and complicated and really quite hard work but ultimately rewarding. Makes me want to read cold war history, though I imagine that will pass.

The cold is all a bit of a shock. We’re in the hostel with nice sheets and blankets but also sleeping bags just in case. Frost bite in summer would be kind of embarassing.

The Big Trip – Day 11

Mostly listening to: sam’s town (the killers), neil diamond (not sure where it came from…)
Sleeping in/on: the firestation backpackers – gore (what a name for a town), on a lovely double bed in my own wee room. All very civilised
KMs: 2400
Coffees: two
Weather: sunny then cloudy
Company name of the day: beyond the fringe – hairdressers
Beard up date: itchy, could swear I saw it twitch this morning…

Woke up on a boat. I thought it was kind of cool. Morsies didn’t get to wake on the boat cause she never slept.

Spent the morning marvelling at milford sound (again) this time it was a bit damper with more waterfalls. Couldn’t turn round for waterfalls in fact. Stunning place.

Made a dash from the boat to the car to avoid the sand flies. Few casualties along the way.

Spent the morning driving back the 2 hr road to the nearest town. Managed to take 5 hours with stops every ten minutes to take photos and short walks while ruth slept in the back of the car – luxury all the way eh?

In the end we drove half way across the south island towards dunedin. In the end, we stopped in gore.

The lonely planet doesn’t have much to say about gore. Which is a bad start. It’s motto is ‘the country music capital of NZ’. Also renowned for it’s line dancing. Also famous for the 10m statue of a trout as the centrepiece – apparently the capital of NZ brown trout fishing too.

In places like this, your expectations are pretty low to begin with, so anything you find is a bonus. ‘oh look a pubic toilet, fancy that, get a photo of me beside it.’

The backpackers we’re staying in is perfectly pleasant. Though it’s for sale and we’re almost the only ones here. There’s one other foreign (by which I mean non-english speaking. I still know i’m a foreigner, I just forget) girl who arrived and seemed to cry when she couldn’t understand the questions the owner was asking her. Felt kind of bad about that, so we hid in the room and then snuck out before she saw us.

Gore is just a single street of about a few hundred metres of shops. We walked the strip, seeing all the sights (yes including the trout) in about 10 minutes. We turned and walked it back again debating the all important ‘where will we eat tonight?’ question. Found a cinema (a flippin cinema and a trout, such bounty…) still showing casino royale so we planned for it at 8.30. We only had two hours to kill. I’m not a violent man, but given a gun i’d gladly have killed them.

We settled on the clean and tidy looking thai restraunt. It was playing, naturally – country music. And it was a cd (including ‘don’t break my heart, my achy-brakey heart’) on a 15 minute loop. There was the usual disturbing photo of a Thai royal family above the counter. Though i’m not sure the thai royal family are still in place since september…

I ordered the starter of ‘battered seafood platter’ and the ‘salt and pepper squid’ for the main. The kind young waitress came back and said there was no squid, but she would substitute prawns.

The starter (remember battered seafood platter) was made up of battered prawns and battered mushrooms and brocolli – those well known sea foods. Anyway it was perfectly pleasant.

My main arrived. It appeared to be a very slightly larger version of precisely what i’d just had. Except with a sprig of salad on top. My heart sank. I confess I couldn’t finish it. I can still (and will for some time) see  the little tails of those battered prawns staring at me.

Having dragged out the prawn fest as long as we could, and even throwing in a walk round ‘the warehouse’, it was still ony 7.30. Entertianment options in gore on a thursday exhausted, we retired to the hostel.

Si and ruth entertained me with some pre-prepared line dancing moves, to the tune of weezer’s buddy holly. It makes me laugh that they dance in the house at home  by themselves. Never in public of course. Spending so much time with them has given me lots of positive and negative views on marriage (the silly dances being of course a positive). Though that was pretty much where I started on marriage so I don’t know if it’s changed much. Just reinforced a lot of what I thought already – Amazed how two human beings can ever put up with each others crazy bits.

Dancing over we hit the cinema. I won the ‘guess how many people would be in the cinema with us?’ question with a bang on 3.

Left at near 11pm and the place was so empty that I felt obliged to turn off all the lights and lock up, and I don’t just mean the cinema…


February 2007