Archive for the 'beaches' Category

Don’t steal our sun

Ireland kicks ass. On a sunny day that is.

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Swallowed in the sea


Getting from one place to the other in the quickest possible time is not nearly as much fun as going the really roundabout way. I’m shocked that I’ve been living here for 26 years and still there remains parts of this country I’ve never seen. My parents were good and I’ve been dragged over most of it in a touring caravan as a child at one point or another. But still the discoveries are all the more fun when you make them for yourself.

Having Saturday night free (I like Saturday nights free to sit in by myself and read books – another blog in itself) and no obligations till the following night I packed the Volvo with all the essentials (tunes, coffee, book, guitar, mac, camera, series 1 of Spaced) and headed for the north coast on a mini road trip.

Happiness is a car, some tunes, some decent weather and a full tank. Though a full tank in the Volvo will cost you the same as a return flight to NZ, and will only get you as far as Tescos and back once a week but hey who’s counting?. The joy of the Volvo being that when the oil runs out I’ll just park it in a field, put an awning on it and live in it for the rest of my days.

The weather is key. Simple glorious blue skies are nice but beaten hands down by sunny skies with intermittent rain or hail showers and with a gale force wind to drive the clouds like wild horses across the sky. This gives the sky the best cloud formations short of James and the Giant Peach. Time of day makes a difference too, coastal road trips are much more fun (and make for better photos) if you get to squint into the sun at some point, and the shadows it makes are immense.

So I got to Ballymena and turned right for Cushendall (one of these places yo see on Angie‘s map on Newsline 6.30 and makes you wonder who lives there), and end up on a windy wee rising road through such places as Martinstown. (a Kiwi name if ever i heard one. Incidentally for the Kiwi’s reading – both of you – there’s a place in NI called Carnalridge.)

All this of course reminds me of NZ (which reminded me of Ireland in the first place). The Antrim plateau has always been sold to me as somewhere bleak and barren and miserable and somehow I took that in a negative way. The road down to Cushendall and beyond is now one of my new favorite places.

I parked in the car park to get out and take photos of the beach and the cliffs and received sympathetic stares from the locals in the pub overlooking the harbour. The standard ‘blooming tourists’ type look. it of course being inappropriate for Irish people to be amazed by their own scenery.

The Antrim coast road is in no way a closely guarded secret, indeed it’s well renowned as one of our better tourist spots. It’s just that somehow I’ve never made it here.

The Torr head road is sensibly singed that it is unsuitable for coaches and buses. Though having driven it I’m pretty sure it’s unsuitable for cars as well, the lanes apparently having been marked out as a cycle path and certinly not wide enough to take a car. But I’m glad it’s still there all the same. I ended up doing  my usual and stopping the car every 5 minutes to get out and take photos and then realise 2 minutes up the road that there’s a much nicer photo to be had. I have now tested every remote car park along the way and driven down every dead end track.

I was confused for a while in how Rathlin Island looked so big and indeed appeared to have mountains further down the coast, till I realised that it was actually the Mull of Kintyre and Scotland beyond.

Beaches and oceans get me every time. As they say in Chile – winner.


Day 2 – Go West

Sharing a bed with a grown man is a strange experience. Especially when you’re a repressed homophobe (though I try not to be…) at heart. You always find yourself rolling over at the edge of the bed, to the point of possibly falling out of bed. All to avoid the an involuntary leg touch during the night… Sorry. Enough of that.

last-roll-177.jpgSpent the morning in Mullaghmore, feasting on fried sausages and eggs looking out at a grim and dark looking Atlantic ocean.

There was a brief break in the cloud over the beach giving us a chance to brave the wind and get a trot along the beach. The endless ocean is a leveler. Love it.

 

On our way south to Sligo we stopped at Glencar lough, keen to see last-roll-027.jpgeither a Nessy or a Timotei ad moment under the waterfall. Disappointed on both fronts, best we got was Jonny in a shower cap. And despite a quick game of ‘if we give you a tenner would you…’ we couldn’t convince him to debag and wear a shower cap under the waterfall. In 20 years time in therapy I’ll be glad he didn’t do it.

We stopped briefly down the coast to look at the waves coming in off the Atlantic. A huge swell with a lovely left to right break looked perfect for a wee surf. Though the closer i got the more it became clear I’d just get dumped upon by a swell like that.

Every other car we passed had a board or two on the roof. Made me extremely nostalgic and jealous for the old drive out to Ocean Beach at 7am with some of the murses. Made me wish I’d brought the board back with me. Maybe some day… Anyhow focus. You’re in Ireland now, remember.

last-roll-038.jpgWe were heading for Achill island. Which is almost (but not quite) a fake island, there being only a 10m gap or so separating it from the mainland. We’d read in the (never again to be trusted) Lonely Planet that there was a quality hostel with great food, a nice pub and a warm fire on the island. Our plan was an afternoon in front of the fire with a book and the papers and possibly an endless game of higher-lower with the pack of cards.

This was quickly scuppered on our arrival to Achill sound (if you have an image of Milford sound in your head then forget it) where we found the hostel had been converted to a nursing home.

We followed this with a 2 hour drive round the island looking for accommodation.

We found ourselves turned away from at least 5 places, but only when they found out who we were.last-roll-044.jpg As soon as they realized it was a group of blokes from the north then they weren’t interested and made up clear and blatant fibs that they were either fully booked (when they weren’t) or had a booking already (when they didn’t). Usually I’m not one to see the worst in people in things like this but by the fifth time it was getting ridiculous.

We divided possible reasons into the following:

1) a group of blokes traveling and wanting a room together must be poofters out to pollute the minds of their youngsters and sodomize the local livestock (don’t start me on that one please…)

2) a group of blokes traveling together will no doubt drink the place dry and throw the television out of the first floor window before spray painting the words ‘bazza wuz ere’ on all the local livestock.

3) a group of blokes from the north are here to take part in a paramilitary training exercise in a Connemara bog before using incendiary devices to blow up the local livestock.

Please don’t be three. I know we have a bit of work to do on dispelling number one but please tell me we’ve got past number three.

In the end we got a couple of rooms above a pub in Newport (where?…) where I presume they thought we’d be far enough away from the local livestock to cause no harm.

We took a (very) brief walk around the village taking in all the main sights, the bridge, the pub (voted best pub in Connemara 2006), the other pubs and even the newsagent. I love this country.

Meeting us in the Newport hotel (fighting off vicious local competition for the title) was the office, who’d pulled his usual trick of driving staggeringly long distances (4 and a half hours on his own from Portadown) to get to a place just for one night and then repeat the journey in reverse the next day. And there wasn’t even a bird involved. He amazes me. With his brilliance or stupidity I’m never entirely sure.

When he arrived we got down to some grub and a quick game of naming all the fifty states in America (damn you Vermont…) and listening to some genuine Irish fiddly-dee music in the pub.

We all went to bed, sensibly putting our clocks back an hour to prepare for the end of British summertime (though i think Connemara declared the end of British summertime shortly after the 1916 easter rising and the declaration of independence…). We all woke in the morning to find that the wonders of technology in out phones had taken time into their own hands and sliced another hour from the clock on top of what we’d already taken.

Technology is smart but also kind of dumb eh?

Once upon a time there was an ocean

Of the many, and increasingly sizeable, list of things I miss about NZ is living by the sea. Of being able to dander out the front door and round the marina to westshore and sit on the big concrete blocks above the gravel beach in the dark and think about the quickest way home.

And so armed with the excuse of needing to get a part fitted to Dad’s car (that he’ll not be driving for a few months yet) I’m now back on the north coast. Having dropped off the car and got a wonderful old Saab automatic as a courtesy car.

My first stop was unsurprisingly Portstewart strand. Scene of many a dark and windy walk, either on my own or with mates. I love beaches, not so much for sun and surf but for the time just before it gets dark (indeed I think they actually call it dusk these days, they’ve a word for everything…) when the sun is so low that it starts casting cool shadows on the undersurface of the clouds. When the temperature has just dropped and you can wear a hat and feel fully justified with it on a practical as opposed to fashion grounds.

Even the mini waves of sand cast up by the wind into my eyes do not deter me. Nor the softness of the sand left by the departing tide that stretches your calves with each step.

I like the barrenness and the isolation. It is here I can think straight. I can rejoice in the innumerable joys of simply being alive and begin to reconcile that to all the horrible things that happen to people I love. Mostly by humming old hymns to myself, with the odd Bright Eyes tune thrown in for good measure.

My mind races with all my longing but can’t keep up with what I’ve got…


I was here at the weekend with a mate who asked the intriguingly insightful question ‘what type of a boyfriend do you think you’d make at the age of 26?’

My immediate thought was ‘a pretty shitty one’. My second thought was simply, ‘kind of hard work’. Then I thought that through and thought that the first one probably covered both.

I live in a fantasy world when it comes to relationships where we (there is no we, just an imaginary we) only speak to each other in song lyrics and say nothing but profound meaningful things to each other all the time. This is all bollocks I know but it is what it is.

Managing to get from mere acquaintance and indeed friendship towards what I think love is (don’t get me started…) is a complete mystery to me. I just want to wake up some day in my own marital bliss (ha!), or even just begin where Fight Club ends and not have to deal with all the craziness that gets you there.

Rugged coastline and empty beaches

I have another week off, with no specific plans or obligations. This to compensate for the 14 days straight I swapped into following this.

The east coast of the north island, once you get north of Gisborne, is largely a deserted rural, coastal community, populated by less than 5000 people. Nothing but rugged coastline and empty beaches. Bit like Donegal but with better weather and marginally better roads.

I’ve yet to make it north of Gisborne, each time being distracted to lake Waikaremoana or some other picturesque spot. This time I’m determined. Though day one completed and I’m still an hour south of Gisborne, so maybe it’s not going so well.

It is of course, the equivalent of late November here. Which means it gets dark at 5.30 pm but not that it’s cold. It’s still sunny and I’m still wearing shorts. I managed to leave the flat at 5.15 pm, after a hasty pack following the olive picking.

Previously on my little solo expeditions I’ve stayed in campsites or hostels, this time I’m trying something different. I’ve realised that my car would make a lovely one person camper van. The seats go completely flat and I’d have a secure, lit structure to sleep in.

I have the surf board (must give he/she a name) on the roof, the guitar, the gas stove and the bike. Some grub, and a bag of books and I’m off.

I’ve made it to Mahia, a former island, now a peninsula north of Napier (about 3 hours of winding roads). It’s apparently a legendary surf spot so I’m expecting great things.

The bit that took the time was finding the appropriate spot in the dark to park the car. My first bet was right out on the peninsula, miles from anything. And, while scenic (even in the dark) it was flippin windy and the sheer darkness (no moon at all) was a little bit scary. I still have this childish fear and paranoia when I’m camping and travelling by myself, that around every dark shadow is a gang of thugs willing to do vile murder upon me. Though the fear has perhaps kept me safe from harm on a few occasions.

But after a bit more searching I’ve now found the ideal spot. About 10 m from the road, about 5m from the beach in a wee hamlet of about 20 beach front houses. There’s the odd streetlight, but not enough to keep me awake. I’m parked about 10m from the ‘no camping/overnight stay’ sign. There’s symbols on it banning tents, caravans and campervans, but none of stupid Irishmen willing to sleep in their car, so I think I’ve found a loop hole.

Since arriving I’ve spent an hour on the beach in my shorts (and three layers and a woolly hat but shorts none the less!) staring at the southern stars and just able to see the white caps of the breakers in front of me. Glorious moment.

The next few hours I’ve spent eating bananas and crisps and writing and reading. So much writing in fact my eyes are dry and tired and I’m worried I’m running the battery in the car flat. It’s 11pm and the sun rises at 6.15 am when I’m sure the police will be waking me and painting an image of an Irishman in a car on the sign and putting a line through it.

A day in the life

Originally thought I could do an April Fool’s blog and fool you into thinking that I’ve done something mad or crazy, but then realized I didn’t quite have the imagination for that kind of thing. And I have this nagging inability to lie convincingly. Especially when I know I’ll have to admit it. When it comes to lying over petty things with no chance of discovery, or lying in the face of plainly obvious facts then I’m your man.

So instead you’ll get a ‘day in the life’ thing, but not quite like the Beatle’s song, if only cause I didn’t ‘roll out of bed and drag a comb across my head’ – there not being enough hair, and me not owning a comb.

Got up at 8am. Standard morning time at the weekends. I tend to get up at 6am on the weekdays, but I go to bed at like 10.30pm here so it’s no sacrifice.

Made it to church for the first time in two months. And before I’m cast down as a heathen I was in the south island for the first month and have worked 3 out of the past 4 weekends.

It was cool to be back. In no way have I made relationships in the place that I could in any way compare to home. Maybe I expected more but perhaps I was unreasonable. In some ways it’s weird, cause there’s only about two other people my age who go there. It’s mostly older couples and their kids. But they’re a good bunch.

I was playing bass, which got me out of having to actually talk to people. I still find stuff like that a bit tough. I think I find church easier when I have a role, something to do. Now of course chatting to folk and enjoying their presence and sharing their burdens is, I imagine, immeasurably more useful than playing bass but hey…

Coffee and hot dogs after church, in church in fact. We (I?) could definitely learn a few things. The homeless guys who come to the church regularly always get served. Perhaps another lesson we could learn.

From church I made it home to sit on the sofa and write a few emails and check if there was any one on Skype. Though it was 1 am back home by that stage and the only one I saw on was Bart and I’d spoke to him the day before and I thought he might be a bit tired!

I had to be in Havelock North for a footy match for 2.30 pm, which I made it to for 3pm! I started at centre-back and was instantly knackered. This, despite running three times a week for a few weeks. The fact that I’m only 25 for a while longer is hitting me. Somehow that one extra year seems to make all the difference when I think about it.

I’m part of the Division 1 team for Havelock North Wanderers and we were playing the Premiership team for the same club. Makes it all sound very professional. But when you realize that I’ve been brought in as an outfield player as some kind of ‘star player’ then you’ll know the type of level we’re at.

We got thoroughly trounced, mostly due to fitness but also due to a lack of basic understanding in how to move the ball about the park. Every ball was a panicked long, over the top ball, straight to their feet. I managed to get a couple of triangles going at one point of the game, which was a wonderful idea but poorly executed due to my complete lack of ability. They were not so much triangles as straight lines. Barely straight, at that.

I always wonder how much of stamina and endurance is actual physiology or is it all just psychology. If I’m optimistic I favor the former, but if I’m honest I’ll concede it’s probably more the latter, and all this running about seems like a lot of hard work to me.

So, spurning the offer of an after match beer in the club house (apparently free – what a bizarre concept, would certainly have the punters piling in at home), I headed home to quietly expire on the floor.

However it was a sunny day, and everyone knows I’m a sucker for a sunbeam. So instead of heading north I went west, over the hills to the beaches, with John Piper on the stereo. The drive remains one of the loveliest round here. Through vineyards, orchards, over the Tuki-Tuki (following the Maori tradition of naming things twice, eg Onga-onga and Auckland-Auckland…) river and with views of Te Mata (pronounced ‘tomato’ in Belfast accent) peak and over the brown hills of hawke’s bay.

Ended up at my favorite beach (Ocean Beach) that I’ve waxed lyrical about before. Unfortunately it was a nice day, which meant it was full of humpy, flippin people enjoying themselves. Always ruins my self-obsessed melancholy…

Dandered up the beach and lay down (or rather collapsed) in the sand dunes with the setting sun over the hills keeping me warm. Simply glorious. In fact I’ll withdraw the self-obsessed melancholy comment, it was more of a sense of perspective and gratitude that I get to live here, that I’ve been given the life I have, that I’m in possession of a righteousness and heir to promises that I neither earned nor deserve.

Stopped on the way home for fish and chips – the joy of exercise is that it justifies fried food and sat in the flat loving it and watching the BBC news podcast.

All this left me with this moment. The time to write this. The time to get another few cups of coffee down my throat. And I’m at peace. Which is a tricky bird to catch. And I’m not sure it’s the point anyhow, though it does seem very attractive as an end in itself. And I’m not even sure that I could reproduce the same peace given the same set of circumstances.

For example. I could say that the following has given me this contentment: a full belly, some coffee, my usual Sunday evening run through of the Duke Special catalogue (mercy me and mercy you, you’re still in love in spite of me… I’ve forgotten how to feel, it’s easier to fake it… I could go on…), my emails before me, the flat freshly vacuumed (yes I’m that anal…) and a new book in my hands (another bloody love letter, by Anthony Lloyd, the reporter recently kidnapped in Palestine, a great story of catharsis, addiction, self-loathing and life at the extremes. No surprise I like it really…)

Though the above list sounds a little bit of a ‘happiest when’ section from Bebo or Myspace or something. I could make a lot of lists like that but I don’t think I could follow them. I mean I don’t think they’re reproducible as a quick fix, five step plan to contentment for ‘my so called life’. And I’m pretty sure it’s not the point. So I’ll take it with a pinch of salt (whatever that means), enjoying the moment for what it is but being careful not to get too comfy.

The Big Trip – Day 18

Weird kind of day. Si and ruth’s flight was in the evening. So we had a day to fill and little idea of how to do it. It was sunny which gives you a few more options. So we ended up at the beach and me and si trying to turn the kayak into a surf board again.

It got a little bit messy. Si isn’t too hot at knowing where is head is in relation to the kayak wheb he comes off. This means he gets whacked on the head by it quite a bit. Today he caught the corner of the kayak on his jaw, sending him underwater for longer than I would have liked, and brought him up with a curse or two on his lips. Well I suppose they would have been curses if he could have moved his jaw to form the words. He’ll live i’m sure.

This manage to fritter away the time till 2pm. Only another 3 hrs till I could safely dump them at the airport and be rid of them. Kidding, honestly…

It frustrated me that I had these people with me who I love so dearly and we were struggling to fill our remaining few hours together. Maybe I was just annoyed that they were going home and i’d miss them. I’m not particularly good at expressing any kind of emotions towards most people, particularly my family. My fondness for them comes across as a sulky, sullen, form of grumpiness, which is only subtely different from my routine sulky, sullen, grumpiness.

I’m not good with goodbyes. I’ve watched too many movies and maybe I expect them to be more like that. All the ones I go through just seem a bit awkward. We sat in the airport café and drank our coffees (morsies on the hot chocolate) and passed the time as best we could.

And so i’ll not see them for another four months. Which is no time at all really, in the grand sheme of things. But i’ve spent 6 months here already getting used to the idea of not having my family with me and now I have to do that again. If it sounds like i’m moaning, then i’m not. Si said – you can always come home. And it’s true, i’m in the wondeful position of being able to do pretty much anything. I could come home at the drop of a hat.

I’m still not going to though.

And so I went back to the car park and got in the RVR and realised how bad it smelled, and that it was mostly my shoes so even with them gone it wasn’t going to change. I bought the paper, turned on the miserable old git music that I love, that i’d been banned from playing and drove back to town. Parked the car and spent the whole evening, walking the length and breadth of chistchurch and lying in the park watching the ducks and sizing them up for bowler hats.

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.

Doyng…

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.

Doyng…

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.

Doyng…

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…

Doyng…

The Big Trip – Day 4

Mostly listening to: REM, lambchop

Sleeping on: carry mat

Coffees: 2

Eating: grilled snapper

KMs: 790

Shop name of the day: the undie drawer (launduret – i have no idea how to spell that, i figure that’s a good thing)

I slept well last night. The neill family struggled. Apparently there was jack johnston on continual repeat in the bar downstairs and some americans playing chess next door. I slept through it all.

Brekkie in one of the nicest cafes i’ve ever been in. One of those places with posters of old flims that i’ve never seen on the walls. Had eggs benedict. Whoever he was he’s a good lad in my book.

Glorious sunny day, the way NZ looks in the guidebooks. The skies bluer, the suns brighter.

Drove to abel tasman national park on thr north of south island. Tasman was a dutch explorer who was the first (european) to find the place on a trip to find australia (i mean it’s pretty big, surely couldn’t be difficult). He landed on an island off the coast and got attacked (though not eaten) bh some of the locals. He decided that no, it wasn’t the great southern continent that he was looking to discover and left. Cook turned up and got all the glory nearly a century later.

His national park rules. All tropical bush and coastline. Positvely carribean – at least it was today.

We took a water taxi (at high speed, way cool) up the coast and had a lovely 4 hr walk back with a stop for a swim on a golden beach along the way. Stop me if this sounds like an ad, i don’t mean it to.

Sat on the kayak (in the campsite) and read the paper in the setting sun. Quality moment. Tea in the restaraunt attached to the campsite. Further quality moment.
The stars are out tonight. Though if you gave me the north and southern hemispeheres i’d have trouble telling the difference. All very pretty.

Me and si have started a beard-off (morsies not wanting to play) today. The concept of the neill brothers having a beard off will make those who know us laugh. We have three weeks to grow as much facial hair as we can. We expect small furry mammals to move in and make their homes in the beard. Though i imagine most will move out complaining that it was too drafty…

Surfing and lattes

things to do while in NZ:
1) jump off bridge
2) two months in intensive care and rehab
3) jump off bridge with bungee rope attached
4) skydive
5) reincarnate and sky dive with parachute
6) learn how to surf

well number 6 I’ll have a go at.

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I’ve surfed once before in my life. In Jefferies Bay in south Africa with ricky mayes on holiday a few years ago. Jefferies bay is a world famous surf spot, the site of pilgrimage for surfers round the world. Like Mecca without the white robes and stampedes. Home of the world famous ‘super tube’ – a type of wave I’m told. I knew none of this, but every time people ask me where I’ve surfed before and I tell them Jefferies Bay they go all misty eyed and awestuck. Either that or I’ve farted and they’ve got a whiff.

Where I live is hardly the top surf spot in NZ but it ain’t bad. I arranged a morning’s surfing with 3 of the nurses from the unit. In fact they were murses (male nurses). Garth (can I still be garth… – Kiwi), Martin (a galway guy who’s worked near everywhere) and Jess (or Jessup, a guy from Seattle). All good lads. We have a ‘reaining men together’ type banter. Mostly involving standing about taking the piss and being silly and using the pressure bags to squirt saline at each other. Nursing is a female dominated profession so you need ways to cope. And I’m the only registrar a lot of the time so we bond.

Borrowed a board off Tim, another Kiwi murse, stuck working the same day. He had a JC (signature make of board) and he’s got it embellished with a wee fish symbol and all. Good to have a brother in Christ to borrow stuff off!

At the ridiculous hour of 8am we met at Garth’s house. So we packed four boards on top of Garth’s shiny new black truck. The type of car homies drive in the US. I expected it to bounce up and down. It should have been called bessy or something like that. It was none of these – I was most disappointed. We didn’t even play gangsta rap. And in most manly fashion we stopped for lattes. (see http://picasaweb.google.com/ajneilldoctor for photos)

I have to say the waves weren’t exactly pounding. On the way to the beach we met people driving back at 8.30am. a bad sign. So the place was deserted. Which was good, cause none of us really knew what we were doing. A cop car turned up at one point. The lone cop checking out whether it would be worth surfing after work.

I spent the first 30 mins swallowing sea water and struggling to get out into the waves. I got beaten and overturned and got hit by my board numerous times. But then I got into it a bit.

There is a place, when the surf’s good and you’re in the zone, when surfers say they’re in ‘the green room’ (no relation to edenderryce.org). I think it’s something to do with mind altering drugs.

I wasn’t quite in the green room but did manage to master the technique of catching waves, and standing and falling off in one seamless maneuver. A rare talent I suspect. It amused the small, laughing children on the shore anyhow.

Ice bergs off the south coast…

Occasionally I cycle out north from where I live at the bottom of Napier hill. Along a strand called west shore. I wear my helmet cause apparently it’s the law. And I suppose it’s probably a good idea. Though the one I bought is too small for my noggin (doesn’t that say something!) and when I smile or bite down it shifts up on my head. It gives my head a kind of mushroom appearance.
Off the point already. So I cycle out and I have the lagoon on one side and the pacific ocean on the other. Where the airport is used to be all water (which is not really reassuring). But there was ‘the quake’ in the thirties that leveled the whole place and raised the surrounding flat lands by about a couple of meters making all this new land.

There, cool photos of Napier before the quake when the hill was almost an island and where I am now was a crescent shaped sand bar surrounded by sea. I talk about the earthquake cause that’s what’s made this town famous. For those uninformed folk this town is famous. Apparently. I suppose it’s all relative…

The beach is pebbly and black. I suppose if it had a golden sand beach then Napier would really be the best place in the world and that would just be unfair on the rest of the world. But it’s a nice beach all the same and it’s got neat little world war two bunkers spread along it.

Though I’m not sure why. Even if Japan had achieved pacific dominance in the long term then I doubt they would have invaded. New Zealand is too small to be worth invading and it gives you know strategic position. It’s too darn hilly to try and occupy it. I suppose they could have just occupied the cities and all the kiwis would have lived out in the hills.

Either way the bunkers on west shore weren’t gonna slow up any invasion too much

So I sit on the bunker and stare out into the pacific and think, as I tend to do. And I think that I’m looking the wrong way to see home and I should look the other way. Then I realize that it’s ridiculous to look either way as I actually need to look down to see home

If I swam or canoed straight out from here (this is not something I’m currently planning to do) then the first thing I’d hit would probably be southern Chile. If I go south then I’d probably miss the south island and head straight to Antarctica. It was in the paper that they’ve spotted 4 groups of over a hundred icebergs off the south coast of Invercargill (the most southerly town on the south island). The tallest is apparently almost 200m!

If I swam/paddled north I’d at least hit the East Cape before disappearing towards Polynesia.

If I go back the way I came then I get a nice cup of coffee some furry slippers and a bag of salt and vinegar crisps. Who’s hungry?

Like scrubbing yourself with an aubergine

This is all still a bit of a holiday really. It’ll be a while before the idea living here actually sinks in. I fill my time with driving round this stunning place. I’ve always liked driving but back home when it’s clodding down rain it ain’t as pretty.

Work starts on monday and i’m looking forward to it, well not the work to be honest, just the people. Now don’t misunderstand me, I love being and travelling by myself out here, probably too much, lonliness is rarely an issue. But I have (just) enough sense to know that that’s not good for me, or for anyone.

So anyway, today I took a drive to a place called ocean drive (sometimes the names are wonderfully practical, although sometimes not, as in taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu – the brow of the hillwhere tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climed and swallowed mountains, known as land eater, played his flute to his lover – i’m not making this up). Ends up in the middle of nowhere in a one lane gravel road with a stack of 60s beach houses (bachs, as kiwis call them) at the end. And a beach that bears more than a passing resemblance to white park bay, except more deserted.

So i’m doing my usual of sitting on a dune, thinking and writing and staring at the (pacific!) ocean. It’s 2am back home.

The sea does things to me. Now I don’t mean it brings me out in a nasty rash or that it calls me names and pulls my hair. I mean the scale and the sound of the thing tends to put me in my place, gives me a certain sense of perspective, the way it just keeps going and going and going for what seems like an endless distance.

I like that.

The caravan (!) i’m currently living in has become a temporary home. Simply because i’ve managed to unpack for the first time and I can make my own food (last night – a good ould steak and a tarahiki – fish – with a greek salad and a slab of ciabatta bread).

I’ve even managed to get the computer set up so I could burn a few cds for the car. Kiwis have (largely, and with no real authority or research do I say this) terrible taste in music, given what’s on the radio. Anyone who can name 3 decent kiwi bands (as he tries to think of two himself) will win a special prize The music is only partially beaten by the woeful (though actually amusing) ads and jingles.

And when unpacking I realised for the first time that I forgot to bring something. Impressive since I brought pretty much everything I have. I forgot shower gel. Now to those who are jumping to suggestions that I haven’t showered since I arived, and would have me labelled a dirty ‘soapo’, then there’s a simple explanation – i’ve been stealing everyone elses.

But in the wonderful chalet/caravan/prefab static/log cabin at Clive’s (the town is called clive, they guy who owns it is called john) motor park, there is soap provided. According to the packaging it is 100% vegetable based. I have no idea how that works. Like scrubbing yourself with an aubergine (don’t try that at home).

Yesterday it was sunny all day. Toasty. Today it’s like a good summer’s day on white park bay –  cold, windy and cloudy. Still, no rain and while you are just finishing summer mine is just about to start!


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July 2020
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