Archive for the 'coffee' Category

London Calling [Part 4]

Went and saw the mouse trap last night. It’s been running in London continually for something like 56 years or something silly. there’s a counter at te entrance saying this is now the 24000 performance or something. I can imagine the poor actors pleading “please kill me” during the performances.

Gilly was convinced that he’d seen it once before during his time in London, and was fairly sure that the butler did it. Which seemed understandable till we realised there wasn’t actually a butler in the cast at all. Anyhow good show. In a vertigo inducing theatre.

Breakfast in my hotel has so far been uneventful. Turn up in the dining room, sit down, man brings me eggs and bacon. Until today. The dining room is exceptionally small, not exactly big enough to hold all the guest at the same time, not even big enough to hold more than 8 of the guests at the same time. Which led to some entertainment. “would i wait outside?”, would I wait inside?”, “would I mind sharing a table with this lady?”, “would I mind sharing a sausage with this man?”, “would i mind waiting outside again?”

There were smashed plates, no glasses, an overflowing coffee machine, shouts from the kitchen, a foreign chap with no english waiter kept getting everything wrong and a rather frantic Englishwoman who followed him around apologising for all the mistakes. It appears that Fawlty Towers is alive and well. I loved it.

Met Gilly at All Souls, where inevitably he knew the first person at the door. All souls holds a bit of a special place, with all the previous visits with CE, and all the people who seem connected with the place. And they do a good job. Be it from music, to communion, to welcoming. Put a bit of hope in my soul which has been conspicuously absent over recent months.


Spent the afternoon in the British Museum – which remains wonderfully free of charge – looking at mummies, and rocks and books. Fantastic stuff. I could get lost (physically and metaphorically) in there for weeks.


Incidentally, the British Museum has the longest queue for coffee I’ve ever seen. I tell a lie, the longest queue i’ve ever stood in – normally i just see it and don’t bother.

By that stage it was time for the afternoon nap. Not that we sleep, we just go back to the Royal Society and i lie about on the sofa writing blogs and fiddling more with the drum samplers while Gilly either lies down or reads theology. All very pleasant.

This evening we met up with a couple of CE graduates, who’ve ended up working in London for the mean time. So good to see people you know in a totally different context. We went to All-Souls again to hear Rico Tice and have a pizza after. All very lovely indeed.

Tomorrow I suppose we’re back to work, looking at things as widely varying as status epilepticus to dermatological emergencies – normally that last one’s an oxymoron, but there are a few skin 999’s.

Maybe I should add this. I’ve found myself enjoying things. Enjoying this trip, enjoying musicals, and other people’s company and all that. I haven’t done much of that recently. There’s this odd guilt that by enjoying things you’re somehow being disloyal to the memory. That you’re somehow being disloyal to the grief process. I dunno. Maybe it’s just good days, bad days. The whole thing’s a bit mad really. I don’t pretend to be doing it particularly well. You just get though it somehow. You just keep going.

Common People

So I was having this discussion (in a taxi headed downtown…) in a coffee shop with a friend, Mostly about Christianity. All the things that piss us off about ourselves and the church and the world we live in. We end up talking about the gap there appears to be between the type of Christianity we see in our church – Bible centred, mostly cerebral, a lot of consideration and understanding, by a mostly highly educated group of people. Contrasted with the normal everyday society of a working class housing estate – educated as little as possible, where books, never mind the Bible have any role, where reaction is more important than consideration, who dance and drink and screw, casue there’s nothing else to do.

This begs two questions.

1) is the Christianity I describe what should be called ‘compulsory’? Is a love of study and theology and a grasp of the finer aspects of the five points of Calvinism what we need to be looking for in a believer?

2) if not, what type of church do we end up with and how should we do it? Together or separate? And how does this affect how we reach all the people in the working class housing estates.

Now there is enough in the two paragraphs (in which I have made huge generalisations and ignored many important points) preceding to spark all types of debate and controversy. That even may be the point. But I will try to explain a few things.

I grew up in a pleasant, safe (though not leafy) housing estate on the outskirts of town. Born to two first generation professionals, one of whom even had some form of degree, well a teaching certificate at least, and Da had 3 O-levels and some gnarly side burns so all’s fair there….

I was loved and nurtured and educated, both at home and in school. I was amply provided for and raised in a stable, loving and caring environment. Churched from a young age and taught the value of hard work, honesty, integrity and what would have been called moral values. Though perhaps I was just indoctrinated by a bunch of fundamentalists and projected some horrible Oedipus complex. I’m not sure. You choose.

I have been educated to a tertiary level and am a qualified professional in a very well paid and respected job with career possibilities coming out of every orifice. I am, by any stretch of the imagination, a golden child, one of the luckiest people on the planet.

There are now over 6 billion people on this planet. Most of whom without a toilet or running water, many of whom who die before the age of 5 from (what would be in our society) entirely preventable diseases. Many go hungry. Many can’t read. Few drive a car. Few have electricity to their home. Even fewer have used the internet or listened to a CD or read a book. Even fewer have been on an airplane to another country.

In terms of standards (education, finance, health, opportunities, safety) I’m somewhere in the top oh… 0.001% of the population of this planet. The white, middle class, Protestant male is the top of the food chain. Mostly by clambering on top of everyone else to get there, but I have no time for history.

If you are reading this then you are a) probably lost, b) full of perseverance to make it this far down and c) probably in the top few percentage points along with me.

On the other hand if I was born in a sink estate in Belfast, or in any city of any industrialised nation, I could well be an unwanted child of a teenage parent, with no father present. With an unstable family upbringing, few opportunities, an early entrance to anti-social and criminal behaviour, becoming heavily involved in alcohol and recreational drug abuse as a way to escape the awful pain of being alive and falling just short of the higher percentage points of human existence.

I draw generalisations to make a point. We are exceptional. Not in the BUPA advert type of a way, but that life is, in general, for the majority of the population on this planet and in this country, in this town, a conveyor belt of fear, pain, misery and death. I got lucky, though I in no way I believe I ended up with who I am by luck but you know what I mean.

I am a thinking Christian. I read books, I have vague notions of artistic appreciation and creativity. I need to understand my faith. To understand something of what expiation, imputation and sanctification mean. I need to question what my faith means, not even always finding satisfactory answers. I need to understand why I am what I am, why I do what I do.

Does this make me a better a follower of JESUS CHRIST?

The question I think should be this: does this make me a better follower of JESUS CHRIST?

It is subjective. Surely it must be. It would be anathema that GOD would create a faith accessible only to the top 0.001% of the population. Aren’t we to become like children in our faith? Heaven will be largely full of people who never learnt to read (assuming this whole shambles of a universe is called to a close sooner rather than later).

The gospel message is simple enough for a child to grasp and believe. Yet complex and deep and meaty enough to dedicate many of the finest minds of humanity into dedicating their lives into its understanding and unpacking.

So it seems clear that I’m not right about everything. A shock to us all I know…

I mean that how I relate to GOD will be different from how you will relate to GOD. That somehow GOD is glorified even in the variety of our personalities and our intellects. That the faith of a peasant believer in India (note how he is not simply a believer but a ‘peasant believer’, because I believe a delusion that my circumstances are normal, and his are in someway exceptional and deserve the preceding adjective) brings equal, if not greater glory to GOD. The first shall be last and the last shall be first.

So perhaps that’s question 1) dealt with, in the smallest and most superficial form of course.

As for what our churches should look like then I have only begun to scratch the surface in my own mind. For now I’m more concerned with how that affects our evangelism.

Most of us are strategic about our evangelism. Trying to get the best understanding of the culture to which we are preaching the gospel. As a simple example, when I was in Malawi a few years back, we had to do some ‘preaching’ in church on a Sunday morning. Often it consisted of little thoughts from the psalms. In a burst of enthusiasm I got our translator to translate my psalm to English from his Chichewa (the language not the Wookie from Star Wars) Bible. I soon realised that there are no deer in Malawi and therefore my psalm had been modified to ‘As the giraffe pants for the water’. There are cultural barriers to be crossed. Most much more complex than this.

This town is divided by all kinds of barriers. Most obviously by that which cost the lives of 3000 people in the past 30 years. I rarely call myself a Protestant (though I indeed sign up to the doctrinal statements) but a Christian. But I can’t ignore the fact that I am a Protestant and the person I am speaking to is a Catholic. I cannot close my eyes and pretend the issue is not there. It is. I need to busy myself with dealing with it.

I have a secure and well-paid job. You are on income support, with no qualification and indeed no motivation to work. The simple and inevitable conclusion is that if you sign up to what I preach then you will become like me. Though the even scarier conclusion is that you need to be like me to sign up to what I preach. I cannot ignore this.

It is vital that we understand the significance of the barriers (and sometimes opportunities) that stand between human cultures. CHRIST was undeniably Jewish and preached to an almost exclusively Jewish audience. Paul spent his time with gentiles on his journeys, indeed in Athens he grasped and understood the culture of debate and pantheism that surrounded him. The consequences of the tower of Babel did much more than simply separate us in terms of language.

A ‘one size fits all’ Christianity does not work. The world is not full of Christians like us. I in no way want to come across as a lefty universalist, let’s just all hold hands and praise the Lord – that type of thing. It matters who you think the Lord is. It matters how you get to know him. It matters how you relate to him. Doctrine matters. Do not doubt me on that.

But what we are so often trying to do is make more people like us (by which I mean more people who are like us, not simply make people think we’re fun to be around). One of my biggest fears about church is that we are simply dividing along the secondary issues. That all we will be left with are groups of people united not by their love for JESUS CHRIST, but their taste in music, their age, their personality or the style of the sermon. But don’t get me started.

GOD wants disciples, wants people who love and treasure him for who and what he is. He does not want us to be making Presbyterians (though this may end up being the case) out of people. He does not want us to make Protestants (most Protestants know nothing about the reformation or have read any of Luther or what he fought against, most Protestants in this country are Protestants because it simply means they are not Catholics) out of people. He does not want us to make white, middle-class males, lovers of CS Lewis and a good self-deprecating lyric. He does not want me to make people just like me. He wants to make people, to remake people, to make them what they were meant to be. He is into making them like himself.

Bad things to such good people


This is a kind of ‘you had to be there’ blog. For those of you who were, then it was both an honour and a privilege to be there with you. But I guess you had to be there.

In a normal situation I would have had a good (or probably bad) 4 blogs done in the past week. By normal situation I mean living in NZ without all these terribly bothersome human beings getting in the way.

Instead I’ve spent a week with people, in fact I’ve spent barely an hour away from people since I got back. Indeed the one hour I did spend alone, I got a bit twitchy and unsettled that there was no one there.

Finished is my 12th year at New Horizon. Gained is a head full of songs, theology, conversations, meaning, hope and tears. I have spent time listening to the people of GOD singing, standing with my eyes closed to hide the fact that I’m crying, so full of joy that I am closer to home than I have been in my whole life.

And home is not Norn Iron, and not even, dare I say it Porteedown, but home is somewhere between ‘final breath’ and revelation 21. Home is not so far away from hope. Home is in fact, only 3 letters away from hope. Certain words acquire depth and meat and meaning after a week or so on them.

Being here has been taking my head out of the sand – for indeed in some aspects, NZ has been a long ‘time out’ and sticking my head in the sand and pretending that bad things do not happen to such good people as those I love so dearly.

In other aspects I wish I hadn’t been away. That when I left, I missed out on people’s lives, that when I left I kind of withdrew support that should have been given. I regret not being there – if not when I should have been, then at least when I could have been.

I have loved just sitting in the courtyard in Agherton, playing Woodsy’s detuned guitar and drinking coffee from my orange mug sitting on the windowsill and people watching. Getting 34 headers first time with Skeeno when it took us 3 hours in the dark last week to get 20. With the sweet hum of the Nerf over head and the constant stream of mini buses coming and going.

Before I indulge any further then I will tell you that there’s a Ben Folds line that goes ‘kids these days… they get nostalgic about the last 10 years before the last 10 years are past’.

I have had 100 conversations with people I haven’t seen in a year or longer. I even knew some of their names.

I have had countless chats with folk in the big tent as my eyes drift from focus on who I’m talking to, to who I may possibly talk to next. This is pretty universal, the sheer number of people leads to such distracted conversations. I briefly attempted to hold conversations where I never broke eye contact but found this hugely unnatural and rather freaky. I resorted to looking at my feet. It annoys me that despite the fact that I want to give someone my full attention – as politeness and love would dictate – I cannot avert my eyes from the possible next social engagement.

I suspect I have blanked people, people who know me, a few who have even said ‘hi Andy’ to which my body as replied with a ‘blank’ and an inward – ‘I have no idea who you are, what your name is or even why I should know you’.

Surprisingly I am not yet fed up with my ‘if I was a friendless orphan I would move to NZ’ conversation yet, though I suspect a lot of you are. I remain joyously, neither of the above.


There were cows nibbling at the wing mirrors when I woke. Cows are dumb.

Started the morning with a bush walk around (and over) one of the hills surrounding the bay. As usual it’s loosely marked, and involves a few wrong turns and getting lost in deep bush like Lothlorien or somewhere. All adds to the experience.

And after leaving Anaura bay it hits a bit of a down hill slide. Both in terms of weather and pretty sights. It’s here that the rural desolation of the east cape kicks in. The settlements I pass through are terribly run down, the last paint job being the late 70s. Now some would say this adds to the rustic chic but I’m not sure the locals would agree.

In Waiparo bay i stop at the beach and make myself some coffee (the other problem with being run down is lack of a decent espresso joint…) and wait for the sand flies to find me yet again. I sit on the bonnet reading ‘the poisonwood bible‘ with the sun on my back. Looking at the sky it looks like it might be the last I see of it for a bit.

There is, of course no surf.

State Highway 35 abandons the coast for the next 60 km or so and I stop only in Ruatoria for lunch. The most Maori of towns in a nearly totally Maori area I feel a bit out of place. Not cause I’m white (though I am always as obvious and unbearably white as they come), but because I’m not wearing wellies and don’t have 6 dogs in the back of my ute. This is sheep country.

A few minutes earlier SH35 was brought to a standstill as 150 sheep were being herded down the road. There didn’t seem any great urgency in herding them. The dogs were lazily sniffing each other’s butts and seemed happy enough for me to do all the herding as I drove into the crowd

I got the universally accepted symbol of acknowledgement for my efforts from the farmer, a nonchalant lift of the index finger and a nod.

Back in Ruatoria there’s a chap in wellies riding a horse down the main street. I can hear distant banjos…

North of Ruatoria there’s not much. Just 30km of road and then the ocean. You have a choice, 20km east there’s the cape itself with compulsory lighthouse. Or you can begin your slow trip west to civilisation

East every time. Tourists/travellers/tour buses are drawn somehow to the points of the compass. That there’s somehow something virtuous in seeing them. It’s a claim to fame for the brochures, and something to fill the time for the traveller like me – and what is travelling if not filling time between meals and coffee.

The dirt road is windy and hugs the base of sand stone cliffs, and separates the beach and the relentless pounding waves from eating away at the cliffs. The type of waves that are nice to stare at from under a hat and some gore tex before hastening back to the car on a cold winter’s afternoon. So no, I didn’t try surfing here.

The lighthouse (the most easterly in the world…) is a top a hill towering over a farm. You have to walk through their front yard to get there. It’s a pretty white lighthouse though surprisingly small. When I get to the top I can see a blooming big island about a mile further east. Right where – if you were a ship rounding the cape, being guided by the lighthouse – your course would lie.

This seems just silly, as if they were trying to make the ships crash by putting the lighthouse in the wrong place. This before I read the sign about how the original lighthouse was on east island (cook really needed someone with a bit of poetry on his boat…) before the keeper lost three kids, almost went mad and half the island slipped into the sea. I stand corrected. Best put the lighthouse on the main land then…

The one cool thing about being at the world’s most easterly lighthouse is that you can think yourself into all kind of geographical and temporal muddles. Just thinking that if I go a few hundred miles east then it’ll still be yesterday. I get easily confused. When I come home (via LA) in July I’ll be circumnavigating the globe for the second time in my life and by my (dubious) reckoning that gives me two extra days and so somehow gives me the edge on everyone.

I consider parking the car on the endless sweeping beach, facing the terrible, never ending waves, staring at the bleak, but achingly beautiful cliffs framing the dramatic picturesque bay, but I realise I’ll never have enough adjectives to make it through to morning.

As I resolve my dilemma it starts to rain. And I mean really rain. Decision made (sleeping in the car is alright when you can spend all evening lying on the bonnet for entertainment) I head back to civilisation to look for a room for the night.

Te Arora is another hicksville, wellies everywhere but no horses. I look at the map wondering where’s next and my eyes surely deceive me, could this actually be right, the next town on the map is – Hick’s Bay. I’m not making this up. Thinking that someone somewhere has a wonderful sense of irony (turns out it’s named after one of Cook’s crew – surprised he didn’t name it ‘one of my men’s town’ or something equally creative).

I end up in Hick’s Bay holiday camp, a collection of run down wooden huts with a shop, a lot of rusting caravans, a chip van and a cinema (the world’s most easterly cinema! Oh give it a break…) of all things.

I desperately want to go to the cinema but am too embarrassed to ask as I’m sure I’ll be the only one in a leaky tin hut watching sponge bob square pants or something.

Instead I wash (first for everything eh?), drink coffee (old habits die hard) and eat fish and chips from the van (possibly the most easterly in the world, though I see no sign, must remember to mention it to the woman…) and read.

There are few famous kiwi films (lord of the rings was of course made here but is hardly a kiwi film). One that is worth watching is ‘the whale rider‘ filmed in one of the bays I came up through. As east coast ngati poru (maori tribe) as it gets. And that’s what this place feels like. Even down to the young girl singing and dancing in the chip shop. In some ways it at least feels like something authentic.

Would prefer to be back at Anaura bay lying on the car on the beach, but I think it’s even raining there now too. Change in weather may lead to a change of plans. More driving and less lying on a beach in the sun. I know what I’d prefer.

Happy when you’re happy

My first memory this morning was that of a WW II spitfire crossing the bay in front of me. And in the dream I was having it made perfect sense. And then I woke and struggled to reconcile why a WWII spitfire would be strafing an unpopulated bay on the east coast of NZ. As the fog slowly cleared – the fog of sleep that is, it became clear that there were no WW II spitfires in the area, only milk trucks on the road behind me.

The sky was again all kinds of wonderful colours. I pinched myself again, not to wake from the dream but more to convince myself that I was actually blessed enough to be here. There’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote with a lot (but never quite right…) truth that the greatest thing in life is to realise you’re happy when you’re happy. Not like all those miserable twenty something’s bemoaning their lost school and uni days. Oh wait that’s me…

30 mins down the road I’m at Waihau bay. The type of place that’s so beautiful that really no one else should be allowed to see it and definitely shouldn’t be able to put such lovely bachs on.

The waves were good and the sea was empty. I obliged and threw myself all over the place on my board. Inhaling most of the surf. Great stuff.

Next stop was Tolaga bay – apparently the most populated bit of the east coast. Must be at least 500 people in one place. They even had a school, and a hobo fishing from the bridge. Indeed I doubt he was even a real hobo, just employed to look scruffy.

So I sat in the café, beside the supermarket, opposite the Tolaga information centre (which was empty and was bizarrely playing a tape of Jimi Hendrix live), and supped my latte (they always do good coffee wherever you are) and read my paper and eavesdropped on the conversations of the unemployed mums (sorry, being a mum in no way makes you unemployed, but these one’s were) beside me and silently judging everyone in sight – mostly in positive ways it must be said.

Outside the town was a 3-hour track to one of the places our dear friend captain Cook landed on one of his first visits here. It was a cool wee track, though full of sheep and cows, who I never quite trust, convinced that one of these days one will charge at me when I’m not looking and cause me all kinds of damage.

And I’ve ended up at a place called Anaura bay, recommended to me by a few people since my arrival. And justifiably so. A largely deserted, couple of mile long crescent of golden sand, surrounded by hills of native bush and a barren craggy island just off shore.

The sun is shining, it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t would it? The campsite at the end of the dirt track is a voluntary pay one and apparently closed out of season and is now full of sheep, but the gate is unlocked and anyway I just park on the beach anyhow and I see no one to complain.

There is another ‘less than nothing’ surf, so I just go swimming, sans wetsuit, so a tad chilly I realise. In the end I just sit on the bonnet of the car with the setting sun on my back and reading my Kerouac book and remembering that Vonnegut quote. As it gets dark, a quarter moon comes out, bright but not quite bright enough to read by so instead I just lie  back on the bonnet with a few extra layers on and stare at the stars thinking the world’s in a terrible state of chassis… but sure ain’t them stars pretty…

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 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…

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.


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 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 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.


So often I have this suffocating sensation that I’m running out of time, that there’s not enough time to get it all done. That every second of my life that I’ve not filled with activity or strictly defined purpose, is a waste and a rule broken (see two blogs back). This cripples me, leaves me busy, frustrated alone and self-absorbed. But that’s a book in itself…

And as I get settled (I’ll be saying that till I leave), I find it happening here. That when I get to know people here I’m not having time to write and think and procrastinate. The important things clearly. And so I got a back log of blogs and I’ve had to start making a list (I like lists)  on my phone so that I wouldn’t forget the topics. So this is a coffee related blog.

People in Hawke’s bay are big into coffee. There’s a café culture that you meet up with your mate and have coffee at a pavement café. And they do it well. None of your Nescafe muck now, nothing but the best. The church I go to was set up by a guy who used to run a café so there’s none of your industrial size tub of Maxwell house instant prepared by a lovely be-hatted (?!) church member. It’s a full on espresso machine as big as a bath tub at the back.

Doctors, and to be fair, hospital staff in general have an addiction to caffeine. It wouldn’t be the NHS if there weren’t tea breaks. Only a shadow of the civil service I’m told (eh gaz?) Hawke’s bay hospital has it’s own espresso stand in the main corridor just down from A&E. Entitled Fix. Winner.

Now this has required a whole new language for me. I’m used to just asking for black coffee. But there’s no such thing. I can have a short black or a long black, neither of which seem to affect the size of the cup. My new tipple is a flat white, a kind of cappuccino style thing (all coffees with milky stuff in it are cappuccinos to me). I had the first drank in seconds. Where had this place been all my life.

The guy who runs it knows what he’s doing and then some. It’s a testament to our addiction that he has enough work to keep him for a 9 hour day. With each coffee you get a sweet (of jelly baby proportions) but everyone knows that Thursday is chocolate fish day (for those concerned that does not mean fish covered in chocolate). He even lets you read his paper on a bar stool at the stand while you get your coffee made. I’ve even joined his loyalty card scheme. You pay for 5 and get a sixth free.

I am aware of the CE café in its embryonic form, so I suggest you take hints.

I’m now left with a dilemma. He has an extensive menu of speciality type coffees with –atto at the end of their names. I want to try them all, but like most things I get comfortable with what I’m used to. I’m afraid I’ll ask for a macchiato (was that not a motorbike…) and he’ll ask me how I want it done and I’ll not know what to say, and I’ll say something like medium-rare and then people will laugh at me and report me to the authorities and I’ll be stripped of my residency, possessions and clothing and set adrift to Vanuatu on a raft made from balsa wood. I do over think things.


There’s this asphyxiating, ‘running out of time’ sensation. That somehow not enough time to do all things I need to do. Which is probably just sub-conscious speak for being scared. And it’s not that I’m really running out of time. I have 3 days before I leave, and packing finished 3 days ago (yeah that’s kind of neurotic ain’t it…).

So I’m spending most of my time having coffee with wonderful folk before I go. Now coffee is worth half a blog itself.

When someone asks to go for a cup of coffee with you, there are all kinds of possibilities, depending on who’s asking and who’s being asked. If it’s a boy asks a girl it could well be a ‘date’ thing, and could result in a horribly painful social moment if girl doesn’t want coffee with boy. Funny how the coffee is actually irrelevant in the situation. It’s simply a term used to avoid having to say ‘you’re quite cool and I quite fancy you’ or ‘get your coat love you’ve pulled’. Something understood between two people without being said. Or dramatically misunderstood on occasion.

But beyond the world of romance, we even use coffee as an excuse to avoid saying we actually want to spend time with each other (which is the underlying reason). If I phone a friend for a chat or to meet up (which I’m kind of crap at, sorry friends, I love you really…), I’ll always mask it with a ‘do you want to go out for coffee then?’ Partly because I find it difficult telling the people I love that I enjoy them, and partly because if the person can’t make it (or worse, doesn’t want to meet you) then it’s only the coffee that’s at stake and not the relationship.

If I call to a friend’s house, there will always be at least tea/coffee if not food offered within minutes. Again there’s lots of reasons. It gives you something to do with your hands, it gives a focus for the ‘meeting’ and I suppose coffee and buns are nice too. In a way it somehow facilitates conversation. I have my coffee in my hand, so I’ll begin. That kind of vibe. Sort of why we need background music. Not that we listen to the music, just that the silence scares us.

I love social dynamics and watching and observing how we all interact. I think a lot of us are kind of poor at it. I retract that, and say I’m kind of poor at it. And again I’ll retract that and say I just hate the superficiality of it all. How we use props and symbols to skirt round what we’re actually saying or mean to say. Something understood too quickly becomes something misunderstood.

For those of you lost so far about what I’m rabbit-ting on about then persevere, there’s a good bit at the end

So I have a busy schedule of coffee, and indeed breakfast, lunch and free dinner thrown into the bargain. Life is tough, I know. You get cool chats with people when you know you’re not gonna see them for a year. You tell people stuff that you probably normally wouldn’t tell them and they do the same for you. And there’s hugs, and I like hugs. I kind of used to be a ‘don’t touch me or make physical contact’ type guy. I suppose I still am, if I’m honest, but I still like hugs.

Funny how you only realise how much you’re gonna miss people when it comes to going away. Talk about wasted time and wasted relationships… Leaves you in a funny emotional state. In a way it’s not really happening, and I’m not really leaving the country, I’m just packing and talking about it an awful lot. And sometimes it hits me… that I’ll not be here for the convention or that I’ll not wake up in this bed for a while or I’ll miss Christmas.

And so I cried. I’ve been doing it on and off for a few weeks anyhow. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. When paul left Ephesus there were many tears, and many hugs, and many prayers. When the families followed him to the beach to say farewell, they were ‘torn away’ when they had to leave. And I suppose it gives a bit (and I mean only a glimpse, but wonderful all the same) of ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing’. Love rips and tears and costs and over joys. But it’s the way it works, right? I wouldn’t have it any other way – if it was then I wouldn’t love you and if I have not love then…


August 2022