Archive for the 'coffee' Category

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…


April 2019
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