Archive for the 'Kiwi' Category

Road to joy

I suppose I meant to do a daily blog, for the time the guys were here. Like the ‘big trip’ but with more snow. But it never really happened. I could blame tiredness, I could blame long conversations till 3 am, in a different age I probably could have even blamed Drumcree but to be honest I just got a bit lazy.

So anyway. We drove from Hanmer Springs to Methven (at the base of Mt Hutt) in a morning and kept wondering when the snow was gonna start. For those who have skied in Europe then you’re well drilled, with the flight, the bus trip to the chalet, the sudden realisation that you are in fact sleeping in a lavatory in the local service station and not the log chalet you saw in the brochure. But ultimately you end up staying in the snow.

Methven, the local alpine resort, was in the middle of the Canterbury Planes (imagine what they look like), and full of sheep and cows. There were mountains in sight, but they looked like a really angry version of the Mournes and not something you’d want to carve parallels down.

By this stage it was lunch time and we wanted to at least get a brief ski in so we braved the mountain road to the field. Another brief point to folk who have skied in Europe. The road to the resort may well be windy and your bus will be piloted (the correct term as he thinks he’s flying a jet fighter) by a grumpy Frenchman with a moustache. But the road will at least be tarmacced and have those wonderful crash barrier things at the edge.

The road to Mt Hutt is gravel. Well there’s gravel underneath. There’s mostly snow and ice on top. About half way up we have to stop to fit ‘chains’. Initially I am dubious, but when I see what lies before us I think maybe I need ‘spikes’ not just chains. Phil does us proud, and gets us safely to the top.

On the way down we see a car with both front wheels over the edge of the cliff. A stanchion from a flimsy fence being the only thing to stop it going over. The driver looks as white as… well…snow.

It is the first day of the season and alas only two of the big runs are open. But they’re good runs and we’re keen. We run bets (we seem to run bets on everything, from when the car will break down next or what time Spud will need to pee again) on who will fall over first. Phil wins with a spectacular 3.5 secs and falls over almost as soon as he clears the chair lift. Me and Spud breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t us.

So good to be back skiing. A wonderful, completely bizarre sport, that requires such a stunning amount of effort to actually exist that you wonder how you can ever justify it. A bit like a girlfriend or the human race. But it’s simply wonderful, to be gliding over smooth, pisted slopes in the sun, staring down at the Canterbury Plains to the ocean. One of the few countries you could be surfing and skiing in the same day.

The other joy of skiing in NZ is that (almost, apart from the Irish apparently) everyone speaks English as a first language. So you get into all kinds of chats with folk on the chair lifts. The three of us end up on a lift with a Kiwi in a ‘Mt Hutt’ jacket who chats to us about where we’re from and what we’re doing here. I end up with an all expenses paid job offer to be a ski patrol doctor for a couple of months. This would fulfil one of my two great medical career paths – the other being a cruise ship doctor, with hat and uniform and the whole nine yards.

Phil tells him he’ll be back in 5 years. I tell him I’m going back to Ireland for the ski season (as in the duration of the ski season, not the Irish ski season). He asks why on earth I would want to do that, and I wonder why…


Kiwis are generally a nice bunch. Pretty gregarious, up for a laugh, generally pretty decent. Maybe it’s the small country attitude, maybe it’s the fact they’ve all learnt to live with each other pretty quick – everyone being a pretty recent immigrant  – by the worlds standards.

The Maoris arrived in the 14the century, and soon started beating the lining out of each other. The Europeans first arrived with Tasman in the 18th century, though the Maoris tried to beat the lining out of him so he didn’t land. The Europeans finally made it ashore with Cook – who in the grand scheme of things was really a pretty decent chap and didn’t really deserve to be eaten by those Hawaiian folk a while later. And shortly after we started beating the lining out of the Maoris cause there were no Irish to take it out on initially. And everyone got it all out of their system and we’re all as bad as each other, and no one really has the right to say it’s their country, cause it’s so recent that it’s all written down. Brief and largely occasionally inaccurate history of NZ over.

As for Ireland, people have been here for so long, we can’t remember who got here first but they’re probably dead or they’ve moved to a villa in Spain. It’s simply a system of the newcomers beating the lining out of those who were there before them, and it’s been going on for ages and that was just the way things were. But now we’ve got books and and someone started writing it down and it all seems desperately wrong to our wonderfully enlightened PC eyes so we’ll have a jolly good fight about it. And now no one can quite remember what all this fighting was over but we’re pretty sure the English are to blame somewhere and everyone’s happy with that at least. And as long as we have McDonalds and Coronation St then we’ll not cause too much of a fuss if you’ll pass the dole cheque please…

A while ago I was going somewhere with this…

Yes Kiwis. They’re startlingly nice really. Disturbingly so. Like Paediatricians. They always smile and don’t have that world-weary cynicism that the rest of the medical professional survive on. They frighten bears I hear. It’s just unnerving.

As an example I went to buy a pair of shin pads on Saturday for the footy match. I get to the check out and the teenager behind the till is instantly smiling and friendly. This is instantly disarming. He should be slacking off and picking his nose and getting complaints for being surly. He asks how my day was and I grunt an acknowledgement – feeling the need to play the grumpy teenager if he’s not willing to hold up his end of the bargain. He asks if I want a bag, which I decline, to which he replies ‘awesome’. Now, not taking a plastic bag for my one item may be a miniscule nod to environmentalism and a million more like me may just save the planet from it’s rapid and slippery descent into the dark ages but it certainly doesn’t warrant the use of the word ‘awesome’.

He wishes that I have a great day and smiles as I walk off in a huff – what does he expect, why would I want to have a great day – I’m flippin Irish! Next thing we’ll be making eye contact and having meaningful communication with our fellow human beings in the shopping mall cathedrals of the twenty-first century. This is why I do all my shopping on the net.

Now (hopefully) this is seen more of an indictment of myself than of poor kiwis. Their gentle enthusiasm in the market place is perhaps disturbing at worst, but more worrying is what superlative that kid is gonna be left to use when he scores a date with that hot chick form school. Though looking at him I’m really not that concerned…

Be nice to me will you… bah humbug

The Great walk

So this another series type blog thing. Me on holiday again. Having stuck around for the first match of the season and getting thoroughly trounced, I now have five days off. So i’ve headed up (more commonly known as north) the east coast to lake waikaremoana. There are a number of ‘great walks’ in NZ, tracks that any kiwi or visitor, simply must do. This is one of them. I’ll not object to that.

Day One

Yesterday I drove up and stayed in what’s described as a fishermans cabin in the motor camp. The place was deserted (off season) and simply wonderful. I spent the evening downing coffee and the sunday paper squidging sand flies on my ankles.

I got a boat to take me to the trail head and off I went. Well I thought I was off and then 2 mins in I took a wrong turn and realised it just before the group behind me caught up, and I managed to pass it off as a coffee stop till I could see where they were going and follow them.

The coffee stop quickly extended to a 30 min session and a good read in the sun watching the clouds come in from the far side wondering if I was gonna get wet.

The walk was really 4 hours of uphill to the top of the panekiri bluff where the hut was. Through spectacular bush and with panoramic views every half hour. Wonderful stuff. I was carrying full kit (except a tent) and within 15 mins I was soaked in sweat and cursing another metaphorical grey hair.

But it was stunning. Being alone in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but a continual cycle of before the throne of GOD running through my head.

So now i’m in a hut and it’s 8.20 pm and over half of the 30 here are in bed. Having spent the evening with a bar of cadburys and a wonderful english couple who’d spent a few years in their twenties in tanzania, talking about climbing kilimanjaro and life in africa and life in NZ.

When you take away modern conveniences ,people seem to become so much more open and friendly, just coming up to you and asking how your day had been, and where you were from. And I realise i’ve been here too long, one of the guys I know has some vague connection to a doctor/nurse couple i’m friendly with in work. It’s like NI all over again…

I’m not sure that I can justifiably go to bed at 8.30pm. I’m pretty sure i’ll not sleep, and anyhow i’ve not ran out of chocolate, book nor battery power. Party on wayne.

Day Two

So I went to bed at 8.45 last night and lay there for an hour listening to a guy snore and lay there another hour needing to pee but not wanting to get up. Got up and went in the end and drifted off to the new aracde fire.

Didn’t exactly sleep well so lay on after all the others had left and got at least an hour of what felt like sleep.

Thankfully it was mostly downhill and I ran parts of it indulging my lord of the rings fantasies seeing imaginary orcs at every stage. I grew up with, what could only be called, a fertile imagination and star wars and narnia just gave me the images to play with. I used to occupy myself for hours at night before I slept running through my own star wars fantasies. ‘between that flick of the light and the start of the dream’. Yet more arcade fire of course…

And so I passed all my ‘single serving friends’ along the way, and I wished them well and it was nice to meet them and I meant it. By this stage my blisters were playing up, nothing to do with my shoes just soft feet. It was easier if I just kept walking. In the end I covered 20km I think, which was decent enough.

This is all largely unaccessible bush, except by boat and so I was surprised to hear a chainsaw. I came across a hut with two guys working as a team sawing logs into fire wood. At first I thought they hadn’t heard me approach but then I realised they were just plain ignoring me (or do I mean plain ignorant). In NZ this never happens. Then an elderly man stuck his head out of the hut and said hello. The most striking feature was the fact he had a prosthetic claw hand. Like something they use in films for cutting pad locks.

I ran through a number of reasons as to why he might have this. One – he’d lost it in the war. He looked old enough. Two – he’d lost it in a logging accident, a mistake his colleagues looked like they were about to repeat. Three – he actually had a bolt cutter in his hand and had really long sleeves. All three went through my (admittedly small) mind in a few seconds. I asked him how far it was to the main hut to which he answered ‘help yourself to the water’ and walked off. I presumed he’d lost his hearing in the war too. I left wonderland as the chainsaw brothers stubbornly refused to acknowledge my really quite plain and undeniable existence.

The hut itself is a wee wooden shack overlooking a rather idyllic bay, surrounded by ridged hills covered in bush. I run out of superlatives in places like this. To my most immense joy it was empty.

I collapsed on the verandah (every building in NZ has a verandah, I want one) and lay in the sun, just managing to get my shoes and socks off and ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’ but with a greater sense of contentment and ‘job well done’. Out of superlatives again i’m afraid. Must buy one of those books that gives you alternatives for words – well I can’t think of an alternative for thesaurus can you?

Lying on a wooden floor outside an old shack, in the sun, by a lake is a pretty top moment. Unsure of what would have made it better. Then felt scared that this might be ‘as good as it gets’, then giggled that i’d made it that far down this line of thought without reality cutting in.

The lying and the dreaming lasted a good hour. But who’s counting. The silence was broken (or at least badly dented) by a family of five coming along the track. And in fact they were wonderful. And following them was a 15 strong duke of edinburgh group full of giggly teenage girls. Who were also good bant but perhaps I am more intimidated by giggly teenage girls than anything else.

So life in the hut got a bit more fun and I had a wonderful evening chatting to the teachers and kids and the family. Mostly conversations like ‘are you english?’, to which I replied ‘of course and you lot are aussies eh?’ ‘are you really a doctor?’, to which I replied ‘i might be or I might just be the janitor pretending i’m a doctor, how would you know?’ Realsing that this travelling by youself is wonderful stuff.

And so after another few chapters of my book and an hour staring at the flippin upside down stairs i’ll probably go to bed and not sleep all over again.

Day Three

And yes I didn’t sleep a wink. Oh well.

Woke (!) to a cold wet morning, not in the plan but the lake still looked pretty cool.

Reasonable length of a walk to the pick up point, passing a few more huts and meeting lots more people along the way. Virtually everyone i’ve met on this trek is from auckland and has family originating in the north of ireland. Kind of cool really. I tell the same story that my family goes back four generations on both sides and haven’t moved as much as 3 miles and that we’re all in-bred with big ears and webbed toes everywhere. Self-deprication always gets a laugh.

In the end I had an hour to wait at the pick up point before the boat arrived and it was howling with wind and freezing. So I put on all the emergency gear that i’d lugged round with me and sat on the bench reading and taking self-portaits with my camera. Trying lots of different angles and realising that my best angle was straight on with a hat pulled over my eyebrows and my hand over half my face. Initially the irony of this was lost on me completely. I must need sleep.

It’s your funeral…

I write this in a café/pub about 100yds from where I live. I took refuge in here on my way back from the shop with the paper (the dominion post – cool name), cause it had started to rain. To elaborate – it’s about 25 degrees, cloudy, a warm westerly in progress. I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt and my 8 yearold tevas. There were a few brief spits of rain over the marina and to be honest it was just a lame excuse to visit one of the cafes I hadn’t patronised as yet.

There was a random footy match on the telly – I haven’t seen a footy match in months – there was terrible 80’s pop on the stereo. Occasionally you’d get a gem like queen or elvis costello thrown in. There’s only me, two guys watching (or should I say ogling) the ladies tennis and two girls who couldn’t be older than 17 in full camo gear. The NZ military is a bit weird.

So I started with the local news, with a definite Wellington (as opposed to Auckland slant). Reading the local paper in any given country is a wonderful experience. Reading about politicians corrupt lives and the deaths of young kids in car accidents. Turns out there’s little difference in here and home. Top story is of an 8 yr old ‘kidnapped’ by his grandfather (on behalf of his mother) so that his father (who turns out not to be his biological father) can’t get custody. And his mum has been in prison for four months for refusing to acknowledge the kids whereabouts. The kid has finally turned up saying he had a great time living in a tent with his granddad and eating birds.

And I got through the world section and read of dubbya and his new plan in Iraq and n overview of past statement on how things were going in Iraq. And onwards into the ‘lifestyle’ section full of comments on neurotic women buying shoes and ‘why I hate cell phones’ type features.

And most interestingly of all I came to the ‘family notices’ section as people publicise their grief and regret at a loved ones passing. A list of 80 and 90 year olds passing in rest homes around the country.

As a brief aside, I heard on the radio the other a day an ad for a funeral agency. With medieval style harpsichord (dear knows why?) there was a voiceover of how a gift of a consultation about a loved ones death and funeral would be the perfect gift for an elderly relative. All this tack and bad taste was topped off with a jingle of ‘it’s your life and your funeral’. I kid you not.

So halfway through the notices I find a 100 word notice about an 85 year old dying in hospital with her dearly beloved. Except the difference was that I knew her from work 3 months ago when I admitted her and had a long discussion about the fact that we could do little for her (dodgy heart and heart valves, a stroke, untreatable leukemia and dementia). She’s been in hospital since.

Add to this the fact that a guy I’d told had cancer (Mr A from a blog – bread and butter – back 3 months ago), turned up in ICU having had his thyroid gland removed (I’d thought he had metastatic lung cancer, thyroid cancer is an infinitely more pleasant diagnosis). Funny how you get continuity of care for a guy I never thought I’d see again.

Add to this that I now see people I know when I’m walking about town. A wave or an acknowledgment of recognition in a place where I knew no one four months ago. I realise I’m now part of this place. That I’m not just a random dirty foreigner, as I used to refer to myself. This is a country full of folk like me. Travellers and foreign workers. It’s not so much a holiday any more – and I’m not sad about that.

Anyhow they’re playing REM now so I better leave before the music actually gets listenable.


I’m not a fan of new years eve. It’s an event thing. Like hating birthday parties (well my own any how), valentines day and school formals and all that. Enforced happiness is what i’ve come up with as a reason. The concept that someone in an office (say of clinton cards…) can dictate when people are to have fun and what form it’s allowed to take.

At new years ‘fun’ involves pubs and clubs making lots of money getting all the punters impossibly drunk. Jools Holland gets to have lots of famous people pretending they like him and you’re allowed to snog a random punter and face no consequences – depending who you snog I suppose. Incidentally I think ‘snog’ has to be one of the most unpleasant and offensive-sounding words in the English language. Or maybe it’s just that I’m not getting any.

Christmas, I see as an allowable exception to the enforced rule. A) they got me at an early age and it’s in my blood. B) it’s kind of cool getting all the family together and watching the banter flow. C) there’s pressies involved.

Back to new years. I like an anti-new-year. In the same way I like an anti-birthday (sitting at home reading a book trying to avoid realizing it’s my birthday and people wishing me happy birthday – get bent…) recent new years have been spent at various peoples houses mostly playing cards or board games. Best of all in Phil’s house in Donegal playing monopoly and wondering why knoker wins every flippin time. And of course – ignoring the whole count down business entirely and simply rejoicing in the bant.

So this year I decided to continue my own anti-new-year tradition. New years eve was the seventh in a nine day, 118 hour stint of a self-imposed workathon. I was loving it of course. But to be honest I was getting a bit bored in work that day. It was 8pm and I’d ran out of central lines to change and I just couldn’t manage another cup of the vile instant coffee.

They have this great computer system in work where you can look at who all the current ED (emergency department) patients are with a number (and colour) beside their name stating how sick they are. “Stat ones’ get a red box and they’re the ones I get. So I was staring at the screen in my office (broom cupboard) and all of a sudden a red ‘one’ appears. Off to work I go.

New years can be a bit depressing in A&E cause you end up seeing lots of patients marginally more depressed than you are who have taken pills or drank too much or tried to top themselves just to escape it. This guy had had enough and went out to the shed and swung a rope round his neck and had been swinging for five minutes when his sister found him and cut him down.

He was semi-conscious when we got him and he got a quick anaesthetic and a tube down his throat and a ventilator till he woke up the next morning. And as I wheeled him in to the unit we got a second call. High speed car accident, with a women trapped in the car.

45 mins later and she’s still trapped. You know she’s on her way as we hear the helicopter overhead. One of the bosses has a category of patients called PFOs. Standing for pissed and fell over. I suppose this was a PDT. Pissed and drove into a tree. As one of the ED nurses said – she was too drunk to walk home so she drove.

So at 11.45 pm she had 4 docs and 3 nurses, an X-ray tech a CT tech and an anaesthetic tech waiting for her. There’s these wonderful protocols and mnemonics that you follow in trauma and the boss had me ‘leading’ the team and you find yourself shouting out this ludicrous ABCDE algorithm just to keep everything under control.

Two smashed femurs (not lemurs, they’re monkeys), a smashed ankle, a facial fracture, a few ribs, lots of cuts and bruises, a central line, an arterial line, a catheter, a CT scan from top to toe, lots or morphine and a stack of good old fashioned x-rays later it was half midnight. Happy new year I suppose.

Got me out of going to some party and snogging some random bird. For that I’m eternally grateful.

Got home and watched the BBC news over the net and laughed at the stunned surprise and shock that outdoor events in Scotland at the coldest, wettest part of the year were being cancelled.


I’m not known for patience. Perhaps it’s a family thing. My da will usually sneak back out to the garage arfter dinner to do more work to avoid the 90 secs he might have to wait for his cup of tea to be ready. He has this little ‘manic, obsessive’ trait that comes out from time to time. I use those words cause that’s how he describes me when i’m in one of those moods.

This impatience extends to everything, be it making food (what do you mean microwave for 60 secs, I could be dead by then!), exams (no, I’m not checking the answers to the MCQs, once they’re done they’re done), conversation (get to the flippin point!), technology (if a device has a standby that I don’t have to turn it fully off i’ll use it), and work (i used to triage, examine, treat and dispense my own drugs, and discharge patients in A&E before nursing staff even got near them).

And so i’ve been in NZ (from now on, new zealand will be referred to as NZ, so get used to it) for the grand total of 1 week. And I still don’t feel settled, or at home. Now to most people this would be perfectly normal, i’m not meant to be settled yet. I’m still meant to be recovering from jet lag.

Yet I, expected to arrive as a fully-fledged Kiwi, where everyone knew me and I knew them and we were all a wonderful happy family and I knew where the forms were and how the phones worked and the price of cheese and somewhere to live and the silly rule where someone turning across the lane of traffic has right of way and people wouldn’t think I was called andrè when I say andrew and this is a very long sentence with minimal punctuation so i’ll stop and we can have a collective indrawing of breath.

And so I need to stop. And ‘chill’ so to speak and give things a bit of time and stop chomping at the bit at everything.

Funny, i’ve been here only a week and i’ve learnt stuff about myself that I didn’t even realise was there. Kind of cool.

Now da would argue that he’s known all this for years and there’d be a mighty ‘i told you so’ and a ‘you should listen to me more often’ but then he probably lost patience during the very long sentence earlier and is off in the shed categorising all his screws and nails.


August 2022