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Posts tagged ‘christchurch’

Flesh eating fish

Two weeks ago, I was the MC for four days at the LIANZA Conference in Christchurch.

You think it’s a bit random? Sure; I’ll give you that. My credentials were assessed on the basis of a 20 minute presentation I gave at a Southland Librarian Convention over a year ago at the Oamaru Opera House. My speech was standing room only . . . well; no it wasn’t, but only because the Waitaki District Library put out a plethora of chairs . . . but I got a standing ovation. Ok ok OK, I was the last speaker and people had to get up to leave . . . ANYWAY.

After my presentation, a lovely Maori woman approached me and asked if I’d speak at the LIANZA Conference. And then a few months later, I got an email from Joanna about being MC. And Joanna and I corresponded for the better part of a year, before I finally met her at dinner on the Saturday before the conference kicked off. She said, “Do you remember me?” and I roared, “Of course I do! Great to see you again!”

Halfway through the same evening, another lovely woman came to me and said, “Hi, I just wanted to see how you’re getting on and are you comfortable?” I had no idea who she was and no recollection of ever meeting her; but I thought I was doing a pretty good job of blagging it, until she said, “Do you recognise me?”

Whenever I’ve doggedly persisted in (my preferred strategy of) complete ignorance, it tends to turn brutally swiftly into a global train-wreck, so I said: “Look, I’m so sorry; I don’t.”

She said, “I’m Joanna. Joanna Matthew.”

And I was all: “Are you SURE?”

I realised that who I’d thought was Joanna was someone else completely; in fact another person entirely called Tilapia. And happy that I’d finally sorted out who was who, I addressed her by her name – Tilapia – for the rest of the dinner.

I noticed her eying me a bit funny; but since I get that a lot I didn’t fully register it UNTIL about five o’clock the following morning when I woke up in a cold sweat, thinking: “OMG tilapia’s a fish! IT’S. A. FUCKING. FISH!”

For those of you not literate about fish, it is a freshwater, pleasant tasting fish which originated in the Middle East and in 2016, tilapia was the likely source of an American woman’s flesh-eating bacteria infection.

When I checked, I realised her name was – and probably still is – Te Paea.

Beautiful name, Te Paea.

Much better than Tilapia.

For anyone who thinks this story can’t possibly get any worse, well you obviously don’t know me AT ALL. So hi there! Thanks for reading, and let me assure you: it absolutely can.

So I tracked down Te Paea on the Sunday, and said, “I’m soooo sorry, I called you a fish.”

She said, “Oh that’s ok.” And then she said . . . “Actually, I thought you called me Labia.”

So obviously I’d prefer neither, but if I HAVE to choose between calling someone a fish or a vagina, I’m just so glad I went with fish.

Even a flesh-eating fish.

Since I once addressed someone as Nubbin, as in a small lump or residual part of bone or cartilage I could argue that I’m not culturally insensitive so much as GENERALLY insensitive . . .

. . . but it’s probably better I stop here.



Video link to Mistress of Ceremonies: Day 2 (Registration required with name and email address)

Puppy love: overrated

We left Port Underwood at 02:00 hrs to make an appointment with our macrobiotic accountant in Christchurch.

While Andrew drove through the night, I slept on a mattress laid out in the back. The dog made it clear he was unimpressed with sharing his boot space by sitting on my face. We argued. Then we kissed and made up. Afterwards, every time I opened my eyes, Jed’s big furry head was on my pillow staring at me soulfully if not downright romantically. Sometimes he burped post-digested possum. Puppy love: over-rated.

I was surprised how well I slept, even though the SH1 from Blenheim to Kaikoura is hardly conducive to balancing on top of a triple-folded mattress. But I was lulled to sleep by the thunder of the tyres on the road and the stars swirling by the window and I was only dimly aware of the wedges of orange light washing across my face in the townships.

We’re staying with the Outlaws in Oamaru for the next few weeks. Normal service will resume next Sunday. In the meantime, I hope you all have a happy Easter infested with chocolate bunnies.

So sorry

The first we heard of the earthquake that crushed Christchurch last Tuesday was the phone call from Andrew’s parents. The dog tried to give us a clue; Jed had been stalking around the living room growling and whining. We didn’t actually feel anything here in Blenheim – New Zealand isn’t that small.

However, it is small enough that almost every New Zealander has friends or relatives in Christchurch. In a country this size, a tragedy on such a scale affects everyone.

We have listened to the news with increasing dismay. In the event of an earthquake people are advised to ‘get under a table or stand in a doorway’, but on 22 February it made no difference. The people whose lives intersected with the earthquake were powerless. We heard of a woman who – in the split second she decided to take shelter under her desk – watched a beam crush it flat. The stories illustrate a monstrous randomness in who was spared and who was not.

We are grateful the friends we have in Christchurch are all accounted for and safe. Brett works in the business district but happened to be offsite that day. Another friend left his workplace – the CTV building – an hour before the quake hit; fifteen of his colleagues are now dead. During the week, a neighbour of ours works in Christchurch just down from the CTV building. He was subdued when we talked to him this weekend – as are we.

Deadlyjelly stalks her prey

I support the concept of hitching. I always take a good look at hitchers as I approach. I automatically accelerate when I see hitchers with no teeth, hint of hemp, nakedness, and/or excessive hair. Also any staring dudes hefting a blood-stained axe in one hand and a handmade sign saying ‘Axe Murderer’ in the other. And those that look like they have sweaty testicles.

Sometimes I’ll brake to pick up someone before I notice them flicking me the birdie in the wing mirror.

I reverse over those.

I rarely pick up hitchhikers.

Perhaps my elimination process is too rigorous.

Driving back to Christchurch from Blenheim, I spotted a hitcher on the outskirts of Kaikoura. I peered at him through the windscreen. He was standing beside a rucksack roughly twice his size, fresh faced, creases ironed into his shorts, positively brimful of youth.

I pulled over and offered him a lift to Christchurch. He was nineteen years old, coming to the end of a year travelling around New Zealand, anxious about what he would study in university, and so earnest I just wanted to rumple his hair.

Ten minutes later, we hadn’t got around to exchanging names when I came upon some roadworks. As the car rolled to a stop, I absentmindedly put my hand on the gearstick to shift it into neutral. Except that I completely missed the gearstick and put my hand on his bare knee instead.

It wasn’t as if my hand merely and fleetingly brushed against him. No, I’m sorry to say there was nothing ambiguous about it; I reached across with the customary aggression I apply to changing gears, and clamped my wrinkled, middle-aged hand firmly on his knee.

Of course I snatched my hand back immediately. In fact, I was so embarrassed I actually let out a little scream.

Mike (he introduced himself shortly after I groped his knee) was kind enough to forgive my indiscretion. At least, he didn’t rip open the door and leap out of the car and run away heedlessly leaving his rucksack behind.

Coming into Christchurch, I stopped at a fruit & veg shop to buy a bag of cherries for $8.99 a kilo. I KNOW! – can you believe that value?

Naturally, I had to offer some to Mike – I mean, I couldn’t just scarf them in front of him, could I?

It was only much later that the suggestive symbolism of the ripe, outsize, gloriously purple cherries occurred to me.

I am sincerely hopeful the implications either went right over Mike’s nineteen year old head, or didn’t make it past the cultural and/or language barrier.

Yet I suspect Mike’s retelling of the story in the backpackers lodge in Christchurch that night went something like this:-

Mike: Ich kaum entging mit meinem ganzen shirt. Sie war eine Cougar!

Avid group of twelve year old backpackers: Hur hur hur.

Mike: Hur hur hur.

Enough Technology™

‘No pets’ notwithstanding, the landlady agreed to make an exception for Jed. I think she was won over by the photo of him looking like a movie star not dissimilar to Johnny Depp.

Curly coat retriever

He's not usually cross eyed.

I didn’t send her the glamour shot.

After that, the only question that remained was whether Marlborough had Enough Technology™ to entice Andrew to move. I’m uncertain as to how much exactly constitutes Enough Technology™, but it took Andrew a week to verify the existence of Enough Technology™.

Last Monday week, I embarked on a diplomatic mission to view the house and meet our prospective landlords. The most economical way to get to Blenheim was to fly into Christchurch, hire a car, and drive the 5½ hours north.

The house and surrounds are stunning. It sits on 15 acres of land which plunges dramatically down to the sea. All you can see for miles is sea, sky and an unpopulated forested peninsula across the bay.

Within 20 minutes of meeting Landlord and Landlady – fearful of another applicant bursting in the front door demonstrating their reliability, superior dusting technique and lack of dog – I had signed the tenancy contract.

So far, we have been incredibly lucky with our landlords. Considering Landlord and Landlady fed and watered me and put me up for the night, I think it safe to presume our luck will continue.

Unfortunately, the two days I spent there were quite overcast, so the photos I took inside the house didn’t come out well.

Showing them to Husband upon my return:-

Me: There’s a heated towel rail!

Husband: Oh wow! Is the view like this all the way around?

Me: Yes, and there’s a towel rail, which is heated.

Husband: The living room looks quite large.

Me: It is-

Husband: That’s a picture of the drive, is it?

Me: Yes. I think those are marigolds-

Husband: What the hell is THAT?

Me: What do you think it is? It’s a towel rail. I took a photo of it. To show you.

Me: It’s heated, you know.

Transcendental widdling

The highlight of the Royal New Zealand A&P Show in Christchurch yesterday was a widdle.
Had it not been blowing a 100kph southerly with heavy showers, the outcome might have been different. Although the inclement weather was hardly the fault of the organisers, the abysmal organisation was. Signs for carparking were insufficient and inaccurate. The two officials we asked had never heard of goats, never mind where they were exhibited.
I suppose the trading area was quite good. For a while, I wondered whether the contraption that picked up walnuts was the highlight of the show. I mean, it was admittedly INGENIOUS: a little wire ball at the end of a stick which you wheel about the ground, and IT COLLECTS WALNUTS (please note: there have to be walnuts on the ground to begin with). However, it seemed a bit . . . well . . . pointless. I mean, a device that picks up walnuts? You know, if it picked up – say – coins or spilt vodka, THEN I would have been impressed.
The agricultural community is obsessed with peeling vegetables. There were at least five stalls devoted to the sale of vegetable peelers. I noticed that whenever one of these appliances was demonstrated, the potatoes used were fresh, large oval ones. To me, this constitutes an unfair and unusual advantage. Again, perhaps if demonstrators had used old, wrinkled, half-rotten spuds, the outcome would have been different.
But they didn’t.
Now, it should be noted there were extenuating factors surrounding my trip to the loo. Even before I arrived at the show I needed to pee– and more after circling the show grounds twice trying to locate the members’ carpark. However, I was determined not to avail of the bathroom facilities typical of these types of events: the draughty plastic portaloos overflowing with fly-infested faeces, any evidence of toilet paper being plastered to the walls with some humanly derived substance.
I knew I had enough willpower not to wee. However, four hours of exponentially increasing clenching was starting to make my teeth ache.
I approached the portacabin with a sense of fatalism. And it was LOVELY! Carpeted floors that were almost clean; a light fragrance playfully redolent of Harpic; fully stocked toilet paper dispensers with smooth dispensing action; lashings of pink hand soap washed down with warm water.
It was such an awesome experience, I went again half an hour later even though I didn’t need to.

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