The deadliest, jelliest site ever. Brought to you by Niamh Shaw

Posts tagged ‘south island’

Driving underwater

In Auckland for my Father-In-Law’s 70th birthday party, we nipped out to buy some groceries and came back with a new car. It happens. The evidence is parked in our garage at the bottom of the garden.

Since my life isn’t challenging enough, I volunteered to drive it home to Oamaru: 1300km over four days – actually, 1400km with a detour via New Plymouth. It was going to be EPIC: wacky adventures, amazing experiences, vaguely creepy but ultimately benevolent strangers, the thrill of the open road.

Only two things threatened to interfere with that romantic vision: 1/ I was driving a fucking Toyota Prius, not a Ford T convertible; and 2/ my travel companions: two children (mine), one of whom takes entirely after me, which is an awful lot of potentially hazardous high-voltage complaining.

But I’d heard the weather is great this time of year, so that decided it.

My original plan consisted of messaging a friend I hadn’t seen since my wedding twelve years ago to say, “How are you? Would love to catch up! Hey, how about I stay at yours tonight? You can meet the kids!”

I was relieved to have committed minimal time, energy and strategizing to that particular plan when it turned out she had moved from Wellington over a year ago.

After a minor route adjustment, we were on our way to New Plymouth to stay with my Aunt-In-Law.

Exploring Mokau

Exploring Mokau

Ok, yes, sure, we can talk about the Prius, why not? To date, our primary family car has been a 1996 Toyota Hilux Surf, which we basically chose for the dog. Otherwise it has a number of advantages: it’s big enough for the whole family, it can drive over boulders, it has a towbar for motorbikes. On the downside: it isn’t the safest car on the road and doesn’t guzzle gas so much as gleefully wallow in it.

We needed a sensible second family car (Andrew: no, the Celica does NOT meet that description- yes, I know it fits everyone but we have to kind of wedge the dog- no, acceleration speed is not a critical factor in- look, we’ve been through this and- just no. Why? BECAUSE I FUCKING SAID SO) therefore Husband looked into what might suit our my requirements. Which were: size, safety and a minimum of four fucking doors PLEASE.

The Toyota Prius was by far the cheapest circa 2010 model that met all the given criteria with the added bonus that, as a hybrid, it does about 3000 miles to the gallon.

A door-friendly car that doesn’t feature at least eight cylinders is a major concession for Husband; a symbolic farewell to International Mysterious Manliness. I’m not sure he’s as inspired by the car’s ultra-low carbon emissions as the technology behind it. These cars are amazeballs: the battery is charged by the kinetic energy produced by the car. And when I found out the driver’s seat is heated, my toasty ass was just so fully on board.

One minor issue is the main car display, which is entirely in Japanese. According to the navigation system – which bizarrely features tiny swastikas, along with other symbols that wouldn’t look out of place tattoed across a Triad’s forehead – we spent a lot of the trip driving underwater.

The navigation display with tiny swastikas

The navigation display

This was slightly problematic on the first day, since Google Maps wasn’t working on my mobile and, after leaving SH1 at Taupiri, I had no idea where the fuck we were. I navigated by the stars until Andrew’s plane landed mid-morning and he called to offer technical support. He advised enabling the setting to connect to data services when roaming, which resolved the problem.

I’d never driven the SH39 to New Plymouth – Hobbit Country – and it was spectacular. After four hours of solid driving, the kids and I stopped on the coast at Mokau for a late lunch and some exploring.

We arrived at my Aunt-In-Law’s early enough for Finn and Saoirse to fully investigate some heavy-duty Duplo. Later, while the children slept, I looked into the ferry crossings for the following day. The only sailing we could realistically make was the Interislander at 14:45.

The AA Distance Calculator predicted the 353km journey to Wellington would take 5 hours 4 minutes. However, I preferred Google Maps’ estimate of 4 hours and 30 minutes; and I figured half an hour was quite enough time sitting around the Interislander carpark with kids fresh off a four and a half hour journey with – say – an extra hour added on for coffee, snacks, snuggles, dropped water bottles, phantom widdles and nappy related incidents; and – I don’t know – another half an hour for roadworks, detours and flat tires.

I aimed to leave at 08:00hrs, latest 08:15hrs, which meant we were on the road by 08:30hrs.

We just needed to cut down on the flat tires.

There was no paper

There was no paper in the back of the car

After three hours, we stopped at a BP for 20 minutes which somehow ended up being 40 – but not a problem – we were blazing down the SH1 bang on schedule – when Saoirse yarfed in the back.

Well, that took care of the epic part of the roadtrip brief.

I swear: she threw up mandarin segments untouched by human teeth, and an entire cheese stick still in one piece. Might even have been still in the wrapper.

No warning: twenty minutes before she redecorated the back of the car

No warning: twenty minutes before she redecorated the back of the car

I managed to pull onto the verge, put the hazards on, and fished Saoirse out of her carseat. We were an hour out of Wellington and she was absolutely putrescent; I changed her clothes and spent twenty minutes trying to soak up the boke with baby wipes. One and a half packets; a bitter exercise in futility.

By the time we were back on the road, complete with soggy supermarket bag of rancid clothes, we were officially Really Quite Late. At quarter past two and without any warning, Google Fucking Maps adjusted its Time to Destination from 5 minutes to 15.

THE FUCK?!?

Interislander rang again: “Are you nearly-“

“Yes, I’m fiftee-ive- fifive- no, I mean fifive- fuck!- FIVE minutes away. See you soon, byeee!”

I didn’t answer the phone next time it rang.

We were the last car to board.

In the food court, Saoirse recovered enough to eat Finn’s fish and chips as well as her own. Finn and I couldn’t manage much for the throbbing stench of stomach acid.

Fish and chips on the Interislander

Fish and chips on the Interislander

In addition to top-class hospitality, my lovely friend K in Blenheim provided full laundry service complete with folding. Late that evening, I dumped Saoirse’s carseat in K’s bath, chipped off the chunks and attempted to shampoo the padded parts on the straps.

Five days later, it still smells.

From Blenheim, we drove to Rakaia to stay with my friend Sinéad who has two children the same ages as Finn and Saoirse. This was the first time the kids demonstrated anything other than perplexing good cheer in the car, when Finn suffered a psychotic episode:-

Finn> “Stop! Stoppit! Stop saying ‘rabbit’! Mum, Saoirse keeps saying ‘rabbit’- NOOO! She said it again!”

Me> “Er-”

Saoirse> “WABBIT! WabbitwabbitwabbitwabbitWABBIT! HAHAHAHAHAAA!”

You can tell she’s my child.

During one of our daily phone calls, Andrew asked me whether I was enjoying the trip. It was hard to beat a couple of hours sipping margarita with Sinéad in her spa pool; that was pretty good.

But, in fact, I loved spending time with my children. LOVED it. Both responded to having my full attention to talk about the nature of free will and laws of physics . . . only kidding; mainly itemizing all the toys in Finn’s bedroom and shouting beep! beep! at lorries.

Despite having done the trip several times BC I underestimated how massive it was. They were phenomenal; they amazed me, awed me, both of them. Saoirse sat there chortling whenever she saw a tree; and Finn was so considerate – opening Saoirse’s water bottle and raisin packets for her and sharing out snack bars.

Finn (halfway from Picton to Rakaia)> “Mummy?”

Me> “Yes, sweetheart.”

Finn> “I’m happy. This is my happy face.”

Finn> <gurning at the rearview mirror>

I couldn’t have asked for better company.

Advertisements

Top of Trotters Gorge

Finally got around to uploading the pics from Trotter’s Gorge last Saturday. We only got two because the camera sprang a leak.
 

This is me, after climbing to the top of Trotters Gorge. In many ways, the photo is deceptive. As I recall, my face was throbbing red; also, that shirt evidently covers a multitude of sins. One of them being an eight month old foetus. Which is really more a misdemeanor

 

Places of interest.

Aerodynamically optimal

Three days into our new home and we’re still chaotic. Basically our life can be described in terms of boxes and litres of Jif cleaning fluid.

After the movers relocated the bulk of our possessions last Thursday week, we made one more trip to the container in Spring Creek with a last trailer-load. The container smelled like the gorilla pit at the zoo. Please note it featured this delicate bouquet long before we ever stuffed it with our belongings. I’m not sure whether it seemed more potent due to my enhanced sense of smell or it had actually once contained gorillas.

As Andrew unloaded, “I thought you were going to put your motorbike in the container,” I said. Although phrased as a statement, Andrew recognised it for the pointed question it was.

“Decided not to,” he said. “We’ll have PLENTY of room for it on the trailer.”

I may never learn to decode my husband’s unique blend of brooding pessimism and misplaced idealism.

Container on its way, we set to cleaning the house. I was anxious to leave it spick, since not only are the landlords our friends, but they handed over the house in such pristine condition. Unfortunately, I underestimated the time it would take, allied with how pregnant I am, not to mention pedantic. You might call it a trifecta of miscalculation.

I was still cleaning on Saturday morning, the day we were to drive to Oamaru. While Andrew loudly expressed his astonishment how much stuff was left to fit on the trailer, I desperately wiped down door handles. The end result was three rooms and two bathrooms that gleamed, with skirting boards that could have been declared contamination-free zones. Unfortunately, the living room windows were still smudged with dog snot . . . but at least I got the blood stains off the walls and scraped most of the viscera off the ceiling.

I drove the MR2 the first leg of the trip, while Andrew drove the Hilux Surf towing a trailer that looked precariously volatile but, he assured me, was both stable and aerodynamically optimal.

We swapped vehicles just south of Blenheim and I drove the Surf the rest of the way. Again, I’m not sure whether it was pregnancy or the fact that we haven’t defurred it in a while but sitting into the Surf’s driver seat was a nauseating experience.

We hit Christchurch at around 5pm, where we collected a cot, which posed a challenging logistical problem for Andrew.

In Rolleston, we stopped for a late lunch from BP. I had a gourmet vegetarian pie which, given how hungry I was, should have been a taste sensation. Instead it was rather horrid, tasting of burnt-curry with a strangely chewy texture. It was only after I’d finished it that I realised I’d also eaten most of the wrapping paper.

Poor Andrew had to work on Sunday but I took a day off. On Monday morning, the Spring Creek Container Yard notified me that our possessions had arrived. In a quality effort, Andrew and The Welsh Giant relocated everything to the new house by early afternoon, while I . . . cleaned.

God I hate the smell of Jif.

Terrifying wainscoting

Hindsight has imbued The Great House-Hunt with heroic and epic proportions. When realism catches up, I can acknowledge how quickly and relatively painlessly we acquired a house.

One of the most distressing things about the frequent trips to Oamaru (all two of them) – apart from the WWII documentaries over breakfast, the prolonged psychological exposure to RE Agents, the terrifying wainscoting, and the ever-present fear that it was all futile and we were going to end up homeless and I’d have to give birth under a bridge – was that The Rise of the Asset was completely overlooked.

Being fully gestational is so exciting that I resent any time not productively spent feeling incredibly blessed, excited and/or clever (honestly: being knocked up makes me feel like a GENIUS, despite all evidence to the contrary involving numerous teenagers demonstrating conclusively that it has more to do with stupidity and/or stunning quantities of alcohol). Although I feel satisfied in living a full complete life, pregnancy is undoubtedly the closest I’ve ever been to a genuine miracle.

During those trips to Oamaru, there were whole MINUTES where I completely forgot I was pregnant. Until I tried to leap over fences, or caught myself stealing food off other peoples’ plates, or assessing railway bridges for exposure to draughts. Which are generally not the aspects of pregnancy upon which I prefer to focus.

Now that we’re home – when we’re not dealing with lawyers, booking containers, performing extreme weeding, sourcing boxes, packing, and selling fishing boats – it’s all about The Asset again.

For a long time I hadn’t been sure whether what I felt was The Asset exploring the boundaries, or pickles negotiating the dangerous bends of my digestive system. But recently there’s been no doubt. I’ve sometimes wondered whether The Asset has a bouncy castle in there, or a squash racquet and ball. In fact, the little guy has been extremely active since the start of the Rugby World Cup. Coincidence? I think not. This is, after all, a Kiwi baby.

The other evening, I was sitting on the couch when the prodding got so extreme I wondered whether the effects might be visible to the naked eye. Although I felt a bit foolish – I’m just into the 24th week, which was surely way too early to visibly detect movement – I pulled up my sweater and stared intently at the Homewrecker.

Next thing, my whole belly did a Mexican wave.

“It was AMAZING!” I gabbled to Husband later. “Possibly the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen! It was like . . . like . . . like it’s ALIVE in there!”

“Er, Sweetie,” said Andrew gently, so as not to startle or alarm the pregnant lady. “It IS.”

Unfortunately, Husband has yet to witness the phenomenon. He’s too impatient to sit staring at the Homewrecker for longer than it takes to demand a cup of coffee; and The Asset refuses to perform on demand. Yet.

In any case, Andrew’s presence appears to have an incredibly soothing effect on his child.

ORCHARD!

We thought the house-hunting trip to Oamaru might afford an opportunity to shift some of our possessions.

We asked Sheriff if we could borrow his trailer – the official reason being that ours wasn’t big enough for the sort of Extreme Relocation Husband had in mind.

Unofficially, only two days before our extremely unpremeditated and totally disorganised trip, we realized our trailer’s warrant of fitness had expired. We considered renewing it on the way through Blenheim, except Andrew feared it would fail due to the condition of the wheels.

I suspect this officially qualifies us as Bogans.

Andrew wasn’t sure whether Sheriff had a trailer, because ‘he has a tractor’.

I really had no idea why possession of one precludes the other; so, “What the fuck are you talking about?” I snorted. “Of COURSE Sheriff has a fucking trailer. He has EVERYTHING. I’d stake my life and that of my unborn child and this delicious caramel slice on it. Oops. Too late.”

Admittedly an aggressively anti-dainty response, but I’m basically trying to spend my surplus swearing credit for the next 13+ years before the baby arrives. That’s a LOT of execration to jam into four months. My language is absolutely filthy. I’ll go back and attempt to edit it out of this post. (Note: this translates to a roughly 75% depreciation on wordcount.)

Of COURSE Sheriff has a state-of the art trailer that features its own braking system probably with anti-lock and hydraulics; it has four wheels, a jockey wheel, twice as much bed area as ours and a built-in spa pool.

Instead of merely touring our possessions around the country, we relocated my purple fridge, Andrew’s dirtbike, coolbox, a crate of Andrew’s junk oily man things, and two boxes of my crap beloved literature for storage at The Outlaws’.

Then we started into the property search, with a grand tour of all the open houses in and around Oamaru. This was equally uplifting and depressing. Uplifting from the perspective that there are some entirely habitable houses in Oamaru if you have a spare $200k and don’t mind strange, unidentifiable smells. Depressing due to the accumulative psychological effect of our standards imperceptibly rising with each property visited.

We visited pretty much every house for sale in Oamaru. Amongst the quite respectable family homes, we viewed places that would have been perfect had the garden extended further than the bush in a pot; houses with stunning views of the local landfill; houses with stunning aromas of the local meatworks; houses with State Highway One two paces from the front door; houses with patches of wall boarded up with plywood; places featuring grubby tenants in the front room preoccupied with snorting spliffs and erectile dysfunction.

Now, I’m not sure about Andrew, but I was expecting – perhaps it was naïve – or idealistically romantic for Oamaru – but I thought. Well.

I imagined Andrew and I walking into a house and our eyes meeting in an instant of perfect, piquant accord, our excitement swelling as we trail after the real estate agent until she leaves us to “talk it over”; barely containing myself until she closes the door softly behind her, then giving a shriek that somehow manages to be sexy and charmingly girlish rather than making the nerves spasm in cramp and leaping into Andrew’s arms and him twirling me around, laughing joyously. Then we’d both start talking at once and there’d be more joyous laughter and possibly more twirling.

So that didn’t happen. Didn’t come close. Possibly because I’m not sure Andrew’s given to anything more excessive than an enigmatic smirk. Also, of course, the social twiggle he issues to acknowledge someone has gone to the effort to make a joke although they’ll have to try MUCH harder to evince anything in the vicinity of joyous laughter.

He’s also not the twirling type – although I live in hope. Once – admittedly a LONG time ago – at least 10 years – also Andrew was really quite lopsided – we were at a nightclub and he treated me to a Dirty Dancing moment. You know after “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” Patrick Swayze throws Jennifer Whatsherchops over his head and then everyone starts dancing and he lifts her up in the air. That bit. Frankly, it was quite uncomfortable about the pits and after – ooh, I don’t know – four seconds, I felt a bit of a pratt poked up there. I know I was supposed to be carried away by the moment and Andrew’s strong, manly arms, and oblivious to anyone but him, but I ended up looking around thinking, “I hope he puts me down soon and nobody steals my vodka and ginger ale in the meantime”. But all said and done, it’s a nice experience to have shared together and I remember it fondly.

ANYHOO. It soon became apparent that Andrew’s and my preferences are – astonishingly – completely contradictory. Basically, the problem is that I prefer tasteful houses, while Husband doesn’t.

I fell for a gorgeous 1890 house in pristine condition about 25 minutes out of town with an orchard. ORCHARD! Everything I loved about it, Andrew hated: the walk-in larder off the kitchen (“That would just annoy me, having to walk down two steps to the fridge”), three bedrooms (“Too small”), original wood paneling (“Feels dark”), woolshed (“Eyesore. We’d have to tear that down”), a log burner and a destructor (“SNIFF!”), brass fittings (no comment), fully self-contained and largely self-sufficient (“Lots of maintenance”).

Andrew’s flat refusal to be swayed by the ORCHARD! makes me seriously question the foundation of our marriage if not our entire relationship.

Thankfully, whenever I struggle with doubt, I have that Dirty Dancing moment to fall back on.

The property Andrew liked didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. It had a roof, walls, driveway, whatever. View of the sea – but really, EVERYWHERE in Oamaru has a view of the sea. It also, admittedly, had lambs – but in my opinion lambs are overrated. I’ve just never understood their popularity/appeal.

It is probably just as well both properties are likely beyond our means at this point in time.

We will have to compromise between my search for a home that might sate my violent nesting instinct, and Andrew’s interest in investment potential and sale value.

I’m looking for a haven where I can hang mobiles and paint the nursery while considering the benefits of terry-cloth nappies over disposables. Andrew’s looking for a shack he can do up and make a killing on – preferably a massacre – in five years time.

I have visions of me going, “Honey, we need to go; contractions are 10 seconds apart and also: FU-” and Andrew saying, “Yeah, look, can you just give me two minutes until I finish plastering the fireplace.”

Iceland is easier to spell

Before leaving Oamaru yesterday morning, I checked the newspapers and the Emirates and Christchurch Airport websites to see whether Husband’s flight had been cancelled due to the volcano in Chile. Not Iceland. I really feel the media could have been a bit clearer about that.

Thankfully, the ash cloud appears to have blown over.

Agent of Death and The Welsh Giant loaded the trailer while I supervised i.e. criticized Agent of Death’s knots. Due to a previous blog entry, wherein I lamented the quality of send-off staged by the in-laws when Husband was not around, a full complement of in-laws presented to issue hugs, kisses and trailer adjustments. Couldn’t fault them. On the one hand, balloons could have been a nice touch, but on the other they might have suggested celebration at the prospect of my departure. In retrospect, a sound decision.

After gleefully slagging off my in-laws in my blog, I suppose it is appropriate here to mention how overwhelmingly grateful I am for their hospitality and care over the last two months. Evidently I chose my in-laws well and feel privileged to be part of the family.

They were stunned when I left ten minutes before stated, at 09:50hrs. Somehow, I seem to have a reputation for being completely disorganized and eternally tardy. Which is a mystery to me.

The weather on the drive to Christchurch was miserable; grey and rainy. I took it easy with the fully loaded trailer. This included Andrew’s KTM dirtbike and a coolbox full of an ice-cream maker, a bread bin, three freshly sharpened knives, and a set of fish-themed coasters. There was also a tin trunk containing biking gear and tie-downs, and another full of partially-digested tennis balls. 

I reached the airport with plenty of time to spare. Husband rather optimistically/foolhardily/manfully strode out of the airport wearing a t-shirt. I have to say his welcome left much to be desired; Jed got a lot more pats than me. Admittedly, he didn’t snog the dog.

The plan was that Andrew would take on the bulk of 5.5 hour drive north, but after a while I resumed driving because his mach-speed cornering was making me nauseous.

We decided to stop in Kaikoura for a light dinner. For some reason, I absolutely had to have spicy potato wedges and nothing else would do. Since leaving Oamaru, I had been preoccupied imagining the tearful reunion with Husband – and a big, greasy plate of spicy wedges, preferably with sour cream and sweet chili sauce and maybe even some grated cheese sprinkled over the top *slaver*.

Luckily we located a Monteith’s bar; it seemed portentous that there was a double-parking space right out the front. Sure enough, the menu featured spicy potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce. I persuaded the Irish barman to throw on some cheese by leveraging his lack of Guinness.

Andrew had spare ribs, or something.

Quick stop at New World for some staples – milk, bread, eggs, coffee – and we got home at about 21:30. It was raining and we couldn’t find the key for the gate padlock; it didn’t appear to be on our keyring. After some prolonged torch-lit rummaging through glove box, centre console, door pouches, and my bag, Andrew eventually hunted it down . . . on the keyring.

We’d planned to collapse straight into bed, but our landlords/neighbours had left a tub of pumpkin soup and some of their freshly-baked white supremacy bread on the sideboard. And I can’t recall ever having seen anything so welcome ever – even that time Andrew got dressed up in . . .

Yes, well.

I suppose it’s all about timing and appropriateness.

I didn’t notice the nuts

“Hope you avoided the bulls,” said Her Goatiness when I returned from my walk.

I paused in the process of unlacing my boot and squinted up at her. “Bulls?” I said. “No, I didn’t see anything. Apart from the two black cows in the paddock below.”

“Black cows? Those were BULLS, Niamhie. Didn’t you notice their nuts?”

Now, I have only recently graduated to the ability to distinguish chickens from goats, never mind determining the sex of livestock. I mean, I’d noticed the cows were a little beefier than the rest of the herd. Good conditioning, I’d thought sagely, congratulating myself on the appropriate application of agricultural jargon.

“Your Goatiness, I’m not some cocky who instinctively checks out an animal’s bollocks,” I said a tad archly. In any case, I generally go out of my way to avoid cows. I hate them: the glazed zombie eyes, the grinding jaws, the udders swinging like wrecking balls. And the way they RUSTLE. Ugh *shiver*.

“Jesus, Niamhie,” said Her Goatiness, “those bulls are seriously dangerous.”

I laughed. I don’t know; perhaps it was a nervous response to having unwittingly stared into the grinding jaws of death.

“I’m not joking! How far away were they?”

“Um. They were beside the gate when I let myself out of the paddock. About ten feet, I suppose.”

Her Goatiness actually went white.

“Jed went over and growled at them. Showed them who’s boss.” Although when one of the bulls lowered his head and wagged it, Jed swiftly ran out of bravado.

“NIAMHIE! They’ll kill him, you know!”

I would have been more touched by her concern if, when I’d started out on my walk, instead of saying, “Have a nice walk,” she’d said, “So you’re going for your usual late-afternoon walk which never varies in its route across the fields to the creek? Watch out for the two black bulls in the lower paddock. I’d avoid it if you wish to maintain your current status as ‘Living’.”

Tag Cloud