Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Carpe Fructus

just eat the bloody banana

I will eat the banana now.

Already it has faded: too yellow, a day overdue. I should've eaten it when it was firm and fragrant, tinged with green. But I cherished its perfection. I couldn't destroy it.

Now bruising appears on its flanks and it is overripe. A day away from age spots. Shall I eat the banana now? It is ugly and undesirable. I know I won't enjoy it.

I should've eaten it yesterday.

Speaking of procrastinating monkeys, I received this text today from Flatmate:

"Exciting news me and Strattie having an end of 2008 two-game thriller 5hrs per game what bliss! I'm white playing an unorthodox queen's gambit, he's pondering... tell me all about your denier in the meantime".

So much for the whoring. How better for a chess-obsessed commitmentphobic lingerie fetishist with a lot of phone credit to spend his time?

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Buses Make You Fat

neat ambulation devices

Greetings.

Guest blogger ĦЭш00‡ here. I am visiting Earth for observational purposes. Regular correspondent One Fine Weasel states she is too busy watching America’s Next Top Model and consuming Belgian chocolates to facilitate communication with other homo sapiens. She has allowed me to file my daily report from her laptop computer. The machine is primitive, but it will suffice.

Daily Report: #000057197365
Subject: Walking

Humans are designed to propel themselves over the surface of the planet by a method known as ‘walking’. It is achieved by a rhythmical swinging of the legs. [Note: most humans are bipeds]. To aid movement, they cover their ‘feet’ in foot-shaped sheathes. These sheathes are mostly black, white, red, grey, or brown, and some may be decorated. Some sheathes appear to hinder movement rather than aid it [NB: this requires further investigation, primarily as it fails to make ‘sense’].

Humans walk less when a hydrogen-oxygen compound falls from the troposphere. They appear fearful of this liquid, but it does not make them dissolve or otherwise harm them.

Walking appears to be generally unpopular amongst humans. Time [that is, the system of those sequential relations that any event has to any other, as past, present, or future] is cited as a reason for this.

I have observed some humans walking for distances of between 1 and 15 miles a day. Some humans also speed their walking into what is known as ‘a run’. But the majority of humans walk only from their shelters to their individual metal propulsion boxes, into which they seal themselves. This is called 'short-duration, low-velocity ambulation'.

Other humans walk a short distance from their shelters to a pole bearing a crude depiction of a large multi-occupier metal propulsion box. Around these poles, crowds of humans gather. From time to time, a large multi-occupier metal propulsion box arrives at the pole. It will halt, and the humans enter. These containers carry between 1 and 85 humans, plus one 'driver'.

Once inside metal propulsion boxes of any description, the humans are no longer required to walk as the propulsion box provides movement for them.

Every propulsion box must follow a set route. Often, due to the amount of containers propelling themselves in the same direction (resulting in the routes becoming overly crowded), there is no discernable 'time' advantage to this form of transit. Walkers may go any route they please, apart from those routes reserved for solely for metal propulsion boxes. I believe it is possible to walk anywhere (geographical features permitting) if one allows oneself enough 'time'.

In an interesting footnote, many of the humans I have observed using metal propulsion boxes appear to have a greater body mass than the humans who use walking to transport themselves to the same destination.

Experimenting with walking while disguised as a human, I passed an age-advanced human specimen who was himself walking with the aid of a wooden rod and a wide-brimmed head covering. It is unusual for humans to greet each other in the open unless they are previously acquainted, but even though I had never observed this particular specimen before, as I walked by he drew his eating aperture into a curve, set his optical apparatus to ‘twinkle’, and stated the following:

“Only the slim ones walk!”

This field data supports my observation.

I conclude that metal propulsion boxes increase body mass in humans, perhaps due to the electromotive forces inside.


Thursday, 25 December 2008

Let Nothing Ewe Dismay

"ipod? i only wanted some hay."


At this time of year, what self-respecting New Zealander doesn't take a few moments to reflect upon our woolly compatriots on this sultry island nation, our friends the sheep?

I for one am very excited about this upcoming event, as described in Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper recently:

"Running of the bulls? Leave encierro to the Spaniards and their drunk Australian mates. A more civilised local event is the Running of the Sheep in Te Kuiti, planned for April 4 as part of the town’s Great New Zealand Muster. A mob of about 2000 romneys (there’s a prize for the correct count) will charge down Te Kuiti’s main drag, headed only by locals holding a ‘fence’ of flexible weed mat. A bridge halfway down slows the flow “so folk can count them,” says organiser Debbie Glover. Other events include the national shearing champs, dog barking, chainsaw sculpture, music and performance. More at waitomo.govt.nz."

Oh yes.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Overbite

feel the squeeze


1. Open bathroom cabinet. Immediately notice my tube of toothpaste, lying flat on the shelf, is facing the wrong way. I usually put it down with the lid facing left.

2. Feel betrayal like a punch in the guts. Some bastard has used my toothpaste!

3. Clean teeth, brooding about property rights, respect, and fairness.

4. Deplore unknown plunderer's lack of discretion. If the person who robbed my toothpaste were more astute, they would've put it back the same way they found it and I would never have noticed. This is what I'd have done if stealing toothpaste. Commend self on innate toothpaste-stealing superiority.

5. Notice mine is the only toothpaste tube in bathroom with any toothpaste in it. Tut at housemates' lack of foresight for not purchasing replacement toothpaste in good time.

6. Realise I am secretly jealous that housemates, being couples, are used to blithely sharing toothpaste whereas I, being single, am not. I want to share toothpaste with a beloved too.

7. Ponder whether to leave my toothpaste in bathroom or remove it to my bedroom for security purposes. Distantly acknowledge I am being absurd.

8. Remove toothpaste from bathroom, to show them a lesson. Vow never to go flatting again. Bastards!

9. Hate myself for being ridiculously pathetic. It's only toothpaste. If they'd have asked I'd have said yes.

10. Give them an inch and they'll take a mile. It's MY toothpaste. I paid for it! Grrrr. How dare they? Go get your own, pikeys.

11. Walking to work, become deeply embarrassed in case unknown plunderer goes to use my toothpaste again and sees it has gone.

12. Feel shame all morning, and wonder if I do usually put the toothpaste down with the lid facing left.

Sigh.


Thursday, 18 December 2008

So Now What?

take the bloody hint


It's OK!

I have "enough" money!

I have just got home from seeing the Benefit People, and they told me so, so everything's just fine and dandy.

I arrived on time for my 8.30am appointment. At ten to nine, me and a few other lost souls were ushered from the reception area into a side room where a harrassed-looking man checked we'd filled out our forms correctly.

Then we were abandoned there with no explanation for fucking ages.

(It is good to know my time is Not Valuable).

At ten past ten, an ostensibly teenaged Case Officer finally appeared. "Sorry for the wait," he mumbled as he led me to his desk. My normal knee-jerk response to this statement is 'That's ok', but because I was really pissed off I thought it better not to say anything.

He sat there, looking nervous. "What do you need to see first?" I prompted.

"Er, your unemployment benefit application form." I handed it to him, and sat there grinding my teeth while he went through it with excruiating slowness, putting ticks against things.

"So, are you working at the moment?" he asked when he reached the 'are you working at the moment?' section.

"I've registered with four temping agencies," I said, "Like it says here." I pointed helpfully at the place where I'd written exactly that. "So far I've had one two day assignment, one four day assignment, and one one day assignment. That's all, in the four or five weeks since I registered." Just like it says underneath that other bit, in fact.

"So you are working."

"No. It's temporary work. They just call you up when they need you. And so far they've only needed me for one two day assignment, one four day assignment, and one one day assignment."

His tender brow furrowed into a crease of puzzlement. "So, what, it's just temporary?"

"Yes. Admin, office, data entry. You know, temping."

"Temping," he repeated blankly.

The New Zealand benefit service is called Work & Income; while they had managed to make this boy understand the concept of 'income' (most of his appeared to be spent on hair gel), the 'work' bit was clearly beyond his experience.

"So have you had any work?"

"Yes. I have had one two day assignment, one four day assignment, and one one day assignment." Was I starting to shout?

"OK," he said, largo.

"And there is no guarantee I will get any more work anytime soon. In fact, with it being Christmas next week it is unlikely I'll get any more work until the new year."

"But you've had work from them before?"

This was shaping up to be Brendon v2.0.

"Yes. I have. One two day assignment, one four day assignment, and one one day assignment. Would you like me to write it down for you?"

"No thank you," he sniffed. We were definitely not hitting it off. When he went off to photocopy my documents, I wrote it down for him.

"We will need proof of your income," he said when he returned.

"I've brought what I've got: two payslips so far. Please feel free to contact the recruitment agencies to confirm what I've told you."

"I can do that, but we cannot progress your application until your income is verified."

"The last assignment I had - the one day one - was yesterday. So I won't get that payslip until after Christmas. Two more rent payments will have gone out by then. I'll be very close to overdrawn. The bank won't approve an overdraft because I don't have a regular income. What if you don't hear back from the agencies before Christmas? What do I do then?"

"You said you worked yesterday. You'll have that money, won't you?"

"It'll be less than a hundred bucks! Not even one rent payment! I'm already only eating proper meals every couple of days to try and save money: bread and avocados the rest of the time. I'm paying for food and everything else on my credit card and my credit card is close to the limit." I shrugged. "I originally contacted you guys for an appointment on 24 November. I'm only now sitting here today. I can't carry on like this. I need some help."

"I guess you could apply for a Special Needs Grant for food?"

"Yes please." He handed me the form and a pen. "You have no idea how humiliating this is."

He drummed his fingers on the desk while I completed it, then I watched as he filled out the 'Official Use Only' part.

Approved: tick. Amount: $100. Reason: Food. "Can you go and get a mini-statement out of the ATM?" he said. "We need to see how much money is in your account right now."

I went to the cashpoint.

"Oh," he said. "You do have money."

"Three hundred and fifty two bucks?" I said. "A hundred and five is going out today for rent. A hundred and five is going out next week. And every week for the next five weeks. A direct debit for the credit card goes out on Christmas Eve. And I have no income."

"You have enough money, I can't give you a grant."

"$352 is three rent payments. How do I eat?"

"I can't give you a grant."

"Would you be able to support yourself on that until January with no other money coming in?"

"That's different: I have a family."

My inner taipan threatened to strike. I reached across the desk and picked up the Special Needs Grant form. My intention was to rip it into several bits and grind it into his face. Sadly, commonsense took over. I merely put it back down and stood up to go.

"You might as well chuck that away then," I said.

"Um, yeah. Is this your pen?"

"No," I said. "Can I have my mini-statement back please?"

"Ok."

"So you will process my application as soon as you hear from the agencies?"

"That's right. Uh, I don't suppose you have their fax number?"

"It's on the payslips."

"Oh, right. Is this your pen?"

"NO."

"Sorry I can't help you. Merry Christmas."

I attempted a reply, gave up, and walked out before he saw the tears.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


A sorry tale, but regardless of my current woes I am still filled with gratitude that I have so much in a world where so many have so little. Please visit The Hunger Site and help those for whom avocados and bread and credit cards would be a dream come true. No matter how bad it gets here, it's never that bad.

(And here, if you like spelling, want to waste a lot of time, AND support a similar cause).

When I am not worrying about it all, I am curious to observe how the Universe appears to be closing doors in my face. I have been desperate for a change of 'career' for a few years now (if you can call the random, half-arsed selection of jobs I've had since leaving school a career), and have taken some tentative steps away from office work only to fall back on it when things get tough. Going temping was in itself an attempt to 'break free': but after that I ran out of ideas.

I know I have a lot more to offer than being convincing in menial jobs, and I also know it's high time I got out there and put myself to the test. Having tried to ignore this knowledge for a few years, it feels like I am no longer being given a choice about it. Which, ultimately, can only be good.

Walking home from the benefit office, I found another piece of magnetic poetry, in the same place I found the other pieces when I walked home from seeing the not-so-colossal squid.

Just one word this time.

The word was 'Listen'.








UPDATE: One of the agencies just called. I start work on Monday. I work through Christmas and New Year until the end of January 'doing' reception and admin. I receive $17 an hour before tax for my 'efforts'. I breathe a sigh of relief. I chastise myself for being such a worrywart. I thank the Universe for the beautiful opportunities it repeatedly slips my way. I pay rent. I eat food. I investigate further education opportunities. I draw up a new CV, with a different focus. I find previously hidden reserves of energy and courage. I throw myself to the gods of The Unknown. I get a life.




Tuesday, 16 December 2008

It's The Meaning of Life

happy birthday to ME!

Men. I pity you.

You will never know how euphoric it feels to emerge from a spell of PMT.

The Weasel is back in positive mode! Bliss!

One of my stranger symptoms of hormonal imbalance is that, when I'm in the grip of The Gloom, I am terrified of spending money. I will starve myself rather than buy food; I will walk for hours to save a $3 bus fare; I think the world will end if I spend so much as a cent.

One twitch of the ovaries later I will be skipping around thinking 'Oh what the hell it's only money, more always comes along'.

(Ah. Seeing that in writing, I notice I may have a tendency to mania).

Today, I celebrated my last ever day of being forty one.

Phase One - my life to date - has felt like that endless slog up to the apex of a rollercoaster.

Phase Two starts tomorrow.

Wish me luck! In every way, it's downhill from here!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Neat Eats

CM does not approve of tinned mackerel

The Weasel has discovered something rather amazing!

A mood uplifter - and it's legal!

It's called eating.

Will somebody please alert the scientists?

Having survived since Thursday on little more than an avocado, white bread (with and without jam), crispbreads and the occasional handful of blueberries, I came to be aware I was Not In A Happy Place.

But tonight, prompted by starting to see little black and white spots in front of my eyes, I overcame my fear of the dirty kitchen and of recklessly eating my way through what meagre supplies I have, and gamely produced a meal which instantly lead to the natural high of having a full belly for the first time in days.

As I'm sure you are wondering, here is the recipe:

Weasel's UberBudget Happy Zapper

you'll need:
a tin of whatever unpleasant tinned fish in tomato sauce was on special last time you went to the supermarket
a tin of sweetcorn (optional)
whatever is lying around in the kitchen that you can get away with 'borrowing', eg a clove of garlic, herbs, a dash of soy sauce
flour
water
batteries in your smoke alarm

method:
Mix the flour and water until they are kind of, like, not too runny. Throw in some herbs if you can, or Chinese five-spice powder, otherwise it will just taste like flour and water. Heat a non-stick frying pan without oil. Gloop a dollop of the flour stuff in and flatten with a spoon, or your finger for extra fun. When it starts burning, flip it over pancake style. If it doesn't start burning, turn the heat up. Keep going until there aren't any soggy bits. This is called Weasel's Indian Flat Bread and it is categorically NOT heated-up wallpaper paste.

Meanwhile, scoop out grisly fish carcass into another pan remembering that it's good for you. Chuck in the corn and/or whatever else you have lying around that's vaguely edible, heat.

Serve one with t'other; nick some green beans from neighbours' garden to garnish, otherwise harvest some delicious dandelion leaves from the lawn, first checking carefully for dog shit, insects etc.

Et voilà! Cheap, and nutritious! And after eating, the black and white spots will disappear, your hands will stop shaking, your stomach will feel pleasantly full and suddenly life will seem much less daunting.

Proven.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

House of Fun

oh. my. God.

Then it got worse.

"Hey Weasel," said one of my new housemates that evening, "We were just a bit worried that you're not settling in here. Is everything, ah, you know, all right? Is the whare* too busy for you?"

I blinked.

Yes, the whare is too busy for me. Way too busy. I am an introvert, used to living on my own and with a very real need to be left to do my own thing. But you, you and the five other people who live here, are a bunch of sodding extroverts who think you are being kind and helpful and inclusive when you walk into my room without knocking and suggest I join in with your sodding extrovert activities.

'Home' for me is a place to withdraw from the outside world, somewhere to recoup the energy I expend Out There. I'm not being deliberately unfriendly; I just don't feel able to mix with you just yet. It takes me a long time to feel comfortable around new people. That's why I don't want a toke on your joint, I don't want to watch a crap movie with you, I don't want to sit around talking bollocks about environmental issues and gay rights. Sorry, but it's Not Me. I have this face I present to the outside world: wearing it, I am able to do many un-Me extrovert-like things, but wearing it drains me. When I come home I need to take this face off and not have to consider for a single moment the demands of strangers. This is why I stay in my room. I just don't have anything to give you guys.

I find this impossible to explain to extroverts without coming across as a psychopath, which is why I am naturally drawn to other introverts, other HSPs, people who 'get it' and expect nothing from me in a social sense. Please don't patronise me for not wanting to do the things you consider normal. I just want to live my life how I want without a bunch of twentysomethings making me feel even more like a freak than I already do. You would see the real Me - the happy, silly me - if you allowed me to emerge in my own time.

And please, please don't look so surprised when I tell you I have friends in Wellington. I have plenty of friends; not many by your standards perhaps, but enough for me. They are all people like me, who don't need to live in somebody else's pocket, who understand what it is like to be a loner. I see them from time to time, and the friendships are meaningful. I cherish them. Just because I don't feel the need to flock there is no need to look at me like that, ok?

Oh, I'd also like to mention I do not expect anybody else in the whole world to clean up after me, and those rare times I have strayed into the kitchen here I have washed up, dried and put away my things as soon as I've finished with them. But you lot, you leave piles of dirty plates, washing up bowls full of fetid water, festering saucepans, lying around for days and then you suggest we have a 'cleaning rota'? I don't think so mate.

I'm stressed out about a thousand other things too. And no, I don't want to 'talk to you about it'.

Now go away.

"Er, yes, I mean no; fine thanks," I said. "I'm just a bit of a quiet person, takes me a while to come out of my shell and all that."

(And when I say 'quiet' I do of course mean passive-aggressive avoidant).

Lying in bed this morning wondering how on earth I am going to be able to move out in January when I don't have any money for a bond, my phone rang.

"Hello, it's New Zealand Post recruitment here. Thank you for coming in for the interview last week. You did really well, but unfortunately the manager needs a Bike Postie at the moment - all the walking roles are filled - and she thought there were more suitable candidates as it's a very physical role."

"Right," I said. I'd been the only person sans testes at the assessment, and the only person not in their twenties.

"But because you interviewed so well and because you've got a lot of relevant experience I flicked out an email to the other branches but all the Christmas vacanices have been filled. So what I'd like to do is keep your details on file and give you a ring again probably around mid January?"

"Ok," I said, contemplating the prospect of The Worst Christmas Ever.

"Sorry," she said.

"No worries," I said. "Thanks."

Then it started raining.





*whare: Maori word for house, pronounced 'far-ray'


Squid Pro Quo

from bad to worse

Last night I caught up with a few of the folk I used to work with in my life BF (Before Flatmate).

As the money situation is bad, I should've stayed at home drinking tap water but as the money situation is bad I spent $10 on a six-pack of beer and made my way to my ex-colleague's flat in town. Sometimes you just gotta cut loose.

Stumbling home later, I texted Flatmate.

'hello badgerballs a bit pissed hav just had my first saturday nite out' I slurred. 'no fun wivout u it just makes me miss u, cardiff, europe even more. kisssses xxx'.

I have never missed a whole continent before! This is what drinking beer with New Zealanders can do to you.

Incredibly, Flatmate replied straight away.

'Hello monkey miss you x have a guinness for me x'.

My eyes filled with tears. In my maudlin state this was just too much.

Squinting hard to focus on my phone, an impassioned response thumbed its way out in between trying to walk on the pavement without falling off.

'NZ is great but all this is meaningless if im not holding your hand i love u so much xxx'.

The phone buzzed. Another instant reply! Maybe this is the one asking me to come home, the one confessing life is miserable without me, the one saying he doesn't want a year or so to 'sort himself out' before he settles down, he wants...

'Sorry, you have insufficient credit to send this message. To top up, please...'

Fuck.

Sober this morning, I reflected it is not the first time the mobile phone angels have saved me from myself. Flatmate does not enjoy overwrought, and the Weasel is very overwrought at present.

To take my mind off the overwrought thing, and for something to do that wouldn't cost any money, this afternoon I walked into town (fifty five minutes in flip flops) solely to enter a supermarket's 'It's Our Fifteenth Birthday' competition and hopefully win $1500-worth of shopping vouchers. Think of all the sardines and bananas that would buy! After I'd posted my entry coupon into the box in the entrance of the supermarket and gazed a while at the filthy capitalists leaving with their bags of consumerist folly, I decided to head over to Te Papa (the national museum, situated right next door to the supermarket, but New Zealand is practical like that).

Te Papa is very excited to have landed the world's largest and most complete colossal squid specimen, and as of yesterday it went on display there.

The Weasel can report that the word 'colossal' is likely to create disappointment in those viewers expecting to see a squid the size of a house or perhaps one of those really big trucks like they use in mining. The squid is a mere 4.2 metres long, but, Te Papa claims, it probably shrunk a bit in storage. In its watery display case, surrounded by gawpers, its skin peeling off in gruesome brown flakes and with one eyeball missing, I felt quite sorry for it. Watching the information video, I felt even more glum when I realised the poor bastard had been caught alive.

A sad end indeed. But my misery got worse when I contemplated the size of the calamari it would've produced: I was starving. If only I'd used that $10 for something useful, like food.

Walking home (one hour ten in flip flops), the universe conspired to increase my anguish. Strewn upon the pavement all the way back to Island Bay were items linked to my time with Flatmate: a gold star; a few words of magnetic poetry; a coin; a butterfly-shaped piece of confetti; a pin identical to the one he found on the train in France; a 'diamond'; a discarded tube of lip gloss.

Only seven pints of Guinness, a chess board and a Rammstein DVD could've increased The Significance.

I got home an emotional wreck.


Friday, 12 December 2008

Keep Smiling

definitely fake

I daren't leave my room; it's too expensive out there.

Thank goodness for tinternet! I am finding all sorts of interesting things to help while away time I should be spending being resourceful, proactive and dynamic.

Like this. I only managed to get 12 out of 20 correct.

I was flummoxed by all those people smiling at me.


Thursday, 11 December 2008

On Being Poor








gone but not forgotten: my velcro-fronted top


My four day contract at the place with the annoying notices is over. I now have NO INCOME!

I am finding having NO INCOME 'interesting and informative'.

The Weasel, while slightly flustered about having NO INCOME, is staying positive. Something good is bound to come of it. I will be forced into new and engrossing career paths and my Weasel resourcefulness will be tested to the limit.

Browsing through the classified section of the newspaper, I notice there are plenty of jobs available for 'Ladies Who Are Over 18'. I am over eighteen! In fact, next Wednesday I will be forty two therefore I should be more than twice as good at whatever it is these Ladies are needed for (the adverts never really specify). What a pity I have insufficient credit on my mobile phone to call and find out. I could do with earning 'over $1000 a day'!

Meanwhile my 'emergency' appointment at the dole office is a week Friday. Being on the dole when I don't have a choice about it is a new experience, thus it is bound to be spiritually rewarding.

My application to be a postie is progressing. I had an assessment on Tuesday. The good news is I can read, I can ride a bike without falling off. Onwards and upwards.

I have moved out of Brendon's. I am back in Island Bay! This is where I lived before I went back to the UK last year. It is nice: sand, seagulls, boats and so forth. I am sub-letting a room from a girl who has gone away for Christmas. She was so desperate to get someone into the room in her absence she dropped the already very cheap rent by $10 a week and didn't ask for a bond. She will be back at the end of January, meaning I will be homeless again soon, and poorer, but at least I am not at Brendon's.

I had to move out of Brendon's. For everybody's sake. It was getting tortuous. The Weasel is not comfortable being thrust into the position of Clever Pom: the Weasel is used to being The Goofy One. The Weasel also expects that any native English speaker - even foreign ones - should be able to follow her north Kent accent with ease but sadly, unlike everyone else I have ever met in the whole world, Brendon seemed not only to struggle with what I said, but how I said it.

Once, for example, I was attempting to explain the word 'moobies' and despite it not being a difficult concept to grasp, after ten minutes of wrangling ("What, man boobs on a woman?" "Noooo! Man boobs on a man!") I ended up shouting at him out of sheer frustration, and the Weasel hates to shout.

His failure to understand me or my sense of humour robbed me of my sarcasm, and without that, the Weasel is nothing.

Disturbingly, he'd also started acting a bit too used to having me around - cooking dinners unannounced then sending me sniffy texts saying 'I've cooked dinner, where are you?'; leaving me in charge of his horrible four year old (about whom I had the wicked thought 'a condom could've prevented that'); asking me to wash his pants, and so on.

While I am grateful for the many kindnesses he showed me, it was definitely time to go.

A room of my own means I am now reunited with my Stuff. Having gone through it, I realise my plan to raise funds by selling off what I don't want is compromised by the fact it is mostly a load of crap. And my plan to be unencumbered by possessions, a free spirit living serenely on what I can fit into my backpack, is hampered by the feeling I can't bear to be parted ever again from any of the stuff I do want, despite having existed happily without it for the year and a half I was away.

"The wise man carries his possessions within him". Fine, but what about his shoes, clothes, books, CDs, bedding, amusing gewgaws, Scrabble, magnetic poetry sets, folders filled with interesting things ripped from newspapers and magazines over the years, yoghurt maker plus other vital kitchen equipment (just in case he ever has a kitchen of his own again), really cute coffee table and matching cabinet, sewing things, photo albums, a lifetime's accumulated 'artwork', and the snowman knitted by his Lovely Sister in the 1980s?

Not even a very talented 'Lady Who Is Over 18' could carry all that within.

Sadly, the item I was most looking forward to being reunited with (my sweatshirt with the velcro panel and corresponding stick-on alphabet/numbers/punctuation marks - see picture above) I appear to have donated to charity during my panic-purging prior to departure for the UK last year.

But I digress. Having NO INCOME means I am paying for vital everyday things like bread and bananas and soy milk on my credit card. I am not a person who likes using a credit card! I get palpitations if my balance goes over $60. At present it is over $1200 and climbing daily, and I have no way of paying it back any time soon.

Having NO INCOME is so 'invigorating'!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Weasel Finds Work, And Immediately Regrets It

careful, idiot

There are five handmade notices in the staff kitchen.

They have been placed there by an anonymous staff member who feels the rigorous recruitment process his or her colleagues underwent when joining the organisation was not sufficient to weed out those too stupid to operate a sandwich toaster.

This notice is next to what is clearly a hot water dispenser:

Using the URN

> This machine contains hot water and staff need to take care while operating it.

> Develop an awareness that the water coming out of the machine is boiling.

> Place the container as close as possible to the hot water.

> Do not overfill the container.

> Avoid splashing.


It is useful to note the hot water dispenser in question already displays a large yellow sticker attached by the manufacturer stating ‘BEWARE HOT WATER’ and its logo is the word ‘Superheat’, flanked by two lightning bolts.

On this alone, I contest it would be hard not to develop an awareness of the temperature of its contents.

The notice about microwave safety is particularly useful. Apparently you must not place metal into a microwave, or run it empty! Who’da thought?

Another notice is addressed to ‘Ladies And Gentlemen’ and addresses the problem of teaspoons. It mentions not only the Kitchen Fairy, who does NOT recognise dirty teaspoons left on benches, but also the Kitchen Elf, who puts dirty teaspoons in the dishwasher with a cavalier ‘out of sight out of mind’ attitude, ensuring there are no clean teaspoons left by the end of the day. Our Kitchen Clever Clogs suggests we all wash our teaspoons after using them to dispense our sugar or our coffee granules, or stir our drinks, then return them clean and dry to the teaspoon drawer.

Frankly, the Fairy and the Elf sound like they need their slovenly pixie arses kicking, but I would still rather be trapped in a lift with them than the twat who wrote the notices.

The kind of person who produces this stuff will always include a neat little clip-art picture to illustrate their wisdom. They will always encase their notice in a clear plastic pocket before attaching it to the wall. To prevent soiling.

The kind of person who spends time typing up notices like these will also make sure everyone else in the office knows how hard they work and how clever they are. They do this by creating notices for the staff kitchen and by patronising their colleagues. On matters of work, they speak in jargon, and secretly feel they are Very Important.

Oh look, there they are over by the water cooler, touching base on information pathways. Then they'll go forward with strategic developments. Often they will develop algorithims to support decision-making principles. They won't have a meeting, they’ll facilitate one. They'll implement milestones, assess targets in 2/52, and process-map ongoing needs re the user-interface. With their vision.

I myself will not apply for any job with the word ‘dynamic’ in the advert. But then again I cannot be trusted not to scald myself while making a cup of tea.

I am 'developing an awareness' I may be a low-flier.

Maybe this is why I find working in offices intolerable.



Wait

aaaah

I love these moments when, just for a minute or two, the day is placed on hold.

I am curled up on Brendon’s black leather sofa holding a mug of coffee. I watch the steam spiral lazily into the air. The heat from the mug scorches my palms. It feels good. It is a comforting part of the morning ritual. I take a careful sip.

I study my reflection in the TV’s blank face. I have my ‘office clothes’ on. I hate the way I look when I am wearing them, hate the way I feel. In them, I am not me. I am uncomfortable, gawky. I decide to stop thinking about it. I do not want to let thoughts of the day ahead spoil the moment.

Against my bare legs the leather cushions feel cold and sticky. I shift slightly, and turn my attention to the view out of the window. There is a maroon car parked on the grass, and Brendon’s courier van on the drive. Soon he and I will be sitting in this on our way into town. He will drop me at the bus station, from where I will make my way to the place I am temping for a few days. The job is dull. But the boredom is seventy eight minutes away. This is now.

Now, there is only this luxurious halting of time.

I hear Brendon in the bathroom, cleaning his teeth, hawking into the sink. Water gurgles through the pipes, a liquid symphony. There are no other sounds. Outside, the hateful wind is just a murmur in the trees. A sheet of newspaper stirs listlessly in the gutter. The sun breaks through a cloud.

I have nothing else to do except drink my coffee and wait for Brendon.

And so, I wait.

It is 6.42am. I look around the room. I am entirely in the present moment.

I savour it.

Monday, 1 December 2008

A Post In Which Weasel Reviews A Movie

very relaxing

I went to see a film on Friday.

It was in an old movie house, with creaky floorboards.

All the people creeping out kept waking me up.

That is all.



Thursday, 27 November 2008

Let's Hear It For Nice

gratuitous pictures of badgers: extremely nice

The last few days I have caught up with friends I haven’t seen since I left New Zealand in June last year. Talking to them has cheered me up immensely. It has made me aware of all the everyday nice stuff it's so easy to overlook when you're poverty-stricken and jobless even when you can type at 67 words per minute with 100% accuracy in a test situation, surprising not only yourself but the nice lady at yet another employment agency on whose books you languish expectantly.

People being really, really pleased to see me – now that’s nice.

Having a roof over my head – that’s nice too. In fact it’s nicer than nice. I would go so far to say it’s a blessing.




Sitting in the sun today eating my lunch was nice, as was this:




All my favourite tunes in one tiny little plastic box! Nice! The gear's not flash but who cares when you can sit in the sun and eat your lunch and groove along to Shalamar!

My lunch – now that was nice. Colourful, healthy, and no cooking involved. Can’t get nicer than that.




(That’s sardines, couscous, spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes and beetroot by the way. And a crispbread. A slice of bread would’ve been way too trop).

Then I had this, which was nice… very, very nice. Just a little shaky when I was trying to photograph it. The lemon was straight off Brendon’s lemon tree! How nice is that!



But this was nicer!




The ducks that waddled up Brendon’s drive – they were nice too. But possibly lost.




Te Papa, the national museum: not only is it nice, but it's just down the road (kind of) and you don't have to pay to get in. They give away the Wellington daily newspaper free (usually it's $1.40 - nice), have lots of comfortable sofas and the cloak the Hawaiian chief Kalani‘ōpu‘u gave to Captain Cook is in there!




(Which is nice for me, as I have a bit of a mini-crush on Captain Cook, but not so nice for Captain Cook as it turned out).

Remaining on the travelling theme, my flip flops - sorry, jandals - are also nice as I'm sure you'll agree. Well I love them anyway. They got me to the beach and back the other day - an eight mile stroll!



Now, please meet Bear Girls.


Flatmate presented me with this little chap the last time I saw him, as a companion for Downstairs Monkey on his antipodean travels. Downstairs Monkey thinks his new friend is nice. They are getting on very well indeed...



Very well...



Ahem...



They are clearly having a very nice time. If only I could be doing that to Flatmate: now, that would be nice.*

Let's not forget there is also a whole lot of nice right here.

Nice is great. Nice is there whether we notice it or not.

Have a nice day!





* I will own up to the hairy blue cushion but the rest of the bedding is Brendon's.


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Textual Healing

I love you too honey xxx

The clouds were beautiful tonight.

A sky-wide smear of coral and violet-grey, they looked like a giant swathe of luminescent knitting.

I sat in the silence of Brendon’s front room gazing out of the window, mesmerised. Underlit by a deep golden setting sun, the clouds looked like they do from an aeroplane and for a moment I felt I was in some bizarre world turned upside down.

Brendon had taken his four year old daughter, a demanding little wench, to his mum’s for tea. I’d opted to stay home, needing the quiet time.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BK had phoned me the previous evening.

“’Ullo Weasel! How’s things?”

“All good thanks,” I’d lied.

To admit to BK you’re anything less than chipper is to invite a torrent of flaky platitude. He has no idea how to sympathise so instead spouts stuff he considers helpful. This is why I suspect him of having Asperger’s and why I generally try to tell him as little as possible.

I’d had a day from hell. I’d set out for an interview at yet another employment agency, and missed the train into town by a whisker. There was a half an hour wait for the next train. On the next train, the guard looked at me with undisguised scorn when I asked him if I could pay for my ticket by debit card, and made me get off at the next station.

Two weeks ago,’ I’d felt like saying, ‘I was somewhere where you CAN buy a ticket on a train with a debit card, and they have electronic ticket machines at unmanned stations, so don’t look at me like that you bearded wanker.’

I got off at the next station and bought a ticket, waited another half hour for the next train and by the time I got to the employment agency I was very late and very dishevelled.

The registration process at the agency took three and a half hours and at the end of it all they could offer me was a four day contract doing a one-off mail merge for a company way across town.

“It’s very quiet out there at the moment,” the agency lady explained.

No shit. I would normally be picking and choosing my assignments by now.

When I finished at the employment agency I went to get some cash from the hole-in-the-wall so I could treat myself to noodles at my favourite Malaysian restaurant. When I saw my bank balance I ate the apple in my handbag instead and went back to Brendon’s for cheese on toast feeling very, very low.

His four year old daughter was there, her fortnightly access weekend, greeting every refusal of her “I want”s with ear-splitting screams.

Into this dejection BK sprang, bubbling with enthusiasm.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Auckland’s fantastic!” he said. “I’m loving it! It’s so good to be back! My job’s brilliant*, it’s even easier than before and I get all these discounts and subsidies. Richard is taking me to all his mates’ parties and he’s charging me ridiculously cheap rent and I’ve joined the swimming pool for a year – it was only four hundred bucks! - and I’m going to buy a car and a bed this weekend. You know Rich is going away for Christmas?”

“Yes.” I knew what was coming. BK does not want to spend his first Christmas as a New Zealand resident alone.

“Well you’re more than welcome to come up here for as long as you want while he’s away. We could go to all the old haunts, meet up with the old crowd, go swimming in the sea. How cool would that be!”

“I don’t know what I’m doing for Christmas yet. I want to be working.”

BK has been trying to get me to spend Christmas with him since we were in France, even though I told him then I wasn’t keen on the idea. After living with him in Cardiff, I felt we should remain friends but go our separate ways. And after my ‘experiences’ in France, I knew I would rather spend Christmas alone, in the dark, eating poo and having my extremities gnawed by rats, than share it with BK.

(It takes me a very long time to regain my faith in someone once it’s been shattered).

“Well, if you’re not working come up to Auckland. In fact come up anyway. It’s a long weekend this year. Did you know there’s a one dollar bus between Auckland and Wellington? I’ll buy the ticket for you, as a birthday present if you like.”

I made a non-committal noise. “I don’t really want to go anywhere.”

“But it’d be nice if you came up. I want to show you what my life’s like. It’s perfect! I’m so happy!”

“That’s nice, I’m glad for you.”

“You still feeling homesick?”

Homesick, no; Flatmatesick, yes. “It’s not really working out for me here yet, but it’s early days,” I said. “I’m sure I’ll settle in once I’m working. I just want to get some money together. I can’t think about anything else at the moment.”

“Oh,” said BK. “Well if you’re feeling unsettled, what about a change of city? I could get you a job where I’m working and you could live with Ben, he’s got a three bedroom house he’s rattling around in.”

I could feel my blood pressure rising. “BK, I don’t want to work in a call centre. And I don’t want to live with Ben.”

When BK gets a vision of utopia in his mind, he will try to force the world to match it. This works with his mother, who I suspect actually would jump off a cliff if he told her to. But for everyone else, while he thinks he’s being helpful and clever and subtle, the reality is he isn’t and this is compounded by him consistently failing to notice when he’s irritating the shit out of the person he’s trying to persuade.

If you are the only thing standing in the way of what he wants - and I was starting to get the idea he may want me in Auckland - he will push, and push, and push, and push, and stop only when you snap.

Then he’ll wait a bit, and push some more.

I used to find it was easier to give in to him. It lead me to some interesting new places, but my life was not my own. Now I push back, but doing so makes me cold and hard and furious. I resent having to. Why can’t he just see when to back off?

“Well you’d be able to get a job real easy up here I reckon and if you need money I can lend you some. I’ve got loads. I don’t mind.”

I snapped.

“I don’t want you to lend me any more money. I already owe you shitloads. You know my feelings about being in debt. I do not like it. All I want to do is find a job. In Wellington. That is my only concern at the moment. Once I have found a job, in Wellington, then I can worry about everything else. I can’t think about Christmas right now. Please stop going on about me coming up to Auckland. I do not want to come up to Auckland. I have been telling you I do not want to come up to Auckland since August. Since before August. If you mention it again I will scream.”

“Ok, well, I’m going to buy a car this weekend so if you want me to get your stuff from Matt’s and bring it down to you – “

Oh God, no more, please. “I’ve already told you I’ll get my stuff from Matt’s myself when I’m ready. I’ve got nowhere to put it, remember?” I was almost snarling.

At this point, he noticed I was getting shitty and brought the conversation to a hasty close in a flurry of confused and insincere apology.

She’s got her period’, I could almost hear him thinking. I have, but fuck he’s still annoying.

After he hung up, I threw my phone across the room and cried hot tears of frustration.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I was woken early this morning by a text from Flatmate.

‘Hey you x’ it said.

‘Hey you sweetpea, you’re lovely xxx' I sent back.

‘Miaow too x’ came the reply.

I settled back down for another forty winks with a smile on my face. He knows I’m having a tough time of it, but instead of trying to 'help' me, he texts me things like ‘fretten sie nicht, I’ll look after you with my powerful hind legs and all my heart’. It is all I need to hear.

Where BK makes me cold and hard and furious, Flatmate makes me soft and warm and reassured.

How can brothers be so different?







*With the customary good fortune that has earned him the nickname Goldenballs, BK walked straight back into the call centre job he had to leave in 2004 when his visa ran out. He’s living with his mate Richard, who once told me I looked like a hairy-faced elephant. I hope they’re happy together.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Needs Must

What's for lunch?

So here I am, with no job, no money, and nowhere to live other than with New Zealand’s top sausage roll enthusiast.

I have been looking for work (honest) but nobody is hiring because, the nice lady at the employment agency said, it is the run up to summer (New Zealand shuts down for a month in January) and also because apparently there is some sort of ‘Recession’ going on involving a ‘Credit Crunch’ and ‘Economic Doom’.

This ‘Financial Crisis’ means I am stranded at Brendon’s until further notice, which is ‘Not Good News’ for me or for anyone else because the longer I don’t work, the more impatient I get at not being able to hop on that flight back to Cardiff.

In situations like this I feel it is imperative to ask, “What would Bear Grylls do if he was stuck here like this?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

One of the finest things about New Zealand is the sense I get here that, with a little application and initiative, anything is possible.

The sun is shining, I am in the loveliest place in the world, I have a roof over my head, and I am only a little bit afraid of hard work, so what is there to be miserable about? This, Weasel, is your opportunity to shine!

To this end I have put a sign up on several supermarket noticeboards offering my services as a freelance typist/proofreader/editor.

‘I have written and edited website content, business letters and reports, office manuals, information leaflets’ blags the ad. ‘Good copy makes a good first impression! $20 an hour.’

Well, it’s a start. It can only be a short step from here to publishing my first novel and becoming as beautiful as J.K. Rowling.

As soon as I am reunited with my stuff (still in storage until I have somewhere to put it) I will put into action my age-old plan to make things to flog down the craft market. Cool things, obviously; no knitted tea-cosies or kitten dioramas made from lollipop sticks. I have a ton of arts and crafts equipment and a whole heap of ideas which I have been too scared thus far to put out into the world but now would seem to be a good time.

The rest of my things are going to be sold. Apart from my beautiful reference books, obviously. Anyone want a coffee table?

Meanwhile I must stop getting cross with Brendon (who has shown me only kindness and whose only crime is not being as wonderful as Flatmate) and get on with the business of getting home.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Bear Grylls would of course rub two ants together to make a fire, suck out their eyeballs for lunch then construct a two bedroomed house with their carcasses before romping home on a raft made from berries.

The point being he would not let little things like frostbite, dysentery, or losing a couple of limbs distract him from his goal.

Cheers for the inspiration, Bear. You da man.


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Run Out

it's the way I roll

Brendon is a courier.

Because I need to find a job but am reluctant to go temping, and because he has an eye on training me up so he can have a day off at some point, Brendon invited me to accompany him on his run yesterday.

Decked out in a red and yellow company T-shirt (which clashed with my cyberpurple hair) I felt quite the part. It was such a lovely sunny morning even the seven a.m. start didn’t wipe the eager smile off my face.

Three cups of coffee, a McDonalds breakfast, and a cream bun later I was feeling less enthusiastic.

Lack of adequate nourishment played its part in my mood slump but unfortunately Brendon also contributed. Brendon, you see, while being a Very Nice Man, isn’t the greatest conversationalist.

I don’t know if it’s because he fails to listen, or if it’s because he doesn’t comprehend, or if he doesn’t retain information due to some adverse wiring in his brain, but when talking to Brendon one finds one repeating oneself one thousand fucking times, on subjects so dull one shouldn’t even be talking about them in the first place.

“So ya like sausage rolls then, do ya?” he will say.

“Yes indeed,” I’ll reply, “Although they’re not very good for you. They have so much fat!”

“They have so much fat,” he’ll say.

(Brendon tends to repeat the last thing you said).

“But you like ‘em, eh?”

“Yes. Sausage rolls are very nice.”

“Very nice, sausage rolls. Yeah. I like ‘em. Do you like ‘em? Not very good for you though, eh.”

“No, they have a very high fat content.”

“High fat content. They’re nice though, eh.”

“Yes.”

“I like ‘em. They're really nice. You gotta like ‘em. Do you like ‘em?”

“Yes, I like them. But only as a treat; I wouldn’t have one every day.”

“Every day! Why not?”

“Because they’re not very good for you.”

“Is that right? Not very good for you?”

“No. Full of fat.”

“Fat. Yeah. But they’re nice though eh? I like ‘em. Do you like ‘em?”

“Yes.”

Etc.

But we didn’t just talk about sausage rolls for eight hours! No. For the remaining hour we discussed other topics which I shall share with you now for our mutual enjoyment:

Letterboxes – British letterboxes! Are they really just slots in the front door? Really? You mean, they don’t have letterboxes at the end of your drive like they do over here? No way. So nobody at all has letterboxes like these [points]? You have to put mail through the front door itself? Shit, that’s amazing.

Nutrition – So you reckon it’s better to eat fruit and vegetables than bread and pasta and shit? Do you really think that? Fruit and vegetables? Better for you? Yeah white flour’s got all the goodness processed out of it eh. But what about vegetables, they get sprayed with all sorts of shit. Oh, organic, yeah, I guess that’d be the best thing to have. But are vegetables really better for you? They are? You’d rather have some fruit than a sausage roll? Really? Better for you? You reckon? What about fish? Yeah, fish is good for you eh. Crumbed, though, not battered.

Ancestry – Your mum’s half Irish? Really? Awesome! Great people eh. Half Irish! Wow! What do you make of that accent then? Irish people eh. They’re great. So you’re half Irish? Oh, a quarter Irish. So your mum was born in Ireland? No? What about your dad?

Employment Prospects – So do you reckon you could do courier work? You like it? You don’t want to go back into office work eh? So you might want to give courier work a go? Do you like it? Better paid eh. You don’t want to go back into office work do ya. So you might like courier work. Do you think you would like it? You should try it. You might like it. It’s different from working in an office eh. Better paid. Not sitting around on your arse all day. Do you reckon you could give it a go? You might like it.

Yes, yes, and yes, Brendon. Just like I told you about three minutes ago.

Brendon, I must reiterate, is a Very Nice Man, but there’s only so much of that a Weasel can take before she starts wanting to kill.

At the end of the shift, we came home and I retired to a darkened room for an hour then went for a very long walk.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Happening

where am I again?

Top news stories in New Zealand this morning [from Yahoo.Xtra]:

- Councillor wants bells put on cat collars
- Female footy fans keen to give their opinions
- Dead puppies in bag shocks animal welfare group
- Opposition claim Prime Minister flip flopping over Emissions Tax Scheme
- More time needed to get to airport tonight
- Injured farmer crawls for four hours to get help
- Arrest made over Mt Roskill assault
- Endangered birds off to a flying start

I notice last week's New Zealand election result failed to impress the world's media the same way Obama's did.

I wonder why.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Stunned Mullet

giving fish a bad name since 1973

Manfeild [sic] is an annual motor racing weekend held in the New Zealand town of Feilding [sic] in which men walk around looking at each other’s cars as if they were interesting.

Brendon asked me to accompany him to this year’s meeting because he was racing his own car (which is red, with blue and white bits) and had nobody to go with.

I didn’t want to go. I cannot describe to you how much I didn’t want to go. For a start, they can’t even spell ‘field’. And who in their right mind wants to spend two days of their lives gawping at cars? Cars are things that get you to the supermarket and back. Cars are things you give a cute name to and drive to the beach in and sleep in if you want a cheap holiday.

Cars are just cars, i.e. a mode of transport, and anything beyond that is clearly insanity.

But I went to Manfeild [sic] with Brendon because Brendon really wanted me to go with him and I didn’t have the heart to refuse.

Saturday started well when I realised there was some sort of agricultural show going on in the showground next door but staring at cows and sheep through a chain-link fence can only entertain a girl for so long.

I walked around and looked at cars for a bit, then I watched some of the racing. Yawn. What time was it? Quarter to eleven. Oh dear. This was going to be a long weekend. I went to find Brendon who was tinkering with his mode of transport.

“Having fun? It’s primo eh!” he beamed.*

“Yes!” I lied brightly. “Cars!” I nodded, to add weight to my statement.

Brendon’s dearest wish is to find a woman as into motor sport as he is. He takes any failure to share his joy as a personal slight. I wandered off quickly lest he notice my boredom.

‘There must be something I can do to make the next two days of my life tolerable and less like being subjected to constant, baffling, ear-splitting noise while breathing in dust and dirty, dirty fumes and feeling like crying because I miss the tranquillity and reassurance of Flatmate’s clean, quiet, low-key, chess-playing, soul-balm company?’ I mused. 'There has to be something here to distract me from the fact I find men leering at other men's engines and even taking photographs of them extremely creepy, like engine porn?'

The answer strolled into view.

A man with a frightening hairstyle: short on the top, cropped at the sides, and flowing freely down the back. The mullet! Yes! An aspect of Kiwidom I’d forgotten all about. The challenge was set. How many mullets could I spot over the next two days, and, crucially, how many could I capture on camera without being beaten up?

Suddenly I was excited.

Let me be clear here: many, many Kiwi men have what I would call a demi-mullet. Demi-mullets can be distinguished from mullets proper by the following aspects –

- lack of true length at the back
- application of hair product indicating conscious regard to projecting pleasing self-image
- decent styling resulting in ‘trendiness’

Demi-mullets can look all right and can be seen on many public figures including some All Blacks.**

But I was not after the pretty boys with their ironic haircuts. I was not after the pretenders with their normal haircuts that had ‘daringly’ got a bit long at the back. I was not even after flowing locks swept over the ears.

I was after the Real Deal. I wanted mullintention.

Manfeild [sic] Day One mullet count: nine.

Manfeild [sic] Day Two mullet count: a disappointing three.

Check out these babies:

first prize

pure gold


barely out of nappies yet putting the grown ups to shame

third guy along had the best one but he wouldn't sit back so I could get a decent photo, the bastard

Click here for further mullectation, if you dare.***

If any of you are still struggling with the concept of the mullet because, for example, your first language is not English please click here for a handy list of what mullets are called in non-English speaking parts of the world. In the States I understand they are referred to as 'Canadian Passports', which surely has a touch of genius about it.

Brendon was thrilled I was taking so much interest in my surroundings my camera was never out of my hand.

"You can take lots of pics and email them to your boyfriend back home," he said. "He'd like that, eh."

I thought of Flatmate, an ardent cyclist prone to fits of road rage against alpha male drivers.

"Um, yes," I said.




* Translation: ‘it is very good’
** Although this is beyond the pale
***Warning: only the very brave or very foolhardy should attempt to search Google Image with the word 'mullet'.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Not Croydon



So what is New Zealand like, I hear you ask?

On the 18th March 1840, a Mr T M Partridge, recently arrived here from Britain, summed it up nicely when he declared “the natives… are a jovial, laughing, fighting, good-natured, pork-eating set of savages”.

Substitute ‘pork’ with ‘KFC’ and the same pretty much applies today. But I will expand a little on T M Partridge's description as I’m sure you are wondering what’s so great about New Zealand that it’s lured me away from Flatmate for a while.

New Zealand’s a bit like this:

My plane into Auckland landed on time and when the captain said "Thanks for flying with Air New Zealand" he sounded like he meant it.

Native birdsong piped through loudspeakers as I walked under an intricately carved Maori gateway towards Immigration. The sense of calm was palpable.

The Passport Control Officer said “You’ve been away a long time. Welcome home!”

My luggage was returned to me quickly and unscathed.

Next to the luggage carousel a lady sat behind a counter underneath a large sign proclaiming ‘Free Tea/Coffee’.

“Excuse me,” I asked, hardly able to believe my eyes, “But does that say ‘Free Tea/Coffee’?”

“Indeed it does,” she replied with a wide smile. “What can I get you?” *

There were a gazillion trolleys and none of them had wobbly wheels and instead of fierce, man-eating German Shepherds, the Customs Officers had cute little beagles.

Arriving an hour later at Wellington airport, at Downstairs Monkey’s urging I deposited my two suitcases in the left luggage facility, stepped out of the terminal into blinding sunshine, turned right, walked for eight minutes, and sat on the beach.



Downstairs Monkey and I frolicked in the surf for a while then went to my favourite fish and chip shop for lunch.

Walking along the beach I endeavoured to pick up the most beautiful things I saw to send to Flatmate. I collected several shells and some sea glass but I couldn’t put in my pocket the smiles and greetings from every person who walked by, the tail of the waggiest dog in the world (he was digging and digging and digging just for the sheer joy of it), the expression of the baby feeling the cold slap of the sea for the first time, or that vast, wind-fresh sparkling blue sky.

Two days later, already running out of money and (coincidentally) unable to resist any longer the constant text messages from my mate Brendon tellling me to come and stay with him, Downstairs Monkey and I left the dingy hostel in which we’d been nursing our jetlag.

Dragging my suitcases to the bus stop, I was offered assistance by a man pushing a pram which had two extra, occupied, toddler-seats buckled on top. He’d doubled back to ask me if I needed help. I assured him I was grateful for the offer, but was going to refuse it on the grounds he already had his hands full. He laughed. “Are you sure?” he said, sincerely. “I’m sure,” I said, “But thank you.”

I caught a bus to Brendon’s. Brendon lives in a suburb despised by latté-slurping urbanite Wellingtonians for being utterly plebeian.

Brendon’s gaff, an entirely average three bedroom house, is in a road which looks like this:



His street is an ordinary street. Those are council houses (called state houses) behind the trees. This bucolic scene is a few steps away from Brendon’s front gate. When I lived in Cardiff my street looked like this:



It looked a bit like that when I lived in London too.

The railway line into Wellington – which, I must remind you, is the capital of this fine country – runs close to Brendon’s house and looks like this:



We are talking commuter belt here - it is half an hour by rail into the pulsing heart of the city. The New Zealand equivalent of Croydon, and yet you could have a picnic on the railway tracks if you wanted to.

Brendon has welcomed me into his home for as long as I want and has taken me round to his mum’s every night for a feed too.

He has even installed dial-up internet for me.

This is a hospitable race of people. I guess we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So that’s what New Zealand’s like. It’s also like this:

Public toilets are free, plentiful, unvandalised, always have paper and usually have soap.

Bus drivers wear white shirts, navy shorts, long white socks and black shoes. They are helpful, and often cheerful. When passengers get off buses they shout ‘Thank you Driver!’ as they disembark.

Streets are wide and sleepy; rarely are two houses the same. Each house has a garden and each garden is crammed with trees and flowers. Roses and hibiscus flaunt astonishing colours. People leave shoes and sofas outside their front doors and nobody steals them. Most houses look freshly painted. Birdsong is noisier than traffic.

The spotty youth who sold me an ice cream yesterday engaged me in real, proper, interesting conversation as he served me. People are genuinely friendly and curious to know why you’re here. They are always delighted to hear that you’re here because you think it’s a wonderful place to be. They will always agree with you on this point. They always have a friend or relative travelling or working in the UK. They look at you expectantly as they impart this information, as if you may have met their friend by chance. They hope to go to the UK too, one day. Life stories tumble out as you stand there waiting for your ice cream. It is an act of trust. They are anxious for you to like their country, feel as proud of it as they do.

There are people of all races walking around but nobody seems to hate each other. There is plenty of room for everyone.

Folk say hello when you walk past them in the street. Smiles abound.

It’s really, really not like Britain.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s Downstairs Monkey’s first time in the southern hemisphere and so far I think he likes it. He is certainly getting comfortable in Brendon’s spare room:



…although he never forgets home is where the heart is.



New Zealand? It's a really, really nice place.





* She actually said ‘Undeed ut duzz, whit ken oi git yew?’, but there you go.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Episode Two, In Which Weasel Is Bewildered

the view from Brendon's couch

So the next day I got on a plane and flew to New Zealand.

Why am I here?

Reason One: Because all my stuff from when I lived here before is stored in places in which my stuff, for various reasons, cannot continue to be stored.

Reason Two: Um… there is no Reason Two.

It is clear to me that, no matter how wonderful New Zealand is (and it IS wonderful), my mission now is to remove my stuff from storage, and bloody well go home.

However, to remove my stuff from storage I need to put it somewhere while I work out what to do with it.

To have somewhere to put it, I need to find somewhere to live other than my mate Brendon’s spare room.

To get somewhere to live, I need to have money to pay for a bond, rent, and all those other sundry inconveniences.

To obtain money, I need to work.

To work, I need to update my CV, go to an internet facility (for Brendon’s house does not possess such luxuries), email it to a selection of employment agencies then sit back and wait for the offers to come flooding in.

(Or something like that).

So, folks, I think you can clearly see my problem.

In order to go home I have to stop moping around feeling sorry for myself and get my fat arse off Brendon’s couch.

Yes.

Or win Lotto.

Watch this space.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

No More Goodbyes



Saturday afternoon.

Flatmate texts.

‘how did yr halloween go? any lovebites during the nite? were u attacked by any ghoulies?’

‘i wil b askin u the same things 2moro afta yr party!’ I reply.

‘decided im not goin2 party 2 expensive no costume stayin home with my monkeys’.

‘want sum company?’ I ask after a long, considered pause.

A long, considered pause follows.

‘i dont think we shud little weasel, we’v already had 2 many goodbyes’.

You’re right, of course, and I’m sorry for asking. I know I shouldn’t have suggested it. But you know what, I just thought what the hell, carpe diem and all that. I love spending time with you and here are a few extra, precious hours we could share. But yes you are right, we’ve already said our goodbyes, and another goodbye might just kill me.

Four hours pass. My phone beeps.

‘u r welcome 2 pop over 2moro if u want. it seems i am irresistible afta all!’

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Monday morning.

I am ready to leave, coat on, bag over my shoulder. It is not quite light outside. I stand in Flatmate’s bedroom, clutching my head, tears streaming silently down my face. This is agony.

“Fuck,” I say through gritted teeth. I am trying to leave but my feet are rooted to the carpet. I cannot make myself walk out the door. “Fucking HELL.”

Flatmate lies on the bed, clutching his toy monkey. He is naked, curled into the foetal position. Tears stream silently down his face.

“Get out of here you crazy bitch,” he says. His voice is muffled, choked, but he is trying to be lighthearted. I look at him lying there, his face wet with tears. It is me who has brought him this misery.

“I’m sorry,” I weep, “I’m sorry I’ve put you through this.”

He burrows into my arms. Neither of us speak. I stroke his hair and kiss his tears and hope that when I recall Flatmate’s face, I remember the happiness of yesterday and not the pain of today.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We’d had a day I can only describe as perfect. Walk, talk, coffee, canoodle – same as it ever was, only with one big difference.

“I love you!” he’d kept saying, off his tits on happiness, my super-soppy, beautiful friend, “I love you! It's great!” The smile hadn’t left his face all day; he’d enveloped me in hugs and kisses at every opportunity. He talked about the possibility of a shared future. He confessed he thought I was probably The One. Would I come back, one day, after I’d done whatever I needed to do in New Zealand? Would I like to join him in a year or two in France, perhaps, or maybe Spain? We could get a house together. It would be nice, wouldn't it?

I hadn’t intended to stay the night but it was inconceivable that I leave in time for the last train. “You can’t go now!” he’d said, “Get the first train in the morning instead.”

Not wanting sleep to rob us of time together, at 1am we went for one last stroll in Roath Park. At 3am we were still there, unable to let each other go, whispering ‘I love you’, holding on to each other for dear life.

Fatigue eventually forced us back to bed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And now two hours later it’s 7am and it’s all over.

Here it is - the last goodbye.

Flatmate gets up from the bed, stands me up and holds me very gently. He walks over to the door and opens it. He comes back and holds me again. We kiss and hug and kiss. His skin is soft and warm beneath my hands. His smile is sad and beautiful.

I leave, quickly, with one last ‘I love you’, because otherwise I will never go.

I am numb. Too numb for tears.

I walk to the station. Ghosts of our time together are in every street. I shake my head, frowning and averting my eyes, trying to ignore them. But they are everywhere. “No,” I mutter under my breath, ordering them to leave me alone. Too many memories; I don't want to remember. My face is a wince of suppressed grief. I must look like a mad woman. I am hollow inside.

Approaching the station, the pain kicks in. I let the tears come.