Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a wee story - Travelling to Somewhere - the end

I shut the book. I could still hear the gentle rumble of the traffic – it was almost like the sea. I went to see what message had been left on my phone. It was from work. I wandered over to check the email, but I clicked on my web browser and started to search for secondhand tents. I still had my sleeping bag and everything would fit in my pack. The boxes I could dump on my way south. I checked my bank account. There was enough money for a tent. I listened to the traffic. I slid the arrow over the buy now button. I did not click.
I sat back on the box I was using as my chair. It wouldn’t be the same. I have heard there are hotels in Punakaiki now. I bet they have built a boardwalk over that flax swamp. The West Coast had moved on; not back to the great days of the gold rush and the coalmines but no longer how I remembered it either.
I left my search and clicked to check the email. It was just like the phone message - another piece to add to the corporate puzzle I was assembling. I had never bothered to build a career before. I had taken whatever jobs were going until I had enough money to move on.
I started to type a reply to the email. I was on my career path, like the cars outside, heading somewhere. I hoped it would be worth it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A wee story - Travelling to Somewhere - Part three

January 5 1984
There was a lake outside our tent door this morning. We had yacht races on it with our jandals. Dave won. The river behind the tent was bank to bank and we were supposed to be going to Punakaiki. We pulled down the tent in the rain.
We found the Post Office, sent postcards to Grandmas and started travelling. On the way we pulled over to let a truck pass us. It went by so fast and with so much spray, it made our car go off the road.
We stopped at Waiuta. It used to be a town during the gold rush. Now it was just a few chimneys and flat concrete bits. It was hard to imagine a town or anyone living there. On the way we saw a shaft that wasn't covered up. If you were a fool you could go in. It was the best.
We went to Greymouth and had hot soup for lunch that burnt my tongue.
The tent was wet when we packed it up so when we put it up at Punakaiki, the water came through.
After tea there was a thunderstorm with bright lightening. In the olden days a man was promoted from Wellington to here.
Mum slept in the car. We slept with Dad in the tent with the ground sheet above us in case it rained.

January 6, 1984
Today was a nice sunny day so the tent dried out. We saw the blowholes and the Pancake Rocks. They were fantastic. There was a surge pool with the sea crashing and bashing about.
After lunch we went with the DOC rangers to a new reserve. We waded through mud and amongst flax with water up to our knees and in our sneakers. We found a dead Westland Black Petrel. The flax was really tall. I think they want to build a walkway over the mud. It would be a good idea. I don't know how the rangers knew where to go but we suddenly walked out of the flax onto a beach.
We hunted for Pounamu. Mum found some. Her piece was a big round piece like a fifty-cent coin. I found a bit too. I think. I hope.

January 7, 1984
Today we went down the Truman Track into some caves. In the caves were a whole lot of shells where Maori had eaten ages ago. We had to be very respectful.
There was another blowhole and a waterfall. You could stand under the waterfall and not even get wet. There were rock pools and we stuck our fingers in anemones.
We stayed and had dinner on the beach. I guess like the Maori did, but we had bread rolls filled with lettuce, luncheon sausage and cheese. We watched the sun set into the sea from the top of the rocks. Dad said it would look like a light bulb just before it set and there would be a green ring around it, but I missed it. Mum said it was the best bit of our holiday.
When it was dark we walked back up the track. We walked with no torches. We saw fluorescent fungi shining yellow and white in the dark and some glowworms.

January 8, 1984
We packed up and drove home.
I came home to my two fish, Jack and Jill. I had got them for Christmas. They were dead. Their tank was full of green algae and it looked like jelly. They were floating near the top. The pet shop lady and the fish book said you could leave fish for three weeks and they would be all right. But now they were dead so we buried them.
Dad goes back to work tomorrow, he seemed sad. Mum was happy, but not about the fish.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A wee story - Travelling to Somewhere - Part two

Yet inside, upstairs I could see the motorway heading south out of the city. From that motorway you could go anywhere, down towards Tauranga, or to the Lake or keep going to the Capital and the Mainland. I guess some people would hate it – that room overlooking the cars. But I liked watching them zipping past when it was empty or inching slowly when it was full. They were like pieces in a board game. On the near side, cars flicker past just out of my view. Those cars were heading into the city and I felt sorry for them.
The flat was just one of a block – flat, cream painted, tilt slab concrete. At night in the halogen spotlight that spilt out through the double glazing, I noticed the potted herbs in one window, the fake crystal hanging in another and through mine there was nothing because it was all still in a couple of boxes. Boxes wearing the lint of gathered dust, shaken off on the courier trip north. The writing on the sides of them, was careful, rounded black marker for if I ever came home to open them. They hold an old life; perhaps they should just be taken to the dump. All these years, they have stayed closed, untouched, and unrequired.

January 3, 1984
Tonight Mum made damper dough with flour, sugar and water. Dad looked after the fire and we went looking for damper sticks in the bush.
We wanted long straight sticks that we could mould our damper onto the end. It had to be long enough that we could hold the mixture over the fire without our hands becoming too hot. Dave found the best stick. We got handfuls of the damper mixture and squeezed it over the end of the stick. We held our damper over the fire. We kept tapping them to see if they sounded hollow and cooked.
A couple walked past from a campervan that had just arrived. The campervan couple went away and came back with golden syrup. We filled the middles with the golden syrup and got very sticky fingers. The man from the campervan said he hadn't made dampers in fifty years. The lady hadn't made them at all.
When the damper dough was gone, we had hot milos with a tacky taste from our plastic, camping cups. The sandflies were fierce and now I itch. When we were in bed we heard thousands of frogs but they didn’t say ribbit and there was something else.

January 4, 1984
Today we packed up and drove to Reefton and put the tent up again.
We looked around the town. The shops were wooden and there was a cinema with a sign that was made up of thousands of tiny silver disks. It was supposed to sparkle but the disks were rusty. They shook in the wind against the peeling, white paint. On the way back to the tent, it started to rain. It rained hard and soft.
After tea we went for a walk and Dad took us to have a look at this thing. It was the ruins of the first hydroelectric power station in the Southern Hemisphere. I looked down into this pit and there were just heaps of bathtubs lying around with pipes.

This first box had been mostly old certificates, reports and my academic record from university, typed up in black courier font with Degree Conferred, not even in bold. I should probably keep them. I had worked so hard for them and I thought they held my future. Then I found the diary. My cellphone started ringing in the lounge. The laptop replied with a ping of new email arriving.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A wee story - Travelling to Somewhere - Part one

It was salmon pink, covered in velvet and did not suit the room. It was a grown ups room with its dark stained, wooden floor and white walls, waiting for my stuff, that had been packed away at Mum and Dad’s in Christchurch for so long. There was only my pack, grubby grey and red, leaning in the corner, its top dangling open like the pout of a little kid. This was the least interesting place it had been in the last ten years.
Mum was so pleased her youngest was back with a proper job; even it was at the other end of the country. Mary had stayed in Christchurch, now married with two little kids, who were quite good at pouting when I had seen them. Dave was in Sydney climbing the corporate ladder with ease and confidence, unlike my recent nervous jump onto the lower rungs here at home.
I flicked through the pages of the pink diary from when I was ten.

January 2, 1984.
Today was very exciting we went camping for the first time in our new tent. Dad said we should have got the new dryer Mum wanted.
We started travelling at 9:38.
There were lots of little hills in the road and they left my tummy behind. We stopped at Culverden and got a Moro bar each and some plates because Mum forgot to pack them.
Tonight we stayed at Marble Hill. We were in the middle of the mountains with tall peaks and bush covered hills surrounding a meadow of knee high grass. Mum said it was proper camping using our gas cooker and a long drop toilet. Mary said a long drop toilet was not a proper toilet and I agreed. It stinks.
Just beyond our tent was the bush - the tree trunks covered in black mould, disappeared into darkness. I collected drops of yummy bush honeydew off the mould while I tried not to think that it was insect wee. The ground was covered with fallen beech leaves and patches of green moss that was springy to walk on. A little way into the bush, there was a small stream with three tiny waterfalls close together, surrounded by moss. It looked like a dreamland. It was so quiet I thought I could be all alone in the world.

Out the window Auckland’s traffic was filling on the motorway. My new flat was hidden away around a series of back street corners like a cheap backpackers searched for in a foreign city late at night.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Traffic lights - are they necessary?

I recently saw an item on a Dutch town that has now removed all their traffic lights and traffic signals. It is possibly Drachten, which was in the news a few years ago for removing most of their traffic lights, but I can't quite recall the name.
The idea seems to be the buzz of the last few years in traffic safety. The discovery is that removing traffic lights actually makes roads safer for all, with people taking more responsibility for their actions. The traffic guys in my city clearly don't seem to be aware of this - despite London and New York trying it out (fairly big, trendy cities I would have thought that would be worth checking how they do things).
No. Here it seems to be more traffic? Quick bung another set of traffic lights in, that'll fix it!
The other morning I was driving into town and a set of traffic lights was down. It was at a major intersection with five roads coming into it. I approached with intrepidation how was this going to work?
Well it turned out very well, everyone was looking out for each other. I had to come back through this intersection on my way home too and it was still going smoothly. It made me think of the town in the Netherlands, of name uncertain, - they are onto something! My wait was much less than previously at this intersection and it felt more interactive. It felt we were all watching out for each other instead of just being intent on our own journey and how quickly we could get there.
I hope the traffic people here take note of these overseas trends or the younger people coming up get to try it this stuff. The sticking traffic lights in everywhere is just so frustrating and it would seem makes roads no safer.
I did a bit of googling to try and find the name of the Netherlands town - which I didn't but I found this site. I love the unbelievable amount of information on anything on the web. From this site I learnt that the new LED traffic lights (which I had thought were quite a cool idea if you were going to have traffic lights) are not hot enough to melt snow so if it snows a lot you can't see the lights. Another reason just to pull 'em out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

News or is it?

It has been terrible watching the devastation caused by the earthquakes and tsunami that have occurred around the Pacific rim recently. It is when major events like this happen that I do watch the television news more and I hope for miracle survival stories.
In the reality of news delivery -disaster stories seem to be big business. All the local networks had people on the ground in Samoa within hours almost and seemingly reporters from all their different news shows.
So we have "live" reports and first hand pictures and then weirdly I saw a news promo for the 6pm news. The newsreader said something along the lines of "why are all these earthquakes happening around the Pacific Rim? We'll reveal all at 6pm."
No you won't. If most people remember their basic NZ school geography, they should know about the Pacific Rim of Fire. That is a googlable thing - that is not news. I am wondering about the person who wrote this little bit of script - had they never heard of the Pacific Rim of Fire? I am sure wikipaedia has an article all about it and they do. This is not news. My first thought was how badly is your news show rating that you use encylopedia information to get me to watch? I didn't watch, I remember geography.
But the idea of someone learning about it for the first time and going - "Check this out - it is amazing! There are plates and that is why all these earthquakes happen where they do. Wow I never knew, I'll use that to promote our news tonight." - is kind of cool.

5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.