Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Somewhere else I could live

Having spent only a couple of days there this week, (although I did grow up there too, so there is some strength in what follows) I figure that if pushed to leave Oxford I could happily settle down in Wellington. It is a beautiful, smallish city (Yes, I know it is bigger than Oxford) that seems to have a great culture.

It also has very steep hills, unlike the low rounded excuses we get in Oxford.

Not as Crooked

I'm still a little ill - I think I unlocked somat when I unpacked a suitcase of old clothes. In future I think I'm just going to throw the suitcase on the fire and enjoy it.

But I'm not as ill as some. Poor Alice spent most of last night being sick on Sarah. Now she has been diagnosed with viral gastroenteritis. Now... I've had that as an adult and it is deeply unpleasant, albeit one hell of an effective weight loss program (try twenty kilograms in three weeks), so I feel very sad for the little one.

This trip has, while being a trip of closure, also been a trip of hellos to a new generation. There are lots of little folk in my world (my brother and sister in law have nineteen month old Charlotte, Sarah and Craig have one year old Alice, Gabrielle and Clint have one year old Fearne, Chris and Sarah have three year old Aimee and nine month old Jessica, and I'm sure there will be more to come... It's been really fun. I've kinda felt like Uncle Richard to a lot of them as well as Sarah and Mike three wee ones, but to actually be a genuine uncle to Charlotte is very cool.

Tomorrow I am off to Rotorua to see Jolinda, then do some actual work with our New Zealand agent (a loud Yorkshireman). Then up to Warkworth with the family, then the three yearly trip to Cityside Baptist Church to remind them of who this person who is on the 'prayers for people who are far off' section lof the newsletter is, and hopefully continue to have my mortal soul prayed for for another three and a half years.

Drove for the first time in NZ today. Managed to fail most tests involving the location of the indicator stick and failed the only test of the NZ give way rule. Luckily no harm done. The drive to Rotorua could be a different matter.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Friday, August 19, 2005

Brown Bread

What beef has God got with labour politicians this month?
First it was Robin Cook, then David Lange and finally (I hope) Mo Mowlam.

He's been taking the good ones. So I figure Blair is on safe ground.


Today I arrived at my parents place in Wanganui. Wanganui can be found on a map by finding the North Island of New Zealand. Then go to the big bump on the west coast of the North Island. Wanganui is in the armpit of that big bump.

I have been going through all the boxes that I stored with them some four years ago when I left NZ for the UK. I started with the approach of thinking I should throw all of it away. Then as I started delving deeper I discovered that there is a whole lotta my life that I would like to hang onto. Old school stuff, a dodgy tape collection, a very good collection of contempary literature, a near new toasted sandwich maker (those were the days when I was a student and lunch could be made with four slices of bread, some cheese, some ham and a sprinking of paprika and oregano), and the finest cheese grater in the world. This cheese grater is sharp and most importantly hexagonal in base shape so it is very stable. Even though I have committed myself to living in the UK for the forseeable future and even though seeing as I haven't this stuff in four years, I am loth to get rid of it. I can always get it shipped over if I really settle down. I have decided to pack the bulk of it away, but have decided to chance my arm with the weight allowance by putting into my baggage the weighty tome that is a collection of James K Baxter's poetry, a copy of the NZ Anglican Prayer book, and a bunch of CD's.

The whole experience of going through my stuff, including my clothes was rather sad. So many things that pertained to a life I once had and no longer feel connected to. There were also some rather pleasant moments when I discovered some of the treasures in my book collection. In some ways it was carthatic too. It is increasingly becoming clear that this trip to NZ is one of closure and I remain unsure of how this sits with me. It has been great seeing my friends and family, but I look forward to being back in Oxford. I know that most of you people don't understand it. When I think of something you can understand that is similar I will try to put it in writing.

I played Taylor Mali's 'The Impotence of Proofreading' to my dad this evening. It was worth it for the look on his his face.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sleeping on Planes

Kia ora tātau!
Now we are in New Zealand. It's been very strange being here. I last visited the shakey isles in March 2002 and like the collection of copper coins on my shelf at home, I think I have left it too long.

[Aside, one of the more ridiculous things I have done since being in the UK has been to collect every single copper coin I have been given in change or have found on the side of the road. There is no a jar that weighs about 10kg on my shelf. I know not what to do with it. I should have stopped a very long time, but I didn't and now it's too late. I suspect a boozy smokey poker night might be the solution. Unless I win, in which case I will have only made the problem worse. End of aside.]

But the weirdness comes from not knowing how to relate to the people who I had left behind. It feels a slight presumptious to wander in and to expect people to welcome me back into their lives. In fact, to use a slightly intended pun, it feels a bit rich, this coming from a person who makes no secret that it is Oxford that is home for me now, and most likely will be for the forseeable future. And NZ doesn't feel like it is my home anymore. Usefully I have been staying with Craig and Sarah and baby Alice who have lived this experience so know what I am going through. I accept that I am still tired, despite sleeping a fair bit on the plane (I think I clocked up six hours sleep on the leg to Singapore - breaking my own record by about five hours), but there is a strong sense of numbness. From where I sit I am looking out over south Auckland, through a large Pohotukawa over Penrose to Mt Smart Stadium (or whatever it is called now) and then over to the Manukau harbour and it is surprisingly pretty(with respect to Penrose, there are much nicer suburbs in Auckland) but it feels like I am looking at a picture rather than a place. This visit is a only a trip so I know it is a temporary re-engagement. Please don't get me wrong, it has been great and a thing of beauty to begin to see my friends. But I miss my home. On Sunday I spent time at HTB with Jon March as he gave a sermon and then I watched the ducks in Hyde Park with Jane while eating a truly vile cheese and salad sandwich. The cheese was like that horrible smoked cheese we used to have in NZ. Then I got on a plane and went away.

Usefully Craig and Sarah have a one year old called Alice. Alice and I get on really well because I think it is easier to relate to one year olds than thirty one year olds. Especially when you are trying to come to grips with a different world. The lowest common denominator certainly appeals. As it happens today I am babysitting Alice while Sarah works. The wee girl is just waking up now and it is possible that for the first time in my life I am going to have wipe a bottom that belongs to someone else... Stand by the doors.... She's clean! (oh thank God.)

But tonight I am going to go out and play in Auckland. My friends Grant and Rebecca are in town from Dallas and together with Mr K we are going to go Belgian beer drinking (good to know some of the 'skills' I have acquired in Oxford are transferrable home). Then tomorrow I am going to see the folks in Wanganui.

There is this sneaking suspicion that by the time I finish up here I will have adapted and won't want to go back to unshakey isles...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Playing Away From Home

On Sunday I leave Oxford for five weeks. I am flying out to NZ for a bit of rest and a bit of work, my first trip home in three and a half years. I'm looking forward to it, but not entirely for the obvious reasons. I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, and some time to reaquaint myself with them. I'm also anticipating that first drop of Monteiths Original Ale. But one of the things that I am really looking forward to is not having to think about cricket, poetry, hOME, support at work... All those things that I do and love, but which have drained me this year. Hopefully when I come back I shall have a renewed energy for them.

I play my last game of cricket this weekend. I plan to go out and enjoy myself. Maybe hit a 100 or so... I think I bat best when I believe I am better than the opposition and when I feel relaxed. It'll be a shame to say goodbye to the boys. I also plan to take some poetry CDs with me to NZ to play to the good folk out there, with a unsubtle attempt to convert them. Taylor, Danny, Derrick and Steve should do the trick. Maybe there is no escape from poetry after all.

On I must go - with only two working days left I have a lot to do. My colleague Ruth will be covering for me while I am away. In the past when I have covered for her she has always left everything tidied up. I feel that I should do the same for her. Damn, I'm a good person. Oh, and the poor wee thing has got food poisoning in Mexico this week.

The next blog will be from NZ. Yippee!

Oh, and I have meaning to day this for a while. And it's not a happy thought. The death of Anthony Walker makes me sick. The fact that this sort of thing can happen here revolts me. I know the futility of this statement but I need to add my voice: Just bloody stop doing this people! And apparently I was partly wrong about the restraint shown by the British public in response to the London bombing. I hope it is only a very small minority, but regardless it aint good enough so I say it again, just stop bloody doing this people! This is not an acceptable approach to race relations and no way to stop the terrorists.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Stand up

I believe this wave will bear my weight so let it flow

Yesterday I spent the day in London with my friends Rhys, Monica, baby Grace, Megan and Jane; an all kiwi gathering, except for Grace as she was born here. We began with lunch in the Sun Inn opposite Barnes Pond, where I tried another Belgian fruit beer, Fruli. This is technically a white beer but feels more like a blend of kriek and a strawberry smoothy. Regardless, it was very tasty and there was no hesitation in having a second one when round 2 started. We moved from there to Jane's place for tea and Cadbury's mini rolls...

After we finished our mini rolls (except for Rhys who took one for the road) we went our separate ways, Rhys, Monica and baby Grace back to theirs, Megan back to Camberwell and Jane and I managed to negotiate London traffic to go to Holy Trinity Brompton, a church that Jane goes every week and a church where my friend Jon recently became installed as a curate. Now, HTB is not really my sort of church. I prefer smaller churches with less singing and more Groove Armada and U2 in the background. Churches like hOME in Oxford and Cityside in Auckland. I like to be able to ask questions in the middle of the service and I like to be able to opt out when I feel uncomfortable (church for cowards maybe??) or when I just feel tired (church for the lazy??).

I don't know that much about HTB other than it is where the Alpha courses started. But I respect my friend Jane's judgement and I love and want to support my friend Jon so when in London on a Sunday I'll leave it open as an option for a thing to do. I'll be there again in two weeks time on the day I fly to New Zealand. That's also the same day as Jon preaches for the first time. However, all this is not really the point of this entry (tip - when blogging get to the point sooner). And unfortunately for the wider world, I aint going to go into too much detail as there is some stuff that isn't really for public consumption. But the point I can share is that at HTB last night I found myself being somewhat threatened and most uncomfortably I had nowhere to hide, no dark corner with loud music, so I had to sit and listen. The sermon/talk was on the parable of the talents. Having grown up in the church I got complacent about a lot of things, but in recent years I think I have forgotten a lot of it or, moreover, lost understanding of a lot of it. As the parable was being read, I couldn't help but think 'go on, explain this to me, what on earth are you on about'. Somewhat more uncomfortably, the next passage in Matthew is the splitting of the sheep and the goats. As I listened I was challenged over and over again to stop living my comfortable christianity. It became a bit of a slap in my face. Quite what I am going to do about it is not something I am planning on writing about online, it is more something that I am planning on talking about with friends over a beer, especially another Fruli if I can find somewhere in Oxford that sells it.

But in summary, I found HTB a surprisingly useful experience (the surprise comes from the fact that I have the bad tendency to be smug about my cutting edge church, when last night I wondered if I was missing the point). It made me challenge some of the stuff that I hold to and while I might be right about such things, it is useful to be open to criticism.

If I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor