Saturday, 11 December 2010

I want to go sightseeing.

Congratulations.  Upon uttering those words, you have just become my most hated person of the last five minutes.  Don't worry, my fickle nature coupled with my mediocre attention span mean that at some point in the next five minutes I will move onto someone else.  Or maybe just revert back to someone on my regular hate list, but until that point:  Well done you.

Am I being a bit harsh with this?  I've been back and forth.  Sure, we all like a bit of sightseeing.  There is nothing like being a tourist in say, London.  Have a walk around the Tower of London, it was built by Jesus probably.  That's over 2 thousand years ago!  And they chopped off peoples heads and put them on spikes or something.  And it has the Crown Jewels, and ravens, and Beefeaters and stuff.  Wow.  And look, there's Buckingham Palace, it's a billion years old and is where the Queen does her poo's.  And Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and look at all these buildings!  They were all here since the dawn of time, and survived wars, and the Great Fire of London and stuff, and they were lived in by important people with numbers after their name!  Stare at them all, agog, with your mouths open and dribble your intelligence all down the front of your shirt!  Fascinating stuff.  And it was, despite my general tone of sarcasm, awesome when seeing these structures steeped in centuries of history for the first time.

But here's the newsflash.  You are in New Zealand.  A country that was only invented a few hundred years ago.  And furthermore, you are in Queenstown, New Zealand.  A town established a mere 150 years ago.  If you can find a structure more than 3 minutes old here, I would like you to show it to me.  And in return, I will direct you to the only sightseeing bus in town.  It runs a 3 hour tour, one hour of which is you walking around Arrowtown which granted, is quite quaint - it looks a little like a town from the Wild West - but still no more than 150 years old.  The rest is a visit to the bridge A.J. Hackett first leapt off, a winery visit, another bridge, and a lake.  It's a different lake to the one you sleep next to in Queenstown, I'll grant you that.  But it is still a massive expanse of water, and these lake things really don't tend to differ much.  You know what though?  They do it on a genuine red double decker bus from London, which may just be the oldest thing for miles.

So yes, technically speaking there are sights, but I can't help feeling most people who tell me this want sights like you get in big cities, like the sights I (historically accurately) described in my second paragraph.  And can't help but wonder if maybe they get a little disappointed with the lack of them, and it leaves me thinking that if they wanted to go sightseeing instead of throw themselves off or out of something, that they may be vacationing in the wrong town.

It's not technically sightseeing, but you could go on a Lord of the Rings tour, that horse that still has plenty of flogging potential over here, especially with The Hobbit being announced, but you may have the same problem I have with that one.  Want to know what that is?  I thought so, settle in and I will tell you.

I was never a fan of the books, I never read the books.  For some reason growing up they didn't really appeal to me.  But then in my later youth once I discovered I could get into bars, reading went out the window.  And there is something about having 'Lord' in the title which implies some sort of camp escapade.  The Lord of the Flies (a book I did read once) is pretty brutal, fair enough.  But Lord of the Dance?  Camper than Christmas.  Lord Lucan's claim to fame (besides the speculation of his death/disappearance) must be that he is the only man in the history of Homo Sapiens (snigger) that would ensure Freddie Mercury came second in a Freddie Mercury look-a-like competition.  Even in the 12 days of Christmas the Lords are a-leaping.  You could be as hard as nails but as soon as you call yourself a Lord you may as well skip around all day telling everyone how fabulous you are.  The prime example being Chris Eubank, the self-proclaimed Lord Mayor of Brighton.  Sure, he was a boxer and could probably floor me with a flick of his little finger, but come on.  The guy wears jodhpurs and talks with a lisp.

The films however were obviously a big event, so I watched them.  All three films, which I believe to have taken around 23 decades to watch.  So as a result I have just seen them once.  And this means that every time someone points out a piece of land and says "Do you remember the battle of Scaramanga when that guy with the hairy feet and pointy ears threw that spear at that horse with the cardboard horns?", I have to look inquisitively at them, say that I do remember, and then feign a look of dawning realisation when they tell me it was filmed there.  For about 2 seconds.  Within an eon of footage.  They may as well just ask me if I remember that time I scratched my arse when I was 7.  Without a photographic memory on my side I would have to take a physical photograph of the site, go home, print it and rent the Lord of the Rings (all three, because they never tell me which one it's from), grab a haemorrhoid pillow and sit through every minute of them once again whilst holding the picture up next to the T.V. until that particular scene comes on the screen, pause it, make a note of which film it is and at what time the scene crops up on the DVD, and then commit this to memory so that next time I am round a friends house and we decide to have a Lord of the Rings marathon I can jump in at just the right time and excitedly shout "I've been there"!

That's not to belittle the amazing scenery round here, it is overwhelmingly astounding as I have said before.  It's just that it's not really a town built for sightseeing in the immediate locality.  It's more a town of locally putting yourself within inches of the jaws of death, and on a larger scale a vast expanse of beauty and serenity.  Like Milford Sound, somewhere I visited again recently but this time staying overnight.  I saw it as an opportunity to spend a little bit of time out of the bustle of Queenstown.  A time to be with myself, though not in that way (okay, maybe once in that way before I went to sleep).  A time to relax and contemplate.  And in that state of loneliness I discovered that I may be a bit of a paradox.  A lot of the time I don't like people, but conversely when alone, I really manage to piss myself off.

While I was there this time round, I took the opportunity to go kayaking.  The weather wasn't perfect, it was raining and there were high winds which meant we couldn't start kayaking in from the point we originally intended to, but when we eventually set off it was great to see the area from a different point of view.  We could get closer to the nature, watch seals frolicking in the shallow waters, paddle next to swimming penguins, and even touch one as the guide dragged a near decapitated one onto his kayak not incorrectly pointing out that "It's not the most ideal way to see them up close".  Being sea kayaks (which are operated by two people), mine - as happened before in my Festive Bitching post almost a year ago - came with an idiot in the back to steer us in the wrong direction and generally almost capsize us while dicking about trying to get the perfect camera shot, an experience I am becoming more and more familiar with, which only makes me wonder if it is actually me that's the idiot.  So with Milford Sound slowly inching it's way nearer the jetboat list of things I am arrogant enough to bore of (along with helicopter rides - I caught one back from Milford - honestly, if I have to go on another sodding helicopter.....) I decided it was time to try out another of the sounds, this time Doubtful Sound, on an overnight cruise.

Doubtful Sound is more remote than Milford.  It's accessible only by boat across Lake Manapouri, then bus over Wilmott Pass (named after 80's 'comedian' Gary Wilmott, as the historians are pretty sure they heard someone laugh at one of his jokes there), before you get to the Sound itself where you embark on the overnight cruise.  It was built in 1879 by brothers Eric and Percy Carruthers, who painstakingly carved it from the rock over a period of 34 years, losing a total of thirteen fingers between them.  Or it was carved by glaciers over thousands of years, one or the other, can't remember which one.  But if it's the latter, it would once again make it a Fiord rather than a Sound.  But this was realised way too late, and they already had Sound printed on the brochures or something, so they stuck with that.  Y'know what?  This isn't a history lesson, Wiki it.  It's an amazing place though, so peaceful, serene, full of wildlife once again.  Seal colonies, live penguins, dolphins, and sandflies.  Those bastard sandflies.  If Celine Dion and Bono ever had a bastard love child, to be honest it would probably be Jamie Oliver.  But if he then pro-created with Mariah Carey (who herself would be the bastard offspring of Chris Martin off of Coldplay and a traffic warden), the result would no doubt be those little bloodsucking harbingers of pestilence.  They have never bothered me in the past, they still don't too much.  The after effects are largely itching a lot.  And I love a good scratch, just ask my bollocks.  But being caught in an eternal cloud of them while kayaking (on my own this time - result) is the most irritating thing on the planet.  As is having them feast off my legs while eating dinner (which incidentally was amazing, they cooked my favourite food on the cruise - a buffet).  Honestly, I have never been involved in mass genocide, but I would imagine they would be marginally worse.

We were taken through to one of the arms of the Sound the following day on the way back inland.  As we approached, the water was like glass, reflecting the imposing beauty of the surrounding mountains.  And as we slowed we were told to take all the pictures we needed to now, as they were going to power down the vessel and ask for complete silence and no movement on the steel decks for five minutes to take in the immense remoteness and the sound of nature as if we were the only ones there.  It was incredible.  An experience marred largely by the fucking Germans sneaking around the deck still taking pictures.  One can only assume that upon arriving home and showing people these pictures they pulled out the first one and said 'This is us approaching the arm before we stopped', and then a second taken not five minutes later saying 'And this is exactly the same shot, but in complete silence.  Oooooh, spooky'.  Despite the fucking Germans (maybe the only thing in the world worse than sandflies), it was still a place I am very keen to re-visit.  Until such time as I get arrogantly bored of it.

Since then I have also been out canyoning.  You may remember I had an interview for them last year.  I can safely say that despite it being great fun, as I spent most of the time trying my hardest not to shit myself I am probably glad I didn't get the job.  It's essentially travelling through a canyon using various means: scrambling, abseiling, ziplines, jumping off rocks (into shallow water in a certain place to avoid other rocks nearby), slipping off rocks (not a valid way of doing it, but one that I discovered to be perfectly safe after doing it and surviving), stepping off rocks (as if you jump you will land too far away, onto more rocks), I had a great time doing it but was honestly petrified for the most part as I am still largely uncomfortable with water.  I did win a t-shirt at the end of the day.  It was a prize given to me for being petrified of the first jump - around 6 metres high into shallow water, into which you have to land with your legs raised probably to stop you breaking them.  Essentially I won a t-shirt for being the biggest pussy, which I think is the first and only time that has ever paid off.

Even though I had an awesome time out in the canyon - the day was great, the people were great, the fact I didn't cry like a little girl was great - I am still not convinced that sports involving water are the way to go for me.  I am still determined to find something to do all summer but it may be on land.  If I don't find something to do while waiting for winter it's going to be a very boring few months.  And there will be another winter, as I have just had my visa renewed until November next year.

England's loss is New Zealand's gain!  There's that arrogance once more.

This will no doubt be the last post of 2010, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish anyone still here after the RSI inducing length of garbage up there a perfectly adequate Christmas, and a fair-to-middling New Year.  It's done smaller because I am not 100% sure who reads this, and there may be some people who do read this that I would wish a really shit Christmas and a bile-infested New Year to.  But try and have fun anyway.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A massive exercise in extreme vulgarity.

I have never been one to shy away from vulgarity.  Those that know me well, and those that don't know me well at all either, will still probably know that vulgarity is something I positively embrace.  In fact, at times I am so vulgar that I would probably wait until vulgarity falls asleep whilst I am embracing it, and then do something extremely vulgar to it.

This year's end of season party didn't really offer me much chance to be too vulgar however.  With a retro ski theme, the best I could do was to borrow a bright yellow one piece, and wear very little underneath it.  I tried, with what little I had to work with, and at one point was talking to the co-owner of the company stripped down to the waist whilst covering my nipples, (or not covering my nipples, who knows, I had taken advantage of the open bar a little too much by that point), (or walked around after her trying to encourage her to touch my nipples depending on whose version of events you get), but that is about as far as I went that night.  My decision to wear little under the ski suit I came to regret early on, when we were taken on another jet boat ride before the evening began unfortunately in the freezing rain.

So here I go on a bit of a tangent.  As you can tell by my little "about me" box up there to the right, I fled normal life in England a while ago.  Yep, I had a proper job, for about 10 years.  I liked it a lot.  It was sometimes challenging, it was in an area I liked (not geographically), and it paid well.  Not well enough for me to buy a llama to lead around town to spit on all the chavvy scum I deemed unworthy of my own saliva.  Nor could I pay a midget and a dwarf to fight to the death on a whim, to finally discover which is the superior race.  But I did alright.  I rented a nice flat, had a car that looked a little bit like K.I.T.T. off of Knight Rider (if you really squinted, from a distance, looking through tracing paper), and didn't have to think twice if I needed to buy clean/flat clothes because mine were dirty/needed ironing.

But it was a life/quality balance.  I had no responsibility, no-one depended on me, and I was plodding.  Waking up every day to the same old routine, shower, work, finish work, have dinner, wait for the weekend, binge drink all weekend and wake up on Sunday to fingers that smell of chili sauce (careful now, despite my vulgarity I wasn't going there), and a lounge that stinks of half eaten kebab (but you can make of that one what you will), spend all Sunday watching movies on the couch in my underwear, go to bed, Monday.

So yeah, see above.  I jacked it in.  I yearned to be in a place where I had to actually save for something I really wanted.  I figured that you appreciate the material possessions more when you have to work hard and make sacrifices to obtain them.  And so here I am now, in a beautiful place where I wake up every morning to the view you see right at the top of the page, in a job with some awesome people that I love, where I get to meet new and interesting people every day, where I also get to meet old and dull people every day, not earning the greatest wage in the world, but it's enough to keep me living here and pay for coffee and the occasional beer which is all I really need in life.

Does it sound like I am trying to convince myself I did the right thing?  Of course I am.  I always am.  Every now and again I wake up wondering if I have done the right thing.  Should I have got this out of the way when I was younger?  Maybe so.  Do I worry that I threw away a life back home that was pretty comfortable to live in an environment where every six months I have a tense wait to see if my visa will be renewed or not?  Of course.  But you know what, if I hadn't taken that potentially massive leap, I wouldn't have met half of the amazing people I have.  I wouldn't have made friends and formed relationships with all the people all over the globe if I hadn't decided I wasn't really "going places" back home.  And I wouldn't have done anywhere near the amount of amazing things I have done here.  And here comes the vulgarity......

Since I have been in Queenstown, I have:

  • Been to Milford Sound on a coach day trip
  • White water rafting
  • Canyon Swing
  • Nevis Bungy (134m)
  • Nevis Arc
  • Kawarau Bridge Bungy (43m)
  • Kawarau Jet (twice)
  • Shotover Jet
  • Skippers Canyon Jet
  • Wilderness Safari (including another jet boat ride)
  • River Surfing
  • Paragliding
  • Hang gliding
  • Quad biking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Skydiving
  • TSS Earnslaw Steamship
  • Kayaking
  • Clay target shooting
  • Gondola, Kiwi Haka show and buffet dinner
  • Gondola and buffet dinner
  • Season passes for one of the ski hills for 2 seasons
And most recently I went back to Milford Sound, this time flying there and back.  You tend to forget that behind the mountains you can see, there are other mountains.  Loads of them in fact.  We flew over the Routeburn and Milford walking tracks, at least one of which I hope to do during the summer, and I got to sit in the front seat next to the pilot on the way back, an experience which left me sitting rigid with fear just in case my knee rubbed against the big red button that says "Do not rub knee against".  There were only four of us on the cruise this time around, which made the experience all the more personal, however the day was tainted by the fact that one of the others on the cruise was wearing the same trainers as me.  And to top it all off, despite spending well over a year selling a Milford Sound day trip to people, and telling those people to wrap up warm because it will be cold, I turned up for a cruise at 9 o'clock in the morning wearing shorts and a thin hoodie.  It was a morning where I didn't need to strip down to the waist as my nipples were clearly visible from a distance of miles through the scant clothing I was wearing.

So next time I wake up and wonder what the hell I am doing here, on the other side of the world, away from all the people I have known and loved for years, I will take a deep breath and think about all the friendships and relationships I have since formed, how I now have friends worldwide who I hope would be happy to see me (in small doses), how my quality of life has improved despite how horrified my Mother would be if she saw the amount of holes in my underwear, how I am not stuck commuting every day on a sweaty train, or bumper to bumper on the motorway, how I love being here and would be exceptionally sad if I had to leave, and how I have managed to experience over $6500 worth of products and adventures for absolutely nothing.  Zilch, nada, gratis, zero, nil, fuck-all.  So there's your cock-shitting vulgarity.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Get out of my life, you make me sick. And you f**king stink.

As much as I love those little tubes of cylindrical velvety goodness, they're going to kill me.  I'm going to be prone to any of the following apparently: Lung cancer, cancer of the bladder, kidneys or pancreas, mouth or throat cancer, heart disease, coronary or cerebral thrombosis, chronic pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, high blood pressure, fertility problems, asthma, cataracts, loss of eyesight, dental problems, ulcers, looking really old, and having to go for a dump every time I smoke one.  Now I'm no doctor, but I don't need to google any of those to know they don't sound good at all, apart from the one that'll keep me regular.  As much as I look at the list, I can't find anything that would point to smoking causing happybreathing or supererection.  The only cigarettes that are going to be any good for me are the ones which have on the packet the warning that smoking when pregnant harms your baby.  Being a guy pregnancy is something I am not prone to so I think I am okay to smoke those ones.  Oh to live in the 1950's when smoking was good for you, before science came along and ruined everyones fun.

I first started in my mid-teens.  Weakly and lamely with tea-bags.  I was at that age where I wanted to look cool, but with limited resources, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one to do it.  Not by putting one end in my mouth and trying to light the other, it was sprinkled into a cigarette paper and rolled up beforehand.  The advantages to this were plentiful.  It wasn't going to kill me, it looked like a real cigarette, and upon arriving home to face the parents, I never got pulled to one side for a serious conversation starting "Son, have you been drinking tea again?".

Of course this moved on to proper cigarettes.  Being highly unpopular at school this allowed me to hang out with some of the cooler kids which surely is worth risking your life, and developing a lifelong addiction for, right?  I started on Marlboro reds.  Probably because I was a bit of a Guns 'N' Roses fan, and pretty much bummed Slash.  It's likely that this is the reason that I have a voice not dissimilar to the low rumble of a large plane making its final approach, and why early morning it operates on a level only audible to woodland creatures.

My first experience of being caught smoking came after a party at the local football club.  I walked home with friends, paranoid that my parents would smell it on my breath.  I had no mints, no gum, the only thing I found in my pocket was a lemon flavoured chapstick.  So I ate it.  I popped my head into the lounge when I got home, made some lame excuses about being tired, and was about to head off to bed when my Mother demanded a kiss goodnight.  All my hard work eating a little lemon flavoured lump of grease was undone in that kiss on the cheek.  The following morning my Father had "that" conversation with me about it while I was making coffee.  Luckily, the night before, neither of them noticed that I had drunk so much that if I wasn't holding onto the lounge door handle for dear life I would have fallen over and would most likely still be there now waiting for the room to stop spinning.

Smoking causes blindness.  A warning on NZ cigarette packets.  Although having a big fuckoff metal contraption shoved headlong into one of your peepers can't really help much either.

I got caught again a few years later.  It was the early hours of the morning and I had just got in from work.  Probably around 2 a.m.  Maybe later.  I was lying in bed and decided rather than go downstairs and outside, the folks who were in the room next to mine would be fast asleep so would never know if I just popped my head out the window and had a sly one.  So there I sat, with my head out the window, every so often glancing to my right to make sure there was no activity in my parents window.  About halfway through the cigarette I was shocked to glance over and see my Mothers face starting back at me.  I then did what any sensible person would do under the circumstances.  Balanced the cigarette on the windowsill, closed the window, and jumped back into bed and pretended to be asleep.  It didn't work.  Parents are apparently way too intelligent to fall for that.

And so since then it has been on and off.  Mostly on, sometimes off.  And I go through stages, as I'm sure we all do, of loving it, hating it, loving it again.  All the times before I have tried to quit, I have never looked at it very objectively.  Instead of telling myself it has been x amount of time since my last cigarette, I end up convincing myself that when I eventually cave, it's going to be fucking awesome.  Like my first ever one all over again.

I quit last winter for about a week, then went on a night out.  I was close to buying a packet when I was pretty damn wasted, and talked myself out of it.  But then ended up getting one off the taxi driver.  I sat on the steps of my flat smoking the whole thing down to the filter and it was amazing.  Absolutely amazing.  At one point I thought my eyeballs were having an orgasm.  They weren't, of course.  Delirious with ecstasy I fumbled around in the house trying to find the toilet which I knew was somewhere on the right.  Somehow I ended up in the shower cubicle fully clothed, and still trying to find the light switch ended up turning the shower on instead.  I was standing in the shower, getting drenched from head to toe, and I didn't care.  There's a warning they should put on the packets.

I've tried various things to quit.  I read Allen Carr's book but that didn't work.  I can be an obstinate dick sometimes, so when he screams at me in the text that I WILL give up by the end of the book, I stubbornly fold my arms like a petulant child, stamp my feet all the while screaming "WON'T", and rip out the page with his face on it and use it to make a smoke.  I've figured if I smoke way too much I will get sick of it and never want to do it again.  Of course that one didn't work.  I tried carrot sticks last season.  They didn't light very well.  And I ate about a kilo of them in 2 hours which led to crippling stomach cramps and orange poo. Nicotine gum worked out way too expensive.  It was cheaper to chew normal gum and smoke a cigarette at the same time.  I have thought about buying tobacco and papers instead, and this one is foolproof because a) I am way too lazy to roll up a ciggie, and b) I can't roll up to save my life anyway.  But no, cold turkey is the only method that has led to any success so far in my life, so I may stick with that, with a massive side order of gummi bears to keep my mind and mouth occupied.

So after a few months of weakness, I am going to try and quit again.  Declaring it within my blog will mean at least 3 other people now know of my intention, which may be a bit more pressure, but as winter is now pretty much over, most of the ski hills are closed or closing very soon, and as town quietens down for the summer and people begin to leave, there is nowhere near as much partying to be done.  Which means less drinking.  And less people with little common sense to deal with as I become more and more cranky.  Like the guy who called in one afternoon to declare that he had just seen a weather report on the television which said it would be raining at the Remarkables the following day, and wanted to ask me if that was true.  I guess I should be flattered that he relied on my opinion more than a professional meteorologist, however I can't help feeling my input would have been pointless.  By far the biggest hurdle will be at the staff party this season on Friday, which has a theme of retro ski gear.  God knows how I am going to come up with something offensive to go along as this year, but it does say costume optional so I figure I may just go without a costume.  Or any clothes at all.  With the amount of alcohol likely to be floating about, it will be tough.  But hopefully quitting should lead to expanding the capacity of my lungs once again.  It's been fun once more, but as much as I love them sometimes, I have to get them out of my life.  They are a drain on finances.  They slowly but surely kill you.

And most importantly, they contribute highly to the consumption of lip moisturizer.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

I don't have a short attention span. But it certainly isn't that long either.

I've taken up a lot of activities in my life that I haven't pursued to brilliance, just mediocrity.  Which is why as much as it appears I have a short attention span, it is actually longer than you would believe.  But only just.

I may not remember a conversation I had with you yesterday.  Sure I was listening, and taking it in, but bear in mind there was at least seven other conversations that day that demanded my attention, which I took in, and tried to organise in my head in order of importance, but the ordering of it got too much so I just ended up thinking about snow, or lesbians, or lesbians in snow, and that conversation just dropped out of my head.  Which puts me in mind of Christmas one year, a time for giving, and receiving,  and being with family.  Bear with me, this is probably going somewhere.  

As was the tradition at the time, a few of us had been to the local pub on Christmas Eve just drinking and having a good time, as you do.  I ended up staying at a friends house and needed to get back to my parents house on the Christmas day, so they kindly offered to pick me up, drive me to my flat so I could spend a bit of time in the shower scrubbing out the smell of Stella Artois, and then drive me back to theirs for a day of presents, food, presents, beer, and presents.

Due to my mediocre attention span I am not entirely sure how this came about, but as my parents sat in the living room of my flat while I made my way off to the shower, my Mother began to look at part of my DVD collection and asked if it was okay if they could borrow some films.  Of course I said that was fine, thinking I was safe in the knowledge that any filthy films I had were secured in the bottom of my wardrobe (which a few years later, when I was moving out, she would end up packing up for me without batting an eyelid), and walked off to grab a towel and shower.  And that is how, when I walked out of the bathroom with a towel around my waist, on Christmas Day of all days, I found my Mother - the wonderful woman that spent hours in immense pain delivering me some years ago (who I still feel a massive amount of empathy for every time I get measured for a helmet and they tell me I am an extra-large), with my Dad standing next to her - holding up a copy of a DVD called Snow Sluts and asking me, with a slight under-lying tone of sarcasm, "What's this one about then?".

Back to the attention span once more.  It's fucking terrible.  Really really bad.  I could live with it if it was short.  I could live with it if it was long.  But it's fair to middling.  Which basically means I start doing something, and when I think I am okay at it, I give up.  Playing the drums in school - I took a couple of exams, got quite good, but then realised how much hard work was involved in being in a band so quit pretty sharpish.  You want more examples?  Sure, I've got loads.  Magic. Loved it as a child.  And got okay at it too when I was younger.  But this one is surely understandable as magic is not cool.  David Copperfield may have scored Claudia Schiffer, but then Paul Daniels scored Debbie McGee - and I can think of thousands of people on this planet that the words "The Lovely" should be used before, and all of them aren't her by any stretch of the imagination.  The Great Soprendo was married to Victoria Wood for ages, and she still has a bowl haircut, appears on countdown every now and again, and is only Britain's favourite "comedienne" because she has jokes that don't primarily involve periods or useless husbands.  But then where she is concerned, my attention span shortens even further, so she may actually have that, but I have never bothered to pay attention through her act.

Martial Arts. I spent quite a lot of time with this one.  I got up to blue belt, which to be brutally honest is less than halfway, but I did well.  I came second in one tournament (beaten by a girl, one of the more erotic moments of my childhood), had a good few results in group tournaments, then gave it up because I felt I had learnt all I needed to to counter the bullies at school who tormented me every day for being a lardass.  Which was wrong to be honest. To counteract most of that, I just needed to keep my fat gob shut, but who knew at the time?

So getting back to the original point, which I can't remember due to my short attention span, but am going to assume it was something to do with skiing.  Once again, during the course of the season, I have been lame.  Really lame.  Most previous seasons you would find me out there every day, working on something, whether it be on skis or a board, but this year, not a jot.  There's a website where you can check your mountain stats online for the two local hills.  While I thought I was doing really well, I checked the other day only to find I had done 12 days.  Granted, I have been out to Cardrona a few times, which it doesn't track, but still.  12 days.  That's barely a 2 week holiday.  I have done that thing where I have accepted I have the whole season, so taken it easy for a while, and am now coming to terms with the fact that there is only 1 month of the season left, and I haven't hit anywhere near the heights I have done before.  But you know what?  I'm okay with that.  Because I still have that one month to go.  And as much as I don't generally like summer - I like Queenstown.  And I intend to try and do another summer here to see if there is anything I can get into this time.  And if I do another summer, I won't be able to leave before another winter.  

This place just drags you in.

Dedicated - in a very strange way I guess given the subject matter - to Gramps, who passed away peacefully last Thursday.  Rest in peace.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Sometimes, I feel like Bambi.

That bit in the film where the poor little blighter is struggling for a foothold on a frozen pond? Yep, that's what my life feels like right now.

Please don't misinterpret this as me finding hidden depths, or getting philosophical on yo black asses. Not the case. I am way too shallow for that kind of behaviour, I mean it literally. Whenever I step out of the house to walk to work - downhill - I find that someone in the night has plotted my route to work and covered it entirely in a thin white sheet of teflon.

Since being in Queenstown, I have thrown myself out of things, jumped off stuff, I ski hard, I occasionally try stupid things on a snowboard, yet I can't help feeling that life enjoys dealing blows laced with irony. Just like Colin McCrae - drove cars stupidly for a living and died in a helicopter crash - I am bound to hurt myself doing something incredibly mundane like walking into work. Every day is a challenge. Every day I tentatively put one foot in front of the other, walking like Douglas Bader, just struggling to stay standing, only to suddenly find I am 30 yards further down the road with my skid marks being the only evidence of my travel. Both kinds of skid marks.

Enough, back to Bambi. Part of me thinks the film would have been way better all round if it hadn't been Bambi's mother that got shot by the hunter. It should have been Bambi. It would have made a much shorter and more bearable film, and the hunters family would have a jucier, more succulent piece of meat for dinner.

I fucking love meat. It's great. I live by a few rules when it comes to meat. I'll try anything with two or more legs, up to four. Anything with more than four legs is probably an insect, and I've stepped on insects and seen their insides, and decided many a time that those insides do not need to be in MY insides. And no seafood. Fish have no legs, and they are fast, and hard to catch unless you use a trawling net. And they were put miles underwater. If we had been intended to eat fish, they would have been give four legs, fur, and been put in fields. Much like cows, those big dumb rectangles of tastiness just vacantly chewing grass waiting for the bolt between the eyes. But getting back to the original point about Bambi again, as good as cow tastes, baby cow tastes much better. The younger and cuter the animal is, the more I would love to see it on a plate. I bet kitten tastes fucking awesome.

Since winter kicked off again here, we have had to endure some winter training which has involved a few class based sessions, but more enjoyably traipsing around town trying more activities and eating. Eating lots. If you have read previous posts you will know that I like nothing more than being told when to eat, what I am going to eat, and having all the effort taken out of going grocery shopping and preparing food. So for a few days none of this was necessary.

A few of us went on a Dart River Wilderness Safari. This involved being taken to Glenorchy/Paradise - population: 3 old men and one very sore dog - in a four wheel drive being given a guided tour of the area, with various filming locations being pointed out. Surprisingly, some film that no-one EVER bangs on about called Lord of the Rings (or something similar) was filmed around that area. Others too, Wolverine, Vertical Limit, I think I dropped off at that point because my mind is now trained to slowly start drifting off as soon as someone mentions that Lord of the Rings was filmed s........

Anyway, the scenery was amazing, the drive was sweet, the guided forest walk was interesting, climbing inside a hollowed out tree was fascinating, the jet boat ride was just that - another jet boat ride, but the soup was good, and the pizza we were given at one of the two Glenorchy pubs was astounding.

Later on that night we traveled up the gondola in town to experience the traditional Kiwi Haka, worth doing to see exactly how much weirdness one human face can achieve in 30 minutes, and then the buffet dinner - of which I only managed five courses due to over eating the pizza. It was like being at a Harvester with an extended salad cart - extended to include every type of food under the sun. Buffets are one of the few areas in life that I generally excel in.  I  managed multiple dinners that night, and who doesn't like Venison Rogan Josh for desert?

Dinner at one of the local restaurants, a sample platter of the food they offer which included a big plate of meat dripping in blood from various different cute furry little animals, a catered night out from one of the local mountains who kept the food coming all night. It's been a blessing that I currently have a toilet to myself at home.

There has been other things too. Another jet boat ride (imagine "another" being said in a voice that indicates that all these jet boat rides are becoming a real drag), an afternoon quad biking which although is a guided tour, you can still spice it up by waiting until the people in front of you have disappeared and then opening the throttle and caning it for all you are worth. There's probably been more but I am buggered if I can remember as more importantly all the ski fields are open right now so that has me completely fizzing at the bunghole. If I had a bunghole to fizz at, obviously.

Two weeks ago we had a massive dump. Could you hear me sniggering as I wrote that? I awoke with a raging hangover, went to empty my bladder which was running at twice it's capacity, and noticed that the outside through the frosted glass was unusually white. I grabbed my board, apologised profusely to my skis, and walked as quickly as I could to get the bus. Which to be honest wasn't that quick at all, as I have discovered two things about most of the trainers I have - they have no grip whatsoever, and they have less in the way of waterproofing. But none of this could bring me down, there were plenty of fresh lines to be had, and the day was probably one of the most tiring I have experienced in a while, but remarkably satisfying. Currently the ski fields are overrun due to there being something like a million schools on holiday. Myself and a friend made an effort to ski on Tuesday this week, but upon finding the hill rammed with Australians we decided it may be best to turn around at the top and spend all day in the pub instead, one of the best ideas we have come up with in a while. Until the following morning of course when it took every muscle in my body to prevent what little dinner I ate the previous night making a re-appearance from most probably my mouth, and both nostrils.

Finally, and most recently, I managed to get heli-snow-mobiling. I have no idea if I have hyphenated that correctly, and to be honest don't even really care. It was similar to the quad biking, except we were transported by helicopter to a remote area in the mountains, and were on snow-mobiles instead of quad bikes. Once again, the most joy to be had was waiting for everyone to disappear over the horizon, spend a few minutes taking in the peacefulness and serenity of the snow covered plains, then hitting the gas and firing off as fast as possible with no regard for any kind of safety whatsoever.  Slow down through narrow gateways and warn the person behind?  I don't think so, I saw it myself from a mile off and reckon I can make it doing 45.  30kph maximum round this corner?  Yeah, I'll try it at 60 and see how we go.

In fact, both this and the quad biking have now led me to realise that life is way more fun if you view warning signs as challenges.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Returning. And Catharsis.

The final week I spent in England, as predicted in my previous post, was spent catching up with other folk, and once again my apologies to those I didn't get around to seeing. It was amazing to catch up with everyone I did though, and I doubt it will be too long before I get to see you again.

My initial fears of French Canadians were not realised on the journey back out here. I emotionally waved goodbye to my parents, threw the last of my cigarettes away figuring I was flying back via shitty L.A. so had no more need for them (ever), and boarded the flight to find the mid-section of 4 seats was all mine! Unfortunately I had exhausted the entertainment I wanted to see on the way back to England and the last thing I wanted was sleep as my plan was to sleep from L.A. to Auckland, so I just spread myself out and relaxed.

L.A. was also uneventful. I made it through customs without getting shot or finger-buggered by customs, hung around for a while, and then re-boarded the flight to find my seat had been changed and I was sat next to the tallest man in the world whose knees I swear spent the whole journey in my chin. I arrived in Auckland lacking sleep at around 6 a.m. and was met very gratefully by my cousin who I spent a couple of days with catching up and hanging out with. And generally falling asleep at stupid hours due to the jet lag I had cunningly planned to avoid, but actually ran head first into.

From Auckland to Queenstown I was sat next to a Frenchman with stupid facial hair and his girlfriend. I assume she was his girlfriend as she was French too, however he seemed to prefer to encroach on my side of his seat, almost rubbing knees with me for the entire journey and resting his elbow on my hip bone. Still, it was only a short journey, and I arrived back in Queenstown and was picked up and eventually that evening moved into my new place.

To clarify, when I had left Queenstown I officially moved out of the pad I was living in. I had no problem with it, it was a great place to live and great people to live with, and the bathroom with 3 doors was pretty awesome. However it was about a 40 minute walk out of town, down an unlit road without a pavement, and as my work uniform is predominantly black and I am required to be at work some mornings at some ridiculous hour in the morning, I felt moving closer to town would result in a smaller chance of me becoming a hood ornament.

So I have moved into a house with two friends from work. It's an awesome pad with great views across the lake. And only a 20 minute walk from town down a paved road, with street lights. The only downside I have discovered so far is that on the frosty, icy mornings I have finally discovered the downhill roads in Queenstown. Arriving back has been sweet. In the time I have been away the temperature has dropped, the mountains are snow capped once again, and people are now walking around town wearing ski and board clothing, carrying equipment, and the average waistband level has once again fallen to just below the buttocks.

View of the Remarkables from my balcony.

The only downside so far has been splitting with the Girlfriend. I have always intended this as a blog to let you guys back home know what is happening in my life, and to save those situations whereby I send out a group e-mail and then get involved in 17 different e-mail conversations as people reply separately, so apologies but you must take the good with the bad.

It had only been 8 months. A relatively short period of time in the grand scheme of things, but by far the longest relationship I have managed to hold down. I began by being very guarded. I have had to learn to, to a certain extent, especially doing seasonal work, as previously I have had a tendency to dive straight in with both feet and come out the other end feeling like shit. So for the first few months I kept at a relative distance. And it was good, it went well. But then as things started to go well I let my guard down again, and grew very fond of her. So right now, it's fucking shithouse to be honest. I have always considered myself to be a simple black or white kind of person, so I continuously find it hard to understand how you can go from being in constant contact with someone to no contact at all. How you can hang out all the time one minute and then not see each other at all. How you can feel awkward in the company of someone whose genitals you recently buried your face in.

Again, I am not arrogant enough to think that I am the only one ever to have experienced this, and realise that this is a very common feeling. And for Christ's sake it was only 8 months. I know there is people that have been together for years that have been in the same situation, I mean Jesus, I've had haemorrhoids that have lasted longer. That doesn't stop it being completely shit to be honest. At the end of the day I miss her. A lot right now, and I probably always will. And I still want to do all the things during winter we had chatted about. I still want to prove to her that I can ski, and I still want to teach her how to snowboard. I still want to be around her, but I know I will be spending my time trying to have sex with her rather than having it guaranteed. But people change, there is no rhyme or reason to it, it happens and I don't hold that against anyone. I have no room in my heart for hatred, that position has already been well and truly filled by Nickelback and a guy I used to work with who read my newspaper all the time without asking.

So using this as an excuse, a lame one admittedly, I have fallen off the non smoking wagon. I was doing well. I quit when I left England, I had one brief relapse one night on the piss when I caved and had one (it was fucking sensational by the way, if you have never tried smoking I highly recommend it), but aside from that it had been almost 2 weeks. I consider this a temporary setback, and normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Only one ski field is now open, and unfortunately the company that runs it is charging extortionate amounts for the lift pass so I will not be going to that one any time soon, so I have about 2 weeks wait before I get back on the skis again. And this time it will be predominately skis if I can help it.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Be prepared.

Way back in December 2003, myself and three friends went for a weekend in Amsterdam. I am sure it is a lovely place, however we were staying in the middle of the red light district, so my views of the city were tainted by, to be frank, drug dealers and whores. Not my cup of tea to be honest, those drug dealers. And the closest we got to any kind of sex show was in Hooters, which was just ropey girls with huge knockers, covered by t-shirts. Nothing against that, they're not pieces of meat after all. But if I'm paying exorbitant prices for tepid lager, I would like a side order of at least a bit of nipple please. Especially when that glass of lager is only half full due to the other half being taken up by head (too obvious). Their refusal to top up our lager only led us to spend a lot of time in the hotel bar.

It was during one of these afternoons that I was casually gazing out of the window, across the canal. On the other side of the road, there was a bum. A tramp, not an anus. He was ambling along the sidewalk, staggering a little, clearly worse for wear. After stumbling for a few minutes, nature called and he slowly worked his way towards a covered doorway. I assumed he was just going for onesies, but he slowly pulled down his pants and squatted, and did his dirty business right there on the street. Impressed?? Of course not. Neither was I at the time. In fact up until this point I was positively disgusted. But then as he stood he slowly reached into his jacket and pulled out a full roll of toilet paper, ripped off a couple of sheets, wiped, discarded, pants up, staggered on. And as disgusting as the initial act of defecation was, I can't help but feel he redeemed himself somewhat by actually carrying a roll of paper around with him for such emergencies. I was pretty awestruck if I'm honest, it takes a special person to be that prepared.

Preparation has never been one of my strong points, which is how I found myself at Heathrow airport after travelling for around 40 hours, maybe a bit more, with a mouth that felt like I had spent the entire journey licking Amsterdam Bums bum. Once again I had loaded my bag with entertainment - laptop, more books than I could read in 3 lifetimes, magazines, iPod, camera, a huge bag of gummi bears thanks to the wonderful girlfriend, but no toothpaste, or toothbrush, or anything that would make sitting next to me on a nigh on 30 hour flight a pleasant experience.

The first 9 hours of travel was by coach, essentially the same journey I made from Christchurch to Queenstown almost a year ago but in reverse. From Queenstown to Lake Tekapo the driver was a chap I worked with during the winter, so the journey was filled with chat. Being an occasional miserable bastard, I would have been quite happy with the iPod in, but decided to be amiable for a while, however when New Driver took over at Tekapo he began by asking me a few questions about how I knew Previous Driver which I cleverly parried with one word answers, before settling in to listen to inane chatter on the iPod. And becoming silently enraged by a husband asking his wife rather loudly as they boarded the coach where the best place to sit for her travel sickness would be. Please. That loudly? Mentioning travel sickness? Sorry, would you like me to give up my seat at the front of the coach so you don't get all queasy? Or wait, is it because you want to sit at the front of the coach to get better views? I'm not moving, so I would suggest you just man the fuck up and deal with it. We are human beings, we were designed to move. Get over it.

As we entered Christchurch in the early evening, we became embroiled in the first traffic I have seen for a while. Given my ultimate destination - the United Kingdom - this just brought back memories of being stuck in four lanes of stop/start traffic, moving an average of 3 inches per millennia. This was no M25, this was New Zealand traffic, which essentially consists of more than 5 cars but less than 20, so we moved on pretty quick. My eyes lit up as we passed Warehouse Extra, then my heart sank as I remembered it's as disappointing as gearing up for a huge poo only for it to drop out in pellet form. My heart sank even further as suppressed memories of Masturbating Israeli reared their ugly heads again.

I arrived at Christchurch airport with approximately a third of the gummi bears left, and began the epic flight back to England. I am completely torn as far as flying goes. It's clearly a necessary evil, and I would rather do the entire New Zealand to England in one trip without breaking it up, but it's a lot of time to sit in one place a zillion miles in the sky. Sure, they try and make it as comfortable as possible by supplying you with a fibre-glass blanket and a pillow made up of 4 sheets of A4 paper folded in half, pritt-sticked together and stuffed with shredded paper, but there is no getting around the fact that the person in front of you will always recline their seat as fast and as hard as possible at the exact moment you are taking a sip of molten coffee. I'm not worried about Deep Veined Thrombosis, which is another thing that just requires people to stop wearing stupid socks and running on the spot for 10 minutes out of every 15, and just manning up a smidgen. I'm not too worried about major incidents either, after all whatever is going to happen, is going to happen. What does concern me is who I will end up sitting next to. Will they smell? Will they be fat? I paid for this seat, I don't want half of someone else spilling over into it. Snorer? Frenchman? The horrific possibilities are endless. The last thing I want is what happened on the way to Canada a few years back. A French-Canadian woman who insisted on talking to me instead of her husband, but only when I was eating. Asking me questions as my fork was nearing my mouth. Irritating to the nth degree. And French-Canadians are the worst kind of person. These guys are Canadian, but they actually want to be French. Imagine that.

But on the plus side, and this is what I really look forward to about flying, I have pretty much an entire day where I don't have to worry about food. The only critical decision I have to make is do I want chicken or beef. Or lamb or chicken. Or chicken or fish (chicken; as a seafood-phobe the thought of sitting in an aircraft cabin filled with the aroma of fish disgusts me almost as much as sitting next to a French-Canadian). I don't have to stand in the supermarket going back and forth over what I want for dinner, what I already have to make the dish, what I need, oh no. For a day I am told when to eat, pretty much what to eat, and that to me is utter bliss.

Another plus side? Oh yes, I am completely on a roll here with the positivity, I was flying back via Hong Kong. Hong Kong airport is great. L.A. is terrible. At L.A. when you alight the plane they usher you into a room for a few hours where you have to sit and wait for refuelling, with no opportunity to do anything else but sit there and concentrate on not looking like you are about to do something bad for fear of getting shot by an over-zealous gun-toting cowboy who clocked you as a potential fundamentalist just because you have a little bit of a beard. In Hong Kong they let you back into the departure area. You can walk around, check the Internet, have a Starbucks, and more importantly have a smoke. There are still smoking rooms in Hong Kong airport which is phenomenal in my opinion. Sure, they have glass fronts which I assume is so that you can sit in there and watch the world go by still feeling like a part of it, when in fact it actually makes you feel like a monkey in a cage, a relic of days gone by, a window for children to point at and ask their parents what those creatures are doing? For the parents to reply that they are smoking, and that it used to be a really cool thing to do in the old days and that it used to be good for you until science got in the way. But still, breaking up the journey with a smoke? Awesome. Yes please.

When I got back to Heathrow with rotten-arse-mouth, I was collected by my Father and taken home where I have now been for a little over a week. And it has been a manic week of catching up with people. My time is limited, and I have spent a lot of it writing this fetid nonsense, but I am catching up with who I can, when I can. It is difficult to get everyone in as for some reason people have jobs which means their days are filled with essential activities, but I have been doing what I can. And there is a lot to catch up on and a lot of things I have done that I didn't realised I missed so much until now.

That list includes, but is not limited to family, friends and everything that has happened in all of their lives while I have been away, good curry, McDonalds breakfasts, breakfast in greasy spoon cafes filled with gypsies, proper pubs, black pudding, Wensleydale with cranberries, pickled onion Monster Munch, Space Raiders, Pork Scratchings, Chocolate Caramel Digestives. So apart from the people I love, I have mainly missed food. It seems there isn't much about the U.K. itself I have missed. I haven't travelled too much on the motorways so the traffic I touched on earlier hasn't been much of an issue. I have used the Underground a few times which is always a great experience if you like every inch of your personal space occupied by the founding members of the London Halitosis Society. And I have also tried the train too, and enjoyed one half of a chavvy conversation from a lardy chick whose clothes were way too tight, which went along the lines of "Nahhh, but oi'm ahhnly entoitled to a two bedroom haaarrsse innnooiii".

So despite the general public getting on my tits a bit, which was nailed on to be honest, it's been a great trip back so far. It's been great to catch up with those I have managed to see so far, and I hope to squeeze in as many as possible, but please accept my apologies if I don't get to see you as my time and funds here are limited, it doesn't necessarily mean I don't like you.

And you'll be glad to know the very first thing I did when I got back was stock up on tiny soaps, toothpastes and deodorants in preparation for the journey back to NZ. As it transpires I can be prepared if I really put my mind to it.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Road Trippin'

We have already established that I am lazy, and that I am a very bad tourist. The worst, in fact. Present me with the most beautiful scenery in the world and the chances are I will sit and people watch the whole time whilst making snidey, derogatory, and if I may say so myself hilariously witty comments about the gurgling bum-wits staring open mouthed at the natural beauty I should myself be bum-witted about.
For example, spending three and a half months in Wanaka in New Zealand, then coming home. I traveled all the way to the other side of the globe and didn't venture out of my temporary home town that much at all. Yes, it's true. I was berated by friends for that one, so wanted to do something about it this time round.

Way back at the end of 2009, I managed to get my hands on a pair of tickets to see Faith No More in Christchurch. For the uninitiated, Faith No More are by far the single greatest band ever to have come into existence, until they split 11 years ago. My excitement at the reformation, and upcoming tour, was immense. I purchased the tickets at home on the internet, but yearned to take them to a house up the road, drop them off with someone, then pick them up later and half run, half skip home clutching them tightly in my hands and waving them in the air like a Frenchman with a white flag, all the time feeling like I had just got the last golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. The girlfriend suggested incorporating this into a road trip. Take in a bit of Faith No More, catch up with friends in the North of the South island, and then come back down the West coast, which was an immensely complicated conversation for someone like me who still has to do the whole Never Eat Shredded Wheat thing accompanied by pointing to understand where each one lies to comprehend.

So we set off on Monday afternoon. She had to go into work so I stocked up on gummi bears and busied myself in the toy section of Warehouse while waiting, a shop not unlike supermarkets in the U.K. in that it's handy because it sells everything under the sun but deep down you want to leave empty handed because it's really all shit. In fact the toy section comprises of no more than 3 aisles, one of which I generally ignore as it's mainly dolls, and a 33 year old man hovering around a doll section in a shop is generally about as welcome as Kevin Costner in any one of his films. I paced around waiting for a while, and went back and forth between the cd/dvd and the toy section, out for a cigarette, back in wandering around, and was collected probably a good 15 minutes after I had been tagged as a potential shoplifter.

The second stop was Christchurch (the first being Burger King on the way out of town). It was a journey very reminiscent of travelling from South to North in England. The further North we got, the dingier landscapes became and the worse the weather closed in. We traveled up past Mount Cook, and through the nearby glacial fed, milky blue lakes Pukaki and Tekapo, which I am sure would be hilariously renamed to Bukkake and Takeapoo by the type of person that hangs around toy aisles in shops (as an aside to anyone who isn't down with the ancient Japanese art of Bukkake, it's a little like the ancient art of Origami, but with less paper and more ejaculate). We entered Christchurch approximately 6 hours later and found our accommodation, which was to be a hostel called the Jailhouse.

As you can probably guess from the name, Jailhouse is an old jail converted into a hostel. Built in 1874, used as a jail, and a military camp, it finally closed in 1999 and was bought and converted into a hostel in 2006. It's a novel place to stay in, and when you think about it hostels and jails have so much in common it's a surprise this hasn't caught on more often as they are both cramped, noisy rat infested hell-holes full of mental delinquents and ass rape. There are a few rooms which have been preserved with prison art on the walls, but the rest have been decorated, given comfortable beds and installed with televisions, and it would be so incredibly lazy and exceptionally obvious to insert a joke here about it being like a British prison but with less Playstations, and pool tables, and full body Swedish massages with happy endings or whatever else people are up in arms about prisoners getting these days that I'm not going to do it. After a long drive up there, we checked in and pretty much crashed out on the first night.

The next day we awoke and set out to fix a chip in the windscreen caused on the way up to Christchurch, and to get new windscreen wipers. Having been to Christchurch before, I was still not convinced that there is much to do there, and to be honest even being there brings back memories of the Masturbating Israeli so I was happy our time was occupied with essential errands. We also took the time out to visit Warehouse Extra, which had all the promise of a regular Warehouse, but with Extra. Extra what? you may well ask. Extra stock I think is the answer. Just a regular warehouse, but bigger and more full of the same shit as regular warehouse. Crestfallen from this experience, we went out to catch up with a friend of the girlfriends for lunch, and then headed back to the hostel where she caught a nap, and I bounced around with excitement at the prospect of Faith No More being but a few hours away. The gig was awesome. I felt a little old inside the arena, not because of a low average age, but because I really felt the need to tell people off for smoking inside. I started to feel young again when I noticed a guy at least 10 years my senior standing next to me. Until he pulled out a pipe and stood there smoking weed. I won't go into the details of the gig for fear of sounding like a gushing teenager, but needless to say after 18 years of waiting to see them again, I wept from all four eyes.

We made an early start the following morning to head up to Motueka. It was a long drive, and we finally arrived early evening, grabbed some alcohol and food, met up with some friends, and went back to their place. Their house is as close to a living embodiment of a Beatrix Potter book as you can get. They share with the lady that owns the place, an English couple, four cats, too many chickens to count, some chicks, roosters, and a talking magpie. All animals that ensure a good, unbroken nights sleep. "There's a chicken in the house......AGAIN" is a sentence I really never thought I would hear in my lifetime. Motueka is quite typical of a quiet, New Zealand town. On entering, you have a feeling that there is only one road in, and no roads out. Quiet, unassuming, and despite not-quite-throngs of people milling around it still has the feel of a ghost town. We spent the evening at home enjoying a quiet few drinks over a game of Wii bowling, a terrible, terrible game. Because I lost.

The following day we set off to see some of Abel Tasman. The heavens opened and it rained hard, so we did the only thing you can do faced with that situation - pub. We sat in the pub, caught up, chatted a while, watched as a bird continuously flew into one of the windows in a desperate but largely failed bid for freedom, and as soon as the rain passed headed out to see some of the sights. Which culminated in a game of mini-golf. A terrible, terrible game. Because I lost. After more sightseeing, we grabbed some more beer, pizzas, and went back to chill and watch the Olympics.

From Motueka, we made our way to Hokitika down the west coast of the country. The scenery on the way down the coast is stunning until you get to Greymouth, which looks so shitty they didn't even bother to try and dress it up with a fancy name. The only reason I can think for it to have been called Greymouth is that Shittypoo Town was taken. As you drive past, as we did, you can smell a faint whiff of stabbings and teenage pregnancy in the air. We got to Buller Gorge, and stopped at what was claimed to be New Zealands longest swing bridge, spanning the Huxley River. Much to my dismay, my illusions of recreating the final scene from the Temple of Doom were short lived as it turned out to be a rather robust affair, but being the kind of 33 year old that hangs around toy aisles in Warehouse, it was fun to walk as fast as I could without holding on.

We also stopped off at Pancake Rocks, which are rocks. And they look like pancakes. When pancakes are stacked that is. They are essentially a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through a number of vertical blow holes during high tides. I can't really elaborate more than that for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am sure you can imagine what a stack of pancakes in rocky colours looks like. Secondly I don't actually know much more than that. And thirdly, the only wikipedia entry for them is cut and pasted into the above sentence. Once we got to Hokitika we checked into the hostel and went out to grab some fish and chips. Hokitika is a town much like I described Motueka. Nothing much happening, but it looked and reminded me very much of Sandford from Hot Fuzz.

Finally from Hokitika we began the final leg of the journey back into Queenstown. We went via Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, although we didn't have the time to stop off and explore either. We did however, take a dirt road down to Gillespies Beach, about 20km West off the Fox Glacier highway, and had crisp sandwiches for lunch. We then stopped off at the Gates of Haast, a single lane bridge over a gorge with massive boulders, nearby Thunder Creek Falls. A popular destination for both tourists and sandflies alike, which resulted in so many bites that the other half ended up with a cankle.

For those interested, most of the photographic evidence that I completed this journey can be found by clicking here. Though being a typical crap and lazy tourist, all I did was point and shoot, and have no idea what most of them are of. Aside from the shots of the only train I have seen here in New Zealand, which was about 73 miles long.

Since arriving back, the only thing I have been doing aside from working, is trying to delay my return to the U.K. by going through the visa application process. Part of this was a full medical, which came back clear which is a result. I don't have syphilis, I don't have the HIV, my blood is good which is a rather nice compliment I have not received before, my piss is a fine vintage, all in all it seems I am not dying of anything which is always a good start to a Tuesday. Testicular examinations were not included, I was informed, but was told I should check them at least once a month. The rest of the examination was a little awkward after I told the nurse I check them far more than once a month.

After 3 weeks of waiting, and stressing purely because denial of the visa would mean going back to the U.K. and doing something grown up with my life, it came back approved so I now have another winter season down here to look forward to. Fuck yeah.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Get 'em while they're 'ot, they're lovely.

The Lakes Weekly Bulletin is your bog standard local free ads paper. As long as you are privately selling, or just want to send a coded message to someone to let them know they can go ahead with the hit on your philandering spouse, and have a less than basic grasp of the concept of literacy, you can advertise anything for nothing.

I recently found myself with an excess of passport photos. Smith City knackered up the ones I asked them to do for the princely sum of $10, and the pro camera shop I went to charged me $25 for 8. Who in Gods name needs 8 passport photos at any one time? I have just renewed my passport, which meant I needed 2 passport photos for the first time in ten years. I will not need 2 more until I have to renew it once again in another ten years. By this rate I won't need to purchase any more until 2050, by which time I will either look nothing like the photos, or just be dead.

Anyhow, I decided to try and get rid of them. This is the ad, and some of the responses i got from it. Some raised a chuckle, some I replied to, some quite frankly scared me. My replies in red. And thanks to Joe Pasquale for the gag I shamelessly ripped off him.

19-01-2010 14:07
How are you looking for them photos

19-01-2010 14:22
Plenty left. They were proving quite popular so I had some more taken. 2 dollars each.


19-01-2010 15:35
Hi. How much for the passport photos and what colour hair have you got - need to know if u look like me.

19-01-2010 15:44
Hi. 2 dollars each. I have brown hair, but I also have a variety of different coloured crayons if the hair colour doesn't match yours.

19-01-2010 15:50
Sounds great but sadly don't reckon yellow over brown will make blonde. Best of luck though, i have a few mates with brown hair so i'll ask around for you :)


19-01-2010 16:27
Hello, i ve lost my passport and need a new one! I would like to use your fotos! How much is one foto? Cheers judith

19-01-2010 16:44
One would be 2 dollars, but you would need two for a passport. I would also suggest you cut your hair short and grow a beard.


19-01-2010 17:40
Hello, my name is Phil, I work full time in Queenstown. I do need passport photos and was wondering if we could schedule a time to meet about it.

19-01-2010 18:10
Hi Phil. They are 2 dollars each. If you let me know where you work I can just drop them in to you? They are already cut down to passport size.

19-01-2010 18:11
I'd like to see them first if that's okay

19-01-2010 18:25
Of course. I have some of me with a light blue background, and some of me with a white background. Which would you rather buy?

19-01-2010 18:26
I don't know, which colour accentuates your eyes better?

19-01-2010 18:31
The white background brings out the jaundiced yellowness and the bloodshot veins.

19-01-2010 18:33
I'm afraid that the blue might be a bit too fancy for me though. Maybe you can scan them both and send the samples to my email account?

19-01-2010 18:35
Nevermind, I'll just buy one of each.


19-01-2010 20:40
I'd love one of your passport pics for my own purposes. are you hot and male of english mother tongue?

19-01-2010 21:58
My tongue is English. My nose however is Iranian, my ears are Russian and I have German hair. Please, leave my mother out of this.

19-01-2010 22:11
What a mongrel! your mum must have got about a bit to have produced such a mixture.

20-01-2010 11:00
Coming from the girl desperate enough to trawl through a local rag looking for photos of guys for sexual gratification?

20-01-2010 12:23
I know. it's a tough life being a creepy wierdo looking for people to stalk. but what's a girl to do?


19-01-2010 21:15
Hi. I was wondering how much u would sell 1 of your photos for.

19-01-2010 21:53
I am willing to swap for an ironing board.


20-01-2010 00:09
I'm very interested in those passport much are we looking at? I only need 2also if that would work for you?


20-01-2010 11:41
Need to discuss these passport photos . Drinking tonight?

20-01-2010 11:54
Absolutely drinking tonight. But who the hell are you?

20-01-2010 12:07
Haha just saw your add. Is it black and white or colour photo.

20-01-2010 12:13
It's in colour with a choice of either a blue or white background. Demand has been high. Get them while they're hot.


20-01-2010 17:15
I need some photos.. Depends if ya good looking or ugly though. Don't want ten years of

20-01-2010 17:21
It's a passport photo. Generally if you look like the photo in your passport, you are way too ill to travel anyway.


20-01-2010 17:55
Hey mate, u hav jus saved me $20. Im In need of passport photos. R they free?

20-01-2010 18:03
2 dollars each. Or 3 for 10 dollars.

20-01-2010 19:53
Cool. R u on crack? Unless ur my twin mate,I hate 2 say ur stuck w/those other 6 photos. Cheers!


20-01-2010 19:57
Really need some passport photos, will u take 100bucks?

20-01-2010 20:15
95 and you have a deal.

20-01-2010 20:16
120, and wil u throw in some jandals?

20-01-2010 20:17
53 without jandals. They're for girls.


21-01-2010 14:28
I don't get it... Who would want photos of you for their passport?

21-01-2010 14:49
I don't get it...why would you waste time and text credit to ask that question to someone you don't know?

21-01-2010 14:51
Free credit, curiosity :)

21-01-2010 14:56
Boredom at work. Stupid ad entries. Stupid replies from Queenstowners.

21-01-2010 14:58
At least your creativity isn't going to waste. Work in an office i assume?

21-01-2010 15:00
No. And I have my moments.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Destination: Ultimately Hell given the intention.

Summer, it's not been great so far. High winds, cloudy skies, torrential rain and snow on the peaks. It's very much like an English summer right now.

Finding myself with a day off, I needed to do something. A lay in was first on the list, followed by a healthy breakfast of bacon and eggy bread, and then a trip to the British Lolly Shop. And then armed with Jelly Tots, Kola Cubes, Chocolate Raisins and a basic knowledge of the reasonably local area, the young lady and I set off for the afternoon in the direction of Cromwell.

The reason for this mini road-trip, the destination we were set for, had been found while idly browsing google maps. It was a small town on the north end of Lake Dunstan. It was to be a day of epic proportions. My camera was fully charged, the excitement in the car was palpable.

However, the day was to be a large disappointment. We got there to find there was no town. It was on the map for Christs sake, why could we not find it? It seems the research should have stretched to more than just looking at a map. Zooming in further I would have seen there was no actual town there, no houses, no local shop, no civilization whatsoever. In fact, researching further would have shown me that it isn't in a town at all, it's a locality. There wasn't even a welcome sign.

My dreams were crushed. I was deflated in the car on the way back. No amount of Jelly Tot sugar could rescue me from this massive crash. We stopped at Warehouse on the way back, and I walked up and down the toy aisles, but this still didn't bring me up at all.

It's probably a good thing, I guess I am a little too old to be stood under the welcome sign making my best mong face.

Recent things I have seen that more than make up for this are:
  • A giant scarecrow and accompanying motorcycle made from scrap metal on the way to and from the mythical Crippletown
  • A guy on a bicycle getting towed by a car uphill by holding onto the passenger door, exactly like the ride Brand got from Troy in the Goonies
  • Three guys, obviously on a road/camping trip, under a bus shelter in the rain with a cooking stove slicing onions on the pavement.
Next entry may be more mature. It may even be longer. Don't hold your breath, I is well lazy, innit.