Not being an idiot is the reason I found myself standing outside Christchurch Airport at 6:45am, freezing cold, having waited 30 minutes for a bus that should have been there at 6:30. I'm not having a go at all. I mean Jesus, it's not good in Christchurch at the moment, not good at all. I couldn't care how long it takes them to turn up given what is happening up there, and I completely blame myself for waiting for so long. You see, if I was an idiot, I would turn up at 6:30 on the dot, or 6:31, and hold the bus up while all the non-idiots who understand these things run on a schedule so it's a good idea to get there early so it can get away on time get to sit around and wait for even longer while I obliviously stumble down the aisle of the bus twatting everyone in the head with my idiot elbow and idiot bag.
Deep breath, rewind a second. It's March now. That's the third month, and I haven't let you guys know what's been happening in my life for almost 3 months now. For that I deeply offer absolutely no apologies whatsoever. I began writing something in the new year, but for some reason couldn't be bothered to finish it. In fact, I know exactly what the reason is - click here for an explanation. Just to clarify, that link is NOT porn. Porn is the foremost and best reason not to get anything done on the internet, but this time it's not the fault of porn. I guess I have just been too busy. Or maybe too happy?
So I am now in my 95th hour of my latest, and hopefully last effort to quit smoking. What made me do it this time? Strangely it was something that hasn't had any effect on me before now, a warning on an anti-smoking advert. I've known ever since my first cigarette that they ain't good. They taste like rigor mortis and will turn your eyes purple and your bladder inside-out, we all know that. Warnings on packets, billboards, television, no effect at all. In fact there was once an advert on television showing the clogged artery of a smoker. As it was sliced open, a fatty substance not unlike lard leaked out like toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube. As a big fan of fatty food, rather than put me off smoking, all I could think about was how bacon would taste if I fried it in that.
But just recently there was an advert in Australia, a guy coughs into a handkerchief and as the camera pulls away, it's full of blood. And that's what got me. I don't want to ever have that cough. That first one where it slowly dawns on you that this signifies the sped-up countdown to the day you die. I fucking love smoking, and I love nicotine, and I love the feeling you get when you haven't had one for a while - you have that first drag and get the feeling of elation and euphoria. And until now the risks have been there, but in the background. But this one advert hammered the risks home, so that's it. Game over. No more. From now on, it's just me and the crackpipe.
Australia, that's right. I have been to Australia recently. In fact that's why I was at Christchurch Airport. I spent a bit of time in Melbourne catching up with some friends there. Mostly drinking to be honest, 3 almost solid days of it. Then spent some time in Sydney catching up with friends there, and doing touristy stuff like the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach before returning to Melbourne to catch up with a few more friends before heading back over here. The trip up to get to the airport is around a 7 hour journey. The first six I spent rubbing my right eye as my vision was blurred as I looked out the window. As it transpired it was just a greasy window and not my eye. And upon running home from work to collect my luggage before running to get the bus, my earphones broke. Which is typical just before a journey of that length.
Running home from work to collect my luggage? Yup, I can do that now. Late into January I moved house. Where I was around a 25 minute walk from town, I am now 2. 2 minutes. I can spit from my bedroom window towards the centre of town, casually saunter down towards the centre, and stand there with my mouth open ready to catch it again. It's dangerous, but yet so much easier. The only down side so far is that in the first few weeks it came with the guy who owns it living in another house out the back. And he can talk. Being 79 (I presume. He has mentioned a thousand times that he is nearly 80), he has many stories. A lot involve the previous tenants and the state they left the house in (he has told me 'No snowboards in the house' at least once for every year of his life), even more involve basic things like how to flush the toilet, but most involve friends of his that, naturally as he is approaching 80, are all dead. Something he seems to take pride in, maybe deservedly so. He is a man you only read about in stories. His eyebrows are both resplendent and relentless, with one eyebrow hair permanently tickling his lower cheek. He appears every now and again at the window like a septuagenarian human embodiment of the Microsoft Office paperclip, if the Microsoft Office paperclip were to say "I see you are flushing the toilet. Would you like me to remind you that you should only tap the button lightly so it doesn't get stuck? By the way, I'm nearly 80, I don't want any snowboards in the house, and all of my friends are dead". But by far the most amazing moment I have had with him has been in the bathroom. Stop sniggering, it's going elsewhere. As someone who relishes the opportunity to say the most repugnant things sometimes purely for the reaction and resulting awkwardness, he outplayed me at my own game with this one. Stood in the bathroom, he was talking about baths, showers, and his wife.
"You see at my age (I'm nearly 80 by the way), I like nothing better than lying in a nice warm bath. It does wonders for my joints. But my wife, she has to shower a lot. You see when you're a woman at that age you can't have a bath because there is seeping, and if stuff can seep out, it can also seep in" - and if you imagine the word seeping coupled with his hand waving around the general area of his genitalia, you will understand why I developed a little soft spot for him. And also why I spent the rest of the day trying my utmost to keep down my cheese and crisp sandwich.
But he is now gone (back to Dunedin I mean, not 'with his friends'), and the only way he interferes now is by phone - it would seem he has spies in town as he called me yesterday to tell me it's about time the lawn was mowed. I presume it's spies, and not webcams. Or at least I hope. But then being nearly 80, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't know what a webcam is, even though I have no doubt he would be able to offer much advice on how best to use one. All in all though, it's a good move. It has rendered taxis a thing of the past, which I could have done with on New Years Eve.
So New Years Eve, I've lost count of the amount of times I have bitched about fireworks so I won't go into the evening. Aside from to say that the entire population of Queenstown was trying to get a taxi the same time I was, so I ended up walking home drunk after hitting a bar and a club which played some of the most up to date music in New Zealand (mostly from the Manchester scene in the 80's). However I was thinking about New Years Resolutions this year. I have made them in the past, and they never last. Quitting smoking has always been a big one, but then it gets to after midnight, and I'm still drinking, so I may as well carry on smoking until the following morning. Which is ultimately a fall at the first hurdle on that one. Getting fit/joining a gym? Rubbish. Go once or twice, cancel membership. Eating healthily is also crap. What's the first thing you need after a night out on the piss? Junk food. Another immediate fail.
I have tried others too, stupid ones like speaking in Haiku's all the time. That one didn't work. It's way too hard to do that. So I just gave up.
And talking in bullet points, harder than it looks. So this year I have come up with one that I intend to follow through on, spending time with boy-mates.
I have boy-mates. I left most of them at home (in England) but I do have some. For some reason over the past few years, maybe longer, I seem to have spent a lot more of my time hanging out with girls. Not that it is a bad thing, not at all. In fact it's amazing. I have a job in a position that is mostly filled by girls and I love it. It may have something to do with childhood obesity, and not being the most attractive kid so I am trying to make up for it now. But I know nothing about football or cars these days, and most conversations I have with guys are generally non-starters unless we are talking about girls, so it works. However, I've discovered there are downsides. Sometimes there is nothing better than spending all day down one of the many locals drinking, chatting, putting the world to rights until that time you stand up to go to the toilet, and your legs buckle underneath you, with another guy. A mate. Someone who understands what it is like to have a penis and lots of girl mates. So this year my resolution is not so much to go out and find boy-mates, just to spend more time with the ones I already have. Go out for beers with them more often. Hang out more. Do guy shit.
Which brings me right back to Christmas. My Christmas was great, thanks for asking. You didn't, and you don't really care, but I don't care that you don't care, and you got this far so I'll continue. A few of us were meant to be going rafting Christmas day. Would have been great. Didn't happen. The weather wasn't great, the river was quite high, people kept dropping out, so it got cancelled. Not a bad thing at all. We had some people staying over for a few days, so the house was full, there were a few of us over Christmas dinner, and I proceeded, as usual, to smash the shit out of a bottle of Jim Beam until I couldn't remember what talking without closing one eye, pointing and dribbling was like. It was an amazing time though. We hit up a party later on, and things get blurry from there, but essentially Boxing Day at work at 7:20am was one of the worst, lowest points of my life. Ever. And just recently, I caught up with one of the visitors over Christmas in Melbourne, which brings me right back to....
Christchurch Airport. I flew in and landed from Melbourne at about 11:30 in the evening. My bus was picking me up at around 6:30am. That is a window of 7 hours, some of it taken up by customs and baggage reclaim, but the majority of it time to kill at the airport. And so I propped myself up against the wall and slowly sapped the battery out of every portable device I had to hand. Laptop and iPod, that's it really. And it's not like I am standing out from the rest at all. There's a lot of people there in sleeping bags, with their baggage. It's obvious that they are travelers from the amount of wristbands they are each saving the world with, as well as that they are sleeping next to huge backpacks, but I don't think I stand out from them. I'm sat there in clean, and in fact relatively new clothes, just listening to my iPod. Minding my own business. Trying my best not to smoke, which is surprisingly easy if you just, don't, smoke.
I'm slowly approached by a gentleman that reeks of cigarette smoke. I can smell it now, I'm a self-righteous ex-smoker of about 12 hours by this point, so I can instantly smell it on the unfortunate. He doesn't look too scruffy, his clothes look reasonably clean. He has a straggly, but not entirely unkempt beard which is stained yellow above his top lip, and looks like he may appear substantially older than he actually is. He has a gammy eye, it's grey, marble like. I presume it's cataracts, but the entire eyeball is grey. It's the type of eye that would scare the shit out of children if he unexpectedly looked at them.
As he approached me, I hovered over the pause button on my iPod, and I just about made out his greeting. It was a generic 'Excuse me mate' greeting, I didn't need to hear it to know he said it. I hit pause, and looked up with a slight tinge of sadness into his one good, one bad eye.
"Do you have any money for a coffee or anything"? He asked me. I honest to God had nothing. I had about 50 Australian cents at the most (which probably could have bought a coffee farm in NZ), but nothing else. And I felt bad as I patted my empty pockets, shrugged my shoulders and said:
"I have absolutely nothing on me at all".
He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a wad of notes, and started peeling off a ten to hand to me. I had to interrupt...
"I mean, I have the means to buy one if I want, I just thought you were.....",
"No", he said, "I wasn't scrounging, it's just you look so down and desolate....I just wanted to help......".
And at this point I had no idea what to feel. At first I was offended that he thought I was desperate. I mean, admittedly it had been going on 20 hours since my face last saw sleep, but it's not far off the face I normally have on me. And it's not like I was wearing old clothes or anything. But then I felt embarrassed, because I thought he was homeless, and he clearly knew that I thought that from my reaction. Then my heart was warmed slightly by the fact that in these sad times, there are still people out there that are willing to help out complete strangers in their hour of need. Even though it clearly wasn't my hour of need of course. And that I could be so much more unlucky than I am, I could be living in a country where that didn't happen, where no-one gave a shit about anyone but themselves. And I was enveloped, and confused by all these emotions in a split second (to be honest, probably more offended than anything), so I sat there in my first ever homeless/not homeless stalemate, and did what any good human being would do in that situation.
I slowly looked up with tears in my eyes, and a tremble in my voice, and said:
"Yeah.........times have been kind of tough mister.......".
HEY, LOOK AT ME, I'M BONO!!!
Not because I am wearing sunglasses indoors. Nor because I am wearing leather pants, despite having both the legs AND the buttocks for them.
Mainly because I am putting a link here for donations. If you feel like it. The most recent earthquake has hit Christchurch hard. It's sad to see the amount of damage done to a city which just a week before seemed to be recovering from the September quake. At the time of writing, the death toll stands at 154, however with many more missing, this is expected to rise. The damage estimate for the city is $12 billion.
If you feel so inclined, you can donate here:
Red cross or
NZ Government Appeal
What makes me a smug little Irish twat? I've donated fuck all so far. Not a cent. Not yet anyway. At the time of writing, I have just caned my entire bank account in Australia. It's expensive over there. However I have just quit smoking. So any cash over the next week that I would have spent on cigarettes will go to the people of Christchurch. Which is really the least I could do.