Ukkle Doose

Well – thanks to everybody who hosted me on my recent trip around New Zealand/Australia – and apologies to people who I didn’t get to see.

But – the trip was a success overall.  The main purpose was to spend some time with little sister Angela, littler niece Meiken, and smallest-of-them-all nephew Cohen.  So – after a weekend in Sydney to try and get rid of the jet-lag (Pen deciding the cure for jet-lag was a big old night out at the pub) – I arrived in Rotorua and just chilled out for a week or so.  To be honest – I was planning on maybe doing some day-trips here and there to visit people, but once I got there – I just collapsed into sloth.  But it was all good – Meiken’s actual birthday was the day after I arrived – and after a quick visit to the playcentre for cake/birthday-songs/etc – we hung out at home all day.  Trying to get Meiken to remember/meet/trust/like me.

I was supposed to be doing a bit of cooking and what-not also, to take the load off Angela – but didn’t really end up doing much of that.  My bad habits of cooking late at night don’t really suit the ‘young family’.  Anyway – it was all good.  A week of sitting around the house, playing with Meiken, watching Cohen, and watching daytime television.  (To all those who blame the degradation of society on violent movies and/or videogames, etc… you’ve got it all wrong – it’s mainstream daytime television)  The birthday party per se was on the Saturday – which was handy for catching up with a few more people without having to make the effort to travel to them.  Muhammed and mountains, or some-such.

And then the fruits of my postponing the travelling and visits came home to roost.  (Trying to figure out how to mix another metaphor into that, but I just cannae.)  So, after a week of sitting still, I embarked on a whirlwind tour of the North Island.  I missed Hawkes Bay this time, as most of my family from that way were at Meiken’s party (sorry to everyone else down there) – so the trip was just Hamilton – spent an evening catching up with the Wards, including Shainee & Tylah who have grown a ridiculous amount since I last saw them; Taranaki – catching up with Dad’s side of the family; Wairarapa – catching up with an auntie who has rather the sweet set-up, self-sustaining vege gardens etc, a bus for road-trips, and a decent collection of wine – I’m thinking about retiring myself and turning up on the doorstep; and finally Wellington – for a rather boozy night, starting with Bob & I drinking whiskey from the bottle in a primary school carpark, ending with H & I drinking red wine and having chit-chat, and my spilling of red wine all over the carpet and laptop.

And then I fled to Melbourne for a bit of a rest.  Yep.  Still a little intoxicated from the previous night is never a good time for me to find a CD store on my last day in New Zealand.  Despite having bought a dozen or so albums in Rotorua – I somehow managed to find another 20 albums of kiwi music to purchase.  (And remember – it’s only been two months since I was last in NZ, and did a binge buy then also).  And then I rushed through security because I thought I was late for my plane.  I wasn’t – I had misread the time by an hour.  So I was stuck on the wrong side of security/immigration from the Icebreaker store – which is probably a good thing.  I’ve had my eye on a coat from there for some time, but it is rather pricey… and it is summer in London.  But, this still left me on “airside” with nothing to do, really, except drink.  So, I set up a bartab, and had some delicious NZ boutique beers.  And then get on the plane, and had some wines.  And then landed and bought duty-free, and had some beers while waiting to be picked up from the airport.  And then had some delicious Bailey’s in the car on the ride into town.  And then beers at some dodgy little bar.  And then it was time for dinner, and there was wine, and ouzo, and just all-round silliness, and then it was the bar with the champage, and then when I asked for milk with my Bailey’s I got told I wasn’t allowed to drink anymore – and really… fair enough.  About bloody time, in fact.

The next day I spent catching up with little Eli – and being convinced that it was a good idea (considering the number of young children I caught up with on my trip, and those here in London) for me to set-up some kind of competitive rating system for everybody’s children.  Perhaps even with some constructive criticism for the mothers of those children who were struggling in certain areas.  Still not sure if I’m going to follow through on that – it just seems all too likely that I will at some point have my eyes raked out by some mother objecting to my describing their child as anything but the next messiah.  Anyway – Eli did display some aptitude in several areas – while struggling with such simple concepts as “Salad Fingers is no good.  No good.  No no good.”  Anyway – after that, I returned to Elise’s place to watch something much more appropriate.  Thor.  Starring Natalie Portman.  Whooaa.  What a movie.  (Terrible).  And then I woke up, feeling very very ill, and had some champagne, and got the hell out of dodge.

Back to London.  Just in time to go home, have a shower, stagger to work, and discover that absolutely NOTHING had been accomplished in my 2 weeks absence.  Which is to be expected – I fully expect that after I have been back for 2 weeks, absolutely nothing more will have been accomplished.  Except for the one project where I have sole responsibility.  I have just nailed that in the last couple of days – up until the point where I first rely on other people to do their jobs.  And have resigned myself to the fact that this project will now also stagnate in the Pit of Apathy.  Still – for the last two days, I’ve done stuff.  Yay.

Aotearoa & Arsetralia

Checking the last time I wrote about visiting home – it was really rather long.  I will endeavour to make this much shorter, at the cost of scrimping on details on some pretty sweet events…

First of all – left Heathrow on a Friday evening.  Must remember not to do this ever again.  Airport bars just packed full of Ingerlund geezers & birds off to Spain or Ibiza or something for the weekend.  Not pretty.

Then the long flight home.  Arrived in Auckland on Sunday afternoon – tried in vain to find a CD store in the airport – instead went and picked up my rental car.  Advice from girl at the rental place for CDs… “there’s a Warehouse just down the road”.  Argh… had nearly forgotten about the existence of the Warehouse.  I thought I’d pop in for a quick look, on the off-chance it actually had some decent CDs.  Nope – never doing that again either.  Their “Top 20″ rack was comprised solely of compilations – terrible terrible bargain bin compilations.  Drove down to Rotorua, with the fatigue only starting to kick in near the end of the journey – which was quite lucky.  Got to Rotorua just in enough time to make an appearance as a stumbling stinky mess of an uncle to a scared little girl before she went to bed.  Well – not so much scared, so much as shy.  Or just not wanting to know – which would be fair enough.  That first impression took a little while to wear off – but eventually we got along pretty well.  Hopefully I won’t have to start from scratch when I return.  Leaving a collection of sand-castles for Meiken to destroy will hopefully help my chances.

After an all too brief time in Rotorua – not even enough time to visit anybody I really should have (sorry to all) – I picked up Katie from Taupo.  (Finding out, at the last minute, that Katie had – of course – assumed that I would have enough room for a bicycle.  Luckily I did – but it sure didn’t help promote bicycle rights for me.)  A drive up to Auckland, (finding out at the very very last minute, that Katie needed to make slight detours to pick up stuff in both Hamilton and Auckland – luckily I had allowed over an hour for such Katie-isms) – and to the airport, and onwards to Melbourne.

A remarkably rapid and hassle-free progression through Melbourne airport, despite bicycles, Katies, and smuggling teabags – and shuttled like rich people to the Crowne Plaza.  Left Katie at the hotel while I headed off to find “the boys” in town.  Found “the boys” – and proceeded to have a few beverages and what-not.

Next day – discovered the Stormers (the rugby team, not the… other Stormers) were staying in the same hotel.  Listened to the coaching team discussing strategy in the lifts – and discovered why de Villiers has still got his job.  There’s just nobody else.  But anyway – Pen joined us at the hotel for a quick swim in the hotel pool – which was nowhere near as heated as advertised.  Still – rather nice to be able to actually swim.  Then – we checked out, and wandered around town.  Met Justin in Brunswick for coffee, then lunch, joined by a few others (but not Dave – Dave can’t handle his vodka).  Op-shopping for a while, some beverages, chats, etc – and then finally Pen, Katie & I returned to pick up our baggage, and head to our apartment in Williamstown.  Checked in to that, and proceeded to have an evening of chinese takeaway, and good old grumpy-tired-Kruse vs Pen-Katie-girlie-chatter times.  Which some how turned into my staying awake until midnight in order that Pen could open birthday present.  This was achieved with the help of a rather tasty bottle of whisky.

And then it was wedding-day.  Finally got to wear my new suit.  Had a rather tasty bottle of champagne while getting dressed (vintage Krug) – and then headed into Yarraville for some lunch.  Then – to the theatre for the wedding.  “Wha…. wedding, theatre?”  Yep – wedding in a theatre.  Not going to talk too much about the ceremony – as it’s kinda a private thing, I guess – plus once I start – it would probably take a very very long time to do it justice.  I just gotta say, Prince Mark and Cindy Middlesborough, or whoever – have got no chance of being anything but overshadowed.  In fact – I think everybody there on the day gave up on any chance of getting married.  Not including myself, of course.  I gave up years ago.  Ha ha ha ha …. aaaah.  But after the ceremony – relative normalcy returned.  Drinks at one place (where I was shown the cellar, and chose another really rather tasty bottle of champagne) – followed by another for the main reception – emcee’d by some Nathan chap.  I danced.  First time I’ve done that in quite some time.  And didn’t even attempt to play the bride like a guitar (I don’t think).  Did, however, instead slide across the floor on my knees like some kind of rock-start/footloose-Kevin-Bacon.  Eventually stumbled back to our apartment, to share some whisky with Dave.

Sunday – the aftermath – dropped gifts off at the newly-weds house of no-longer-sin, and ate some scallops and fish and what-not.  Chit-chat, then into town, some more chit-chat in a swanky hotel room – then chinese for dinner.  Where I proceeded to prove to myself that maybe the two months of lack-of-drinking followed by the two-days-of-yes-drinking had caught up with me, and the old Sunday-babble-Kruse started to rear his ugly head.  But managed to not offend anybody too much, except maybe the waiter (who was a prick anyway, and deserved anything he got – or that’s what people told me to make me feel better).  Back to hotel for a nice early night.

And then it was the dispersal.  Pen left early in the morning, then I left Katie stranded in Williamstown, as I headed to the airport – and caught my plane to Perth – which, as it turns out, is indeed rather warm.  Not as stiflingly oppressively unbearably hot as I was expecting – but still, pretty warm.  Got to John’n’Mel’s place, which is fairly nice.  Strange set-up – but perfect for the current use of two couples co-existing in semi-shared semi-segregated areas.

Caro’n’Dom’n’Malachy arrived the following day – and I believe the day revolved around that, and then a barbeque (mostly cooked indoors).  Next day was a day out in Fremantle.  Well – for most people it was a day out in Fremantle, but Ben & I went and did a bit of diving.  ‘Cause we’re divers.  Hired some equipment, got some directions – and headed off to do some divin’.  Got lost on land.  Then eventually went into the sea (cursing how heavy dive gear is while carrying from car to beach).  And the first thing I did was go and swim face-first straight into a jellyfish tentacle.  Still got the mark from that on my face.  Not cool.  But we eventually got out a bit – and after quite a lot of trial-and-error (okay – a LOT-lot of trial-and-error) – we kinda remembered how to dive.  So we did some divin’ until my airtank was totally and utterly empty.  Headed back into Fremantle to meet up with the others and Sam at the Little Creatures brewery – and downed some beers and dinner.  Pleasant day, all in all.

Margaret River the next day – a small road-trip, just like the old days.  Well, nearly.  Stopped off at the Busselton Jetty and went for a walk along that, and a quick snorkel off the side of it.  Very long jetty, that one.  And about to get longer.  Bought some Guinness for a few road beers to help the Paddies celebrate their Drunk-Day.  Got to our accommodation in Margaret River in the evening – dropped off stuff, and headed into town for dinner and wine.

And then some more divin’.  Ben & I headed off early in the morning – up to Dunsborough for some wreck divin’.  Dom was kind enough to drive us up – before returning and joining the others for a morning of whatever it is they did.  Meanwhile, Ben & I went out in a boat – and then dived nearly twice as deep as we’d ever been before – to check out the wreck of the HMAS Swan.  Pretty cool – except I soon remembered that I really do use much more oxygen than most people – so we had to keep returning to the surface relatively early.  But still – pretty cool.  Two dives, down to a max depth of 30 metres – and just swimming along this huge grey hulk – then over it’s decks, around it’s crows-nest, etc – yeah – I could do that again.  Eventually we returned to boring old land – for some lunch, a winery or two, an aboriginal cultural centre (pretty good for stoking up the ill-feeling towards the english), and stocking up on venison, kangaroo, emu, cheese, etc to make up some kind of dinner platter.  And tried to get through as much of our booze stockpile as possible.  Managed to do all available wine, finished all normal beers, and made a start on the Guinness – but eventually we had to give it up.

Next day – a fairly early start in order to get Kruse to the airport.  Success – and I was soon on a plane on my way to Sydney.  At Sydney airport, got myself a ‘limo’ to Pen’s flat – arriving in time to try and mix and mingle at her flatwarming party.  Didn’t do particularly well, being rather tired, sober – and thrust into the midst of a party, where I was “the ex”.  But – good bunch of people, and good to see that Pen has a pretty good crew around her – and seems to have quite the reputation as a ‘cool’, or something, spinster herself.

Another Sunday – another day of doing not much.  Had a few short wanders about Manly – but it was raining, and not the magnificent surf-paradise it apparently is usually.  Cooked a roast dinner for everybody, drank a few bottles of wine, played some scrabble, and watched a movie.  Old-school Sunday with Pen, pretty much.

And then – time to leave.  Monday – breakfast with Nic, lunch with Pen, dinner with British Airways.  The long, long flight back to London.

Where I got a fairly early morning tube back home – with jetlag starting to kick in when I at one point realised that all the people around me were on their way to work – whereas I had that “homeward bound” sleepy feeling in my head.  I started feeling sorry for them – until I remembered that once I got home, I was going to just get in the shower, get in a suit, and then head to work myself.  And that is exactly what I did.  Leading to the strange feeling at about 10am of feeling like it’s a late night in the office – but suddenly realising that everybody else is fresh and just starting.  The exact same feeling that I am getting right now, actually.  Except it really is 5pm – it’s just that it feels exactly like the bad old days of working until midnight.

Anyway – back in London now.  And I figure one weekend of some irresponsible socialising will get me right back into my normal cycle of stay-up-too-late, turn-up-to-work-late.  So, yeah, don’t expect me at work on Monday too early.


And so – I managed to escape Brisbane.  Did I mention I threw up in the airport toilet in the process?  I hope not.  Had one or two last not-so-delicious australian beers (at least they didn’t have razor blades in them) – and got myself on a plane.  To Auckland.  So – need to buy some duty-free before I get on the domestic flight to Wellington.  I’d forgotten how absolutely ridiculous New Zealand’s duty-free allowance is.  6 bottles of wine PLUS two bottles of spirits.  For a man with my condition (can’t remember what the doctor called it – but the main symptom is feeling it necessary to make the ABSOLUTE most of any duty-free allowance) – this is dangerous.  So – I walk through customs with my suitcase, a backpack, 6 bottles of champagne, and two bottles of spirits.  And then remember that Auckland’s international & domestic terminals are not in the same building.  And are, in fact, quite a distance apart.  And it’s raining.  And – I’m running very low on time to catch my flight to Wellington.  So – walk through the rain to the domestic terminal, laden with baggage and booze.  Get there pretty much right on time – and discover Air New Zealand’s new domestic self-check-in process.  Awesome.  Except I’ve got no brain anymore, so let the nice lady do it for me.  The nice lady doesn’t seem to concerned that despite the fact I’m about to get on a fairly small plane, with a carry-on limit of one bag – I am carrying a backpack plus several large bags of duty-free.  Nice lady.  Anyway – eventually get to Wellington, and get myself a delicious NZ beer.  Pen picks me up – and it’s back to her flat.  Which is stupid.  Stupidly cool – with a view which would cost about a million pounds if it was in England.  I assume there was polite chit-chat.  Can’t really remember – brain had shut-down by that point.  Had a shower – I know that much.  Was pretty much compulsory – otherwise I think Pen & Ruth would have very much regretted my sharing a room with them.

Next morning – went a-drivin’.  Dropped Pen off at some appointment for testing at a temp agency.  Then figured I wasn’t really sure how to get back to her place – so instead went to Real Groovy.  Bought quite a few NZ CDs.  Then – out to Newtown for nostalgia.  New hospital, you know?  And back to town – just in time for Pen not to realise I never received her SMS message – and pick her up.  Met Matt for lunch.  He talked about weddings and stuff.  Not a good subject for me, after the week I’d just been subjected to.   And then supermarket – to buy ingredients for a dinner which apparently I was cooking for everybody.  Which I did, and did damned well.  Of course.  And drank champagne.  And there was a few people there – not going to try to list them, because it would be highly embarassing if I missed somebody.  It was good to see you all though.  Bob’n’Jo’s little girl was there – so I’ll mention her.  Nice little girl.  Sensibly scared of the crazy champagne-man initially.  Very sensible.  And eventually people drifted off home.  Until there was only myself & Pen left – drinking champagne.   So – we drank champagne.  It was for a good cause – as the next day I was to get on a very very small plane, and I had very little room for all this booze.

So – the next day, I believe I arrived at the airport with two bottles of champagne, and one bottle of whiskey.  Caught a little aeroplane up to Rotorua – and then the Family Circuit began.  Hadn’t seen anybody since March 2007 – so it was good.  Started with the Little Sister, the Not-So-Little Niece, and Mum for a quick lunch at the airport.  Back to Angela’s place – and met Meiken’s father.  Didn’t have enough time to get him drunk and the customary grilling – so that’ll have to wait.  Anyway – down to Hawke’s Bay – and a quick visit to Grandmother, Aunt, and some Cousins.  Then – a quick visit to Hayden, and his new son.  Who’d better keep his dirty eyes off of my niece.  And – a couple of nights in Reporoa with Mum&Basil.  A lunch on Saturday for Mum’s birthday.  Drank some champagne, of course.

And, finally, my suitcase was empty.  No more gifts.  So – time to start buying clothes to wear.  Bought some stuff in Taupo.  Line 7 was going out of business – so instead of going to their store in Rotorua where everything was cheap-as-chups, I went to Taupo and bought some jeans full-price from some horrible store which didn’t seem to be at all ashamed that they sold Airtex, RM Williams, and other similar ‘menswear’.  And then – up to Hamilton.  Got a little lost, as they’ve completely redone SH1 through the area I was looking to go.  So – my proper prior preparation (a search on Google Maps) – was useless.  The upside, however, was that I found myself near a liquor store.  So – bought some beer, a stubby holder, and – of course – champagne.  Eventually found the house I was looking for – and outside, on rollerblades, were two young girls.  So – I drove up onto the footpath, and got ready to run them over.  Unluckily, one of them turned around and saw me.  Seemed rather startled and scared.  The other turned around also – and then shrieked “Uncle Kruse!”.  So – had dinner with Lyn&MrLyn, Heather&MrHeather, Shainee & Tylah.  Drank some champagne.  And – some of NZ’s own Daniel Le Brut Methode Traditionelle, as from memory it is pretty much as good as champagne – but I’d never tried it side-by-side an actual champagne.  And – I wanted to see if it had razor blades in it.  From memory – it is pretty much as good as champagne.  And I don’t think it had razor blades.  Great news.  Anyway – stayed up for a while, and didn’t make the same mistake twice.  This new chap of Heather’s wasn’t going to get away as easy as Angela’s chap.  Got myself and him good and drunk, and had chit-chat.  He seems nice enough.  Dealt with my drunken ramblings well enough anyway.

Next day – took the girls shopping.  I’d missed a couple of birthdays and a couple of christmases – so Shainee, Tylah & I got in the car and drove into town.  I’d explained the concept to them – that they pretty much had free rein.  But – they still insisted on going to the $2 Store first.  Fine – I thought, this will be cheaper than I thought.  So – we found a $2 store, I gave them a basket – and told them they had ten minutes to fill it.  I was lying – they could stay as long as they wanted, really.  At first – they kept finding something, and asking me if they could have it.  After a couple of times where I said “of course – have what you want” – they finally got the idea.  And then lost the plot.  Mostly – good sensible ridiculous $2 Store purchases.  But when Shainee held something up, and asked if she could have it – I looked at it as it seemed to be a shower cap.  Indeed – it was.  “Why do you want that?  It’s a shower cap.”  “Because it says ‘Beauty’ on the packaging.”  “It’s a shower cap!”  …  “Sure – if you want it.  Up to you.  nutter.”  So – they eventually got bored – and I took the basket up to the counter.  We had carnival masks, wigs, pom-poms, stickers, rubber sticky hands, crossword books, pens, nail polish, bubble-blowers, and plenty of stuff I’ve forgotten about.  And a shower-cap.  So – dropped that lot off in the car, and went looking for more shops.  Lo-and-behold, the first thing we come across which piques interest is another $2 shop.  So – the madness starts again.  This store seemed to be more homely crap though – not toys and cool stuff.  But that didn’t stop the girls.  They decided they were going to buy little ornament things of all descriptions.  And some empty boxes.  Not sure why they wanted empty boxes.  The ornament things came in boxes anyway – so they were getting boxes for free.  But – to be fair, the empty boxes were pretty boxes.  Just empty.  Then – we walked past an ice-cream joint.  So – icecreams.  And then we found a little store which seemed to sell nothing but faux-jewellery.  I guess there probably is quite a market for that kind of thing in Hamilton.  Seeing as my original plan was to buy them some actual jewellery – I figured it would be dumb to refuse their request to buy the pretty sparkling plastic stuff instead.  By now – I think they’d really figured out what was going on.  And after arguments about who was to decide the next store – I got led to a clothing store.  Now – I usually refuse to buy sensible stuff as gifts for children – and I consider clothing to be horribly sensible.  But – it was their choice.  And – to make me feel better, they certainly didn’t buy sensible stuff.  In the middle of winter, they headed towards the swimsuit section.  And so – they got a little swimsuit each, and I believe Tylah got a pair of very summery shoes, and Shainee a very summery dress.  Or the other way around.  Something like that.  And the store girl refused to stop giving me the eye.  Which is odd – as I must have looked like a runaway father who comes back once or twice a year to spoil his girls and pretend to be a good father.  But – I guess, once again, there’s probably quite a market for that kind of thing in Hamilton.  By this time, I’d found out that Shainee seemed to think she needed a new stereo.  So – to get away from the soulless bland nasty piece of work which is a shopping mall – we headed back to the car – and I found a big electronics store.  Found a portable CD player, which is apparently the same as the one their teacher has at school.  So – we’ll have one of those for each of the girls please.  And one of those new-fangled nerd-game things where you can pretend you’re not a nerd playing it because you have to move around.  Yeah – that’s it, a Wii.  And some games for that please.  And, while waiting for the nice man to pretend to make up some kind of deal for me – little MP3 players are spotted.  Shainee & Tylah reckon they used to have MP3 players, but they got lost.  So – we’ll throw those into the bundle.

And then – off to meet Heather&MrHeather & Lyn&MrLyn for lunch.  The girls, of course, did babble a bit about what they’d bought.  But – they did manage to do it remarkably well.  Started off raving about the little cheap things they had.  Then, after ten minutes or so – they’d casually mention new clothes.  Ten minutes later, it would somehow come up that they had new stereos.  And then when Heather jokingly says “I thought I told you to get a Nintendo Wii” – they casually respond as if she’s crazy – “Yeah, we got one of them” – with an expression stating “of course!”  And I eventually find 0ut that their MP3 players aren’t really lost – but they’ve just forgotten where they are.  Oh well.  After lunch – I drop into one of those touristy “New Zealand Store” type places.  Looking for clothing (as I’ve spotted a niche market in London.  What if, as a New Zealander, I was to wear t-shirts/clothing which make it blindingly obvious that I’m a New Zealander?  Nobody’s thought of that, I reckon.)  Anyway, the girls of course spot some things that they’d like.  So – I fail at buying anything for myself (or maybe I found my “Sweet As” shirt there?) – but the girls get a few final things.  Back to Heather’s place – and when I unload the car, the lounge floor is an absolute mess.  I stick around long enough to help pack all the crap away (most of the stuff is never going to be seen or thought of again, I realise immediately) – and then watch them play the Wii for a short time.  And then – into the car, and drive back to Rotorua.

And then – off to Taranaki.  Got to Stratford – and let Dad&Maria go gaa-gaa over Meiken for an evening.  Fair enough.  The next day – went up to New Plymouth to see Grandma&Grandad.  Had lunch with them, and they also went crazy over Meiken.  Again – fair enough.  Eventually we left, to return to Stratford.  Dropped off in Stratford, and I bought some beers.  And champagne, of course.  I hadn’t realised how amusing it can be to buy a bottle of champagne.  In Stratford – it is amusing.  I walk up to the counter with a single bottle of wine, and a six-pack of beer.  The nice man rings it through – looks at the total to read out to me, and does a double-take.  Quickly looks at what he’s rung through – double-checks the price in the computer, and then reads the total price to me nonchalantly as if he had always known it would be that much.  Excellent.  Back to Dad’s place – and had dinner with Dad&Maria & Nikki&Daniel.

Next day – I held Meiken for the first time.  I realise I haven’t described Meiken until this point, and that was deliberate.  Also – it was kind of deliberate that I hadn’t held Meiken until now.  She’d held my hand, and laughed at me a few times (who hasn’t?) – but I’m not one to go pushing for a chance to hold a baby.  The mother will usually offer at an appropriate time.  (It was kind of amusing to watch Angela continuously try to drop hints at people “Yes, you’re tired now aren’t you little girl?  It’s time to sleep isn’t it?”, etc.)  So – in the morning before we left Stratford, I held the little bundle of joy.  Well – not so little.  Meiken is huge.  I got in trouble for referring to her as a monster.  Which I guess is fair enough, because not all monsters are big.  But lots of them are.  And so is Meiken.  And she doesn’t know how to cry – which is pretty sweet.  She does, however, seem pretty smart.  Is quite good at following a moving object around with her eyes – even if she wasn’t quite strong enough yet to completely turn her head as well.  Nearly though.  She takes after her uncle in quite a few ways, actually.  Sunday child.  Well behaved.  A big strong bear.  Smart (despite appearance & behaviour).  Eldest child, grandchild, and great-grandchild.  (Well – she didn’t quite meet this criteria on all sides of the family.  But – pretty much so.)  And, as the saying goes, ‘cute as a button’.

But – anyway, back to the boring chronological narrative.  Mount Taranaki refused to get rid of it’s cloud shroud, so Angela’s planned photo oppurtunity of Uncle Kruse & Neice Meiken in front of the mountain didn’t quite pan out as well as hoped.  Still – one day we’ll get a photo of us together on the top of it instead.  So – we left Stratford in enough time to get to New Plymouth for another lunch with Grandma&Grandad.  And then – drove back to Reporoa.  Dinner in Reporoa, and then back to Rotorua.  So that I could get about three hours worth of sleep – before waking up at 2 am – in order to catch a shuttle-van to Auckland Airport.  Good plan.  Got to the airport, and bought up on t-shirts to wear in London that state I’m a New Zealander.  Because, as stated previously, there certainly isn’t enough people already doing that.

And then I got to Melbourne.  Time for duty-free shopping.  So – again, more champagne.  Including an impulse purchase of a very very nice bottle of Krug.  And then a taxi to some dairy (or milk bar, or corner store) – near Elise’s house.  She reckoned she’d left her house key with the nice man behind the counter.  So – I gave the password (“champagne”) – and then found my way to Elise’s place.  Had a quick meal of some packet nonsense – put the champagne in the fridge to chill, and then fell asleep.  Woke up in enough time to have a shower, and then read some teenage fantasy while waiting for the allocated time to meet Nathan, Dave, and other miscreants at a local bar.  So – I was sitting quite comfortably, reading ‘young adult fantasy’ (which sounds much more interesting than it really is) – and sipping upon champagne when Nathan turned up.  Somehow he’d smelt champagne, and therefore instead of going to the bar where we were to meet – he instead followed his nose like the dog he is.  He was just in time to have some of the last of the bottle of Krug.  Which, we both agreed, was possibly the most delicious bottle of champagne we’d ever tasted.  So much so, in fact, that when we moved onto the lesser stuff – it really was quite the disappointment.  But – it was necessary, so we moved onto the lesser stuff.  I should have known better, to be fair, than listen to an arsetralian duty-free worker give me suggestions on champagne.  Anyway – we polished off another bottle – and then went to the bar/restaurant for dinner.  And champagne.  And we drank, and we were merry.  Most things are a little fuzzy – but I know that at some point we went to another bar.  And this second bar had more champagne – and for some reason I bought the most expensive bottle, despite it being at that time of night where a bottle of Bernadino would probably have tasted the same.  Instead – some vintage Veuve, I believe.  Or something.  It was a vintage anyway, and expensive.  And not as delicious as the Krug.  I think I bought some wasabi peas also – to be a responsible host.  And then we got kicked out.  And because I was wearing a hoodie – and that’s what people wearing hoodies do – I believe I took my half-empty bottle of expensive champagne with me.  But – this really is all assumption.  All I know is that I woke up the next morning, in Elise’s bed with Elise – while Jess & Dave were on an airbed in the lounge.  There was an empty bottle of champagne on the table – and not a bottle I’d bought duty-free.  So – we headed off for breakfast.  Elise, Jess & I met up with Caroline somewhere.  The somewhere unfortunately sold champagne.  I think.  Or maybe it was just aussie stuff.  In any case, I bought a bottle – mostly to scare Nathan if he turned up.  He didn’t.  So – I had a glass or two and then left the bottle.  And we went next door to wear little Caroline Jones designs, makes and sells jewellery.  And it’s pretty awesome.  Initially – I thought it was all cool, but there was nothing that I’d really wear myself.  Then – looking through a folder of photos of her work – I came across a photo of the same cufflinks I’d already seen but decided I didn’t really like.  After seeing the photo, though, somehow I changed my mind.  Had another look at them ‘in the flesh’ – and decided I’d have ‘em.  Which was a wise decision – as they go very well with some ridiculous shirt I bought from a NZ designer at Auckland airport.  Also – got myself a ring.  And decided I’d made a wise purchase when I got back to London – and two different people gave me shit about it.  Because it was those two specific people – I decided it must be a very nice ring if they didn’t like it.  Anyway – if you haven’t seen Cazz’s stuff – you should.  It made me really quite humbled to see how talented she is.  And she’s making actual stuff – very cool stuff.  Thought up from in her own head.  And then I turn up to work and bang away on a keyboard all day – with nothing concrete to show for it.  Dumb.  Anyway – go see Cazz’s stuff.  While I try to think up some ideas to get her to make for me.  I promised I’d hire her on commission – but forgot that my weakness isn’t just not being able to make stuff – but I’m awful at the ideas part as well.

But – that was the end of my time in Melbourne.  Went to the airport, and got myself on a jet plane.  Which, it turns out, was heading to Singapore.  Luckily – it then went from Singapore to Dubai – but I’d never realised it stopped at Singapore.  And – on the plane, I plugged my very nice expensive earplugs into my seat.  Then, felt rather ill.  Went to find something to drink, and try not to faint.  Went to the toilet – where I discovered about a dozen wasabi peas down my pants.  Very strange.  Then – found some empty seats and lay down.  Returned to my seat for landing – and my nice expensive earphones were gone.  Dumb.  Landing in Singapore, which I didn’t expect – and lost my earphones.  Asked the cabin staff about it – but they reckoned they hadn’t taken them.  Stayed on the plane – watched the people come and replace blankets, etc.  Finally took off again.  Got to Dubai – and did some quick duty-free shopping.  No champagne this time – just whiskey.  I have discovered that champagne doesn’t last very long – whereas whiskey, well – my collection is slowly growing.

Eventually got to London.  And straight onto the tubes.  Within 2 minutes, I felt like I’d never left.  Got to Oval – and dropped in at the Greyhound for a couple of pints.  Stayed there as long as possible – but I quickly realised that I was very very tired, and very very smelly.  Eventually headed home – and stayed awake for as long as possible.  Not long.  And thus – I was ‘home’ again.  With work tomorrow.  And – of course – at least several days of screwed up sleep patterns.  (That first week back at work – I was early every day – usually by about an hour.  So – employers, take note.  Want to see me in the office early?  Send me on holiday to the other side of the world.)

New Holland

Well – with my very fuzzy memory, the only thing I can remember happening since I last managed to write anything is a little trip to the Southern Hemisphere.  And my memory of large portions of that is extremely fuzzy indeed.

But – here’s roughly how it went down…

Flew from London to Melbourne, via Dubai.  Lovely long flight.  Bought a heap of duty-free.  Found my way to Nathan’s – and slept for a little while.  Awoke just in time to be slightly late meeting Nathan, Mike & Skye at the cleverly(?) named Lambs Go Baa.   Chit-chat ensued – although I seemed to have remarkable difficulty with words.  A few other people arrived – Elise, Alison, Jess.  Maybe others -my brain didn’t work so good at the time.

The next day – a bus up to Colbinabbin.  Went to the pub, found it deserted.  A couple of phone calls, and soon after, I had Slab, Ben, and some others to keep me company.  As this was a short trip, I didn’t have enough time to indulge in the normal activities Colbo has to offer – such as streaking at club cricket matches, wine tours, crop inspections, or getting the police to drive for an hour to pick one up.  However – we did drink a few beers, and then went back to Ben’s place – where champagne was opened (setting a very very dangerous precedent) – and some drunken cooking.

Then – off to work.  Helped Ben make some wines.  And then, off to Melbourne.   Picked up a couple of bottles of champagne, and then went to Jess’ place to wait for Nathan.  Drank some champagne.  And – then flew up to Brisbane.  No champagne on the plane – so had to settle for beer.  Nice ladies decided to stop serving us after two.  Well – when taking our order for the second, I think she regretted taking the order.  It was probably something to do with Nathan wetting himself.

Got to Brisbane, and Nathan headed off to his sister’s place, while Ben & I checked into an hotel.  Nathan wouldn’t trust us around his sister.  Ben & I went for a wander to try and find a restaurant that would serve us at midnight – but none were to be found.  Kebab Pizza had to do.

And then – the madness really began.  Into town, and did a bit of shopping.  Met up with a Colbo lad who was in the area.  And Nathan joined us.  And then somebody went and ordered a bottle of champagne.   And what had started as a day of shopping – buying essential goods (my suitcase was full of gifts – and therefore I had no clothes, shoes, toiletries, anything) – turned into some kind of pub crawl.  Ben stole my beautiful paisley shirt I’d bought.  So – I went back, and got myself another.  Now – Brisbane isn’t the kind of place where paisley shirts are respected.  So two New Zealanders wearing identical paisley shirts – possibly a little drunk on champagne – isn’t high on the list of things they love.  Anyway – we started walking from town back to ‘The Valley’ – stopping at every bar which served champagne.  And some that didn’t.  And then Pete, the chap getting married, decided to come and meet us.  Made us promise that we’d come to the dinner at his sister’s place that night – and then dropped us off somewhere.  I know not where – but I do know that we were in the midst of a lot of bars.  There were beers, shots, ciders, and a gay bar.  And then… well, then there was Cloudland.  Cloudland is a very nice looking bar, with not very nice atmosphere, but a very nice selection of champagne.  And we drank it.  I can’t remember if it was at this point, or earlier – but I suddenly discovered that in quite a lot of bottles of champagne, the dastardly French have hidden tiny tiny razor blades.  And these razor blades slice up one’s oesophagus as it goes down. It stings.  Nothing that tastes this good should hurt.  Oh well.  Anyway – after I don’t know how many bottles of champagne, the Colbo lad slunk off to hide.  And then – Pete came and picked us up.  I don’t know what he was thinking, taking us to a dinner with members of his family – despite seeing what state we were in already.  And – allowing us to stop off at a bottle store to buy, you guess it, champagne.  Just the one bottle each, seeing as we were going to at least try to be on good behaviour.  I think we managed to do fairly well, until I started hitting on Pete’s mother.  In my defence – she’s a lovely lady, and she was most certainly up for it.

And then, possibly in revenge – Pete dropped us off outside Cloudland.  I have a vague memory of being dropped off – leaving some unfinished bottles of champagne behind a dumpster, and then entering Cloudland.  I also have a vague memory of the bar-staff, at least twice, telling me that my bartab had become so large that could I please pay it now and start another.  No problem, I said.  And bring me more champagne.  Things continued in this vein until Nathan slunk off.  And there was more champagne.  And I think eventually we were asked to leave.  And – when we tried to get into another bar on the way home – the barman didn’t even tell us “No”.  Just looked at us with disdain.  We got the message.  And fair enough.

So – the next morning rolled around.  I managed to get up – go the closest convenience store, and buy some supplies.  I wanted grapefruit juice.  They had no grapefruit juice.  So, instead, I bought about a dozen other substitutes which might possibly suffice.  Just to be sure.  Ben finally found his way to my room, and we sat there for a while trying to figure out what was so wrong with us that the French wanted to punish us so.  We had more shopping to do – so back into town we went.  Ate some japanese.  Bought some shoes.   I can’t remember what else happened that afternoon – but Nathan joined us at some point, and I believe there was some champagne at some point.  And then we got a taxi to Pete’s place, where a barbecue was to be had.  And, of course, we took some champagne.  One bottle of champagne was a little fizzier than normal – and there would have been quite a mess on Pete’s couch if it wasn’t for my heroic groin.  Ever heard of a groin described as heroic before?  No – and I doubt you ever will again.  But that’s exactly what my groin is.  It selflessly collected all the spilt champagne, despite the risk of tiny razorblades – thereby protecting Pete’s couch.  After the barbecue – I don’t know what we did.  I can only assume we found a bar, and drank some champagne.

And then – it was the day of the wedding.  So – Nathan joined us.  We got all nicely dressed.  (Ben ruining one of my shirts in the process.)  And then – got a taxi to the botanical gardens.  Spent quite some time trying to interpret the map of the gardens.  For some reason, three well educated gentlemen could not read a map.  Well – we could read it – but just couldn’t figure out what direction was what – despite having very clear landmarks all around us by which to get our bearings.  Eventually – we guessed – walked five paces, and found signposts leading the way, and Pete’s niece to give us directions.  So – we found the spot, and watched Pete get hitched.  And then – caught a ride with Andrea & James back into town.  Not much room in the car, but luckily Nathan is little – and fits comfortably in the foot well in front of a baby seat.  Well – it looked comfortable anyway.  Found a bar to wait for the reception to begin.  The bar happened to sell champagne.  And then – off to the reception.  Lovely affair.  Sparkling wine flowing.  But, after a while, silliness took over.  Instead of drinking the complimentary sparkling wine being carried around by the hostesses – I decided to buy a bottle of champagne.  Had to apologise to the lovely young girl who had quickly gathered that I would never say no to a top-up – but gave her the chance to follow me around with my own bottle, if she liked.  She did like – but not for long, too attached to keeping her job I suppose.  Oh well.  Anyway – drank the bar out of champagne.  And then – got a taxi to somebody’s house for an after party.  I went in one taxi with Nathan, Ben in another – I think.  I found a liquor store on the way – and was allowed out the back to check out their champagne collection.  Bought a few bottles – and paid for these.  As I was about to leave – Ben arrives.  Has apparently decided he needs some champagne also.  So – he buys a few bottles also.  And – we get to somebody’s house, quite late at night, with far far more champagne than most people would consider necessary.  Or possible, really.  I’m pretty sure that the amount we turned up with would be considered too much at the start of a night.  We tucked in though – and put a decent dent in our stock.  Ben discovered that opening a bottle of champagne while the cork is aimed at his friend’s groins is rather amusing.  To him, at least.  Eventually, I believe we left.  Turned up back at our hotel with a couple of bottles of champagne left – just in case we happened to want some the following morning.

Which we did not.  However, after watching some terrible movie – at which we couldn’t help laughing, for some reason – and Ben joined us – there really was no other option than champagne.  And, yum cha.  Can’t remember what order those came in.  Yum cha was difficult – and during the meal it was universally agreed that the best course of action was suicide.  Nathan made a poor effort at breaking his own neck.  I tried drowning myself, but didn’t have the strength.  Ben just wallowed in self-misery.  And eventually – it was time to go to a barbecue at Pete’s place.  Via the liquor store, of course.  And champagne did flow.  And then we left, and went to a restaurant- to eat steak and drink wine.  No champagne though.  Couldn’t find a seafood restaurant, so had to settle for steak – with red wine.  And then headed back to the hotel.  Except – I insisted on one last bottle of champagne on the way.  So – we entered a bar, drank a delicious bottle of razor-blade tainted champagne, and promised each other we would never ever talk to, or spend time with each other ever again.  It just isn’t worth it.  So – the next day, we all went our seperate ways – never looking back.

And I flew to New Zealand.  New Zealand – with it’s amazingly generous duty-free allowance.  But that, my gentle reader, is a story for another day.