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.)