Christmas is a'coming and the Kiwis are getting fat-well they already are fatter than I remember them.The image was of a lean and rangy man eyes looking to the far distance, chin jutting but now there are more be-stomached men and waddling women and the average avoir du poids is up. So they're not getting fat so much as Christmassy which means more santa claus hats with white bobbles, decorations in the shops and adverts about presents. In Dunedin the local brothel wishes clients a happy Xmas and a satisfied new year and the travelling service provider who advertises that she'll go as far as Cromwell and Alexander (by taxi) hopes to see clients in the New Year so Xmas is definitely cumming there.Indeed I saw one table full of ladies in Christmas red and hats in a restaurant
Weather did improve and the sun actually appeared in Dunedin whereat people ran for cover, fainted, and turned red. I basked. Diane invited us to the Dunedin Club (which used to be called the squatters club) My joy. I never got invited there when I lived in Dunedin (and only once to the Christchurch club)but it's even more high status than the Koru club where the national elite meet and greet. Dark panelled, pictures of George V, old paintings and an almost empty dining room. Very English and therefore presumably very bankrupt but it still keeps going.
Last time we went I met Dorothy Fraser wife of Bill the MP for St Kilda and in my day press officer with me as her junior, to the Dunedin Labour Representation Committee.Not today though. She's dead. I gather though that Bill's drinking mate, Brian MacDonnell who started out as my bank teller at the ANZ is still alive.He became MP for Dunedin Central but was de selected stood as Independent Labour and lost that.
While Christmas is coming we're going. North. Time to leave Dunedin City of my Dreams with its changeable weather. We've seen everyone we know that's still living, eaten well and on the last day seen Stan the Man and Anne who's full of tales about the Lange Labour government and why it all went wrong (threatening crisis and Lange had no guts). They live out at Mosgiel four or five miles out of town where housing is cheaper (but colder) and more spacious.
Then it's hit the road Jack for the world's most boring drive . I'd call it the Great North Road except that in NZ it's always better to travel south (though you should stop before Stewart Island unless you like rain as a way of life. It's long, straight and every boring since there's nothing but sheep cows and hedges hiding houses to look at.Thank the Kiwi god (Hedon) we decided not to do it in one day but to break in Timaru at a smashing motel with a very depressed owner. Linda chose it because other motels had comments like "friendly owner who chatted with us at breakfast" "wonderful warm reception" or "friendly folk".She'd rather not have that though I think it's the best way of finding out about places.
Our search in Timaru is 1) for the port where Linda's grandfather,promoted from head pilot at Port Chalmers -"a good year-only three ships ran aground" to be harbour master who in those days must have been a real power in the land 2) for a house which once belonged to a relative -which Linda says has a light house-sorry the lighthouse, in the garden.Sounds unlikely and we don't find it 3) for a restaurant-which we do actually find where the glamorous birds (all four of them) congregate, gloomy couples sit and stare at the room and the food is very good. I'll be turning into a blue cod at this rate.
I'm a great advocate of small towns-the backbone of NZ until Roger decimated them,but it's difficult to see what the point of Timaru is.Lovely beach lots of motels busy port but what do they all do.Linda says she used to come every year for her holidays but there's no candy floss non ice cream stalls no game arcades or Kiss me Quick hats.Holidays in NZ must have been a serious business. Now they're just a tragedy.
Onward to Christchurch via hundreds of is of even more boring road and flat countryside stopping at Temuka to look for Grandfather's house-the one he retired to where the McDs used to stay. Two story house called the Anchorage.No lighthouse in the garden. But no one knows anything about it there are hardly any two story houses(not worth having a second story in S Canterbury there's nothing to see out of it-that's my storey and I'm sticking to it)and when we drive down drives to look at houses hidden by hedges the owners think we've come to buy. It takes some explaining,
Now doubtless the word has gone about Temuka (there not being much else to talk about)that a strange woman millionaire is looking for a two story house to buy.Estate agents are looking through their files to see what can offer. Owners of the few two story houses in Temuka are putting for sale signs in their gardens and property values are rocketing as a result of this insane search for the long dead house of a long dead relative
Eventually persuade her to give up. It's been pulled down,blown up by Jihadis,turned into the Temuka brothel. Anything. We resume the drive and the search for roadside toilets. Stop for a milk shake at Ashburton-same place as we had one going down-it's sad not to be going the other way-and listen to a radio programme about a women's group which provides tonnes of mince meat and cheese sauce for soup kitchens. Like all NZ journalism it goes on far too long. And makes me feel hungry.
Arrive back at the same motel we stayed at when we arrived. Next door a big can arrives with a dozen girls wearing hijabs. Is this a load of Jihadi brides for export? Better not crack that joke. It might upset people.