The Road to The Land with the Long White Cloud

Maybe I should explain the title, or maybe not. Wigan is well known for it’s pies but lets be honest anyone who know’s anything about New Zealand and I’m not calling my self an expert but I am able after eight months to speak with some authority on the subject of this land that Wigan as nothing on the residents of these three Islands. (North/South/Stewart)

Yes my friends, after several months it’s time to write about the parallels and differences of my two favorite nations. I have once already jotted down some comparisons and given you the delighted reader an opportunity to see what is so wonderful about this nation but now I am about to do it all again and with an outlook of what I will miss but also look forward to on my return.

Pies, pies and more pies. New Zealand puts Britain to shame when it comes to these tasty treats. Breakfast, after pub snack, or just a meal you will find anyone and everyone grabbing a pie at some point during the day and why not… they do after all have a lot to choose from and most it will seem come with cheese. If you think the North has the taste for ‘Pie’ then you really have not seen what a true nation addicted to this warm parcel of meat, veg, cheese really is. Every shop or so it appears has a hot cabinet filled with pies, imagine W H Smiths, or your corner shop selling hot pies. Maybe you would like to buy a book or some shoes, well why not buy a pie as well. Yes my friends, NZ has the loving of pies tied up more than Wigan.

Off course the way of life is what you come for, the place is so relaxed and it seems that you can’t go throughout the day without talking to a random stranger. North of the Watford gap has the reputation of being friendly but really compared to some of the towns I’ve frequented then the North of England seems like the London Underground compared to Kiwi life. You need to pop out and buy some milk or bread you need to allow at least an hour as you will end up talking to everyone you meet and being that the places (Auckland excluded) are small the chances of bumping into some one isn’t even in the bookmakers interest to put odds on it.

Off course lets be honest there are downsides, the T.V is pretty shit and has not really improved over the years, most shows are imported and the several free stations stop broadcasting any watchable stuff by 2am, and then its over to infomercials until the afternoon when ‘Come Dine’ and ’30 Minute Make Over’ begin. It’s like they’ve just purchased ITV 3’s entire back catalogue. The brands you would have grown up with and love are not in the supermarkets, NZ seem to have their own brands. Heinz is replaced with Watties, that were brought out by the mega beans giant some years back but the market for NZ products and loyalty is so strong that they kept the branding. Imagine that in England when Europe changes our brands to tie in with the global market. Jif would never have become Cif and we would still be munching on Opal Fruits.

Everything in the supermarket is from New Zealand, all apples, oranges, pineapples are all grown here, fish is all caught from the coast and sold in the markets, off course the supermarkets do have monopolies like the UK and you can draw direct links with which supermarkets over here correspond with the the UK ones, and while food it costly, you can go to Sunday food markets and walk away with fruit and veg for the week all for under five bucks. There is no money to help farmers out, they are all businessmen here and survive on their own profit and not subsidies which explains why many have started to move into dairy farming from sheep which in itself is no cheap conversion.

The political system is like any other and being that it is based on ours this is one of the biggest comparisons, all be it there are several parties and its more of a democracy than the shambles that is currently crowded around the statute book situated in Westminster. Were talking about a country that moved its capital on the basis that it was not located centrally to everyone… UK could take a note of this.

Off course, the road is the king here, but with the equivalent of the greyhounds running a good service if not just for the tourists you can get to many locations even if they are remote by our standards, over here they would be buzzing important economic centers of commerce.  The train network seemed to arrive to late to make any kind of impact, but still remains to transport heavy goods and tourist on some of the most scenic railway journeys in the world, going where the road can not, as it cuts through the Southern Alps and volcanic wildness of this almost pre-historic landscape.

The same issues affect the young, with it taking an average Kiwi 7 years to save a deposit for a house and the lack of affordable housing is not getting any better. Employment opportunities are not equal across the country and like the UK the very North finds it self with high unemployment and little industry. For some their is a keen aspiration to leave and head to Oz, for many they prefer to stay paying some what high tax, but what seems to be slightly more equal than our own. While I can’t comment on benefits the opinion is they do exist, but like our own, there is not enough money going to those who really need it.

The banking is just amazing, as in just under three months on $600 I have earnt $2.46 interest on my savings and when I use my card, the money leaves my account straight away, off course if I wish to have postal statements or different accounts or a debit card I have bank fee’s to pay but if I go over drawn by $20 I’m not fined. Back in England I get free accounts but I would never have come close to being paid that kind of interest.  Eftpos is such a big thing over here, it’s like plastic cash that everyone uses it to pay for papers to cars, all you need to do is remember to select your account all be it Cheque, Savings or Credit and a night in the local bar can soon add up.

Sure there are poor people, but they seem to sit on the street with a sign asking for funds, rather than bothering you selling a shitty rag or asking for their bus fare.

When I first arrived I would never say I had a culture shock, or was surprised by many things, but spending time here and living as a Kiwi, I would say that looking back I have got use to the way of life and forgotten how life runs in the UK, I know that the way I’m living now is different and sometimes I will have a flash back to Britain thinking ‘I wouldn’t be able to do a big shop at 8pm on a Sunday in a supermarket’ or trying to work out what I had used my debit card for and thus what payments were waiting to show up on my account. The idea that the high street is like those we had, a place for electricals, clothes and so on. Sure NZ is slowly changing and is becoming more Europe with supermarkets selling more than just food. In fact the very idea of our ‘High Street’ is a notion I have had to explain to several people.

I know I’m going to miss this place, which is why I’m determined to remain, or at the very least make a promise to return. Like George Orwell, with The Road to Wigan Pier, I have been both shocked, amazed, in love and confused by my time in New Zealand, but unlike his essay I don’t think New Zealand needs to change anything about it’s self.

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Home Sick

Well my dream of staying is slowly fading and in a surprising way I’m kind of glad. It was after all a dream to stay and work but now if I’m honest I’m a little homesick. Sure I miss my family and my best mate and there are a few others who I wouldn’t mind having a pint with not that we’ve really kept in touch.

But the true home sickness and this will be a surprise to many and a few may gasp and exclaim and argue that I’m daft especially with the landscape and scenery but my heart belongs in the hills and mountains of Britain.

Yes I’m homesick for walking Snowdon and Tryfan or taking a cold winter hike across the moors or a drive to a remote part of the peak district and rambling down country lanes and through English woods. Off course the views and landscape in the land of the hobbits is amazing and I know as I look down from Snowdon or view the Cheshire plain from Kinder Scout my brain will flash back to those pictures and images of the southern alps and the quite one horse towns and question which one is better. People said NZ is Wales on a larger scale and they weren’t wrong.

I still have some months left and with my time I’m going to see this country again to make sure I have a full memory of sights, sounds and stories stored in the old memory bank. Sometimes you have to be without something to realise how much it actually means and while I could happily make the move I need to go back to see if my true loves once more and put the world to rights with a good old fashioned drinking session with my bestie.

A friend once posted a song to my wall which I think I have shared with you all before called ‘The Manchester Rambler’ which sums up my affair and passion for the outdoors. While I have now found a way to come back and work over here in the future  I find myself missing the peaks and Snowdonia ever more.

I’ve made some good friends and have had partook in many an adventure and while there have been high and lows how will always treasure my time in NZ and hold it close but the time has come to return to the UK and who knows I may realise that NZ was for me after all. But at the moment Im longing to walk down Market Street and go into Greg’s for a steak bake or chin wag and complain over a warm flat beer with Matt, or redeem my nector points and watch the BBC and take a walk in the British rain and wrap up warm not put on sun screen in Janaury. But at the same time I’m loving my time away and the experiences I’m living.

See you soon UK.