Having the Memory

Six months I’ve been back in the country and thats not to say I haven’t enjoyed the time. I’ve got myself a new shiny road bike, caught up with old friends but the truth is it’s just the same as when I left these shores for the ones of New Zealand. Nothing has really changed. I returned to my parents and I’ve tried to settle back in and get a job, boy have I tried to get a job… Its not that there isn’t any out there, its just whats the point of getting bar or supermarket work, when thats not what I want to do?

Anyway once again I wander of the path. The one subject that has been on my lips since the plane touched back on British soil, was how great New Zealand was and how it was right for me. In truth I think I have turned down or selected certain decisions on the fact that I want to return back to Wellington… Why move out of the parents and sign up for house when another visa could be in the post. At least at the folks house I can pack up and go straight away.

Yes everything has been about getting back. Well before Christmas that opportunity came in the the form of a Bunac IEP visa. Did I grab it with both hands? No, I said I would think about it. Why? Why indeed. I think in my hearts of hearts I know maybe its not to be, I always said I wanted to live and move over full time and if I had got sponsorship first time round that would be true, however I didn’t and now many of my friends have moved on, whether back to their own countries or else where in NZ.

So maybe my love and thoughts of returning is trying to hold on to a dream, a bygone era, if I go back its going to be different and maybe not the way I remember it, am I prolonging the prospect of growing up in the UK, settling down with pension, house, car, the white picket fence life? Is New Zealand somehow me running away from my responsibilities and life in the UK. Sure I was happy over there, maybe the happiest I have been, but are my memories clouded. There were times I felt low, I had no job for three months, no money to my name for one of those but yet the memories are always off Burger Fuel, nights out at the Embassy, craft beer, the beach, the friends, the pals, the fellow travellers, the one who have now moved on. Was it the city, the country I remember or the people I shared it with… Why do I feel so strong about the place.

The place is really quite different. Sure I have NZ mates, who were born and bred in the city, but most of my network were fellow travellers who’s relationships were built in the hostel we all sheltered in before we made our lives in the capital city. Sure I could go else where and be a traveller make new friends a new life in a new town, but whats the point if in a year I have to pack it all up again, knowing that I will only ever return for holidays if and when my wallet will allow.

So now I have the opportunity I find myself again, worrying and becoming scared if taking the visa is the right idea, but unlike last time, I won’t be stepping into the unknown, and some how that terrifies me more than not knowing what is to be expected.

Getting Back

Well, being back in England is jolly nice, no job or home and a strong desire to get back to New Zealand. Even all those friends that ignored me for a year and then suddenly emailed to say we should meet up as they’d love to hear about my adventures have once again disappeared off the radar. 

Now I don’t want to sound like a moaning miserable bitter old man but there are just somethings that a trip abroad will not change. So what is this all about? Well, in truth I don’t really know. Its… I suppose a little metaphor of my life at the moment. Being in New Zealand allowed me to think and examine my life and where I want to go. We all know, if you’ve been following the blog that I want out of theatre that much is clear, what is a little hazy is what I want to replace it with. 

Today I applied for an outdoor shop job, and a trainee Air Traffic control, both fit in to what I wish to do. One work outdoors and be an activity leader and the other have a well paid job with future prospects. 

The other side of me is trying to work back up to running a marathon, except my legs and hips seem to have differing thoughts on this as every run is growing harder along with what seems like a little injury in my hips. Maybe a tight hip flexor or something else. But what ever it is, running more than 5 miles is proving to be a pain. 

Either way I am not really committing to anything, running, job hunting or re-contacting my old connections in theatre. I’m also not really making a concerted effort to contact old friends I did without them for a year so a little longer isn’t going to hurt. I would like to point out here that I am contacting some, ones who remained connected and didn’t have a spell of radio silence while I was away. Yes I know how to hold a grudge. But if one more says they’d love to hear my adventures I might just say ‘You could have skyped or IM’d or Facebooked and got it in real time’ Like its not like I was in the Borneo rainforest with no modern methods of communication. But I can count the amount of people on my right hand who emailed, or FB a couple of times. 

So yes, back to civilian street, no more walking down to the beach with a mountain as a backdrop and clear blue skys watching ships and relaxing in the coolest littlest capital in the world. Oh no,  its getting back to my old life which for reasons known to me I’m trying to avoid. After all why go away for a life changing experience only to return and resume with your old life. 

So getting back to it, is something I think I will carry on avoiding. 

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.

The Graveyard Shift

Let’s begin with the update. I’ve been in kiwi land for 5 months now and after doing quite a long spell as a WFA (woofer) which stands for Work For Accommodation, I finally succeeded in getting a full time job, all be it in the very hostel I was residing in and following the traditional path of past applicants for the role. By that I mean I was a traveller who was a WFA who had a birthday and then shortly after began the 8 hours of mindless boredom that is the graveyard shift.

However a graveyard shift as the name implies does not describe the role in an accurate way. After all it’s a hostel, so there is plenty of travellers who require special attention once they’ve returned from the bars of the city or just need special attention full stop. It still amazes me how the majority managed to make it this far.

There are still people to check in, floats to balance, reports to check, fill out and print, checkouts and house keeping lists to prepare, banking, cashing, rolling over the system, the role is if anything more of a relaxed walk in a park on a Sunday afternoon rather than tedious boredom.

However this post is not to inform you of the requirements of the job, I’m not that bored that I feel it necessary to give you my job description, no the real reason is the issue with sleep. It’s not for the lack of it, or getting to the land of nod but more the issue of when to start counting those many sheep over the fence.

Let’s explain my normal sleep pattern. I would normally go to bed around 11pm or midnight, thus waking at 8am the following morning. Do a days work and relax in the evening. However in my new role as night reception, I find myself retiring at 8am shortly after I finish and waking at 5 or 6 pm, leaving 5 hours to kill before the 8 hours of work which begins at 11 pm.

My point is that if this was a normally job, I’d never go to bed at 8 in the evening, so am I doing it right, or should I remain awake until midday? In other words should I carry on as normal but just reverse the day and night.

Oh well off to bed.

Still got it… But we won’t discuss the next day.

Well after two months of being in a camper I needed to stretch my legs. Regular visitors will know that I love to run and after the marathon and Manchester 10k I gave my legs a little rest and its been that way since I touched NZ soil. As those who are new to the blog and following it from the NZ entries, then the soul purpose of the blog started to document my training for the Manchester 10k some years back. But like my running, the blog as grown to express other areas of my life. However today I returned to running in both the blog and life.

Sure I did one or two 5ks on a beach or a quick run around Auckland when I first arrived but nothing to tell my legs or body to keep their form. Well roll on to Wellington and the sight of lycra clad cyclists makes me want to get back on the bike, but the streams of runners that traffic up and down the shoreline inspired me to delve deep into my rucksack and pull out the trainers and get back on a different saddle all together.

Garmin on, heart rate monitor set and I’m off. Running head on into the wind (which is strong) and following the crowd of other like minded folk who enjoy a good workout. The path was flat and being that I had been out of the game I was in good condition, well better than I thought I’d be. I thought I’d only being able to run 5k, but 7 miles later I was saving my activity on the gamin and going in for a well deserved shower.

Now it’s no lie that I did find the 10k distance a little straining, but nothing I couldn’t cope with. What was a real surprise was that I’d kept my speed. The pace was what I’d built up to in my training runs, and the only considerable factor that had changed from having a break was my heart rate. I had managed to get it down to around 152 b.p.m at the 7:30 pace but this run saw it sky rocket to 187.

So while my body has not lost pace or speed (yes they are different) my form is still good, but the three months out if the game as seen my fitness drop if you judge it by HR and the fact that I was ready to stop. Normally I also want to do another 3 or 4 miles. The other substantial factor I noticed that I was not use to running occurred the following day. My quads were acting like I’d just ran for my life, my calves were harder than the earth core and my hamstrings were, well they were behaving like they’ve always done… Stubborn and short.

However role on a day of rest and another run, this time up Mt Victoria, a cruel 3km of steep constant climbing. And only stopping at the top for the views, it seemed that I had not lost my live of hill running. My pace was also sitting at around 8:30 which was darn good.

It’s good to be out running again, and hopefully I’ll be able to burn some of this campervan fat off as snacking on crisps and chocolate in a confined place does nothing to an already shabby figure. The trouble is after today’s hill session I can already hear my tired sore legs complaining, that could see more than just a day of rest. But hopefully I’ll be back out there finding new running routes to fill my garmins memory up and hopefully when I get a job I’ll complete the dream of joining the lycra clad gang and fulling my desire to be back on another type of saddle.

Oh well, time for another stretch and then a shower.

A love affair

Many will know, and a lot more won’t that I love the idea of traveling around in a VW camper. So when I finally grew a pair and booked my holiday or as the locals call it ‘an over sea’s experience’ the idea of seeing the islands from a camper van was an opportunity not to be missed.

So came the day when I had to pick the van up and being that I was going to spend two months with it most of the time it being my only companion the nice people at the depot let me choose which van I wanted. My eyes fell on Ricky Marlin, a bright orange and yellow beast, with a giant Marlin leaping from the water. I said ‘Awesome’ like the locals. I looked around to make sure there were no others, the old crone looked cool but Ricky was at the front bathing in the Auckland sunshine raring to go where as the old crone hid in the deep depth of the depot. And so the sweet love affair began.

At first I didn’t get on with him. My left foot was constantly trying to find the non existent clutch and my left hand kept on reaching for the gear lever to change the gears. But Ricky had all of this under control and all I had to do was control the ‘gas’ and the brakes. Ricky was an automatic and theres an art to driving them, esp when you need it to be a low gear. Ricky also kept it secret on how to change radio stations, until the 3rd week which was a pain, as once out of Auckland it was the sound of static or rumble of Ricky’s stomach. But once he revealed the button to search the local stations I was singing along to Bruno Mars, Queen, Black Eyed Peas, Katie Perry and Moorehouse (NZ pop band). I quickly fell in love with ‘Classic Hits – the best of the 80s 90s and now’ the only issue was the frequency would change from area to area often having their own news and presenters but still the same top class tunes.

Sure it was cold in the evening, but Ricky had a little gap for my power adapter to connect my heater and during the day in the baking heat of Northland Ricky pumped the air conditioning on. The only downside was Ricky was a drinker, a terrible drinker. He would demand fuel every couple of days and occasional would hit the hard black stuff. But he never complained and got tired as we drove 400km in one go. Sure he slowed down on the hills and I had to will him up, then encourage him to take it easy on the other side as we basically free rolled down the snaking road to level ground.

After two months I’ve become quite attached to Ricky, Ive learnt to handle his poor steering, and got use to getting him going in the morning. I’ve learnt to run him in gently to ease him into top speed, I’ve got use to the time it takes for the condensation to go and the way the wipers work. In return he has got me from A to B and now back to A. His kept me dry, warm and entertained. We’ve had adventures on some of the toughest and highest roads in NZ and not once has he let me down.

After 8298km or 5156 miles. (Thats the equivalent to driving the length of Britain 8 times or driving two thirds of the coast line or exploring NZ)it’s time to give him up and make my own way in the world.

Goodbye Ricky. I hope your new companions treat you with respect. Beep your horn when your passing through my neighbourhood.

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Not sure what to pack

Having never been travelling before, and lets give you the truth… The first time I went camping was only a couple of years ago and that was carrying a load of extras in the boot of the car. The one time I did hike with a pack, the trip was only two days so the load was not a great deal.

I never did the gap year thing, I have never really thought off staying in a hostel and roughing it around a foreign country was my thing and until July I won’t really know. But come July I will be in New Zealand and will be driving around in my camper exploring the place and forgetting my troubles and doing some long hard thinking of where I’m at.

Running was supposed to kick the break down of having a mid-life crisis into touch but it seems that after three years running alone will not help and travelling to another country away from friends and family will help me put my life and future into perspective.

But here’s the million dollar question! what do I pack? Well I know clothes will be on the list, but how much and what type. Should I take my computer as after all I have a working holiday visa and will settle in a town for a number of months and the jobs I would hope to do over their kind of rely on me having the use the programs on my hard drive. Manly CAD packages for theatre lighting design.

Do I take my Garmin, my trainers, walking boots, books. Do I just buy an Ipad. How many coats, shoes, mugs, sleeping bags, towels. The list is endless. So please any travellers or backpackers let us know your thoughts. The trip I will be embarking on is a working holiday for a year. two months in a camper van. Then I will be going back to the areas I like and then I would settle down in a city for the remainder of my stay working in the local theatres or what ever work I can get.

So what do I need to pack?

Any Ideas?