The supermodel in my bed
In the week since I have returned home, I have woken in the night more than a few times, bidden by my bodyclock to be doing something other than sleep. The first few seconds of wakefulness have been typified by uncomprehending confusion for, no matter how familiar the surroundings of my bedroom might appear in the minutes that follow, my first thought is a conviction that I am in an airport hotel somewhere in New Zealand. My next thoughts are that I don’t know where the toilet is and, more worryingly, I’m in bed with a woman. In the agonising seconds that follow, one half of my befuddled brain tries to work out where the toilet is whilst the other half desperately ponders on how I am going to explain the woman in bed to SWMBO. After what can be no more than ten or more seconds, there comes the slow and blessed realisation that I am actually in my own bedroom and the sleeping form next to me is in fact the wife and not some Kiwi supermodel who would stop at nothing to prevent my return to the UK.
Having never travelled to the other side of the world and back before, I have no idea whether this sort of behaviour is normal after long haul flights or in fact I’m undergoing some sort of forty-something mental meltdown. After a week, I am seemingly back to normal and confident that the three-in-a-bed activities of the last week are behind me. That said, the disturbed sleep and disorientation has served to emphasise two things to me; just how far away New Zealand is and, somewhat surprisingly, how quickly my consciousness adapted to the solitary existence of such a road trip. Although the phrase is a little over-worn, ‘alone not lonely’ would be a fair way of describing my time in New Zealand for, whilst there were periods of lonliness in which I missed SWMBO and the kids, I was very fortunate to meet some wonderful people. These people ranged from bus drivers and waiters to the siblings and parents of folks I know and, without exception, each and everyone of them enhanced my trip. So, in the fervent hope that I will avoid gushing like a starlet at the Oscars, I would like to mention a few of those who helped make my visit the experience it was.
Linda, Gideon, Susie, David and Amy for their hospitality, friendship and good humour. There are not many busy families who will alter their plans in minutes to welcome a jetlagged semi-stranger so warmly - and then invite him back twice more. If ever there were a family who embody what we envisage for ourselves, we need look no further.
Rita and Steve for their generosity of time and advice. Steve gave up a whole day to give me a whirlwind tour of Auckland’s suburbs and amenities, introducing me to the culinary delights of pies and fresh Kiwi produce then fitting in a quick swim in the Pacific before joining Rita for a wonderful dinner and an evening of great conversation.
Di and Paul for taking me to my first English theme pub to watch my first Super 12 game…and then taking me to an Irish theme pub after Ireland beat England in the Six Nations.
Rae and Peter who made the diversion to Palmerston North so worthwhile, offering me the biggest lunch of the trip and a marvellous drive through the Manawatu-Wanganui countryside – not to mention Rae’s waist-expanding cream tea picnic!
Brenda (to whom I can now put a face after years of swapping emails on a mailing list), who knows a great place for organic coffee and muffins and kindly invited me for Friday afternoon drinks with the open source geeks at Catalyst, with whom I talked computing, politics and semantics whilst playing table tennis with a bat in one hand and a beer in the other before joining Brenda for a late supper with her partner Callum.
Tammy and Mike who took a few hours away from launching their Move2NZ migrant website to show me the delights of Christchurch, Governor’s Bay and Rapaki and provide me with a wealth of advice that only experienced migrants would know.
I spoke to a great many people who, in their professional capacities, provided me with advice concerning immigration, employment and relocation. Although it is my intention to write on the more practical aspects of our emigration experience elsewhere, I would like to especially mention Isobel, Gwenda and the team at SearchWorks who, being great folks to deal with, even lent me a desk and phone when Princes Charles’ visit threatened to make me homeless in Wellington. Honourable mentions are also due to Phil at Candle, Nathalie at Momentum, Shelley at OCG, Brenda at WestPac, Gillian at Drake, James at Comspek and Bruce, Sara, Tracey and Patrick at Duncan & Ryan.
In closing, I would like to point out that the supermodel featured at the beginning of this piece is, of course, an attention-grabbing literary device and nothing else. Really.