Bare Bottom Land

There’s this one line in Bad Jelly and the Witch that never fails to make me snort with laughter. You know the one where Dulboot gets sent off to ‘bare bottom land’.

Snigger.

Yesterday, Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge must have thought she’d suffered the same fate when she arrived in a damp and squidgey Wellington and was greeted by a big Maori fella and his ahem, bare bottom!

Welcome to New Zealand!

Of course perhaps Wills should have briefed her that the members of the Defense force Kapa Haka group will be wearing the briefest of briefs. In fact, whilst some members of the media have dubbed the bum floss ‘a black thong’ I think that’s  over-stating it. Certainly Kate thought so. Is that a twinkle in her eye?

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Is that a twinkle in your eye Ma’am? Image via : NZ Herald Woolf/Crown

The cheeky delight taken in the pic that’s bubbled around the world comes only a day after UK media reported a Maori ‘expert’ who suggested that typically the women would be bare breasted and the men naked under their piupiu.  He was of course taking the piss as we funny ole Kiwis are wont to do.

Naha! Gotcha!

There wasn’t a bare breast in sight, thankfully as it was nipple stiffeningly cold and wet, though there was plenty of cheek!

And that’s how it is in New Zealand. We don’t run around nekkid all the time but there is a definite air of casualness here. We, the locals, like to think of it as a naturalness that is sadly missing overseas. I know I suffered from culture shock when I arrived in England and was told that bare feet meant at best poverty, and at worst crazyness. And oh, please don’t mention the Plimsoll experience.

It’s a good thing that we started the NZ leg of the Royals’ trip with a sharp dive in the deep end. As if to say – we’re cheeky down here. We’re natural and proud of our land and peoples and we don’t take ourselves (or anything else for that matter) too seriously.

New Zealand is a no bs standing-on-ceremony zone.

Welcome Wills and Kate. Kick off your shoes and make oneself at home.

NB/ New Zealand Herald

Call Me Royal

I’m not much of a Royalist in fact I’m one of those (sshh) Republicans really, but everyone is getting ants in the pantsy about Kate and Wills and Gorgeous Georges’ arrival tomorrow, and I’m no exception. Auckland-New-Zealand

I bet even the Royal folks themselves are wet the pants excited. Who wouldn’t be? They’ve got an exciting itinerary planned. There’s that big trip to the sprawling metropolis Cambridge (pop 15192), an afternoon chatting with Mums and Bubs in Wellington and an exceptional opportunity for a BIG laugh at the state Reception where Wills gets to unveil a portrait of his Grandma.

Woohoo.

Is that really all NZ can offer this young family? Really? New Zealand the bungy jumping, wine growing, craft beer loving, surfing, sailing adventure-central?

How old were the planners? I’m pretty sure neither Kate or Wills are nearing 60, nor are they particularly  shy and retiring. I think they’ve got it all wrong. If it had been left to me I would have spent some time planning a trip that would really knock their socks off, just as we did for young Chelsea Clinton all those years ago, and for so many others.

I get that we can’t send the future King of England off the bridge on the end of a rope or whet his whistle with a little canyoning or speklunking but surely, surely NZ has more to offer this very modern young Royal family.

My trip to NZ would include arriving in Auckland first. Doh! Why Wellington? I mean Wellington on a good day is unbeatable but chances of that happening versus the more likely cheerful puddle, are not terribly good. Auckland however is stunning even on a wet day, and flying over the city after that long, long trip is enough to raise anyone’s spirits.

I’d follow that grand entrance with a lay day. A day where they can do what it says on the tin – lay down and do nothing. That first day in town is exhausting and it really does take every ounce of strength to get to the end of the day and a typical bedtime (albeit early) as strongly advised to wage off jet-lag is hard work for adults, let alone a baby!

The rest of the time in NZ I would ensure they really got a great sense of the country. We already know that Wills is into anything aeronautical so perhaps the visit to Hamilton’s Pacific Aerospace is a good idea, but what about chucking in some flying experiences..maybe a heli ride up to the top of one of the mountains – North or South Island, doesn’t matter. Or a heli mountain-biking trip or heli fishing off the coast of Auckland and Great Barrier Island?

Whilst Wills is enjoying his boys’ toys, maybe Kate would enjoy doing a country market or tasting some of the country’s best home-grown foodie products and a decent latte – like every other young Mum I know! Sure, the nanny and entourage will be there to ensure the young rapscallion won’t get into trouble whilst Mum’s licking the fluffy milk off the back of the spoon but surely the experience in a cool cafe (Ponsonby or Mission Bay somewhere or even seaside at Lyall Bay in Wellington) would give Kate a welcome reminder of an everyday pleasure that is surely the hallmark of that baby stage of your life!

As a couple, Kate and Wills are lucky to enjoy the attentions of staff who can ensure that George doesn’t muck up his bedtime routine, so the world is their oyster. They could head out anywhere to enjoy some of the best fresh food and wine New Zealand has to offer. I know they’re heading to Amisfield in Queenstown (and good on them that sounds like fun!) but what about some of the other incredible places? What about popping across to Waiheke and enjoying a gorgeous time at Mudbrick or one of the other fantastic vineyards over there? Even the New York Times included Waiheke Island on its list of must-see places in 2014.

And why in hell would you go all the way to Cambridge (yeah cute, I get that) and NOT go to Hobbiton which is just up the road?

Of all the places in my old student town Dunedin that I think is a must-see the cathedral actually isn’t one of them. How about a tour of the University of Dunedin? After all both Wills and Kate went to uni in Scotland and Dunedin and its university were modelled on the city of Edinburgh and its academic institutions.  Or even a trip out to Tunnel Beach would be cool. It’s a stunning wild spot and was recently voted onto the list of New Zealand’s best beaches. I’m sure the royal entourage have a beach-going buggy for young George.

I get the meeting with local Mums at the Plunket do in Wellington, but rather than having it at Government House (yawn) what about a trip out to see the animals at the Zealandia. I think that has something for everyone.

All up I think we’re being bad hosts to the Royal family. We’re demanding they get on that hellish plane trip out from Blighty with a young baby (surely one of Dantes Circles of Inferno) and then we ‘treat’ them to a yawn-fest of opening ceremonies and cheek-kissing.

Deep joy.

But I suppose the ocean yacht racing will be fun and appropriate given that the City of Sails has more yachts per capita than every other city in the world. Just a quick word of advice Wills – don’t mention the America’s Cup!

What would you want to see if you were to head out to New Zealand on an all-expenses paid trip? And if you are Kiwi what one thing would you want Kate and Wills to see in NZ? 

NB/ In my research for this blog post I came across this report of the Royal Itinerary from that esteemed organ The Mirror. Interesting to see their review of my home city, but what’s with the pigeon mail?

Secrets and Sea Music

I love living by the sea, that’s no secret.

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Bucklands Beach early morning

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Eastern beach Auckland

I love smelling the salt on the air and watching the sea craft – big and small – glide through the waves out into the gulf. I love the sea birds and their mournful cries that belie their resilience.

They are travellers in the truest sense.

It’s been yet another roller coaster ride, this past month or so. So much I want to share, so much I have to keep quiet. We don’t want to air our laundry in public. Or do we? I’ve always found that to be the best way to really fight the mould and rot setting in. I’m not one for secrets, family or otherwise.

This month I’ve learnt that even the best families have problems and find themselves in trouble. I’ve learnt that teenagers are incredibly resilient and can learn to cope even when confronted with serious scary news. I’ve learnt that there’s always a family behind the headlines, it just happens this time it’s us. My ex appears in court in May.

There’s been other things too.

Mental ill-health in the family, that despite all the affirmations and bold statements on Facebook about the acceptability of mental ill health, at the coal face families just don’t get it. There’s still stigma and shame associated and disbelief.  And some maladies seem more acceptable than others, dare I say even politically correct. Depression is OK, but bipolar (or manic depression) schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder…? Let’s not talk about those. There’s even an ad on TV for BK at the moment that mocks ‘madness’ by putting up a young man talking to friends who aren’t there. It’s supposed to be funny. I get that. I find it revolting. I won’t link to it here, it doesn’t deserve the publicity.

And what about all those who are languishing in the justice system? The alcoholics and drug addicts in prison. Those who are disturbed and frankly ill. Don’t they need medical help, not punishment?

For those who care (I hate that word caregiver) and try to soothe the way for the ill the road is lonely and littered with great fat boulders of misunderstanding and prejudice. We’re the ones who have to sort out the finances, the broken relationships, the wrongs..and all the while explaining and advocating and praying for understanding. It’s exhausting.

When I’m feeling depleted and overwhelmed I often head to the beach. There’s something calming and restorative there. When bad news broke I upped sticks and walked to the beach. They’re catching snapper down there just off the boat ramp and this little guy came right in to have a nosey. Cue jokes about a lonely little shag on the beach.

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We also headed to the beach on Friday night too after a hellish week. We grabbed the obligatory fish n chips at the dairy and ate them out the newspaper sitting in the shadow of the seawall on the soft cool sand as the light leached from the sky. I think it’s the first time my Englishman has done that very Kiwi thing. Fish n chips on the beach. Though I need to work on him a little to get him to take off his shoes and socks and go barefoot on the sand as I did.

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Twilight in East Auckland is beautiful

As we walked down the sand in the twinkling twilight, arm in arm, we literally breathed out. All the stress and exhaustion and then on the incoming breath I heard it, for the very first time.

In all my years living on the beach or near the beach I’ve not heard it before. This moment was special.

As the small waves broke on the sand the spray sprinkled dark water picked up a clutch of seashells. And when it released its clutch you could hear the shells tinkling together. The light tinkling music of natural sea chimes.

I’ve always known the sea has music, but to me it’s always been the loud crashing cymbals or the drum of waves on shore, but I’ve never heard this secret sea music before. And on that beach, in the cool as our shoulders lifted, we could finally release a smile.

Have you ever heard the sea’s secret music?