Wait. Could this be called a compendium? I’m calling it a compendium. What’s a compendium?
Because I’m on a budget, I saved money by flying with Air Tahiti Nui. Adds a little extra on to the journey but quite a bit of difference in cost with Air New Zealand. What’s important to note is that with cost-saving comes comfort-losing. Did you know the seats in Economy on Air Tahiti Nui, lean forward? Until you can recline your chair, your head is forced down into your neck so you can look at your feet. As they slowly swell. But nothing else. So that was new. Also new was something old. Movies that start at a certain time and if you’re not ready, well, you miss out. No rewind or can I please watch at my own convenience here. #firstworldproblems #oldschoolflying
I ordered a gluten-free meal (just for kicks) and got myself several rounds of gluten-free yuck cakes (kicks was a stupid idea). Rice cakes might be gluten free but they are also taste free and how come regular people got cheese and I didn’t?? Who is putting gluten in cheese, people? Also got a lovely packet of Ritz crackers. First listed ingredient – wheat. That’s Air Tahiti Nui’s fuck-you-in-your-gluten-free-face, right there.
The airport in Papetee was nice though – pretty much all outside because of the balmy weather and just the three gates – 59, 60 and 61. It’s possible that plans for expansion are still in the works but this seems a little optimistic, no?
Did I mention that I was welcomed home by two of the loveliest home-made signs toted by two of the loveliest nieces, a girl (yes, I’m calling myself a girl) can have? Pennant style attached to wooden sticks and being waved in a somewhat embarrassed fashion at me as I came through the airport. Apparently they thought there would be others doing the same and were a little mortified. Luckily I didn't make it worse by crying. I can’t remember the last time I was welcomed anywhere so was great treat for me.
Nothing like that on my return to Albert. He wasn’t even bloody there and stayed out for about 6 hours. I know he knew I was there. It’s not like I left him to forage for himself for 5 weeks – he had a house sitter and quite frankly if the reports she gave me are true, he switched allegiance and affection pretty damn quickly. Even now, he still won’t look me in the eye (I know still have both of mine and he’s never quite gotten over the incident #bringbackmyeye). She said he was the best behaved, sweetest cat she has ever house sit for so now I'm worried about this other cat that's been sneaking into my house.
Speaking of not looking one in the eye, I’m not talking to Mum’s cat, Gus. I was just sitting on the couch one day minding my own business when he came flying in chasing something fluttering ahead of him. I followed in close pursuit and managed to hold him down while my niece rescued the bird he was chasing and a little bit mauling. At the last minute he made a run for it and got away, ripping open my shoulder and stomach not to mention four enormous holes in my brand new shirt. So we’re in a stand-off. I let him sit on my lap a few days later but I did not pet him AND I called him fat. When I fed him, I refused to look him in the eye so he would know it was out of necessity and have only scratched his ears once. That said, I will feel terrible if something happens to him, knowing our last words were spoken in anger, but I’m still quite cross about the shirt. I tried to mend it but if there’s one thing I know, there are three things in this world I cannot do: my taxes, my bikini wax and sewing. FYI - I released the bird later after it spent an hour wrapped in tissues in the hot water cupboard. Kind of like being at the spa, if being at the spa means your eye is bleeding and your wing is a bit sore/fucked up. Anyway, he hopped off into a tree so I like to think he is fine and all this is a distant memory. His name is Ken. Ken Bird.
It was a solid New Zealand summer – bit of rain, bit of cold weather, bit of sun. That sun’s a bitch – forgot about the dangers of it and it got me good one day when I was out doing a spot of gardening for Mum (gardening is like exercise, it's dangerous and you should pay someone else to do it. My brother and sister-in-law are big on gardening right now, even offered to let me do a bit at their place. As if it was a fun day out. I offered not to). Some pretty interesting tan lines going on now - no farmer's arms for me, just gardener back, which is a new thing. Also, gardening shouldn't be done in short summer dress, too much bending over and pulling weeds - neighbors don't need to be seeing all that. And I left a lot of skin behind. I don’t need it back, Mum.
Spent some time watching the laundry on the line too (bit of a novelty since not much in the way of outside washing lines in LA). You have to be constantly vigilant for rain, it's a like a skill that you train for. You can’t leave the house in case it rains. You hang washing up in brilliant sunshine, run out and take it off when rain starts, run back out again to re-hang when the sun comes out and repeat multiple times. You can’t do anything else in summer vacation because you have to watch the laundry drying.
However, the other thing I did when not watching the laundry, was co-parent my nieces with my mother for two weeks. Both still have all their eyes so pretty sure I nailed it. We had a midnight feast / morning tea at 10am. Big plans to get up at midnight but I couldn’t wake them so I ate everything myself in case it went rotten overnight. Chocolate and candy can turn on you very quickly. We’ve agreed to revisit the concept again when they’re about 14.
We went swimming in Lake Taupo. Which was nice. Freezing but nice. Actually just freezing. Getting out was nice. “Come on in, Auntie Gherkin, the water’s really warm”. By warm, they mean cold. Then we went swimming at the AC Baths (hot pools). That was nicer. I schooled them on underwater hand stands - nothing like a 40 something year old woman doing handstands at the hot pools. I was giving them skills for life, people. This is one of the things aunts are supposed to teach nieces. Stripping though, that's not one of them...
We did some coloring in – I got one of those adult coloring books for Xmas and I thought it would be nice if the three of us had some quiet relaxing time together. For future reference, this was the most un-relaxing thing I have ever done. Had to put a moratorium on wriggling, talking, moving, questions and eventually breathing. Just lie there like a dead buried slug that likes to color in the fort. Won’t be doing that again. And let’s not forget the effort involved in getting up off the floor after lying on my tummy. Coloring in is for the very young.
I introduced them to S’mores – see, that’s good parenting right there. Their parents have a lot to answer for. 10 and 7 and never had a s’more - the shame of it! We did sprints up the hill and yoga – well, I did yoga, they farted and giggled. And then nailed every single pose that I will never get in a million years. So we’re not doing that again.
I made Mum do any icky child-related stuff because they’re her grandchildren. I did my part by feeding them in the morning, bribing them not to tell Grams what I fed them, and making them rub moisturizer on my sunburn while giving valuable life lessons about stuff. In return, I got clothing and hairstyle tips (not convinced I need those), hugs and kisses and was most gratified to see a few tears on my departure. Which lasted as long as it took for cookies to become the center of attention.
I also did my part as a good daughter as I promised Mum I would go through all of my stuff that’s scattered throughout her house. And I did. Promptly put it all back. I don’t have room in my suitcase, let alone house for all that old crap. No, I can’t throw it away, it’s precious and important. I just need you to keep it at your house. Forever.
Had lovely New Year’s Eve –while small children were picked up, dusted off, bribed, fed special small children’s meals that looked better than adult food, I sat there drinking my wine in a responsible manner that implied I would know what to do if a small child should come to me in need. They did not. Although a Jack Russell temporarily wandered by me and glanced in my direction before going to find a real adult. I should mention that this was also one of my three god-dogs so that was a bit disheartening.
I am honored to be god-mother to Douglas, Manu and Meg. Apparently not to Maxie though which was a shock and complete waste of multiple advice-giving sessions. Am thinking of trading Douglas in for Maxie – she’s younger and I may have more chance of pointing her in the right direction viz-a-viz moral compass (see below for further explanation on this). Sadly, I did not get to see Meg and Manu although was severely reprimanded by their parents for not being present enough in their lives. Turns out, Meg could use some guidance as she’s just not making enough progress in her dog classes. I blame the teachers myself but have promised to try harder and will send her an email with words of wisdom shortly.
My friends that hosted NYE have a beautiful new house – like mine here in LA but with more than one bedroom, bathroom, a garage, dining room, orchard, indoor pond like-thing and infinity pool (although infinity pool is stretching it a bit. Just because you can see a long way when you get in your free-standing plastic pool, does not mean it is an infinity pool). So, same same really. I felt quite sorry for them when I realized they don’t have a rooftop and have to sit outside on acres of land surrounded by beautiful trees, listening to the native birds and the sound of their orchard gently ripening. They also don’t have people going through their rubbish bins at all hours and you can’t hear any ambulances because of the noise of the vineyard growing its loud grapes, next door. No American Dream for them.
Let’s talk about the big disappointment of the trip. Not everything can be a highlight. My sole reason for coming home was because in NZ if you order a mochachino (mocha for the Americans) or a hot chocolate, you get either marshmallows or some sort of little biscuit/cookie. I don’t know where America was when this started but they clearly missed the boat. So, imagine my dismay when I found that most places in NZ no longer do this. You can tell a country is in decline when you no longer get a marshmallow. Place is going to the dogs…#bringbackthemarshmallows
I caught up with a lot of friends including one from high school that I hadn’t seen in 20 something years (stop right now, no one is asking you to do the math). Four hours of catching up in the café and I didn’t feel one bit bad about hogging a table because NO MARSHMALLOWS.
Met up with another friend from University who now has three very cute kids. I wanted to put the smallest one in my bag but I don’t know how to feed her, nap her, clean her or dress her. Guys, did you know it’s remarkably different from a cat?
Climbed a mountain with yet more friends – to be fair, I am doubling up on some friends. There's actually only one. And they're imaginary. A lot of sheep milling about at the bottom so popped one of those in my bag. Always good to bring a taste of home back with you.
Was made (by myself) honorary godmother to two small boys belonging to good friends of mine that I hadn’t seen in eight years. Having had a lovely time catching up with them, upon leaving, one of these said good friends commented that I hadn’t changed in eight years. As I basked in the glow of maintaining my wonderful personality and youthful appearance, despite the rigors of my difficult life in the land of hope (and glory? Or am I mixing that up with some other land? I know New Zealand is the Land of the Long White Cloud so that isn’t it. Maybe I’m thinking of Iraq or North Korea?), he further added that it was a shame. Apparently he was hoping for some improvement. I didn’t stop to ask in which particular area as we have a special bond and I responded with a kindly “fuck you”.
Upon discussion with other old friends (and let me be clear, I don’t mean that they’re old, just that we’ve known each other for some time. Actually they are quite old. At least 6 months more than me. I am obviously much younger. Just an observation made by many. Well, one person. Called me. ***) about the duties of a god-parent, I discovered that it means providing a moral compass. Obviously I am the ideal person to provide this but just in case have decided to provide them with copious amounts of chocolate instead. Pretty sure moral compasses in my world lead to herpes. Besides although both newly acquired god-children professed to be sad to see me leave (I thought I had made great headway in gaining their love and affection after a mere three days), one confessed to his mother that his love for me had been bought by the box of chocolates I gave them on arrival. The other one just said “Who?” Anyway, it won’t be eight years until I see them again – ample time to buy their love with more candy – as I’ve invited everyone I saw to come and visit me in L.A. If you didn’t get an invite, it’s because I don’t like you and you need to stay where you are.
My plan is not only to provide myself with multiple visitors throughout the year but to also receive multiple gifts from the land of my birth, that isn’t technically the land of my birth, and promote the idea of NZer’s immigrating to the States. That’ll take the pressure off the other potential immigrants being harassed by the idiots that won’t let them in ( I may lose some readers over this but if you disagree with me then we can't be friends. But you can still send me money and stuff. Ok?). Let the idiots instead worry about a plethora (implies that I have more than about 5 friends who actually want to visit me. At this point if two of them make it, I’ll consider that a roaring success) of NZer’s. My math calculations show that to be about 115% of Kiwis charging across the ocean to invade America and take up residence (suspect they will actually want to go home after about two weeks but don’t tell the oppressors the plan). That’d frighten the shit out of some Americans. I mean you’ve all seen the wedding haka video floating around on social media, right? Let’s face it though, it’s a long way and they might start with good intentions, but probably get to Auckland Airport, do some duty free shopping, have a snack and a few beers at the bar and then go home after a lovely days’ outing. I mean it was a good effort, but we don’t like to get off the island…
So now I’m home and have celebrated by eating all the NZ candy and chocolate I brought back for friends. Fuck.
*I wanted to look up the exact number of weeks but then I didn't. So. Um.
**Celsius. 73 Fahrenheit for the annoying people that must know the conversion...
***PS. Am practicing putting my usual footnotes in parenthesis instead. Need to do that for the formatting for the book I’m never getting around to writing.