Lucky, Lady

As usual, I wake before the alarm goes off at 6am.  Half asleep I dress myself; bra, tshirt, shorts, socks, before bumbling around half trying to find the dog’s lead, half not quite knowing what I’m doing yet.  As I sit down to tie my shoes the dog plonks itself right in front of me, just in case I forget what I’m doing.

We walk and I slowly wake up. The air is fresh and cool, our shadows are stretched out long before us like the promise of a never-ending summer.  I breathe deeply.  The dog sniffs in the long, dewy grass and chases rabbits, it’s our favourite time of day.

I get home, eat my muesli while reading the news, then brush my teeth. Like clockwork I feed the dog and pack by bag for work. Lunch – double-bagged in its tupperware container to prevent leakage, macbook, keys, phone.

Donning my backpack, I head to the garage where I clip on my helmet, slide on my gloves and wheel my bike outside. The sound of my wheels crunching on the gravel driveway cuts through the sleepy morning air soothed by the steady buzz and hum of cars and trucks in the distance.

 

One moment you’re asleep the next you’re awake.  But as usual, you’re wide awake before your eyes flicker open. And in those few wakeful moments before opening your eyes, you mentally chalk up a to-do list on the back of your eyelids.

Dress.  Put a load of washing on.  Feed the cat.  Feed the dog.  Put out the recycling.  Water the basil.  Eat breakfast. Brew coffee. Brush teeth. With your typical efficiency there’s even time to hang out the washing before leaving for work.

You use the 12-minute drive to think about the day ahead.  The radio blares loudly, Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB, chewing gum for the ears.  You drive on auto-pilot in a steel cage of air-conditioned introspection.

 

Outside, the temperature is already rising, I’m sweating before I hit the Woodbourne airbase, about five kms into my 12km trip.  The road is busy with commuters, I try to breathe deeply and calmly when trucks barrel past, leaving me wobbling in their wake.

You pull up in your little car at the intersection of Jacksons Road and Middle Renwick Road.  I see you sitting there waiting for a gap in the traffic to turn right.  You look right, left, right.  Right past me, I’m sure of it, despite my bright fuschia singlet.  I draw nearer, I can see your blonde hair and your made up face.

There you are again, glancing right, left, right.  Surely you’ve seen me, I’m right there I could call out to you, but your window is up, you’re in your own little bubble. I’m crossing the intersection now, and I hesitate, you’re still not looking at me, I brake slightly, I’m about to bike past you when you pull out.

Everything slows down, I hit the brakes hard, yelling out in fear, my face is right outside your window when you finally look at me.  Your expression mirrors mine, mouth forming a perfect O, eyes wide in alarm, and then a blur of white as time speeds up again, and you stomp on the gas as I steer the handlebars to swerve around the back of your departing vehicle.

Trembling with fright I continue pedaling.  Glancing behind me, I see you hesitate for a moment before driving off smoothly as if with a flick of your hair you shrug off that moment we shared, when our worlds almost collided.

You, protected entirely in your bubble of steel and glass.  Me, utterly vulnerable, exposed and yet completely invisible. Lucky, lady.

Survivor: Kiwi Camp Ground

Great views near Wharariki.

Great views near Wharariki.

Camping is not meant to be complicated, just plenty of eating and drinking broken up with walking, napping, swimming, sunbathing, fishing, reading – whatever floats your boat really.

What can get complicated are the inter-personal relations between people who have gone camping to “get away from it all”, only to find themselves parked up next to complete strangers with only thin walls of canvas separating them.

After just returning from 10 days of camping where we were stuck between a weird couple with three terriers (henceforth known as Three Dogs) and a family with two terror children (Ogre Beasts) I wonder if other campers have similar stories, or if it’s “just us” that have the problem.

Morning coffee view

Morning coffee view

Pakawau Beach Park, in Golden Bay is pretty cool.  You’re metres from the beach, and allowed campfires and dogs, two pretty rare occurrences at camping grounds these days.  New Years Eve was beautiful, an evening of complete calm on the water.  We were watching little fishes streaking along the surface of the water, fleeing from prey, signalling the start of some big game fish coming into the Bay to spawn.

Killer Bonnie

Killer Bonnie

“Three Dogs” were walking their terriers along the beach, and our black lab, Bonnie, wanders up to say hi and have a sniff.  Next thing there’s a heck of a commotion; yapping and snapping and growling.  Then Mrs Three Dogs is confronting us by the fire.  “What’s going on?” says she.  “Is there one rule for us and one rule for you?”   “What do you mean, what rules?” asks Mikey.  “All dogs are  to be on leashes in the campground,” says Mrs Three Dogs.  “First we’ve heard of it,” Mikey replies.  “Besides we’re not in the camp ground, we’re on the beach.”  Half an hour later the camp manager comes down.  Bonnie has been described as being “territorial” and “picking fights”.

That was a tasty morsel, where's the next small white dog?

That was a tasty morsel, where are the other two?

“I can see she’d be pretty intimidating,” he says with a wink as Bonnie lies stretched out by the fire with her big pink tongue lolling out.  He’s so right.  The two most commonly-used adjectives used by people describing Bonnie are “good-natured” and “beautiful”.  And yes, I get that not everyone agrees, and I respect that not everyone is into dogs.  But Dog people are different.  Dog people understand not all dogs are going to get along, just like humans.  A bit of sniffing and tail wagging to show they like each other, or teeth baring and growling to convey their disapproval is their way of communicating.  Needless to say, it was pretty awkward around Three Dogs after that.

The Ogre Beast incident also happened on New Years Eve.  Everyone had been collecting driftwood and building bonfires in preparation for night fall.  Up come a group of young lads of no more than five years old, who started helping themselves to our stack of firewood.  We indulged them with a couple of bits each, thinking it was pretty cool they were getting into the spirit of it all.

Campfirin' and chillin'

Campfirin’ and chillin’

Next thing they’re back.  “Our bonfire’s bigger than yours/better than yours/yours is dumb/you’re an idiot blah, blah, blah” one of them is saying.  Completely flabbergasted, we ignored them hoping they would go away, until they went to grab more wood, and I’m like, “no way buddy, you can get your own.” (Read:  You little shit.)  They returned several times, having a go, and we just wanted to rub there smart little faces in the sand and watch them cry big lumps of snotty, gritty tears. The little brats just kept on going,  until I made to go and tell their Dads and they ran off.

After midnight their Dads ended up coming over to our campfire to party on, and I hit one of them him up about their smart-alec kids.  “I know,” he cried “I can’t control them.”  And they are only five!  Fucking hell, I hope I don’t meet them in the future.  Fortunately, I don’t think Daddy Ogre Beast remembered that conversation the next day.

It wasn’t all bad though, here’s my pick of some of the best moments.

IMG_0522Best wine:  Neudorf Pinot Rose 2012 – luscious cream and fresh strawberries.

Best meal:  Fresh Green-lip mussels three ways. 1. Steamed ‘a la naturale’. 2. Smothered in a salty, creamy green curry sauce. 3.  Smoked in a sweet & salty marinade.  Beautiful.

Best adventure:  Mountain biking and caving in the rain and mud in the Aorere Valley.  Choice!

Jet skiing

Jet skiing

Best fun:  Jet skiing for the first time – if you haven’t done it before and you ever get the opportunity, don’t shy away.  It’s dead easy.  Don a life jacket, push a button, press the throttle, and enjoy the wind in your hair and the salt on your lips.

Best song:  Gold Canary by Cloud Control: