The Plague Tour – Part 2

‘I’m going for a poo.’

‘No you’re not.’

‘Come on. It’ll be fun.’

‘Let go of the door. You are not going in there.’

‘Someone has to christen it.’

‘No someone doesn’t. The camper van toilet is for emergencies only — between the hours of ten pm and six am.’

‘This is an emergency. I need to christen it.’

‘There is a flushing toilet thirty metres from here with hand dryers and soap dispensers. Go and use that.’


‘Step away from that door.’

‘Why are you so grumpy?’

The honeymoon was over and we were still at Queenstown Airport.

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How to (not) shoot a polar bear

Coming ashore

‘Hello bear, here we are. How ya doin?’

Our lead guide was talking to an enormous white bear which had appeared 20 metres in front of us. It stood straight up on its hind legs, a dazzling tower of power. It blinked.  It focused. It tried to make sense of this huddle of hyperventilating polar bear spotters fumbling with our cameras.

But I was not afraid – and not because there were eight other tasty morsels, including my children, between the bear and me. Continue reading

The calming effect of big country


It’s book-writing time, but this blog is tap-tap-tapping against the inside of my head. I’ll have to let the damn thing out so I can get on with it.

It’s about a landscape. One of those terrifying, big country, exploding-out-of-the-earth places that remind you that this planet will survive all the madness – it’s us who will end up fossils. Continue reading

Red is the colour of a New Zealand Christmas

It’s funny what a little distance can do.

Last year was our first white Christmas, spent high in the Austrian Alps. It snowed on Christmas Eve and we spent a week in the bosom of warm Austrian hospitality – candlelight feasting, skiing and tobogganing . It was such an enchanting and different experience that I feared that returning to normal – no matter how good to be with all the family again – would be a disappointment.

Then, while hanging out the washing the other day (bear with me) I looked up to see the blood-red blooms of the pohutukawa tree at the neighour-two-doors-over.

Boom. It was like a wee Christmas elf had waved a magical pine wand and transported me to the beach. Continue reading

Back in the shire: the truth about coming home

wings 2 (1)

What a blur it’s been.

Smiling faces and hugs and kisses at the airport then whammo: into the car and back onto the left hand side of the road, heading north past Mangere Mountain, onto the bridge across the harbour, taking the Hillsborough Rd exit, passing through Epsom, past the rubbish bin I threw up in in 2008, past the café that does the baguettes, past Dog Mountain, up the hill to Mt Eden village, past the family doctor on the left, the family dentist on the right, the chemist, the favourite deli, turning right at the fruit shop, right again and there you are.

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The ugly business of saying good-bye


A week to go. A week!

What a strange limbo this is.

I went out to buy fruit the other day, paused at the end of the driveway, sighed, and turned left instead of right.

What a coward. Instead of heading to my favourite little fruit shack up the road, I went to the big, bland, unfriendly place down the road, spoke to no one and slunk back home with my inferior produce.

It’s so stupid to be avoiding the Raspberry Man who I have enjoyed talking with so much over the last 18 months.

Today I realised why I’ve been doing it. The business of leaving is messing up the business of living. Continue reading

Cassis, the Route de Crêtes and a camera cock-up

Sometimes a landscape is so painterly that it can make up for a technical screw-up on the camera front.

I was initially horrified to see that I had accidentally enabled a cheap camera effect on the day we  finally brought our boys to one of our favourite landscapes in Provence – the dizzying Route de Crêtes between Cassis and La Ciotat. Continue reading