Buying a New Car

2 09 2012

Warning:  This event turned out to be a harrowing experience for us, which I have retold here in a rather lengthy post.  I’m sorry about that.  If you are not interested in cars, nor have been through the drama of purchasing one, then perhaps this post will be of no interest to you.

If, however, your own experience is synonymous with the term ‘harrowing’ then you may find this tale thoroughly enjoyable.  May I suggest a hot cuppa and two gingernuts as a side serving to this story.

_____________________________________________________________

Since arriving in Perth five months ago we have been driving a 1996 Suzuki two-door jeep that was kindly loaned to us by one of Roger’s mates.  However, having leaned on the charity of our friend for long enough, we decided to begin the hunt for a new set of wheels.  The six weeks following this decision have been the most stressful, indecisive and frustrating weeks of our lives.  Buying a car, for us, has been more taxing than getting married, buying our first home or moving countries three times!  This is our tale.

It began one Friday afternoon in our studio flat while Roger was trawling through the Gumtree website, WA’s version of E-Bay.

“What’s our price range?” called Roger from the sunny balcony.

“$3,000. Not a penny more dear,” I replied firmly.

Disappointed that the figure did not contain another zero, Roger let out a long sigh and continued to sift through the bargain buys – the dregs that no one wanted anymore.  He soon stumbled across a metallic green Daewoo Matiz that had just been listed for $2,500.00.  It was very tidy, had low kms, was a bargain and Kiri had fallen in love with it.

We struggled through rush-hour traffic to the other side of Perth and pulled up outside the owner’s house, the little Kermit coloured car sitting gleaming happily in the sun.  A small rotund and very friendly lady approached us as we walked across the driveway.  “Oh I’m so sorry.  After I hung up from you, we sold it and I didn’t have your number to call you back.”  Disheartened, we returned home while Roger admonished himself for stalling, putting it down to old age.  He had never missed out on a deal like that before in his life.  Not when it came to cars.  He was an expert after all, didn’t I know!

The next vehicle to appear on Roger’s radar was a 2004 VW polo which had suffered badly in the hail storms of 2009.  Apart from the shell looking like a golf ball with all its dents and divets, it had only done 80,000kms and was a bargain at $4,500.00.  While I was reluctant to fork out the extra money, Roger insisted on checking it out.  He arranged to see the vehicle which was located on a small hobby farm at the bottom of the hills east of Perth.  Although the owner was at work, he left the car open for Roger to have a good dig around.  He found that in addition to the numerous pockmarks, the car was also filled with hay and was being used to transport horse feed around the property.  As he leaned on the car to assess if the interior was salvageable with a good valet, a tingling sensation moved up his forearm.  Looking down he noticed a regiment of fire ants marching boldly up his arm.  He flung himself backwards from the car, frantically flicking and flapping his arms.  And having also noticed them climbing up over his work boots, he stomped and pranced about like a clumsy river dancer in steel-capped  , while two horses in a nearby paddock looked on with their big horsey eyes, chewing their straw.

Once home, Roger badgered me about buying the car, adamant that it was a steal for the price and mileage, and would only take a couple of tins of Mortein and a few hours of elbow grease to clean it up.  I was unconvinced.  I was not prepared to bust open our budget for an ant infested golf ball.  However, Roger is the expert in these matters, and I left him to make the decision.  He offered the seller $4000 firm which he didn’t accept, and I wouldn’t let him offer any more.

So it was back to the Gumtree and within two days Roger discovered a 1998 Skoda Roomster 1.9 turbo diesel for sale.  He told me how Brits had laughed and made jokes at Skoda’s expense in the mid 80’s (What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof? A skip), but that of late they had been reinvented through their merge with Volkswagen Audi.

We contacted the owner and arranged to view the car that night.  Roger was pleasantly surprised, and not an ant or hay bale in sight.  The seller made his sales pitch and Roger nodded appreciatively at the fuel economy, the condition of the car, the overall look and especially that it was unusual.

Meanwhile I kicked at the ground and grumbled under my breath to myself about the price ($12,500.00).  But, since Roger was the expert in these matters, I kept quiet.

On his nod, we shook hands with the owner, wished him a pleasant evening and made our way home.  “I like it. I want it, it’s a steal for that price,” Roger murmured in his best Gollum voice.  I was confused.  I didn’t understand why we driving home without having made a deal.

While Roger is the expert in these matters, he is also known for being a tight-arse.  This is a man who reuses the same teabag twice.  He was going to play “the game” and hold out to see how much lower he could get the Roomster for.  Very shrewd, I thought.

The next night, while browsing through the Gumtree after work he noticed the Roomster listing was gone.  “Shit, shit, shit!” he complained thumping on the computer keys.  “Where’s my phone?”  In two seconds he was breathing heavily into the mouthpiece, asking the seller politely why the ad had been removed.  Of course it was obvious, the guy had sold it.  Roger looked like he’d been slapped with a wet kipper.  Again he put his dilly-dallying down to old age.  “This would never have happened to me two years ago.  I’m off my game.  I’m losing my touch!” he grizzled and moaned, and then went back to the Gumtree.

By now, in case you hadn’t noticed, the initial budget of $3,000 had quadrupled in about three weeks.  And it was two days after this that we found ourselves sitting at a set of traffic lights at an intersection noticing that almost every second car was brand new.

“Oh sod it,” I said.  “Let’s just buy a new car.  For the first time in our lives we can actually afford to.”

Roger’s eyes widened with delight, and so we began our search.

Just some of the research

Having been very impressed with the Roomster, Roger immediately joined a number of Skoda forums and researched two cars that had caught his eye: the Yeti 1.2 2WD ($27,500) and the Fabia Monte Carlo ($21,990).  Having chatted online with people from all over the world, and knowing more than probably the dealers themselves, I tagged along with him to visit two local Skoda dealerships to examine the two cars.

On a sunny Saturday morning we arrived at Dealer Number 1 and two things happened simultaneously; Roger pointed at the Yeti and said “I want that one,” while Kiri pointed at the Monte and said “I want that one.”  We arranged a test drive of the silver manual Fabia Monte Carlo.  The salesman drove it up the road with us and then Roger eased into the driver’s seat and took control.  Pulling onto the slip road to the freeway, the salesman casually said “You can put your foot down a bit if you want.”  And that was all the invitation Roger needed.  He accelerated swiftly past two cars before the road bottlenecked into one and joined the freeway.  Impressed with the car’s pickup and smoothness, we returned to Dealer 1’s car yard to talk price.  Armed with our information and research, we continued onto Dealer 2 to test drive the automatic Yeti.

On arrival at Dealer 2 they took copies of our driver’s licences, handed us the keys and left us to enjoy the test drive unaccompanied.  Roger pulled slowly off the lot, eased up the hill and immediately broke into a huge smile.  It seemed the easiness of the automatic had won him over completely.  And of course the large boot space for his radio controlled planes was an added bonus. A s I sat looking pretty in the 50 seater coach, my words echoed around the vast interior and I butt clenched as we passed tightly through narrow spaces.  Of course it wasn’t THAT big, but it felt huge to me and I just didn’t see the point in getting such a big vehicle.  Roger is the first one to moan about the huge 4WD’s that everyone seems to own.

So having test driven the Monte Carlo at Dealer 1, and the Yeti at Dealer 2, we had reached a stalemate.  We were in love with different cars.

Monte Carlo v Yeti

Since Roger was going to be the main driver and had been suffering in peak hour traffic morning and night for about five months, we had already decided that an automatic would be the best choice.  Not Roger’s preferred choice, he saw the automatic as a sign of old age, but it was the practical choice and would be better for re-sale.  However, this requirement meant that any ideas about the Monte Carlo would have to be abandoned since it was only available as a manual in Australia.  The automatic was not scheduled to arrive for three to four months. O f course my reluctance to agree to the Yeti was because it was a people carrier.  It was too “soccer mom” and my days of nipping swiftly into car-parks would be over.  The Monte Carlo on the other hand, was sporty and cool, and a cheap alternative to a mini cooper.  For me, it was all about looking good!

So I made it my mission to tempt Roger with other possible options.

The very next Saturday we visited a number of other car yards.  First I dragged Roger to the Hyundai dealer to test drive a Kermit green i20.  I still hadn’t got over the loss of the Matiz!  While the price of the i20 was good ($11,990), unfortunately the one on special was a manual.  It didn’t help that when the very friendly and slick-haired car salesman asked Roger what he thought, his reply was “It looks like you’ve picked it from your nostril and flicked it on the floor.  But if she likes it…”  The young man awkwardly shuffled off between a row of cars while I had a discreet word to Roger about his honesty.  “Next time just smile and nod and say it’s nice,” I muttered, “you don’t have to mean it!”

Next I steered Roger onto the Volkswagen car yard.  I grinned.  If anything would sway him away from the Yeti, it would be a VW.  On my left a shiny metallic blue Golf caught my eye.

“Ooooooooo look at this one!” I exclaimed loudly pointing and striding towards it.

“Woah, woah, woah, what you doing?” Roger whispered loudly.  “Keep your voice down!  They’re like vultures.  Once they know you’re interested they’ll be over here and you’ll be buying it.  Don’t look into their eyes – once you do it’s game over,” he muttered in hushed tones.

It would be pertinent at this point to explain Roger’s prejudiced views of car salesmen.  He believes that lies spill from their mouths like water from a tap, that they pretend to be your best friend, that they try to make you feel sorry for them…the tricks are endless.  Now I know my husband is the expert in these matters, but having had no experience of dealing with car salesmen myself, I found them to be charming and helpful.  Of course Roger’s interpretation of this was that they were “smarmy and deceitful.”

I rolled my eyes at his ridiculous paranoia and began to stroke the shiny blue Golf…until I saw the $42,000 price tag, and quickly withdrew my sticky fingers.  We passed by the “nest of vultures” (Roger’s words, not mine), avoiding all eye contact and whistling nonchalantly with our hands in our pockets.

At the far end of the lot I caught sight of a 2011 shiny black Polo TDi.  A diesel and ex factory car with 1700 kms on it.  This would be a carrot.  I whistled over to Roger whose head popped up from the bowels of a VW Tiguan, and dangled the bargain price of $21,990.00 before him.  Minutes later we were test driving her off the lot. I rubbed my hands together with glee – goodbye Yeti, hello Polo.

And then I heard the diesel engine – it sounded like we were driving a tractor.  I screwed up my face.  Oh this just won’t do. But Roger loved it.  Automatic, good for 200,000kms, cheap to run, solid build, great car ….but, it was black.  A black car in the hot Perth sunshine was a no-go.  We shook hands politely with the young salesman and moped off that lot and onto the next one.  Kia.

By the time we arrived here the car yards were almost closing, the weather was turning and the Kia Rio did not live up to my expectations.  It just didn’t look as cool as the other cars we had driven.  Roger was impressed with the Kia Soul but I drew the line at the prospect of driving with Postman Pat (minus the black and white cat) around Perth.  So we left the showroom and returned home faced with a dilemma.

Should we wait three months-ish until the automatic Monte arrived?

Should we buy the Polo?

Should we buy the Yeti?

The only thing we agreed on was that we both liked the Skoda cars.  A choice had to be made and Mr Indecisive nee Tight-arse was not able to make it.  By this stage, the budget was well and truly out the window.  Hell, I would have bought the shiny blue VW Golf R32 if Roger hadn’t dragged me away from it!  But, Roger was the one who would be using the car every day, he was the one that had lived and breathed cars his whole life, and as I’ve said numerous times, he was the expert in all car matters.  I laid my cards on the table.  I was going to have to fold.  It was going to be the Yeti.

Since the cars were new imports into Australia, there was no chance of getting one second hand.  Which meant we would need to go into negotiations with the Skoda salesman – Dealer 2.

Roger opened up the lines of communication via email and messages haggling over car price flew backwards and forwards for about a week.  It finally ended when Roger said “Give me your best price.  If I like it, I’ll come in.  If I don’t, you won’t hear from me again.”  The best price offered was $24,500.00.  And all communication stopped….until three days later when Dealer 2 emailed again and said that actually, Skoda had given them more money to play with, and that the price could be reduced to $23,990.00 with an extra two years warranty and parking sensors.

Defeat stared me in the face.  Roger was going to go for it.  I pulled out my last trump card: “Alright then.  Let’s go down tonight and take the Yeti for another test drive.  But I also want to test drive the VRS.  It’s only $6,000 more after all, and it’s a Fabia, AND it’s automatic.”  Roger’s eyes popped out of his head. “You wanna spend how much?!”

He emailed Dealer 2 back.  “You’ve got yourself a deal.  We’ll be down tonight, but we want to test drive the Yeti again.  Oh, and the VRS.  The wife.  I can’t control her.”

We arrived at the car yard and the Monte Carlo winked at me from inside the showroom.  I was so determined not to leave the car yard with a “people carrier” that I didn’t mind spending the extra money to get my own way.  I started up the VRS and cruised off the lot, again unaccompanied.  Roger was adamant that he did not want to test drive the VRS, and he sat confused in the passenger seat as I putted along the back streets and through the intersections.  “Hmm, it doesn’t seem to have much grunt,” Roger mused as I carefully turned into a side street. “I think you should have a go dear,” I encouraged.  If I could just get him in the seat, it was a done deal.

I was completely unprepared for what happened next.

Roger slid his large frame into the bucket racing seat.  “Ooo, seats are snug.  I like the display, feels nice.  Now let’s see how she drives.”  He tucked it into manual drive and planted his right foot on the accelerator.  In what felt like only three seconds, the 1.4 turbo charged and super charged engine jettisoned us from zero to just over 100km/hr, down a suburban tree-lined street towards a rapidly approaching T junction.  My heart leapt into my mouth, my pits exploded in a rush of adrenalin and my legs started shaking uncontrollably.  What power!  “I don’t like it,” I stammered.  “I love it!” Roger bellowed, grinning from ear to ear.

We arrived back at the car yard.  “What’s the verdict?” asked the salesman.  Pale faced and shaking like a shitting dog, I said “We’ll take the Yeti thanks.”  Roger nodded morosely, “Yes, that thing is ridiculously fast and I would lose my licence in five minutes if I owned that.”

(Roger would like to add a disclaimer here – he does not condone speeding in built-up areas and admits his silliness on this occasion.)

We went to the office and signed on the dotted line.  “I could probably get it cheaper still,” Roger jested with Dealer 2.  The salesman smiled and laughed.  And then there it was.  I saw it first hand, the morphing of his jovial face into a sneaky serpent’s.  Now I knew what Roger had been banging on about.

Next we were ushered to see Ms After Care.  As we walked up the stairs, Roger adamantly told the salesman that we would not be interested in anything that she had to offer, to which he replied “You’d be surprised.  I’ve heard a lot of people say that.”  And he laughed.  I laughed too.  He obviously had no idea how tight-fisted Roger actually was!

Ms Aftercare had barely started her spiel on window tinting when Roger stopped her short in her tracks.  “I know what you’re about.  I know your job is to try and sell me stuff that I can get cheaper elsewhere myself.  And I just want to be honest and tell you that I’m not interested.  So there’s no point me wasting your time or mine,” said Roger.

“Not even mats?” she asked.

“Nope,” Roger replied firmly, “I’m a tight-arse.”

I blinked and stared awkwardly at the picture behind the desk.  There it was again, my husband’s honesty.  I would have been happy to sit through her sales pitch, but Roger didn’t see the point.  And since he was the expert in these matters, I followed his lead. “I hope I haven’t upset you,” he apologised after I’d mentioned to him that he had been a little blunt. “I’m just being up front with you,” he said. “It’s okay,” she replied, and then showed us into Mr Finance’s office.

Having arranged finance and the necessary paperwork, we returned to Dealer 2 who was sitting at his desk, his fingers interlocked and resting on the desk jotter in front of him.  Full of self-importance he leaned towards us and said “Now, I feel like I have to say something to you both.”  We waited.  What now, I thought.  Car insurance?  Loan protection?  But I couldn’t have been further from the truth.  “I don’t know what you’ve said,” he announced quietly, “and you seem like nice people, but I’ve got an office girl in floods of tears up there because of something you’ve said to her.  And it’s not on.”

I stared at him and blinked.  Roger stared at him and blinked.  What on earth was he talking about?  It seemed that Roger’s blunt honesty had upset Ms Aftercare after all, and now we were being told off like a couple of naughty school children who had been caught bullying in the sandpit.  I couldn’t believe it.  After everything we had gone to get to this point, I would have happily ripped our contract up if it had still been sitting on the desk in front of me.  I was stunned.

Roger described the conversation to him, and even Dealer 2 admitted that perhaps Ms Aftercare was just having a bad day. “I was only being honest.  Just like I can be with you.  I know you’re only being my new best friend to get the sale, and when I walk out the door you won’t care what happens.”  The serpent smiled and laughed uneasily.

During the drive home we were very quiet.  We felt awful that Ms Aftercare was upset, but at the same time confused about how we had caused her to become so distressed.  Our new car buying experience, that should have been full of excitement, had been completely tainted.  We felt trapped and no longer wanted to proceed with the purchase.  To top it off, three days later Dealer 2 advertised their Yeti’s in Saturday’s paper on special for $23,990.00.

But it was not to end there.  Mr Finance spent the next week trying to sting us for the highest interest rate possible.  When I told him I thought my bank could do better than that, he immediately dropped the rate by 2%, without me even consulting the bank!  By the end of the week Mr Finance had dropped it a further 3%.  The hissing seeping down the phone was really starting to get my back up.  And then, just as the final details of the loan were being finalised, he told me about the $700 set up fee.  “Oh, didn’t I mention that?” he said too quickly.  I cancelled the loan and sought my finance elsewhere.

Our documentation

So tonight, after weeks of leg work, emails and phone calls, we are the proud owners of a brand new mato brown 2012 Skoda Yeti 1.2.  And it is a sweet car, and not at all the vacuous bus-like people carrier I initially imagined.  True, we have no car mats, no window tinting and no paint protection.  These are things that Roger has to sort out.  After all, he is the expert in these matters.  And how do I feel about the whole process of buying a brand new car?  Never again….ever!

Our New Skoda Yeti

But I have the pleasure of the company of a very happy husband who is at this moment scotch guarding the fabric interior and fiddling with all the buttons and knobs.  He has already cleaned the brake dust from the alloys having travelled just 70km in our Yeti today.

I wonder how long that will last?





From the Windows of Ruby Street – Part II

29 07 2012

 

The Arsonist

This particular incident was viewed, again, from the front windows of our flat in Ruby Street, from whence my prior criminal catching snapshot was taken (see previous post).

At approximately 4.27am on Tuesday, I awoke from my slumber to the wailing sounds of an alarm, which stopped abruptly following a very loud BANG.  As I lay quivering in my bed, my mind spurred into action in an attempt to explain the source of all the noise.  My final version of events was that someone had broken into a house, shot the occupants and then turned off the alarm.  Bollocks to that, I thought, and snuggled into Roger, who was sleeping like an angel on his only day off from the milk round.

Seconds later I heard the incessant honking of a car horn.  That bloody taxi again I thought!  (A regular occurrence at 7.45am every morning).  I leapt out of bed and ripped the curtains back to see a car on the opposite side of the street completely engulfed in flames.  SHIIIIIIT!

After running around in circles a few times in my small kitchen trying to think what the hell the emergency number was in England, I ran to the bedroom and shrieked “Roger!!  Call the fire brigade!”  In a very UN-calm and agitated state, I raced back to the window and threw it wide open just in time to see a second car burst into flames.

Roger drowsily made his way towards the telephone, tripping over shoes and god knows what else I had managed to leave lying in his path.  Upon reaching the phone, and with his eyes adequately adjusted to the blinding light (of the light bulb, not the fire), he placed the call.  Due to his slightly delayed reaction, and my initial instinct to ring 111, we were NOT the first to report the crime this time.

As the two cars burned brightly in the early morning, casting dancing shadows across the facades of terraced houses, an old white Vauxhall Corsa sat inescapably sandwiched between the two infernos.  It was just a matter of time before it too would be consumed by flames.  However, in the midst of all the popping, burning and exploding, the owner of the doomed car suddenly appeared, and leaping valiantly (or stupidly) through the thick black smoke he clambered hastily into his Corsa.  My heart was in my mouth.  “Is this guy crazy?” I jabbered at Roger who had by now joined me at the window.  And of course, true to the script of a dramatically explosive Hollywood movie…the car wouldn’t start.  RRRrrrrrrrrr.  RRRrrrrrrrrrr.

Tension and suspense wracked our bodies as we clung white-knuckled to the window frame listening to the starter motor turning over hopelessly, while flames licked the paint on the Corsa’s back panel.  In a flash, the owner’s balding middle-aged neighbour who had been watching from a safe distance ran heroically (or stupidly) across the road to his aid, his non-fire resistant dressing gown falling open mid-stride to reveal an enormous hairy belly.  More fuel for the fire, I thought.

Together, in what appeared to be slow motion, they pushed the car at a snail’s pace across the road while my hysterical screams of “Are you bleedin crazy?!  The petrol tank’s gunna BLOW!” echoed up and down Ruby Street.  By now, our neighbours had lined the pavement in their sleeping attire, and looking to the left and right of our window I could see bed-hair heads hanging suspended in air above the exciting scenes below.  Having safely navigated the Corsa to the other side of the road, thick black smoke billowed up into our window, choking us and filling our flat with an acrid stench, forcing us to close the windows and peer through a darkened haze at the action below.

After the arrival of Saltburn’s finest, the fires were extinguished and we were able to open the windows once more.  After eavesdropping on the firemen, police and neighbours from above, we were able to deduce that some unsavoury character had just minutes earlier siphoned petrol from most of the cars in the street.  How the cars came to be alight is somewhat of a mystery.

One possibility bandied about by observers was that the criminal must have spilled some fuel in the gutter which had dribbled down the street towards the sea, and then having thrown away his/her cigarette – ‘cos that’s the intelligence of these people, smoking while siphoning fuel from cars – had accidentally (maybe purposely) ignited the spilled fuel.

How the Corsa in between the burning car did not set alight, is a mystery only the eyes of the night know the answer to.

NOTE:  I did make a dash for my trusty camera, however Roger sensibly advised me that it would be bad taste for me to blind the neighbours with my camera flash while photographing people’s misfortune.  My moral radar told me he was probably right, so no photographs to accompany this post sorry.  KP

 





From the Windows of Ruby Street – Part I

17 07 2012

Date:  August 2003

While in England, my fiancée and I rented a tiny studio flat on the top floor of a three-storied terraced house, each storey containing its own apartment.  We lived in one of the “jewel” streets in the seaside village of Saltburn-by-the-Sea where stories of pirates, sunken ships and smugglers flourished.

Saltburn Pier at the bottom of the town’s furnicular

The street we lived on was called Ruby Street.  Our back window (there was only one) gave us a view out over the rooftops of the other terraced townhouses in the area but we didn’t open it much.  There was a pipe just to the right outside the window that consistently emitted the stench of blocked drains or sewage into our bedroom.

View from our back window

Can you see the offending pipe?

The two white net-covered windows at the front, however, looked down onto Ruby Street, and it is from these very windows that I observed three extraordinary incidences over the period of two months.  It is these tales that I will now retell:

–  The Skip Rats
–  The Arsonist
–  The Car Thieves

Part I – The Skip Rats

When a large blue skip bin appeared outside the house directly across the road from us, it was clear that some big renovations were about to begin.  Well, either that or someone had passed away and they were clearing out the property.  We weren’t entirely sure, and we didn’t really care.  The only difference it made to us was that it put a bit of a squeeze on car parking in the street for a while.

One morning as I leaned against the kitchen bench, gazing out the window and munching on a Bovril slathered piece of toast, a middle-aged man in a green sweatshirt and track pants shuffled slowly past the blue skip bin.  Seconds later, he shuffled back past in the other direction, peering curiously into the skip.  I watched bemused from my elevated vantage point as he shuffled back past a third time.  What is he doing I wondered?  Is there something in there that he wants?

The terraced house where we lived in Ruby Street

I kept my eyes glued on this mysterious character as he turned square on to face the skip bin.  His shifty eyes flicked left down the street.  Flicked right.  And before I could choke on my crust he had hoisted himself up and swung into the skip with the finesse of an Olympic gymnast on a pommel horse.  My mouth fell open, bits of chewed toast tumbling onto the carpeted floor at my feet.  What IS he doing?!

For ten minutes I watched the man shuffling about inside the skip bin, before I finally called Roger into the kitchen.

“You won’t believe it,” I said.  “Look at this guy,” I exclaimed pointing down to the bin.

“Oh yeah.  Skip rat.”

“What?”

“Skip rat.”

“What the hell is a skip rat?” I sniggered.

I listened attentively as Roger told me the customs and behaviours of a skip rat, a name given to a person who rifles through skip bins seeking antiques, treasures or just a little something for the mantelpiece at home.

“I’ve done some skip ratting in my time,” Roger admitted casually.  “You find some good gear in there.”

I threw him a dubious look before returning my attention to the man in the skip.  Our rat’s rummaging had been a success, and he leapt out with an old painting and a box under his arm, scurrying away with his precious trophies.  However, by midday, he was back, and this time he spent three hours in the skip, assembling his discoveries on the footpath before sweeping them up in his arms and scurrying off home again.

I was stunned!  These English are crazy, I thought, but that was just the beginning.  For the next couple of days I watched skip rat after skip rat stroll down the street, leap in, rummage about, leap out with their treasure troves and disappear.  The rats came in all genders, ages and classes.  They even came in pairs, and I snapped my new digital camera gleefully at the spectacle playing out before me.  For two weeks I stood at my kitchen window, camera at the ready, drinking tea and dunking my biscuits with delight every time someone new climbed into the skip.

“Bazz found a gold necklace in here the other day,” I heard one skip rat say to another.

“A gold necklace…” I murmured, my ratting instincts tempting my better judgement.

Skip rats hard at work

A few days later when I glanced out the window and noticed a witchy looking woman had loaded up the boot, back and front seats of her little blue car, I just had to take a photo.  This is ridiculous, I thought.  Her car was so chock full the mudguards were almost touching the tyres and her toddlers in the backseat had been buried under a plethora of what I can only describe as “junk.”

The next day when I arrived home after work, the police were standing outside the house next to the skip bin.  I raced upstairs and took up my viewing posse next to Roger in the kitchen who had been keenly watching events unfold.  He had no idea why the police were there, and since we had carefully logged the comings and goings over the last two weeks, we went downstairs to see if we could be on any assistance.  Or if I’m truthful, to be nosey!

“Excuse me officer,” Roger said in the deepest baritone he could muster, “is there a problem?”

“Good afternoon sir,” the policeman replied.  “It seems the house has been burgled, the workmen’s tools have disappeared.  Have either of you noticed anything unusual?”

Pffffftttt!  Unusual?  UNUSUAL?  My eyes almost popped out of my head.

“I did notice a blue mark III Fiesta parked here this morning when I went to work, but that car was here yesterday loading up stuff out of the skip” replied Roger.

The policeman became very interested.  “I don’t suppose you saw the registration?” he asked hopefully.

“I can do better than that,” he grinned.  “My girlfriend has a photo of the car.”

He stared in disbelief.  “Can I see the photograph?” he asked.

“You betcha officer!” I replied, and I bounded back upstairs as quickly as my slippered feet would carry me to retrieve my digital camera.

While I was fetching, Roger explained that I was a naïve Kiwi from Down Under who had never seen “skip rats” in action before and that was why I had taken a photograph.  He was trying to convince the policeman that I was not a stalking, obsessive curtain-peeping weirdo!

Caught on Camera! I have removed the license plate after consultation with my legal team.

As it turned out, a male relation of the woman we had photographed loading up her little blue car, had returned that morning and broken into the house that was being renovated.  The photograph that we had unwittingly snapped enabled the Cleveland Police to identify the licence plate and catch the culprit.  And if it wasn’t for us pesky kids, he would have got away with it!

Tune in again shortly for Parts II and III





Old Durham Town

11 07 2012

Date:   3 April 2003  (Sorry, no photographs of my own during this excursion.  I bought my new digital camera the week after this!)

In addition to England being filled from top to bottom with majestic castles and cathedrals, in every church there is inevitably a round ruddy-faced monk, or patient elderly church volunteer, whose job it is to stand at the base of an antiquated stone stairwell and encourage you to contribute a small donation for the pleasure of climbing to the top.  But more about that shortly.  This time around my exploration of the North East of England led me to Durham and the hallowed and ancient grounds of Durham Castle.

Durham Castle - view from within the Castle co...

Durham Castle – view from within the Castle courtyard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having spent a few years as a live-in residential assistant (RA) at University College in Dunedin, New Zealand – a hall of residence for first year university students – I was amused to discover that Durham Castle housed the very first University College in England.  It was certainly a far cry from the two familiar concrete slabs situated next to Otago University in Dunedin.  Spectacular buildings, secret stairways and dark dungeons were all enclosed within the huge, thick and impenetrable castle walls.  In Dunedin we only ever had two large glass swinging doors to keep out predatory teenagers.  Orientation Week was particularly troublesome as randy boys and girls loitered outside seeking a willing participant for a drunken one-night stand.

I used to guard the doors with a fellow RA nicknamed Filthy, and very rarely did anyone get past us on our ironclad watch.  Not even the All Black (who will remain nameless, but who later became Captain!) who pounded on the doors, flexing his calf and bicep muscles, and snorting on the cold glass in desperation.  Not even him.  It was a very entertaining job patrolling those “fresher” halls for three years, but those tales are an entirely different blog!

As I wandered through the dining hall and listened to stories of how Oliver Cromwell used Durham Cathedral as a make-shift prison to house Scottish prisoners of war, I envisaged him sitting at the head table, tearing the meat from a tender leg of lamb with his teeth, then quaffing the remains of his tankard before dragging some unlucky wench upstairs to have his wicked way with her.  Ahhh, the days when men were men.  Thank goodness those have passed!

Durham castle

Durham Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Strolling through the castle grounds and into the cathedral, I appreciated the gothic architecture, the flying buttresses, the fact that it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Shrine of St Cuthbert (?!).  Yes I did appreciate those things.  But on the other hand, how fickle of me to get outlandishly excited when I stumbled across the cloisters and learned that parts of the very first Harry Potter movie had been filmed there.  Of course in my defence the Harry Potter phenomenon was sweeping the world at an unprecedented rate at that time.

Durham Cathedral cloisters used to film the Ha...

Durham Cathedral cloisters used to film the Harry Potter movies.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After entering the cathedral I made my way to the central tower, which I had been assured offered the best views of Durham and the surrounding area.  And it is here that I met the round ruddy-faced monk I mentioned at the beginning of this tale, complete with brown robes and rope knotted around the middle.  I grinned stupidly at him.  Let’s remember, I grew up in New Zealand during the seventies, eighties and nineties.  The only place I ever saw someone dressed like that was in the television series Robin Hood.  “Hello Friar Tuck” I murmured, nodding my head respectfully.

For just £2, he told me, I could climb the 325 steps to the top of the tower for a royal view of Durham.  I plonked my gold coin into his collection box, performed a few limbering stretches at the door to the stairwell and then tore up the steps.  I’ll be up here in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, I thought.

It turned out to be a whole lot trickier than that.  The stairwell was less than a metre wide and spiraled tightly in a very steep gradient, and with people coming down while I was going up, there wasn’t a whole lot of room to move in that space!  Aside from total lung collapse, a spasmodic heartbeat and unrelenting muscle spasms in my thighs and ass, I eventually made my way up to the tiny door at the top.

Keep stairwell.

This isn’t THE stairwell, but this is exactly what it looked like! (Photo: Flickr)

Unfortunately, the manner in which I swaddled my arms and legs around the centre of the staircase as tourists brushed past me was nothing less than an obscene representation of Demi Moore’s pole dance in the movie Striptease.  While women pursed their lips in consternation, men brushed uncomfortably close on their way past.  It seemed that I was the only one making an effort to flatten my body against the curved walls of the stairwell, while everybody else passed by without even so much as a tilt of the torso!  Children were also not faring well, many on the verge of tears at the steep gradient, which was a hundred times worse going down.  One footing error on the uneven and slippery steps would result in a quick fire ascent on your backside all the way to the bottom.  And I know I used to do that as a kid for fun on the carpet covered stairs of the Awamoa Hockey Pavilion, but having a slightly less robust posterior these days, the idea filled me with horror!

While I leaned over the parapet at the top catching my breath, I barely took the time to admire the views, so apprehensive was I about getting back down!

On my descent, the steps were so narrow that I had to step down each one sideways, and since two feet wouldn’t fit on the same step, I had to either step down two with the right leg and one with the left, or cross my legs over each other.  Both options left me precariously unbalanced.  It was slow going, and then there was the required flattening of oneself against the wall to let people pass on their way up.  It was a stroke of good luck if an arrow slit happened nearby that I could press myself into!

When I finally exited the bottom of the tower, my knees were knackered and my thighs burned hotter than two iron pokers pulled straight from a Blacksmith’s forge.  It made it quite difficult to walk and I looked like a malfunctioning robot as my knees snapped backwards awkwardly causing my legs to straighten in a restricted robotic movement.

I forced a polite smile at the round ruddy-faced Monk as I hobbled past him, trying to muster as much composure as I could.

“Did you close the door at the top?” he smiled.

Nice one, I thought sarcastically.  Friar Tuck had a sense of humour too.

And without looking back, I hobbled out the gates of Durham Castle and tottered back to the train station.





A Penchant for Blood…mwahahahaha!

7 05 2012

Anyone who has travelled through England knows only too well the plethora of castles and cathedrals that litter the country, and that for a small fee, one can wander through, gazing skywards, mouth agape at the enormous structures that are steeped in English history.

Of course, for many people who travel through England, there comes a time when the words “Not another bloody castle” are muttered through clenched teeth, closely followed by “Not another bloody church.”  At least that’s been the comment from the majority of travellers I’ve spoken to.

As for me, I can’t say I have ever felt this way.  Their stature, their beauty, their secrets, the famous and infamous people who have strolled or stormed their hallways and sturdy walls have always captured and fascinated me.  I remember the first church I visited after arriving in England like it was yesterday.  Whitby Abbey is indelibly etched on my memory forever.

It was a cold, grey, day in the North East of England and the wind had worked itself up into a frenzy as it snapped along the coast line.  On days like this the sea seemed to boil with fury and the stories of smugglers’ ships being devoured by the sea or smashed into the base of Huntcliff at Saltburn, was easily imagined.

Saltburn Pier and Beach

I drove down the coast to Whitby and parked on a corner high above Whitby Harbor where two massive whale jaw bones positioned as an arch towered above me, a path beyond weaving its way down the steep hill to the township below.  I gazed across the bay to the other side and instinctively pulled my coat tightly around me.  It wasn’t the chilling sea breeze lashing up from below that had made me shiver, but rather the black, uninviting ruins of Whitby Abbey that stared threateningly at me from the cliff top on the other side of the harbor.

Walkway down to Whitby Harbour and Township

I glanced up towards a third floor window of the Bed and Breakfast accommodation behind me and imagined Bram Stoker staring out of his window, on a day just like this, towards the imposing abbey, the stirrings of a tale about a vampire called Dracula awakening deep within his imagination.  It was the perfect setting and it was what had lured me to Whitby.

With my head buried into my scarf and coat collars, I shuffled through the bustling cobbled alleyways of the town, past the Dracula Experience filled with its wax horrors, fake cobwebs and blistering screams of thrill-seekers inside, across the swing bridge, past the quaint olde curiosity shops and past paned windows glinting with black Whitby jet, a golden warmth from within enticing cold shoppers to step inside.

Finally I arrived at the base of the infamous one hundred and ninety-nine steps from the novel, the very ones that Mina scurried up in her efforts to reach the safety of the abbey and escape the clutches of Dracula himself.  In a tail wind, I trudged up the worn blackened steps to the top, my breath coming in quick gasps after step number 135, the icy wind pricking the back of my throat.

Whitby Abbey on the cliff top

One hundred and ninety-seven, one hundred and ninety-eight…and then I was at the top, standing on the edge of a forgotten graveyard.  Black headstones that had become illegible with time tilted wearily.   Some were broken, some had sunken heavily into the ground, and some had just decayed with the weather, which by now was driving a cold hard rain into my face.  I dashed through the overgrown grass and ducked inside a small chapel.  It was damp, dark and eerily spooky inside, as if Dracula himself were lurking in the shadowy corner behind the pulpit, licking his lips at the sight of me and my flushed cheeks.  I shrugged my scarf up higher around my neck and sat quietly on a wooden pew at the back of the church listening to the wind moaning loudly outside.

After the rain had eased I wandered through the imposing ruins of the Abbey where remnants of great arches towered over me, black and crumbling.  The Abbey was an intimidating presence in Whitby and a spectacular attraction for the small town.

Ruins of Whitby Abbey, Whitby, England

Ruins of Whitby Abbey, Whitby, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I stomped back down the steps, the smell of hot chips wafted enticingly past my nostrils and I immediately felt hungry.  The Lonely Planet had bestowed the accolades for “Best Fish and Chips in the World” on The Magpie Café in Whitby, but it was closed for renovations, and so fate led me to a harbor side restaurant called Trenchers where I unwittingly ordered the best fish and chips I would ever eat in my life.  The fish was so succulent, so flaky, so fresh!  It was as if they had plucked it from the sea when they saw me walk through the door.  It has been nine years since Trenchers introduced me to Whitby Cod and chips, and nowhere else in the world have I found a feed of “greasies” that are even a patch on theirs.

Having hungrily devoured the hot fish and chips in record time, I stepped back out into the cold cobbled streets and began my climb back up to the whale jaw bone arch.  As the daylight began to recede, from out of the shadows came the most extraordinary creature: a female vampire.  My heart in my mouth, I recoiled away from her and pressed myself flat against a nearby bus shelter.  She grazed past me, flashing her black painted eyes in my direction, her burnt amber hair trailing down her back and her long flowing black robes flapping violently in the wind and she strode in her black Doc Martin boots to the end of the alley.  And then she was gone.

I panicked.  Had I stumbled through some rupture in time and relative dimension in space and accidentally ended up in Stoker’s novel?  Or alternatively, had the devil, that wily trouble-maker, possessed my soul when I wasn’t looking up at the Abbey?  I thankfully dismissed both conclusions moments later when a group of Gothic revelers passed by.  It turned out that my visit to Whitby had coincided with the bi-annual Goth Weekend festival which saw the town turn into nothing less than a Vampiric Underworld.  But, sadly, my day at Whitby had come to an end and I was unable to stay and drink blood, suck people’s necks and dance until dawn with the vampires.

In the years since, the Goth Weekend at Whitby has become one of the most popular Gothic events in the world and is now held twice a year.  I wonder what the Twilight phenomenon has done for the sleepy seaside town?

Unfortunately Rog hasn’t been unleashed on Whitby Abbey with his Panasonic Camera…the perfect reason to go back for another visit. And of course the fish and chips. 🙂





Initial Impressions of England through Kiwi eyes

1 05 2012

In 2002, in a pub in a small town in New Zealand, I proposed to my good friend Shaz that she join me on my OE to England.  I never really expected her to say yes, and when she did, well, I just thought it was the Jim Beam talking!  But when, two weeks later, I received a text from her saying that she had booked her tickets, I couldn’t have been more excited.  And on a summery New Year’s Day in 2003 we boarded Singapore Airlines bound for the wintery streets of Saltburn-by-the-Sea, England.

Shaz and I quickly become "allies" with the English publican, part of our master plan to be "locked in."

The posts that follow over the next while are tales from 2003 and 2004 when I was living and working in England, and of course (like every Kiwi who has gone before me) exploring the European countries.

However, now that I am wiser, older (unfortunately!) and much more sophisticated (ahem, cough), I find my observations and experiences to be a little naive, quite embarrassing and almost always amidst an alcoholic haze.  That said, there were also some bloody funny moments that I just have to share!

If there’s one thing to change a person’s outlook on life and make them grow up fast, it’s travelling!  So with some slight editions to one or two monumentally shameful stories (hindsight really is wonderful isn’t it?!), here goes!

 

March 2003

England is:

  • Pubs closing at 11am unless you’re “in the know” and can get locked in after closing.
  • Kiri and Shaz trying desperately to “get in the know”, but sadly often left outside in the brisk night air.
  • Not receiving a cheery “Hello, how’s your day going?” from the check-out operators at the Supermarket, and being blanked when you try to initiate polite conversation.
  • Having to pack your own groceries and waiting for the 70 year old lady with arthritis in front of you to painstakingly pack hers.
  • Walkabout Pub in Middlesbrough, particularly Steve, the manager, with the dreamy brown eyes.
  • Kiri’s drunken failed attempts at complimenting Steve on his dreamy brown eyes, while Shaz pisses herself (indiscreetly!) at a nearby leaner.
  • Cars parking on both sides of the roads facing any direction they please.
  • Leaping out of the way of cars swerving across the road towards you to park on the other side of the road.
  • No reduced cream for Kiwi dip.
  • Baked bean flavoured crisps (not chips!).
  • Being hit on because of your, quote: “exotic accent.”  What, this old thung?
  • Being called an Antipodean who has come all the way from the Antipodes and having no idea where or what that is.
  • Buses lurching forwards before you’ve had the chance to sit down.
  • Landing face first in people’s crutches on buses.
  • Getting the giggles on the Underground because you don’t know where to look, heaven forbid you should strike up a conversation with someone!
  • Leather skinned old women exiting the numerous Sun Tan shops that line the high street.
  • Women wearing high heels and cargo pants. How are they going to scale a two metre wooden wall in those if the occasion calls for it?
  • Girls wearing hardly any clothes at the pubs, and lots of them wearing fishnet stockings (?!!)
  • Kiri and Shaz staring at fishnet stockings in Debenhams for thirty minutes before shaking heads and leaving the department store empty handed.
  • A bird that sounds like an owl waking us up at 6.30am every morning.
  • Spending Saturday and Sunday mornings at 6.30am in pyjamas looking like Medusa on crack, hunting down an owl-sounding bird.
  • Squirrels scampering around the back lawn and up trees.
  • Kiri and Shaz chasing squirrels around the back lawn to see if they bite or not.




A Kiwi Hunting Expedition

22 04 2012

25 March 2005 – This post is told from my British husband’s point of view of his hunting experience in New Zealand.

I hadn’t been in New Zealand very long when one Saturday night during Easter I was invited to go pig-hunting with my wife’s Kiwi friends, a married couple, Tanya and Rodney.  I learned quickly that the great outdoors, and in particular hunting and fishing, were an integral part of the Kiwi identity.  Having never had the opportunity to partake in a bit of hunting in England (a sport mostly reserved for the upper classes, their horses and their hounds), I was as keen as mustard to have a go!

Gearing up for my second hunt - the offending Puma trainers nowhere to be seen this time!

But before I continue let me explain that these pigs are not the cute little pink porkers that “oink oink” happily around the English farmyard all day.  These are killer pigs, with tusks as big as an elephant’s.  Well, not actually that big because then they wouldn’t be able to move.  But hopefully my exaggeration is effective; they are BIG MEAN PIGS.  They are extremely fast moving for their small stature and if cornered, will charge with their razor sharp tusks straight at you.  Needless to say, a good gouging in the lower limbs by one of these pigs could possibly result in broken legs; at the very least a trip to the hospital.  Heaven forbid that a tusk should horrifically manage to lodge itself somewhere else!

WOW!  Exciting stuff, I thought.  Without further delay we leaped into the Toyota Hilux and headed for the hills.  Tanya and Rodney gave me some time to practise my aim and get used to the guns we would be using.  Where a static tin can was involved, I was a pretty good shot.  I imagined it would be a different story with the pigs from hell running at me!

The poise, the execution...just the manliness of it all ay?

We set off and after a few hours of traipsing nervously through the bush, senses fully alert, a pig had yet to cross our path.  I was starting to feel a little disappointed (albeit slightly relieved!) that tonight I would not come face to face with my first kill.  And then a wild animal of a different sort stumbled into our cross-hairs.

Rodney had spotted a fierce wild goat grazing on the top of a hill on the other side of a large and deep valley.  “How do you feel about shooting a goat?” he asked.

“I’ll shoot anything” I replied, teeth clenched and eyes as big as saucers.  I squinted into the distance as he pointed out my victim.  He must’ve had vision as good as Superman because I couldn’t see a thing amongst the expansive bush, but once he had handed me a pair of binoculars I could see the wispy goatee of my target.  “Billy Goat Gruff,” I snarled in my best Jason Statham imitation, “your days are numbered.”  I viewed this as nothing less than a life or death situation…even if the goat was on the other side of a valley about 3oo metres away.  All my time spent watching war and sniper films was about to pay off!

We stealthily maneuvered our way through rugged country that was completely piss-wet through, and I thought to myself “Good job I wore my completely inappropriate bright red and white un-camouflaged Puma trainers.”  My footwear proved problematic as we navigated the slippery and uneven trail (not that I could see any semblance of a path!) towards the unsuspecting goat.

After trudging carefully down our side of the valley, I was slightly miffed to discover that the bloody goat had climbed about 50 feet down the opposite cliff face and was now happily grazing on a very steep ledge.  Mountain goat it was, mountain climber I was not!

“What shooting position do you prefer?” Rodney whispered quietly.

Shooting position?  Huh?

“Ahem, well, I find the crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon position to be the best one to attack from,” I nodded, puffing out my chest in a manly fashion.

He carefully handed me the rifle, and then it was just me, the goat and the sounds of the New Zealand bush.  I peered through the telescopic sight and just as I got the cross-hair lined up on my prey’s front shoulder, the bloody goat turned and looked straight at me.  Aw shit, here come the sympathy pains …….it was like the damn trout I couldn’t batter on the head last week!

As it gazed at me with its big sad eyes, munching harmlessly on a tasty piece of gorse, I lined up the perfect shot in the centre of its chest and manning up, I LET HER RIP!  A deafening noise erupted from the gun, made twice as loud due to the shape of the valley, and the goat started screaming and running off down the hill with blood pouring from it’s front!  Tanya, my back up shooter, took aim and fired at the shrieking beast to finish it off.  After a few moments, we heard it crash through some branches and disappear out of sight.  A deathly silence filled the valley.

“Do you want your photo with it?” asked Rodney grinning.  Well, does the bloody Pope pray I thought to myself?  Of course I wanted a photo!

“If it’s not too much trouble getting to it, I would love a photo,” I replied eagerly.

So we set off down the piss-wet through valley and began the climb up the other side.  The first 20 feet was okay, but then the rest of the hill resembled the climb from base camp to the peak of Everest, minus the snow.  I have never been so thankful for lumps of speargrass sprouting from rocks on that cliff face.  Even if they did cut my hands to pieces!

After weaving up and across the cliff face, we finally found the goat.  A single shot straight through the chest and out the shoulder had done the damage.  A perfect shot would have been a bit closer to the centre – but shit hot nonetheless!  It wouldn’t have gone much further.  Tanya’s shot had missed, much to our surprise, but definitely to my delight as it meant that I could claim all the glory for myself!

After posing precariously on the edge of a very narrow ledge for a few pictures, my grin as wide as a Cheshire cat, we nudged the goat over the edge and watched it plummet about 150 feet.  It was to be left for the dreaded pigs I mentioned earlier to gorge on.

My thanks to Rodney who leaned dangerously backwards on the edge of a precipice to get this photo. There wasn't a lot of room here...room enough for my red Pumas though!

As we had come about 150 feet up the cliff face, we only had another 50 feet to go to get to the top, so in my trusty (and again, completely inappropriate) red Puma trainers, I scrabbled, scrambled and scraped upwards and onwards.  “Don’t fall off Rog, Kiri will kill me,” said Rodney.  This part was quite terrifying.  I had visions of the Westpac Search and Rescue helicopter coming and airlifting me to safety, reprimanding for my irresponsible choice in climbing footwear!  But all joking aside, I truly didn’t think I would make it to the top and I was really worried about both myself and Rodney.  I don’t think any man had ever set foot on that particular piece of New Zealand, and if I’d had a British flag on me I would’ve planted it right on the top!

I finally managed to get to the top with the help of Super Rodney and his gun belt/bumbag that he threw down to me and used to winch me up.  Then it was a long walk back to the ute.  By this time it was getting dark and every tiny rustle had my head swinging left and right, quietly praying that I wouldn’t see a wild pig with me in its sights.  Hopefully they were all far behind us enjoying the goat buffet.

As we drove back to town I felt exhausted but I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face.  And my weekend wasn’t quite over yet.

The next night I was invited on another hunt (no doubt due to my skillful shooting and climbing abilities?) to hunt the elusive pigs again.  This time I was totally kitted out:  combat fatigues, army issue boots and camouflage face paint. I think this unnerved Tanya and Rodney a bit.  “It’s not the movies Rog,” they laughed.

And this time?  Success!  We got two pigs.  Tanya shot them both, cut them open and yanked their guts out before you could say “Eeeww that’s a bit messy.”  This is a woman you definitely want to have around if you’re stuck on a desert island!  Shooting is certainly not a male-only domain in New Zealand.

She got most of the insides out, but the special technique for cutting around the bum to take the arse out had escaped her just at that moment, so she left them in.  And if you’re wondering why I didn’t get my hands dirty, it’s cos I was standing guard over her holding a rifle to ensure that the two other pigs that ran off didn’t come back to have a go.  Well that’s my story, and I’m sticking by it!

Once she had finished, we grabbed a pig each and began to climb up yet another hill.  Tanya was struggling a little carrying her pig, so I threw mine over my shoulder and held it there with one arm, pig’s arsehole firmly ensconced next to my cheek, and grabbed hold of a leg of hers – her pig that is, not Tanya’s leg!

As we continued up the hill, a sickly shitty smell began to waft into my nostrils and it was only when I got back to the truck that I realized that the remaining feces inside the pig’s arsehole had squelched out with the jolting movement of my walking, and was now oozing down the back of my shoulder.  Just couldn’t remember the technique, ay Tanya?

I’m not sure if that was a pig-shooting initiation ritual of some sort, a bit of Kiwi humour perhaps, but I took it all in my stride.  People say it’s good luck for a bird to shit on your shoulder, so how lucky must it be for a wild pig to shit on your shoulder?!  Midweek lottery, get your ticket!

My apologies to any vegetarians or animal lovers who may be viewing this post.

And that brought me to the end of my very exciting Easter weekend in New Zealand.  My great outdoors experience had been amazing.  For days I retold my adventure, footstep by footstep, to Kiri and anyone else I could get to stand still long enough to listen.

The beauty of New Zealand is that no matter which part of the country one lives in, this kind of excitement is right on their doorstep.  I guess that’s why it is such a popular pastime with so many Kiwis, both men and women.  Let’s face it, it beats going to the pub for a pint!