Thursday 27 May 2010

These short flights are seriously over-rated

I hit the deck today - literally. The torrential rain that the whole country's been having (turning to snow now down south) has, disturbingly, been running down the side of our house under the eaves, and last night extinguished the outside light by filling the globe shade with water. House maintenance is not our strong suit here at #7, but even we realised that somebody should do something. And, as always, given RW's ham-fistedness and my own frugality, that person is usually me.

So there I was on the roof, nodding sagely at the 2cm-wide break right across a tile, thinking "That's probably the culprit right there". Then I stepped back onto the ladder and whoops! It slid away across the smooth, wet boards of the deck and I took the short way down, with just enough time to think, "Here I go again."

Practice makes perfect, though, so this time I took the main impact on my best-padded area, with only secondary damage to other bits, including two neat bite-marks on my lip, and none at all to my head. Also, the Baby was there to help out, having only days ago completed a First Aid course. So, Win!

The Baby was also on the scene at a previous moment of drama a few years ago, when I fell backwards off a staircase onto concrete and both knocked myself out and broke my wrist (mind, my sister who's a nurse was also there, so that too was pretty good management, I reckon). This was on Waiheke Island, in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, and our favourite holiday place.
Only a 35-minute ferry-ride away, it feels like another world there: warmer, quieter, friendlier, super-relaxed; and with white yachts bobbing on water so turquoise edged by sandy beaches so bright, it really can look like Thailand. There's history at one end, with WW2 gun emplacements and rocks shot out of ancient volcanoes, acres of excellent vineyards, some brilliant restaurants in stunning locations, lots of art and craft, as well as a two-yearly sculpture exhibition scattered along a coastal path with fabulous views, lots of walks, a kayaking option...
We've holidayed there for years, and it has a special meaning and lots of happy memories for us all. Except maybe not the time I had to go back to the city on the police launch Deodar, a cardboard kidney dish tucked under my chin, to meet the waiting ambulance...
>>> When you arrive on Waiheke Island at Kennedy Point on the car ferry from Half-Moon Bay, the first thing you see is a sign reading ‘You’re here now. Slow Down’. It’s more than just a road safety instruction: it’s an invitation to slip into the island lifestyle where there is time enough for everything, and especially for doing not very much at all. On our annual summer holiday we wind down before we even arrive at our rented Palm Beach bach, but this time we have just one weekend to give our German visitor a taste of Kiwi beach life, and there is so much to show her that we need to stay in city mode.

Not that it feels like that, as we queue on the footpath for our paper parcel of snapper and spuds from OFC, the best fish and chip shop on the island. We carry the hot bundle down the hill to the beach and sit on the sand licking salty fingers as we watch the sun retreat from the bay and the yachts become black shapes bobbing on the silver water. Back at Palm Beach, the novelty of having the sea so close draws Julia, from Bavaria, down to the shore again and we walk along the wet sand in the dark. The foam at the edge of each wave is luminous, forming a scalloped pattern along the beach; there is a halo of sea haze around the orange street lights behind us, and out beyond the bay a red light is blinking. The water is still warm and Julia is captivated: it is a far cry from her holidays in the Baltic Sea.

In the morning we make our Saturday pilgrimage to Nourish, a café at Ostend, where the service is fast, the coffee excellent and the breakfasts even better. It’s tempting to linger over the eggs Benedict, but just along the road is the weekly market, and there are bargains to be had. In the RSA hall and outside on the grass are stalls selling art, crafts, books, junk and food: crusty breads, lacy-edged crêpes, flavoured oils and home-made fudge. It’s colourful and busy with visitors browsing and locals catching up on the week’s gossip. On the corner stand two little girls singing in wobbly voices, with a flower in a pot and a dish for money at their feet. Kind passers-by have dropped a few coins into it, but no-one is staying to listen...

[Pub. Press 9/9/08]

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