Monday 6 February 2012

Woe-tangi Day

Waitangi Day today, our day of national celebration, theoretically, of being glad that we live in New Zealand where it's peaceful, orderly, democratic and comfortable - except it never is. It's a day seized on by Maori activists to wave banners, shout a lot about the Treaty, shoot the flag, rough the Prime Minister up a bit or at least drown him out, and generally make the rest of us sigh and look the other way. At least normally we can go to the beach, relax in the sun, enjoy a day off, the last long weekend of the summer - except we couldn't do that either this year because despite a cruelly tantalising sunny start, grey cloud soon muscled in over the sky and the cool breeze blew, and only the very hardiest made it into the water.

We certainly didn't, although with our English visitors we drank a lot of tea and coffee and spoke at length about how very, very cold and snowy it is at home for them; compared with which, our 23 degrees seemed positively tropical. The plastic screens were down on the deck of Vino Vino, so our very nice lunch - scallops and creme brulee for me - went down in comfort as we gazed out over a bay that, on a good day, can look like Thailand but today was rather more like England in November. So afterwards it felt right to go to Blackpool, the Waiheke version, where the tide was, appropriately, out across the uninvitingly pebbly sand and we trailed onto the Piritahi Marae much too late for any of the ceremonies, even the most popular one which was the opening of the hangi: the earth pit filled with hot stones and wrapped meat and vegetables which in my experience at least is considerably less appetising even than that sounds. Pallid, greasy meat and steamed root vegetables are something you need to be desperately hungry to consume, let alone enjoy, I reckon.

So we moved onwards and upwards, literally and metaphorically, to Te Whau vineyard and restaurant, for something a bit more sophisticated (and edible) in the way of afternoon tea, and to look at the view which, on a normal summer's day could be [see above] but today was all in shades of grey. Sigh.

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