Russell January 2021

For many years now a friend of mine has been trying to get me up north to stay at her farm cottage, but it’s never happened for many reasons. But this Xmas break we picked a date and stuck to it and it actually happened.

Selena picked me up in her brand new car and we headed north. Our first stop was at the Eutopia Cafe which I have driven past many times and always thought I should stop in because it looks so cool and very different. So I was really happy to be stopping there for coffee after all these years.

My joy didn’t last long, as they didn’t have any Covid check in QR codes displayed anywhere and there was no hand sanitizer anywhere and no soap in the toilet. Luckily I always have some with me and I asked for their QR code. They were quite rude about it and gave me a look that said: “this is not Auckland – we don’t have Covid”. So we didn’t stay there to drink our coffee, we took it back to the car and drunk it on the way. Turns out a week later somebody with Covid visited that cafe and it became one of the locations of interest!

In the past when I have asked Selena where her cottage is she has always said somewhere north of Whangarei, so I thought we were headed for a place near Whangarei. So when she asked me how hungry I was and would I be ok till we got to Russell because there is a nice hotel there she wanted to go to for lunch, I was very surprised but very happy to be going there for lunch. I have been to Paihia but never Russell and I had an Irish flatmate in Japan whose claim to fame was that she’d worked at the “Duke“. Which is a famous hotel in Russell and one of the earliest hotels in New Zealand apparently.

When we made it to Paihia we had a bit of a drive round to see how much it’s changed since I was there back in the early 90s. Then we headed for the car ferry that takes you from Paihia to Russell. We drove on to the pier after a really short wait up the road and then the pier MOVED! Well not really but I thought it did – turned out what I thought was the pier was actually the car ferry. Guess I was expecting something big like the Cook Strait ferry or maybe even the Devonport ferry. But this thing was more like a floating platform that moved. I was hoping to get out and move around maybe even get a drink or something – but nope – we were trapped in the car! For a whole 10 minutes LOL.

After a really great lunch in the grand old Duke of Marlborough we strolled around Russell, bought some supplies for the cottage and headed for the farm.

We took a slight detour to see one of Selena’s favourite spots where there is a house tucked in to the hillside and for some reason made me think of Hollywood and Marilyn Monroe.

Finally we made it to the farm – what a stunning place. Nobody around for miles, lots of land for cows to stroll around and a view of the ocean. So peaceful and so quiet, it was going to be very hard to leave this place.

Shortly after arriving we grabbed a few drinks and went for a stroll down to a small river that runs through Selena’s land – she called it a stroll, I’d call it a trek across dangerous terrain and wilderness. While seated by said river and enjoying the nature I saw a random cow appear out of nowhere and as I tried to remain calm it got closer and closer. Eventually I exclaimed: “COW”, which Selena thought was hilarious, because she couldn’t see the cow approaching from behind her. Till I yelled out: “There’s a COW headed for your river”. I thought I was safe on my side of the river but apparently the river didn’t make any difference to the cow and it crossed over in order to get a closer look at us which is when I took off very quickly up the steepest bit of terrain I could find knowing it couldn’t follow me. I had no idea though that this was a mountain climbing cow and the hill meant nothing to it. Selena tried her best to shoo it back to where it belongs – turns out the herd of cows don’t belong to her and had somehow broken through the boundary fence, probably lured over by the smell and sound of naive Auckland city folk (and alcohol).

That’s the cow that chased me – it didn’t want to face me once it saw the camera and we weren’t on good enough speaking terms to ask for it to pose for a photo.

The rest of my time on the farm was awesome, Selena even lit a fire for me and scared off a few curious possums. The cottage was wonderful – filled with books, plants and beautiful old furniture – and each piece had a fascinating story of where it had come from and what its history was.

Thank you Selena for a wonderful trip.

Lockdown 2020

The COVID-19 (Novel Corona Virus) which started in Wuhan China late December 2019, forced New Zealand in to lockdown on Thursday the 26th of March.  Prior to this I started working from home on Monday because I had a laptop and was not involved in any face to face training that week so I could.  News of the lockdown came on Monday afternoon, so I raced to the supermarket before the inevitable panic buying set in leaving nothing for me to buy on the shelves.  I’d seen videos of other countries and the awful behaviour of people buying up all the toilet paper and desperate people punching each other in attempts to get at least one pack.

Luckily when I got there I only had to wait in a queue of about 10 people and only took 10 minutes before I got in to the supermarket.  It had a strange surreal feeling about it, people behaved weirdly and one lady with her friend going up and down the aisles at the same time as me constantly commented loudly so everyone could her how virtuous she was, on how they were only buying just enough to get buy on and shame on all these other people.  However she wasn’t virtuous when it came to the 2 meter distancing rule coz she constantly got way too close to me, which made me speed up my shopping but as luck would have it, she ended up right behind me in the checkout queue.  I gave her the death stare but she was too busy bragging about her minimalist shop to notice.  Her trolley was overflowing – how many people live in her house?

My supermarket had plenty of toilet paper but no bread!

While heading back to my car a slight panic attack set in as I thought the stress of the world closing down had got to me and my car looked strangely different.  It had changed colour and one wheel was all rusty (had I driven through some rusty coloured puddle?).  But then the car parked next to it backed out revealing MY car.

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What are the chances eh!  I never see any other cars on the road like mine, it’s not really very common, it’s a bit old now.

On the drive home it felt like the world was ending, everybody was driving like maniacs, far too fast and doing strange things like U-turns in weird and dangerous places and like they were the only cars on the road.  It felt nice to get home and close my garage door shutting out all the madness.  And so started this blog post, I thought there would probably be many more strange events that would fill a blog post and be a reminder to me one day when I can look back at all this, and think oh yeah – that’s right, that did happen.

The underpants incident.

One morning while getting dressed for working from home, after putting on boxer shorts and a tee shirt I had this random thought that the black boxers looked just like shorts and who would know or care if I didn’t put shorts on today.  Even if I attended a video conference for work nobody would ever see or realise I wasn’t wearing shorts.  However that is not something I would do, so I put some shorts on and laughed to myself how much the shorts really did look like the boxers, just a little bit longer.

Later that day I went to the mailbox… just as I got to the end of the driveway having walked past several people and houses I had a terrible thought – I wasn’t wearing any shorts!!!  I did a very weird kind of maneuver as I tried to pull down my tee shirt to cover up this fashion disaster, in case anybody was looking.  A moment later I remembered I was indeed wearing pants and I could breathe normally again.

The Bush is Closed.

One Sunday morning halfway through lockdown I set off for my usual bushwalk, really looking forward to seeing the beautiful huge trees and getting out for some fresh air.  As I approached the path that takes you in to the bush I noticed a man staring at the track and I thought he better hurry up coz I don’t want to come too close to him while entering the track.  But he just stood there and soon enough I caught up to him.  He told me it was closed and sure enough there was a brand new fence blocking our way in to the bush!  Shortly a very fit jogging lady turned up and then an elderly couple came walking down the hill.  We all just stared at each other and then turned around and headed back the way we came from, all in different directions.  I guess there are parts of the bushwalk that would be impossible to get past someone without entering their bubble, so they had to close it to keep us safe.  I’ve never seen that many people headed for that track ever.  I’m always alone!

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So I went for a longer walk along Onewa Road.  It was strange to see no cars on the road.  Onewa Rd is one of the busiest roads on the North Shore.

You can’t buy Wine or Beer on Easter Sunday.

I usually go to the supermarket on a Sunday evening, but with the lockdown I know this is not the best time to go and now that I have to make my lunch every day, it’s important to go while they still have cooked chickens available so I can eat some kind of meat for lunches during the week.

So I have been keeping a very close watch on the Google “popular times to visit” chart.

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I rushed out when I saw there was a dip in the chart and it turned out to be very wise as there was only 4 people in the queue and I only had to wait about two minutes.  I managed to get a chicken no problem, but shock horror I could not buy any wine or beer!!!  How did I not know this?  I drank up all my wine last night happy in the knowledge that I would be able to replenish my stocks the next day.  But no – all the alcohol was trapped in cages, like animals in a zoo – only to be looked at but not touched!

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Things I missed the most while in lockdown:

  1. Hugs
  2. Buying my lunch
  3. Mitre 10
  4. The TV Guide

Things I learnt while in lockdown:

  1. I can make my lunch every day and be creative if I have to.
  2. You can’t buy wine or beer from a supermarket on Easter Sunday.
  3. I am on a lot of emailing lists – including every single chemist I have ever brought restricted medication like Voltaren from.

And now New Zealand has moved from Level 4 lockdown to Level 3, we were in level 4 for 4 weeks till the 28th of April – but I’m still working from home and living in a bubble, so it doesn’t feel any different to me.  I still can’t get hugs or go shopping in Mitre 10 and I still have to make my lunch.