7.50am Waiting at the gate to board, I’ve already been stung for a mediocre latte. Over five bucks for any coffee not containing alcohol is a rip. I hate airports. No actually, I love them. I would be loving this one a lot more if it wasn’t in a state of under construction flux, and if Macca’s was anywhere to be seen. Don’t they know that eating a McDonald’s Bacon and Egg McMuffin pre flight is a sacred part of my travelling ritual? Now I’m hungry as hell and a bit pissed about my exorbitant coffee. Never mind, I’m about to get on a plane! I love planes. LOVE planes and anywhere they want to take me. Of course, another part of my travelling ritual is also drinking alcohol and buying it duty free. It’s early, so not drinking is no problem. And frankly, not having a bunch of clinking bags to lug is suiting me fine too. I always end up feeling like a packhorse in airports. I need to work on carrying less. Anyway, so far feeling fine. And hell, I’m on freakin holiday!
6.55pm NZ time. I am back at the farm. This place is some kind of rustic wonderland heaven. In summer it stays light way into the evening, sometimes until about ten at night. Right now the sun still feels hot and like you could almost burn. But that’s New Zealand for you: the land where things are so pure and raw they hurt. From where I’m sitting, outside on a gentle hillock beside the farmhouse, I can see a sun-filled meadow of overgrown golden-hued grass, backed by big, old, sprawling pine trees in dark green, the mauve-grey mountains behind and a huge, clear, Canterbury planes blue sky. I love it here. But I always find my first few hours after arrival confronting. Coming home to the city where I grew up and spent some of my early adult years, always floods me with an unprepared for spray of memories. I feel vulnerable because I’m not sure what will come to haunt me. It’s hard to ascertain which visions of my many former selves are fact, which are my own rose-coloured versions. I can’t remember everything that went on here, and I know I may encounter people who know bits I don’t necessarily want to be reminded of. It’s okay. It’s a classic case of the wandering small town kid. You go away and build a new self in a new place, but when you come back, the you that was there before is still somewhere around. You just kind of hope you don’t bump into it too often. I don’t know why though really. I had an awesome time in this town. I guess you just keep moving, and looking back or reliving the past isn’t always useful. And of course, when I return to the farm, I am always hit with the loss of my mother. The house and this place pulses with her for me. It is full of her touch – certain books, pictures, rugs, the way things are put together. There is a definite sense of her energy. And there are so many memories. So it is also a ritual when I arrive in this place that I cry for the mum that is so much here but isn’t. Then I clear the tears and enjoy being back in the presence of what she was, and back in this beautiful, honest part of the world, surrounded by the stories lived by the generations of our family that were here before us. Oh yeah, and I usually crack open a bottle of one of my Dad’s selection of crisp New Zealand whites, or a beer from one of NZ’s impressive little boutique breweries. Not this time. Today I toast the holidays with a glass of clean, pure Christchurch water; the best tasting stuff you’ll find anywhere, straight from the tap.