Tuesday, 23 November 2010


I’d been warned the landing at Wellington could get very rough, so I waited with my usual sang froid and got so engrossed in a game of Scrabble played on elder son’s ipad that we touched down before I had time to worry. I should say that I abandoned Russel Crowe as Robin Hood in favour of Scrabble, which will no doubt be heresy to some, but I have never seen his charm. Also I lose patience with the cavalier way modern films trifle with British history and legends, but won’t go on a rant here. Suffice it to say that I sincerely hope one day to have a UK company make a film in which Billy the Kid is portrayed as a worker for the World Wildlife Fund – it’ll be about as meaningful asthis latest version of RH.
Breakfast in a local cafĂ© next morning, followed by walk along the harbour and a trek to a shop called Small Acorns. Not my style, but the daughter-in-law dreams of furnishing a new house entirely from its range. To me many of the patterns look distressingly similar to the patterns we had in the 1970s, but to thirty-somethings, it’s all new. Or, as daughter-in-law says, it’s a generation thing. There’s a website.: smallacorns.co.nz and a blog at smallacorns.blogspot.com

Finally gave up on walking to the ferry terminal which is no longer comfortingly close to the town centre as the town map states. After a struggle we ran a taxi to earth – why is it they disappear when you really need one but flock around like seagulls when you don’t? Set off for Picton on the south island. The distance between the north and south islands of New Zealand may look about an eighth of an inch on the atlas, but it is three hours on the water. The boat heeled over like a racing yacht in the wind, which made walking to the bar difficult, but once we turned in among the headlands, bays and coves, everything settled on an even keel and we could get the drinks without staggering into stranger’s laps.

The land is reminiscent of the western seaboard of Scotland, except that all the headlands and hillsides are covered in woodland. Rich, lush woodland that looks nothing like ours. Palm trees erupt among the greenery, none of which I can name – except for the eucalyptus, which some people say is also known as the gum tree. Ferns that grow two and three feet in the UK sprout eight and nine feet high in New Zealand.
In picturesque Picton we picked up our hire car and drove down to Blenheim, about half an hour away, and found Rapoura Road and the Marlborough Vintners Hotel. There we settled in our “room” – a lovely modern chalet, with a splendid uninterrupted view of the mountains. Dinner was good, too; in my case, roast blue cod, which turned out to be just as white as cod in the northern hemisphere.

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