Aotearoa North Meets South

It feels a world away.

This jagged rock face

the dry, bitter winds

whistling through thorny Rosehip and Mataguri

over tussocks of yellow moss.

Air so cool and fresh in my lungs that it

stings my nostrils and pinkins my cheeks.

 

This place, these shortened sunlight days,

could not be more in contrast

to the sticky heat of the bush.

 

Linen off the line that comes in never quite dry.

Ferns curled as Kora

dripping with condensation.

A constant plume of flying insects following everyone, swarming on the golden beaches.

Sand in my shoes, salt in my hair.

Hot, humid nights, staring at the ceiling, trying not to move.

Early, curtainless mornings with the sun rising into orange hue.

After a seemingly endless day, the sun drops slowly into the blue ocean.

Crumbling clay banks coming alive with glow worms.

The dull ache of tired bones after a long summer.

 

So different now, as I sit amid swathes of blankets and cushions,

curtains half drawn

log burner bellowing dry heat

watching the steam rise from a cup of tea.

I look at the mountains dusted in snow.

The lake, glass-like, reflects that very same sky.

Why holidays make me hate people

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Before you jump to the conclusion that I’m an over-privileged brat that doesn’t appreciate holidays and idyllic locations, allow me to explain that I always enjoy holidays with family or friends, exploring new places and trying new things; yet at the end of every break I find myself with the same inescapable misanthropic attitude.
I recently returned from Greece; my fifth visit to the country where I enjoyed sunshine, food, beautiful sights and great company. However, towards the end of the 14 day vacation I found myself growing tired of the other holiday makers and beach dwellers to the point where annoyance has led to the general dislike of people. Most days I would lie under the shade of an Olive tree on the beach and was forced to observe over sunned men and women rubbing sun cream on each others leathery skin; rotund bellies full of Mythos beer hanging over faded Speedos which leave little to the imagination; flabby muffin tops and heavy breasts flopping over undersized bikinis; the most grotesque of tattoos that cover entire backs and arms. I have no objection to the bodies themselves, I just wish people could show a little humility when sharing a crowded beach and perhaps respect my personal space.
On walks home from the beach, bars and restaurants begin to fill with families and couples who require the sea bed to be swept clean and raked of all life so they can enjoy lavish amounts of seafood and rapidly diminishing crustations. They drink alcohol like a herd of tired elephants; draining glasses and snapping their fingers at the waiter.
An area that was once a quiet fishing village becomes swamped with plastic-tat shops and stalls for tourists to browse, scattered with loud bars, taxi ranks and ice cream parlours on every corner.
“Why not?” they hark “we’re on holiday, we deserve it.” The hedonistic holiday mentality depresses me immensely– the idea that we are somehow oppressed and deprived for all but two weeks of the year is laughable if one considers western lifestyles in comparison to the rest of the world where ‘holiday’ is an entirely different or non-existent concept.
I’m sad to say there were times when I longed for the modesty and desperation of England; of my hometown where tracksuit-clad youths would scrape together the last crumbs of tobacco to smoke a rollie in a rainy bus stop. Back to grey days and bulky clothes; strong cups of tea and clunky cars bustling through streets. Unbelievably the idea of returning home to a bearable temperature and not having sand blown in my eyes seemed pretty appealing; to be away from all the people and their selfish tendencies (that’s not to say people at home aren’t selfish) and their over-consumption of all that is good.
The thing about giving into misanthropy is of course the fact that I too am human, and I’m undoubtedly viewed as the same tacky-tourist type who arrives smothered in sun cream and ready to hog sun loungers. So you know what they say… if you can’t beat them, join them.
Written: June 2013

Greece

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In my head
I transport myself a thousand
miles or so
south.

To a warm breeze on my face,
the sight of crumbling
terracotta tiles.
The sound of soft rolling waves by day
and unseen Cicadas by night.
An occasional motorised scooter winding by
and the hushed buzz of happy people.

I think back to fresh tomatoes,
stonebaked bread,
Feta cheese,
and Mussles Saganaki.
The good mood food that makes life
that bit more vibrant.

The cats,
who could forget those friendly beggars?
Dying for affection
and a saucer of milk.

A SUPERMARKET
modestly sized, in every town
smelling of tobacco, postcards and
a freezer full of ice-creams.

Easy listening music plays in seafront bars
where drinkers gaze out onto turquoise sea,
and on the hilltop;
a monastery.

So clean and bright
blue and white stands
proud from the green bush and
dusty roads.

In towns,
I transport myself to cobbled streets and alleys,
gazing at menus,
gift shops,
a head scarfed Grandma sweeping her doorstep.

Never cold,
even at night, the hot glow of my skin
keeps me warm within.

How I long to be back there;
digging my toes into golden sand
and thinking life is simply grand.

Written: March 2013