Welcome to Motueka

I arrived here in the pouring rain. White-grey clouds hung in damp swathes half way up pine trees, and I squinted ahead through the spattered windscreen wondering where the hell I was going, or if I was even in the right place. My journey to the south island, starting from a little suburb in Wellington had gone without a hitch so far, the most pleasurable part being a north-west drive along route 63, vineyards either side with a long straight highway ahead. I had the whole road to myself and enjoyed singing along to my Waterboys Live album.

As I drove along the unsealed road, feeling uncertain of the exact address, I saw four very wet horses in a field to my right. My hosts said she had horses, so this could be the place. Turning into the driveway I wondered if I was too early, but coming to a halt on the asphalt driveway I could see my host across the grass shutting the gate to a field. I wrestled with my rain mac and stepped out of the car, suddenly aware that I’m wearing fishnet tights, a summer dress and Doc Martins and being struck with the thought that I look like a real townie… what was I thinking when I put this on this morning when heading to work on a farm?

Walking towards the concerned looking woman I outstretched my hand “Hi I’m Bryony, nice to meet you.” We shared a sodden handshake “Janice. Welcome to Motueka. Have you seen my dog?” She looked around frantically “I don’t know if he went with my husband or if he’s gone off, roaming around.” Janice seemed very concerned and quite preoccupied in searching for her absent pet. “Here I’ll show you the cottage and you can get settled” She had a strong east coast American accent and stood at around five feet tall. Her shoes were not made for such a downpour and I could see they were wet through. I pulled my backpack from the passenger seat and followed her around the back of the huge garage to a little one roomed cottage with a deck that looked out towards the paddock with horses. Janice showed me the separation toilet system which is similar to a compost loo, explained the shower workings and the solar electricity use and left me to unpack my things.

Whenever I arrive at a new place, almost by default, I flick the kettle on and have a brew. It’s my way of making a place feel more like my home and musing over where I need to put things. I tested both beds and browsed the bookshelf which was full of travel books and non-fiction about sustainable living and wild plants of Alaska.

Sometime later I came into the house which felt somewhat warmer than the cottage, with the smell of slow cooked chicken and potatoes bubbling in the crock pot. Janice and I talked about her French ancestors in Quebec, learning French, my time as a chalet host in the Alps, and her friends who own a vineyard near here. “I did a whole day of grape picking with them yesterday” She told me “it can be really quite medative, and it’s so good to get to know people in the local community”.

I listened while she told me about her campaigns and petitions to ban the use of 1080; a deadly poison being dropped in rivers and woodland very close to their land. “They call it conservation, to kill off non-native animals and plants. But when you kill off what you don’t want, you also kill what you do want. It’s obscene. Complete eradication of life.” I mused on this for a while, and thought about my cousins work, a company contracted by DOC to pull out and tag non-native plant life. Do they use spray and chemicals I wonder? How many years does it stick around in the soil?

“Here’s a red I uncorked earlier” Janice took an unlabelled bottle from the sideboard and filled two small glasses of wine. I felt cold, my feet were damp on the floorboards and the window was open, I could have done with another cup of tea but when we chinked glasses and I tried the wine I was pleasantly surprised by its warm fruity flavour. “This was payment for yesterday’s picking” she smiled, and her dark brown eyes became warm and soft with the dusk light in the dining area. Janice and I played a game called Quirkle at the table, matching little wooden tiles with symbols and colours. She did well to explain it to me, my brain had become quite addled after a long journey and new surroundings and I tried as best I could to not completely muck up the symmetry of the game. Later, her step-son and husband Barry arrived home from a trip into town and they had Kai, the pet Labrador! Needless to say, Janice was thrilled to see him. I went to bed shortly after dinner and washing up, feeling quite tired from the journey.

The next morning I woke to the sound of the river, high with all the rainfall from the previous day, gushing vigorously over black rock. It was a cool dawn and the sun had just begun to rise over the high hills which were not visible when I arrived. I opened the door and the view took my breath away. I was struck by the beauty of being nestled in a steep valley of dark green fields, native bush and with patches of pine trees higher up. It reminded me of arriving in Morzine in the French alps; the first time I’d seen a real alpine town, there was snow settling on the higher pines and blowing into town.

Pulling on my chequered shirt, I thought about poo picking the paddocks, the sound of horses munching on hay, what I might eat for breakfast, and a steaming cup of tea.

The morning view of the valley

What a Girls Bed Means to Her

IMG_3634Being an eighteen year old girl myself, I can only speak for those of a similar temperament when I emphasize the inviolability of ones own bed. A girls bed must have a (preferably large) soft mattress that can withstand numerous lazy days, while the occupant lye’s atop the mountain of feather duvets and floral pillows eating Jaffa Cakes and pizza while trying to console her woes. The other requirement of a girls bed is fairy lights, or some kind of similar soft lighting to surround the area so that she may read until 3 am if necessary, wiping tears from her tired face whilst finishing a soppy book, or delving into renaissance poetry.
For, a girls bed, I must explain is a place of privacy and comfort; a place where she need not wear makeup, underwear, conform to social stereotypes or even interact with others unless invited to do so. It is imperative that the small patch of seclusion and peace remains such a place and is not invaded by intruders or those who enter uninvited.
It is a place of luxury; fresh sheets and a turned mattress at the end of a long day is all I want when my feet have been squeezed into heels and my back aches from desk-leaning. A girls bed is also a fantasy land. HAHA! I hear you cry. What fantasies do you speak of? Well, if you’ve ever read any Nicholas Sparks Literature you’ll catch my drift. The ability to lie on one side of your own bed and picture a loved one snoozing on the other is crucial when considering the privacy of your own space.
Carol Anne Duffy once wrote to open her poem Anee Hathaway: “The bed we loved in was a spinning world of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas where we would dive for pearls.” … you see what I’m saying? A bed is more than just a piece of furniture; it is a physical metaphor for the emotions and intimacy of a young woman. And I have mine all to myself.
Written: May 2013



In my head
I transport myself a thousand
miles or so

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.

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