So, I went to New Zealand/Aotearoa. It was exactly as tiring, demanding, exhausting, full, sad, poignant, passionate, amazing as I had hoped and expected but also worried about coping with. (Of course I coped. I’m very skilled at coping. Possibly too skilled.)
These things happened, not in this order (and all of these things were the gold I was seeking) :
- I swam in the Pacific.
- my cousin made me fish, because he is passionate about waterways and fishing and fish stocks and flavour and the damage being done to waterways by over-intensive dairy farming. and even though I was only with him and his family for about 90 minutes, he cooked for me anyway. which I loved.
- I asked people to help me by picking me up, when it was difficult for me to get from one town to another, and they did and it was brilliant to be helped. (hah, who knew??!!)
- I met friends’ kids. Friends’ kids are GREAT.
- I made some amazing new friends and reconnected with some old ones at the Museums Aotearoa conference and was hugely grateful to them for instigating my trip – and for the Museums of Inclusion work. (And in the middle of my keynote I got them all to join in – 250-odd of them, and they did, because they were brilliant.)
- I led a Fun Palaces workshop on a marae – which was glorious because I have always thought that a Fun Palace is kind of like a hui and kind of like a marae anyway (and we came up with te reo Maori for Fun Palaces – nga whare tapere!)
- people made me dinner and breakfast and lunch and took care of me, which was bloody gorgeous.
- I was held, at the end of the massive work part of the trip, by the same group of amazing women friends I am blessed to have been held by and loved by and accepted by – and known by – since I was 12.
- I worked really really really really hard. Some days I did three events in a row, all of them 2-3 hours long, there were no days off for 19 solid days of work. It was totally exhausting. It was totally worth it.
- I swam in Taupo.
- I met my nephew’s brilliant wife.
- I fitted in an extra, unscheduled talk for some art students and loved doing it and was glad to be useful.
- my wife held our home and our life here.
- several lovely old mates stood in book-signing queues (!) to say hi, when there was no other time to say hi. amazing. so kind.
- the Ngaio Marsh people were lovely and welcoming and made me feel great about attempting the book (and now even more anxious about getting it as ‘right’ as I can), – but at least I now have two stones from the Waimakariri River to help guide my way.
- I talked to people who have known me since I was 5, people who have known me since I was 11, people who have known me since I was 13, people who have known me since I was 18, and people I met last month.
- I got a new tattoo, it says “nevertheless, she persisted” – and was part of a fundraiser for Shakti Women’s refuge in Wellington. My dear friend and both of her daughters had the same tattoo. I love it.
- I did book events for the Auckland Writers Festival, Word Christchurch and the Dunedin Readers and Writers Festival and the audiences were uniformly warm and receptive and generous.
- I did an amazing schools event in Auckland and because my being out is simply part of the story of who I am and what I do, so many young people came up to me afterwards and outed themselves and asked for advice, because who we are and who we love is EVERYTHING to do with how we write.
- I did my mate’s book group, lovely people, carrot microphones (it made sense there)
- worried about going to my Dad’s grave, because it is sad and difficult and he died a very long time ago now, but it is still loaded in many ways, I was looked after by two very dear old friends who picked me up in their car bedecked with leis and who curtsied and gave me a bunch of plastic flowers in ‘honour’ of my OBE. So we took lei-bedecked pics outside the little house where I grew up and bought a bottle of Waikato and shared it with my dad, and it was light and easy and the ghosts that were there (there are always ghosts) were welcome ones.
- I swam in the Pacific.
- I didn’t eat a hokey-pokey icecream, I didn’t eat a pie. (these are good things to eat and also, given my long-term un/happy relationship with my body image, good things not to eat!)
- I had lots of Fun Palaces office conversations on whatsapp. Some days, whatsapp IS our office.
- I skyped my therapist. I HATE SKYPE. I also hate the phone and pretty much any form of communication that is not written (like this) or face to face. So hey, breakthrough. (Also, still hate skype.)
- I went to a Buddhist meeting in Aotearoa for the first time ever – I started practicing in London about a moth after I arrived in 1986, and have never managed to get to an NZ meeting. Loved it.
- I stroked other people’s cats and dogs and was glad our very old lady cat (18 this week) was waiting at home for me.
- I shared the work I have been doing for the past few years – Fun Palaces and writing – with people who REALLY get it and care about the same things I do, and that made me very happy.
- I cried looking at the Pacific and at the Tasman and flying over Ruapehu, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, because when I had cancer three years ago (for a second time) I didn’t know for sure that I would see it again, be held in it again. I didn’t know I would be on that land, with those friends again, and I felt very very grateful.
- I squeezed people into the tiniest time slots when I had no other time to see them, and they were gracious and kind anyway, and not annoyed with me for having so little time to play.
- I went for a run on Palmerston North’s grid streets and a run along Taupo’s pumice shore.
- I wrote the radio piece I promised to write and deliver on my return.
- I was given a stunning gift of pounamu.
- I looked at the stars and followed the pointers to the Southern Cross.
And now I am home, this home, London-home. I have been back for a week. I’ve cleared the backlog of emails and post, mowed our little back lawn, weeded the little front garden, seen London friends, had half a dozen Fun Palaces meetings and a day in our office and written 3000 words of the Ngaio Marsh and been warm my wife’s welcome and eaten the foods I usually eat and been horrified at another stupid terrorist act in our – my – beautiful city and run in the park over the road and voted (sigh) and been irritated by strangers on the tube and walked up and down Coldharbour Lane six times and it is almost as if I wasn’t away for the fullest four weeks. Except I was. I have the pounamu and the tattoo to prove it. And the ocean, I have the Pacific in me again, for now.
You are amazing! 🙂
A lovely travel blog, thank you another insight into you, the woman, thank you again!
…and again i read the feeling behind your words and i have to blink away the tears, sitting at my boring office desk. Lovely.
oh, I hope the boring office gets a bit brighter!
You are an inspiration, thanks for this little view of NZ.