I'm back in Auckland now; I flew up on Tuesday. My flight was hassle-free, as was the bus to the ferry terminal which got me there just in time for the 10:30 ferry. Except there was no 10:30 ferry, or any ferry at all for that matter. It never occurred to me that it was a public holiday, and anyway I thought the 10:30 ferry ran every day, public holiday or not. At least that's what my timetable says, but since when could you trust those? I was lucky enough to find a bus to Takapuna, but then I had no choice but to blow $20 on a taxi.
Nothing happened on New Year's Eve - I thought we'd go to the Caroline Bay carnival but we did that on Sunday instead. We watched the concert - the star attraction was Suzanne Prentice, supposedly some world-famous-in-New Zealand country and western singer. She didn't do it for me. The concert was hardly Gorillaz material, but hey it was free. From the concert we had a few goes on the chocolate wheel, paying for the dream of winning a box of chocolate, for we never looked like actually doing so. For some reason, out of all the games and side shows, people tend to gravitate to the chocolate wheel - it's the Texas hold 'em of the carnival. I also tried my hand at the darts game - I did hit one of the potential money-spinning black stars, only to reveal a "sorry mate, you haven't won" ticket. I like the carnival though. This was the 100th edition of it; they continue to make good use of the money people lose chasing chocolate-coated dreams.
On Monday I played nine holes of golf with Mum - this was her first hit-out since her back started giving her trouble. The pain had subsided so she risked a half-round and thankfully the pain didn't come back. Golf differs from most other sports in that (as far as I can see) tactics don't play a huge part. That's not to say I don't think mental strength is important (in fact I think it's vitally important), but it's rare that you say, hmmm, which way should I aim it this time? It seems that all players are trying to do the same thing with the ball, just that some execute it much better than others. I'd also say that natural talent plays a bigger part in golf than it does in, say, tennis. I've had a lot of wins over more naturally gifted opponents in tennis just by chasing down balls and staying in points. Such a concept doesn't exist in golf. Talking of natural talent in that game, I don't think I've got the necessary amount of it. I hit some nice drives and made five semi-respectable double bogeys, but I also ran up a nine on a par-four, not to mention one hole where I got mired in a bunker and gave up.
On the way to the airport on Tuesday we popped in to see one of my cousins (probably my favourite cousin) who lives in Christchurch with her husband and 11-month-old daughter (whom I'd only previously seen in photos). Then I hopped on the plane and it was back up here again to begin the Long Job Search. It was good to see Mum and Dad, and I was sad to leave them behind at the airport. It was also good to see some of my extended family again, even if conversation became hard (or impossible) at times. Much of the conversation was simply gossip about people in the local area, and Dad and I, who haven't lived there since childhood, were automatically excluded. At least I don't live there all the time. Dad, who does, feels understandably left out. In fact he feels totally marooned in Geraldine - he's too far away from everything and has little in common with the people there. I would say in 2005 and '06 this put him on the verge of depression; more recently he's come to (dare I say) accept his fate. With the current economy he's struggling to sell paintings, and although my parents are comfortably off I feel sorry for Dad.
I don't know when I'll be down there next. Hopefully it won't be too long until I am. My brother plans to come over at Easter, so if and when he gets his A into G and books a ticket (you never know with him) I'll grab a seat to Christchurch.