The Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth
A: One in the front, one in the back.
(Drew here, sorry for the delay)
I had to wait a good twenty minutes before I could talk to a bank manager. All I needed to do was change my billing address, but everything’s a bit more involved here. The manager interviewing me noticed my current billing address.
‘So, you live in London then?’
‘Not really, I was just staying there for a week’
‘Ok’ … ‘lived there your whole life?’ she was concentrating so hard on the screen that she could only manage to slur this question out the side of her mouth.
‘No… I’ve never lived in London. I was born here in Hythe but moved to New Zealand when I was five. I’ve never been back before, so it’s quite nice visiting old family and friends. I’m staying with one of my Dad’s friends just down the road.’
‘Do you like Hythe?’
‘Yeah, it’s really peaceful’
‘Oh yes. Must be different to what you’re used to in London’.
Hythe was indeed very peaceful. Jo and I enjoyed our two-weeks there and relaxed our pants off. Hythe is a town just outside of Southampton, which itself is on
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The Victory, Nelson's flagship at the battle of Trafalgar, now in Portsmouth Harbour
the Southern (you guessed it) coast of England. Hythe’s the kind of town where the police only have to worry about speeding mobility scooters and gangs of seagulls buzzed on sherbet they scrounged from a bin. Everyone greets each other by saying ‘oright?’ (‘oright’ is the usual response).
Kevin, with whom we stayed, has a 65’ tv, and the World Cup is on during the DAY (!) here, so the pants really were off. Jo was pensive or absent during most games, but came in to her own during England and NZ games. I have to commend Jo on picking up the intricacies of the game faster than I expected: prior to the tournament, “if a team scores an own goal, does the other team get a point?”; during the tournament “Capello really should play Heskey, I know he doesn’t score, but he created a lot of space and England really need a target man”. I wore my NZ football shirt and we drank beer almost every day for two weeks (not drunk drank, just drank drank).
I wasn’t sure if I’d remember a lot in Hythe, but a few memories did come back. Mainly images, enlarged and coloured
by time, but I was very young when we left. We visited my childhood home, and I found that I could remember a fair bit. When we were near the front door I remembered holding a whale balloon that I’d managed to keep for a good few months, and watching it drift outside into the sky after my brother’s friend had dared me to let it go. I got a little emotional at the memory, but I’m a man, so I kept it inside and let it out later by crushing beer cans against my head and torturing stray cats.
We did our first bits of shopping in Portsmouth and Southampton. They know who to employ to make clothes over here (children in other countries), so we were able to pick up some good deals. 2 quid (that’s right, I say quid now) for a t-shirt? Heyo! Jo was eying up some new bags, but I pointed out that she had enough already. I left her for 20 minutes and she managed to smear chocolate cupcake icing through her white bag and had to buy a new one. I never saw the cupcake, but each morning I wake to Jo
grinning triumphantly at me over her new bag.
We went to a wedding in an old house. Not an old house like your grandmother lives in, but a massive hunting lodge from a few hundred years ago surrounded by open woodland containing many free ranging cattle and horses. It was lovely until someone tried to charge rounds of drinks to Jo and my tab. I sorted them out the old-fashioned way (I told the staff at the counter).
From Hythe we went down to Wales (I’ve looked at the map too, and I know that Southampton to Wales should be ‘up’, but people always say they’re going down to Wales. Maybe they don’t mean geographically down, maybe morally or intellectually, but that’s just the kind of B.S. the Welsh don’t deserve, as every single person we met in Wales was flawlessly kind ).
We stayed in Lamphey, a town in Pembrokeshire in
SW Wales, with my Mother’s cousin. Lamphey made Hythe look like New York. We had to request the train stop when we arrived, and waved it down when we left. But we’ve found that small, country towns in Britain aren’t like country towns in NZ. The stone buildings are, obviously, less ephemeral than our wooden shacks, so small towns here are largely beautiful, rather than largely derelict (I mean this about really small towns; Lamphey has a pop. of 250-300).
Our stay in Lamphey was very different from that in Hythe, but equally enjoyable. Diane and Newton (our hosts) took us out each day to explore Pembrokeshire, so we strolled the ramparts of a fair few castles, and surveyed the fine beaches that this coast has to offer. The kitchen was converted into a sports bar at night and the ladies retired to the lounge for knitting and lighter programming.
On our second night in Lamphey (a Saturday), we went to a 75th birthday at the rugby club with all of my mother’s family. The birthday girl (sporting her birthday tattoo) greeted us near the door with a big hug and a “you must meet my granddaughter, she lived in
New Zealand”. Five minutes later “Have you met my granddaughter yet? She’ll want to talk to you”. Another five minutes, “You must remind me to introduce you to my granddaughter”. Finally, “Rowena (guessing the name), this is Drew and Jo, they’re from New Zealand”. Rowena: “Hi” .
I didn’t really mind being rejected by Rowena because the real focus of the evening was the disco. The dance-floor was generally populated by 1,2,3,4 people rocking around the clock, but, as they so often do, the DJ went about it as though he were working at Two Bears in Ibiza, ceaselessly mocking the revelers, with “I CAN’T HEAR YOU”s punctuating each spin of Cotton-Eye Joe (in Lyon some cotton blew in to Jo’s eye and she went on about it, pointing to her eye, barely able to scramble out cotton… cot… cotton eye…Jo, between fits of laughter), YMCA or Summer of 69. All this viewed through a veil of fake smoke, which made the whole place smell of cheap bubblegum. The Disco was hilarious, but everyone knew that it was hilarious, but still joined in and had a good time [Jo: Drew makes it sound like we joined in and had
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A lonely Drew and an amazing wedding venue
a fantastic time cutting some shapes on the D-floor. We restrained ourselves]. I had an excellent night and got a fried breakfast in the morning. Quotes of the night include the DJ’s “Pete’s got his shirt off” (and boy did Pete ever), and Jo’s “I thought that man was retarded but he’s actually just a normal man who can’t dance”.
Now we’re in Cardiff, which is smaller than I thought with a pop. of just over 300 000. Cardiff is a lovely wee city; it reminds me of up-market Wellington in the center, and Dominion Road around the outskirts. Yesterday we had lots of transport delays and some bad weather, Jo labeled it a ‘stupid day’. I said it couldn’t get any worse, and then a lady slipped while getting on our bus and knocked herself out, so we had to wait for an ambulance. Jo said it was my fault, and I should feel bad for tempting fate, but I was filled with a great sense of power.s
Millennium Stadium is very cool, and I have vowed to return to see the Tri Nations-holding All Blacks defeat the Welsh in November.
Up next: Nottingham and work. Should be
good. Spain just scored against Paraguay.
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