Slice of Heaven By Dave Dobbyn
SCA terms are very long. SCA holidays are very short.
I’m getting good at this copywriting thing, aren’t I?
Despite the brevity of the SCA holidays, this Christmas I decided to fly home to New Zealand. This was a genius decision in lots of ways (summer, no snow, good inspiration for my upcoming SCAB, summer) and a bad decision in one major way (jetlag).
So okay now I’m going to talk about New Zealand. Woohoo. SCAB.
I touched down on the morning of Christmas Eve, although I left two days before. When you return to Auckland Airport, you walk through a wooden archway made of Māori carvings, and they pipe through this motion-activated recording of a karanga, which is like a sung greeting. I always used to think it was a bit dramatic but that was back when I was coming home this way a lot. Once you’ve been away from a while, it can have a bit of an effect on the tear ducts. Or maybe that was the UTI I’d developed just before leaving.
A year ago, the walk through the airport would have ended in a bus trip to a hotel, and two weeks in quarantine. But no longer. I trot out into my parents’ sunny arms. Off we go for some decent food and water that doesn’t taste like a science experiment gone wrong.
The Christmas tree this year is from the Christmas tree farm down the road. This means it is well-formed and looks nice in our house. When we go to the beach, the tree is one that we have found ourselves and cut down. It is normally a bit lopsided and it almost inevitably falls on my youngest cousin at some point during the festive proceedings.
On Christmas day, I eat three croissants and don’t drink anything because I don’t have a UTI anymore but I do now have antibiotic-induced digestive issues. God gives his toughest battles to his sorest tummy girls, I guess. I know I must power through so I eat the last piece of rocky road and a large amount of trifle. My relationship with lactose once again jeopardised, I declared the day a success.
We drive up the Coromandel coast every year, past an enigmatic cheese barn and past the makers of the World’s Best Gin (#sponcon). Kereta is tucked around a bend on the Thames Coast Road. Perched on the hillside is the house my grandfather built to retire in, although his premature death meant that plan never came to fruition. I try not to think about how an advertising career preceded that particular event.
Kereta is what I tell everyone at school that New Zealand is like – no internet, limited cell reception, and, until recently, water you had to boil in order to drink safely. One summer we came to the coast and unearthed an enormous dead pig underneath the pampas grass, which we had to bury.
As my uncle Daniel says, ‘sometimes life just gives you a big dead pig to bury’.
This summer I saw a live pig when I went for a walk down the dusty farm road that splits the hills in two. Since this pig was bigger than I was (probably), I decided to turn around. I have learned that big pigs aren’t actually as fun as Marks and Spencer makes them seem.
On New Year’s Eve, a whole bunch of us went to the Coroglen Tavern, which is in the middle of the particular nowhere found about 15 minutes’ drive from Hot Water Beach. Bribing a couple of locals to be our sober drivers, we spent six brutal hours enduring Aotearoa’s apparently prolific local reggae scene, refusing to pay $7 for a mince and cheese pie, and marvelling at the high concentration of men with both mullets and moustaches. There are, apparently, some things you can’t get in London.
And then, suddenly, it was time to get on another plane. Because the SCA terms are very long, but the SCA holidays are very short.
That’s some good bookending, isn’t it?