New Zealand - written by Francis
One of the interesting things about this round the World trip is that we are not pretending to see the World. Many times already we have met people who are travelling for twice or three times as long. We know that a week is not long enough to see Fiji, and that India can't be done in a month, but that's not the point. And that's certainly not the point in New Zealand. The point is to see Mark, and catch as much of New Zealand at the same time.
Let me tell you about Mark.
Some of you know him. Some of you don't. If you're a member of my immediate family, then you may remember him being my guest of honour with Annabel at the Thompson family knees up in Bath a few years ago. If you're one of my friends, then you'll either have been out partying with us, spent the whole night talking to him, or heard me talking about him. Lots. Or, you may have no idea who or what I am talking about. Either way, I feel a brief introduction is required.
The man who gave me my first ever job in restaurants, as a waiter at the poetry cafe in Covent Garden when I was 18.
Engaged to be married to Tina.
Proud father of Daisy Rose.
The man who introduced me to the Landmark Forum.
One of my dearest friends, pretty much from when we started working together in 1994.
The man who I talk to whilst I cycle home at 3 in the morning when back in London.
Introduced to me by Chris Meade, who I used to babysit for at no. 57, Goldsmith Rd, Kings Heath.
Amazing, loony, legend of a man. My friend for life, with a huge heart and love for people.
New Zealand consists of 2 islands, North Island and South Island, one on top of the other. We are staying in the North Island first, about an hours drive from Auckland, the largest, city in NZ, but not the capital (that's Wellington), where we fly in to.
Mark meets us of the plane. He's a bit late, so we've been passing time by having a 'how fat / skinny will he be? How hairy (beard, hair etc) will he be?' competition. I win.
It's so amazing to see him...for only the second time in 2 years.
We drive out of Auckland in the rain as night falls. The electrics have suddenly gone in the driver side window so Mark drives with the rain blowing in his face. It's cold. Very cold. It's the very beginning of Spring in New Zealand, and not unlike our weather in England, except where we're going, you never get frost - the reason for some of the beautiful palms, plants and flowers we will see later in the trip.
Piha is a small community with a beach and a rock at the heart of it. The left of the beach is World renowned for its surf, and the right of the beach for it's beauty and the unpredictably of the sea. It's pitch black when we arrive.
Tina and Daisy Rose are both gorgeous - it's the first time both Sarah and I have met either of them. Daisy Rose is almost 8 months, and has waited up especially. We have an amazing dinner. It turns out that Tina is a better cook than Mark. Mark is a seriously good cook. We sleep.
In the morning, we wake up. I look out of the window. I am shocked. I jump on the benches built on the front balcony, and just stand there. The view is stunning. From the front of the house Lion rock is straight ahead, with beaches to both sides. To the left and right are the cliffs cutting the beach off. Further right is dense, richly green bush, which rolls right around the house. The house perches on a hill. To the back is a herb garden, vegetable patch, lemon trees, an olive bush and a passionfruit tree which refuses to grow. There's no water supply in Piha. There's a rainwater tank outside the house. Baths are a luxury that you have to wait until heavy rain for. The toilet is a compost loo. Looks like an ordinary toilet, but with no water...and no flush. After a trip to the loo, you simply tip sawdust down, and nature composts the whole thing. It's surprising, but it really doesn't smell. Pissing is (wherever possible) done off the deck of the house, and preferably at the foot of the lemon trees (the girls are of course allowed to do their business in the loo.)
The first weekend is spent hanging out with Mark, Tina and Daisy Rose (with the exception of going to the rugby to watch Auckland get horribly beaten by North Harbour while Tina looked after Daisy Rose). Mark and I are soon back in the swing of our friendship. Baby Daisy Rose is completely, ridiculously adorable. She's not yet walking, but is close. She does this thing where she rocks her head from side to side, whilst piercing you with her beautiful blue eyes. I may have to eat her. Tina is gorgeous and totally welcoming. I feel like we're at home.
Tina is a film producer, and is working on a film on the other side of Aukland Monday to Friday, so during the days it's the four of us....Francis, Sarah, Mark and Daisy Rose.
We very quiickly get into a routine. All cooking is done by the boys. We plan the food for the week on Mondays, going into town to shop. I have to say that we cook some great meals. I am becoming a better cook every day. I love it. We all help out with Daisy Rose. Sarah is completely amazing with her - a natural Mum. I steer clear of the smelly end of baby life as much as possible, but still notch up a couple of nappy-change assists.
We get out and about. We go hiking in the bush, walk on Piha beach and swim in the buttock-clenchingly cold sea. We spend a day in Auckland, and go up the Skytower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. They call Auckland the city of sails. There are more boats here per capita than anywhere else in the World. From the viewing deck of the Skytower you can see them. In Auckland, you're never too far from water.
Back in Piha we're cooking, walking, meeting the neighbours, having people over for dinner, laughing, eating, drinking wonderful wine, cooking, laughing, eating and gardening. I appear as a guest on Radio Piha (88.1) on the Chucky Linto show (Mark's weekly 10am-midday slot.) Radio Piha was inspired by Mark, and is a community station run by a computer most of the time, plus about 15 live shows each week. In my opinion, it plays better music than any station in the UK. On of the things I love about it is the way that the computer randomly picks its tunes, so sometimes you end up with Carol Carpenter followed by The Prodigy.
We spend both weekends away from Piha, on mini-vacations. The first weekend we go to Rotorua, South of Auckland, and on the second we travel North East of Auckland to the Coromandel peninsular. There's a seperate bit on the website for our weekends away.