KIWI BIRD CALLING – COLUMN #4 FROM NEW ZEALAND

Indulgent treats and continual hairs of the dog that marked 80% of the month of December are out the window and wedding dress time is looming closer and closer. Yup, the arrival of 2016 signifies means more time in the gym for me and fewer hours spent spend hanging out at our local ice cream parlour (Duck Island Ice Cream). Is it bad that Dave and I know the list of flavours off by heart? Oops.

Our hot Christmas out here in New Zealand was definitely one for the memory books. Christmas day saw us swimming in Lake Taupo and eating homemade burgers. I even got a sunburnt from all the outdoor frolicking. It was a far cry from the normal 25 December. The untimely burn usually comes from squeezing a delicious turkey out of an aga door that has a life of its own, and the closest thing to a swim is me and my siblings almost drowning in the rain as we walk down to L’Eree beach to build up an appetite. Each has its charms.

Before we left to go to the lake house, we did have one small drama. We came home late one night after a long weekend in Lake Tarawera to find our Christmas tree had disappeared. I managed to see the funny side of a MIA tree, but Dave aka Mr Claus (he takes Christmas very seriously) started to see red – and not the Merry Christmassy kind. We hunted everywhere, but no joy. We headed to bed that evening, mystery unsolved.

Turns out the tree thieves were in fact friends of ours – not the scrooge-like gang Dave had imagined. After a heavy night in Hamilton and some late night reminiscing about British festivities, they had dragged the tree into their room, turned on the fairy lights and listened to Christmas music into the early hours of the morning. Mr Claus couldn’t stay angry for too long.

We were a group of 12 Brits. Waking up on Christmas morning saw a lot of champagne and bacon sandwiches for all, but the priority for most of us was speaking to loved ones, even if just for a few minutes. Christmas really brings us all together regardless of where we might be in the world.

We squeezed a lot into the last few weeks of 2015. A major highlight was finishing a 15km trek around Lake Tarawera which, though tough, made for some beautiful views of the lake, surrounding forest and nearby volcanoes. That weekend we stayed in a ‘Bach’ (pronounced batch), the kiwi version of a holiday home, which you can very easily find online through websites such as bookabach.co.nz – they are incredible value and I would highly recommend as opposed to regular hotels. For £90 per night we had a huge house to ourselves (that could sleep 8 people). It overlooked the lake where, from out balcony, there was an endless vista of water, trees and mountains. Nature at it best! It’s amazing what you can get for your buck out here.

Walking through the Waimangu Thermal Valley was something I’ll never forget. With steaming lakes, bubbling springs and colourful rock faces at every turn, it was like something out of J.M Barrie’s Neverland. Kerosene Creek was another favourite. It’s a thermal hot pool and waterfall where the water is around 40 degrees. You are totally immersed in nature with it being in the middle of a forest. Hamaruna Springs, Okere Falls and the Huka Falls were also incredible and I would highly recommend.

Well, we’re almost a month into 2016 already (!).

January is undoubtedly the toughest month of the year – you’re constantly writing the wrong date, you’re a tad on the bloated side and there’s just no genuine excuse to watch The Polar Express anymore. The struggle is real.

I saw something online the other day that said: “In four years time, the 90s will have started 30 years ago”. Don’t new years come around quickly? And even quicker with every year that goes by? Last year positively flew by for me – a constant reminder to make the most of each day. When you’re working it’s really very easy to live just for the weekends and count down the hours until you head home each day. But I’ve been thinking recently how we should all be embracing each day – even Mondays. There is always something to learn, something from which you can find joy and something about which you can be grateful.

Put your phone away, look around when you’re walking outside and make time to do something you love each day – be that strolling on your lunch break for 15 minutes with a friend, watching an episode of your favourite TV series or having a hot bath.

Sending my love to all of you in Guernsey – don’t worry I’m spreading the word about our beautiful little island.

Love, the Kiwi Bird.

My New Year Tips

  • Have an early Spring clean. If you haven’t worn half of your wardrobe since 2008, and 3 moths flew out of your wardrobe this morning, then it’s time for a clear out. Before I moved to New Zealand I cleaned out 10 black bags of clothes and donated them to Red Cross and Les Bourgs. My wardrobe breathed a rather large sigh of relief. It’s amazing how good it feels to have a decent tidy-up.
  • Just because it’s a new year, don’t feel you have to become a ‘new you’ this Janaury. Don’t try to do too many new things at once, because you’ll end up forgetting who you are. I’m doing lots of spinning which is new for me and I’m avoiding processed foods, but that’s it for now. Taking on new challenges if something I think is very important but there’s no need to take on everything this month, this year. Put your mind to a few specific aims rather than writing a long list of goals that in reality aren’t achievable in one month.
  • Plan a holiday. It’s good to have something to look forward to and even if it’s just ordering a few guide books or surfing online for a few trip ideas, it’s bound to brighten up a blustery January day.
  • Enjoy the little things. While it’s fantastic to have something to plan and look forward to, it’s also important to relax and embrace the here and now. Despite the drizzle, head out for a cliff walk, go into town for coffee with an old friend, cook dinner for your family, read a book by the fire and don’t check your phone for a few hours.
  • Go to the cinema. This has always been one of my favourite things to do. Going to watch a movie allows you to completely immerse yourself in another reality for a few hours. I always come out feeling refreshed – whatever the film. It usually forces you to look at your own life in a new way.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

This column appeared in The Guernsey Press on 30th January 2016

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