New Year AND Summer Holidays begin in Southland

Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
Trip End ??? ??, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Well, Christmas is over and 2009 beckons. To put you in the party mood if you're reading this before 2009....

We hope you had a great Christmas - ours was different and relaxing. As is to be expected most of our Christmas customs went by the wayside. A few remained however, such as putting up our tree (albeit artificial and fibre-optic - well it is the 21st Century!) and dressing it (all 5 minutes) to the sound of Handel's Messiah (but not by candlelight). Stockings as usual - this year with mostly Kiwi tack and lacking the usual Christmas paper hankies, toothbrush, satsuma, nut and pound coin but lots of fun. No lunch preparation but a leisurely morning thinking of our family with a sprinkling of tears followed by a phone calls to friends and relatives (for whom, of course, it was Christmas Eve!) with a lot of laughter and then followed lunch at the Cabbage Tree Restaurant where we met two groups we knew through the hospital. I'm not sure what the 'traditional' NZ Christmas is - I didn't see one turkey and the shops are not completely stuffed to the gunnels with Christmas fare as they are in the UK. It seems a much more laid back affair, certainly in Southland and Invercargill. There are Christmassy songs and Carols on the radio and decorations etc.. but still not quite like a UK Christmas as you can tell from the photos. After lunch the sun came out and so we came out for coffee. Then it was off to the beach, along with about a dozen or so other cars ispread over the 27Km of beach. We had to have a swim, albeit in a somewhat chilly Pacific Ocean, along with about 4 others although they were wimps and wore wetsuits. Then a glass of NZ sparkling and a bit of sunbathing whilst doing a Kiwi Trivia quiz. The evening, as usual, was spent doing more quizzes and games, the only difference from our usual Christmas was being dressed in shorts and not being surrounded by our family (we did miss you all, honest).
I must say I didn't really miss our traditional Christmas which surprised me a bit as I am a bit of a tradionalist. The only other Christmas I have not spent in my own home was the year I qualified when I had just qualified and was on call at St Mary's - but that was my first Christmas with Lyn and so although different was special. I think it is because it doesn't really feel like Christmas. It's warm with long days and things seems to have ground to a halt - for New Zealanders this is their summer holiday period as well as Christmas and very many people are now off work for several weeks. The city, instead of being thronged with people is now empty - it is the same across New Zealand. People have deserted their homes for holiday baches, campsites or foreign holidays. Radio and TV , rather than being full of Christmas and New Year programmes are called 'Summer..' something  or other or have completely stopped for 3-4 weeks. It's like the Today programme, the Archers, Breakfast TV etc all stopping during August.  Everyone really is on holiday. 
Boxing Day consisted of a round of golf - our first having just joined one of the 4 local clubs. Golf in New Zealand is much more egalitarian than in the UK. Club membership fees are low, Green Fees are low (as little as $10) and everyone is extremely friendly and helpful. The local clubs (and I have no reason to believe it is much different elsewhere in NZ) have an honesty box in which to post your Green Fees as often the Clubhouses are deserted. Our local Pro is called Anthony and is a great guy who makes you feel you are doing terribly well rather than terribly!
Sizzling Summer in Southland? That was an oxymoron before we arrived but it is true. The temperature the other day soared to 31 degrees. We have been told by many people that February is the best month - unfortunately we will be in the UK, at least for part of that time. Meanwhile, along with the rest of the New Zealand population we are making the most of the summer with lots of walks and golf and al fresco eating. It's a long way to come, but well, well worth it and we have only seen a third of it so far. Good as gold!

Trivia -  whose heard of Burt Monro?
A few weekends ago was Burt Monro weekend. Burt (real name Herbert) was motor-cycle racer from Invercargill who bought an 'Indian Scout' Bike for 143 (they were pounds in those days) and spent the rest of his life modifying it and attempting to break the World Speed record starting in NZ and Oreti Beach but subsequently moving to Bonneville Salt Lakes in the USA. He raced until he was in his 70s and is immortalised in the film 'The Fastest Indian in the World' starring Anthony Hopkins with a guest appearance of Tim Shadbolt as Mayor. It's a good film and would recommend it - having seen footage of Burt I must say that Anthony Hopkins does a great job - Burt's family thought the same and were moved to tears when they first saw it as the accent and characterisation were so good. He had the same bike fo 57 years and it is now in Hayes hardware store in Invercargill. I think a quote from Burt, aged 68, sums him up : "At the Salt in 1967 we were going like a bomb. Then she got the wobbles just over half way through the run. To slow her down I sat up. The wind tore my goggles off and the blast forced my eyeballs back into my head - couldn't see a thing. We were so far off the black line that we missed a steel marker stake by inches. I put her down - a few scratches all round but nothing much else". At the time Burt was traveling at close to 206 mph! Every year they have a racing weekend with racing on Oreti Beach on the Friday, followed by Speedway on the Saturday and a road race in a nearby town called Wyndham on the Sunday.

Hope your 2009 is like a box of fluffies - Happy New Year!
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