Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cakes, Pies and a Strange Compression of Time

There are a few things I wasn't expecting about life in Kiwiland. Take the cakes, for example: moist, tempting, often chocalatey - who would have thought that baking could bring about the downfall of a man? Surely that is the stuff of sex, drugs & rock 'n'roll? But here they make superb cakes, and if I didn't walk to work & go running occasionally there would be very little opportunity to burn off those pleasurable calories, and all that would be left of me would be a lump of lard, blobbing in & out of the office chair.
And then there's the pies....however did I get through life until now, without a Kiwi cheese steak or butter chicken pie?? They are - and this word is very overused, but here it is appropriate - awesome. Even the ones you buy in the BP service station are good.
Another surprise was linguistic. This far, NZers are the only English language speakers I have met who can consistently end a sentence in the word 'as'. Really. 'As Kiwi as', as pissed as', as sweet as' - this is standard currency down here. All you have to do to make it really authentic is to add the word 'bro'. I suspect the common use of 'bro' and 'cous' stem from the fact that there are only four and a half million people in this country, and sooner or later you are bound to be related to someone you are in the pub with...
A personal surprise for me was the way my life pre NZ suddenly seems visible as if at the end of a telescope......weird one this, hard to explain, but in those falling asleep and waking up moments, it's like forty nine years (yes I am that old) of life are open to viewing by my southern hemisphere self. For example, a song from the seventies or eighties will be on the radio, and my brain whizzes through the surrounding years remembering where & when I was, who with, the good and bad outcomes of past decisions, etc. etc. They say this kind of stuff happens at the moment of death, but for me it has been a feature of life 12000 miles from home. I guess it may have been aggravated by some of the novels I have read and plays I have seen recently - the latter including superb productions of Tom Stoppard's 'Rock and Roll' and Pinter's 'Betrayal', both spanning decades of my growing up against a backdrop of music I love. But it feels like emigration has made me my own critical reviewer, reading the chapters of my life until now and offering a verdict to myself. And guess what: the report says 'could do better'.
No shit. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of humans I know of that really 'couldn't do better'.