Saturday, 3 November 2012

Wind and Paparazzi in the Streep

Wellington is a mere village when compared to say, New York or Tokyo or Paris, but for Cossack and me it is plenty big enough and we don't mind the long drive down to get our occasional urban-fix especially if the  snow-capped mountains shrug the clouds aside and glisten behind that enormous carpet of tussock grasses along the Desert Road.

When the sun shines in Wellington the harbour twinkles and shimmers and people bustle here and there or drink coffee and watch the world go by from outdoor tables.  It seems like everyone is smiling at nothing in particular but everything in general.

However, you can just turn a corner and a cold and nasty wind will wipe that smile right off your face. You may even end up airborne if your skinny frame fails to anchor you to the pavement and your skirt might lift up like a parachute and your nickers reveal themselves.

Several times I had to cling to Cossack's leg for dear life while he clutched desperately at a post to save his own.  What a sight, Cossack and me, tandem-style, in a unique maypole dance with him frantically trying to shake me off his leg while more solid citizens have to walk in a wide arc around us to avoid decapitation!

Ashwyn Sathanantham invited us to an Indian social evening at the university and we were as keen as korma to go, even Cossack, the only one in our family who prefers steak and chips to rices and spices and chapatis and dahl and gulab jamun.

Thanks, Ash, for the Bollywood music that had us all clapping and laughing. Kristen joined in the dancing up on the stage, a pale-face amongst the young men and women in their vibrant combinations of colour - greens and pinks and turquoises and blues. Their moves, fast and joyful, are a celebration of life.

Where did Kristen learn to dance like her dress was on fire? Her arms and legs went nuts and Cossack and I tried to recall whether she was maybe conceived one night after Indian takeaways but it's all a long-ago hormonal blur and does it really matter?   She happened, that's all we know.

The facts are more specific when it comes to the origins of our son. Nine months prior to his birth our Volkwagen Kombi Camper-van was parked in the beautiful Carnarvon Gorge, Queensland, surrounded by cheeky rainbow lorikeets and wallabies, fan-palms and cycads.

Yes, back then Coss and I were travelling through Australia as free as gypsies but bodies have no choice but to collide frequently in the confines of a camper-van when doing even the most innocent of activities like brushing teeth or boiling noodles or playing board-games like 'Monogamy' and 'Scramble'.

The result was a 'Ben-in-the-Oven'.

But why do I digress like that? Fast forward twenty-five years to Wellington and Cossack and I are meandering through the fruit and vegetable stalls at the Farmers' Market near the water-front.

We noticed that a 'Punch and Judy' puppet show was about to start and that little cushions were scattered around for little bottoms to sit on. I would have loved to sit there cross-legged on a kiddy's cushion but didn't feel up to resisting any dagger-looks from parents who might  think my bottom didn't belong on a little cushion so Cossack and I sat full of eager anticipation on a nearby bench.

Just imagine our surprise when a very alternative show, 'Lunch and Spewdie', started up instead. A little girl vomited copiously right next to the puppet-tent! It was riveting in a sick kind of way and I wondered (sympathetically, of course) what had caused her horrible predicament. A tummy-bug or too much candy-floss? The mother ran off to get basins of water which she threw at the spew to disperse the lumpiest bits while the brave father, in a display of noble and unconditional love, hugged his little chunder-child to comfort her.

Meanwhile, a dozen or so teeny weeny kids were still sitting cross-legged on their little cushions politely waiting for 'Punch and Judy'. It was a touching scene from which a pearl of wisdom might one day be extracted.

Anyhow, after all that drama, Coss and I missed 'Punch and Judy' because we had to run and meet our kids at 10.30am. For us that is the best attraction in Wellington -  the chance to catch up on Ben and Kristen's lives over a perfect coffee at 'Memphis Belle' and listen to their ideas and opinions which have evolved for the most part since they left home.

Life tosses the mad and the sad and the glad at us as a divine invitation to grow up and, better than expensive restaurants or Italian lemon gelato or lovely shops and concerts, is the quiet joy that comes from seeing your children are on the way to being who they want to be.

On our last morning we offered Moira a ride into the city-centre.  Now, there is another thing in Wellington that is as annoying as the wind that blows and blows and blows and that is the problem of parking your car. Like in any big city, there are rules and signs and yellow lines but Cossack thinks they are for other people, not for him..

So Cossack ignored a double yellow line and pulled up right on a busy corner where cars and buses zoom this way and that.  Moira leaped out of our car and I jumped out after her to give her a farewell hug but before my feet even hit the pavement a handsome young man sprung gazelle-like right in front of me with a camera, obviously mistaking me for someone famous.

I smiled my most dazzling smile and adopted what I hoped was a sexy stance while he flashed me! It was so exhilarating wondering whether this fluoro-vested novice from the paparazzi thought I was Meryl Streep or  Justin Bieber's god-mother?

So, why was Cossack calling, "Get in, Bern!" and Moira running away?

Next thing I am back in the car where I belong and Coss is splutter-laughing, "That was a Parking-Warden, Bern! ", which of course the more humble part of me had known all along.

A few days later an envelope arrived in the mailbox with $60 in it and a note that said, "To cover the fine I know you are going to get", but Moira, you are getting those dollars right back because it was our fault entirely and anyway, one month later, I can delightedly inform you that that nasty notice never even arrived!

Moira, thank you so much for letting us stay in your downstairs room and for that Aberdeen hospitality.

And what a pleasure to meet you, Sai and Libya and Nicola.

Here, back in our own bed, I look over at Cossack in the old sweat-shirt that he wears as a pyjama top. It has P.T.L written on it and, now that I study it closely for the very first time, I see the tiny words, "Provincial Transport Limited".

Funny how I assumed for years that those letters stood for "Praise the Lord!".