Travel : Came on Holiday by Mistake – Beautiful Day Above the Grave

A wind gets up in the night. The southerly gusts rattle all the old windows in the hotel and play the sash counterweights like wind chimes. Every now and then a sound I can’t place goes past. It’s like a helicopter is passing close but then disappearing as fast as it came.
When I leave for breakfast I see that a team of road contractors have spent the night ripping up the surface of SH1 next to the hotel no doubt making all those intense unworldly noises.

I breakfast from the vibrant bakery. A beautiful young woman is taking takeaway orders and directing punters to their tables. She is a dead ringer for one of my old bandmate’s flatmates. However she looks now how the flatmate looked then. Two decades have passed and surely the ravages of time , or if not the ravages at least the firm guiding hand of time would have left it’s mark . Perhaps it is her daughter.  

I buy a vegan sandwich and a coffee and go to eat it on a bench at a bus stop. The sandwich is delicious , packed with artichoke and roasted peppers , olive oil and olives. It does however have a layer of what I suspect is marketed as ‘vegan cheese’ . The substance is entirely flavourless, while maintaining the texture of young gouda. It is completely unneeded in the sandwich and is very much of our time.

Often coming to the south is like going back in time. Things that have long since passed on up north show up, both missed things and not. Dunedin with it’s lifeblood of students is always less of a time machine. That said the other night while returning to my hotel one of the upstanding gentlemen of the parish was walking towards me with his good wife. Upon laying eyes on me he grabbed his wife and pushed her towards the curb so he could pass on the inside and form a barrier between her and whatever dark forces I represented in his mind.  25 years before I elicited similar reactions as a teen holidaying in the south with dreadlocks and painted fingernails. I guess it is nice to still be dangerous. It can’t be long till middle age nullifies my demonic potential and I become invisible.

A shuttle picks me up to transport me out into the country where the airport lies. The driver Trevor is 60’s , overweight with thinning straggly hair combed over. He has his banter down pat. ‘It’s a beautiful day!’ he booms , I agree ‘any day above the grave is a beautiful day!’ he continues. I like him. The shuttle navigates the tight hilly lanes of Dunedin. Wellington’s most controversial, now former, restaurant reviewer climbs aboard.  He is turned out in an immaculate suit and trilby hat. He is from another age. The illusion is somewhat spoilt by being carried in a HiAce shuttle van however. The Daimlers must have been all booked.
A blind man and his dog climb on. Then a student who proceeds to listen to gabber beats on her airphones loud enough to enliven the rest of us. We traverse the city as if laying a spider web.
I like travelling by shuttle. It is nice to travel streets a tourist would never come down, to be granted wee insights into the domestic back lane arrangements of a city. Besides it is really the only way to access the airport short of a taxi or uber.

The airport is busy. I eat an overpriced substandard cheese roll and then pass through security. I remember all my electronic accoutrements at the scanner but forget my keys. For my sins I am put through the brace machine. They let me off this time.

In the departure lounge the school holidays have brought down the usual average age of flying on a Tuesday morning. Children are restless. People start to queue uninvited. An armed policeman stands at the gate.
When I get to the gate my ticket gives off an alarming noise and flashes red. These guys are really pissed about the keys. After a lot of typing and frowning a new ticket is printed for me. “For some reason you have been moved” they say.
As I walk down the aisle of the plane I look to the row I had originally been seated in and see the blind man’s guide dog curled up on the floor in front of what would have been my seat.

I pull my bag from the boot of the cab and let myself in to Shannon’s place. A welcoming party of wee dogs hype my homecoming. One of them is Rubes. She snuggles into me and luxuriates in my return. It’s good to be home.

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