Old friends and Cape Foulwind
When you’re from Wellington, travelling to Cape Foulwind holds no concern. After all, it’s the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand, renowned for its weather. You share a bad reputation, it endears you to each other. But, we arrived at our accommodation, the dramatically appointed “Steeples” Cottage, on a calm sunny day. Our splendid front lawn runs right out to the cliff edges overlooking the sea. There’s a garden seat of driftwood under a wind-shaped macrocarpa. There’s also a darling garden of chaotic colour, old-fashioned flowers in full bloom, which belies the wind-shaped trees. And a fence and a child-proof gate at the perimeter, as our hosts have local grandchildren.
Our modern and well-equipped cottage is named Steeples, because of the superb view from the cottage of the limestone steeple-shaped rocks jutting out of the sea in front of us. The hosts feted us with freshly collected mussels, the fattest, sweetest, we have ever eaten. And then we head to the local pub, just along the road and everyone there appears to be related in some way, either by marriage or birth. We’re served freshly rarely cooked and tender venison morsels, as almost tapas with our beer. Where else? Our fish, when we order it, is grilled Turbot, shaken in flour and crisped just a little with oil and lemon pepper.
We’re running away. It’s what you do when life serves up parcels of grief. How lucky are we? We could have stayed home and wallowed, but we chose to travel instead. The spirit cannot help but be revived in this rugged landscape. I’d spent five days in Kaikoura with my sister on the trail of family secrets, stunned yet again by the jewel-like aqua of the East Coast sea. It was the first time probably in perhaps 50 years, that we had spent this much time together. We ate scallops as fat as your fist (almost) but missed out on the crayfish as it was the end of the season and the last of the crays were especially expensive. We met a first cousin for the first time. This adds to our collection, having recently found two aunts and an uncle we never knew about and who didn’t know about us either. We talked as sisters do, about our one successful family holiday in Kaikoura, where we hid in the hawthorn hedge and threw plums at passersby. We found the old house, almost unchanged on the corner, parked our car and sat and reminisced.
Then, my sister returned to Thames and John joined me. We visited old friends in Nelson, and Lake Brunner, saw the night sky in Tekapo and visited Christchurch. There’s something grounding about old friendships. People who know your story and whose story you know. Friends who forgive you your faults as you forgive them, and the comfort of familiarity. As for Christchurch, I was blown away on the sunny Friday by the sense of renewal and spirit of optimism down by the container shops, and then Saturday dawned grey, cold and sad and I saw the central city spaces in a new and sadder light.
John takes a great photo. So, I’ve decided to share some of his best with you on my blog. While I was travelling, I was reading a very good novel by Coral Atkinson, soon to be launched called ‘Passing Through’ which I am going to review for Beattie’s blog. There’s nothing like a good book to keep you company on a road trip. I also read the short stories of George Saunders, ‘The Tenth of December’ – a much heralded American short-story writer – it took me a while to ‘get’ the voices in his stories, but once I did, I was hooked. ‘The Semplica-Girl Diaries’ both startled, surprised and wowed me. And on my bedside is a new collection from Vincent O’Sullivan that I’ve already dipped into – delicious.