There are some things you never expect to say:
‘Damn it man! I need the launch codes’
‘YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!’
But this weekend, I got to cross one of the phrases off the list.
To paint the scene; myself, Alex and Kat were huddled into an inflatable dinghy, motoring over to our friend’s boat for what would eventually be, after some minor drama, a lovely day of sailing. I was at the helms deep, or driver’s side, or whatever the nautical term is for operating the outboard motor. Alex was sat in the middle, and Kat was at the front. Also joining us on the voyage was a large, black canvas bag and some food and drink supplies for the bbq.
It was a 5-minute motor from the launching ramp to the sailboat, which factored in the slight chop-chop of the sea. At around the 3-minute mark, I noticed that the ever-present pool of water in the dinghy and had grown somewhat. It appeared that the small amounts of seawater that were splashing over the sides into the dinghy were beginning to get organised. To put in context, we were at DEFCON 2 – ankle deep water.
We laughed it off, as I held our course steady and true. A minute passed, and the volume of unwanted water had grown from a ‘meh’ to an ‘err’. I noticed the canvas bag start to bob about, and a loose sandal casually float between my legs, indicating we had reached DEFCON 3 – shin deep water.
The sailboat was still a minute away.
‘So, er, you may want to start bailing,’ I suggested.
Alex and Kat burst into action, splashing about in the water in a futile attempt to battle the rising tide. Although in fairness, from a distance it would have looked as if they were just frolicking around.
Thirty seconds away and we’d reached DEFCON 4 – knee-deep water, which was worrying as the interior of the dinghy was about knee deep. As I watched a packet of vegetarian sausages and the sandal escape over the side, I knew as captain, that it was time to give the order.
My crew gave a salute, and leapt out, fully clothed, with mobile phones in pockets. The contents of the dinghy soon followed. The outboard motor then cut out and I prepared myself to heroically go down with the ship.
However, the jettisoned weight allowed the edges of the dinghy to remain just above the sea level, preventing it from taking on any more water.
I grabbed the emergency oars and skilfully rowed in circles for several minutes before the sailboat came to my rescue. I was thrown the bucket of shame, allowing the bailing process to commence.
I’d stared death in its ugly face, and won. Which was why it was left to Kat to leap back into the murky depths to retrieve the floating bag of vegetarian sausages.
A question that gets asked a lot when explaining some new event that we’ve just thought up.
Whether it’s the Mega-Multi-Sport Day – where as many activities need to be completed in one day.
Or The Perfect Work Week – a different activity is done each evening for a week.
Or currently in the planning stages, 28 Crags in 28 Days – fairly self-explanatory that one, minus the zombies. Although that is an interesting angle.
The undertaking of the most recent challenge was no different – 7 Days, 7 Rapakis. For those of you uninitiated with the Rapaki Track in Christchurch, it’s a 4km, 300m vertical ascent, gravel road. Common words that may be associated with the track include: slog, miserable, cruel, unnecessary, ‘load of bollocks,’ and ‘I’m never doing that again’. All positive descriptions that persuaded Adam to organise a challenge of riding up it each day for a week. He also very kindly arranged it during a heatwave, resulting in an additional battle against 30-degree heat.
As with most of these things, there were several aspects to consider.
The logistics of trying to fit a 2 hour ride in each day. This resulted in 6:15 am starts, night rides and ‘I’ve already drunk two beers and feel great, no wait, hang on, I’m coming down, a coffee will sort me out, oh no, now I feel worse, I really don’t want to go out,’ rides.
There was the obvious fitness factor. Several years ago I commuted 15 miles each way to work on my road bike. I was confident the commute would turn me into a cycling machine, bringing me to the peak of my fitness. However, in reality, by Wednesday my legs were shot, and by the weekend I was reduced to a feeble old man, only really capable of sleeping a lot and napping. In this case, I was generally able to hold it together until Saturday morning before the legs started to feel weak. This came to a head on the final Sunday ride where they just gave up altogether, along with my enthusiasm for the challenge, and general positive feelings towards Adam.
Finally, there was the enjoyment factor. I may have hinted at this already, but generally, the enjoyment seeped out of my pours by the litre each time I ascended the track in the scorching sun – apart from that one time when it was raining. That said, the compulsory Emerson’s Pilsner at the end of each ride did go some way to numb the pain, and dull the miserable memories.
So, to bring it back to the question of ‘Why?’
Well, if you have to ask, then you’ll never understand.
A full write up of the week will be put up on the Entertaining Adventures website at some point in the near future, along with lots of photos of the Emerson’s Pilsners we drank after each ride, mainly in the hope of getting sponsored next time.
For the past week or so, we – by which I mean my Dad and occasionally me – have been building a new deck in the back garden. And as much as I was expecting this post to be a humorous account of my inability to use hand tools; or not knowing what an ‘Impact Driver’ is; or how can a screw be self-tapping, is it sentient or something? Etc. Etc. The post ended up going down the route of Communist, Victorian bricks that aren’t as metaphorical as I had first hoped.
Yeah – I know…
So obviously, as we all know, a deck consists of bearers that support joists, that in turn supports the decking. The bearers need foundations that go at least 500mm into the ground, which therefore requires holes to be dug and filled with concrete, naturally. As it has been a while since these finely manicured, soft hands have graced anything that may even be remotely associated with manual labour, we hired a two-stroke post holer to help do the job.
We had pulled up the existing patio in preparation for the new deck, and stood either side of the twirling machine, gripping it tightly as it bored its way towards A Coruna in Spain (don’t belive me, I checked: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antipodes#Cities). The first couple of holes went quite well, until about the 6th one when after 200mm we hit solid rock. The house was built at the end of the 1800’s, so there was a certain amount of intrigue into what exactly we may have unearthed.
Getting out the shovel, it slowly became apparent that we had hit a layer of bricks – OK, we were probably hoping for more, but let’s see where this goes.
More digging unearthed an old patio – right… well, I don’t think any of us were expecting that.
It appeared that at some point in time, the past owners of the house had decided to install a new patio, by covering the existing one in a bit of sand and just laying bricks over the top. So had we decided to have designed the deck a bit differently, we could have potentially had a deck, over a patio, over a patio.
Which is where the metaphorical bit comes in. I can’t help feel that there should be some deeper meaning in there; a commentary on civil liberties under a Labour/Green/NZ First government; or the social rights of the native flora and fauna of Canterbury; or highlighting an injustice of some kind.
But as I think I’ve already implied, I’m not a deck person. So instead will just end with a rhetorical question of how exactly Communism managed to infiltrate the Canterbury brick industry during the late 1800’s?
Lactic acid scorches my leg muscles. This must be how those Xenomorphs in the Alien movies feel like all the time. No wonder they’re always grumpy and up to mischief. My lungs feel empty of oxygen, as if all the air has drained from them. No matter how hard I suck air in, it seeps out just as quickly.
Up ahead I can see the shapes of Matt and Adam, waiting by the last responder, cheering me on. Their shouts of encouragement make up for the lack of muscle power I have left. A few more pedal strokes and I’m finished, managing to fulfil my modest goal of completing the Port Hills Enduro mountain bike race without a mechanical failure or crash. I clock in for the final time that day, and relief floods over me.
Enduro racing is a simple concept; you’re only timed on the down stages. The transition to each stage isn’t timed. This amounts to either pushing or cycling up to the stage, and going full throttle for a few minutes downhill. As I mentioned earlier, last time I rode the Port Hills Enduro, it didn’t go well, so this time I was happy just finish the course.
I won’t go into the biking details of each track, as it can get a little alienating (cleaver nod to the opening reference intended). I doubt many people care about how the link track between Pedal Fine and Radi Garden was a nice, loamy edition. Or how deceptively long the Bowenvale Bonus was.
However, what is worth mentioning is how gnarly the Gnarly Nun was. Just to be clear, I’m referring to a bike track that was the second stage, not a hard as nails woman of the cloth. Although I can’t help think that The Gnarly Nun would make an excellent B-Movie horror movie.
Anyway, when all but one of the marshals, an ambulance and the largest crowd is gathered around the track, you know it’s going to be an interesting stage. Similar to the aftermath of a car crash, crowds like to preempt the carnage and congregate where there is most likely to be an incident, which inevitably is the most technical section. In this case, a horrible collection of rocks and awfulness that we were expected to find a route through.
It’s amazing how a bit of cheering and ‘Yeah Boi,’ can boost your confidence levels going into a section. You suddenly switch from apprehension to whatever the emotional equivalent of ‘Yeah!’ is. You can bring all the dark chocolate and cranberry snack bars you want (and believe me, I did), but nothing will boost your energy levels more than a well-placed ‘Yeah Boi!’
So just bare that in mind when you see someone struggling through the 3pm slump at work. A well-meaning shout of ‘YEAH BOI!’ across the office will no doubt be received with appreciation. I just tried it then, and I have to say, it worked much better than intended. Everyone seemed to be jolted into paying attention.
A trained dog. Quite a necessity some would say when going on another Dog Tails adventure.
Others may say that two trained dogs would be even more appropriate, based on the number of dogs we have.
I’m not going to argue; both statements are equally valid. But how about a dog with a purpose?
Although another demographic of people would comment on the fact that Oshy already has his hands full with barking, chasing birds, barking, panting a lot, and barking.
As for Rusty, well, basking in the afternoon sun while waiting around for treats does amount to a busy day.
But there is always room for improvement, which leads us neatly to a new dog training course we’ve come across. We’ve recently begun educating Oshy in the skills of tracking, which as it turns out, has been full of loads of interesting facts:
- Bloodhounds can track someone up to 28 days after they’ve been somewhere
- Dogs can detect up to 3 million different scents
- Tracking dogs can be used to seek out noxious weeds for removal, such as Chilean Needle Grass
- Oshy barked through the entire 40-minute training session
- I was ‘that guy’ who brought the barking dog.
- Facts are great for padding out blog posts
Ignoring those last two facts, it is quite surprising what these canines are capable of achieving. Not entirely sure how many more steps are required before they can search out and remove their own crap from the garden, but maybe if they defecate next to a noxious weed, then everyone’s a winner.
‘How many free samples can I have?’
I inwardly sigh, and then reply, ‘Help yourself.’
‘OK thanks.’ The woman proceeds to scoop up the entire contents of the samples box, and pours it into her handbag. ‘I hope he likes them. He can be very fussy sometimes.’
‘You have a good day now,’ I add, through gritted teeth.
The woman turns and happily walks away from our stall, pleased about the bargain she’s just discovered.
A vein throbs furiously in my temple. If I was a cartoon character, I’d have little Hiroshima type mushroom clouds emerging from my ears. I turn to Kat, who is stood at my side, and watched the entire exchange play out.
‘You know, if they have to ask, then -.’ I begin.
‘I know,’ she replies calmly.
‘- and why did she have to take all of -.’
‘I know,’ she repeats again, in a more soothing voice this time.
I throw my hands in the air, frustrated that Kat isn’t sharing my frustration, and move my attention to staring at the back of the woman’s head. My beady eyes are narrowed and focused; my head twitches slightly to the rhythm of the pulsating vein.
Another customer approaches our market stall. She picks up a bag of dog biscuits, and is about to enquire on the cost, when she sees my face.
The biscuits are returned. The customer leaves.
‘Maybe you should sit down,’ Kat suggests.
For some reason, all I can think about is a time several years ago, when one of the temps in work asked how long her 5 minute cigarette break was? Through the haze of anger, I struggle to connect the memory to what just happened, but I’m sure there is something linking the two.
Another customer approaches. ‘Are these your dogs?’ he asks, gesturing to the photo we have on the table.
A myriad of sarcastic, unhelpful replies flash through my mind. Thankfully, Kat beats me to it, and engages in polite conversation with the friendly customer. Listening to Kat happily chatting away, I’m gradually lifted from my pit of fury. As if to provide a physical demonstration of this, I rise from my seat, and nod along to the conversation about dogs, and how wacky they all are.
These markets aren’t all bad, I think to myself.
I chuckle along to an anecdote, and then even throw in one of my own – something about how much Oshy barks. We all laugh along. The clouds, metaphorical and actual, part. A bright sun warms my face.
Everything is great again.
‘If only you had some samples I could try on my Labrador,’ the customer adds.
I sit back down.
Everyone knows someone who recently turned vegan, and therefore expects everyone else to follow suit.
Or has suddenly realised that ‘Big-Pharma’ may not be all it’s cracked up to be, and chastises you for buying Nestle products for some reason.
Or just watched a documentary on how 9/11 was an inside job, and has to tell the world that the Iraq war was actually about the oil.
Well, that’s kind of what has happened to me, but with community.
Going up in Wales, we knew our neighbours, and got involved in a few things, but I generally wasn’t that fussed with community stuff. Then I moved to London for a few years where, for the most part, you don’t make eye contact with members of your community, let alone ask them how their day was.
As far as I was concerned, if a stranger started to talk to me, it was either a distraction for when their mates decided to rob me. Or they were a mentalist.
Because of course, friendly conversation on London’s public transport network doesn’t exist.
I brought that attitude with me when I came to New Zealand. Living in Linwood, which admittedly can be a little rough around the edges, the attitude seemed fairly appropriate. Until I started noticing that I would occasionally get a nod from a stranger when I was out walking the dogs. Or someone would ask me how my day was as I was putting the bins out.
I’ve now started to notice that the more involved I get with community things e.g. markets, workshops etc. the more I get out of it. There are some weird feelings that come from community based things. I haven’t worked out what exactly evokes these feelings yet. Maybe it’s the relief of not being mugged. Or that person isn’t actually a mentalist, and happens to be quite nice to talk to. Or maybe the long, alcoholic days with only two dogs for company are starting to take its toll.
Whatever it is, there’s a lot to be said for getting amongst the community.
The reason I ask this is because I had to find a bunch of them on Sunday at a NaNoWriMo meet up.
I imagine at this point you’re more concerned with what ‘NaNoWriMo’ is, as opposed to what a combination of berets, smoking pipes and glasses of scotch all add up to.
So let’s deal with that first, and come back to the stereotypes after. Mainly as I’m fairly certain I’ve covered writer clichés in a previous post, and seriously, what the hell is NaNoWriMo?
So, NaNoWriMo is an abbreviation of ‘National Novel Writing Month’. A global challenge to write a 50,000 word novel over the month of November. To put that in normal terms, that’s about 1,667 words a day, or the equivalent of ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, ‘Brave New World,’ or ‘The Great Gatsby’.
Seeing as I’ve not written anything that long before – most of my stories tend to be between 15,000 to 20,000 words – it seemed like a good challenge. It’s more about committing to the word count and process, as opposed to actually writing anything half decent.
So I’ve now got 50,000 words to play with story arks, character develop, foreshadowing and ‘pantsing’. And the month of November to work out what all those things mean.
There are NaNoWriMo groups set up all over the world, and on Sunday the Christchurch branch met in Hagley Park for a pre-NaNoWriMo meetup. Unfortunately, they didn’t bring along any form of signage, resulting in yours truly wandering the café grounds listening out for terms such as ‘story arks’, ‘character develop’, ‘foreshadowing’, and ‘pantsing’.
After an extensive process of elimination – i.e. asking various groups of people if they were part of the ‘Narowi… the writing group people,’ I eventually managed to find a group of very ordinary looking people, with a few books laid out on the floor between them. No beret’s, pipes or glasses of scotch between them. It soon became apparent that I may have over-dressed somewhat.
At the moment I’m in the middle of another horror story – yes, there have been a few now – which involves a story line set during the gold rush days of New Zealand. I’ve read a few bits and pieces on the subject, and have decided to just give it a crack and see how it pans out. This is another way of saying, ‘I’ll just sort the details out later’.
In doing so, it’s almost impossible not to base it on stereotypes and tropes from the TV and movies. In this case, a large chunk of material is from a combination of the TV show Deadwood, and Back to the Future 3 (which I think we can all agree… was the best in the trilogy).
But when you find out that the fact is less interesting, or more likely, completely different to the fictional perception of a subject, which do you use? People have an expectation of what gold mining and prospecting is, and it’s invariably based around the American Wild West.
I imagine in New Zealand there were less native Indians, spurs on boots, and ZZ Top jamming at an evening’s dance. The same dance I might add where a reckless Marty disrupts the space time continuum by preventing Doc from being shot in the back by Mad Dog Tannen.
In reality I’m sure it was far more mild-mannered and polite, with native flightless birds, gum boots and… I don’t know, Fat Freddy’s Drop playing somewhere.
It’s a bit like writing a story about a rural police station located in the sleepy, New Zealand countryside, but using the movie Bad Boys 2 as your source material. Yes, it may be factually inaccurate, but it’ll be a more interesting read.
And at the end of the day, its fiction innit…
A little unknown avenue of writing that I’ve been exploring, unknown because I’ve not been overly successful at it yet, is magazine journalism. I found out quite quickly that there are only so many outlets for adventure stories, and even less who may be interested in the adventures that we go on. Then even less again who actually reply to my enquiry emails. And of that few, most aren’t interested in that walk we did up a hill a few months ago.
So the alternative angle is pitching ideas that the magazine reading world might be interested in. Such as ‘Why burning calories makes you fat,’ or ‘What happened when I stopped using my phone for a week,’ (I should point out that the first one I just made up, but I bet you’d like to read about it. And the second one, well, it’s not 2004 is it? No one cares).
My point is, if you haven’t worked it out already, is that I’m now in a constant state of ‘possible story for a magazine’ mode. Whether it’s a conversation I overheard at a café (e.g. Does that band ‘The Naked and Famous’ have any other songs than the ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah’ song?) or a weird photo opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up on (e.g. the caption for this post), there is always a thought in the back of my mind as to whether it could be turned into an article.
Which is why I’m about to undertake some investigative journalism to find out why so many god damn shopping trolleys get abandoned outside our house. If my hutch is correct, this goes all the way to the top… of our street, to Mrs. Perkins. Every Wednesday I see her pushing her shopping along Cashel Street, and every Thursday there’s a new shopping trolley with a hundred meter radius of our house.
To be continued…