Them’s the Haps

In what my dear Northland friend reliably informs me is the trendiest Kiwi youth-speak, what’s the haps?

My latest hap is that, in an effort to escape the winter and the cracked fragment of shellac that is Brexit, with its 78-rpm needle stuck fast, I have “popped down” to New Zealand, courtesy of Singapore Airlines.  I was going to record what a marvellous thing the internet is, to allow me to arrange an itinerary, at short notice and on a whim, and to make it all come to pass at a click of a mouse.  But that was before I started grappling to post this blog from my upside-down position.  The gremlins have caught up with me.  I need a helpful youth to ask me what’s the haps and sort out my cyber woes.

But mustn’t grumble.  Glasgow – Heathrow – Singapore – Auckland went on schedule and without a glitch.  There was a flurry of snow on the edge of Glasgow but I never seriously thought we would be grounded.  I certainly didn’t have the difficulties encountered by Hercule Poirot in the in-flight movie, “Murder on the Orient Express”, where not only was somebody done in, but the train was derailed by an avalanche.  I don’t suppose I would have gone to the cinema to see an Agatha Christie melodrama, but I rather enjoyed it.  Stellar cast, beautifully shot.  There is a very powerful conversation between Kenneth Branagh and Johnny Depp.  Then I read Yanis Varoufakis’ “Talking to My Daughter About the Economy”, the only time I’ve ever managed to finish a “dismal science” text, and before I knew it I stepped through Customs where an officer obligingly cleaned my muddy running shoes, and out into the blazing sunshine.  The huge New Zealand flag above Ihumatao obligingly came out of freeze frame and flapped in the breeze.  And I am back in this extraordinary land.  Girls in downtown Auckland were offering free hugs, girls in Devonport free apples, and the taxi driver gave me a tip.

I slipped into the Kiwi idiom.  The girl on Coast Radio said, “We’re so Friday – loose as a goose.”  I bought The Daily Hap, aka the New Zealand Herald.  I was amused, perhaps bemused, that there was absolutely no British news at all.  I really have escaped Brexit.  All politics is local.  There was a lot about Cyclone Gita which has devastated Samoa and Tonga and is on its way here, but we never heard about that in the UK.

The drive from the airport to Auckland’s North Shore is not as slow as it used to be, now that a new highway by Mount Roskill takes you to a new tunnel and on to Highway 1 and the North West Motorway.  Next up, get over the jet lag.  The best thing is to plunge into a punishing social schedule.  I walked the six volcanoes of the North Shore – “the local group” – Onepoto, Styak’s Swamp, Lake Pupuke and – “the local subgroup” – Mount Victoria, Mount Cambria, and North Head.  I saw “Romeo & Juliet” in the open air at the Pump House by Lake Pupuke on Friday.  Romeo even came and sat and conversed with me while trying to avoid his carousing mates roistering abroad in the streets of Verona.  On Saturday I heard the magnificent New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Auckland’s beautiful Town Hall.  On Sunday I renewed my acquaintance with the good people of St Luke’s Remuera, and then I drove up to Whangarei.  Ah – to walk the Hatea Loop round the Whangarei River in high summer.  This is really the gateway to the far north.  Tomorrow I’m off to Waitangi, to renew auld acquaintance.

But the news follows you, much as plastic waste migrates to the shores of Antarctica.  The Herald is full of the latest US High School Massacre.  Another tragedy.  I don’t think the US Congress will ever solve this problem.  If there is an answer, it will come from the grass roots, from the common man, and woman, who will take to the streets, as they did in the Civil Rights movement of the sixties.  Surely the people will say, “Enough already.”

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