by Dan Sheridan
With Rogers sidelined for further repairs, you'll find the occasional guest rabbiting on page two over the next few editions. This week, Dan Sheridan welcomes a change of pace ahead of the festive onslaught.
Okay, here's the deal.
I'm a long way from home and currently grappling with the concept of spending Christmas Day in nothing but swimming shorts as opposed to thermal underwear followed by incremental layers primarily made of wool.
For the record, I should point out that in the part of England I come from (Newcastle Upon-Tyne), there are those that don't necessarily adhere to the confines of traditional winter wear.
As one Twitter account, delicately labelled ‘Up North', put it: “Southerners are urged not to travel unless necessary as snow, ice and blizzards approach. Northerners – you'll need your big coat.”
You get the picture.
Winter in the Bay, however, couldn't be further removed from a Boxing Day dip in the North Sea (before you ask, yes, it's a thing).
There are hints here that Christmas is in the vicinity, but you have to go looking for them. Subtlety is at work.
Strolling around a supermarket in Papamoa the other day, I thought I faintly heard the line of a Christmas classic being sung through the store's speakers, but I couldn't be sure.
This is in stark contrast to the United Kingdom's approach. Battling the crowds down London's Oxford Street during any given week in October, November or December is akin to a military exercise.
There, Christmas is brutally inflicted the moment the clock strikes midnight on October 1 via a demolition crew consisting of nauseating adverts, unceremonious shop displays and Michael Bublé. Even the wily mainstays of Halloween and Guy Fawkes' Night can't slow the festive juggernaut – they are acknowledged but swiftly sent packing as marketing departments eye up the real prize at the end of December.
Thankfully, here in New Zealand, there is no such consumerist warfare at work.
Christmas will be acknowledged via a walk on the beach, dinner on the deck and a couple of cold beers.
In other words, pretty much like every other weekend.
Crisis? What crisis?
As well as being a long way from home, I'm also in my mid-40s – a time traditionally set aside for anxiety, yoga, self-doubt and four-wheel drive vehicles.
A recent podcast by brilliant British comedian Adam Buxton featured an interview with Miranda Sawyer – a journalist and author of the book ‘Out of Time'. The two accompanied me around the base track of Mauao and rambled about the clichés of midlife.
Yes, yes I know walking around the Mount in questionable sports gear in your mid-40s is itself something of a cliché, but where I'm from I don't have a mountain at the bottom of my street replete with stunning views and birds that sound like R2-D2.
As pointed out by Miranda, if you're of a certain age the chances are you had a really good time in the 1990s and celebrated alternative culture's small
and not-so-small victories before the internet came along and, in her opinion, killed everything.
I nodded along. Pertinent points were made and issues far too loaded to unpack here were raised about the language of online and the death of certain industries (including journalism).
Admittedly the topic didn't suit my surroundings, but it did make me think. There I was, at the foot of a true natural wonder, listening to a digitally recorded conversation that took place thousands of miles away before it was downloaded via a mobile phone more powerful than the first five computers I ever owned put together.
If this is midlife, I'll take it.
Just not cricket
Given the palpable dislike of all things Australian within certain corners of our newsroom, there was a flutter of excitement when Christchurch-born England all-rounder Ben Stokes was pictured at London's Heathrow Airport with his kitbag seemingly bound for Adelaide and the second Ashes Test.
Following England's 10-wicket defeat to the Aussies at 'The Gabbatoir' last
week, was this the saviour that would turn the series?
Alas, it seems Stokes, who was not included in the England squad after
being arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm in September, is heading to the South Island to visit mum and dad and knock a few balls about for Canterbury.
The word 'frustrated' doesn't begin to cover it. Right part of the world, wrong side of the ditch, Ben.