The bus was ten minutes late getting to Otaki. A high school student and I were waiting. ‘When Dad and Mum wanted to shift down here,’ he said, ‘I said only if I could keep on at the college, so I catch buses.’
The first surprise was the height of the steps up to the interior and the next was that my seat was up stairs I couldn’t climb. A double decker presents these problems to someone like me. So I walked up and down the aisle of the lower deck and it seemed everyone had plonked their bag on the seat next to them thus sending a strong message they didn’t want me to dit down next to them. The two exceptions were an older guy who only had a book on the spare seat and a young guy who was staring out the window but who had left the seat next to him free. So I sat there. I clutched my Vizstick, my bag,and wondered how the buses were going to go.
It was a mixed bag. Once I was on the bus and seated it was great. I’ve always loved being driven. When I first started driving it was a have-to situation. If you lived in the country you needed to drive. You need to be able to go into town, buy groceries, take kids to a doctor, to the one-teacher school, so of course you do it. Once we moved back to town I had to a get license but that’s another story. The only thing I envy about the Queen, (along with the money), is that she gets driven everywhere she wants to go. If I had half her money I’d buy a house or a flat for everyone who needs one.
I could have simply written an email letter to Inter-City Bus Company but I’d rather moan on the busk. Actually I will write an email although I know it will have no effect. You’d think in 2018 the penny would have dropped – some people need to have access made easier. We’re a motley bunch. Some old, some young, some blind, some with sore legs, sore backs, whatever. None of us should be stopped from going on adventures because of steps that are too high.
I went on 6 buses and in only one did the mic work properly. So when the driver did her or his spiel the only time I could hear what was actually being said was on that one bus. In terms of getting on and off I managed the last one, from Auckland to Otaki the best and that was pure luck. The steps were not quite so high – once you’d traversed the stairs that slope down, the step down to the ground was a bit closer.
Other travellers were mainly helpful and when they weren’t I asked them to give me a hand up. No-one minded, they just didn’t see the signs. Old woman with stick. Offer to help.
The 80s Women Musos concert was gorgeous, stunning, sensational and when Jess Hawk Oakenstar and Hilz King sang Dear Gertrude Stein, I was totally swept up in the moment. I leaped (a metaphorical dream helped along by Lindy Topp) up on stage, hugged them both, and when I limped back, every woman in the front row leaped up to offer help down the steps. A bit different to the buses. But of course we at the concert have a shared history. Mary Irwin, who taught us self-defence at Theatre Corporate, got there first and it was she who helped me back up the long flight of stairs at half-time.
The Samesame but Different Literary Festival the next day was brilliant. I went to every session because I wanted to. I enjoyed them all even the two I was in. One of the reasons for that is I felt surrounded by friends whether I knew them or not. Andrea Kelland and Carole Beu were great MC’s. And Julie in the lobby offered cups of tea, and people called out, ‘You ok, Renée?’ when they saw me marching along with the stick. Yes on the flat I can move pretty quickly.
The wonderful thing was that as well as a fee I was given two substantial book vouchers which was perfect timing because I’d read a beautiful recipe book belonging my cousin Robbie, called Plenty More or More Plenty. At this stage I can’t remember which but if anyone wants to know I’ll stick it up on next week’s busk. I also got NZ writer Catherine Robertson’s latest novel, Gabriel’s Bay and Stephen Fry’s Mythos. Then when I went to Kaitaia and on to Digger’s Valley, there was another beautiful recipe book, The NZ Cook’s Bible. This last one’s out of print but my friend Ruth found it on Trademe. I bid for it and got it. It should arrive tomorrow (hopefully). Probably the only bible I’ll read now. So it looks like one of the lasting things to come out of the trip, apart from the love and friendship I received from my hosts and everyone else, is a jolt in the brain about cooking. I suppose we all get into a well-known pattern of cooking at times in our lives. Its easier to cook what we know and not think too much about it. Certainly not thinking that my lack of interest in food was because what I was cooking was boring. Of course there are times when knowing what to cook and doing it automatically is a good thing but not on a long–term basis.
I came home and cleaned out the cookery books. If anyone wants Digby Law’s books, I have the one on Vegetables, the one on Soups, and the Entrée one to give away. I kept Book of Old Tarts, of course I did. And the Edmonds, the old old tattered and stained copy and the new unmarked one but I gave the rest away. I’m having a Lilliput Library installed very soon but I think for my first few books I’ll put out novels or nonfiction.
So while Intercity Buses could do with a new approach to access for all in this Year of the Dog, I delighted in the seeing the country. I’d forgotten how lovely Paihia is and all those little bays. Diggers Valley was a dream of green, very lush growth, and the areas of bush so carefully preserved by Ruth and Stephan. While the rain stopped me seeing as much of the place as they wanted to show me, we all agreed it was a such a pleasure to have the time to sit back and talk. I’d been getting Ruth’s newsletters since around 2008 and it was great to actually see some of the places and animals she mentions in the newsletters. And to eat Stephan’s Créme Brulée.
And Auckland – ah Auckland. Even with the blocked roads, the building going on everywhere, the traffic, it looked as beautiful as ever. Robbie and Paul took me wherever I wanted to go and Paul miraculously found parks everywhere. Robbie’s cooking was the first wakeup call – no boring food here.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. PS…and These Two Hands went marching in the Pride Parade. Pretty marvellous don’t you think?
In January I sold my little yellow car to someone who fell in love with it because it was yellow. Exactly the reason I bought it. So after we’d had a cup of tea and done the change of ownership online, I watched as she drove off and felt very happy. The little yellow car was in good hands.
First I had to work out how I would do the food shopping. A friend took me to do a large shop before Christmas and then another friend offered to take me any Monday I want to go. Another friend is taking me to the monthly foot massage that I love. I can walk up Main Street and get cash, walk to the library, the medical centre, the pharmacy, but for anything further afield I have to organise transport or catch the bus.
There’s a local bus service. I have a senior card. So it should be straightforward if I want to go to Paraparaumu or Waikanae. I have to accept that what might have taken me an hour might now take over three. This is a big chunk of writing time so I’m not happy about that.
However, like someone who sticks a reluctant toe in the water of a very peaceful stream, then dives into the choppy waves slapping against the rocks by a waterfall, I am choosing to sit on a bus for hours and hours when, on Thursday, I catch an intercity bus from Otaki to Auckland for the Samesame but Different Festival. The festival is part of Auckland Pride Week and I’m happy to be part of it. I’m also looking forward to the concert by 80s women musicians.
I chose to travel by bus because I like seeing the country and because I want to check how I go on a long bus trip. In any case no other form of transport stops at Otaki except the Capital Connection train which stops here at around 7.15am and returns around 6.15pm. . Organising catching a plane or a train just makes you feel tired before you even start on the trip. And yes I know that in the time it takes the bus to get from Otaki to Auckland I could fly to San Francisco.
Its going to be interesting. There’s the getting on and off the bus, managing the toilet/cafe stops, using the stick that Marilyn gave me. I don’t need the stick at home or around Otaki but I learned when I went to Dunedin last year that when I’m away I need it. My friend Anna found me a branch of manuka on which she painted beautiful strange curved lines. She said it was a Crone’s stick. It worked beautifully.
I need a stick when I’m away because my legs are sore and I tend to limp if its one of the days when they’re really sore. Add the unfamiliarity of footpath heights, the up and down steps into buildings, plus uneven surfaces of footpaths and in public spaces, its not surprising. When I went to Auckland for the Auckland launch of These Two Hands, I took a stick and Mary McCallum (Makaro Press) drove us there and back and also kept an eye on my stick. I walked across a Ponsonby Road pedestrian crossing in the middle of the night, no problem.
Sticks can be a bloody nuisance in ways I had not anticipated. First its getting used to actually having one. I tend to walk off and leave the stick behind. What I really need is a stick which can be set to yell when I walk away without it. I can’t be the only one who leaves their stick behind in cafes, galleries and restaurants. Maybe someone, somewhere, is working out how to set a stick to yell ‘Oy Renée‘ when I walk off without it?
But wait, there’s more…it’s not only Auckland. Next Monday I’m travelling on to Kaitaia to stay a couple of nights with friends, then back to Auckland, stay the night there, and then home. All on the bus.
Yeah yeah, I know its not like climbing Everest or trekking to Antarctica but it is stepping out of my comfort zone. I’ve done a bit of that before of course but this time once I’m on the bus I can’t change my mind and walk away.
If I like it and it works for me, then I’ll organise some more trips. I’d like to have a look around Hawke’s Bay, make sure the bots of it I love are still there. I want to go round the East Coast one more time, and I’d also like to travel around the South Island. Maybe go to Reefton and have one of their whitebait sandwiches? And maybe go round the Catlins again. Is Henry the Tuatara still in Invercargill?
So a lot depends on this particular Auckland/Kaitaia bus trip.
There’s a difference between choosing to spend time on a bus and having to spend time on a bus. The fact that I’m travelling to Auckland and Kaitaia on the bus is because I want to, not because I have to. Makes a difference.
I’ll let you know how it goes…