I don’t really get homesick, as in getting overly emotional because I miss New Zealand, the place where I was born and raised. I suppose that’s because I’ve lived in England for so long now that I consider it home. However, there are a few things that make me realise that I am still a Kiwi lass.
For years when I first lived in London, the onset of winter had a strange effect on me. Each November, just as Spring was warming New Zealand on the other side of the world, I would have waking dreams of walking along a beach in the sunshine, surrounded by blooming Pohutukawa trees with Rangitoto Island a permanent fixture on the horizon. Those dreams were incredibly unsettling, especially as the alarm would then sound and my eyes invariably open to yet another dark, grey, wet day signalling the start of winter. Moreover, those dreams were mean. They teased and reminded me that although my body was in London, my subconscious was 11387 miles away. And then I’d realise that I was using England’s miles as opposed to New Zealand’s kilometres to measure distance. I really was starting to acclimatise to this very different place.
Just this morning, as I watched the shampoo suds go down the plughole in the shower, I thought to myself ‘that still looks wrong to me,’. Here water spirals down a sink in a clockwise direction and in the Southern Hemisphere it goes anti-clockwise. I’ve asked a friend in Auckland to verify this because I can’t remember and now there are some scientists disputing the fact that the Coriolis Force, as it’s known, applies to water. Apparently it relates more to the movement of weather forces in the different Hemispheres. The fact I even care is somewhat disturbing.
I still think that Crowded House is the best band ever to have walked the planet. Occasionally, if I’m home alone and thinking about New Zealand, I will crank up their song, ‘Tall Trees’, and sing my lungs out. I’d say this could be quite an ‘interesting’ (in the worst sense of the word) sight, which is why I never do it with an audience and I certainly don’t do it often. Over time, I’ve also deduced that mood at the beginning of my one-girl-band festival has an impact on outcome. For instance, the Maori singing at the end of ‘Kare Kare’ makes my soul yearn for All Things New Zealand and it is then that my eyes may sting a bit. If it’s been an ‘I Hate London’ day, I’ll probably need kleenex.
I still eat Vegemite. Can’t stand Marmite. Monsieur has yet to have a bite of Vegemite toast because he doesn’t like the smell. I won’t marry him until he tries it at least once. Mind you, in the interests of retribution he might then force me to eat Nutella and I must admit that the concept of chocolate spread on bread seems just a bit odd.
I still consider fish and chips eaten on the shores of Lake Taupo to be the best in the world. Anyone who disputes this simply hasn’t tried it. So fresh and tasty, wrapped modestly in the previous day’s New Zealand Herald, it turns me into Pavlov’s dog each time I think of it. In fact, one of my favourite photos shows my Late and Great Aunt M sitting on a park bench in Taupo. She’s eating her fish ‘n’ chips with the incredible backdrop of the lake and mountains and a huge, blue sky. Her gaze is somewhere, but it’s not with the photographer. I still wonder what she was thinking that day.
Then there are the food parcels from the concerned relatives of a New Zealand colleague. Apparently the rumours that food is terrible in England have reached the South Pacific so, just as in times of war, families send foodstuffs to their loved ones stationed abroad. We don’t complain. Thank you very much for the Pineapple Lumps.
Before moving to London I never considered how much I’d miss certain food items: Toffee Pops, Arnott’s Shapes, Tip Top’s Chocolate Ripple ice cream, the cheese, terakihi fish, Jelly Tip ice lollies (there you go: I used the term ‘ice lolly’ which is very un-Kiwi) and roast kumara, the New Zealand sweet potato. Sadly, anything frozen cannot be DHLed to London and because that saves my waistline from a few unwanted inches, we’ll call it a good thing. However, I have been known to surf NZ supermarket websites, just to remember how many wonderful foodie items there are over there. Shrewsbury biscuits, Watties creamed sweetcorn (perfect for sweetcorn fritters) and jars of passionfruit pulp. There I go again.
If you mention the All Blacks, watch out. I know exactly where my All Blacks shirt lives so I can pull it out on match days and my mother thinks Dan Carter is a god. I may have moved to London but that doesn’t mean I don’t know who wins the Bledisloe Cup each year.
There’s more, much more, to write about being an ex-pat Kiwi. But most importantly, I may have moved out of New Zealand, but New Zealand has never moved out of me.