Yes, I know, not Australia again you might say, but I did spend two months there and nothing much has been happening here, has it? Tried to keep up with nothing much happening here by reading our papers on the internet and nothing much was happening. Ex-pats, and we met plenty, say the Aussie papers never have anything good to say about not much happening in NZ, but they never have much to say about Tasmania either and nothing much happens there either.
But as I said, I did try and keep up with things through the internet. I read the Herald most days. Everyone over there was most impressed with our Government's 25 cents an hour rise on the basic wage and I can bring back the message from our many expats that they are happy for us and they are watching closely our Government’s avowed aim regarding income, to catch up with Australia. They seem to think this is a great leap forward and it will help to close the gap, especially as we are gradually catching up with the remote parts of the Australian Northern Territories.
So back home to Godzone where I've always had trouble with the pronunciation of many New Zealand place names. As fast as I begin to get somewhere with them they change and what’s more, somebody, without fail, will tell me I am saying it wrong anyway.
But in Oz there were some very earthy Australian names I could relate to. We stayed in Newcastle, NSW. Up the road from Sydney; no road cones, two hours driving. Newcastle has beaches. Beautiful, rolling surf beaches with unusual names.
We stayed in the same house with a widow in her seventies. I thought we knew her quite well, nice but might be a little prim, I thought. I was wrong. And as we knew Newcastle a little better than her, we thought we'd show her around.
Her face darkened when we said we'd show her Blackbutt. "It’s a park "we hurried on to explain, "kangaroos and koalas and all that." “Oh,” she said, “I thought for a minute it might be....” "No,” we said, “nothing like that and after we’ve seen Blackbutt we can have lunch and go into town and if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Nobbies Head.” “Nobbies Head?” she said. “Nobbies Head!” And a little smile quickly slid across her face, as if some long forgotten pleasant memory was recalled. “Oh, yes, please let’s do go,” she said and she became even more animated as we went on. “We don’t know if we have the time today, but tomorrow we could have a look at the Ducks Nuts, and by the way The Bogey Hole is quite close to Nobbies Head.” “I know,” she whispered, “I remember very well.” “There is also Shaft and Sandy Bottom very near to Scratchly.” “Great,” she moaned. “And Fannie’s is always a pleasant place to spend an hour or two in the evening. And of course Pullbar?” we asked. “If you want,” she said, “only if I must.”
And we never even mentioned Nobbies Nuts at two dollar’s a bag. Of course, the lady had a real sense of humour and the place names are quite genuine and nobody I can think of who lives in Newcastle would think them the slightest bit strange. My daughter had one of the local artists decorate a large plate for us with a map showing the locations and I thought when I get home, I/we could do something similar with Russell.
Hope Avenue... nah, Florance Avenue... uh-uh, Wellington Street, Pomare Road, the RSA, the Strand... nope, can’t do much with them. Long Beach and Donkey Bay...? Welllll, yes, possibly, Flag Pole... definitely! Tapeka, going well now, Eagles Nest? Maybe… who can really say nothing happens over here?