After writing 61,500 words spread across 89 posts, my job is finally done. This will be my last post on the Platypus Man in New Zealand.
If you’re reading this it’s probably because you’ve been following our journey for some time, and I’d like to thank you for your company. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.
My blogging career continues. My weekly blog Now I’m 64 covers UK travel and wildlife, along with bits of history, social commentary and moans about the injustice of ageing. I can guarantee a few laughs, and also the occasional rant. Some of it’s quite well written (I don’t do modesty, life’s too short!) and Mrs P’s wonderful photos continue to feature prominently. Click here to visit Now I’m 64.
Speaking of Mrs P, she’s started putting her photos of the New Zealand trip on to Flickr. She took over 10,000, so there’s a lot of editing and a good deal of cursing going on. So far so good, but it’ll be months before she’s finished. Click here to visit Mrs P’s New Zealand album on Flickr.
If, having experienced New Zealand vicariously through this blog, you fancy seeing the real thing I can thoroughly recommend it. Our tailor-made tour was arranged for us by New Zealand in Depth, the Telegraph’s Specialist Tour Operator for 2019. They’re based in the UK but know New Zealand inside out, and are a very professional organisation whose expertise played a big part in the success of our adventure. Click here to visit New Zealand in Depth’s website.
And with that I think it’s time for me to sign off for the final time: I’ve got countless hours of video to edit! Thank you again for joining me on our amazing expedition. I wish you a safe, healthy and happy journey, wherever your own road may take you.
We’ve come to the end of the road. After 46 days touring New Zealand it’s time for us to go home. Since arriving here on 14th October we’ve driven 6,701 kilometres (4,164 miles), and seen some wonderful scenery and great wildlife. I love those parrots … almost as much as I love the penguins. To say nothing of the fur seals and the kiwi and the albatross. And the tui … fabulous bird, the tui.
We hand back our rental Toyota Camry at Christchurch Airport: a boringly white but otherwise thoroughly decent car, with amazing fuel economy. It’s the first time I’ve driven a hybrid, but it won’t be the last. We fall into conversation with the guy collecting the keys. He’s friendly, cheerful and helpful, a typical New Zealander.
Now we have the small matter of a 32 hour journey back to the UK, including a layover of over seven hours at Singapore. But at least business class softens the pain … I find champagne is great at numbing the senses, if consumed in sufficient quantity.
Back in the UK it’s cold and miserable. And filthy. As we drive north up the M1 the roadside is strewn with trash, like nobody gives a damn any more. Maybe they don’t. New Zealanders seemed to care; I wouldn’t say the place was spotlessly clean, but it’s in a different league to the UK.
It’s only when you’ve been away for a while and then come back that you are sufficiently sensitised to what we have become in this country. We should be ashamed of how low we have fallen, of how little pride we have in the place we live, of how little respect we have for our land, our environment and our fellows.
Obviously it’s good that we’ll be able to catch up with family and friends. But other than that, am I pleased to be back? No, not really.
Writing this, I’m thinking back wistfully to the people and the places and birds and the animals we’ve encountered on our travels in New Zealand, and one thought dominates my mind, crowding out all others: “New Zealand … Missing you already!”
With Christmas day just hours away I’m interrupting the chronological flow of this blog to share a few seasonal reflections.
Christmas comes only once a year, but the foreplay lasts for months. I saw my first Christmas tree this year on September 1. We were in a large retailer/wholesaler warehouse outlet in the English Midlands. The tree stood just inside the door and flashed its lights seductively at us as we passed, its baubles and tinsel twinkling merrily. Get into the festive spirit, it seemed to say, spend my lovelies, spend, spend, spend.
It was the first of bloody September, for god’s sake. Have these people no shame? Silly me, of course they haven’t, they’re only in it for the money. My money. Bah humbug!
In the weeks that followed the shops began to fill with festive goodies, and by early October Christmas was becoming inescapable. Unless, of course, we buggered off to the other side of the world.
In New Zealand Christmas rarely raised its reindeer-antlered head. Good old New Zealand, at least they seem to keep things in proportion over there. After all there’s a right time for everything, and the right time to get ready for Christmas is December.
By the time we left on November 28th things were beginning to change, as you can see from the photo Mrs P took at Christchurch airport. In my humble opinion November 28th is still a bit early for Christmas trees, but it’s the season of goodwill so I’ll let it pass.
If you’re reading this you’ve probably been following the blog for some time, in which I case I thank you and wish you a Merry Kiwi Christmas, or Meri Kirihimete as they say in Maori. May your Christmas stockings be full of all that you desire, and your New Year healthy and joyful.
In recent years Economy Class air travel has become a nightmare, more like Cattle Class. It feels like the airline industry regards me not as a human being but simply as a number, albeit a number that never comes up on the Lottery. Small wonder therefore, that with our personal finances currently in good order, we have decided to fly Business Class on our current trip Down Under.
We’ve paid handsomely for the privilege and expect to be pampered. The fun begins with priority check-in, conducted by a friendly lady who chats amiably while she does the business. When she’s done she directs us to a fast-track security line where our documents and luggage are checked swiftly and efficiently. We Brits are the queuing champions of the world, but it looks like today Mrs P and I won’t have the opportunity to show off our prowess.
Then it’s off to the secret pleasure garden that is Singapore Airlines’ executive lounge. Here comfy seats, free food and drink, and even the chance to take a relaxing shower all await us. Above all, the joy is in the calm atmosphere that pervades the lounge, in stark contrast to the frenetic mayhem that is the lot of the poor sods in Cattle.
Finally our flight is called, but by the time we get to our gate there are at least 50 people ahead of us in the line to board the plane. We’re disappointed as it looks like we’ll have to queue this time, but out of the mist our guardian angel appears, a sparkling steward from Singapore Airlines asking if anyone in line is travelling First or Business Class.
I raise my hand and we are immediately whisked to the front of the queue. We know the Cattle Class mob are staring at us malevolently as we pass, hissing quietly, which only serves to increase the pleasure of the experience.
I make my way to my seat, acknowledging the polite and fulsome greetings of the cabin crew as I pass. Yes, in name it’s a seat, but in reality it’s more like an adjustable throne, snug in its own spacious pod designed to ensure my privacy, and surrounded by a plethora of buttons and gizmos all intended to make my journey more comfortable.
I’m standing there, taking in the magnificence of my pod and admiring the enormous seat-back screen in front of my throne, when a steward appears at my elbow and offers me champagne. He is young and beautiful, and it would be rude to deny him… so I don’t.
Shortly afterwards, as I’m settling into my domain a stewardess greets me and asks if I would care for a second glass of champagne when we take off. She too is young and beautiful, and to avoid causing offence or any awkwardness between her and her male colleague, I graciously accept her kind offer.
And anyway, who wouldn’t want to celebrate getting out of the UK for a while, considering the mess we’re in?
Not long after take-off the food begins to appear, This is not one of those frantic feeding frenzies you get in Cattle, but rather a gentile dining experience that lasts over two hours. The courses just keep on coming, and damned good they are too, particularly when washed down with a glass or two of Shiraz.
But even before the first course is served there’s the small matter of the table cloth, snow white and immaculately starched, which the attendant spreads oh-so-carefully across my ample foldaway table. Bloody hell, is this some parallel universe in which I find myself? I mean, at home the only time the table cloth ever sees the light is Christmas Day.
I can honestly say that this Business Class travel is extraordinary. OK, I confess, I’ve spent the last 40 years silently cursing as I’ve trekked through Business Class to the hell-hole that is Cattle. All the time, I will cheerfully admit, I was dreaming of a socialist utopia in which everyone would fly First Class, which would – logic tells me – ensure that all classes would henceforth cease to exist.
Age does, of course, lend a new perspective to the dreams of youth, and while I still look forward to a classless society, for now I’m content to park my principles in pursuit of some harmless pampering.
I mean, the premium price I’m paying for Business Class bliss is helping to keep those wonderful, beautiful flight attendants in a job. And I never claimed not to be a hypocrite, did I?
But most important of all, I am not a number, I am a human being.