Thoughts: Camping 2020

I’ve just returned home to Auckland after a week camping with my teenagers. This has been something I have instituted each year in January for the last eight or nine years. It has been a time of presence, of renewed connection, and it’s something I value deeply.

We stayed at the Coromandel Town Top 10 – our second time. The first was six years ago, so I was curious to see how the experience has changed.

I have to say, the campsite is looking good. Better than I remember it from 2014. The staff were all very friendly and kept the place looking immaculate.

The joy of camping is all about getting a bit rough – but not too rough. One still needs WiFi/Data and ample power sockets to keep all devices charged!

Every tent needs fairy lights!

Each year I acquire at least one new ‘thing’ to make the next trip better. This year was a Campmaster three-burner stove and 2KG gas cylinder. It was great being able to cook at our tent rather than have to fight for space in the communal kitchen, elbowing between the pairs of German tourists and the very grumpy mums and dads who were wrangling hordes of children-under-5!

It was a different week though. Teenagers don’t have a lot of motivation (generalisation, yes) and are quite happy reading, napping and watching YouTube.

They’re still a bit camera-shy

I did manage to get them out of the tent for road trips around the Coromandel. Driving the 309 Road across to Hahei to go see Cathedral Cove was fun. Master 17 is learning to drive so he was paying a lot of attention to a road that curved, had few lines, and became gravel. He wasn’t feeling all that confident…

I did misrepresent the walk to Cathedral Cove somewhat, and Miss 14 wasn’t entirely impressed. She didn’t actually complain but in her words ‘Oh it’s a nice beach. Lots of people’ kinda summed up her feelings.

It was interesting watching Master 17 take photos of rocks, trees, paths etc. to use in creating textures. He’s getting into 3D modelling and rendering and wanted to see how much better his own photos would be than stock textures. I was very happy to see this!

Camping is also an opportunity for me to experiment with a degree of ‘feral’. I don’t grow facial hair as a rule so it was a curiousity for me to see if a) I could and b) how grey I actually am. Happily the result of a 8-day trial wasn’t too horrific and I am not traumatised by grey. However, I felt it made me look older which is something I am NOT trying to achieve. So as soon as I got home, off it came.

Coromandel really is a special place. I thoroughly enjoyed getting into ‘nature’ and given I work in mental health and wellbeing these days, it was a great reset ahead of the 2020 work-year.

I do have a tinge of sadness though. I wonder how many more of these weeks I’ll be having with them. They’re getting older and have their own lives. It is quite possible that that was my last. I really hope it wasn’t. We shall have to see.

^SD

Thoughts: A First and Much Gratitude

One of the pleasures I’ve had to cut back on in recent years has been going to arena concerts. The reasons are many and varied of course, but I’ve trained myself to not be too bothered by FOMO. It’s been a bit tricky with all the bands I grew up with doing potentially their last tours.

I’d decided against seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers, mainly due to not being able to afford tickets when they were released all those months ago. I would, once again, live vicariously through the experiences of my friends, both real and virtual.

Last a Thursday I got a text from my bass-playing 13yr old daughter: “The Chilis are in town, how appropriate do you think they’d be for me?”

A conversation ensued, and at the end of it, I was taking my kids to see this band, and it would be their first-ever concert. She’s been learning bass for nearly a year and loves Flea’s playing. What an opportunity for her. My son is a drummer. To expose him to Chad Smith live – just wow.

My ex – their mother – paid for all three of us. ‘ I’ll take it out of child support’.

I am humbled. Gobsmacked. And so full of gratitude for this gift. This memory.

Thoughts: A Quick Roadtrip with my Kids

Every year around this time I have taken my kids camping. It’s been something I instituted post-marriage with the aim to broaden their horizons somewhat and maintain a good bond with them.

It’s worked.

This year was a little different owing to a few changes and uncertainties that came about in 2018, so we only had three days to make something happen.

I decided to take them up North. They’ve actually been around Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri a lot (their mother’s dad has a timeshare they’ve been able to make use of).

I wanted to show them some of New Zealand that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see. My daughter expressed that she wasn’t particularly interested in New Zealand and it’s history. She loves the Romans (but hasn’t read Asterix – go figure). I guess it’s her age and the education she is exposed to.

We based ourselves in Kerikeri. The campground there is well appointed. Enough trees to cope with the 32C heat. It borders a river and it was fun cooling off. And trying not to kill myself by slipping on algae-covered rocks. I’m not really great with ‘outside’. I’m sure I used to be, apparently not now.

I enjoy getting them involved in cooking. Deciding what to buy at the supermarket then taking responsibility for its preparation. They complain of course, they’re teenagers after all, but they do do the doing. I also like them to see me interact with other campers. These places are magnets for tourists and locals alike. My kids are fairly introverted and shy so I feel it’s important to show them how to socialise.

One of the people I talked with was a Maori guy, one of four. He politely asked if he could share the BBQ I was using (of course he can) because he was cooking up a feed of mussels for himself and his three mates. I asked if he’d gathered them. “Yes” he said. “From Countdown”. Sigh. He also didn’t have any cooking suggestions I could learn – “I just put them on until they open and they’re sweet eh?”. He gave me one to try. His approach to cooking worked just fine.

As a side note, everyone has Bluetooth speakers and personalised playlists. This group had a particularly excellent Soul, RnB thing going on and were having a bit of a singalong.

The next group I talked to were Indian. A family. They were cooking corn on the cob direct on the gas hobs. But for me the interesting thing was the seasoning they were going to use. A mix of chilli pepper, salt, and then a squeeze of lemon. Spectacular. It was fun being able to talk to them about their cuisine.

Day Two was the core of my plan. Now, my kids aren’t that interested being taught stuff, learning, when they’re in holiday. Tough dad eh? We got on the road early to drive from Kerikeri to Cape Reinga. It’s an interesting drive, very different landscapes, interesting fauna (we saw cows, sheep, hawks, turkey, emus and more). Actually, we were lucky and saw some shepherds with their dogs working a flock from one paddock to the next, across the highway. Was something pretty special to witness.

As we drove, I pointed out to my kids, the small communities anchored by a church and graveyard and maybe a shop. How NZ was and still is.

Note: Telecommunication coverage is appalling in the Far North – given the potential for tourism there I think it needs to be looked at.

I loved seeing how many people make the trip to see the Cape and its surrounds. It’s quite something being at the top of the North Island.

We headed home, stopping off at Te Kao for an ice cream. (Do it, it’s obligatory). We detoured through Totara North as it’s where my kids maternal grandmother grew up. (There’s literally nothing there so it didn’t take long). We visited a site where gumdiggers worked in terrible conditions locating and digging up kauri gum. I actually got interest from my son. He now knows why gumboots are called gumboots and not Wellingtons in this country.

Next stop, also obligatory and totally worth it, was Mangonui. They have the best fish and chips there. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Given the lack of feedback one gets from teenagers I can only assume that when they’re in their 20’s they’ll look back to the day they saw the Lighthouse…

Day Three. We packed up the campsite and got on the road. (I have to add that as they are getting older they are getting much more useful and helpful).

I wanted to take them West to see Opononi (pretty, nothing much there, had a dolphin in 1955/56 that was friendly) on the way to the Waipoua Forest.

It was good to show them how people live in the Far North. Either by choice or through circumstance. There are small communities dotted on the road. Shanty’s. Lean-to’s. Derelict. Rundown. Deserted and abandoned. It’s certainly not Howick. I was interested to see that despite the ruination of the buildings around, the churches all were in quite good condition…

Then we arrived in the Waipoua Forest. I wanted to make sure they saw Tane Mahuta whilst they have the chance to. (It’s no guarantee that access will be for ever).

All up, it’s been a great few days. Good company, good food, good conversation, good music. I am very grateful that my kids like to spend focussed time with me. Now to plan the next.

Thoughts: Pokemon Go

169

So, as a 14 year old trapped inside the body of a middle-aged man, I HAD to sign up for Pokemon Go. And yes, putting aside the obvious issues around privacy and security, it’s actually pretty fun.

I’d pre-empted spending today with my kids (10, 13) by installing and learning this thing. It’s quite sophisticated. I’m loving the augmented reality aspect of it.

Pokemon-Go1

Getting out and about with them was hilarious. We found all the things. We captured all the things. We observed packs of teenagers all monitoring their phones and running around looking for Pokemon.

Such fun!

One thing I learned today is that the algorithm that creates PokéStops has selected secure sites that are home to a number of NZ’s infrastructure industries, and kids are breaking in to these sites to collect. Warnings have gone out industry-wise!

Yet another thing for me to obsess with for a while and connect with my kids over. They’re really my best things.

^sd

 

Thoughts: Quality Time With My Daughter

Yesterday I had to take Master 13 to a mates birthday. As it was on the other side of Auckland from home I was not interested in making a couple of trips.

This left me with the task of providing entertainment for Miss 10 who’d tagged along.

Now, I’ve been developing a healthy and wholesome obsession with DIY stores – I love spending time in both Bunnings and Mitre 10 – and tragically my son and other assorted people in my life (I’m looking at KT) don’t seem to properly appreciate the joyous environs provided by these companies.

But Miss 10 appears to.

We went to Bunnings. We went to Mitre 10. We looked at tools. We looked at plants. We looked at wood.

I have learned that Miss 10 is really interested in home decor and design. She loves lights, and has a particular thing for fake display kitchens. She loves them! (I should note here that she is a bit disturbed by display toilets – it’s balance I suppose).

She was a great partner in a crime for me! It was so much fun.

We also spent a few hours looking for geocaches. She took pride and pleasure in locating destinations (giving me directions and instructions) and then finding the caches, logging our finds and then deciding on the next one.

It was a special time. It was unforced and just fun. I’m loving how she’s growing and the person she is becoming. I’m a lucky guy.

Thoughts: Public Pools

It has clearly become the ‘Summer’ season and my kids (and I’m sure those of pretty much every parent alive) have decided that there is a compulsive need for me to take them swimming every weekend they’re with me.

My closest pool is Pt Erin in Herne Bay, but for some reason it’s not opened yet. So Mt Albert Aquatic Centre has been the best option.

If you’ve never been there, it’s quite a cool place. Multiple pools, sprays, a wave generator, and a decent water slide.

My kids LOVE IT and charge in all guns a-blazin’, and today I reluctantly decided to join them. I’m not big on swimming but more importantly to me, getting amongst a seething mass of humanity in a bowl filled with a liquid of dubious composition really isn’t my thing.

The children pressed me to pony up the cash to hire tubes for them to play with for an hour. Naturally, they ran out of things to do with said tubes after about 25 minutes and wanted me to hold on to them for them. Yeah… nah.

The people-watching dynamic is always interesting. But you’re not allowed to watch too closely as that may be construed as slightly creepy. It’s interesting listening too – the screeches of happy from kids, the cries of torment from kids, the words of encouragement from parents “suck it up, it’s only a bit of water” etc. etc.

It’s when clients of yours bob past that you realise you’re really not looking your best and suck in your stomach. Talking shop and generally being wary of the amount of eye contact your’re engaging in is a tricky balance. You don’t usually have business meetings with little clothing on.

I also found it disconcerting when my kids deserted me to go down the waterslide. There usually is a bit of a wait so I was left there floating in the main pool having to watch them. So… Mid-40’s male, bobbing, alone, surrounded by hordes of children, trying to act nonchalant… Uh oh…

Happily they swum themselves out and I was released from my overthinking.

And once dried and dressed and walking out of the place, I released my stomach muscles. I am after all, just a little bit vain.

God I hate Public Pools.

Thoughts: Rugby World Cup and Miss 3

  This morning we settled in to watch the All Blacks play France. One of the family members brought their 3 year old daughter over to join in the fun.

Her being three, of course, meant there was always going to be an alternate commentary.

  10 10 minutes in, she looked up at the screen, taking her eyes briefly from her Frozen coloring-in book and brand new pens: “Who are the silly boys”?

Dad: “Rugby players”.

“Elsa has blue eyes and a gold crown”.

A few minutes later, on observing the players contesting for the ball on the ground: “What are they doing”?

This question required a carefully considered response from her Dad and me: “They’re having a cuddle. And a rest. When the ball comes out, they’ll get up and start running again”.

“What is that man doing”? (Seeing the referee). “That man is like a Teacher, with 30 children in his classroom. He tells them what to do.”

At 36m: “That was a silly game, is it finished”?

Before we could answer, we were transported back to Frozen. “Who do you like: Elsa, Anna, Kristof, Sven or Olaf?” (Hans apparently wasn’t an option). 

I chose Elsa. “no, it sbould be Kristof. Girls like girls. Boys like boys”.

The match progresses. Savea scores through several tacklers. The adults are re-enacting Keith Quinn’s Lomu climactic commentary. Miss 3: “You’re so sil”.

When the French 8 Louis Picamoles was sent off for fisting Richie, Miss 3 is very upset. “He’s not allowed to play? For 10 minutes? When can he come back”? The concept of isolation and punishment was nearly more than she could bear.

A little later, Carter converts. “Good kick old man, good kick old man”!!!

Back to the sin bin (also known as the naughty step). “Is he allowed to play again yet? How much longer”? This is clearly weighing heavily on her mind.

One breath later: “Simon, you can colour in Anna”. (And we are back with Frozen). 

The stream of consciousness is highly amusing.

Another try scored. “It’s amazing and astonishing to just drop the ball”. This was followed with an indepth explanation by Dad about how all the players had a single purpose, to place the white ball over the line. “It’s called a Try”. She didn’t care. Anna has dark blue eyes. Apparently there is no discussion to be entered into.

The full-time whistle blows. The teams shake hands and hug in victory and loss, reveling in the camaderie that only rugby players know: Miss 3: “They’re having cuddles for reals”.

They sure were.

They ghosts of the past have been well and truly exorcised.