Mark Tanner - Adventurer, Writer and Amateur Beatboxer

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The Beloved Hometown

21 November 2000

 

I had some time to kill while my work permit for Ireland went through the bureaucratic issue process. As the procedure was expected to take around 6 weeks, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to swing back home to New Zealand to see Ma and Pa and my mates.

 

The cheapest flight I could find had me acting as a courier, shipping an envelope of papers referring to boxes in cargo from London to Tokyo, then Tokyo to Sydney. The operation seemed fairly legit, but for all I knew the boxes could have contained illicit drugs or rare iguana eggs, so I emotionally prepared myself for customs questioning, hoping that the rubber glove wouldn't come into play.

 

The changeover was pretty painless, a surfer-looking Japanese character who worked for the courier business and spoke only a little more English than I spoke Japanese, made gestures and grunts to direct me in the right direction. So after a few stops and around 24 hours of being cramped into Japanese Airlines jumbo in a seat designed for a much-smaller Asian frame, I touched down between the hills in the newly-constructed airport terminal in Wellington, on a beautiful clear sunny morning, where I was greeted by my beloved parents.

 

I was anxious to get back to my hometown as I wanted to know if all of my fond memories were justified or just some romanticised recollection of the harbour capital.

 

Wellington was fantastic! What first struck me was how colourful the place was – its natural amphitheatre of green tree covered hills, aqua-coloured harbour and brightly painted homes and buildings were a far cry from the greyness of London I had just been in. I took it for granted how friendly the people were when I lived there, but after being away, the friendliness of kiwis really hit home.

 

Mum and dad had sold the big green dwelling I had spent the tail end of my childhood in and were building a new place on Brooklyn Hill, high above Wellington City. Its elevated position offered commanding views that took in the whole harbour from Pencarrow Head right around to the Hutt Valley and back to the office blocks of the city. It was a beautiful spot to enjoy the city from and being the good son, I helped out on the building process by painting, digging and moving bricks, with the spectacular backdrop just a turn of the head away.

 

I did all of the things you'd expect to do when returning home; catching up for beers and dinners with friends and family, visiting all of the my favourite little places and eating my mother's heavenly roast lamb dinners. Wellington's hills were crying out for mountain biking, so Haines, Ussher, Rees, Hoover and myself took to the muddy tracks that reminded me how much I enjoyed the pastime. I strapped the old basketball boots up and once again hit the courts, playing every Wednesday night for Si Tellon's star-studded basketball team, putting up as many bricks and air balls as in my high school hay day, when I was a budding star.

 

I couldn't have asked for better weather, it was unseasonably hot and very sunny, so I took advantage of it with a few trips to the sandy shores of Days Bay Beach and Scorching Bay, and out kayaking in the inner harbour.

 

It was a good time to be home because during the short stay, Wellington won the national provincial rugby competition for the first time in 14 years making the feeling around the city was an extremely positive one. I managed to catch the incredible atmosphere at the last home game for the season played at the swank new stadium on the waterfront, which I had followed closely since well before construction began in the late 90's.

 

I was curious to see how things would be with my first love Charlotte, whose big brown eyes were the last memory I had before leaving Wellington a couple of years ago. Things were a little strange at first, with our conversations not entailing much but shallow chit-chat. I didn't feel a real connection again with her until we went away with some of her lawyer friends to Castlepoint for the weekend. The fresh sea-breeze, body surfing, sand dune sliding, beach cricket and singing songs to guitar strums on the lawn by the beach overlooking the abrupt cliffs and lighthouse must have sparked something because it was the first time I saw any sign of us getting along how we used to. It was nice to be able to leave again having had that.

 

I was having such a magical time in my adored hometown that I tried to extend my flights to leave at a later date, but was unable to, so I was again cramped into the tiny seat, carrying an envelope of papers, eating sushi and noodles all the way back to London.

 

My Irish work permit had not yet been issued, so I still had a couple of weeks left in England's biggest city before I left for the Emerald Isle, so back on the floor in Willesden green I stayed. I decided to find some temporary work to pass the now cold and dark wintry days. As luck would have it, after an intensive 2-day training course, I began up selling perfume at a suburban shopping centre.

 

After 3 days of manning a cabinet of flowery smelling potions, I came to the conclusion that I was not cut out for it. Although my sales were growing exponentially from no sales on day 1 to 20 on day three, and my work mates were lovely, my poor spraying ability and lack of perfume-selling mannerisms, helped me determine I would be better suited to another career.

 

As Richard Ogden is studying his doctorate in Law up in Cambridge, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to catch up with him and see the small student-town, so Sarah McCully and myself took the two-hour train ride to the township for the weekend.

 

Cambridge was your quintessential University town, lovely old buildings and grounds lining skinny cobblestone alleys, with colourful young people riding around everywhere on old bikes. The light rain that coated the cobblestones, had the streets glistening from the reflection of the street lamps.

 

Richard had a great room right in the middle of the university area which meant everything was a short walk away. He played a fine host showing us the sights of the busy little town and filling us in on some rather interesting and often humorous history of the area. We caught a moving performance from the Kings College Choir in the beautiful Kings College Chapel, followed by a robed up formal dinner at his College, which ended up a drunken affair on house wine.

 

It wasn't long after returning from Cambridge that my work permit for Ireland arrived, so I said my farewells and set off for what was to be the next chapter of my life, Dublin, Ireland…


Visiting Richard Ogden in Cambridge

 

 

 

 

 


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