Friday 18 January 2008

When something is too good to be true, sometimes it’s just true!


Oh no no no, please don’t make me get up!
It’s cold out there in the real world, and I am cocooned in my duvet of warmth and cosiness and please no.
Trouble is, when you’re a scribbler, there is nobody telling you to get up. You have to do it all by yourself, just like a grown-up.
Most of the year I’m one of those loathsome out of bed with a bounce and out of the door to stomp the Prom types, but when it’s cold, oh my, just a few minutes more, I mean, I’m really tired here, and I might even be coming down with something, y’know, so I’ll just, like, skip the Prom this morning.
Best to rest the old body when it’s out of sorts, eh?
Besides which, it’s bloody cold out there and nice and warm in here.
This lump of a blatherer needs to have a tactic that gets his lazy quilted arse kicked right up and out to the real world. Recently for some reason, I have used a memory of the January I spent as a 24 year-old.
I say ‘for some reason’, but there is a good reason I dwell there when trying to overcome sloth.
In January 1985, I arrived in New Zealand for my first time. At the airport I was greeted by Tim, the ever-smiling Kiwi DJ with whom I had shared much fun and many recent adventures on an obscure island in French Polynesia.
At my side stood Cory, seventeen foot thirteen inches of bronzed Amazonian, a beauty from her Valley Girl mental reflex to her painfully constant therapisin’ an’ philosophisin’ an’ self-analysin’ Orange County ‘tude.
Cory was on a mission to cure me and took great pleasure in pouring nowt but scorn upon me, but we travelled together well. I was, as my friend Soldier Boy would have it, ‘Young, dumb,and full of come’, so it didn’t really matter at the time whether I liked her or not.
The airport seemed empty, and I asked Tim if it was a national holiday, to which he smiled even wider than normal, stretched his arms and declared
‘Nope. We’re just a quiet sort of a country, eh!’
To us, having just shared four nightmare days with fifteen others, marooned in a hut stilted above muddy flood waters, whence came swarms of mosquitoes the size of tennis balls, where supposedly grown adults argued for hours over the re-use of tea bags, well, New Zealand was a revelation.
Cory and I booked into a hostel, but were about to part our ways. I wanted to hitch around, to go with the lifts, meet the people, see where the winds of fate sent me.
Cory analysed this desire with much psychobabbly crap, telling me how egocentric and selfish I was being; how self-destructive and blah blah blah; she wanted to take the bus.
I bit my lip, trying my best not to ‘Groucho’ her with:
“You want to be on the stage? It leaves in ten minutes!”
But then, on the noticeboard, we both saw the card declaring its author’s interest in recruiting young people to sail on his yacht.
We looked at each other and called the number.
Even at that tender age, I had learned much whilst travelling, and three things in particular:
First: that happiness is more than feeling content; more than a mere absence of problems. Joy is an active feeling. Happiness pumps your blood, so never settle for less.
Second: that sometimes, if it looks too good to be true, it might just be true.
Third: that unless your cold sad lazy arse gets out of bed, you’ll never know. Gotta be in it to win it. Carpe bleedin’ diem, and all that.
Early the next morning we met with a small grey-haired man called Morris.
At first my naive macho suspicions felt he might be a bit of a dirty old man with an unhealthy interest in Cory, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Indeed, he and Cory ended up spending much time together, but that was because I was, as Cory loved to point out, egocentric.
But really, who wouldn’t have been?
For two New Zealand dollars a day, which covered sumptuous board and comfy lodging, Morris would sail us out of Auckland and into the Hauraki Gulf for two weeks.
A retired schoolteacher, he had hand built the stunningly beautiful Celeste, his 38 foot yacht, and now he wanted to teach people like us how to sail her; how to live on the water.
He loved all things natural with a vast and patient passion, and sailing, he felt, was entirely natural. Morris hated the sound of an engine on the water, and by the end of the first week under sail, so did we.
He showed Cory how to tie knots, raise sails, and all that malarkey; he showed her how to steer for the birds when she wanted to catch dinner. We threw lines over, reeled in lovely large fish, and then went to shore on the dinghy. One of us set the fire and the barbie going, while Morris took the other on a trail along the cliffs, the dunes, the rocks, where he showed great depth in knowledge and understanding of all the flora and fauna.
Cory found it fascinating, as I would now, at this point of my life.
But I owed neither of them, and was in my own place.
Two months earlier, I had jumped out of a career in marketing, and had since travelled to the Bahamas, America, Polynesia, and within 24 hours of arriving in New Zealand, I was there.
Sitting cross-legged on deck in the still of sunrise, while Cory and Morris still slumbered below.
A fine mist rising off the South Pacific waters.
Narry a ripple disturbing the bay wherein we moored.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to learn from Morris’ monumental scholarship and experience.
Simply, I felt happy. I felt calm and complete and thankful, all at the same time. Surrounded by subtropical splendour and safe as houses, in the arms of an expert, and what I knew then, and know still to this day, is a balanced universe.
Sometimes it can be wonderfully and generously benign.
At others, darkly cruel.
But you never know, and unless you get out of bed, you’ll never find out.

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