Christchurch is as English as Dunedin is Scottish and is spacious, green sunny and altogether very pleasant.It is the third biggest city in NZ with approx 110,000 people, all of which (judging from the ones we met) seemed 'jolly nice'.Very little of interest happened whilst there; handed back our van, bathed and wandered through the city and the Botanical Gardens and repacked for the flight to Oz.We did get to catch up on my Aunty Colleen, my cousin, Ben (for the first time in 29 years) and meet Ben's daughter Lielu, which was lovely.It is rather odd meeting someone you have not seen in 29 years and only have distant memories of, but I am now sure that family ties keep relationships easy, even after such a long period and we had a very nice evening and got to laugh at old family photos.As Jodie is the most awkward veggie in the world ever, we armed ourselves with a can of baked beans and some HP Sauce and Colleen didn't seem to mind!
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in NZ.Right up until we got on the plane we continued to be impressed by the friendliness and politeness of Kiwis; I don't think I have ever found myself laughing and joking with check-in staff and Customs Officers in any other country.People say this friendliness is because NZ is about 500 years behind the rest of the world, but I think that is doing Kiwis an injustice and I prefer to believe that their society has developed with an understanding that politeness and having time for people is important, and the wonderful thing is it is contagious, so most of the visitors become as polite as the locals very quickly.
The landscape throughout the country is absolutely stunning and hugely varied.It is a clean country, with massive amounts of space and is set up so that the countryside can be properly enjoyed.I also got the feeling that Kiwis are very proud of their country and have the energy and focus to make the most of what they have.
It is not all perfect though.J and I both came to the conclusion (and were backed by locals) that NZ remains a very segregated society.It is passive segregation, and laws and customs seem to encourage integration, but Europeans and Maoris lead very separate lives.I also found that I was more uncomfortable in Maori areas.This may be because many of these areas, and their inhabitants, share the characteristics of the rougher areas of UK.Many of the houses are run down, look unloved, have multiple rusting cars in the drive and old threadbare sofas outside.The cars that are on the roads have been properly pimped, with large exhausts, blacked out windows and huge stereos blasting away.It also seemed that drunkenness was a big problem to the Maori community and drugs where tolerated.Whilst on the East Cape we came across lots of police cars, one of which was towing a large trailer full of cannabis plants.We asked a local Maori about this, who just laughed, explained it was harvest time and described what the police did to try to combat cannabis growers; to him, it just seemed like a bit of a game.All these factors give the impression that the Maori community is rather poor, but recent settlements mean that they own huge amounts of land and recourses and are making huge amounts of money for their respective tribes.
A strong Kiwi accent is also hard to take.I think that the first batch of English language schoolbooks sent out to the settlers may have been misprinted and all the vowels were mixed up.E is pronounced i, i is pronounced e, u's, a's and o's receive all kinds of abuse.A peg is a pig, ten is tin, shoes are shows, seven is sivin etc.Even the Aussies take the piss!
NZ radio and TV also leaves a lot to be desired.Commercial radio has some of the worst ads in the world on, for the most obscure things - even stalls in the Saturday markets advertise.The music stations have a very limited supply of tunes and seem to play the same records everyday, some of which are decades old.When they get a new tune on the play list they advertise it for a good couple of weeks and have the artist record a message to introduce it every time it is played.If I hear Lilly Allen tell me one more time how thrilled she is that her record is on More FM………………………………....In short doses we did enjoy News Talk Radio, which we christened Rant FM.It is back to back bigoted people from small isolated communities getting to discuss their views on any subject they like with an equally bigoted presenter.They still use words like 'paki'.The best we heard was a man who had the perfect solution to establishing the guilt or innocence of accused mass murderer David Blain.It was suggested that 5 different clairvoyants where hired to interview the 5 separate victims in the spirit world.If they all said that David was the killer, well, case closed!And this is a national station!That said I also saw on NZ TV the best ad I have ever seen.It involved a attractive lady taking a beaver out to a nice restaurant, getting it a hair do, going for a massage with it and generally making sure it was having a luxurious line.Very odd.It turned out to be a tampon add with the strap line 'You only have one; look after it'.Nice.