The reviving power of a friend’s love by CAROL TYNE JOHNSTON

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I AM a lucky, lucky woman. As I write this I’m sitting in the summer house in the photo above, downwind of the goats, drinking iced water and considering a quick dip in the pool.
  I’ve been back in New Zealand from Tyneside for just over a month now and already the pressures of full-time teaching are beginning to take their toll. A week of teaching sees me spending most Friday evenings drinking cheap ‘clearskin’ red wine and dozing on the couch before collapsing into bed. So much for the end-of-the-week Sagittarian party girl I used to be!
  Thankfully, working close to home means I can manage my time better, spending longer days at school which in turn leaves me with more of my weekend free to wind down. And THIS weekend has been a perfect opportunity for me to take a break from the non-stop pressure of teaching. That’s where I’m so lucky. . .
  I have a very close friend who lives in Hawke’s Bay. We met online ten years ago when we were both helping newly-arrived migrants to New Zealand with their ‘settling in’ process. We became firm friends as soon as we met, both of us having similar nurturing natures. When you emigrate to a country on the other side of the world you realise very quickly that a lack of ‘long term’ friends leaves a wounding gap in your life. So when you meet someone whom you immediately love you hang on to them… tight!
  Deborah and I have been through a lot in a decade; mostly good, sometimes difficult and occasionally not so great. Considering we are simply lasses from London and Northumberland we get on remarkably well, despite having incredibly different lifestyles.
  But I hadn’t seen her for many months, what with working in industry for a year with a minimum of accrued holidays and then being back in the North East for five months. So when she invited me to a garden party to celebrate the arrival of her in-laws I jumped at the chance.
  That raised the question of how I’d do it; Hawke’s Bay is a long way from me and, newly returned to work, I am still feeling the financial pain of being unemployed for the latter part of last year; keeping my costs down would probably mean a road trip.
  But roads in New Zealand are nothing like those in England. State Highway One (the equivalent of the M1), for instance, is almost all single carriageway. Driving from Wellington to Auckland (approximately the same distance as Newcastle to London) would take a MINIMUM ten hours, even without breaks. No motorway service stations here, either. Just quaint little villages with corner stores providing a ‘comfort stop’ and possibly an ice cream (the Kiwi mainstay, by the way, is a ‘hokey-pokey’ – vanilla with bits of Crunchie Bar-type honeycomb which I can’t abide, it but seems to keep the rest of the nation going!)
  I thought about getting the bus. Wellington to Hawke’s Bay by road takes about five hours, making a weekend trip a lot of road travel and not a great deal of relaxing. So I was absolutely thrilled when Deborah offered to shout me a flight! Fifty-five minutes as the crow flies, albeit in a sixty-seater plane with propellers and half-size overhead lockers so small that I couldn’t squash in my carry-on luggage until a lovely gentleman in the row behind leapt to my aid and pushed and shoved until it finally fit. Naturally I spent the flight worrying about how we were going to get it back out again, but with a little coaxing we managed.
  After a blustery flight I was VERY relieved to feel my feet on terra firma when Deborah’s partner Gary came to pick me up from Napier Airport. A couple of stops on the way home meant visiting the local ham radio club, a group of eccentric, lovely old fellas who took great delight in telling me they would be the backbone of Hawke’s Bay communications should an earthquake devastate the region as happened in the 1930s. They are probably right, actually – I suspect cell phones and the internet would be the first form of communication lost, should a Big One strike again.
  Then it was on to one of many fruit and veggie outlets to pick up supplies for the afternoon barbecue. The fresh produce in Hawke’s Bay is incredibly cheap and usually HUGE! The climate is perfect for market gardening and vineyards, especially, thrive here (I spotted many bottles of Hawke’s Bay wine in Asda while I was home and I can recommend them ALL!).
  Great meeting all of their friends at the barbie, especially the Creatively Inclined Artist Lady with the purple hair (you know who you are!). Those people who make an impact on you. . . well, they feed your soul. Hang onto them!
  Living ‘in the sticks’ gives Deborah and Gary the kind of idyllic lifestyle I craved when I first emigrated: a menagerie of goats, sheep, cows and now a three-month-old fawn which, along with the perfect climate, means they have developed a quality, self-sustaining lifestyle. It is a blissfully beautiful spot, high on a hill in the middle of a forest with magnificent views to Cape Kidnappers.
  So here I sit, writing. The ancient typewriter on the table next to me is a relic from the past which has catalysed me into blog writing action at a time when I find time to relax, unwind and reflect. It’s hard to believe I have already been back from my five-month UK trip for five weeks, and yet this is the first chance I’ve had to catch my breath and write. Carpe diem and all that!
  My mobile is turned off, my school planning for next week is complete and left behind in Wellington; I can chill out, surrounded by beautiful views, delightful creatures (both human and otherwise) along with delicious food and drink. Yes, I AM very lucky.
  But the luckiest part of it all is that I had the good fortune to acquire a wonderful friend all those years ago who wanted to see me so much this weekend that she was prepared to give up all of her airmile points to get me here in a flash.
  Love, love, love. There’s nothing quite like it.

CAROL TYNE JOHNSTON is a Geordie-born teacher who lives and works in New Zealand. Her heart, however, resides on Tyneside

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