I have always wanted to emigrate to New Zealand. I have long wondered if the Antipodes is where I belong. Maybe it’s the distance that appeals, or the contrasts with home. I value connections with the familiar, but I increasingly seem to have this thing about difference. New Zealand appears to offer both in a multiplicity of ways. So here is my personal tribute to a nation, a land, a way of life.
North and South Islands, New Zealand
Ten reasons why New Zealand sets my soul on fire
I made some wonderful Kiwi friends in my formative years. They always gave me the most tremendous welcome and made me feel completely at ease, even though they were the ones far from home. They also taught me that there are 20 sheep to every person in New Zealand. Astonishing. I still keep in touch, just barely, with these fine people in Auckland. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to meet up again one day.
2. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
The 2014 Man Booker prize winning novel. Quite brilliant. I never wanted it to end and for a long time it felt like it was never going to. The book is 832 pages long. I haven't had this much fun in literary form since I read Don Quixote (1056 pages) and Little Dorrit (848 pages). See my review here
3. Kiri te Kanawa
Dame Kiri is blessed with one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices I have ever heard. Her arias helped me to study deep into the night as an undergraduate. Some years later, I queued for her autograph at the stage door of the Royal Opera House. She kept silent, but capturing her name on my programme was enough. I will forever treasure her performance of O mio babbino caro by Puccini, the highlight from the soundtrack to Room With A View. Truly breathtaking.
A wonderful compilation of arias by my favourite soprano
I have such fond memories of listening to hours of Test Match Special commentary throughout the night, falling asleep in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
5. New Zealand lamb. Anchor butter
Not because I like meat and dairy produce, but they are a reminder that Britain still has trade links beyond the European Market, and much wider interaction more generally. Our worldwide connections are to be celebrated with a crisp, elegant glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
6. Their delightful accent
Less harsh than their neighbours across the Tasman Sea. New Zealanders claim that they pronounce all their vowels the same. I can discern a few differences, but I’ll take their word for it.
7. More cricket. Martin Crowe
One of the finest batsmen ever to represent his country and also Somerset, the county of my birth. Sadly, Crowe is terminally ill with ‘double hit lymphoma’ a rare blood disease, but he is battling on.
Martin Crowe - has anyone ever hit a cover drive more sweetly ?
8. Protecting the environment
New Zealand’s opposition to France’s testing of nuclear weapons at Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific from 1974 to 1995 was admirable. Sadly, perhaps, it sometimes takes a relatively small nation to stand up against something that is simply wrong, while the rest of the world looks the other way.
Mururoa Atoll - worth protecting
9. New Zealanders are not Australians
Kiwis are less brash, but still determined and forward-thinking as you would expect from inhabitants of the New World. Sometimes New Zealanders migrate across the Tasman Sea. But think of this, the passage of Kiwis from New Zealand to Australia increases the average intelligence level in both countries.
Known as the beige boys for their terrible one-day cricket strip from the eighties. I can forgive that. Fans still wear it today in mock tribute / self deprecation. It’s typical of the Kiwis’ ability not to take themselves too seriously. They are also a progressive nation, as can clearly be seen in their choice of outfits in the two pictures below.
1982, Australia to the left, in canary yellow. New Zealand to the right, in classic beige.
2015, The Black Caps
© Eddie Hewitt 2015