There are few things I miss while living on the opposite side of our world but one thing is British Real Ale. Pardon my grin on the photo above but when you occasionally get the treat of finding such a thing in a bar in fairly remote New Zealand, especially with the distinctive taste of Old Speckled Hen, you just have to have it (and ignore the cost).
Nobody brews beer like they do in Britain, and while foreigners may scoff at our enjoying it warm, they often forget or are unaware that it comes straight out of a cold cellar and is gloriously not gassy.
You can badge your lagers as beers, you can call them “craft”, you can pack them full of hops, you can persuade yourself it is artisan…but you’ll never make them as varied or as interesting as the British do.
I feel like the national anthem is about to play after all of that!
(Enjoy Responsibly. Drink in Moderation. Acting Like a Prize Ass while Inebriated is Not Acceptable. Drinking While Pregnant Can Harm Your Baby.)
The area of Marlborough to the North of New Zealand’s South Island is home to many a vineyard. Indeed, there are far more vineyards scattered across the country than you may expect. It is a big business for NZ.
These vineyards range from the delightfully small and boutique where you can easily meet the owner while having a taste session up to the huge business concerns. It was at one of these, Yealands Winery, near the town of Seddon, that I did a self-drive tour (yes, you read that correctly) before going to the obligatory tasting area and shop.
The business prides itself on being carbon zero (or carboNZero to localise it!) and uses old vines as fuel (and has big piles of fertiliser which are made on-site), has free-range chickens eliminating bugs and babydoll sheep (which cannot reach the vines) mowing the grass. This is a BIG vineyard though and I couldn’t help but feel that maybe somewhere the idylls fell a little flat when you saw the rather sizeable modern factory – but fair play on what they aim for and what they are apparently achieving.
Finally, here is a fun fact…they actually play classical music to their grapes as they believe it increases the vigour of the vines and their resistance to disease. Heaven knows.
When a lot of people think of New Zealand, they may think of the Kiwi, they may think of the All Blacks or they may think of New Zealand lamb!
New Zealand used to be, in essence, an extended farm for the UK. There was far more produce here than the small population could consume and as such you may as well export it. They invented refrigeration of meat here (in 1882 near Dunedin) which enabled ships to take lamb to the UK.
New Zealand continues to be an agriculture powerhouse to this day. You can grow almost anything here. One of the few fruits I haven’t seen growing would be bananas. Different parts of the country have different climates which facilitate different crops. Only the feijoa (an acquired taste anyway…slightly medicinal) apparently doesn’t lend itself to export too well. It always use to strike me as bizarre how you could get NZ apples in UK supermarkets, but not UK apples (go figure!).
Agriculture forms the backbone of the economy and of many people’s lives. Sheep farming has given way to more profitable beef in many areas but there is still plenty of lamb to go around.
While in Hastings, just south of Napier, we went to NZ’s oldest farmers market. Uncommon in the UK, these sorts of markets are a national institution and even Auckland has them. A great place to get fresh or manufactured product straight from source. Delicious!
Please check out the drummer in the band…beret and shades…possibly a contender for coolest drummer on earth…
I mentioned the potential for serious desirability effects from the purchase of Lynx Legend body spray in a previous update…well…it seems it does indeed live up to the promise.
There I was on an outing to the Ascension vineyard about an hour north of Auckland in the small town of Matakana when I happened to be accosted by not one but two vestal virgins! A photo illustrating my surprise is just below…it is not every man who has the privilege of getting in between two such beauties…and with his wife looking on aghast! Suits you, sir!
Thankfully, I am referring to their Viognier wine, of which I purchased two bottles for future enjoyment after a very pleasing tasting session…which is free in the event you buy two bottles (otherwise $5 NZD)…you can also have lunch at the vineyard – we had a nice platter of cold meats, cheese, pickles, bread and chutneys while overlooking the vines and gardens. Very nice indeed. There are a number of vineyards near Auckland and I dare say we will sample a few more in due course.
Another (less satisfying) potential side-effect I have discovered of late is my desirability to the local insect population who have taken a liking to any bare body part they happen to notice. My feet, legs and arms have all been cannibalised by the little things – most likely sandflies which you can barely even see. Peter, the resident Praying Mantis, is noticeably absent when the recriminations are flying!
Starting out in a new country has to involve a fascinating trip to the supermarket to see all of the delights that pass for local home cuisine…so how does a trip to Countdown in New Zealand go I hear you ask?
For UK readers, Richard Whiteley (RIP) and Carol Vorderman are nowhere in sight (phew!).
Well, of course there are plenty of similarities to supermarkets anywhere…but some differences I noticed to the UK is the ability to buy live mussels – big ones by UK standards. There seems to be a little less focus on pre-packaged items although of course you can still buy things like ready-made lasagne and frozen pizza. There is more cultural diversity in goods due to the demands of a diverse population. There is also a great selection of pies. I was quite pleased to see Heinz Baked Beans and Marmite…although UK Marmite is actually branded up as “Our Mate” in NZ as someone else uses the Marmite name…to be honest, I am quite tempted to try the local brands anyway – when in Rome and all that…or even in Auckland…but a love of UK Marmite can run deep…
I have also seen trolleys referred to as trundlers. Being something of an aficionado of crisps, I am able to vouch for the quality of the local produce in that regard already…although I am yet to sample the green onion flavour…
Anyway, a couple of items I thought worthy of a photograph to share with you…the first is some wine on the shelf…check out the prices!!! Who on earth pays that? At a 2:1 exchange rate to the UK, that is £400 for a supermarket bottle of red wine.
The second made me laugh when I saw it…Lynx Legend body spray…in a gold can with an “Extremely Irresistible” warning…with this much gold and a “legend” tag, now everyone can be as irresistible as Mr T. Pity the fool who doesn’t choose it.
I had my leaving do last night from my job ahead of our moving away. It was almost a week before I actually leave my role but people came for a good night out.
We went to a bar called The Pit in Leeds – nothing to do with the Yorkshire stereotype of mining…instead an American-themed barbecue joint selling American craft beers.
Anyway, I digress.
I am lucky in that over the years I have formed some firm friendships from my workplace and some of my closest friends have been people I have been fortunate to work with. I have met some genuinely wonderful people, many of whom were able to come out last night. Some travelled from London to be there, some from slightly closer by. It made me feel quite humbled and also touched. Yet another feeling that really brings home the magnitude of the change and the importance of building new friendships – not to replace the old but to compliment them.
I sincerely hope that in the years to come I can keep in touch with these friends – either through this blog or other methods and hopefully some of them will be able to visit New Zealand which would be a genuine pleasure for me.
Here is an unacknowledged aspect of emigrating…the need to whittle down your food and drink supplies. In some ways it ought to seem like an enjoyable activity…and in many ways it is as you start to see the (hopefully) excellent departure date drawing nearer…BUT…
What about almost having to force yourself to eat and drink things which you love?
I don’t like to waste anything and I realised a few months ago that I had 4 bottles of whiskey in the house (something I enjoy on an occasional basis) and, having acquired an additional one at Christmas, I am pleased (and at times inebriated) to report that I am down to my last half bottle but it has really dampened my enjoyment somewhat. I have finally got through my last jar of Haywards mixed pickle which again was forced. The beer stocks are dwindling too. Crisps (chips for the American readers) are going. I don’t think the Marmite will be eaten. Tea is looking like we may fall short. My diet doesn’t just consist of these things in case you are alarmed.
I suppose at the end of the day that I can give away anything which remains but it then becomes something else to have to transport…it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for the enjoyment of those small luxuries to resurface after an enforced break.