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h e l l o @ k a t e o k t a y . c o m

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essentially just me thinking I am funny

Hello Dunedin.

First published in the Otago Daily Times

 

 

I have been procrastinating over writing this introductory column for as long as the editor gave me the brief to write an introductory column. My forte is writing rubbish about other people, not myself.

"Write about you? Should be easy," said my father and mimed drinking and floppy-hands typing, which is how he (semi-accurately) imagines I spend my day. "Just write about me, yah: `Husband is very lovely'," said my husband. "Tell the truth and the impending job search could prove tricky," said my friend.

This is the second time I have lived in Dunedin. The first was when I had just finished high school and I was nominally at university. The primary driver for enrolling was the fact that they gave you all your living allowance and textbook fund in a lump sum, and my 18-year-old reaction to this is why they amended the policy. I can still remember the giddy delight at all that cash. I put some of it into a pool for a boyfriend's Holden Special station wagon (powder blue) and with the rest I had a really wonderful three and a-half weeks.

After the last of the money trickled through my open fingers I got two supremely awful jobs; on the counter at Georgie Pie and cold-call telemarketing. My memory of trying a Georgie Pie seafood pie is seared in my memory forever. I have eaten rats, sheep's brains and duck embryos under the watchful and encouraging eyes of locals welcoming the foreign guest with their prized delicacies, but by far and away the most unpleasant thing I have ever tasted was a Georgie Pie seafood pie.

When I wasn't setting the world alight with my dual careers in the actual worst fast-food ever invented and selling double-glazing appointments, my predominant recollection is of a cold and dingy flat on the wrong side of the street on the wrong side of the valley. An older relative once visited and told me that he had been "in sharers quarters with dirt floors that were cleaner than this place". This was a sentiment we all felt genuinely surprised at. Imagine if he had arrived a couple of hours earlier before all the frantic cleaning took place?

After a year of learning to really despise the majority shareholder of the Holden Special I moved to Christchurch and got some more godawful jobs. Kitchen hand: not bad. Plastics factory: pretty bad, but also had every copy of 1980s National Geographic ever printed, which I could read while stacking salmon trays to the soundtrack of hearing-damaging machinery. Door-to-door vacuum sales person: the pinnacle of career dissatisfaction and the instigator of my second stint at university, the one when I actually went, rather than just attending the once to hand in my enrolment papers.

After university finished I left for a little more than a decade overseas. My final year and a-half was spent with my husband in his childhood neighbourhood in Istanbul. This sounds better than it actually was. The reality was a little more ghetto-ish.

 

When I got pregnant and announced that the bump and I were returning to New Zealand's peaceful shores I was as elated as my husband was miserable. The first two years were the most difficult, and admittedly, destroying his career was a little deflating for everyone. "It's so beautiful!" I would sigh, looking out on the harbour. "Let's go for a walk!" "Hmpff," my husband would sniff. "Where to, yah? Not even any shops." "You are talking about shopping, not walking," I would explain helpfully.

But it grew on him (although Stockholm syndrome probably helped my cause) and now we are firm Dunedinites; cheering for the Highlanders, sending "Dunedin" t-shirts to overseas friends and (chiefly) defending our terrible weather to those from warmer climes (literally anywhere else in the country).

 

The grim winter days can be admitted among locals, who huddle together bracing against the wind that screams up George St, but when questioned by any non-residents we barricade ourselves with bristly retorts that it was actually very nice last week, and that the early spring was lovely, and that they probably brought it with them from Christchurch, and how is the rebuild going there anyway?

So now we are here and I get to delight you, dear reader with whatever happens to flit across my mind over the course of the previous fortnight. I assume that it will principally be used as a sort of a venting mechanism for whatever I have found personally irritating during this time.

 

So that will be something to look forward to. Long semi-psychotic tirades about roadworks and family members who have slighted me. Should be good. (For me).