Monthly Archives: March 2014

Transport Matters

This morning I read about a terrible situation that several people with disabilities find themselves in, all of whom drive heavily modified Skoda Yetis:  Due to potential safety issues, 8 warrants of fitness were revoked in December by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), after the cars were deemed to be noncompliant and therefore, not roadworthy. The Skoda Yetis were each bought for $85, 000NZ, so every individual car and modification process has been a huge investment for owners and/or funding agencies.

These car owners are in virtually the same position as lawbreakers who have had their licenses suspended. Their independence has been stripped from them and they are completely reliant on others to transport them from place to place. The only difference is the modified Skoda Yeti owners have been given a one off subsidy of $5000 for transport costs until the matter has been resolved. It feels to me like these car owners are being treated like this is their fault. Of course it isn’t; the cars were certified roadworthy before the purchase of their vehicles and now, after purchase, this status has been revoked. This is just not good enough. If this was happening to able-bodied people, there would be a public outcry.

Has anybody from the parties involved in this sorry mess, apart from the car owners themselves, ever tried to take public transport in a manual or electric wheelchair?

As I have outlined in a previous blogpost (Living Is Not A Luxury:, bus transport can be extremely difficult for certain people with disabilities and there are a number of factors outside of a passenger’s control that might potentially make travel by bus a real nightmare, including: steep ramps that only work well on certain curb sites; lack of turning ability inside the bus and allocated spaces that can be awkward to get into and out of; busy buses that just don’t have the room to carry a person in a wheelchair; the discomfort on those same busy buses for people with disabilities and, perhaps the most affecting issue, driver attitude and willingness to work with the passenger who has a disability to ensure they have a comfortable, hassle-free journey. This is by no means an extensive list and it will of course vary from person to person. If any number of these issues factor into a person’s journey by bus, it can make the whole experience really quite traumatic.

There can be difficulties, too, in travelling by taxi, for a person with a disability. For those who cannot transfer on their own into a car, or who find it too difficult, a TMV may be their only option. A Total Mobility Vehicle (TMV) is a van with a wheelchair lift and space to carry the wheelchair user without having to transfer out of their wheelchair. TMV transportation can be great but again the passenger is reliant on a good and competent driver who knows what they are doing. Often, depending on where you live and the company you use, this option comes with a large flag-fall surcharge which, if you are not going far, can actually cost a lot more than your journey. In my experience some drivers/companies do not meter their TMV fares either, so the passenger has to accept a previously agreed charge or a seemingly arbitrary fare at the end of the journey. It’s not fair but if this is your only available mode of transportation, you have to accept these terms.

Not everybody who has a physical disability needs to use a TMV if they are taking a taxi. If, like myself, you are able to transfer relatively easily into a car on your own, you may be able to take a taxicab. Again, there can be difficulties here too, and again these difficulties can be exacerbated by drivers who make it very clear that you are a problem for them. There is nothing to stop drivers from starting the meter when you get into their cab. I’ve had some who have started the meter as soon as they stop. Though my wheelchair is easy to fold up and take apart, many drivers have struggled over the years with it. It can take a long time to get it into the boot or back seat and if the meter is running the entire time, again you can end up paying more for this waiting time than you might have for the entire journey.

The article that brought this issue of the noncompliance of modified Skoda Yetis to my attention highlighted the experience of one driver who states that he’s never had a problem with his modified vehicle and that the safety of the car has never been of concern to him. One can believe a vehicle to be as safe as they like but the onus is on the various transport agencies that we have to deem every vehicle roadworthy. That is as it should be. Road users rely on those assessments to keep us safe and to minimise harm, so I do understand that while the New Zealand Transport Association (NZTA) is sympathetic to the plight of these car owners, they have a responsibility, both ethically and legally, to ensure the safety of vehicles. What cannot be allowed to happen though is for vehicles to be certified roadworthy and then for that certification to, in effect, be made null and void after purchase when a warrant of fitness is revoked due to noncompliance issues in the manufacturing process. This is not the point at which these vehicles should have been deemed potentially unsafe and not roadworthy.

First, there’s the issue that some of these drivers have been driving their vehicles for many months on New Zealand roads. Now, if these vehicles have been assessed after purchase as noncompliant due to a manufacturing issue, the owners of the vehicles have themselves, as well as their family and friends and other road users been at undue risk the entire time that vehicle has been on the road. If, on the other hand, these vehicles are and always have been perfectly safe but have nonetheless been deemed not to be compliant to NZTA standards, it rather makes a farce of the entire compliance/safety issue, doesn’t it? Either way, the owners of these cars, all of whom have physical disabilities that make it much more than a bit of an inconvenience to seek alternative modes of transportation while this whole mess is being sorted out, deserve an apology and compensation at the very least. Though nothing is going to reverse the lack of independence, not to mention the stress caused by uncertainty that these people are still going through.

I’m not going to go into who I think is responsible or who I think should resolve this issue. That’s for others to decide. It doesn’t matter to me and I would guess it doesn’t matter one bit to any of these car owners either. They just want to be able to drive their cars to work, to the shops, to drop their kids off at school, to the movies…  A one off payment for transportation costs doesn’t begin to cover what these people have been through. That’s what matters. A good and swift resolution to this problem would have been good. This should never have happened but it has and it needs to be resolved: Now.


Chronic Illness, Welfare and Trolls… Oh My!

Recently an online friend of mine shared a harrowing experience on her blog ( My friend has a chronic illness and right now is unable to work to support herself financially and so has to deal with WINZ (NZ’s social welfare dept.) on a regular basis. It has not gone well thus far. She has handled the situation with grace, tenacity and bravery. Unsurprisingly, my friend’s blogpost inspired a number of terrible people (trolls) to comment on her situation. It’s hard enough dealing with WINZ. Harder still is coping with and processing the pure bile that spews forth from those who refuse to acknowledge any difficulty and disadvantage that a person might have in this life and that society is responsible for helping those people who need it most.

Don’t Read The Comments

That’s very good advice that should be applied to almost anything you read online but in this case it was important to read the stories of others who had been through similar experiences and were frustrated, struggling, impoverished and feeling helpless and hopeless.

That my friend’s blogpost resonated with so many is a pretty bad indictment of our welfare system. The trolls were outnumbered by these stories but unfortunately it tends to be the trolls that stick out like a pustular boil on a sore thumb. Don’t read the comments: Yes. Fair enough in most situations. When you want to affect change though, it’s important to know what people are thinking. Societal attitudes are part of the problem and can also be a part of the solution. That’s what social change is all about.

If You Can Use [Insert Social Media Tool Here] You Can Work

People with chronic illnesses can feel marginalised to the point of invisibility, especially if we are unable to work. Blogging and social media is one of the ways in which we can feel empowered. We can tell our stories in our own words and in our own time. We can write when we feel up to it physically and psychologically. Crucially, we can get feedback, suggestions, guidance and support from those who read what we write. For many of us, it is the first time we have been able to share our innermost thoughts in any kind of coherent way and it can be the first step to discussing issues that affect us in the real world. We don’t have the time or the energy to talk through everything that has an impact on us in our day to day lives and there might not be anybody there to listen if we did. Blogging is a lifeline for some of us. It can make us feel supported and less alone. Think about that next time you make a thoughtless comment that we should just stop whining, get a job and get on with our lives.

There are those who seem to think that if we can tweet or use Facebook or blog, we can work. It’s true that these things can take up a lot of time. I would consider myself a heavy social media user. Before the advent of social media people might have said: If you can walk the dog, you can work. If you can go to the pictures, you can work. If you can sit in a cafe and drink tea, you can work. There is, expressed here between the lines, the disturbing notion that those who are unable to work should sit at home and watch TV all day, like prisoners in their own home. Though perhaps if you can watch TV, you can work. I don’t know. Those who take this attitude, apart from being downright mean, misunderstand completely how chronic illness works.

Most people who live with chronic illness have their good and bad days. On a good day, you might be able to get out and see friends. You might be able to walk the dog. You might be able to sit in a picture theatre for a couple of hours. You might on very good days be able to do a full day’s work. Some people can experience quite long stretches where they could potentially work part time or even full time. The thing with chronic illness though is you don’t know when you will be at your worst again. You don’t know when you are going to have to spend the day in bed because you’re in too much pain to get up, let alone go outside. You don’t know when you might get an infection or some other illness related to your condition that might put you into hospital and out of action for a long while. That’s why when you tell us that if we can use social media, we can work, it rather gets on our wick. Please stop that.

You’re Just Lazy

Those of us who have chronic illnesses internalise the idea that if we are not turning up to a place of work at least five days a week, we must be lazy. I felt this myself for many years. After receiving my first class honours degree, I started looking for jobs. I worked part time for a number of years in a job I loved. I did other freelance work, too and I volunteered. I wasn’t busy enough. Everyone around me was busy and talked all the time about how busy they were. I felt so much guilt that all of my time was not occupied by work and I also felt left out. I wanted so badly to join in. I’ve always been extremely prone to a sort of impenetrable existential boredom so I was looking for constant distraction from that, too. At around this time I started to get sick a lot with potentially life threatening infections and my body was starting to show the first signs of osteoarthritis, too. I was 24. You can age a lot faster when you have a physical disability like spina bifida. A chronic illness might age you as well.

It wasn’t until I tried for a career in teaching that I realised I was never going to be able to work in a ‘normal’ job. This was the turning point for me. I knew I wasn’t being lazy. I had to accept the very real possibility that I might kill myself trying to work. For some, it’s not just a case of finding the right job. We need to accept that some of us are incapable of holding down a job and that the consequences of trying to do so may include making a person sicker. We need to accept that forcing a person into work may indeed, for a small number of people, lead to death. That’s not being dramatic. It so nearly happened to me that I question every day how I’m still here. I was so sure that I was going to die. I had been on a full time placement for three weeks. Three weeks working full time is how long it took for me to nearly lose my life in pursuit of a career. So next time you feel the urge to tell someone with a chronic illness to get off their lazy behind and get a job, have a bit of a think about what effect that might have on a person.

If you stopped feeling so sorry for yourself and put that energy into work, you could get a job

This is often said to people who have been brave enough to share that being chronically ill has led to depression or that depression is a chronic illness for them. Well, they are right about one thing: depression takes a lot out of you. It takes a lot of energy to be so depressed that you can’t leave the house. Only the most ignorant person with their head firmly in the sand doesn’t know now that depression is not about feeling sorry for yourself.

Often people assume that those of us who are unable to work are sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves. Actually, many of us are good and productive members of our community. Some of us volunteer, we support our friends, we are valued family members, we have hobbies and interests and we care about our communities. We do these things because everybody needs meaning in their lives. Rest assured, when you tell us to get over it and stop feeling sorry for ourselves, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

What’s your problem? What’s wrong with you? What’s your disability/impairment/condition?

Just a quick tip: Only the last version of what is essentially the same question is acceptable and only when it’s relevant to the conversation. Even then it’s up to the person just how they want to answer. In the context of employment, I and others with disabilities and/or chronic illness get very used to followup questions about how our illness or disability might affect our ability to work, like it’s really anybody’s business. We are very aware that these questions are asked so that you can assess our suitability for employment and judge us accordingly.

Most of us experience a long period of utter devastation, sometimes even leading to depression and anxiety, as we go through the long process of coming to grips with the fact that we can’t hold down a job because our health will either be compromised severely if we do, or our health will get in the way of being able to do our job; often it’s a combination of the two. Many of us have tried over and over again to work in various different jobs and each time it doesn’t work out, our self esteem, self worth, in fact our entire sense of self, takes a battering. Eventually some of us get to a place where we are ok with who we are and we accept our new circumstances, though many of us would still give anything to change them. You should know, it’s not up to you to decide how our chronic illness or disability affects our ability to be employed. Through experience, we have become pretty good at judging that for ourselves, thanks very much.

Pretend Like You’re A Good Person

We are not idiots. We know some of you are judging us. We know you will probably use our stories against us. We know other things too: We know that we don’t have to justify ourselves to anybody. We know what we are capable of. We know that our stories will help some to find strength and others to discover a way through. We are living our lives in the best way we know how. We will not apologise to anybody for having to accept support from the government or anybody else. It’s not our fault. We didn’t ask for this. If we could change things, we would but many of us can’t. If you are judging us, you are changing nothing and you are helping nobody. You can and should change your attitude and your thinking. Pretend like you’re a good person for a bit. You never know, it might stick.

You Don’t Have To Have Fun To Have An Adventure

The Boss Is A Good Guy

On a Friday morning at the tail-end of February, with just over a week to go until the first of two Auckland concerts by ‘The Boss’, I read a tweet. The tweet was a link to a charity auction on TradeMe, ‘NZ’s #1 auction and classifieds site’. The auction was for two tickets with backstage passes to Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes concert, with proceeds going to the Auckland City Mission. That was a nice thing for Bruce to do. As the tweet had suggested, The Boss is indeed a ‘good f**cking guy’. I would have less than a week to organise myself if I won the auction. It was fine though because I wasn’t going going to win. Right, that’s enough thinking. Let’s do this thing. It’ll be fun. I clicked on ‘Place bid’, which registered as instantly as my regret. I tried to be light and nonchalant about it. I won’t win but if I do, it’ll be fun. Within a couple of hours, someone who likes Bruce Springsteen just about as much as I love preppy teen boy bands, said that she had bought a ticket but didn’t want to go. I could have the ticket. That clinched it. I was going to win the bloody auction, of that I had no doubt.

I spent my weekend promoting the auction to others in the hope that they might bid. My heart rate had increased to a rapid and heavy thud. I was hoping like anything that someone else would bid on the tickets and yet at the same time the thought of an adventure, having been stuck at home recovering from another infection, was kind of exciting. I don’t tend to seek adventure or fun. I’m just not that sort of person. I don’t like the feeling of excitement much; it’s too close to anxiety. By Monday I was so stressed my mind was attempting transcendental escape.

I had to face the fact that by around lunchtime I would win the auction. I bid on the auction before I asked any questions at all about it, including the most important: Will the concert and backstage venue be wheelchair accessible? I posted this question within minutes of bidding. The auction finished and of course, I won. I didn’t have an answer on accessibility but a lovely man at the City Mission was trying to find out on my behalf. The day after I won the auction, I opened an email saying that backstage was going to be wheelchair accessible and that there would be a platform in the GA area of the stadium for wheelchairs. Good, so I guess I’m going to Bruce. That’s exciting. Shit.

Sometimes Even The Best Laid Plans…

I spent the following days in sheer panic trying to organise transport to Auckland, transport around Auckland, a wheelchair accessible place to stay and someone to go to the concert with. After a few false starts and one very long panic attack, I decided to take a friend up on his offer to stay. I promised him a ticket and backstage pass, ostensibly for his troubles but so I also had someone to go to the concert with who I knew would appreciate the experience. I gave up hope of anybody driving me to Auckland in exchange for a ticket and booked return flights. It wasn’t at all how I hoped things might go but everything had worked out. I was so relieved I collapsed onto my bed and had a long nap – for two days. I was starting to feel ill. I almost hoped I might be too sick to go. It was all getting a bit much.

With everything sorted, I had time to relax and start to feel good about going. It worked. I never act impulsively and this proved that even someone in my situation could be spontaneous. I was enjoying letting myself get a bit excited. As well as the concert, the number of people who wanted to meet up while I was in Auckland meant that I was going to have a busy weekend. For a person who spends so much time on her own, I was almost more excited about that than the concert. The level of enthusiasm from people that I was going to be in Auckland was flattering. I met with two people. The rest of the time I spent on my own. It’s lucky I’m used to being alone, though there’s something about being in a strange city that induces a particularly acute kind of loneliness.

At the beginning of Autumn on a clear, fine morning, I flew out of Napier. I played Flappy Bird, which a whole lot of people uncertain of the meaning of the concept would probably say was ‘meta’. I looked out the window down onto clouds that really did look like cotton wool. I talked to the air hostess about playing Flappy Bird. I drank my tea and ate my breakfast bar, which gave me the feeling I was face down in a desert. Upon landing, I waited for everyone else to disembark – I had no choice. An airport staff member took me to the baggage claim area and I waited… and waited… and waited. I turned my cell phone back on. There was one unread txt. Due to circumstances beyond anybody’s control my accommodation, transport and concert companion all fell through when I opened that txt. Never put all your eggs in one basket, they say. I’m so pleased nobody was around to say that to me then because I would have had to show them where they could put their eggs. All of them. Oh, and my bag was also lost for about an hour, too. Not a great start.

After meeting a friend briefly and recalibrating from ‘excited’ back to ‘stressed’, I sought temporary distraction. Though I wasn’t hungry, I needed sustenance in preparation for what I knew might be a very long day of sorting shit out. I’ve never been able to resist market food so I headed toward a small stand advertising homemade hotdogs and ordered a hotdog with cheese. It looked lovely and fresh and tasted like leftovers assembled by somebody who doesn’t really know what to do with leftovers.

Don’t Panic!

I can’t tell you how to get from my home to the homes of any of my family or to any of the schools I attended. It’s one of the weird and wonderful effects that hydrocephalus has had on my brain. However long I live in an area, I can’t hope to get around what should be the most familiar of places without getting lost. The visual world doesn’t make a lot of sense to me at all. That said, I managed to get around Auckland efficiently enough. I didn’t get lost once. I’m also prone to anxiety and I didn’t have a panic attack the whole time I was away. I was nervous and stressed but I think anybody would have been. I can only reason that I had too much to deal with to break down and I was the only person I could rely on, so I needed to be ok.

I spent much of Saturday alternatively finding places to charge my cellphone with a broken charger, tweeting desperately for help on Twitter, and searching frantically for somewhere to stay. I had tried in vain to find paid accommodation before I left, so I knew I was probably going to continue to be out of luck. I found one hostel online that had a couple of dormitory beds vacant. The hostel wasn’t far from where I sat so I decided to go straight there. There was a high step at the hostel entrance. It was only one though and there would probably be another entrance. I tried to negotiate this one step. I glanced at the man at reception, hoping he might come to help me. He stood waving his arms above his shaking head. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so emphatically rejected.

My only hope now was to find someone through social media who might take pity on me and my stupid, impulsive, click-happy index finger. I had visions of being homeless for the night. Then something wonderful happened: I had a few different Tweeps at once offer help and one that seemed too good to be true. My saviour had a fully wheelchair accessible house and a car to take me straight to the stadium. All of my problems went away and were replaced with a euphoric exhaustion. I said thank you a lot. It was all I could do. There was just no way to express that level of gratitude and relief. I was on my way to check in with The Boss.

Institutional Hotdogs

As I neared the box office, I realised the instructions for ticket pickup were in my bag, which was safely nestled in the front seat of the car that had just dropped me off. I thought perhaps I had left my proof of ID back in the car as well. I dropped a shaky hand into my handbag, rummaged inefficiently for a bit and withdrew a couple of cards. I headed slowly towards the box office. I knew I was in the vicinity of where I needed to be; that would have to be enough.

At home, when I printed off the directions, I felt like James Bond. It was all very clandestine and involved awaiting further instruction. I tried my luck and went up to a person at the box office, explaining my situation as best I could. I handed over my photo ID and was given a white envelope with instructions on how to get backstage, tickets and two stickers, which would give unlimited access to the ‘E-Street Lounge’. I have no idea how the staff at the box office recognised me in the photo. Though it was taken just a couple of years previous, my face had to have aged at least 10 years in the days since I had won the auction. Taking a deep breath, I slapped the large green sticker that guaranteed backstage access onto my jersey and read the directions over and over until the words made some useful sense.

The lounge was easy to find, though I was a little confused when I got there. Backstage actually amounted to what we plebs might call a corporate lounge overlooking the stadium. I made my way through to a second room to the bar. I don’t drink much at all anymore but I figured I had earned it. I’ve never paid so much for a beer, which seemed fair because I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed a beverage so much in all my life either. Looking around, there were only a few people scattered throughout a sparsely populated room. I found a space close to the bar where I could look out over the crowd. The stadium was filling up fast. There was no promise that a backstage pass would guarantee a meeting with any of the musicians performing that night, so as I viewed the tiny people rapidly increasing in population, I had accepted that I might not meet The Boss or anyone else that evening – sort of.

A dim glass and steel cabinet just off to the side of the bar drew my eye. It housed some of the most distressed looking hotdog shaped specimens you could ever hope to lay eyes on. The buns looked harassed, wrinkled and desperate, the frankfurters were a dull brown and the whole sorry affair was topped with cheese that had previously melted and was now properly congealed. The sight of these hotdogs pleased me very much. I take a perverse pleasure in institutional food. Perhaps it’s all the time I’ve spent in hospitals, though I think that’s only part of it. I remember fondly the same hotdogs were sold at my primary school canteen before such delicacies began to be treated with the same horror and sense of urgency as a baby around an open bag of rat poison. I would have happily consumed one of these institutional hotdogs if it weren’t for the fact that I had wolfed down a generic pie from a clone cafe just before the concert and was completely satiated.

Bruce, the Imposter

Sitting backstage, not far from me, there was a man chatting casually with a couple of his friends. He reminded me of someone. I’ve never been good with faces. Since I was little, I’ve confused people with other people. I tend not to use names too much just in case. He wasn’t as handsome as I imagined. I’m sure this guy’s nose was bigger. His hair was slightly thicker, I thought. He seemed quite short but I’m not a good judge of height. Sitting down all the time tends to skew one’s perspective. It could be. No. Then I heard him speak. A Kiwi. I went back to my beer and wondered whether savouring it was the best way to extract the most value. I spoke to the bar staff who couldn’t have been lovelier. They were, frankly, by far and away the highlight of my backstage experience. They genuinely seemed to care when I told them the story of how things had gone quite badly wrong. They were kind and helpful and they made me feel better about being backstage on my own. I heard Bruce the imposter speak again. The room had filled up a little so I couldn’t hear him quite as well. His voice now sounded – American. Leave it alone. I was so tired I just wanted to go home.

Having written the contact details of where I was staying on an envelope, I turned my phone off when I got to the venue. It was at 18% charge when I got to the stadium and I was relieved to know that I could use it after the show, should the need arise. After my beer I thought I might turn on my phone again for a bit and check Twitter. It was on. My phone was on. No no no! How could I not have turned it off properly? I had watched as the screen went blank but now it was on and at 5% charge. I figured it still had enough juice for a quick phone call. I turned it off a second time. This time it turned itself right back on. I did this a few more times before my phone completely died along with my charger. By this stage, I was no longer registering things as good or bad. They were just things that were happening to me that I felt nothing about. I laid the dead phone to rest with the dead charger in my bag and decided to find out how I might get to where the tiny people on the other side of the glass were.

Tagged, Caged and Ready to Rock

No thanks at all should go to a backstage official who had a freak out on my behalf about how far it was that I had to travel to the GA area and how long it might take and how much of the concert I might miss and offered… no help. Having found my own way to the field of Mount Smart Stadium, I was guided the last few metres to the wheelchair access area on the field. It couldn’t have taken more than a few minutes to get to where I needed to be. I was there in plenty of time, the band weren’t even on the stage yet. That pissed me off because I had done enough worrying that day. I also breathed a sigh of relief.

I was at the bottom of a ramp in the middle of a field. With some very welcome help, I pushed myself to the top and was met with the funniest sight. I thought perhaps after the day I’d had, I might be hysterical. It still makes me laugh now so it must actually be funny to my sick and twisted mind. At the top of that ramp was a black platform surrounded by bars on all four sides and on that platform, wheelchairs. It was full of them. There were some other seats too, for ‘companions’. For the most part though it was wheelchairs, on a black platform, with rails around it. Surrounding us were the crowd whose heads came to shoulder height. It felt like I was in a zoo or a pre-show exhibition and I laughed out loud. I couldn’t hold it in.

Please don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for the platform. I had a great view which was unrestricted for, well, large chunks of the concert. What made it even funnier though was a woman, sitting in a chair in front of me, found it necessary to get up out of her chair and have a bit of a dance/flail every time Springsteen sang a more upbeat song. He has quite a few upbeat songs in his repertoire. I felt like asking her to sit down. I wanted to tell her that the entertainment was already on the stage in front of us, that she really didn’t need to provide us with a show. During those same songs, a man who was seated behind me stomped his foot hard onto the platform, almost to the beat. I felt like asking him to stop. I wanted to tell him that the reverberations from his enthusiastic stamping were going right through my already pain-stricken body. I said nothing. Then I laughed again. It was too funny.

I smiled and sang and whooped and enjoyed the concert even though I was exhausted and in near intolerable pain. I heard the next day he did a three hour set. I stayed for about two. It’s not that Bruce and his band weren’t good. He has a great and powerful voice. His band were brilliant. Everyone up on that stage was energised and ready to rock. The Boss puts on a fantastic show, but I was tired and sore.

I found a taxi stand with relative ease. It certainly helped that I left early enough to beat the crowd. There was a line of cars waiting along a long and thick grass verge. I awkwardly pushed myself to the first car, against the resistance of the grass. Without opening his passenger window, the man in the car looked at me and shook his head. This happened a couple of times before I struck a driver with his window down. He asked me where I was going. When I told him, he said he was booked. The next driver looked me in the eye and told me I looked like hard work. I think it must have been about 8 or 10 taxis later when a driver finally waived me over. I thanked him profusely. I shouldn’t have felt the need. He told me on the way that he had immigrated to New Zealand from China. I think he said he had been here around 15 years. His accent was still thick. He was mild mannered and polite. I felt safe with him.

I made it back to the place I was staying. I was shown around and had a chat with my perfect host. I realised, not for the first time, I was giving the quite wrong impression that I was having a terrible time. I wondered how many more times I could say thank you without becoming annoying. I reasoned I had probably reached that point. I fell into bed, exhausted, sore, relieved and slept.