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August 14, 2017 | by  | in From Within the Fallout Zone |
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From Within the Fallout Zone

If you read stuff you’ll know all Kiwis come to London for it’s “proximity to Europe” and “because all my friends were already over here, anyway.” Sooner or later, these reasons for leaving NZ become your means of surviving the Big Bad City, i.e. I live with old friends from Wellington, and I’m on Skyscanner daily. The continent is one argument-about-cabin-luggage and a few bob away; as such, the rest of the UK is easily forgotten for the riviera’s promised sunshine. Last weekend I tried a different form of survival, going “bush”, or rather, forgoing any semblance of bush on the Welsh coast, going “into the hills.”  

You don’t have to leave the UK to get out of London, and UK “proper” — its rural midlands and sidelands — can provide a quick cure to the homesick blues. Before getting far out of London, travelling along the M1, the highway signs point to the original Wellington, Woburn, Kelburn, and Stratford; I’m reminded of home. Take a left and cross the Welsh border and any thought of a fallout zone vanishes. The landscape skips over to New Zealand classic within a few miles — a mash up of Westcoast rainforest and Horowhenua hills. Ignore the castles. The stone walls keeping you on the side of steep valleys are laced with ferns which may as well be silver — just don’t turn them over.

This trip into Wales was to climb Mount Snowdon and some of the surrounding mountains (hills). The plan of getting to the top of Snowdon was quickly abandoned after a “short-cut” resulted, as expected, in getting lost; plus the sight of numerous tourists walking the main track. Instead, walking a ridgeline between the Irish sea and England, we saw all of three other people over three days — the least amount of people I’ve seen all year. Isolation feels very refreshing against the anonymity you experience among the throngs of people in London.

A lot of the time, London is antithetical to anything New Zealand, whereas the UK’s small towns, embroiled in agriculture and industry, feel homely. Despite being from the great metropolis of Wellington, tractors and small high streets remind me of New Zealand more than the city. We were the UK’s farm for a century. Go figure.

The teenager at the fish and chip shop, bumbling through our order, would have been at home in Bulls:
“Do you have any calamari?”
“Let me check… we usually do… sometimes,” lifting the freezer lid, “no sorry we don’t have any calamari.”
“Okay, that’s fine, could I get a piece of cod?”
“No sorry, only haddock.”

And Heinz is no Watties, though, call me crazy, I love vinegar and mushy peas.

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