Bukha is a town nearly as close as you can get to the tip of the Arabian Peninsular and nearly as close as you can get to a one hour drive from my door mat. Describing this place is easy yet I can be sure that if I did, any given listener would sketch a different picture in their minds than the one I have. Bukha is breathtaking and strong.
Oman did well to hold onto Mussandam during the great dish-out of areas era of the 1970s. It is a space I missed enormously during the three years we were away from Ras Al Khaimah and a place I feel very at home in. Quite possibly because there are very few people there along with a multicoloured ocean and geological features which leave both creationists and evolutionists head scratching.
Bukha lacks only a skatepark and a place to buy cashews.
I already have made my list to read to the journalist who sits by me on my deathbed. My list of things I wish I had done. It’s a short but deep list.
I wish I:
* did what I was good at
* did what I enjoyed
* saw the world
* spent more time playing with my boys
When I was a youth, I was misled down a certain track. I followed this path. They didn’t tell me it was tapered and petering but here I am pinched, poked and flopping.
My values have shifted recklessly over the past few years. Twenty one year old me would slap me with my own knee.
“There is still time,” I was told yesterday.
Ben has been singing a fair amount of Outkast recently. Specifically the first line of Hey Ya! We made up slogans for ourselves a week or so back and Ben chose Ben Bucksmith: A dude and a half. Jonah has proudly adopted Jonah Bucksmith: Chucky Norris. (This is the nom de plume of an Australia FMX rider who, beside Burj Khalifa, stole Jonah’s heart a few weeks back by engaging in a swathe of backflips and no handed clickers right before Jonah’s big brown eyes.) It’s getting hard to keep up and more enjoyable to watch our two.
With another silly season under my belt, I look forward to the New Year and having an excuse to reignite old habits and terminate new ones. I do feel a little lost at this stage of the calendar, like I’m waiting for something I can’t quite put the tip of my tongue on. It’ll come.
It has been wonderful to see so many of the families here travel home for Christmas. Doing so requires taking a lofty kick in the financial jingleberries, so it is not a trip people make lightly. But the do. The urgency to get home to family is sweet.
Santa is pants because:
1. If children believe that Santa has delivered their presents, it means they have been repeatedly lied to by people who they trust. It’s not magical or sweet. It requires starting a lie, building on the lie, answering honest questions with lies and then ending with a lie. It is strange behaviour and enough to get anyone on a certain naughty list, surely.
2. Believing in Santa takes the giving out of Christmas. It encourages children to make lists of what they want (the longer the better), to think primarily of what they can get from Christmas. There is no thought of others, or giving, or of the poor, or gratitude. It feeds greed which breed mean deeds. Fa la la la la la….
3. It removes the celebration aspect of Christmas. There is nothing left to celebrate. We make a list. He checks it (twice), brings presents down chimney to stockings.There are tears because he didn’t bring so and so and so on and so forth. What are children learning or treasuring or taking with them to adulthood from all this? What do they celebrate?
Can I get a witness?
Quietness is a treat. In the ilk of white chocolate, loose clothing, mown lawns and young smiles. It is elusive and underrated. It is one of the highest forms of gentleness. Quietness demands restraint and a seldom seen quality on the inside.
I have a new telephone. I nearly love it. With its red case and slippery face, my phone makes me feel like a hunk. The sales folk required a cute amount of salary in return for my new bliss. The marvels of modern mammon, ay.
It was important for me to buy a phone because I didn’t have one. Actually, I did have one, but I put it in the bin. It was working until I threw it down a flight of stairs one morning in a fit of sleepiness and tripping. For a while it developed a feature which I believe, if available on all communication devices, would be a hot seller. For a month or more, I couldn’t hear anyone through my phone. I could talk and they could hear me but my old Sony made me as deaf as my friends were dumb.
Hunk: Hi hun, just to say I’ll be a little late after work because I need to drink some beer
Hunk: I hope that’s okay. Text me if we need eggs. Love you and so forth.
With unhappiness, it finally gave up its ghost and refused to pass on my messages any more.
For a long, long time I spoke my mind. I answered questions and shared myself. Noise and blurting, barking, squealing, grating. Year on year, reinventions are surfacing.
Apparently there is a lot to be said for listening. Who knows, maybe I’ll start writing poetry, also.
There was a seventeen to twenty one year old gentleman at the ramp today. He had a hole in his left hand ear large enough to put a honking stud through, and he did. His dark blue tee shirt hid how skinny he really was. He was leaner than 1990s Jon Toogood and Courtney Cox put together. For a yob, he had a pleasant smile. I warmed to him instantly because he misled himself to believe I could skate great.
We alternated runs at the facilities squatting at the border of Karori and Northland. It was my first session on a mini for eighteen months, yet it felt like only last weekend I was cracking my knees and skinning my sockets. It is the sounds of skateboarding I like the most which would explain why my best tricks involve lots of contact with the board and the ramp and with fellow others.
My colleague this afternoon demonstrated kindness. He was complimentary and polite. He even offered me a puff on what I initially thought was a bottle of Lucozade but happened to be a makeshift bong. His innovation was delightful and surpassed his ability to ride a skate.
Spanking new boards sit in my luggage. Essentials for a new leg.
Being middle aged plays havoc. I find it easier to look back instead of ahead because there is something there to hold onto rather than merely hope for.
As a late teen I began spending a lot of my discretionary time with Christians. I was in church several times a week, at my keenest. I was surrounded with the happiest, most hopeful people I have known. I used to pray and read the Bible too. My music collection was laden with tapes recorded by some of the biggest names in the business. It felt good. It helped. I took a lot from people to feed my need to belong.
Fifteen tired years later, my faith has dissolved. A pile of crumbs. It slunk away. I watched it go, but lacked the drive to chase or clinch it. I know why, too.
It has taken me a horrendously long time to begin seeing myself with sobriety. Year by year, I have had pieces cut off me, yet shamefully I maintain a ridonculously inflated image of myself. Uninformed choices I made yonks ago are now ankle tapping me. Slapping my cheeks and farting in my face. The words I told you so, ring.
In my next life, I plan to both listen to and ignore people more. I plan to make more money to avoid having to make all my choices around it. I plan to make less friends but hold them all closer.
A lady with long hair and shorts approached me today. In my T Shirt and oldest jeans, I must have looked like someone who could help her. She referred to her son as an Islander and spoke mostly in expletives. It was a conversation I prolonged, during which I congratulated her for making her son pay back his ginger haired friend’s mother for money they had together stolen. The story I had made up which explained why she was speaking to me at all involved a phone call from a local school, uniquely splendid weather and a skatepark. The maths is simple.
I have thought many times how to correctly introduce my children to alcohol. Already, they know enough about it. We aim to model sensible drinking. We never drive if we’re out with the boys somewhere and have had even one drink. We talk openly about how relaxing it is as well as how painful. I think it’s best to plan their first drink. Keep an eye on the whole situation. I figure I only have about three and a half years left, with Ben at least, to keep him off drugs. To help mould him into the kind of young man who knows and does better. Both our chaps have an indomitability which will see them sprout and scale. I have held their hands as tight as I dare and let them horse around freer than I ought. There isn’t a balance, only one fallen person gently squeezing another.
It is time for me to leave behind a lot of old ways. They have been ropes, snagging and jumbling my decision making. Ahead. Forwards. Pinpointed. I am still living they same way I did as a twentyager. It’s time to act my shoe size (41) take some risks. Bite some bullets. Listen to my imagination and ignore the ignorance of my ideals.
All around, people seem to know what they are doing a lot better than I do. Plans are made, as is money. Meanwhile, I plunge and tumble with the abandon of disregarded private school kids. Shudder.
With any luck, there will be a fork in the road soon.
Hazelwood’s Digital Print in Hamilton East is run by two quite delightful ladies. They are personable, amiable, and physically considerable. Their sunny smiles more than overshadow their boring appearance. The way they deliver delight involves: eyes, mouth, cheek bones, hands. Being the first Digital Print shop I have ever set foot in in the Waikato, it was humbling to be greeted and handled so delicately. There was almost a Christmassy feel in the air while we patronised their services and they arranged our passport photos. Several dollars cheaper per eight is not to be taken lightly. It was a real kiwi experience being there. The banter. The ‘talking like old school friends with strangers’. The mates rates.
That was yesterday. Today, at 10.30am, as I skipped back to take them up on their cheer laden offer to redo the photographs if they were rejectable, the women had curdled. Dorlene was coarse, gruff and probably blasphemous. Yesterday and today were Jeckyll and Hyde, berries and blutak, truth and bosses. There was a mile of misery between Monday and Tuesday. They had nothing in common. Antonyms. Like a sudden U Turn on a sodden street, there was slipping and squealing. Fear and sulking. Roal Dahl would have taken a week to work a word image onto the page for them. That ten year old boy being told off for farting in class beamed liked I did as the now butch storekeepers offered the most ghastly customer service I have received down under.
The bit that annoys people the most when they are grumpy is when others do not share their ridiculous view of the situation. Time after time, I have effortlessly been responsible for an increase in other’s blood pressure by simply replying ‘okay’ to their blabber. I see grouchiness as a way of trying to manipulate others. It is a tantrum. A hissy fit. A spaz.
I wish I could control my strops. I have three of four soap boxes. I carry them constantly and expect masses to gather, listen and applaud. “Ooos” and “Ahhhs” would be nice, too. My boxes get set up anywhere, anytime. Basically, if you see me, don’t make eye contact. Keep walking. Pick up your pace. Eyes down may seem impolite to you, but it is the surest way to avoid attending a spectacle that will pummel your peaches and mangle your mangerines. I am getting better but don’t rely on it.
The next few weeks in New Zealand will reviatlise me. Watching cousins and nephews reunite will ignite inside the “she’ll be right” brightness I need to enjoy the next episode of what is turning out to be quite a show.
Without a shadow of a doubt, there are living creatures on another planet. They are mobile, communicative, excreters. It is quite likely they also love. I am certian. I’d bet my teeth on it. These guys thrive in conditions oppositely variant from those for us on Earth. None of this ‘you must have water and the right temperatures to sustain life’ lark. WE must have water and certain temperatures to function, but there are others who don’t. They live in an incomparable place.
There are animals of sorts and changes in weather. Dangers, mountains and beauty. Food we wouldn’t recognise and structures beyond our imagination. The creatures are approximately as smart as us. It’s a bob each way on whether they sport clothes.They have a history and a future. That is everything I know about them.
I’ve taken to looking around more, especially upwards, as I walk. I walk less than I would like to, but more than I might. I have taxis leave me five hundred metres from my house in order than I may breathe and observe. Like a noisy noise, it annoys the boys when I do but they’ll thank me for it one day.
Above our heads is a whole realm many miss. Treetops, cats on hot tin roofs, window frames, dangling fruits and sometimes just other people’s faces. Noticing these new found landmarks enhances my A to B sessions. As we dawdled home from the train station on Sunday along familiar paths, Jonah spoke. He gracefully asked me to take a picture of the ground because he wanted to remember it. I glanced down. There, under our feet, was the road. Grey and irregular. Practical yet insignificant. However, it has just been revealed to me why Jonah’s request might have actually been genuine and not just another shot at the title of cute guy of the year.
We have walked that road dozens of times as a family. Each time we have been on the way to or from a park, a theatre, the circus, a restaurant, a mountain a party, a…. At times the road was crowded with walkers. Other times, we shared it only with cats. Snow and ice piled up and remained alongside the road for months on end. There is a very small bridge at one end and a graffitied wall of cartoon characters at the other. We bought juice and bread along that road. It is now crystal why Jonah wants a photo. I obliged, on one condition - that he featured in the snap.
I am literally enveloped with sadness. The people here who have tirelessly touched us will remain dear. This past year has refreshed us all. Tightened our own love for each other satisfied a dozen and one urges for adventure. It will be hard to top.
Ice cream and beer will never be so cheap again. My eyes will never be so cold as they were in January. Yet, the same tug that got us here pulls again. There is more. There is more.
Who doesn’t like a gourd malapropism? Dropped in sensitively, they can add spice to your wife and fun to your gays. Words are three dimensional. It doesn’t take a lot of them to shred a person, or to bind them together again. Simply sounds, words cuddle up when it’s cold out. They are spit in our faces when delivered without love. It is nigh impossible to say the right thing at the right time. There is a grave difference between words that pour from the heart and those that escape from the head.
I know a couple who lost a baby at birth. It was both head and heart wrenching. Little Philip. What words do you dare say to the father? Or worse, the mother? We all struggled to know if we should speak from the heart or the head or at all. We chose, instead to hug and to hold. A bunch of teachers, talkers - speechless.
Abreast, Ben and I marched up something in the vicinity of one hundred steps on Saturday. They lead to the summit of the highest waterslide in Uzbekistan. I swear you can see Mecca from up there. Talking and walking. Chattering and pattering. He eased the climb with his youthful yakking and childish canter. Irreparably handsome and with a healthy appetite not be beaten, least of all by himself, Ben hardly hesitated to fire his lean trunk over the tip towards an unstoppable fall to the heel of the three hundred or so foot slide. Over and again.
Many times, I have resolved to speak much, much less and to instead use my powers for listening to the people who have unwittingly gotten caught up in one of my tempest like talkfests. Not once have I lasted more than half a conversation. Hand on heart, I am blatantly deluded into thinking that I am more interesting than others. Conversationalists like me really get on my goat. Tedious, greedy and roughshod.
I rest my case.
There are countless reasons why cars should not be allowed.
1. They require heaps of money to buy and two heaps to run.
2. They are noisy.
3. They discourage walks in the rain.
We have missed having our own wheels this year. Week after week we wished we were hatchback havers. A motorbike would have done. Instead, we’ve had a driver who has been an exemplary human being. Fair, punctual, reasonably priced and an enjoyer of English radio. He deserves nothing less than his own private cottage on Male to share with his wife or whomever he sees fit. He has been reliable and atypically honest. Andrey will be remembered with ample affection.
It has rained as much this week as it did for a third of winter. Tonight, the sky was alight with flashes and cracks common during warm, storm weather. Our weekend was spent in the mid thirties, swimming, sliding, skating, devouring, drawing, packing, walking and walking. With only a fortnight left to enjoy Tashkent, time with friends is as high on our list as final visits to restaurants and farewelling our favourite swings.
Because our boys received their school reports on Friday, we took them to Bukhara Restaurant, previously known as The Dancing Restaurant. During the winter it was less frequented, leaving a handsome gap between the door to the toilets and the dining area. Children from all over the world danced to the DJ’s collection of both Russian and Uzbek music. The fish is the best in the city while the beer is as cold as the hospitality is homely. In the summer, there are no free spaces and dancing has to be limited to head nods and shoe taps.
I met Jenny and the boys there, having snuck a couple of cheeky jars in after work with superb colleagues and friends. Like the fish and the beer, they will be sorely missed for their good humour and friendship as well as the way they can’t help but pick up the tab. As is customary, I waved down and chased a small Chevvy. The guy in the front seat agreed to drive to where I wanted to be. He went like a maniac, weaving and screeching more than the Lower Hutt Ladies Craft Association, Ltd. As we ploughed into the car in front of us. I smiled. Let’s see.
Two firey silverbacks emerged from their respective vehicles. Males. Locking eyes and equally unchuffed with each other. I watched them approach, not adjusting their expressions for the occasion. Ready to engage. As they shook hands, they spoke - salom aleyakum.
I remained hungry so I handed my driver a buck, scaled a fence and joined a medium sized throng of people heading up the hill, passing Tashkentland, the TV tower and all in between, to meet the most important people in my whole life.
The fish was steamy and the juice pineapple. Jonah and Ben brim filled themselves and we strolled back through, what Jonah, and now all of us, call, The Princess Park. Copius couples meander the spotlessly pedicured paths while overweight men with overpriced cameras scramble about for angles and good light. It is appropriate to spy from the bridge as newly or soon-to-be weds dodge cyclists and skateboarders canalside.
See you soon.