I had a challenge on my hands. For my birthday which we celebrated in Spain last year I had a SEVEN cheese pizza. And how do you top that I ask you?! So for Peter’s birthday I was determined to make it as special as possible. I believe I was more excited about it than he was.
I had booked it nearly a month ago and had given him a few teaser clues to keep him guessing but the day had finally arrived. With glee I gave him his birthday card which explained that he would need his “togs” (NZ lingo for swimming shots), a towel, some super strong gel for his mohawk and a good sense of balance. He was going surfing!
He’d expressed an interest in it several times as we travelled New Zealand so I knew it was a safe bet and due to my lack of confidence in the water it was something he could do on his own whilst I ran around setting up more surprises.
We went over to Mount Maunganui near Tauranga for his lesson and as he donned his wetsuit I ran off into town to see what I could find. Sadly this year I was unable to bake him his own birthday cake so I had to improvise. This found me running around the entire town (and sweating profusely in the heat) in search of bakeries. Sadly I couldn’t find any that did whole cakes so in the end I settled for two chocolate mud cakes which looked like giant muffins that had vomited chocolate all over themselves. I managed to find some candles too then raced back to the car, praying the cakes wouldn’t melt too much in the heat, dived for my camera and raced over to the beach in order to see the expert at work.
Peter had taken to it (excuse the pun) like a duck to water and the joy on his face was fantastic to watch. He was literally loving every minutes as he paddled through the water and struggled to stand up. He managed a few good standing surfs that I saw and even when he was falling off I was blinded by the grin on his face through my camera lens.
After the lesson we were sorely tempted to check the local op shops in search of a surfboard but along with our snorkelling equipment and limited space in the car it seemed impractical to say the least. But I suspect that this will not be the last time Peter finds himself on top of a wave.
The more unexpected part of Pete’s special day was the unfortunate realisation that we needed to have our beloved car Nessie looked at. She had a slow puncture in one tyre and was using far more fuel than we expected. So the next day, in the town of Taupo (pronounced toe-paw) we drove around in search of a mechanic that could help. We knew she needed new tyres and her wheels aligned but several places did all sorts of work on cars apart from this.
Eventually we found a place and thankfully got her working well again but we were worried she was showing her age. The epic drives south were certainly scenic as we passed the Mordor location and flat farmlands surrounded by mountains on all sides. We were driving between free campsites and seeing how far we could get before we called it a night, often stopping because the town had a nice name or something else drew us. Indeed when we stopped at “Palmerston North” Peter quickly declared it “Parmesan north” and we spent several hours gleefully playing on the amazing and massive children’s playground. Despite the fact Peter had aged a year just a few days previously we were still just big kids at heart!
Another place we stopped was the town of “Bulls” which we had read was full of bad puns. It was almost a crime if we didn’t visit given Peter penchant for the groan inducing word play. Everything in Bulls ended in it. The car parking was “parka-bull” the toilets were “relieve-a-bull” and so on. Peter was so happy!
We had a little explore of the town which seemed amusing and wonderfully quirky. I had bent down to read the writing on a bench which declared that it was ok to move anywhere within the town as long as it came back to this particular spot – another quirk I enjoyed. Sitting on the bench to tie my shoe I was then confronted by an elderly lady with snow white hair and dressed head to toe in lilac. Intrigued by her approach I smiled at her only to be challenged as to why I had tried to get into her car. Of course I hadn’t and was so shocked by the accusation that all I could do was say “I didn’t!” She then replied with “I saw you” before turning on her heel and marching off. I literally could not move for a couple of seconds as I processed what the hell had just happened and Peter approached me rather quizzically. After explaining it all to Pete I realised that the old lady must have seen me bent down to read the sign on the back of the bench and assumed I was breaking into her car. The fact that I was wearing a hoodie must have made her extra suspicious! But it only confirmed what we were finding at every security check at every airport we had gone through – I just look dodgy! I was constantly checked, pulled aside for extra searches and generally looked at with suspicion. Peter on the other hand, with his angelic blonde hair and beaming grin sailed through every time without a problem.
So no matter how many years you have on the clock or how much life experience you think you have, people can always make assumptions about you or shock you into silence. But at the same time, age can bring with it a new appreciation of skills you can still learn and develop, new places you can explore, and, most of all, excuses to embrace your inner child. And that is why Peter and I can be found in play parks all around the world shouting “weeeeeeeee!” as we go down slides and generally enjoy the world around us, in a place we have re-named after a cheese, no matter who is watching or accusing us of doing anything less than innocent.