It’s bloody hot in Wellington at the moment and has been for the last 3 weeks. Which is like saying England is hot ie, rarely. By all accounts this has been the finest summer in NZ’s capital for a generation. And what a city is when the sun is shining. In the last few days I’ve seen Australia vs NZ play cricket at the spectatcular Basin Reserve, just 5 minutes from my house, been to the beach (a whole 10 mins walk) for a swim 3 times, attended a music and food festival and saw the fireworks celebrating Chinese New Year across the harbour. And so it is in the context of all this fabulousness that I find myself announcing that I will be leaving Wellingon. In fact, I’m leaving New Zealand. It’s time to go home.
I’ve always liked New Zealand. I was a bit of a Geography nerd as child and would read the atlas before going to bed, (and still do sometimes), to make sure I didn’t forget what the capital of Kyrgyzstan is (Bishkek btw). I remembered thinking how far away NZ was from the UK and noting that there was a city named after the my welly boots. At Uni I studied the Franz Joseph glacier and its uniqueness as the world’s most temperature sea leaving terminating glaciers…ok, enough, I can here the boredom. And, of course, there was Lord of the Rings – the finest corporately-funded tourist advertisement ever produced.
So I went and visited 10 years ago. And I bloody loved it. Living and working abroad was something that I always wanted to do – much as I parents had done for many years – and NZ was top of the list. And lo, with a dose of adventure and a healthy dollop of naivety, I headed out to Aotearoa some 2.5 years ago. What a blast it has been! There is really is nowhere like it on Earth. But there was one thing I wasn’t prepared for: just how much I would miss the Shire.
Now, obviously, I miss my friends and family, too. Not seeing my niece and nephews growing up, and being absent for the births and birthdays of my friend’s kids has been incredibly tough, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about them. But what has been so unexpected is the simple fact of how much pleasure I gain from my little corner of England, how connected I am to this land and how absent it has been from my life, even whilst living in spectacular places.
I miss walking through the fields and the orchards, and the sight of rolling hills and meandering hedgerows. I miss the smell of the oaks and the beech trees and the beauty of spring wildflowers: primroses, cowlsips and daffodils.
And then, of course there’s cider – the ol’ Golden Fire. Those of you who know me, know that cider is not simply a profession I have pursued over the last decade – it’s a passion and will probably end up being a lifetime’s dedication. It’s more than just a drink: it’s the essence of who I am and where I come from. It’s the embodiment of the landscape from whence I hark, with several generations of my family having made cider in the wonderful village of Dymock, nestled right in the heart of Ciderland. It’s even got a bloody cider apple named after it: the eponyous Dymock Red.
So, the time has come for me to come back to my roots. I am moving back to the UK, and will arrive in time for cider apple blossom and one of my favourite events of the year: the Big Apple Cider and Perry Trials. I’m terribly sad to be leaving NZ, but most excited to be heading back to the Shire.
I have managed to find wangle myself a role back in the cider industry in the UK. I will be doing what I enjoy most and do best: talking about cider! My old friends at the National Association of Cider Makers have kindly offered me the opportunity to act as their Communications Officer and I will take up this role with excitement and pride in early May.
Something tells me that my New Zealand experience isn’t over yet, however. I have permanent residency which enables me to return indefinitely. The NZ cider industry is nascent, but is in an exciting prosition of growth and possibility. I hope to be able to contribute towards this blossoming industry before I leave and maybe one day be part of once again.