I'm back in the lap of 'luxury' but the cat's in a flap

22:59, Mar 23 2014

One of the nicer things about being back in the capital is having a dairy at the end of the street, which also has a post box and a bus stop within spitting distance.

These are things you have to hunt for in post-quake Christchurch and at the risk of sounding like one of the Four Yorkshire Men in Monty Python's Flying Circus skit, these essential services feel like "luxury".

Old friends I am reuniting with show me proud snaps of their progeny who are now fully fledged gorgeous young men and women. The last time I clapped eyes on them they were approaching post- pubescence but now appear to have completely shed their awkward skins and transformed into vibrant young adults.

The streets are stalked by stunning young girls wearing short shorts showing off movie- star legs that would be the envy of Betty Grable - the World War II pin-up girl who famously insured hers for a cool million.

This breaks with the long-held notion that Kiwi women are prone to the pear shape with small waists and heavier limbs, leading me to suspect that these beautiful legs may have been purchased on Trade Me. Anything's possible and I wouldn't be at all surprised if what I am looking at is a contrived virtual reality.

Seven years away and I feel like a character out of Days of Our Lives who's woken up from being on life support and in a coma to find the world has very much changed, people have moved off the reservation, married, split up, turned to religion, gone nuts (haven't we all?) and perished.


Getting up to speed is the order of the day as I learn how to sail the ship of my much altered abode and try to get Benecio the cat to cease and desist from freedom camping in the alluring top soil set aside as the herb garden.

The old boy is furious at having to suffer the indignity of yet another shift and to arrive in a new hood where he is a virtual (there's that word again) nobody. Back in the compound he was referred to as The Don, all junior cats queuing up of a morning to await their orders for the day, so the down trou in the garden I take as a form of protest. In the middle of the night I am awoken by beseeching meows that require my getting out of bed and dealing to the furr-tive shapes of younger dude felines trying to penetrate the cat flap and steal Benecio's high-end tucker.

As my grandfather often used to ask: "Why was I born to be a slave?" or in this case, "How have I ended up being Benecio's bitch?" Ah well, they say that subjugation is good for the soul as I wince at his struggle with his altered status and try to elevate mine from bitch to back-up wingman.

Christchurch is never far from my thoughts as I hear dispatches of who's up who and who's paying the rent, and realise I haven't felt this homesick since I was packed off to boarding school, aged 11. Don't get me wrong, I love being back in Wellington, the place I fled to in order to develop the adult self away from the comfort zone of childhood. The energy and buzz here is palpable, the hills give pockets of silence that are quieter than the countryside, and when you can talk politics, people's eyes don't glaze over.

When I hear that Winston Peters has inserted himself into the Cathedral debate, and the kingmaker will make it a coalition issue to get government funds to restore it to its former status, I am furious.

Good luck with getting into bed with Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon and risk losing more than half the NZ First vote in Canterbury from those who have accepted a new contemporary cathedral. What a pity these elderly blokes seek posterity, to be remembered as saviours of an icon when this is no country for old men.

The Dominion Post