There's life out there, and it's good
For the past 10 years, my wife has been running a campaign to get me to move back to Taranaki.
She runs a slick operation, my wife. She's opportunistic, calculating and determined to one day bring our little family back to the place she grew up.
When we are bumper-to- bumper on a Wellington motorway she'll mutter, "if we lived in Taranaki we would be home by now". When the police helicopter used to hover over our little house in Auckland at one in the morning, she would say, "there's no crime in Taranaki". I would roll my eyes before rolling the rest of body to the other side of the bed to continue a restless sleep. Last Christmas my mother-in-law was co- opted into the campaign. She started a verbal list of reasons to move there. "Reason eight, free concerts in the park; reason 14, strangers say hello back when you pass them on the foreshore walkway."
By the time she got to reason 18 - "you can always park within 100 meters of any shop" - I was secretly starting to doubt my big-city existence.
I attempted to balance the argument by pointing out New Plymouth's growing traffic problem, the airport closing at a moment's notice, and if you have to take the car out of town it's half a day to get anywhere.
These were rebuffed with statements like . . . "reason 12, free bread at the kiosk to feed the ducks". Who can argue with that?
In fairness, Taranaki has always been a special place for us. Ten years ago my wife and I met and fell in love there. And when we were young and in love we would do the following - watch sunsets atop Paritutu Rock, eat breakfast on a park bench overlooking Fitzroy Beach and, on occasions, dance wildly with friends at a now defunct bar called the Grapevine.
They were heady days. We were 20-odd and certainly couldn't see that in 10 short years we would be married with child and mortgage and ready to return to the place where it all began.
We, like hundreds if not thousands of other people our age, left the provinces for the same reason . . . opportunity. A radio station in Auckland wanted me to write their news and my wife got a scholarship to study overseas.
These opportunities have taken us to all sorts of places, but now a different opening may well bring us back.
The reason my wife is happily dropping real estate wanted fliers in letterboxes in her beloved suburb of Fitzroy is because she sees the chance to raise a family in a town where our kids can walk to school, bike to the dairy and do a million other things without us worrying.
Taranaki has one big advantage over the big cities . . . peace of mind.
It also gives us the opportunity to own a house without both having to work fulltime with a daughter in daycare who we reintroduce ourselves to at the end of each day.
The rough plan is that if we have children we may as well raise them ourselves.
My wife hasn't quite won the battle of Taranaki, but she's close.
I'm still employed by a bunch of men in suits at TVNZ in Auckland, but our summer break in New Plymouth has been extended and we've started going to open homes in leafy streets near the beach.
One thing is certain, my family's heart is there - it remains to be seen if our furniture will follow.
* Hadyn is a journalist and city dweller, for now. He writes a fortnightly column.
The Dominion Post