Sweet Home California
The first car I ever bought on my own - alone meaning without my father's help - was actually less expensive than the ski jacket stolen off the passenger seat in a 2008 break-in.
The smashed window on that 1983 Nissan Bluebird stationwagon - christened Bella - was the only major repair I had in the four years that I drove it, nearly into ground, all over the South Island.
Bella was a car that I slept in, used to move house twice, and eventually drove to Balclutha to start a job at the Clutha Leader.
I still remember the gut feeling about her that made me hand the money over in an envelope.
I remember her like my first love.
I know you don't want to hear this. But Southland, winter is just around the corner.
And because I have just come out of a Northern hemisphere winter that had the catchword ''polar vortex'' tied to it, I feel like I may be of some assistance in this respect.
Obviously, there's no way around it. For the sun-lovers, winter bites.
So I have compiled a raindrops-on-roses-and-whiskers-on-kittens list for you to clutch and refer to in the dark months ahead.
From Montana, to Southland, with love: 11 things that have gotten me through this winter.
The Montana dispatch:
A few weeks ago, a ranch guest from North Carolina entertained an entire table for an evening with stories about Blackbeard the pirate as the fire roared, the spring wind whistled under doorways, and the wet snow blanketed the porch outside.
The North Carolinian was a historian and filmmaker who has written several books about pieces of American history that have been lost, and then found.
But that night, the topic was Blackbeard and the beaches of North Carolina that none of us had sunk our feet into.
There were islands with clear, azure water that lapped at your ankles. Warm sands that crumbled under your toes.
The Montana dispatch:
It has happened. And weirdly, I'm really broken up about it.
Thunderclouds have appeared, hovered for a while and then have opened up to dump down, not snow, but rain.
Which means, quite suddenly, it is Spring. Winter is coming to a close. Another season is ending.
And strangely, this hurts my heart a bit, because I am not ready to see the snow melt. I feel panicked at the sight of this harsh spittle instead of snowflakes. You all wouldn't know it, because of my whining, but I have, to my surprise, fallen in love with the deep dark months winter in Montana. And I don't want to see it vanish.
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