Slothful summer holiday bender

My summer holiday almost ended before it started, in a near-miss on Hauraki Rd, near Thames.

It was a few days after Christmas, before I went on annual leave. I was driving back to Hamilton from doing an interview on the Coromandel, and just before the settlement of Netherton, a car heading north overtook at speed on a corner, swooping into my oncoming lane.

I had a moment to think "s..., he's coming straight for me", before I swerved towards the mercifully broad shoulder. It was just in time. The car flew past me, so close, and in my rear-vision mirror, I saw a red vehicle behind me take similar evasive action.

I blared the horn, but it was a futile gesture. It happened so quickly that I couldn't even see whether it was a man or a woman driving, let alone try for the registration number. A silver car, maybe a late model Mitsubishi, is my only recollection.

I was driving a small, modest Waikato Times fleet car and if we'd collided I'd have probably been mincemeat. It was a frightening moment, especially coming a few days after a ghastly overtaking accident in Welcome Bay, near Tauranga, where two teenage girls were killed.

I kept thinking about what might have happened if I'd been momentarily distracted. What if I'd been fiddling with the radio or the air-conditioning, or something, and not been able to react so quickly? Or what if there had been a narrow shoulder, or a ditch to my left?

So one way or another, I was well ready for a New Year break. It rained a lot at Mt Maunganui while I was there. A lot of people grizzled, but I was uncomplaining.

I love the rhythm of holidays, sunny or wet, the change of pace, and the slow unwinding into sloth.

A few years ago at the beach, I encountered a well-considered spin on sloth, in the form of "slothy". It turned up in an exchange with a friend over a holiday glass of wine.

Me to friend: "What have you been up to today?"

Friend: "Nothing. I've been having a slothy."

Ah, I thought. No further explanation needed. A perfect word to describe a day of delicious idleness, and I've been practising the art of the slothy ever since.

I knew I'd truly reached the pinnacle last Sunday morning when I went to the beach dairy in my nightshirt.

I'd woken yet again to the sound of rain, and conjured a happy image of being curled up in bed with a cup of tea and the Sunday newspapers.

The only problem was that everyone else at the bach was asleep and there was no-one to go for the papers except myself.

There seemed no point in getting dressed because I wanted to go back to bed. So I put my rain parka on over my blue cotton nightshirt, checked the look in the mirror and decided no-one would really guess I was wearing a nightshirt. It could be mistaken for a tunic. Just.

To crank things up a notch, I applied lipstick, brushed my hair and put on a silver pendant. The pendant looked slightly odd with the parka and nightshirt, but it perhaps indicated that I hadn't just tumbled out of bed.

In the time I took to do all this, I could have pulled on shorts and T-shirt, but I still had a sleep-in in my sights.

I was drenched when I got to the dairy and the nightshirt had gone a bit clingy. There was a queue for papers and takeaway coffees, so I didn't make the quick entrance and exit I'd hoped for.

No strange looks, though, and before too long I was back in bed, in a dry nightshirt, with the papers and tea, the rain still pounding on the roof. Later, there were some raised eyebrows and questions from family and friends. (Yes, I was wearing knickers.)

Anyway, before the holiday spirit evaporates, I thought I'd share a few tips on the art of the slothy:

Ditch your watch and digital media for the duration.

Take a goodly cache of books. Try to beat my average of one a day.

Avoid supermarkets. They may cause an instant return to stress. Instead, seek out roadside stalls, farmers' markets, the butcher and the baker.

Walk everywhere. This is relaxing, and it balances all the time spent on the couch.

Swim as often as weather permits. Floating in the blue Pacific is good for the soul.

Factor in an afternoon sleep. (A chilled beer or wine with lunch facilitates this.)

Go to bed late and sleep late, but maybe avoid going out in your nightie, and pay attention at all times when you're driving.