Aussie or Kiwi we’re not so different after all

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I have often considered myself “homeless”. It’s perhaps not the most PC description to have, but for most of my adult life it fitted a traveller like me nonetheless (until I got a mortgage that is).

I’ve felt homeless because I have been gone from New Zealand for so long I don’t call it my home anymore, rather, I call it the place where I grew up. My father’s home has long been foreign to me as he bought it after I said goodbye to my homeland many years before. Then last year’s earthquake took care of any connection I had made with that house, and now he is living somewhere new again.

But part of me will always be a Kiwi.

New Zealand is the country from where my heritage, my culture, and from where a large portion of my identity heralds. But sometimes when I go back, I have felt like a stranger. I recognise the way of life there, but no longer completely understand it.

I have conversations with strangers who think I am Australian and offer to buy me a VB. Sometimes I play along and put on a terrible Australian accent and start talking about bush tucker and the AFL – not that I know anything about either of these things.

And it’s not as if I feel Australian either. I feel neither Australian, New Zealander or any other country I have ever lived in. I think I am a hybrid. Well, I know my accent is anyway.
Depending on how many ciders I have imbibed, I can be equal parts Australian, New Zealand or from some obscure location south of London.

A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me to do a Kiwi accent. I couldn’t. I’d forgotten even though some of my vowel soundings still manage to sound rather thuck. I racked my brain trying to remember how to speak “Kiwi” and the best I could come up with was to start singing Run Rabbit Run in Maori. They were suitably impressed, however.

One thing I like doing when I go to New Zealand is to listen to the accents on the radio or TV. A couple of times I have caught myself laughing and had to hastily stop scared I might actually be becoming an Australian after all.

And that would be extremely difficult, because then I would have to start taking the puss out of myself. And it would all be too confusing. I guess one of the best things about having lived on both sides of the Tasman is that I recognise, all jokes aside, that Aussies and Kiwis aren’t that different after all.

We’ve usually both quite good at rugby, like taking the mickey out of ourselves and each other, and love beating England at cricket. Although, I do believe New Zealand may do a wee bit better when sports results are tabulated on a per head of population basis (postscript: such as the 2012 London Olympics for example).

You can take the girl out of New Zealand, but not the New Zealand out of the girl after all.

Why I like possums

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We had the pest control man at our house the other day because a family of possums have decided we are such great company they want to live in our house too.

My housemate is a light sleeper, so hasn’t had much shut eye for about two months now as mum, dad and baby possum decided to have wee parties nightly in the roof above his bedroom.

Being a deep sleeper I rarely hear them, but when I do it just makes me have wondrous dreams in which I am reliving my misspent youth in London off my face at rave parties.

I find it hard to think of possums as pests. They are just too cute with their sticky-out eyeballs and fluffy tails. I guess it just depends on where you grew up. I was born in New Zealand and while we did have possums there, they weren’t considered nearly as pesky as the hedgehogs (or so I was led to believe).

While they weren’t considered pests on the same scale as rabbits – until myxomatosis that is – I was brought up to believe they were disease-ridden beasties carrying some new type of bubonic plague.

Such a worrisome description was a little over the top on past reflection as you didn’t really see hedgehogs alive that much anyway. That’s because for some unfortunate reason, the little critters seemed to have developed their very own “shock and awe” tactic which they mistakenly believed would protect them from one-tonne motor vehicles.

They would curl up into little balls hoping the spikes on their back would protect them from oncoming traffic. Alas, this didn’t work. And the streets were strewn with once-round hedgehogs, now very flat, with the odd spike sticking up in a last gasp of deathly defiance.

Perhaps hedgehogs were so feared because, unlike Australia, New Zealand doesn’t have any creatures that will kill you.

We did have a mythical spider called the katipo which supposedly lived in sand dunes and could kill you with just one bite. But growing up on the South Island of New Zealand it was never really hot enough to go to the beach, so the chances of running into one was very slim indeed.

Such a lethal creature-free childhood meant I didn’t really know what to expect when I first came to Australia. All the stories of the nasty critters over here made me think that snakes would be slithering around everywhere.

But over the years I have become a little less – how do I say it – terrified, of the nasties that reside in this sunburnt land. Living on a banana farm in northwest Western Australia cured me of that.

I fell off a ladder when I came face-to-face with a snake, and ran about 1km in the opposite direction every time I came across a blue-tongue, goanna, spider or one of those extremely large grasshoppers landed on my leg.

And we won’t talk about the time a crocodile ate the cow.

To me, it seemed like all the creatures in this country were on steroids.

Maybe that’s why I don’t mind the possums that much. In my opinion they are much better looking than the insects and animals mentioned above and they probably won’t kill you.

Except, perhaps, through sleep deprivation.

This blog first appeared as a column in the Toowoomba Chronicle in 2003.