Letting life in

You can’t let life in in half measures, so I am discovering. Where change is concerned, open the door a crack and the flood tide will rush in. It can stir up the deep waters of the past, and the debris clinging barnacle-like to the bottom of your psyche.

IMG_3220I’ve been in New Zealand nineteen days now. This is the fourth time I’ve hopped across the Tasman. My second and third visits I spent going on long walks (‘tramping’ in kiwi) – the Queen Charlotte Track in 2014, and the Routeburn and the Abel Tasman tracks last December. My first steps in this country though were in Christchurch, in 2012.  I’m back in Christchurch now and it’s great being close to both the mountains and the sea. I’m falling in love with this city, whose graceful lines and beautiful gardens are still evident beneath the scaffolding and the traffic cones, and the potholed roads that were ripped apart in the earthquakes.

Living a new place, my sensory impressions become sharper. Turning a corner, I’m surprised by a glimpse of  mountains in the distance, capped with new snow like freshly iced buns. Without sunglasses, my eyes squint through the low winter sunlight. The sky is a different shade; cooler than Melbourne’s fine-weather blue. A moment ago, before stepping into a cafe for a coffee (with cinnamon on top, not chocolate – a kiwi special), a few flakes of snow landed on my sleeve. The sensation was as gentle as the touch of a special dog – my new friend Millie, a gorgeously scruffy canine – nosing my arm.

There’s so much to learn, so much of interest. But the simplest things can be challenging too. Where do I get the bus into town and how much change do I need? Why isn’t my new bankcard working? And will the way I pronounce ‘six’ (ocker Aussie-style) sound hilarious to locals?

Then there are the bigger questions. What work should I apply for? Will I fit in here? What rugby team should I support? Which way is north?

IMG_3221I am staying in a house in New Brighton through Airbnb, with the lovely Simon and Sarah, two laid-back people who have made me feel at home in their home, offering me a taste of their vegan parmesan cheese (not as disgusting as it sounds) at dinner time, and free use of Simon’s beautiful old writing desk when I want it. The desk is an antique that belonged to Simon’s father, who wrote twelve novels at it. ‘It’s got good writing vibes,’ Simon tells me.

A quote from the Dalai Lama on the back of the bathroom door reminds me that kindness is always possible. Another says to embrace the imperfections of the ones we love.

I’ve met someone who loves in whole, not half, measures. Kindness is in the bedrock of his nature, as is a wicked sense of humour. He’s helping me to settle in here; I’m no longer in it alone. A local Canterbury lad, he’s shown me the routes round the city and has helped me decipher the game of rugby (not an easy task!)

Having a friend and a partner in this crazy adventure is amazing, and I’ve found myself doing things that I never thought I’d have the courage to do. I’ve gathered up the confidence to drive again, and I’ve even gotten behind the wheel of a van. Turns out that’s not so tricky after all; it’s actually great to be able to see the road from up high. (‘That’s because you’re short,’ my partner’s father told me. Apparently being teased here means you’re liked and accepted. Or so I’m assured!! ). I’ve had a go at golf too, and it turns out that I’m good at putting. Must be all those childhood mini-golf lessons with my own lovely Dad and my sister, Alexis.

IMG_3218Last Friday evening I ran along New Brighton beach as the tide rushed in. I had the beach to myself apart from a lone brave surfer. The clouds gathered behind me in a threatening grey horseshoe shape reminiscent of the Nothing in The Neverending Story. I looked forward, concentrating on the feeling of sand under my soles and watching the pearlescent sheen on water. I was reminded of why I’d wanted to come here in the first place: the amazing nature, the open spaces, and the trust I felt that everything would be okay. By the time I’d turned around to run back, the clouds had dispersed and the weather blown out over the sea.

‘Being okay’ is a fine goal to have, I’ve realised; but it is only the start. The time’s come to open myself up to the possibility of more.

I’m dedicating this to my Canterbury man :-). It’s a joy and a blast getting to know you, more and more every day.IMG_3225


A spark ignites in the predawn black

Introducing Tamsin’s New Zealand adventure


Final sunset from my Melbourne apartment balcony

At age 27 I moved to the UK for a gap year working holiday. After landing in Heathrow, I made my way up to a friend’s flat in Birmingham. I was grateful to have a roof over my head while I ‘landed’ in a new country, getting my bearings. Still , my friend was away and it was a shock to find myself alone in dark and freezing England mid-January. I remember wandering through the aisles of Sainsbury’s in my cheap wool coat, picking up small plastic tubs of yoghurt and jumbo-size boxes of tea. Then the slippery dash along icy pavements as the afternoon light drained from the sky, slamming the door closed against the bitter wind. The quiet was foreign and a little frightening.

Although those first two weeks in England had moments of loneliness, I was certain that I’d made the right move. The plan was to find a few months work then travel round Europe once the summer arrived. There was a job waiting for me back in Sydney once the year was up, which alleviated money worries and stress about re-entry to Australia. The Europe gap year is an established tradition people in their twenties. The knowledge that I was following a well-established path gave me confidence back then. In the end, it all worked out pretty much as I’d planned.

Six years later and I’ve  jumped the Tasman and moved to New Zealand. I’ve suspended my studies for the moment, giving up my flat and farewelling my work in Melbourne. I don’t have any family or many friends over here, although I hope that the latter will only be a temporary circumstance. My work colleagues gave me a card with the well-loved Robert Frost quote about the road less traveled. It does feel at times that in my thirties now I am no longer moving with the tide. I am uprooting myself and starting over, at a time of life traditionally marked for settling down and building up.


NZ dreaming – by Tamsin Martin

It was hard at first to articulate a single reason why I wanted to make this move. To do a working holiday. Because I want to write more, and the New Zealand environment inspires me and fills me with joy. Because I love to tramp and the South Island is a hiker’s paradise, with endless snow-capped mountains to traverse and no bothersome tiger snakes to worry about. Because I want to spend time in nature and reconnect to my spirituality. For something different. Because I have a hunch that help me to heal old sadnesses, and embrace life more.

In October 2014 I was sleeping alone in the Megalong Valley, my first solo camping trip. Cox’s River, which runs right past the campground, was gushing with freshly melted mountain snow. The sound lulled me into a deep sleep. In a dream I stood on the banks of Lake Pukaki, admiring the sparkling artic blue waters, a treasured memory from 2012 holiday in NZ. I heard my mother’s voice in my head, saying, ‘if you trust me, you will not fall.’ She always encouraged me to follow my dreams, offering unconditional love and support. The memory of this has become my strong foundation, and helps to give me the nudge I need to get off the starting block and dive in.


Aoraki (Mt Cook), Mackenzie Region

I’ve heard it said that committing to the decision is the hardest part of any venture. It is true that once I shared my plan, I was overwhelmed by the support and encouragement offered to me by friends. Offers of a spare room to crash in when I return. A beautiful typed note from my friend Helen, who I stayed with after the removalists had packed up all my things, inviting me to treat her home as my home. Kind words and notes wishing me the best and encouraging me to go for it, ‘full noise’ (thanks Mike). It’s been humbling and amazing to see how much support I have been offered, at every step of the way. Thank you to everyone who has helped me to be brave enough to give this a shot.

More to come once I have settled in a little. And if you know any nice kiwis who wouldn’t mind befriending an Aussie woman new to Christchurch…let me know!!


This beautiful beanie is a gift from my dear friend, and an original Janet  Spink design.

Sauron won

A work of creative non-fiction

Once upon a time there was a girl who sat up three nights in a row finishing The Lord of the Rings. The book that is, not the movies (those came along a few years later). She cried rivers when the hero, Frodo the Hobbit, reached the top of Mount Doom, carried by his wise and loyal friend Sam. She despaired when Frodo realised he was unable to complete his task – to throw the one Ring back into the fires from which it was made. She cheered when the devious Gollum bit the ring off Frodo’s finger, only to fall backwards into a pool of lava. Then she made a resolution: one day she would take this journey too.

She would climb to the top of Mount Doom itself, and look into the pit of fire.

Cue the music, Sir Peter Jackson
Continue reading

Bashing squid, simmering tomatoes and a chowing down on carbonara

In honour of Mother’s Day, a review of Only in Naples: Katherine Wilson’s guide to finding a happy life, Neapolitan-style

Katherine Wilson is an insecure ‘good girl’ from a wealthy American family when she first lands in Naples. Her college internship with the US Consulate quickly turns into a love affair with Italy and with the Avallones, a Neapolitan family who welcome her with open arms. Years later, she marries Salvatore Avallone, son of the formidable Raffaella. Raffaella is the true heroine of Wilson’s travel/foodie memoir and the one to impart the secrets to happiness, Neapolitan-style. Inevitably, these involve gargantuan amounts of béchamel. Continue reading