There are some things you really shouldn’t do at university, especially at one of the more traditional redbrick establishments. Like turn up to lectures in your Dawson’s Bakery uniform (unless white apron dresses smeared with sausage roll crumbs are now hot, of course), thereby ruining all chance of scoring with the posh boys down the campus bar that evening.
Or give your university tutor an end of term present of a little bit of foil filled with a softly illegal substance – in the hope such a gift might lead him to realise you were actually soul mates.
But what kind of self-sabotaging crazy girl would do either of those, right?
New Zealand’s Coromandel peninsula has a reputation for being the country’s main cannabis growing spot. And yet I didn’t catch a single whiff of it whilst I was there. Maybe, what with the Kiwis being such lovely, law-abiding folk, being the nation’s hotbed of drug production comprises of a charming old chap in his 70s, let’s call him Doug, still in possession of a couple of straggly plants on his kitchen windowsill. And the local police don’t have the heart to tell him it’s not the 1960s any more.
Or perhaps, being on the coast, the sea breezes blow away any incriminating scent?
The area is dotted with stunningly beautiful beaches, in the case of my first stop – Hahei – these sandy strips of paradise are nestled between vertigo-inducing rock faces. The second best views are offered up to those willing to take the cliff top Cathedral Cove walk.
The best, of course, being from the front seat of a helicopter whizzing you around the prime spots!
I think it wouldn’t surprise many friends if I came home saying I’d earned my helicopter pilot’s license whilst I was away, but bizarrely I just don’t have the urge. I even suspect why – Noel Edmonds – all the glamour, destroyed in an instant.
Only joking Noel – Swap Shop was a fundamental part of my middle class childhood and I thank you for it and your inspiring jumpers.
After the delightful meander to the cove, we had time for a quick spot of lazing on the soft golden sand, before heading back to the hostel as sunburn began to set in – which must have been, oh, all of ten minutes – the lack of ozone protection seems even more pronounced here than in Australia. Pale Irish-heritage skin starts to pink up within moments and begins to form human crackling not long thereafter.
That evening we headed over to Hot Water beach and were greeted with a most curious vision, something that looked very much like a human nesting site. Did I miss a memo from the Department of Evolution or something?
I felt like David Attenborough, observing the natives (except these were presumably all tourists) armed with spades and glasses of champagne, frantically digging their way towards the centre of the Earth.
People in search of hot spring water are, it appears, very, very determined. It seemed rude not to join in but, lacking their tools, I took the lazy / efficient approach and simply stood over one of these geothermal curiosities and wiggled my feet into the sand.
Flip me was that water hot!! I must have leapt at least two inches into the sky, desperate to save myself from a stumpy-legged future. Others would have jumped higher but then high jump was never my sport at school. Neither was long jump, or hurdles, or javelin, or running, or netball, or hockey, or rounders or actually any sport we did – except for tennis, which I was also bad at, but enjoyed immensely, mainly because it meant the sun was out.
In fact the only report where I got more than a D for PE was the year I told my teacher how I’d been born with a club foot (which was true but most definitely didn’t explain why I would stand on the rounders field, arms folded, surly expression on my face).
Such is my profound lack of sporting prowess that I was almost tempted to take up the offer, at legendary surf beach Raglan’s top surfing school, for a ‘guaranteed to stand’ surfing lesson. Little do they know of my family, notorious for our inability to stand on dry land, never mind on a piece of board floating on water.
But there’s the rub – the fact that surfing takes place on the sea. Ever since my mother ‘accidentally’ pulled both my brother and I under the waves – when we were mere defenseless children – in an automatic reflex to save herself as she slipped in the surf – the sea has always carried a threat of death.
So I didn’t have a surf lesson, even though the beach’s left hand surf break (no I have no idea what that means either) is reputed to be one of the best in the world.
Lucky, lucky Cameron Diaz. Her tenure as the world’s hottest surfing chick remains safe for another day.