We met Ruth and Gerard at Derby Folk Festival last year. They live in Palmerston North, NZ, and had been visiting relatives in the U.K. They knew we were heading to NZ and invited us to stay. Nobody has to ask us twice.

It worked out very well, as we’d been booked to play The Bent Horshoe which is a movable music venue in Palmerston North. Steve, who promotes the gigs, uses a couple of different venues depending upon the sort of act he’s booked. We were in the Joseph Street Kitchen, which was originally a boat builder’s workshop and is now cafe selling some of the best food in Palmerston. It also has a cracking grape vine growing around the roof.

Shame they taste like Domestos.

Steve had borrowed a PA from a mate of his for the gig which we helped set up, it had speakers big enough to blow out the back wall of the venue and built in effects that had no effect whatsoever. After a bit of noodling and tweaking we’d got a decent sound. We knew it sounded okay because we both took a turn at going to where the audience were seated, listening and then adjusting the levels as necessary. That, dear reader, is a not very subtle dig at a “sound man” from an earlier gig who, when asked during the interval “Does it sound okay out front?” replied “I don’t know. I’ve been sat at the side by the mixing desk all the way through.” He was a lovely bloke, which had a positive effect on him keeping his teeth. 

The gigs in NZ have steadily improved since the first two (thank you God, they could only go one way) and this was the best yet. There was a good crowd, they were well into it and they sang and heckled with style. As we were setting up a Canadian guy (Dan) was in having a coffee and was telling us how he and his wife have signed up to a house sitting/swapping service. They travel all over the world and look after people’s houses for them for two or three months at a time. They then get other folks to look after their place in Canada. Isn’t that a great way to see other countries on the cheap? Dan later came to the gig along with his wife. At the end of the night he bought a couple of CD’s, gave us some contacts for promoters in Canada and invited us to stay at their place. We are developing a cunning plan.

In this photo Dave is reading the lyrics from the ceiling while Kip is casting a spell to make her body disappear.

That night we went back to Ruth and Gerard’s and got pissed. It was a genuine mistake and could happen to anyone.

We walked into Palmerston the next morning. To us the area we walked through seemed an odd mix of residential and industrial, with tyre depots and builders’ pyards dotted in between bungalows and houses. The Palmerston rugby stadium was also on the same street. 

The city centre is different again; it’s quite arty with a lot of sculptures, theatres and a really nice park area right in the centre. There’s plenty of cafes and bars to sit outside and watch the world go by and they have a Cuba Street. Is it compulsory to have a Cuba Street in every city in NZ I wonder? Maybe it’s to piss off the Americans.

That night we went back to Ruth and Gerard’s and got pissed. It was a genuine mistake and could happen to anyone. (Can I just point out this stage that I didn’t get pissed the second time? I’d banged my head in the morning and was feeling poorly – K)

Next came two more nights of wild camping, that’s WILD camping. 

We’ve discovered that New Zealand does windy extremely well. We were heading to Te Paerahi beach in Porangahau on the east coast and on the way we passed through the Manawatu Gorge followed by the place with the longest name in the world.

It works better if you say it in a Welsh accent.

Te Paerahi is a lovely spot. We were parked up about a hundred yards from the sea. It was sunny, warm and the breeze was getting up. We walked along the beach, made a feeble attempt at swimming in the sea (knocked off feet several times by big rollers, staggered out head down but alive) and then went back to the van and ate. Later on we had a walk around Porangahau and were heartened by the helpful “What to do in the event of a tsunami” sign. 

It basically comes down to “run like f**ck, swim, die” in that order.

It was after we’d got into bed that the wind really got into its stride (not for the first time, but it was Gerard’s curry to blame for the previous night). The van shook and the wind howled and it was only just getting started. 

Our plan in the morning was to head to Castle Point. It’s a bit further down the coast but as there’s no coast road you have to drive well inland and back out again. We’d not been going long when the rain started to come down (I say down, it was more horizontal) and the wind just got silly. We were often down to about 30mph and hanging onto the steering wheel with a vice-like grip. This was not fun; we were on tiny roads on huge hillsides and not enjoying it. After a couple of hours Kip checked the map and we were about five miles away from Masterton, so we thought we’ll get there and take a break. Just then we saw a bloke on a push bike battling with the elements and both of us chimed “nutter” as we went past him. We parked up at a coffee shop (nice carrot cake) and settled our nerves.

As we left the cafe the bloke on the bike pulled up, he must have been pushing seventy, tanned and fit. “Hell of a day for a bike ride” said Dave. “Oh it’s a little wet, but a back wind so it’s okay.” Bastard” we both said through our beaming smiles.

Sod Castle Point, this blog is being written by a lakeside in Masterton. The ducks are hungry, it’s sunny, windy and paradise compared to what we’d been through.