My son has his 25th birthday tomorrow, and to celebrate, we're going over to the Wairarapa to have a quiet lunch at the Tirohana Estate near Martinborough. To non-Kiwis reading this, the Wairarapa is a mostly agricultural area to the East of Wellington, accessible via a very steep and windy mountain road over Rimutaka, and is visited heavily at the weekends by many Wellingtonians and other denizens of the Hutt Valley.
25 years. It doesn't seem so long, but it just emphasises that I'm getting old. *sighs heavily and has another drink of whisky*
I can remember all the little things when he was growing up.
How he invented stair surfing when he was about 2, using a tea tray and our carpeted stairs in the hall. Unfortunately, these stairs had a 90° turn at the bottom and he hurtled straight into the wall. He thought this was so funny he did it 3 times, and only stopped when he broke the tray.
Standing in the back garden with my beloved, who was pointing out the attic room where I normally did all of my paperwork at home. He (about 3 years old) described this garret room as the "Womb in the Woof"
When we went on holiday in France, we stayed at a small gîte on the Loire, and one lovely day we (my Beloved, me, my wee daughter and my son) went from small vineyard to vineyard, trying the local wines. I was driving, and was careful to only sip and spit, but my beloved was getting a little tipsy after 6 visits, but not as bad as my son, who was having a sip at every stop. By the seventh vineyard he was reeling across the pavement and was violently ill just before we got back to the gîte. All over the interior of my new Volvo 245
At primary school he was a bit of a terror, very talkative in class. When he was in Primary 6, he and two of his friends decided to put on a little act for the school Christmas show. They spent hours up in his bedroom practicing, but wouldn't let me in to see. He did us proud at the actual show where dressed as the 3 Wise Men, they put on a rap and dance act that brought down ringing applause. His teacher looked very relieved, and I found out later that he didn't know what they were going to do either, and he was very relieved it didn't involve anything controversial like donkey molestation or angel sacrifice which the other teachers in the school had suggested as a possible scenario (He and his mates had developed a certain reputation by now)
When he was in High School, his French class had a trip across the channel, and spent 10 days at a French school near Bordeaux. We did get 1 postcard while he was away and he seemed to be enjoying himself. When he got home we were all sitting around the dining table (our neighbours were there as well) as we were asking him for all the details of the trip.
This 13 year old boy began to recount his experiences, beginning with his first meal at the school in France.
"Didn't think much of the cooking" he said.
"The first course was a fish course and it wasn't very nice".
He thought for a moment, obviously choosing his words carefully to express the tastes and texture he disliked.
"It smelled like a hoors fanny"
My beloved nearly expired from embarrassment, my daughter didn't know what he was talking about and our neighbours (both experienced teachers) nearly wet themselves from laughing.
Some time after we moved to NZ, a family wedding was taking place in Singapore, and I arranged for the 3 of us to fly to Singapore for the event. He was living in his own flat in Wellington at this time, and he was beginning to look a little Bohemian (long hair and smelly). My beloved gave him strict instructions to get a haircut before we went (Singapore still doesn't accept long haired visitors with open arms, and I emphasised to him that if he didn't want a full body cavity search, he'd better look presentable)
He had his head shaved.
I still don't know whether he did it for convenience, or to drive his Mum purple-faced with suppressed fury or (probably) just didn't think, but dressed in a suit for the wedding he looked.....odd.
He was also sporting a tattooed forearm showing a delightfully rendered image of the Mexican Day of the Dead with the addition of a Chinese script which he was told meant "May the Lord Bless You" but which really says "I've got a Bastard of a Cold") .
He wore long-sleeved shirts while he was in Singapore, as the family would have looked on his tattoos as evidence of the low standards of our branch of the family.
On the flight back to NZ he opted for a scruffy T-shirt, with his tattoos exposed. This did not go down well with his Mum, and it also had some unexpected repercussions.
As we were walking through the arrivals hall in Auckland, queuing up for the immigration and customs check he was pounced on by an immigration officer, who said to him "Come with me son" The officer's face, initially expressionless, morphed into amazement when he heard my son's Scottish accent as he replied.
He got quite friendly with us then, and explained they were on the lookout for Chinese criminals dumped out of mainland China, and who were popping up all around the Pacific countries. As my boy had a shaved head (with the stubble just beginning to show) an obvious tattoo of Chinese characters on his forearm and an Asiatic cast to his features, he was an obvious target. But as the guy (who was from Ayrshire) continued, he didn't think that there were many Chinese gang members who spoke with a Glasgow/Fife accent.
He advised him to travel with his arms covered in the future, unless he enjoyed delays and body cavity searches.
So we'll be celebrating 25 years of my son's existence in a lovely restaurant in about 5 hours. Or at least that is the plan, but as I'm writing this the rain is stoatin' off the roof, and I don't really fancy driving up Rimutaka Hill road in a downpour.