In 2015, Matt and I moved to New Zealand for two years. Three and a half years later, it’s time to go home. Even though we were already there.
We’re sitting on this hill eating a picnic lunch – complete with the obligatory avocado – when Alex starts smiling at a couple walking past. They’re a little older than my parents and they’re looking healthy in their walking gear, enjoying the summer sunshine on their way up to the castle. The woman smiles back. The man takes a couple of steps towards us, bending down to say something to Alex I reckon. Except he pauses for a second longer than I expect and then speaks to me instead.
Behind us is the Beeston ruin, our footprints all over it. We’ve explored the walls, taken in the views and waited impatiently for others to clear out of the perfect Insta-spot. Now we’re taking a break in the shade and I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever been here before; this castle on a north-west English hill half an hour from where I grew up.I’m three weeks from Wellington; a whirlwind homecoming full of friends, family, food and unexpected summer. We don’t get weather like this here. I’m overwhelmed by the crowds and the traffic. I spot the silent spaces in which the tuis and kakas used to sing. I notice the checkerboard fields, after acres of wild native bush land; the washed out sky after deep Pacific blue.
We were lost at the start. Four weeks in, the excitement of our big adventure wore off and we were two unemployed people outstaying our welcome at our friends’ kitchen table. We’d drawn a straight line through the country, tourists exploring until the money ran out. Three months, we’d said. Let’s give it that. If it’s not happening, we’ll come home. Three months to the day, we set out to work, all wide eyes and butterflies. That’s when it really began. Here at the end of the world. You can’t beat Welly on a good day, they told us – over and over until our eyes rolled out of our heads. Before long, we were saying it, too. Tēnā koe, Pōneke. Hei konei rā.
Back home, we pause, taking a breath before we start all over again. The baby’s routine anchors me, keeps me steady in the rhythms of the day. I’m half a world away from where my girl was born, wondering how the adventure is already over, we only landed in Auckland yesterday, surely? I’m a little bit stunned by how quickly things are changing now, missing that expat life I loved that isn’t mine anymore. But it’s time to look forward. I need to get ready for this new season. The leaves are already changing around me and I haven’t a thing to wear. Edinburgh awaits.
So we’re sitting on this hill when Alex starts smiling at a couple walking past. The woman smiles back. The man takes a couple of steps towards us, bending down to say something to Alex I reckon. Except he pauses for a second longer than I expect and then speaks to me instead.
“Life changes, doesn’t it?”