Monday, 13 February 2017


Chapter 2

     Selling ‘Wizard’ could be compared to a ‘poor-man’s well-paid’ actress.  There were days when I really didn’t feel like putting the ‘show’ face on.  Days where I just wanted to hang out at the beach and do something that was much less ‘robotical’.  The novelty of the job meant that I could discover the country that I call ‘home’ and that beat the ‘sales-blues’ all the time.
     A normal day would be getting up at 7am and ready for the team meeting in the lounge of the hotel at 8am.  Judy would come into the room and give her ‘motivational’ spiel which would ultimately lead to a grilling for someone.  She’d then compare the sales charts – first individually and then between the group.  Finally, she’d tell us what our targets were and then we’d pack the van.  The boxes of ‘Wizard’ needed to be packed and unpacked out of the van on a daily basis.  We also had medium sized satchels that we’d pack with a pre-mixed spray gun bottle of cleaner, some cotton material (pen demonstration), some towelling cloths (the carpet and glass demo), two small (500mls) bottles and two large bottles (1 litre) of ‘Wizard’, a pen and a receipt book.
     Once our satchels were packed and the team were in the van we’d be on the road.  Judy had full control of what areas or towns we’d be working.  Each team member had designated areas to avoid overlapping.  The system would work in blocks - Judy had a street map and used different coloured pens for each team member so that she could mark the areas that had been worked.  We’d do our demonstrations to people in main streets, shopping malls, offices, suburbia, schools – anywhere where there were people.
     We’d go ‘door-knocking’ individually on our designated ‘patch’ and would meet Judy again in an hour or thereabouts at a specific time and place.  During the meeting we would restock our bags if needed, give Judy the cash/cheques from any sales before being given another designated area as well as a new meeting time and place – normally in another hour or so.  Meetings would be very brief; just long enough to reload.
This routine would be begin at 9am and finish between 6-7pm with an hour break for lunch.  When it was lunch time the team would be picked up by Judy one by one and we’d all do ‘lunch’ together in a café or somewhere – generally decided by Judy.
We’d all get dropped off to our designated areas one by one after lunch.  When the last person had been collected at the end of the day we’d get driven back to the hotel/motel.  Back at the hotel/motel we would be ‘slaves to the roster’.  We’d all have specific jobs to do at the end of every day - whether it was washing the demonstration cloths, folding the demonstration cloths, cooking tea or doing the dishes.  The day didn’t finish until around 8pm–ish and the sales chart would be positioned by the TV or somewhere where visibility was paramount.
     On one night a week (normally a Wednesday), we’d all go out to dinner as a team.  ‘Team-bonding’ apparently – I enjoyed it.  It was a fabulous novelty.  We’d generally have the weekends off; sometimes we would work on a Saturday morning depending on the state of the sales figures.
     While I was working with the ‘Wizard’ there were quite a few ‘newbie’s’ who’d had enough by the second day and left, the staff turnover was immense.  My sales were pretty consistent - even when I’d be having the worst head-fuck (‘HF’) days ever, I was the youngest on the team (17 years old).
     Everyone else would be calling their relatives and vice/versa; I opted to ring Aunt Carole - a lot.  It was never a ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ and no longer a ‘brother’, some days that would be enough to make me somewhat detached – but – I’d generally hit my sales target nonetheless.  I had developed and fine-tuned a skill where I could appear happy on the outside but fucking miserable within.
     On one particular occasion I was having a ‘HF’ moment while we were in Picton.  To avoid questions I walked down to the local park and sat on the swing.  It was a calm evening.  The stars were bright in the sky and it was nice to be able to ‘deal with my issues’ without being questioned by my work mates.  My last memory of school was bad enough to leave a haunting memory.  I didn’t want that to happen again as it would probably change their perception of me as none of them knew about my emotional ‘baggage’ and would perhaps think that I’m just a ‘cry baby’.
     Judy followed me down to the park and we got talking.  It had been an employer/staff relationship up to that point.  She’d told me that she’d not long lost her boyfriend in a car accident and pointed out that we had something in common as she said “You’ve lost a brother, I’ve lost a lover.”  I found that reassuring, someone to understand a sudden loss but at the same time not venturing too ‘deep’ with the conversation.  I was in the process of leaving the emotional onslaught behind.  We wandered to a restaurant, had something to eat and then walked back to the hotel where the other girls were.  At the time there was Peggy (mid twenties Maori girl who was ‘up’ for anything), Kate (early twenties ‘Pakeha’ girl), Gina (late teens, giggly Maori girl) and someone else.  Peggy and Gina both came from Auckland and I think Kate was from Christchurch.
     We stopped in Picton before we caught the ferry over to Wellington and continued up to Auckland.  It was as if my past in Invercargill/Dunedin was becoming a distant memory and the possibility that perhaps those memories could be deleted was replaced with better ones was starting to look promising.   Not-so-good memories were being faded out and replaced steadily with different parts of the country.  I’d never been past Dunedin.  Actually I tell a white lie – there have been two ‘out-of-town’ experiences.  The first to Palmerston North which I don’t remember that much of it and I was indeed ‘baggage’.  The other when I was living in Dunedin with my squat-mate.  We hitched up to Christchurch and when we got there we ended up getting locked up some kind of rehab place and had to break out of it and do a runner.   So those two experiences don’t really count.
     When we got to Auckland I was in absolute amazement as I’d never seen a ‘city’ with skyscrapers or more than one motorway.  I found myself being amazed by a few stretches of concrete.  Wellington is the capital so I’d always assumed that it would be bigger but it’s quite compact and situated roughly around one area whereas Auckland is quite spread out and with a bigger population (at the time the population of New Zealand was approximately 3 million; 1 million in Auckland, 1 million in the rest of the North Island and 1 million scattered around the South Island).
     Even more bizarre was spending my 17th birthday at the Road Nights Pad in Auckland.  Behind the razor wire was the bike shed that is dedicated to boy mechanical stuff and in the club house was a completely kitted out bar.  I did get told off for using the word ‘gang’ - they prefer ‘club’.
     I was also feeling rather proud of myself that I’d achieved what I had done for obvious reasons.  I felt a little bit more ‘emotionally stronger’ to deal with the harsh criticisms if I saw my mother again.   I was missing ‘home’ a little bit.  I hadn’t been in touch with anyone other than Aunt Carole.  It was just a weird feeling missing ‘home’ but not really knowing what it meant.
     I arranged a break for me to fly down to Invercargill.  I was to catch the train from Invercargill to Dunedin then back to Invercargill.  Then fly from Invercargill over to Nelson via Christchurch.  The team would be in Nelson and I’d be straight back to work when I got back.  I paid for my first ever plane trip – on my own.  I’d never been on a plane before either.
     Time had moved on a bit, the trial was over.  I thought that perhaps mum would be proud of me as I was doing something constructive however the question was would she still class me as a ‘nuisance’ to her life.
     My first flight was an adrenalin rush.  I got to fly over New Zealand.  I got to see it from an aerial perspective.  I loved it.  I loved the way it pushed you back into your seat and before you know it – you’re airborne.  The landing can be a little scary though. Especially in ‘windy’ Wellington where the plane has been known to hit phenomenal turbulence when descending and the wings tilt from side to side. Then oxygen masks dangle in front of you and all you can see is – sea.
     I walked onto the tarmac at Invercargill airport absolutely buzzing – I love flying. Plus – I was ‘home’ - but without a real sense of the meaning of the word.
     I didn’t spend a great deal of time with mum as she had become a country and western music fanatic and was busy with her ‘new’ boyfriend, a goof of a man.  All this time and there was still no change; exactly the same shit.
     I’m not sure whether its ‘normal’ to completely draw a blank with chunks of your life.  Every now and then there are little bubbles of memories that make it to the surface that force me to reminisce for a moment or two.  Little memory bubbles that come from out of nowhere but are just suddenly there.
     I remembered our ‘family’ holiday.  Russell and I were to look after Lance on a trip to Queenstown.  We’d be getting to Queenstown via The Devils Staircase on a bus – mum not included. Lance was about two years old and we were living in Newfield so Russell and I would’ve been around the 7/8 years old mark.  Apparently it was cheaper just to send the kids.  We waited for the bus to pull up then mum took our bags to the driver and we were off to Queenstown being responsible for a two year old as well as being on a bus with a whole bunch of older and strange people.  The questions were generally the same: “Where’s your mum?”
     The Devils Staircase is quite scary.  Quite a few people died when they made the road, the road is on the edge of Lake Wakitipu; a lake ‘they’ say that they haven’t found the bottom of.  It’s a sheer drop, is very narrow and very windy.  The bus had major trouble getting across a little bridge and got stuck which resulted in some body damage to the side of the bus; it’s a one-way bridge so the people driving from Queenstown down to Kingston had to wait before the screeching of metal was over in order to carry on with their journeys.
      There were moments when I missed mum as did Russell, Lance was too young to understand.  Russell was pissed off more than anything else.  It was a crucial moment in Russell’s life where he actually wanted a holiday with his mum rather than be put on kid-duty (out of Invercargill and as young as we were), it must’ve been quite an eye-brow raiser for the other passengers.
     Russell and I both soon realised that we really didn’t need mum anyway.  We both looked after Lance and we had a great day.  It was fun and different – the only disappointment to it would be how mum would be when we got back to Invercargill.
     Sure enough, after our trip to Queenstown we walked in the front door only to hear the same words repeat themselves over and over.  We just looked at each other and rolled our eyes at the same time.  It was quite confusing as we behaved ourselves and we were thee most responsible kids ever – looking after a two year old as well etc - even the bus driver told mum that she should be very proud of us.  Some things never change on the ‘mum’ front.  I filed my memory and was back in the present – in mum’s car… with her… staring out into space, almost instantaneously regretting my decision to return.  We had pulled up at a pub and I had left my suitcase in the back seat of mum’s car.
     I got the drinks in.  She was still giving me the same spiel only it had changed slightly; “My mum always said that I should get an abortion when I was pregnant with you”, talking about Nana.  I asked her “Why didn’t you then?” She replied “It was too late and I couldn’t do that to Russell.”
     I don’t know what she meant by that and I didn’t even want to ask.  Now the person that really wanted me to not exist is my Nana.  Although, mum had changed her tune slightly as she’d previously said she “wished she had an abortion”, whereas with Nana it was a “should’ve got an abortion”; I’m still undecided about which is worse, ‘wished’ – or – ‘should’ve’.
     I flirted with the idea about having a ‘normal’ childhood with mum and I’d said there were quite a few times that things didn’t feel ‘normal’ in comparison to other kids and their relationships with their parents.  She glared at me while brushing the imaginary dust off my shoulder and stated “You had a normal childhood.”  All of a sudden it felt like I was seven again and was ready to duck at any moment.
     It was crystal clear that I couldn’t even attempt to stay with mum.  The ‘normal’ spiel would be repeatedly talking about her past and her desire to have an abortion.  She’d then line up her medication on the coffee table and say “Look what you kids did to me, I have to take these to stay alive.”  She’d then swallow her pills with a glass of water feeling somewhat elated that she had managed to degrade at least one kid of hers just one more time.  She was taking pills for Angina as well as an ‘irregular’ heart beat and had been fitted with a pacemaker by the doctor to make sure that there was in fact nothing seriously wrong with her heart.  That all started with a heart murmur which of course Russell & I were both blamed for giving her the condition.
     I went back out to the car to get my case but the car had been broken into and the only things that were missing were all my photos of where I’d been along with the letters that I kept from Russell when he was in CT.  My brothers letters that I had carried everywhere with me since he sent them to me when I was living in Nightcaps - vanished. An ordinary run-of-the-mill thief wouldn’t piss about with photos – quite freaky, bizarre and also infuriating.  My brother’s letters were gone. 
     I left mum to it and ended up staying with Aunt Carole and her husband Peter on their farm in Branxholme.  It was quite a big farm; it was about 15 minutes drive out of Invercargill.  I told Aunt Carole what had happened and before long she told me that Russell had told her the same thing about the abuse, she said “Yes, that’s what Russell said.”  I was taken back as I thought ‘didn’t you believe him?’, and ‘you knew and you didn’t do anything?’ She said “You and Russell were always good kids”, “yeah, why do you think that is?” I asked.  “You could’ve always said something Shelley”, she said.  After a pause in the conversation I replied “When you’re a kid – you don’t feel as if you have a voice” as well as thinking I just did ‘say something’.
     Russell spent some time with Aunt Carole and Peter after he’d been round the block and stayed at many places.  He liked the farm life, lots of boy stuff to do I guess.
     The gap of silence broke when Aunt Carole told me about the time that mum accused Russell of arson.  Uncle Peter’s house burnt down in Invercargill sometime in the late 1980’s.  There was a rumour that it was arson in order to get insurance as they were struggling financially.  One day mum and her brothers and sisters were having lunch and the topic of the house fire was mentioned.  Mum piped up “It must have been Russell.”
     I couldn’t believe that she had actually blamed her own son of arson and neither could they.  She made damn sure that Russell knew that his mum thought that he’d turned into a pyromaniac; she’d succeeded in demeaning him yet again to whomever that would listen.
     Seeing Aunt Carole and Peter was great, at least I had some kind of family connection.  It was blatantly obvious that me being there was putting strain on the relationship between mum and her sister though.  I took the time on Aunt Carole & Peter’s farm to chill out because it’d be soon time to get back to work - relieved that I had somewhere else to go.  I went to the airport with Aunt Carole & Peter, the other Aunts and Uncles came to say goodbye, Mum never came.
     I flew to Christchurch and then over to Nelson on a six-seater plane.  It was really playing havoc with my internal organs as the plane seemed to be playing hop-skotch with the clouds.  Touching down at Nelson airport was a relief.  Judy was waiting for me at the airport.
     We worked our way over to Christchurch and that’s where we were introduced to Stan.  He was Judy’s boss that came over from Canada to see how things were going and to give Judy some time off.  We were all sat down after work having a meeting when the topic of working in other countries came up.  I was offered a job in Australia - so I took it.
     The first few months of selling door-to-door was even more than what I imagined it could’ve been.  I made new friends, was part of a group and fast falling in love with my own country.  I’d never been past Christchurch (when sober or happy) but now I’d made it to Auckland and was living there in the ‘big smoke’.  We travelled all over New Zealand doing our little spiels, our little cleaning cloths were in our bags and we were on a mission to ‘clean up the country’.
     I didn’t have a passport nor did I have any of the I.D that was required to get one.  It was a race against time as I had to apply for my birth certificate and wait around for that to come through first.  I also had slight difficulty filling in the ‘next of kin’ bit on the form - so Judy was it for the time being.  My passport was issued in Rotorua within a couple of days prior to flying out.  There was no way that I could get down to Rotorua from Auckland in time to pick it up so it had to be couriered up to Auckland.  It showed up just in the nick of time as it arrived within a couple of hours that we were due to fly out.
     After the panic and a three hour international flight later; the first glimpse of Australian shores could be seen from the window.  The land got closer and closer and a few minutes later all that could be seen was red roofs.  It dawned on me that I was 17 years old, not even ‘legal’ drinking age and headed to a completely different country with a job and accommodation sorted before I even land – holy shit!
     I landed in Sydney and stayed in the Warratah Apartments which is located just behind Kings Cross.  The place was rather lush and had an absolutely wicked view of the Sydney tower.  Getting up in the morning and having a coffee while looking out over the city was amazing.  My first taste of being a party animal was unleashed in Kings Cross.  We’d all go to the clubs and then leave at about 6am giving us about an hour to get ready for work.  Probably explains why sales were so poor...
     In Kings Cross there were many bars to choose from on just one little stretch of road.  Unfortunately there were some bars that I couldn’t get in to as I was underage (at the time the drinking age in Australia was 18 and in New Zealand it was 21 obviously – Sydney was fucking brilliant) and I did still look very young.
     I had the best ever day exploring Sydney - much to the bemusement of my boss (a big burly Canadian called Stan) who had told me to go back to the apartment and do the dishes.  I thought ‘am I hearing right?’
     I wandered back to the apartment, looked at the dishes and looked out the window – Sydney was calling me.  It was a glorious day, the sun was blazing in the sky, it was the weekend - and there was the Sydney Tower looking at me - it was speaking to me, it was saying ‘Michelle, there’s a dishwasher behind you, use it’, followed by an invisible force field that was tugging and enticing my exploring urges – just luring me in. Unfortunately I had no idea how to use a dishwasher as I’d never come across one before.  So – seeing that the apartment had a dishwasher – I loaded up the machine and poured some liquid into it, turned it on – and then I was off to explore Sydney.
     I walked everywhere that day.  I went to the Woolloomooloo bar, Darling Harbour, the Sydney tower and finished off listening to some amazing wind acoustics whilst sitting on the steps of the Opera House with the sun setting magically in the background.  Absolutely amazing, breath-taking in fact, after the sun had set I casually wandered back to the apartment.
     When I got back to the apartment my team mates were all sitting on the couch with their arms crossed, silent.  I asked them what was wrong and their eyes flicked over to the other side of the room.  All of a sudden there was a deep-voiced rant and I walked a few paces more so that I could see – it was Stan, swearing his head off.  He had a pot in one hand and his other hand was rested on the counter for support as he was scooping up all the soaps suds and slamming them back into the sink.  There were soap suds everywhere.   I couldn’t help but laugh.  Word of caution – never use dishwashing liquid in a dishwasher – always use the capsules. 
     I tried desperately hard to keep a straight face however a little giggle did emerge; I had never used a dishwasher before and Stan - knee-deep in soaps suds scooping them up - was rather comical.
     Sydney was great.  I hadn’t had very much time to explore it as we were working from 8am to 6pm during the week so weekends were a blessing and the swearing and cursing from Stan was worth it as I would’ve missed out.  We were due to leave Sydney soon and we’d be working our way up to Brisbane where another boss would take over from Stan so that he could head back to Canada.
     A short time later we were making our way towards Surfers Paradise.  One town that we stopped at (I can’t remember the name), somewhere near Taree in New South Wales turned out to be another ‘trippy’ ‘Doors’ moment.
     The town had a drunken masochistic vibe to it with not a whole lot going on – that is – apart from the police officers that would come and just scoop the intoxicated Aborigines up from the pavement – ‘load’ them into their vans and drove them off to wherever.  It was carried out in a manner like the officers were used to it, like it was their daily routine.  To them it seemed ‘normal’ (which it isn’t in modern day Australia).
     I walked into a bar and I froze when the whole bar just turned and snarled at me.  I turned to leave immediately; I was nearly out the door when I got spat on.
     Walking into that bar was a huge mistake, it was indeed an anti-white town and only the locals would know to avoid the place at all costs.  I was ecstatic when we left.  It reminded me of something out of the ‘Doors’ movie where most of the people were just tripping out on acid or some mind-altering drug and living their lives almost in animation.  It’s an Aborigine town and they do not like people of the white kind... ‘Riders on the storm’... (tumbleweed rolls down the main drag).
     We made it to Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast) safely and with a huge sigh of relief.  We stayed at Stan’s pad in Surfers.  It was an apartment in a new block of flats that was positioned not far from the beach front.  Every morning a tractor would sweep the beach; the sand was indeed golden and so soft, it was kept pristine at all times. 
     The town itself was ‘glossy’ and the area is owned by the ‘super-rich’.  Unfortunately that was bad news sales wise as most people had cleaners.  The club life was fun though.  We went to a bar called ‘Coco’s’ and participated in line dancing while making complete fools of ourselves, but who cares; nobody knew us and we probably wouldn’t see them again, besides - everyone was doing it.
     We didn’t stay in Surfers for very long, it was soon time to hit the road again and head for Brisbane.  Before we got there we stopped at a few places on the way, sometimes to look and sometimes to work.  We stopped at ‘The Big Banana’.  It’s a banana plantation at Coffs Harbour where everyone does the touristy thing and gets their photo taken with a giant banana.   When we were working in the sticks I’d be surrounded by Eucalyptus trees, flocks of Cockatoos squawking, Kookaburra’s and red sand – the kind that stains.
     By the time we got to Brisbane I was really starting become sick of selling.  Sales were absolutely atrocious.  It was completely different compared to New Zealand.  New Zealand people loved to chit chat, take the time, trusting – whereas Australia seemed to have too little time and had a quicker pace of life in general.  I wasn’t that particularly thrilled about Brisbane.  We were staying on Kingsfordsmith Drive opposite the river.  The river looked as if it was massively polluted with plastic bags but in fact; what I thought were plastic bags were jellyfish - they were everywhere.
     My rotten days in Brisbane were quite frequent.  There was one lady sitting behind a desk – whom I presumed to be a receptionist.  She was wearing a lot of makeup and looked as if she’d spent hours just getting her physical appearance perfect or what she thought was perfection.  To look at her - my first impression was that she was an Australian Aristocrat-wannabe.  So, in my polite voice I began to ask her if she had a spare minute she pipes up “How dare you”, “Pardon” I said.  She carried on “How dare you show me a cleaning product – I don’t clean!”  Kind of freaked me out a bit as I’d never come across anyone living in a dream world.
     Speaking of Dream World – that was my first ever theme park that I visited.  It’s not far from Brisbane so I booked a day trip to Dream World.  I was overflowing with excitement.  No-one wanted to come with me so I went on my own.  One thing that I’ve learnt is; if the opportunity is there – take it, if you’d like to go somewhere but don’t because there’s no-one to go with – you will MISS OUT!  Never miss out through fear of exploring individually.
     While I was in Brisbane I found out what the maximum temperature I could withstand was and it’s 42 degrees Celsius.  I was out in it all day.  I didn’t have a hat, I had to carry a bag with four litres in it all day and when it came to the meeting time I’d be standing around waiting for longer in the sun with no shade.   This particular day I was feeling the heat; I walked into a café and nearly collapsed.  I was suffering from heat exhaustion.  The café’s owner walked me into the stand-in freezer so that I could cool down a bit.  I took the rest of the day off and the next day when I woke up I had little itchy spots all over me.  That’s when I found out what ‘prickly heat’ was.
     I started travelling with a different team from Brisbane further up the Queensland coast.  I often wondered if I would make it to Cairns – as that was where our dad was meant to be from but I didn’t make it up that far.  I really did have enough of ‘Wizard’ and I just could not attempt to demonstrate it to one more person as really – I just couldn’t be arsed.
     The moment when I decided to quit came in Maroochydore.  I wandered down to the beach and sat amongst the scattered rushes watching the day go by.  I knew that I’d made the right decision. I got as far as Bundaberg before heading back to Brisbane to catch a flight from Brisbane to Sydney.
     On the last night in Brisbane, one of the girls that I was working with and her boyfriend were going to meet me down at the pub for some drinks (she was really tiny, approx 5.2” and about a size 8).  I had trouble getting in that night, the doorman asked me for ID and I conveniently didn’t have any.  I got turned away so I snuck in through the restaurant and was soon drinking Sambucca’s with my workmates.
     We tottered off to the bathroom.  My work colleague was sitting up on the ledge in the ladies bathroom and the mirror was behind her.  When I came out of the toilet another girl had pushed my work colleague straight into the ledge and had started fighting.  I grabbed her by the hair and started to knee her in the face.  The girl fight continued until the doormen came in and stopped it by which time I had chunks of her hair in my hand.  It turned out that the woman that pushed my workmate was known for causing fights in the ladies and normally gets her ‘victim’ thrown out.  However, on this occasion it wasn’t the case.  The doormen asked what had happened and she began to lie her way out of it by saying that my work colleague started the fight.  They saw straight through her and kicked her out – I was left in the pub – hurrah!  I was thinking, ‘time for a drink!’
     As I was leaving the doorman who refused me entry earlier clocked me.  He said to his workmate “Who let her in here, she’s underage” his workmate shrugged his shoulders “Don’t let her in here again” he said.  I just thought ‘not a problem’ while giggling to myself.
     The ‘Wizard’ team were on a break in New Zealand when I got back from Australia.  Judy was planning a trip to South Africa but had no-one to look after the admin side of the business so I agreed to do that for her.  I’d have to go to the ‘office’ (rent-a-secretary/office-space), collect the mail and messages, send out any bottles of cleaner; normal day-to-day running a business type stuff.  Judy seemed confident in letting me look after the business.  Before I knew it she was on her way to South Africa to see the Gorillas.
     I was living with Pete (Judy’s cousin) in Avondale, Auckland.  Pete had his own pad in the basement.  There was Pete and his girlfriend Donna, Helene (friend) and her newly acquired British husband Bruce (got married to stay in NZ although Bruce didn’t love Helene but Helene loved Bruce… messy situation) and me.  I hooked up with Donna’s brother Roydon who was a deep sea fisherman.  He’d be gone for 3-4 weeks at a time and while he was away Helene and I would go out clubbing.
     Avondale is home of the Avondale Spider that was used for the movie ‘Arachnophobia’.  I had one just underneath my light switch in my bedroom one night – we were subtly acquainted.  I pulled my hand back sharpish and shouted “What the bloody hell is that?”  Helene came in followed by Bruce and when Helene saw it - that was it – she just climbed on top of the table and refused to budge until it was gone.  I got the newspaper and rolled it up ready to bring it to its untimely end however Bruce got an empty bowl and was hell bent on saving it and setting it free outside.  He’d said that Avondale’s come back so you have to take them a few houses down the road and set them free.  I just thought that that was even more reason to say goodnight to it.  The actual spider on my bedroom wall was the size of a starter plate.  I’ve been told that they grow to the size of a dinner plate – they also carry a knife and fork.  It’s hairy and it creeps and it also jumps – quite the athletic creature.
     Another creature that resides in NZ is the Weta.  It’s a bit like a giant stick insect that sticks to everything.  When it’s on your hand it just won’t come off no matter how vigorously you shake it.  You have to prize it off gently and hope that you don’t snap it in half otherwise it lays eggs that will seep into your skin and eat you from the inside.  Only kidding, it won’t.  It’s completely harmless, it just sticks! The bloody things won’t come off without a fight.
     Uncle Russell had been living in Herne Bay.  I hadn’t had that much contact with him since I was in Auckland.  I had quite a long conversation on the phone one day to him about Russell and living with mum.  It had only been a couple of years since Russell’s death and I was still feeling the strain of it.  There were moments where the ‘sales persona’ was switched off and I would have my ‘down’ moments.  Uncle Russell had no idea of the shit that mum had been saying over the years – or at least if he did know – he was really good at disguising it.  I went over to Uncle Russell’s a couple of times before he left for Sydney.
     I also decided while I was living in Auckland that it’d be a good idea to get my driver’s licence.  I got my ‘learner’ licence on the second attempt and bought a car for $350.  It was a mark II Cortina with column steering and it was red.  I took it into the car park and practised driving it around and pretty soon starting driving all over Auckland.  Tut Tut me.
     I’d had a little bit of practise behind the wheel previously as I started getting a bit wiser in my earlier years when I was living in the garage.  I knew that I wouldn’t be living in the garage for too much longer and as I listened to music and danced around the car all of a sudden it was clear to me - how could I sleep with a car every night and not know how to drive it?  It was a little red thing – not bigger than a Cortina.  I made it my mission to learn how to drive.  I had a spare key and drove it down to the end of Tweed Street and back when mum was out.  Whenever I was in a car I paid attention to the foot gears.  I’d done it a few times but unfortunately since the driveway was on an angle and had a concrete post on one side and on the other side was a wooden fence – I panicked as I thought I saw mum and ended up crashing the car into the wooden fence on the driveway.  I look back now and think ‘well, I guess that was worth a beating.’
     Of course it’s not the wisest of ideas to take my self-taught driving skills onto the roads of Invercargill but crashing into a fence, getting a beating - wasn’t that big of a deal in comparison with the adrenaline rush.  There wasn’t that much damage to the car and only two fence posts needed to be replaced.  The neighbours were pretty cool about it – surprisingly. The lady next door laughed about it as she thought it was funny.  She was a nice lady.  She made strawberry jelly and put strawberries in it.  She fell out with mum around the time that I had the crash.  I had to ask her whether she called the police on me or not as mum had said that the next door neighbour had complained and had ‘pressed charges’ against me.  Apparently that was a lie.  Unfortunately for mum the next-door neighbour wasn’t the kind of lady that appreciated being dragged into bullshit.
     Crashing mum’s car happened around the same time as Aunt Gayna and Tony’s wedding.  Mum didn’t want me around so I was put on a bus and sent to Waihola (which is not far south of Dunedin).  I wasn’t there for the wedding; it was Aunt Gayna that had said something to mum about the whereabouts of both me and Russell.  The conversation went “Anne, where’s Russell?”, “I don’t know”, “Oh, yes – he’s your son isn’t he?”
     Waihola was a religious kind of place.  I think it was one of those ‘tough love’ places where little misfits get sent when the parent/s have had too much.  No surprises there then.  I was 12 years old – not quite ready to get booted out. We had to pray and sleep in dorms etc, as well as the normal thing like chores and charts etc.  There was some fun stuff as well like go-karting around hay stacks.  From my mother’s banger to a racy little go-kart going full throttle.
     Unfortunately the same fate happened to my first car – I crashed it into a wall.  As I pulled out of Henry Street (in Auckland) and headed down the hill to the main road (Great North Road) I discovered – I had no breaks.  So I swerved, took out the stop sign and crashed into a concrete wall.  I missed the car in front of me that was stationary at the intersection – all I saw was a little boys face on the back window looking at me and he was coming closer... and closer.
     I was a bit shaken up after nearly crashing into someone else, people have always told me that everyone crashes their first car – I really did think that was an urban myth.          The police officer came and got a statement, checked the breaks and sure enough – there weren’t any and it was considered an ‘accident’.  My car was pretty much totalled, the bonnet was quite pushed in.  There wasn’t a great deal that I could do really as I didn’t have insurance (wasn’t obligatory at the time) and even if I did it wouldn’t be worth claiming for anyway.  I ended up selling it for $300, only lost $50 – bargain for a smash-up derby and a ‘Stop’ sign souvenir.
     While I was in Avondale with Pete as my flatmate and Judy still in Africa - I had a strange dream.  I was at the house and we were all out in the back garden having a barbeque and a few drinks when it started raining.  Everyone ran inside and I got caught under the garage door and the rain turned into little rays.  I looked up and there were little spacey type creatures having a fight in the sky and shooting each other with their laser beams.  We were all watching it and then one of them got shot and landed right in front of me.  It looked at me - smiled and then flew off back into the sky.  Then there was a blank and then after that until I saw myself giving a speech at the racecourse.
     It was thee most bizarre dream I’ve ever had.  I found an article in the Australians Woman’s Weekly magazine about a ‘Dream Doctor’, so I sent him a letter.  I received a reply back saying something positive about me and that I have a lot to teach/give people. ‘Okay’, I thought.
     After a fair amount of time Judy arrived back in Auckland from South Africa.  She’d fallen out with her friends and smashed their car up while she was on a bender there so wasn’t in the best of moods when she landed.  She looked over the business stuff and was happy with regards to the condition that sales were in etc.  I was just thinking it must’ve been a bit of a car-crash month, pardon the pun.
     Once her stroppiness subsided she began to get a new team together to start door-to-door canvassing.  This time the team was Gina, Bonny, Diesha and Jacqui.  We went to Napier, Gisborne, covered the Bay of Plenty, over the Waioeka Gorge, the Coromandel, Mt Manganui and past White Island.  On the way back to Wellington we took a detour to go and see Huka Falls.  Once we got to Wellington we got the ferry to Picton and headed down the West Coast of the South Island.  I could then say that I had covered pretty much all of New Zealand – all except the very north tip of the North Island and Stewart Island.  It was a little hard to comprehend that I’d never been to Stewart Island which is an island that’s a stones-throw away from Invercargill - yet been pretty much nearly everywhere else.
     The ‘Wizard’ spiel was becoming mind numbingly boring and tedious so I quit when we got back to Auckland.  I needed some time off from the ‘Wizard’ as I’d been doing it quite a while without a descent break.  I came to realise that when living with work - sooner or later it eventually develops into this all compassing thing that gobbles you up.  It was there when I went to bed; it was there when I woke up; the sales chart was permanently stuck in my face and if I clapped sight of any more bloody cleaner I would have no option but to have an emotional breakdown.  I was becoming suffocated by a cleaning product.  I didn’t want to be out selling anymore.  That went down like a lead balloon with Judy and we fell out so I moved out.  I didn’t leave on ‘good’ terms - I guess that comes with all ‘break ups’.  I moved out of the ‘Wizard’ premises and rented a one bedroom flat in Blockhouse Bay still remaining in Auckland.
     Within a short time I’d got another job working as a waitress for a company that caters for weddings and other formal functions, it was okay - nothing to shout about.
I still remained in touch with Judy and a couple of months went by before she asked me to return to work for her and train some people that had come over from the UK for a working holiday.  That was when I was introduced to Andy.  He was a bit of a long-haired lout really, a lanky surfy looking guy that spoke with a weird accent.  He was also really quiet so I ended up getting him to do shouting exercises before he went in to his sales pitch on people.  Things were going okay; I wasn’t living with the ‘Wizard’ crew which was a good thing as I’d get the space that I needed.  I’d get picked up in the morning and dropped off after work; it was almost like a ‘normal’ job, however the time was coming that we’d need to be back on the road and before I knew it; we were.
     Just before I was about to go on the road I had phone call from Uncle Joe.  It was about mum - she’d been beaten up by her boyfriend and needed a break so he thought it would be a good idea for her to come up and stay with me for a bit.  I did tell him that I would be away working but would only be gone a couple of days and that I’d ask some friends to see whether they could pick her up from the airport.
     When I got back from working away, my friends had told me that mum was a complete bitch when they picked her up from the airport.  They made a special sign saying ‘Michelle’s Mum’.  Mum went up to them and said “Oh she’s not here; I’m going to catch the next flight back then.”  They convinced her to go to the flat, so they drove her to the flat and she didn’t even say as much as “Thank You” to them.
     I got back and walked in the front door - the floor just looked as if was literally jumping.  It was absolutely riddled with fleas and there was mum, sitting up in my bed giving me orders once more.  I asked her why she didn’t go and get a flea bomb (Pak ‘n’ Save was only a short walk away) but she made some excuse pertaining to how much money she had as she’d come to Auckland with no money and I was expected to give her some.  It made me laugh; she’d not long won an obscene amount of money on a scratch card and bought a house in Waiau Crescent with it (which was on the other end of Invercargill).  I wasn’t in the mood to have an argument with this person sitting in my bed so I wandered down to the supermarket and got a couple of flea bombs.  When I got back mum had gone out so I lit the bombs, locked up and went over to a friend’s for a couple of hours.
     Later that evening I returned back to the flat to find mum once again sitting up in my bed, this time clutching a piece of paper and looking rather agitated.  I asked her if she wanted a coffee and she didn’t respond, so I made myself a cuppa.  It was then that she started to have a go. “You told Social Welfare that I was living with someone didn’t you?”  “Pardon?” I said.  “I got a letter saying that Paul’s doing me for maintenance.”
It was if my question fell on deaf ears as she blatantly ignored me while shouting over the top of me “You fuckin' told Social Welfare didn’t you!”  “What’s that got to do with me?” I bellowed back.  She didn’t answer that question but insistently started shouting “You fucking told them that I was living with someone!”  I blew up and shouted back “It’s got nothing to do with me and no I fucking didn’t, I didn’t know that you were living with someone and I really don’t give a fuck!  Did you actually bring that letter with you, all the way up from Invercargill so you could have a go at me?”
     She just kept going on and on.  I could’ve gone blue in the face saying the same thing over and over like “no.”  It wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference as she was hell bent on blaming me for something that I hadn’t done - yet again.  So I rang a friend of mine and crashed at theirs for the night.  The next day when I got back to the flat, the front door was wide open and all my stuff was gone - apart from the bed and the sofa.  Man I was pissed, but good riddance to her if that’s what it took for that abusive leach to leave.  I phoned Aunt Carole a few days later and she’d said that mum had got back to Invercargill alright.  She’d asked mum why her trip was cut short but all she’d said to Aunt Carole with “Why don’t you ask Shelley?” I let out a sigh of frustration; “It’s just never-ending bullshit with that woman.”
     I looked around the empty shell of my flat and my few bits of ‘treasured’ possessions; namely a couple of cassette tapes, some clothes and my suitcase was all that was left.  I thought – could this really be ‘it’ then?  I knew ‘Wizard’ wasn’t going to last forever – was I now destined to become a waitress?  The ‘Wizard’ team were due to leave Auckland soon and head down south.  It was a blessing in disguise since my stuff had been nicked so there certainly wasn’t a problem with packing or storage – or trips to the tip for that matter.
     The new ‘Wizard’ team were the ‘Brit’ boys (Andy, Alistair and Asif) and the girls (Gina, Lisa and me).  The atmosphere was so much more relaxed compared with having an all girl team as the bitching could be quite ruthless.  We headed south via Kaikoura, Christchurch, Alexandra, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Kingston all the way to Bluff, then stopped off in Invercargill then en route to Ohai and Nightcaps (the little mining town where both Russell and I called ‘home’ for a short time).
     Just before we were about to go to work in Invercargill I had a quick glance at the paper.  On the front page of the Southland Times there was a medium sized write up about a fatal collision on the road between Nightcaps and Ohai.  As I read the article my hand covered my mouth in shock as it was the Kingi family as well as Shelley (an old girlfriend of Russell’s) who were all involved in the accident.  Jamie was riding a motorbike to Nightcaps while Shelley and Jamie’s sisters were heading the other way back to Ohai.  The road between the two towns is very windy, very dark and there is a severe problem with fog.  The towns are located in the middle of nowhere and not far from the Takitimu Ranges.  At one point or another Shelley decided to do a ‘u-e’ and turn around,  right at that moment when she decided to turn around Jamie slammed into the side of the car on his motorbike and subsequently died.  Both Shelley and Jamie’s sisters were all hospitalised as well as Shelley’s sister who was also in the car.
     I was in shock for most of the day.  I still got my sales target though but I also did a lot of staring into space.  Later that day I knocked on the door of one particular house and a girl came to the door, I can’t remember what she said but she led me into the house and there she was – there was Shelley.  It was so random, there was Shelley sitting at the dining table, her mind driving her insane from ‘memory flashes’.  All she kept seeing when she shut her eyes was the expression on Jamie’s face.  She was a mess, her face was almost unrecognisable.  In fact she had about the same injuries as the skinhead woman beating in Dunedin – and that was severe.  I left when the Doctor came to give her some more valium.
     It wasn’t the last time that I saw Shelley.  A couple of weeks later we all went out to the pub on the edge of town, just before the turn off to the abattoir and the beginning of the journey to ‘middle earth’.  I was dancing and this person was banging into me, me being me - thought ‘I’m not friggin' moving’ so stayed where I was.  She banged me again so I turned around with my ‘pissed off’ expression and it was Shelley.  What could’ve turned into a girly brawl in the middle of the dance floor turned into a great surprise with huge hugs and then a giggle as she was thinking the same thing I was – ‘I’m not moving’.
     Jamie was a Maori and the funeral took place in the burial ground in Ohai/Nightcaps.  The family stayed with his body for 12 hours before they buried him.  It’s a Maori tradition allowing enough time for the ‘spirit’ to leave before his body was given to the earth.
     We arrived back in Christchurch at the same time that Split Enz were doing their 20th Anniversary tour.  We all got tickets and went to see them in their full glory; it was an absolutely superb kiwi experience.  The Jack Daniels was being passed around followed by tobacco with something special in it; absolutely superb.  The next day we ventured out to Orana Park.  Orana Park is a wildlife park that boasts animals being in their natural habitat.  There were Tigers, Lions, Cheetahs, Rhino etc and being in New Zealand and all.  When it was time to witness the lions being fed we had to drive into an enclosed paddock and park our cars side by side.  We sat in the car as instructed by the keepers (after all it was rather dodgy if anyone got out, you’d run the risk of being mauled to death).  The feeder was in an enclosed cage on the back of a tractor and giving the big cats the raw meat through a retractable flap as the vehicle slowly drove by.  The Cheetahs would also get their exercise as they raced after their food with the aid of a ‘rabbit run’ contraption that they use for greyhound racing.  It was amazing to get that close to a Cheetah to actually hear it meow like a cat – well – it is a cat – but certainly not one that’s going to be lounging on your sofa.  Christchurch was great and I loved it.  It was Christchurch that a couple of sparks flew between Andy and I.  We both thought it’d be good idea to get away from ‘Wizard’ for the weekend so we hired a car and embarked on a little adventure down to Queenstown, up to Mt Cook National Park and Lake Tekapo and across to the Moeraki boulders then back to work in Christchurch. Our little excursion was great fun.
     Once we got back to Christchurch we headed to Queenstown where the choice of jumping off a bridge or doing loop-the-loop above Queenstown in a Bi-plane was served up to our adrenaline urges.  I opted for the loop-the-loop.
     Wellington was where I bought my first designer dress.  At Thornton & Hall I found a gorgeous black velvet dress, it had sleeves and a keyhole on the front, the skirt was slightly flared and it was superb with boots or heels.  I was a constant boot wearer.  I had a pair of black knee length boots that I would wear with everything - I didn’t own a pair of heels.  In my suitcase would be my sneakers and jandals – I’d be wearing my boots non-stop.  Sneakers had to be worn when we were out selling ‘Wizard’ because we could get the muck out of the carpets better, plus there was the feet factor.  I paid $350 for my gorgeous designer dress and I even wore it with my boots.

     By the time we all got back to Auckland, Andy had convinced me to go on a working holiday with him.  I departed New Zealand leaving my memories - good and bad behind me.  I boarded the plane with a one way ticket to England, a loan of £2000 in order to get a working visa for a year in England, approximately $500 and my trusty MasterCard; also not forgetting my St. Christopher gently hanging around my neck.
     Not only was it the beginning of a new era in my life but it was also going to be one hell of an adventure, also quite a dangerous one with many risks involved.  There was no ‘backup’ or ‘support’ along the way; this was a trip of survival, to see how far I could make it, to find out where I would end up on my travels.  The biggest adrenaline rush I would experience to date because with next to no money and no way of getting home once the funding had gone - I was completely dependent on working and finding a job as soon as I could.

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