Rain drops bounce off the corrugated plastic canopy surrounding the house. For the first time I can remember the back door is closed. Kenny Rogers sings on the radio. The living room is scented with the joint of lamb slow roasting in the oven. The skin on my knees is dried and cracked. I’ve been crawling over the carpet, picking through piles of Lego, searching for an elusive brick. I try to think of the last time I had a Sunday like this. 15 years ago or more. Dinner time approaches. I begin scooping up dark grey bricks, ending another day’s work. I’m more disciplined now than I was as a child. Packing away my toys at the end of the day. The five of us sit down at the table to eat dinner. The evening news plays in the background. The spread of the virus has been restricted. The country will soon move to Alert Level 2. Another step towards normality, be it new or old.
Two months have passed since I drove the length of the North Island to lockdown at the Soar residence. Rebuilding the Lego models was the only task I was given. I did my best to complete this. With a collection that travelled here from the UK it’s no surprise that some pieces are missing. I finished with a shelf full of finished models, a box of incomplete kits, and half filled ice cream tubs of different coloured left overs. I helped re-arrange some furniture, drop off an old bed and collect a new one. Just this week I gave my hands to shovelling soil, carrying it from the front of the house to the vegetable patch out the back. Safe to say I’ve not been asked for much and yet so much has been given.
I had a birthday during the lockdown. I hoped to be out hiking somewhere before all this happened. Things don’t always turn out the way you expect. For the most part it was a normal day, normal for lockdown anyway. When Andrea returned home from work there was a spark of festivity. A birthday barbecue, a bag of gifts, a home made carrot cake and a pavlova. Nobody needs carrot cake and a pavlova for their birthday but if you get them, you’re not disappointed. Andrea kept me well fed in home baked goods, various New Zealand “lollies” to try, and the offer of ice cream after every meal. I’m glad I didn’t weigh myself when I arrived, it meant there was no point in doing it when I left.
At the weekends I’ve been out with everyone, taking Sid for a walk. Crossing the river into Waikanae to visit Andrea’s mum, Val. Since my arrival I’ve been kept in regular supply of books on the hiking routes in the Kapiti region and beyond. Val having been a keen tramper herself. We then head down to the beach, throwing sticks in the river for Sid to fetch. And Bobby to fetch too, if the mood takes him. Which it seems to, every time we get close to the water. Back at home, and I had come to think of it as home, Luke would pester me to try out his latest VR game. Having never been much of a gamer I struggled until we got to Minecraft and I suddenly found a game without purpose that I could have easily played for hours.
Aside from helping with my persistent van troubles, the battery died, not once but twice. Jason has also taken me out to visit his bees. They live in another town, on someone else’s land. Suited and booted. We entered the tiny paddock with the two box hives. My shoulders were tense. I noticed I was holding my breath. I was reliably informed the guard bees would come for me. Jason had the lid off one of the hives. The guards were bouncing off the mesh in front of my face. They’re not getting in, I’m not getting stung. I start to breathe again. The experience is surreal. A small swarm buzzing around my head, intent on defending their winter supplies. On the way out Andrea’s brother Greg, who owns the land where the bees live asks me what are probably simple questions about the van and I get two of them wrong. Is it a five speed? Yes, no idea what that means. How much did you pay for it? Fourteen hundred. Nope, that’s not how you say that number out loud. Way under, apologising, thousands. Sorry. He asks about the tyres and I fluff the rest of my lines. There’s a lot to learn, even more to remember.
The lockdown was finally lifted. After 7 weeks of staying home, saving lives it was time for me to move forward with my adventure. I wasn’t ready. I had become comfortable, easing into a gentle, sheltered life. How nice it is to be able to enjouy the freedom of living like a ten year old at the age of 31. This family joins a place with several others I have found around the world who have taken me in, looked after me, treated me as one of their own. I have been lucky, I have been fortunate, I have been grateful.