I like New Zealand, I really do.
There’s a certain charm to ordering ‘Fush un Chupps’ and you have to admire a country that sells us back their gutted, skinned and transformed feral animals at a premium price for us to wrap around our necks.
But try as they might, our energetic cousins across the Tasman will only ever to aspire to what is on offer here in the big country.
Sure, they can knock out a pretty fair Pinot, turn on a spot of skiing occasionally and field a half-respectable team of Rugby players, but in the real world New Zealanders are little more than respected try-hards and cottage industry experts.
Now I can see steam building up behind the ears of some of our esteemed Kiwi cousins and they will be quick to remind us of that anomalous 1976 Olympic Hockey fluke (c’mon, hands up, who remembers?) and that perfectly legal one-day cricket win when brown trousers were still in style. But the true state of the world is quickly restored and one only has to look to the recent World Cup for a salient reminder.
But please, don’t be put off. As Sam Neill, Dame Kiri and Xena will want to tell you, New Zealand is a lot more than blockbuster mountain scenery and Oscar winning performances – even if the famous dubbed and defiant diva refuses to be showered in undies aimed at our own darling, Johnny Farnham.
I’m assured too that a singles bash in Dunedin, a B&S as we like to call them here, is not known as ‘blokes ‘n’ sheep’ on the South Island. That’s just a furphy. All the chaps I’ve met from there have perfectly normal relationships with their livestock.
But please take note and don’t make the mistake I did. When the tour brochure says, “experience an authentic Maori haka”, it is in fact not an outdoor cook-up. When I asked a big fellow who looked like a chef in a grass skirt, “how about some sausages then?”, he and his friends got very very angry and made nasty faces. I’ve since learned that Maori food is set fire to and buried.
Despite these unfamiliar customs, I’m reliably informed that people who like smelly cheese, desolate mountain ranges and jumping off bridges will have a perfectly fine time.
So, by all means, shun our parched and arid deserts, man-eating wildlife and well-ordered vehicular traffic and bugger off to New Zealand.
See if I care.