All work and no play make Will and Michelle a gruesomely grouchy twosome. Fortunately, the festive season brought a lovely respite to the daily grind with a spate of good weather, good food and good people.
I know I ought to be used to tropical Christmases, but the last couple of Christmas I’ve had were as traditionally north hemispheric as you could get. The chill of snow in the air, decorating christmas cookies, a plethora of presents beneathe a real pine tree, sipping eggnog by the fire with with a drowsy feline, the picture of contentment.
Despite the unanswered wish for snow, our busy workload and a decidedly unfestive crowd at the bunkhouse (“We don’t believe in commercialised christmas..”) we had a crackin’ Christmas morning. Will and I had sneakily bought each other gifts from the Tiri gift store and had them gift wrapped. Each present was opened with the maniacal enthusiasm of an underprivileged orphan on Chistmas morning to make up for the lack of spirit and atmosphere. It was a good haul of gifts that we spent awhile cooing over.
There was however… a surprise gift from one of the supporters. Bob, an old guide who.. I’m a little hesitant to conclude, has a bit of a crush on me. At least all evidence points that way, when he gave me a bottle of wine for Christmas and a little card saying “from an Old admirer”. Shockingly, we found that the wine was clean and crisp and without a hint of Rohypnol in it. I suppose a friendly gesture could be misconstrued, but when I walked in two days ago and found a box of chocolates on my bed, and Will suggestively raising his eyebrows at me and pointing to Bob walking by in the distance…..
The end of the year also brought guests from near and far. Starting with All American Abe, one of my seabid acoustic gurus who has had the misfortune of reading my thesis ..cringe. He brought along his countless field stories, jolly laughter and the priceless gift of WetWipes which harken to my nickname on the Farallones… (we had limited showers there.. go figure).
Abe had worked on Tiri six years ago and he left me with valuable advice as he lazily kicked his flippers on his back like and otter with our haul of 70 huge mussels sitting squarely on his chest. Go out and enjoy Tiri. It’s not the Hihis I’ll remember.. it’s times like these, clutching my bikini clad self, in a semi hypothermic state under the freezing rain picking mussels.. watching dolphins cruise by a sunset, lying on the hill at night in a haze and uncontrollably laughing at the winking city lights, the first furry cuddle of a grey faced petrel chick, belly crawling into a cave to find nesting penguins, its these memories I’ll keep. So stop with the kindle and go out to create Tirian adventures to remember.
As Abe left the island in a flurry of bear hugs, wise cracks and a good heap of New York Jewish Pride, Nic and Rob arrived just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve on Tiri. Rob, our friendly Grey Faced Petrel researcher who Will and I randomly encountered when we were well past intoxicated in a bar near Goat Island. I heard a singsong Welsh voice exclaiming, “I am a seabird biologist” and whipped around instantly, honing in like a shark smelling blood only to find out this intrepid seabirder had been on our island every single Wednesday for the last six months, bouncing petrel babies on his lap. In was inevitable that Will would fall in love with this sheep shagging Terry Pratchett reading, Baldur’s Gate II playing, tea fanatic Welsh. A match made in heaven. I can only sit around in midgety indignance as they made fun of my height, my arse, my Asianess with the dry smug wittiness that only the British can muster.
Nic, a Kea conservation geneticist who I had befriended during the Con Bio conference in Auckland, came up from Dunedin to visit. I’m not sure how I convinced him to come, but it was probably best I didn’t mention that I assumed when he had written “Nestor” under a drawing of his study species, I thought it was a name of a famous parrot.. like Flipper the dolphin, Lassie the Collie or Shamu the Orca… as opposed to the latin name for Keas.
New Year’s Eve heralded an evening of gin and tonic by the beach and a swim with the lads, only to have the three pansies scamper out of the cold water. Will, whimpering about his frozen nipples, Nic despite his alpiniste heritage dashed off under the excuse of “taking a tuatara photo” and Rob set off the Richter scale with his shivers, while I with all my tropical upbringing, trailed behind, rolling my eyes in contempt at clearly what was the weaker sex.
The countdown was a relatively lowkey affair, drowsied with wine and mead. People soon trooped off to bed, but Nic and I wandered off for a futile kiwi hunt. We were instead pleasantly surprised by the ghostly bioluminscence that outlined each breaking wave as it crashed along Hobbs beach. We ran into the water after a quick “I’ll go if you go” negotiation. We were completely enchanted, watching the phytoplankton twinkle between our fingers.