How do I compare New Zealand to Britain?
I took part in a radio interview with the BBC yesterday.
My first interview and I felt terrified, the archetypal rabbit in the headlights. Everyone asks me to compare New Zealand to Britain and I thought I’d prepared for it. Melvyn Prior’s been at the radio station since the 1990s when I raised babies in a tiny two-bedroom cottage left over from the textile mills in uphill, Lincoln. I didn’t admit how familiar his voice sounded, or that his company kept me sane trapped indoors on rainy days with a toddler and new-born twins. I don’t think there’s a kinder, more professional interviewer to be led by and I’m ruined for the future.
Sorry Ellen and Messrs Frost and Dimbleby; you’re too late.
Off air, between news items and a pop song, he asked me the only question I really faltered at and it took me by surprise.
How does New Zealand compare to England?
I’ve answered that question a million times. I bring out perfect, trite answers to outline the differences. Compare and contrast; basic, balanced reasoning principals. People nod gratefully. They made their decision whether to emigrate or not with those facts in the mix. My answers are helpfully based on stark differences.
I don’t like the NZ healthcare system and think it’s third world.
I love the ruggedness of the mountains behind my house and the treacherous, unpredictable river in front.
I feel safe in a British queue and hysterical in a NZ every-man-for-himself-surge towards a ticket office, gate or doorway.
I appreciate how you can rock up to a Kiwi’s home any time of the day or night and get fed and find a bed.
I dislike how their children yell over one another to be heard in an uncomfortable, upwards spiral of superiority.
I detest how low wages seem compared to Britain and that NZ is third in the ranking for child poverty.
I’m grateful for the freedom my children enjoyed in NZ’s sunny, carefree bosom and how they recaptured their childhood with new and exciting experiences.
I love how appearances don’t matter. Millionaires stand in bakeries clutching a pie and coffee wearing gum boots and tattered shorts. Children own shoes but don’t wear them. You can go to town without make up, with your hair like a briar patch and leaves stuck to your tee shirt. The hedge won and nobody cares.
I didn’t say that yesterday and I’m glad he didn’t ask that question on air. Because I suddenly didn’t know the answer.
I spent Sunday in Lincoln cathedral. I sought my old friend the Lincoln Imp, star of Demons on Her Shoulder, a novel based in my home town. A service barred our entry and the haunting singing left me staring at gravestones underfoot, as familiar as my own carpet at home. I stroked the walls and photographed everything.
Lincoln cathedral served as my go-to place for many years. If the rain stopped and we needed fresh air, I’d push the pram there and walk around. I watched tourists do their thing, little knowing a quarter of a century later, I’d be one of them.
I realised I needed to stop making comparisons between New Zealand and England. You can’t compare them. It’s not possible. It’s like putting a supermodel in an All Black scrum or a prop forward on a cat walk. You can try it; but the result won’t be pleasing. The model will snap like a matchstick under the weight of the scrum. Cauliflower ears and a zig-zag nose won’t sell designer clothing in a world which recoils from perceived imperfection.
Apples and Oranges.
They go together but don’t taste the same.
I can’t answer that question anymore; so don’t ask me. Instead, quizz me on what’s amazing about New Zealand. Ask me what I adore about Britain.
After all, I’m a daughter of one and adopted by the other. Coming home’s made me realise how much I love them both.
If you want to catch the interview with Melvyn, click on the LINK
Fast forward to 1.11 unless you want to listen to the heartbeat of this beautiful English county.