Sunday, May 13, 2007


I'll take a break from the world of property to mention a plunge of a different sort.

At the time of writing I am 35 years old and I cannot swim. I personally find this completely unremarkable. It's absurdly simple to avoid swimming. If everyone decides to go swimming you just do something else.

If you grow up in Ireland in the 1980's there aren't any swimming pools worth going to and, even in the summer, it's far too cold to brave the sea. Although Irish people usually do learn to swim at some point in their childhood, not being a swimmer never hindered me in any way. Swimming occasions rarely arise and there's always something else to do. Down Under, opportunities to swim are plentiful. As are the swimming pools. And it's not always the case that other activities are on offer.

On rare occasions when the topic of my inability to swim arose in Ireland I was met with mild surprise and generally pressed to take adult lessons of some sort. I politely ventured that I really ought to look into it at some point and promptly dropped the subject. As always Australia is different. The locals are positively aghast when they hear I cannot make my way about on the surface of water unaided. It is almost as if I had announced that I cannot hear and have been secretly lip-reading all their conversations with me. I've had more than one person email me with comprehensive lists of classes. They've practically listed which bus routes to take and have barely stopped short of offering to pay for the classes. Aussies REALLY just don't get that you can't swim.

So I took the plunge (so as to speak) and I'm taking lessons.
Cooling off

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hicks Mansion

With the settlement on the house some weeks away, my frenetic workload had suddenly and completely evaporated. It was long past time to make good on my promise to visit Paul.

Paul Hicks is one of my best friends from college. We studied together, worked together and drank together. We've even pursued the same girls and managed not to fall out over it. About four years ago Paul decided to settle in New Zealand and he now resides in Wellington.

Final approach into Wellington airport revealed New Zealand's national capital from behind a bank of long white clouds. A dispersed conurbation of low housing packed into undulating hillsides bounded by infinite seas. Paul was there to meet me at the gate.

We passed the four day weekend pleasantly. The days we spent drinking and hiking. We also drank, and got drunk, I think every night. Visiting perhaps every Irish Bar in town, and a significant proportion of the remaining pubs. But the insobriety was always good natured and the whole experience thoroughly relaxing. Are we getting too old for full on carousing, or just too old to start fighting over the same girl?

My lasting impression (inevitably, perhaps, because of my recent home purchase) was of Paul's house. It is simply vast. A four bedroom home on two levels may not be Buckingham Palace, but for a bachelor in his first home it's positively sprawling.

Paul offered me a choice of rooms. Selfishly I selected the largest. A room that might otherwise have accommodated a training session for a basketball team. I considered the dimensions carefully and concluded that the entire original structure of my house (both floors) would fit in the volume provided by this single room. The ceilings were absurdly high and fiendishly ornate. Daybreak illuminated the chamber through an imposing window in the north wall and flooded the space with brilliant light. It was like waking up in a cloud.

I think I'll be going back.