Our last couple of weeks in relaxing, sunny old NZ were just that - apart from one night in Wellington, details of which we won't go into (suffice to say Wellington has been permanently removed from my list of potential places to live, and Prime Minister has been permanently removed from my list of potential careers to follow, as she has to live in Wellington.) We spent some more time in Napier, which was glorious, and finished up with five days of sailing, rollerblading, swimming, and socialising in Auckland.
This last sentence makes me sound a little like a fitness bunny, rabidly jumping from one activity to the next, barely pausing to switch accessories, so much so you can kind of imagine me rollerblading along Tamaki Drive wearing a lifejacket. Much as I would like to convince you this is the truth, I'm pretty sure all earlier posts that have virtually worshipped my bed and my couch have proven quite the opposite. I'm more like a fitness Chihuahua - lots of enthusiasm, but no grace, staying power, or - well - fitness. Short legs, too. They don't help.
Anyway it's always been a bit of a joke to me and my loved ones, until I returned to NZ and realised with a short sharp shock the extent to which my fitness had deteriorated. I've never been the greatest, but I was all right - until I wasn't, and I very nearly went into cardiac arrest walking up a hill. Fulham doesn't have any hills, you see. Stanmore Bay has many, so to get anywhere, you're going to walk up a hill, and then up another to get back (unsure how this works - it's like the basic laws of physics don't apply in this outpost of Auckland).
So one of my missions in New Zealand became to regain my fitness. Considering I was on holiday, and it was Christmas, and really quite hot, I don't think I could really have picked a worse time to get on with it, particularly being in a country full of hills. I swear, New Zealand has stolen some other country's share of hills, and is now selfishly hoarding them. Behind H1's family home in Napier lies a good size hill, covered with rippling grass and sheep. It's a pleasant place to try to kill yourself (or regain your fitness, as some would have it).
I walked up the hill, 'glowing' bucketloads, admiring the rippling grass and great views in between choked, wheezy, 70 year old smoker breaths (to remind you, I'm 26 and a non-smoker), got to the top, stared out at the ocean for a couple of minutes to reward myself, then climbed over a stile to follow a different path back down.
This is where I made the big mistake. Logically, if something has successfully got you somewhere, it makes sense to use that same thing to get you back. It doesn't make sense to climb a stile and tread the unknown, especially if we're not talking about anything life changing, merely a walk up a hill on a sunny day. I learned this lesson the hard way, less than a quarter of the way back down the hill. I glanced up, and saw a couple of sheep running towards me.
I froze for a few seconds as the farm animals charged, while words from my father flowed through my head (they're more scared of you than you are of them, they're harmless, sheep don't eat humans, blah, blah) and swiftly came to the conclusion that it was all lies. Besides - they're sheep. If one of them is heading your way, others will be following. All this in mind, I made the wise decision to turn around and head back to the stile, which would take me back over the fence, onto the safe, non-sheepy side of the hill.
I walked on confidently, only checking for the killer sheep behind me every thirty seconds or so, before being stopped in my tracks by - more sheep.
These ones were on the path. On the path meant for humans! There were about 15 of them, a real gang, all crowded over the path and staring at me in a distinctively threatening manner. Had they been English sheep they probably would have pulled a knife on me. As it was, they just kept staring at me, waiting for me to turn tail and run.
They won. I didn't run (what if they liked nothing better than a good old fashioned girl/sheep chase scene?) but I certainly walked away at a good pace. Very good for my fitness, I'm sure.
I made it to the bottom of the hill with no further sheep sightings (not for want of looking) and told H1 all about it. I expected to be swept up in his arms and comforted, but instead he looked at me with an expression that, were it a word, would come out sounding a lot like 'wus'.
So that was New Zealand - greatest place in the world, in my unbiased opinion, even if they do have a sheep problem. It's all over now, but the memory lives on, in my nightmares, every time I wake up with my heart pounding after dreaming about the sheep. Oh, and on my hips. NZ has the most delicious food you've ever tasted, which is fantastic, but does negate the exercise somewhat - lucky there are so many hills.