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Thursday, 3 February 2011

Takaka Hill, Nelson, 'Brassed Off' and SoundStage 22 January - 3 February 2011

Theirs is an old adage which states that “A week is long time in football.” – or was it politics? There is a reason why this is an old adage. This week, since leaving the tranquillity of Takaka and our new friends there, our cycle tour has been halted temporarily, but for good reason.

Our last days with Judith were full of laughter and hard graft in one garden or another. We spent 2 days at Theo’s place; an 80 something dairy farmer with a great devotion to her 200 acre garden where we spent a great deal of time pulling ivy from a section of her Camellia hedgerow. We also managed a day’s gardening at Gaye and Adele’s place, working with Pat to tidy up the sloping gardens which lead down to a tidal creek a bottom of their patch. We even had time to meet Judith’s brother, now living in Lincolnshire near to my mum’s place, but over visiting the family for a month.

We left Takaka on Saturday the 22nd of January and began our cycle back towards Motoeka. We were both utterly exhausted when we arrived in Motoeka that evening after cycling the highest climb in NZ – 10km and 800 metres (there are higher hills and mountains but you don’t start from sea level for those!). The sun had been beating down on us all throughout the cycle, oddly, as we both looked up to the sky, we saw a perfect rainbow surrounding the sun and we both felt it was in some way symbolic.

Early on Sunday morning we packed up and set off on the 50 km journey into Nelson again. It was a much easier and quicker journey than the previous day, no 15 km uphill cycling to do for a start! We were in a bit of a rush due to the fact that we had read about an open audition for the play ‘Brassed Off’, being held in the town at 2pm in the afternoon. I figured now was as good a time as any to introduce myself to the theatrical community of New Zealand, so we set up camp at the not so nice ‘Paradiso’ backpackers and headed for SoundStage – a professional performing arts academy – to read for the director.

At the audition we met other potential cast members and got chatting, as you do. All were friendly and went out of their way to welcome us. Ngaire, a local GP and all round good egg, came into the audition with me and read the part of Sandra. I was reading for Phil, Sandra’s husband. It was great to have a script in my hand again. Mel also came in to introduce herself and to offer her services backstage, as they had advertised for such help. Hugh and Judith Neill, the directors of Theatre Alive, the company responsible for the show, appeared to be impressed enough with us and we left feeling happy. As we were leaving, Ngaire offered to let us stay in her spare room, should we need somewhere to go. She explained that her husband Tom and her three children would be fine with us staying for as long as we needed to. We have taken her up on that offer – I am currently sitting in their Beverley Hills type house on a hill overlooking Nelson, more on this later.

That evening I was offered the part of Phil in the show, I couldn’t have been more pleased as it is set to go on at The Theatre Royal here in Nelson in April. It’s the oldest wooden theatre in the southern hemisphere and it looks stunning from the outside. We met Hugh to have a look round, it was wonderful!
The beautiful chairs in the upper circle

Looking at the stage from the Upper Circle

Looking our from the stage

Charlie and Hugh on stage

The rehearsal space upstairs above the stage

Hugh and Mel in the upper wings

 As it turn out, Ngaire and her eldest child, Oliver, will be playing the roles of Sandra and ‘our’ son, so we’re all practically family now!

On the Monday afternoon I was back at SoundStage interviewing for the vacant Drama Coach position. I was interviewed by Jane Winter, the principle, and her husband, Simon for more than an hour, after which time I was offered 4 hours per week to start with, with a view to maybe increasing my hours as time passes. Another great bit of news. SoundStage is the only professional performing arts academy in Nelson, so to be part of that team is both flattering and exciting and I can’t wait to get stuck in. Obviously, 4 hours a week is not going to be enough for us to live off, but we are attempting to increase our spectrum of work as quickly as possible and who knows, we may end up staying in Nelson for a while yet. I will post details of the show on the blog as and when I receive them, but for now a link to both Theatre Alive and the SoundStage websites are available for you to view in the usual place on this page.

After the good news about the jobs, Mel and I decided to go away on the bikes for one more trip, before settling down here for a couple of months or more. We packed up and left ‘Paradiso’ backpackers and headed off to Cable Bay for a couple of nights. We were both very pleased we did. (Check out the video on We had an almost private beach, an empty campsite, a super café for lunch and great hiking opportunities. We were able to spend time reflecting on all of our achievements to date on our travels.
Arriving at Cable Bay

Above Cable Bay

Looking towards Nelson

So, we find ourselves in a very unique position in every sense of the word. We have been offered the chance to house-sit for a week, so we have somewhere to stay, all be it temporarily, some work and a show on the horizon. The property we are house-sitting; Tom and Ngaire’s place, is a 1930’s New Zealand timber frame house, strategically embedded into the side of the Grampians overlooking the town, tastefully decorated with a swimming pool, beautiful garden and a kitchen to die for. They are a truly wonderful couple, with 3 delightful kids, so welcoming and generous to a fault. My, my, we have been fortunate. Mel and I intend to bake and cook amazing food for them when they return from a week’s holiday on Sunday, as we have had the place to ourselves since Friday.
Polenta Frittata

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