Becoming a South Islander had a few problems … or should I put that as ‘becoming a North Cantabrian’ … and getting my head around the ‘local’ ways was a bit of an added burden at times.

A new acquaintance would say, “I live on the right as you go over the bridge.”

“Which bridge?” I would ask.

“You know … the bridge … the one way bridge,” would be the incredulous reply.
Seems simple, but I am surrounded by one way bridges. I negotiate four of them just to get to the village. Urrgh! However, I now understand that ‘the bridge’ is the common name for the big bridge that crosses the Waimak (local) or Waimakariri (not local) River.

Another example of the small frustrations that go hand in hand with relocating was when I went into a hardware store to buy a D shackle. “No, I’m sorry we don’t have those” … but, after a quick search by me, they were found – they are called G Bolts down here.

And, when I first arrived here, the one thing that really made me realise I was possibly on another planet was the appalling fencing everywhere. The country side is covered with sagging, rusting, shambolic bits of wire usually held together with an equally saggy, rusty, shambolic, lethal looking length of barbed wire perched precariously on the top. Although most of the fences would include some sort of an electric wire, by the number and frequency of escaped livestock, very few of them functioned.

I needed some fencing done asap and I hate electric fences with a passion but trying to find a fencer who was willing to put up, what I would call, a normal seven wire post and baton fence was a tad difficult. I finally found a fencing contractor to do the job but he made it abundantly clear that he didn’t like using batons and that became the next problem – he “couldn’t source any batons”. I went into a rural supply merchant and asked if they could get me some batons. The attendant questioned what batons were and, after my answer was given, searched on the computer. The next question was, “Ooo. How would you spell it?” At which point I realised what I was up against and stopped wasting my time. Instead, I hauled out one of the batons I had brought south with me and took it to a local sawmill where I was able to put in an order large enough for them to mill. Problem solved.

I phoned the fencer back and cheerfully said, “Not to worry. There is a load of batons being delivered tomorrow.” Although there was a deathly silence on the end of the line, I’m sure I heard a wee voice say, “Bugger!” So, my North Island fencing went up much to the ridicule of the locals. “Gosh – never seen that sort of fencing on a dairy farm before!” was a typical comment, but they have all got used to it now and most have agreed as to how smart it has made the property look.
Yet, the thing that really got me perplexed was the term “I’m going into town”. The first time I heard it was when a new friend and I were co-ordinating a horse ride together.

“Tomorrow won’t do,” was how the conversation went, “I need to go into town all day. I have a bit of shopping to do.”

I couldn’t fathom this because the lovely little town close to us both has a handful of touristy shops, a couple of nice cafes and a grocery store. But, I figured that was the way it was and we set off for our ride on another day. It took me several weeks and a few more of these ‘to town’ statements before I became enlightened. It turns out that the term ‘going into town’ doesn’t mean a quick trip to the local village – it means travelling all the way across the Canterbury Plains to the big city of Christchurch. How anyone can equate driving through motorway traffic into the South Island’s largest city as ‘going to town’ I don’t know. But, the scary thing is, I caught myself saying it the other day.

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