And now, after all those lists, an actual post:
fter a couple of days of hiding away from the world, I was feeling ready for human contact again, so a couple of invitations yesterday came just at the right moment. First was to join Harvestbird for cake and afternoon tea in civilisation, before she heads off into the (relative) wilderness for a week with her family. We successfully found cake at Church Corner, and spent an enjoyable afternoon dissecting popular culture (and, in particular, the new Star Wars film, which I’ve also been debating the merits of with Nephew #1 via email, so I now really need to go and see it again, so I can properly work out which of whose arguments I agree with ).
Next, Dana invited me to join her and some friends for dinner at Bao Bar in Riccarton. I’d never been there before, but was happily surprised by how good the food was. It’s one of those places that occupies the nebulous space between fast food and a proper restaurant – they have a liquor licence and offer table service if you’re sitting upstairs (there are buttons on the tables to summon a waiter), but also do takeaways downstairs. We shared some tasting plates (which included one of the few tofu dishes I’ve ever actually enjoyed) and dumplings, then tried a variety of “baogers” (bao buns stuffed with different meats), washed down with Champagne-style fizzy saki (which was very sweet, and very drinkable, though I could feel it going to my head pretty fast!).
After dinner we all went back to Dana’s place and played a rather chaotic board game involving a train robbery, complete with jumping from carriage to carriage, and the robbers all attempting to shoot and punch each other while stealing the loot and avoiding the sheriff. I think I ended up coming last, but it was still a lot of fun.
A couple of the guests left after the game, as they had to go home to relieve their babysitter. I considered leaving then too, as I had no particular desire to stay up to see the New Year in, but then someone suggested we could all walk down to Hagley Park to watch the fireworks at midnight, so I was talked into staying. It was only about 11 pm by then, so in the meantime, Dana’s partner suggested setting up their virtual reality gear for a game.
As everyone else had had a go on it before, they gave me the first go (which actually turned out to be the only go, because by the time everything was set up, we didn’t have all that much time before we had to leave to get to the park on time). I was a bit doubtful at first, because my previous experiences with VR a couple of years ago weren’t that impressive, but the technology has advanced very quickly – it was so much better than I’d expected. It really did feel totally immersive (apart from occasionally feeling the cable wrap around my feet if I turned round too many times), and definitely felt like being in a physical space. Even better, the controllers had amazing haptic feedback. Dana’s partner set me up on an archery game, where I had to shoot barbarians storming a castle, and it really did feel like I was knocking an arrow into the bow and shooting. I think I could have happily played that game for a very long time if we hadn’t had to go!
Just before 12 we walked down to the park, and got there just in time to hear the countdown and watch the fireworks. We didn’t go into the official party area, but just sat by the duck pond behind the stage area, which was where they were letting the fireworks off from, so we got a fantastic view (there were quite a few people there already with cameras and tripods set up – wish I’d thought to bring my camera along!). We sang Auld Lang Syne along with the crowd (and Mum, you’ll be glad to hear I even sang a verse of The Green Oak Tree (very quietly!) as we walked back through the park).
I’d been telling the others about New Years when I was a child, and how we used to go first footing, and Dana was fascinated by it all, so I suggested I could first foot her when we got back to her house. It wasn’t a proper first footing, of course – I had to substitute a stick I picked up in the park for the piece of coal, and a couple of lollies I found in the bottom of my bag for the shortbread and whisky – but it’s the thought that counts, right? In return, Dana gave me a traditional Romanian blessing with a leafy branch, so a successful cultural exchange of good wishes for the coming year
So it turned out to be a fun night, although a very late one – I was totally shattered by the time I got home! Talking of which, I think an early night tonight would be a good idea. So Happy New Year, everyone – I hope 2018 brings you joy.