Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Well, that night in Nelson (16th) was pretty heavy. Victor (Scottish) and Denny (Swiss) had 8 free drinks lined up in the Shark Bar, so we headed there first. Phillip, German, but Swiss (don't ask), was celebrating his 21st on the 17th, so 12 midnight was a good excuse to get things kicked off. Prior to that Reggy, or Regula, another Swiss paired up with me to play Robbie (Aussie) and Manon (Dutch) in pool. Surprisingly we won more than we lost, and all the while the Tui (a New Zealand ale) was flowing.

At 12, I selected Stevie Wonder's 'Happy Birthday to You' on the video jukebox and got in a Shaker Tail, or a shaker of some mixture of shots. Unfortunately the song got mixed up with other requests and didn't get played until 15 minutes later. The drink on the other hand went down very well.

Victor, Denny and I had worked up a free shot each and downed it before leaving (Butterscotch). Ah, were we merry. Then it was on to the Rock Bar where a lacklustre karaoke was in session. Without a qualm I put my name down ('I Can See Clearly Now'), but luckily was too far down the list to get called up. I had a beer or two and finished with a G and T. A pleasant walk brought us back to our hostel, the Paradiso, which overall was a cosy place to rest up for those two days.

Next morning up and at them. I was not quite hungover, but very tired and tipsy merry. At our first stop, given a nice green lawn, a crashed out face first, setting something of a trend, I believe. In the process I squashed a bug or something more unpleasant on to my t-shirt. I tried not to think about it too much.

Sleep on the coach, Beck playing along the way. Occasionally I read a little Hammett as I was nearing the end of the title story of 'The Big Knockover' and was hooked a little.

If I haven't said it already, I'll say it now, New Zealand is one of the most (if not the most) beautiful countries in the world. Few places I have seen compare. We stopped again to sample more of this beauty along a coastal walk. Beaches of white sand stretched along a wild sea, boulders and sticks of rock studding the water. Even in my dehydrated state I could appreciate the splendour. Amazing. The walk itself was a good hour, ending with an indifferent hotdog from a kiosk at Cape Foul. As I went to the nearby toilet I was warned by a solicitous American that it was called Cape Foul for a reason. It sure is. A colony of seals cause a whiff (though they provided us with a lovely sight, the pups playing, the bulls braying), but on this occasion she meant the toilet. Very stinky.

More sleep on the coach.

We stopped to photograph the Pancake Rocks, each column of stone looking like a stacked pile of pancakes. Good to see and by this stage the constant fast-paced walking ('We only have 30 minutes, folks!') was clearing out my head. Just as well that our destination for the night, Greymouth, boasted a brewery tour and sampling session.

Our hostel, the Neptune, was a very nice surprise. Though I was in an 8 bed dorm with most of the rest of the group I've hooked up with, there were no bunks, it being a huge room with single beds. It was really nice (as Phillip might say, 'nice' being his word of the tour).

The Monteith Brewery is a small operation, run by 10 people. These 10 are only back from their holidays, so not much beer has been brewed of late. The tour was pretty bland as a result, a huge group being shuffled from one bit of unused machinery to another. The testing at the end allowed us to taste 6 or 7 of their local brews. Some were quite nice, Monteith Gold being probably the pick of the crop. Victor, a fiddle-playing, Gaelic-speaking, English-disliking Scot, felt it was a matter of honour for us to drink the Celtic brew (something like Kilkenny's), so once we got transferred to a local hotel for a barbeque and 'mega pint', we had a pint of the stuff. The barbeque, a very reasonable $5 included in our tour fee, was princippaly sausages. For another $5 you could get a steak and I cannot resist a steak, certainly not a large blue steak, which is what I didn't resist. More pool, more drink. A little, shy Japanese girl, Tyco, looked pretty out of it, so I took it on myself to introduce her to the group. Having been 6 months in New Zealand, she has been fairly unhappy, not being able to make too many friends. With her cute face that shouldn't have been a problem. Anyhow I was a complete gentleman, drunk though I was. Given that this was Phillip's real birthday, Rebecca and Christina, the 2 German girls, produced a nice chocolate cake to chase the beer down.

There were 80 people going down today, so instead of 1, there were 2 Magic Buses (as if by magic, another one appeared). Our bus was still very packed and after engineering a seat for Denny beside Christina (apparently a match to be made), Rebecca delivered me to the middle chair at the back of the bus. Too uncomfortable, I moved up to sit beside another German girl when we made a supermarket stop. We were making our way to the Franz Joseph Glacier where prices are a little more expensive, hence the stop.

I finished Hammett this time. 'The Big Knockover' and its sequel 'The $106,000 Bloodmoney' are convoluted, but irresistible. The Continental Op is a powerful creation. In 'The Gutting of Couffignal', a story that anticipates all the Die Hard movies and more, the Op, in a splendid defence of socialism (note who are his adversaries in this tale), claims he doesn't care about money or dames just doing his job. In 'The Big Knockover' and its sequel we see just how far this can take him (according to Wikipedia the title story is the inspiration for 'The Usual Suspects'). Murder by proxy is not beyond him, though as he says, he played the cards as best he could, but at the end of the day they just fell the way he wanted. The collection is not perfect; a tale of European intrigue, 'This King Business', is an uncomfortable attempt at exploiting the Op's Machiavellian side in an overtly political way. I get the feeling Hammett had just read 'Nostromo'. 'Tulip' too, a short segment of an uncompleted novel, is tantalising as autobiography, but a little out of place in the company of the Op stories. Nevertheless the book is a great read and never less than interesting.

So now I am in Franz Joseph, a full day glacier walk booked for tomorrow. I intend taking it easy for a while. I have just burned some pictures to dvd so I will be posting a few over time.

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