One of the really cool things about having visitors is doing stuff we might not do otherwise. Some of it is just that kind of stuff you forget to do when you live in a place - we went to the museum every time we visited Dunedin before we moved here, but since we brought all of our stuff with us, we haven't been once. Some of it is because you want people to have a good time, so you try to think of what they'd like to do. But I think the best stuff is what people come down wanting to do, because of what they're into.
This is how we went cockling. On the drive down back in February, my Dad had a few things he wanted to do once we hit Te Wai Pounamu (he's a foodie, and the kind who enjoys going out and buying all of the stuff to make something yum for everyone). He wanted to have crayfish in Kaikoura, snapper, blue cod, and cockles from somewhere in Dunedin where his friend said they were as big as his fist. The cray was easy; he bought the biggest one on offer at Nin's Bin, the last independent caravan on the stretch, which we inhaled that night in Christchurch. It tasted different to the ones we get from Ahipara; less creamy, and really, really meaty. The thought of it makes me feel very hungry. The snapper was a surprise; he had wanted to wait for Kaikoura for that, too, but we were all starving, so we stopped off at an unremarkable little tearoom in Seddon. The lady behind the counter was so abrupt we almost changed our minds, but thank goodness our hunger and better-the-devil-you-just-met won, because that was the best fish and chips I have had in my life. Usually Vincent and I just buy whatever the "fish" is; partly because we can't really taste the difference (or we just really like hoki), partly because we think it's kind of emperor's new clothesy the way people are too shamed to get it, and more recently, partly because snapper is so endangered. However, on this day, the "fish" was snapper, besides which part of the point of these things is to all get the same, so we did, and the memory makes me feel like Tracey Jordan when he realises he has everything, and there's nothing left to live for. Really. The blue cod was okay; we'd been to a pub that was charging exorbitant (and, we later discovered, unjustified) prices, and ended up buying it from a local fish and chip shop that is actually pretty good, just not so much with the memory of Seddon so fresh in our minds. This, however, didn't put Dad off a return trip the day he left.
But the cockles. We looked it up, and found that the place to go seemed to be Blueskin Bay, about twenty minutes away from Port. Low tide was 8.30am, so 8am on Saturday morning saw us driving uphill, wrapped in blankets, and me complaining all the way about exhaustion and freezing to death. On arrival, we realised it wasn't simply a case of digging; we had to find the cockle beds, which was met by more grumbling from one of us (yes, me), as we traipsed up the beach, and then down again after consulting a local out walking his dogs, who sent us in the other direction.
It turned out to be a morning we still talk about. The quota is fifty per person; unsure of how they'd taste, we took less - a mistake we won't make again. Once home, Dad cooked some plain, made some into fritters, and Mum did some in wine, and then we spent the rest of the morning out in the sun scoffing them with stale bread.
That was supposed to be a brief introduction to these photos I took at the beach that day. Looking at them makes me really, really miss my parents, especially my Dad. They make me feel really lucky that Vincent's and my parents are such friends. And they make me really look forward to Dad's next trip down here, for the Port Chalmers Seafood Festival in September, which I hadn't even heard of until he said that was when he'd next be down. Usually I focus on similarities as a means of connection, but sometimes it really is all in the differences.