I got woken up this morning at about 4.30 by two cats fighting outside our bedroom window. Maybe it’s time I got my dog back? They’d never come that close when he’s here. Though of course the few times I have seen him face to face with a cat he always comes off second best. A large dog hitting reverse gear in the face of something smaller and fluffier always makes me laugh.

It seems I’ve barely been home in the last couple of months. We have almost inadvertently become part of the modern economy. Our house is too big for us so we put it on a couple of websites and every now and then we move out and someone else moves in. We were out for the whole of September and I saw a lot more of the South Island. It wouldn’t suit everyone, but it works for me, I like being on the move, I don’t know why, maybe because it makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere.

We have good mates who do it the other way and accept guests in, latter day publicans in a way. They look after their guests well and one of them at least contemplates what might have been a different life. When I was a sales rep back at the beginning of my working life I was always on the move. I travelled around the UK staying at bed and breakfasts and usually the landlady would think I was so wet behind the ears (because I was) that they looked after the lanky youth as though I was their own. Another friend in the same position was allegedly invited to enjoy comforts that went a little beyond an extra serving of cottage pie – not my own experience.

Talking of travelling sales, I was driven by an old friend the other day who still drives like a rep, my father did it his whole life too. You take off in the car and then try to put your seat belt on, fighting with the inertia lock so that you sometimes arrive at your destination before the mechanism  goes clunk-click. Not too unsafe in an automatic but inadvisable in a manual.

I also thought of my own father at a funeral of a good mates Dad last week. The honest and humorous eulogy mentioned his connection to his comb, my dad who was a rep for a good chunk of his working life always had a comb in his back pocket too, usually in a leather case. He used it on exiting the car en-route to the next appointment. The only comb I ever see these days is at the barbers. It’s the one he uses to trim my eyebrows with his electric shaver, just after he’s tidied up my ears.

But I’m home and I’m happy to be here. Everything is green at this time, here in Wellington it usually is, but in spring it’s even greener. There’s plenty of moisture in the soil and the air is warm. I cut the lawn on Saturday and it grew faster than George Clooney’s beard. I swear you could almost see it growing, so fast that I needed to do it again on the Monday. The just sprouted tree fern fronds are rolling out like silent slow-motion party blowers and the gunnera leaves in the swampy bit out the back expand by the minute like massive elephantine umbrellas. Each plant its own shade of green, fifty shades at least.

And the birds are happy, or they were once the cats had stopped fighting and gone home for Whiskas this morning. As dawn crept in the tuis and bellbirds competed with blackbirds and then as those early risers or insomniacs will vouch, it goes quiet for a bit just after the first plane takes off at Wellington airport. Then there’s the honk-honk sorry warble of the Putakitaki (paradise duck) on the wing and the whoomph whoomph as oversized kereru (NZ pigeon) also take to the air and rise to join the orchestra in the second movement.

It’s good to be home. For now.

Pete Carter is the author of This is Us. Due out in June 2020 it will be published by Exisle and tells the story of more than 200 New Zealanders in words and pictures. The book is really a portrait of the nation and how it is made up. Pete wrote Our Dog Benji a children’s book illustrated by his nephew, published by EK in 2017. He is also the author of two books of poetry. He has had magazine articles published and poetry in anthologies. As a photographer he has had two solo exhibitions and work included in group exhibitions in NZ and overseas and has sold work to and been commissioned by corporate clients.

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