Where did the peanut butter come from? It came
from a black rubbish sack in photographer Emily's kitchen,
and before that it came from China.
Emily moved to Queenstown last month, and I helped her shift.
"Why are you throwing out half a jar of perfectly good peanut
butter?!" I cried as I retrieved the jar from the rubbish
Emily, hands on hips, gave me a look. The look said the
matter was trivial. Then she shrugged and said the peanut
butter was old and yes I could have it. I put it aside and
continued with the boxing of kitchen things.
I had already expressed confidence, or smugness, that my
relocation to Wellington at the end of December would be
easier than Emily's relocation, because I owned less stuff
overall and had been downsizing for months.
I was so smug, I didn't hesitate to take orphaned peanut
butter into my home even in the final weeks of my grand
relocation operation. If the jar was not empty by moving day,
it would just have to come with me, because when food all the
way from China is wasted, that is a travesty of
I began to eat the spread on December 28 while sitting in the
sun in the grasses beside State Highway 1, just south of
Timaru. Cars and trucks whizzed and roared past. I was with
city councillor Jinty. We had cheese and crackers her mother
had given us at Moeraki, Emily's peanut butter, and a lettuce
I had brought from my fridge before cleaning the appliance
for the last time; for I was now on my way to Wellington.
I prised a blade out of my Swiss Army knife and spread the
spread on a cracker. I wiped the blade clean on the grasses.
Councillor Jinty admired the species diversity in the
Then she said she wished the Automobile Association would
lobby for transport choice instead of more cars and roads. I
had not thought of that possibility. Jinty has a good brain.
We were waiting for the AA. The cheap station wagon I'd
bought to lug my excess baggage north had broken down. We
were glad we had not hit something, as it had seemed from the
thud in the engine when the hose blew; we were later told
that thud was just the fan slicing the hose in two. When he
arrived, the tow-truck driver marvelled at our good cheer.
Then what happened? Many incidents. Many incidents occurred
to spin my relocation journey into a great, flossy South
There was the evening when, at dusk, I had to brake heavily
to avoid whumping into a dozen black cattle. They were
unattended, in the middle of a highway. In jandals, I herded
them on to the lawn of a nearby farmhouse. They went
willingly, the docile creatures, and began to graze on willow
and holly. I knocked at the farmhouse door. Stillness.
Inside, a laptop was on standby. Outside, two cars were
parked, and sheets flapped on the washing line. I stood under
the weeping willow and thought crepuscular thoughts. The cows
stared and chomped.
There was no getting the cheap station wagon past
Christchurch, and that was as far as I could take your city
councillor, who was on her way to Nelson. We parted; I
believe she made it safely; meanwhile I slipped into a sort
of Christchurchian stupor for three nights, into the New
Year, grew a beard and forgot my travels.
I went bodyboarding with my host, a kindly anarchist named
Philip. We spoke in Provence-accented French and argued about
people's souls in the yard of an old jail. We saw in 2013 by
smashing a bottle on the kerb outside a dire metalhead
gathering, just along the road from a dire queer gathering.
Anarchists eat Pic's Really Good Peanut Butter, which is made
in Nelson, so Emily's Delish-brand stuff from China stayed in
my luggage while I rested in the Garden City. When I took a
51c relocation-deal rental car onwards, however, and left the
station wagon and most of my possessions in Philip's care,
that little half-jar of spread came with me.
I crossed the Rakaia, and then a travel warning for the
Rakaia Gorge was issued. I passed through Murchison, and then
it was washed away in a flood. I did not fly but rather took
the ferry into Wellington; which was just as well because
flights were diverted, owing to a strong storm brew.
On the night of January 2, I made it to my new home in a
valley called Aro. I had with me my laptop and one bag of
"Just let me know if you have any questions about anything,"
said the woman I am boarding with, whose name is Lynsey.
"Where can I put my peanut butter?" I asked immediately,
holding it aloft, triumphantly.
She laughed and opened a pantry door.
♣ Chinn-wag will continue to be written fortnightly from
Wellington. The author will attempt to remain relevant for
Otago readers. Stay tuned for new segments involving the
universally relevant topic of job-seeking, and transcripts of
phone calls home to Dunedin...