From Alexandra to Bristol, and skating to lecturing

Grant Howie outside a sign in Bristol. Photo: Supplied
Grant Howie outside a sign in Bristol. Photo: Supplied
From the South to ... anywhere, really. In a brief series, we track down people who were raised or educated here and are now doing something interesting overseas.

Today, we feature former Otago man Grant Howie, who made his name on ice and is now in lecture theatres in England. Hayden Meikle gets in touch with him for a chat.

Q. Where do you live?

I currently live in Bristol, a city about a two-hour drive west from London near the border of Wales. I arrived in Bristol in September last year. It’s been a whirlwind! What I really enjoy about living in this part of the world is how close everything is. In the hour and a-half it takes to fly to Auckland from Dunedin, I could be in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Norway ... the options are insane. It makes saving pretty difficult.

Q. What do you do for a job?

I am a lecturer at the University of the West of England (UWE) where I teach a range of subjects on linguistics (why and how we speak the way we do) and writing mechanics. I love teaching and the university environment. My job is rather flexible in that I can often work out of the office when I’m not teaching so long as I’m connected to the internet. I also really enjoy the research part of my work where I get involved with people in the community asking about language use and running acoustic analyses on dialects in this area. There are so many dialects here compared to New Zealand — almost every town has a slightly different way of speaking and people here are very good a perceiving people’s origins.

Testing out the ice at the Manorburn Dam. Photo: Supplied
Testing out the ice at the Manorburn Dam. Photo: Supplied
Q. Career or life highlight? Events that shaped your life?

This is a big question. I think the things that shaped my life the most were my skating career and the connections and friendships that developed from it (constant falling and getting back up is certainly a good lesson to transfer to other areas of life), and my PhD journey. I got to spend a lot of time in South Africa and it was amazing, beautiful and eye-opening. It certainly gives you a different perspective when you get home and you realise that we have it pretty good in New Zealand. It certainly changed the way I perceived everything around me and made me want to explore more — and so I am out here now enjoying living abroad and experiencing new things and trying to travel as much as I can.

Q. Outside work, what do you like to do?

I enjoy exploring as much as I can and trying food everywhere. It’s difficult without a car but I have been getting around. Trains and buses are better here and flights are ridiculously cheap. $NZ60 return to Dublin, Ireland? Yes, please! $NZ100 to Reykjavik in Iceland? Why not? There are still many places to check out but I think that Scotland will be my next destination. The boulangeries and the cheese in France, the sweets in Belgium, and the pasteis in Portugal — you can’t really go wrong with new food in Europe.

Grant Howie hoists Zara Anthony-Whigham while preparing for the Mermaid's Tale show at the Dunedin Ice Stadium in 2017. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Grant Howie hoists Zara Anthony-Whigham while preparing for the Mermaid's Tale show at the Dunedin Ice Stadium in 2017. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Q. Favourite country visited?

Portugal was amazing when I was there but so far my favourite country that I have visited is Wales, just next door. The people are lovely, I love the language (when you hear it) and there are hills — it reminds me of home a bit. Except the castles ... there are castle ruins everywhere you look. There is so much to explore and it’s easy to lose hours to castle-hunting when you’re out sight-seeing. Also, Welsh cakes are to die for — if anyone is heading to Cardiff in the near future, the fresh Welsh cakes from the Cardiff indoor market are the best I have tasted yet.

Q. Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Alexandra, where I lived until I was 13. I moved to Gore for my skating when I was a teenager to practice year-round on the ice and eventually left for university in Dunedin for my undergrad. I have since lived in Auckland, Sydney, back to Dunedin for my PhD, and then moved out here.

Q. What are your favourite memories of growing up or studying/working here?

I loved my time living in Dunedin during my undergrad and my PhD because people are so friendly. I miss the general friendly nature of Kiwis and feeling safe everywhere. Besides the people in general, my favourite memories go towards my time coaching in Dunedin and all my wonderful skaters and fellow coaches that I left behind when I moved here. Watching my skaters succeed on a national level and seeing them achieve their goals — there still is nothing quite like it. It was like leaving half of my soul behind as there is no rink in Bristol so I’m very much out of touch with the skating side of my life at the moment. It’s a great feeling when you see university students understand a concept they’ve been struggling with for a while, but it’s still not the same was watching your skater fall hundreds of times before they land a jump just once.

Q. Where will you be in five years?

I’m honestly not sure! I’m pretty shocking at planning ahead that far. I’m really enjoying my work here and I still have many places to explore, but with the current government determined to leave the EU and the subsequent fallout from that, I might be coming home sooner than I expected. I definitely want to get involved in coaching again and continue my career in academia.

Add a Comment