Back in England some months later, New Zealand occupied many a waking thought as well as my dreams, but I didn’t feel that my time in my homeland was finished, just yet. I quickly found an exciting new job – changing tack from working in financial institutions to getting involved in a brand new media company. I rented a flat, caught up with friends and made the most of what London had to offer; hard work and hard play. During the summer a Kiwi work mate introduced me to a friend of hers, James. Although he was an investment banker – not a good advertisement for character I thought – James was into rock climbing, played the guitar and wrote songs. For some years I’d harboured the desire to learn to climb, and to sing with a band. I took singing lessons and was encouraged in my ability by my teacher, but I hadn’t approached anyone about actually singing in public. Alethea had evidently already made up my mind,
“This is Naomi,” she said, introducing me to James, “You two should go rock climbing together and make music.”
How I love that up-front nature that New Zealanders display, so refreshing compared to the English way of tip-toeing round a subject and waiting for the ‘right’ moment, that so often never comes. At the thought of singing out loud and in front of someone other than my teacher I clammed up, but James was insistent and finally I agreed to accompany him and his friends to a climbing wall and passed him a copy of some lyrics I’d written while I was away. Full of compliments, he had worked out a tune in no time and suggested we meet at his house for a singing session. I pushed my crippling fear aside and agreed to go along.
Six weeks and several meetings later, all I had managed were a few whispered squeaks and my resolve was ever failing. Each time I told myself ‘Don’t be afraid, you can sing, you can sing,’ but as soon as James started to strum, my mouth became cursed and glued itself shut. It was a farce, but through it a friendship developed and we began to spend more and more time together socially. When I started to hunt for a flat to buy I asked James came along to give advice and opinion. After a couple of months of looking at tiny apartments in over-priced locations I fell for an unfeasibly large loft apartment a mile up the hill from the station in the borough of Streatham, an area south of the notorious Brixton. While the house purchase was under way, James and I spent more and more time together. One night in a trendy East End bar we found ourselves in a passionate clinch and realised that our friendship had become a romance.
So far I’d told no one of my desire to move to New Zealand, though I bored my friends silly with my endless tales of my time there. Now, as my relationship with James grew, I confided in him. New Zealand was going to be a part of my life and if James was too, he needed to know. Disillusioned with the English weather and grey politics and having grown up in various warmer countries, he was keen to leave. I regaled him with tales of how wonderful New Zealand was, how relaxed the lifestyle, how friendly the people. Both of us had Kiwi friends in London, it was one of them who had introduced us, so he had an inkling of what I was talking about, but he didn’t quite get it.
“How about Spain?” he would say. He spoke fluent Spanish and had lived there for a year and loved it.
“Only if I can’t get into New Zealand,” would be my response.
“Hey, there’s a job here going in Italy.” He’d exclaim from behind the newspaper.
“Yes, lovely. But only if we can’t go to New Zealand for some reason.”
After a while his endless suggestions became frustrating.
“You don’t seem to understand,” I’d drill, “It’s not that I’m desperate to leave England, I just want to move to New Zealand.”
“Oh,” He’d say. But I could tell he didn’t get it at all.