Oh the joys of being self-employed. My boss is a swine and my staff are idle, workshy layabouts, but being my own boss means I can shoot off on holiday whenever I like, and that's what I've been doing for the past two weeks.
We packed the car until the axles were almost grinding along the tarmac and set off for the relaxing haven of Omori on the southwestern shores of Lake Taupo. We stayed at a bach, in an almost Spartan splendour; no satellite telly (in fact only two channels of telly, neither worth watching), no nearby supermarkets, very few balsamic vinegar outlets and the lovely feeling of having to make your own entertainment.
I loved it and I'm almost crying at the cruelty of a life that forces me to come to Auckland and work, but needs must when the devil drives. And it did give me something to think about, too, which was, how does one survive in a place with no pubs?
It wasn't easy, believe me, but it also taught me a few valuable lessons.
First, it showed me how desperately I overstock on drink when I am going away anywhere. By the time we'd unloaded the car, the fridge was stacked with bottles; beer bottles, many, many wine bottles and several bottles of mixers, with some food squeezed in around the edges.
I had also brought some whisky, some gin and some vodka, just in case. I can't think what I was expecting, short of the sudden and terrible imposition of prohibition. And while I did have to bring a couple of cases of booze back home with me, I was glad to have sensibly ensured that we had a variety of things to drink, because nothing puts a dampener on a holiday like having to drink the same thing every day.
The second thing it taught me was that when you are miles from a bar, any bar is a good bar. I remain happily surprised by how much I enjoyed my occasional visits to the Turangi Tavern, a defiantly old-school bar of leaners, jugs, handle clubs and racing on the telly. The staff were uniformly lovely and made a stranger like me (and an Auckland stranger, what's more) feel like a local for a fortnight.
And lastly I learned that wherever men are gathered together in a place with no pub, a pub will emerge from somewhere. I discovered a shadowy conclave of blokes who got together at the bar of a nearby resort development to drink beer, talk rubbish and generally sort out the problems of the world over a few convivial snifters. The International Fishing Club won't thank me for alerting the world to its existence, but it was a lovely - and lively - way to spend a few hours in the company of those who enjoy good beer, good conversation all with a great view.
I'm not sure that being in a place with no pub saved me any money, in the long run. Sure, I wasn't paying bar prices all the time, but I found other ways to whittle away my holiday fund, including eating far too much food, so I'm going to have to hit the gym pretty hard to get through the hectic pre-Christmas season without swelling like a zeppelin.
Still, I can always look forward to another holiday afterwards, if my boss lets me.