Break-down in countryside reminder of classic rural integrity and why our day-to-day problems fail to matter.

I hope you don't mind that this one is personal, a sliver of five recent days.

Day One: My wife and I drove into the Basque countryside intending to pop down to Pamplona, Spain. In a small town where pilgrims start a long trek to God-knows-where, we took a bit of a look and saw centuries-old houses on a hilly, cobbled street, the oldest dated 1510.

Headed off to Spain and two minutes later our fan belt broke. No way of getting it repaired on a Saturday, caught a bus back to Bayonne, saw a motorcyclist side of road receiving CPR.

Biked in 15C on Day Two.


Day Three: My three-tooth front dental plate, installed 24 years ago, fell out (old rugby injury). Back in St Jean Pied de Port the mechanic informed us that our 14 year-old car was in need of some serious repairs. okay, no choice. Back home on the bus. Appointment with dentist that evening. Where's my plate?

After some deduction we figured my wife had assumed it was a used tissue and thrown it out. Search the rubbish bin. Nothing. Okay, must be in the rubbish bag we threw in the bin early that morning. In that case, no chance of the bag still being there. Our council cleans the city streets every day and garbage collection points are everywhere.

But Joanna found it; went methodically through opening every used tissue and lo-and-behold there it was — just in time for the dentist. Where a miracle took place. From a standing start, in two hours under local anaesthetic, he drilled into my gums, extracted the bits of broken tooth from the plate, re-sculpted it, inserted pins, installed another "pillar" type fitting in my upper gum, drilled, sawed, grooved tooth fangs. Et voila!

New man, able to smile at the dentist's modest bill for over two hours of highest standard professional work, plus numerous X-rays, two injections and all sorts of materials used, let alone the array of tools applied, as well his assistant's salary. In France dentistry is not a career path to riches.

The mechanic called to offer a choice of a new engine part at 400 ($588) or second-hand for 29. In the space of five days we experienced a history lesson; a bus-eye view of beautiful Basque countryside times three; two nice lunches at very reasonable price; a conscientious dentist not out to rip me off; the same of an honest country mechanic saving us several hundred euro, and a guy probably killed in a motorcycle crash. As well, another step forward on a new career path in my mid-sixties.

In the Herald online I read of Taika Waititi's New Zealander of the Year award and I cheered. This guy is an outrageous film-maker talent. Good actor too.

Taika Waititi showed his world-class talent with Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Taika Waititi showed his world-class talent with Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

His name is Maori, but his outlook is international, even while telling local Kiwi stories. I think he is capable of anything, right up to the level of Martin Scorsese. He makes every Kiwi proud.

There's the brave woman who pursued a case against a man who attacked her seven years ago and had used the legal system to — almost — get away with it. But she got the bugger. Good.

On our Mainfreight calendar the February quotation is: Success and determination are partners. Whether chasing a goal or a dream, the first does not come without the other.

Over the years I've learned from a close friend to take the positive out of every situation. It hoses down for four days, my friend will say how good that is for farmers' grass growth. It's freezing cold means more reason to walk faster and farther. There is no set-back or discomfort in life that can breach his fortress of enthusiasm and positivity.

"His name is Maori, but his outlook is international, even while telling local Kiwi stories. I think he is capable of anything."


So I'm glad our fan belt broke while we were in a small town and not out in the countryside. Glad to have gained a different perspective from the bus, including the sight of a man likely dead to remind us our problems were not that bad. Blessed to have seen a dentist in action and his business integrity, same the mechanic confirming that country people the world over are more honest than city slickers.

I've never booed at a rugby match. Nor gladdened at someone suffering a misfortune. Nor known envy of anyone (except Zinzan Brooke and writer Tim Winton!) for whatever they achieved or possess.

Not when you consider that seven Earth-size planets have been detected orbiting a star 40 light years away. That's about 400 trillion kilometres.

Our stuff doesn't matter a jot, not if we don't let it.