"Wear flat shoes" read the advisory for National leader Bill English's campaign diary, way back at the start of the election campaign.

It became the theme of his campaign. English was sensible flats, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was sparkly winklepickers.

They were the shopfront of the campaigns - Bill English and Jacinda Ardern.

His campaign trail was packed from dawn until dark. It was a boot camp of a campaign and the media swiftly swapped snappy shoes for comfortable flats or trainers.


Ardern took us to schools where she fed the children, pre-schools to hug babies, tertiary institutions and to comfortable seats at big rallies. She made soup and wore hairnets and visited an insulation factory.

Hers was a campaign peopled largely by babies, schoolchildren, and university or polytechnic students.

She took us driving down the west coast from Nelson to Greymouth and then over the Arthur's Pass to Christchurch. There was a lot of standing but little walking.

English went to a wider range of places and did many more "walkabouts". He was on a Long March.

He marched through cities and tumbleweed towns, through malls and cafes. He marched down the main streets of towns, up stairs, down stairs, in his nightgown.

He marched across factory floors, fruit sheds and up to the top of Christchurch Hospital. He paused only to look at things like wood and apples. He was hunting for swinging voters but spent long moments trying to persuade people who would never vote for him to vote for him.

The difference in the physical demands and hours in the campaign schedules was such that exhausted reporters joked about subbing onto the Ardern campaign for a few days of rest and recreation.

But today it ends, the interminable, exhausting and inscrutable election campaign of 2017.

It was educational.

We had lessons in maths. There was a lot of division. There was the rural - urban divide and the generational divide.

It was also a geology lesson. We had rocks and stardust and holes.

The rock was introduced by Labour's deputy leader Kelvin Davis as an intended insult to National leader Bill English's personality. It was happily adopted by National because of a rock's other attributes: solid and dependable.

The stardust was introduced by English in an attempt to dismiss the euphoria around Ardern's leadership. It too was happily adopted by Labour to enhance that - resulting in images of Ardern as Ziggy Stardust and an ensemble.

Then came the hole - the $11.7 billion hole National claimed lurked in Labour's books. The hole was something like the Loch Ness Monster of that campaign - a very blurry photo in which the "monster" turned out to be a finger tip over the lens.

But it was not just the politicians on the trail. There were also various other characters - both animate and inanimate.

There was a tunnel - the opening of the Waterview Tunnel was the first act of National's campaign although it was not recognised as such at the time. It was aimed at giving Aucklanders a warm, happy feeling about asphalt. It is by now in line to be one of the Wonders of the World.

"Tunnels aren't vision," Ardern told English at one point - but they certainly are people pleasers.

There was livestock - Gareth Morgan introduced a pig wearing lipstick and Morrinsville's mega-cow took a starring role.

There was a tractor - Myrtle the tractor at a farmers' rally in Morrinsville.

There was a town: Morrinsville.

Ardern used her upbringing in Morrinsville to claim an understanding of issues from water taxes to growing fruit to driving tractors to the effects of cannabis use.

Indeed, the best event of the campaign was prompted by those claims and held in Morrinsville - though Ardern was nowhere to be seen. That was the farmers' rally against the urban-rural divide they claimed Ardern had created.

It was a rollicking affair and while most the media attention went on Winston Peters and a man carrying a sign declaring Ardern a "pretty communist" most of the hundreds in attendance were simply farmers and associated workers who were good-natured and well-grounded folk with an apparently genuine concern. They laughed at the jokes and cheered at pleas for farmers to get a fair go.

Then they ate a sausage and went either to the pub or back to the farm to milk.

It was a campaign about water. It was about water taxes and dirty water. It was also about rain. It was a sodden campaign. It rained in Waikato, it rained in Kaitaia, in Whanganui and in Auckland. It rained in Dunedin and in Greymouth where the rain meant one of the few perks of a September campaign - whitebait - was not to be found.

It was also about money and who would give and take the most. It was about tax.

Then there were the voters. They raised issues as wide ranging as the number of public toilets on Queen Street and the perennial favourites: 1080 and fluoride.

Some ended up with starring roles. There was Robin Lane who bailed up English about the minimum wage at a Gisborne pack house and Scott Smyth, a Karapiro farmer, who copped the wrath of NZ First leader Winston Peters for daring to ask if he'd let Labour go ahead with water taxes.

The leaders talked so much both nearly lost their voices at points.

Tomorrow the voters get the final say.