Tim Roxborogh on the joys of moaning about your holiday.
Leaving our cat behind when we went on holiday
I'm not sure if Bunny Foo Foo ever forgave us. It was the Christmas holidays of 1997 and the Roxborogh family had decamped from the bright lights of Massey, West Auckland for 10 days in Melbourne. With no one to look after Bunny Foo Foo — who was, I should point out, a cat — we had to put our precious little ginger chappy into a cattery.
Bunny Foo Foo had never been in a cattery before and we were nervous. He was, shall we say, an eccentric puss. He was scared of everyone but his humans, and as much as he liked snuggling up and sitting on our laps, his favourite pastime was biting — quite literally — the hands that fed him. He was a bit of a weirdo, but he was our weirdo. We loved him.
The cattery assured us that Bunny Foo Foo would be well looked after and would make lots of friends, but I had my doubts. How do you make friends if you have a fundamental dislike of everyone?
So off we went to the scorching heat of a Christmas in 'Straya, hoping like anything Bunny Foo Foo would enjoy his simultaneous holiday in the little cat hotel.
He didn't. Ten-days and a kilogram lighter, we picked up a very traumatised Bunny Foo Foo. If he'd been the Jekyll and Hyde of shy yet bitey before, he was now ramped up to being chronically terrified of strangers on one hand while also being like the shark from Jaws on the other.
Two decades on and with Bunny Foo Foo now nothing more than memories and an apple tree in my parents' garden, I still feel guilty. I also still have a strong aversion to catteries — something that can be an issue if you're a travel writer.
It's an aversion shared by my wife, having had a more recent bad experience with our current cat, Baby. Dear Baby is the kindest, sweetest cat, but ever since that stay in a cattery a few years back so Mummy (my wife) could go to Samoa, Baby doesn't much like being held anymore.
Luckily for us, either our lovely next-door neighbour or my wife's parents are usually able to feed Baby if we're both away, but poor Baby gets so upset at her Mummy and Daddy having abandoned her that she spends most of our holidays hibernating under the duvet on our bed. Poor Baby! If only we could tell her, "Baby, don't worry, Mummy and Daddy will be home in two weeks." But tragically, Baby's understanding of English is somewhat limited.
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The rich kid bored on the Sri Lankan safari
There are so many things about Sri Lanka I know I'll never forget. Like coming into the massive clearing at Minneriya National Park and seeing not one or two elephants, but dozens upon dozens. It was a surreal, magical moment and I couldn't stop taking photos, especially of the little baby elephants using their trunks to clutch on to their mothers' tails as they splashed about in the lake.
We were on an open-top jeep – one of several jeeps on a tour – all bursting with enraptured, snap-happy tourists. That is, except one girl. I only noticed after we were back at our hotel and looking through my videos, but clearly visible in the bottom left of my screen was the most almighty sulk-face known to mankind.
The sulk-face in question belonged to a girl who looked about 12 or 13 years old, and not only was she packing a whopping sad, she was — wait for it — turned with her back to the elephants. Everybody in my holiday video is gaping at the elephants with cameras and phones outstretched and jaws on the floor, while Miss 12 or 13 is slumped-shouldered in the corner, probably angry that she was forced to leave the pool of whatever five-star hotel she was staying at.
It occurred to me, how many exotic safaris had this spoiled wee wretch been on to be so blasé? I genuinely cannot think of any argument I could've had with my parents at that age that would've made me refuse to acknowledge ELEPHANTS IN THE WILD!! If I hadn't been so distracted by said elephants I would've told her off and insisted she buck up her ideas.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com