You know how sometimes life rewards you with something awesome when things may not have been going so swimmingly for you? Something so awesome that you kind of have to pinch yourself to make sure it is actually happening? Well, I had that experience not once but twice this weekend. Both with quintessentially kiwi experiences that made me so thankful to live where I live, have the life that I have, and have the friends that I do. To sum up, then, it hasn’t been a bad weekend 😉
The first of these experiences was Friday night where I got to combine two of my all time favourite things – zoo animals and the family Finn. As regular blog followers will know, I have been a Finn fan (particularly of Neil) since I was a teen, and have lost count of how many times I have seen him – and them – play live. But when I heard the family – Tim, Neil, Liam as well as Tim’s kid Harper and Neil’s other kid Elroy – were putting on a show at the band rotunda in the zoo, which is just a hop skip and a jump from my house – then I couldn’t say no. I convinced two lovely friends to come with me (one of whom had never seen the Finns live before! Was tempted to revoke her passport on the spot, but she was remedying her error so all was forgiven ;-)) – and off we went.
And what a night it was! After a spectacular downpour at lunchtime (it actually started raining INSIDE the restaurant I was lunching at, no joke), the day cleared to become calm, clear and mild – perfect outdoor concert conditions. Every man and their kid was there, but we managed to arrive early and secure a spot near the rotunda – albeit around the back. But the Finns were, as always, fantastic hosts, and made sure to play to the whole crowd (I still remember Neil once giving a box of chocolates to a portion of his crowd at a London gig where they couldn’t see one song he played). All of the Finns were in fine fettle, rocking a great collection of Split Enz, Crowded House, Finn brothers and Liam Finn tunes. It just felt like a family jam session – a little bit improvised, not absolutely perfect, but an inclusive and fun time for all.
As much as I enjoyed the music – the highlight probably being the whole crowd singing along to Better Be Home Soon – it was the crowd and the surroundings that also made this such a wonderful night. The crowd made up in age diversity what they might have lacked in cultural diversity – with older folks lapping up the atmosphere while small kids danced around and enjoyed the music. Hopefully new Finn fans in the making! And for every laid back group like us, sitting back and eating cheese and crackers while dancing discretely on our picnic blankets – there was a hard core fan up the front dancing like no one was watching (we were, we were watching – but good on you for not caring). The birds gave us a twilight chorus, and I like to think that the red pandas appreciated I See Red as much as the cotton topped Tamarins appreciated Nobody Takes Me Seriously Anyway. All in all – a fantastic evening that I will treasure forever – thanks to the Finns, my friends, and the zoo for this great experience!
And that was just Friday night! Saturday was also a very memorable one as, thanks to my cricket mad and super organised friend Nicola, we had tickets to see the Black Caps play Australia at Eden Park. My prayers to the weather gods clearly worked as it was another stunning Auckland day, though we were lucky to be in a covered part of the South Stand so didn’t have to cope with the heat too much! Although we were pretty much in the nose bleed section it didn’t matter, we had an unimpeded view and a boisterous crowd around us – we even coincidentally had lovely family friends sitting just four rows in front of us, in another example of what makes Auckland awesome. There was a distinct lack of drunk, annoying numpties (which is always a risk at the cricket) and just a generally friendly and enthusiastic crowd (unless you were Australian, but I will get onto that later).
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 24 hours you will know that it was one of the most exciting games of the World Cup so far – with the Black Caps, thanks to an impressive wicket haul by Trent Boult, and supporting work by Southee and Vettori – getting the Aussies out for a paltry 151. After a blazing start from the Aussies this came as a massive surprise to us all – with my friends and I looking at each other aghast after every wicket going ‘what the f*** is going on???’. We were on fire is what was going on. As the Black Caps came into bat and started slogging boundaries and sixes, we were all thinking ‘we could be home by dinner time!’. But no, everyone knows two things – never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line, and never assume the Australians will go down without a fight. And so it was, we found ourselves with 6 runs to go and just one wicket in hand – thanks to impressive bowling by Aussie Mitchell Starc (not House of Stark – but given that performance, maybe he should be). A kind of hush fell over the crowd as we all watched nervously as Starc bowled his last two balls of his over, just hoping, and praying – he wouldn’t take another wicket so that the reliable Kane Williamson would be on strike and the game could still be won (by us, obviously). And as that happened, and as Kane dispatched the first ball of the next over for a required six, the crowd well and truly went wild. Screaming, shouting, high fiving, grown men hugging, it was all going on. I was more in the Martin Crowe camp of reaction though, breathing a massive smile of relief and giving a wry smile. We did it. We beat Australia!
The only downside of the game for me was no great surprise – it happens every time we play Australia. I know they are the team we love to hate – and I know I am as guilty of Australia bashing as anyone. But there is no need for booing of players just on principle – unless they do something well and truly awful – and there should also be more recognition for good play, even if it does come from the opposing team. Sure, the rousing chorus of ‘You’re Worse Than England!’ was pretty funny, but I think we can keep the boos to a minimum next time and clap for the opposing team when they earn it, surely? At the end of the day, the Australian team are great players, and many are good mates with the Black Caps. So we should treat them appropriately – not like they are the spawn of Satan sent to end our hopes of World Cup glory.
At the end of the day though, this was a very small blip in what was a fantastic day. Sure, it ended quicker than we would have wanted – but I would rather that than would could have been a drawn out and dull run chase. Took a few years off my life at the end there for sure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. So now it is onwards for the Black Caps – there is no doubting they are in spectacular form and could well be contenders this year. How awesome would that be – to have World Cup holding rugby and cricket teams? My kiwi friends still living in London would LOVE the gloating rights if that happened. But for now I will just sit back and appreciate the weekend that was – friends, Finn, fun, and the most exciting sports game I have seen in forever. Thanks Auckland, you rock 🙂