I call this column Island Life for a number of reasons. Principally, it's because my working life became quite an isolated one after I set up speeches.com.
It was just me and an automated business collecting subscriptions from subscribers half a globe away, generating speeches I'd never read, for people I'd never meet, who would deliver them to an audience I'd never see.
Dad sometimes used to say he fancied the idea of being a lighthouse keeper. I thought that sounded impossibly remote and isolated. You can't be serious. Well, apple, tree etc. I ended up setting myself up in a working situation that was just about as remote. Thus Island Life.
But there's another reason for the name as well. Give me a blue sky on a warm beach, a palm tree, a deck chair and a stack of books and I might well be the happiest human being on the planet. If you right-click your windows desktop, choose Properties, then Desktop and select "Azul" you'll see the backdrop I work with each day. Warms my heart.
My first Pacific Island experience should have put me off for life. I was working at this pub, and going to this university. My girlfriend was going to spend the summer holidays with her parents who were posted in Suva.
Why don't you come, she said as she left.
Why don't I, I said, as we exchanged letters of longing.
You should, she wrote back.
I've booked the tickets! I wrote.
That's great!, she replied.
I think, she added, a week later.
No really , she said, it'll be good, when I rang, a bit uneasy.
Oh, what the hell, I thought, can't be that bad.
Just to make it more interesting, there was a 21st party the night before my flight. I flaked out at about three in the morning. The others were still going strong, and they thought it would make it a bit more interesting if I were to arrive in Nadi with a lovebite on my neck. So they installed one.
I don't know if it actually made a difference. I got there in the middle of the night for a reunion that was, well, tepid, I suppose you'd call it. The romantic temperature never really improved. So there I was on a ticket that couldn't be changed, staying for a month with my new ex-girlfriend and her family. They were all very nice to me but, you know, talk about awkward. There was the odd plainly gruesome moment too, but I really just wanted to talk about South Pacific beaches and palm trees, so let's stick with that.
I grew up with the wind and rain blowing over Manawatu paddocks and the odd trip to the beaches at Foxton, Waikanae and Paparaparumu. Fiji's coral coast was a thing of beauty. It was properly hot, properly exotic and you could fill your lungs with the sweet tropical air. In between smokes.
It would be more than a decade before I got interested in South Pacific islands again though, but once I did, I was sold. It started with a couple of weeks in Tahiti, and I swear if it hadn't been raining the day we left, I don't know if I'd have been willing to get on the plane.
Of course those were the days before we were a family. An exuberant child doesn't want to lie in a deck chair and read all day. You have to make adjustments. It's taken us a while to work out how to do that successfully, but last week in Noumea, we all had ourselves an excellent time.
I like New Caledonia for any number of reasons. The weather is always kind - the sun doesn't blaze, but when it's out, it's always warm enough to make you feel like strolling down to the beach. It's a little piece of Europe just a couple of hours away, and you can really feel as though you've been transported somewhere quite different from home. Life there doesn't completely revolve around the tourist business, so you can sort of merge into the daily life of the place. There's some great food, and there are some very convivial places to have it. And it's surrounded by the world's biggest lagoon. This is one place where the sea is as beautiful as the brochures make it look. And of the course, there are the palm trees.
It wasn't raining when we left and it was, indeed, hard to get on the plane.
When I got back here, I was describing to a friend how we'd been gradually adapting our holiday-making to accommodate our new roles as parents, and that we've been enjoying it a bit more each time as Mary-Margaret gets a little older and we get a little more adept at arranging our holiday from a child's point of view.
Zeke, who became a father in his early twenties, was reminiscing about something his kids had been talking about at the twentieth wedding anniversary party they had some years ago. They'd been reminiscing about all the great holidays they'd taken - camping holidays all over New Zealand, and how much they'd enjoyed them.
He said they deliberately arranged their holidays with their kids' interests in mind, and it felt pretty good, all those years on, to know how much it had meant to them.
And of course, they grow up very fast. Which brings me to a gratuitous plug for one of those three kids who is now all grown up and showing his own work at this year's film festival. You can click here for all the details on Stan Alley's Frodo Is Great... Who Is That?!! Two years of dedicated work, with any amount of New Zealand culture to it and of course, it has that Rings aspect to it.
You can book your ticket with confidence. Zeke says it's good. He's a fine judge of movies, and a not bad Dad either.