Thursday, 12 November 2015


So it's farewell to Lewis, again. It looked like ITV might kill him off in a letter bomb explosion, but at the last minute they sent him off with lovely "I cut up dead people" Laura into the New Zealand sunset instead.  It was such a sudden change of heart that Lewis only had time to pack a baby vest with a dodo on the front. But he did get another chance to wear the Hawaiian shirt he wore in the first ever episode, which was the last time he went on holiday. Hathaway served as airport cabbie then too - turns out he has kept the sign all these years.

Auckland sunset from Achilles Point

Lewis claimed he had tried travelling but hadn't liked it, which is why he ought to stay behind in Oxford watching philandering Maths researchers get blown to smithereens and archaeologists uncover corpses in wells. But then he finally realised that academics will never stop murdering each other so he ought to just leave them to it and enjoy his retirement instead.

As for New Zealand, what's not to like? Apart from the 24 hours on a plane it takes to get there. Especially with a screaming baby for the nine-hour leg from Singapore to Auckland. (Goodness, I'd be a lot more sympathetic to that now.) And the tedious customs procedures. New Zealand is the only country where my backpack was immediately pounced on by sniffer dogs. Not because I chose it for my first ever drug smuggling attempt, you understand, but because the backpack had at some point contained sandwiches and the dogs are on the hunt for food. They aren't hungry (or at least I hope they aren't), but you can't bring in any fresh produce. Or mud, for that matter. (Traveller's Tip - for an easy way to get dirty hiking boots professionally cleaned, just walk them through the Nothing To Declare Zone of Auckland airport.)

But New Zealand is also the only country where I have sat in a hot tub overlooking banana palms and an azure bay of ocean within an hour of arriving. God, after what felt like days on a plane, that was one of the best moments of my life. Thank you to the Best. Auckland. Hosts. Ever. I hope Lewis and Laura can come and stay with you.

What else awaits our favourite copper in the Land Of The Long White Cloud? Well, probably a lot of long, white cloud - and rain, and cyclones. But between the tropical storms the sun will shine, and go round the sky a different way, which may be a little disconcerting at first.

A Maori marae in a cyclone, Rotorua
Lewis will have to learn the Haka, or at least the Hokey-Cokey in Maori, so he doesn't embarrass himself at a rugby match or a hangi concert. He may also have to learn to prefer wine over beer.

Pinot Noir on the vine, Wanaka

And he may have to develop a penchant for adventure sports. In Oxford, the only people thrown off buildings were corpses, but in New Zealand it's a national pastime.

Queenstown. Something death-defying was inevitably happening behind me.

Lewis may also find the scenery a little more enchanting than never-ending sandstone quadrangles and the buses choking up the Cowley Road. It'll be more JRR Tolkien*** than CS Lewis, but with just a touch of Lewis Carroll. (Hm, I just wondered - did Colin Dexter name Lewis after Oxford authors more famous than him?)

Lord of the Rings country

Puzzling World, Wanaka
But if Lewis does end up missing those Oxford cerebral types teetering on the spectrum, he only needs to head to The Giant Jersey in Geraldine. It's a knitting shop that not only houses the aforementioned world-record holding jumper (and thankfully no Giant Gyles Brandreth to put it in), but also a reproduction of the entire Bayeux tapestry made out of three million knitting machine cogs. It took the owner 25 years to build it, and he will take almost as long to tell you about it.

Because nearly everyone is still stuck in that shop listening to the knitting machine man, New Zealand's crime rate will be lower than Oxford's, Lewis will be relieved to hear. (Or at least it will be until he gets there. We may find Oxford's drops a bit now in return.) The only explosions he is likely to witness will be geothermal. "These used to be the basketball courts", our host in Rotorua told us during a drive round the city, "Only they erupted."

Lady Knox Geyser, Waiotapu

Blow hole at Pancake Rocks

There may be earthquakes too, something which doesn't happen very often in Oxford. One of Oxford's college namesakes, Christchurch, was thankfully still intact when we were there. Lewis won't have heard of Christchurch College though, which means he may go round asking people where the city called Wolsey is. But it's OK - they probably won't understand his Geordie accent.

Christchurch Cathedral

Ah, I jest. Just get out there and enjoy it, Lewis. All those miles and miles of amazing mountains, lagoons, beaches and bush. May there be no Maoris murdered and plenty of late-night cake. (That's not a euphemism, by the way - late-night cake is a genuine thing in New Zealand. We Brits binge-drink, they eat baked goods, and that's the main reason I wanted to emigrate.)

I left my heart in Wanaka

Milford Sound, where a storm was brewing and the sandflies munching


I will miss Lewis. But I look forward to Hathaway, the spin-off spin-off. (Don't deny that it's going to happen. Laurence Fox will get bored of singing eventually.)

The (Laurence) Fox Glacier

***Yes, I know Tolkien lived in Oxford too. I am referring to the films.

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