Just like the Hulk, only shorter and less green...

Friday morning dawned about three and a bit hours after we finally got to bed in Christchurch. Bloody dawn. Bloody damn drunken hoons... I had to be up and sensible* for a live telephone interview, pimping Blind Eye to the unsuspecting Kiwi audience, with a bit of extra event-related pimpage thrown in for later in the evening. For this was to be my inaugural event on the Bearded Wonder Down Under tour: Penny’s Bookstore, Hamilton.

Now that Russell and I had survived not only the snowy battle through the mountain passes, but a whole week in the car together, the end was drawing near. Like a motorbike hurtling towards the back end of a lubricated elephant. Or something. All we had to do was hop on the plane back to Auckland, then survive lunch at a service station on the way down the motorway to Hamilton.

Jesus, and I thought the food at the BUFFET OF DOOM was bad...

The event went reasonably OK, I think -- given the tiny amount of sleep involved. Everyone was arranged in a semicircle of chairs just outside the front door of the bookshop, which put them right up next to the escalators in the shopping centre. Meaning that every time I got them all to swear in Polish, their rude words echoed around the whole place. Which was kinda fun.

And then, at the very end of the evening, when the last book had been signed, Russell and I said our goodbyes, shook hands like manly men do, then he walked off to his car. Free at last from the bearded Scottish bloke. It was a bit like that bit at the end of the Incredible Hulk TV series, only without the ‘Doo-doo-deee-dooo’ music playing over the credits.

In a way this past week’s been a bit like a huge sprawling fantasy novel. Two disparate characters from foreign lands thrown together to travel over fantastical landscapes, hunting for food (some of which was truly awful) huddling around camp fires (of the three bar electric variety) talking in outrageous French accents (not so common in fantasy novels, but I’m sure it’ll catch on). One traveller is tall and bearded; the other is short, has hairy feet and a novelty woolly hat. Their trusty steed a Subaru estate thingie with almost enough power to haul the clingfilm off a British Rail sandwich ... almost, but not quite. The only thing we didn’t do was kill things with swords, though Russell’s morning emanations would have been more than a match for even the toughest Uruk-Hai.

I’m certainly going to miss the little fella. Not only is he an excellent tour guide, fixer of iPods, producer of noxious smells, promoter of obscure-yet-finky** music, prone to lapsing into a strange French accent, and wearer of an ever-expanding wooly hat***, he’s a damn fine bloke too.

It’s going to be very odd going on to Australia without him.

‘Doo-doo-dee-dooo, doo-doo-dee-dooo-dooo, dee-dooo...’ etc.

* Well, up at any rate.
** Which is like funky music, only less inclined to attract people wearing flares.
*** It was head-sized when he bought it in Dunedin, but by the time we got back to the North Island it was big enough to sleep six. Like a knitted condom for a sperm whale it was. Which would probably be kinda scratchy, now I come to think about it. Did you ever get a hand-knitted Fair Isle jumper from your granny? We did: they were hell with sleeves. She might as well have knitted the damn things out of stinging nettles and fibreglass insulation. I’m sure these days it would count as a kind of child abuse.
And if a sperm whale did use Russell’s hat as a condom, it’d go even baggier in the water, which would probably make it a pretty inefficient method of contraception. That’s why knitted prophylactics never caught on amongst marine mammals.

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