A lot of people think the Fourth of July is a purely American holiday – one where they celebrate getting rid of the steeeeenky British Aristocracy and it’s crapulantly corrupt parliament* - but it’s also an important day in the New Zealand calendar. Yes, the Fourth of July is officially ‘Try To Drown A Scotsman Day’.

But they don’t do it in a hands-on fashion. No bag over the head, concrete block round the ankles and into the nearest harbour for the Kiwis – oh no, no, no. Everything in New Zealand has to be environmentally friendly these days, so they use the weather to give Scotsmen a watery grave...

I was fifteen minutes from the slightly manky** hotel I’d ended up in after the event in Hamilton, when the attempt on my life was made. It was bloody stoating it down, bouncing back off the tarmac for optimum wetness. By the time I’d gone half a dozen paces my trousers were sticking to my legs like ... wet trousers. I’d spent the morning in the Auckland museum, looking at the Maori exhibits and wondering why everything seemed to be so incredibly lifeless. More than a little disappointing, to be honest, thought they’d made a much better fist of it with the volcanic exhibition.

Unfortunately there wasn’t time to get dried off, so I had to spend my taxi ride to the airport in a small steamy fug, with squishy shoes and squelchy socks. Never a good look for an international bearded write-ist. Finally managed to get the feet dry by performing vaguely-obscene contortions beneath the hand driers in Auckland airport. The socks were a lost cause, so they were wrung out and stuffed into a plastic bag -- so they wouldn’t leak all over my hand luggage -- but I was stuck with the squishiness of shoes. Aha, thinks Stuart, I know, I shall stuff them with paper towels! That’ll do it.

So it was that I spent an hour and a half on a plane from Auckland to Sydney, wearing no socks and shoes lined with paper. Like a crazy person. All I was missing was the wool-and-tinfoil hat.

Still got through immigration though. They didn’t even want to clean my hiking shoes. Though that might have had something to do with the presence of my bare feet, newly developed eye-twitch, and angry muttering in a French accent. Well, everyone’s got to have a hobby, right?

By the time we landed in Sydney it was dark, so no dramatic view of the opera house from the plane window, just a huge carpet of lights stretching away into the darkness. Jordan*** -- who’s going to be my minder for the eventy part of proceedings here in OZ -- was waiting at the gate, clutching a review copy of Halfhead. Which was pretty damn cool to finally see the thing after all these years in proper book form. Strange to think it’s actually going to hit the shelves in September. I imagine the hate mail will start flooding in a couple of days later from people telling me I have no right to write anything that doesn’t feature Logan McRae and Aberdeen. And can they have their money back. But for now, it’s pretty damn cool.

Tomorrow I go hunting for the opera house. With a pointy stick and a butterfly net. That’ll teach it.

* Insert topical ‘thieving cock-weasels’ reference here.
** ‘Slighty manky’ in the same way that the Atlantic Ocean is ‘slightly moist’.
*** No, not the vacuous plastic tart so beloved of British tabloids and gossip magazines.

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