On the weekend we went for a walk on the waterfront.
It was a gorgeous day.
One of those blue-sky, still-bound, crystal-sun days that on occasion bless Wellington.
A day that fills you with a sense of being alive, and gently punches you in the head to remind you that life isn’t something to be sniffed at.
We wandered through Waitangi Park, around Te Papa, down beside the lagoon and along to Frank Kitts Park. We stopped there and Boo played on the climbing frames, the see-saw and the swing.
We didn’t step into the market – but the sights and sounds of shoppers were flowing along with people just rambling like us.
I saw people on rollerblades, riding bikes, skateboards and scooters. I saw folk walking, ambling, strolling, relaxing. I watched big kids doing bombs off the wharf. I watched tour groups poised to take pictures of Len Lyes “water-wand”.
I saw a group of women wearing the hijab and jeans catching up with each other, while their kids waited in line with Boo to go down the slide.
I watched some teens try their best to parkour their way across, around and over a park bench.
I heard a busker warming up his guitar, his small amp popping and fizzing. I heard laughter as kids ran screaming around and around in that non-stop way they do.
I heard deep conversations, light remonstrations and gentle murmurings. I listened to the snap from crisp sails, as boats from Port Nicholson went through their pre-season training out on the harbour.
I smelt the sea, not sharp or tangy or dramatic, but just that hint of it that you get when you’re around the harbour's edge.
There were a few food stalls, the gelato place was doing a brisk business, and just down the way was the mandatory coffee van, with flat whites and burnt tongues.
It was not a perfect day – is there ever one of those?
We didn’t do anything or visit anywhere outstanding.
But it was a contented day – spent with family, with friends and watching this place flow past.
A day that allowed you to remember that this place, these two islands are a place apart – and in spite of all that we worry about – are a good place.
And it made me consider what’s about to happen in this place – this Rugby World Cup – that’s starting in just two days time.
I will get frustrated at myopic and hyperbolic media expectation and coverage. I will seethe at the opportunism of celebrities and politicians and anyone else who wants to ride the bandwagon.
I will mutter about the unfairness of a corporate juggernaut that has somehow squeezed the essence out of rugby with its rationalised productification of the game.
I will refuse to drink the brand of the sponsor, but will enjoy some locally brewed beverages.
I will be supporting the All Blacks, and enjoying the spectacle of a sport I’m not much good at, but love to get fired up about.
I will savour being in the unique position of being able to take my father to a World Cup game to watch the team from his islands play, and we will whoop and holler and jump around for Fiji like two childish smiling lunatics.
I will welcome mates and neighbours around to watch a couple of matches. We will cheer loudly and discuss furiously and groan noisily. I will probably say a few sweary things.
We will eat cheeserolls and dip our Bluebird chips into reduced cream dip, share some home baking and savour some kai off the grill. All the while we'll try to get our kids to share toys and talk nicely and not to push and avoid too many tears.
We will talk and catch up on our lives and work, as we watch a game that’s part of something that brings us together – but not the only thing.
And in my heart I want the Blackness to win, but my head remembers ’99, ’03 and ’07.
And so while I hope, I know it may not happen.
But unlike those times, I think I’m OK with it.
Not just because I’m older and am a Dad and other things mean more now, but because I went for that walk on the waterfront.
A walk that reminded me, in the simple completeness of it, that it’s these things, these sensations, in this place, with these people – that make up my life.
And it is a good life. Here in this New Zealand.
So on the day after the ABs get knocked out or lose the final, I will take Bella for a walk, maybe on the waterfront.
I will wait for her at the bottom of that slide and I will laugh at her laugh. I will buy my wife one of those gelatos, and take solace in the fact that I live in a fine place, with good mates all around and much to live for.
And if the ABs win?
Well, I will smile of course. And there will be unashamed joy no doubt.
But I will celebrate knowing that it’s not just the game or the ABs that make this place good.
It is us.