Now. Where we were? Ahh, yes. We were at the brewery, having snuck in for two unauthorised tours (some might technically call it ‘trespassing’). We were drunk. And then the brewery closed, or we grew bored? Hmm. I don’t know. Isn’t the past bonkers?! When we were in it we were IN it, we knew nothing else and it was all that mattered, then it was over, and three years later you’re writing about the time you took a train and there are whole sections missing from your swiss cheese brain.
Whatever the motive was, we left the brewery. And then I know we went to see a band. Was it a band, or a singer? I can’t remember. Let’s start with what we know. There was music. There was a couch. The couch was very comfortable.
Annie was collecting spoons that weekend. Not like how people go to little tourist shops and buy a spoon with ‘PARIS’ or ‘BLENHEIM’ engraved into the end with a little Eiffel Tower or Blenheim T.A.B., and you go home and put it on display. No, she wasn’t collecting those spoons, she was just collecting regular ones. I say “collecting”, I mean “mostly stealing”.
I called her on the phone yesterday, before I published part one, because I wanted to know if she was ok with photos going up. “Yeah, totes. But what was the deal with the spoons?” she asked. “I don’t know, you were collecting them” I said. “Yeah, but why?”.
I didn’t know.
She didn’t know.
Three years ago our mission – the motive behind every human interaction we had – was to collect spoons. Three years later, we have no idea why.
So at this bar – the one with the singer or the band – Annie had explained her mission to the woman behind the counter as we ordered dessert. She nodded sagely and handed Annie a single spoon. “This one is for your collection”, she said. “And I’ll give you two for your dessert, ok?” We turned away from the bar and immediately questioned the tone in that “ok”. Did she mean that we could keep those spoons too? I mean, it was definitely implied. She knew we liked spoons, that much had been established. So was this a gift? A gift she couldn’t come outright to offer, because of prying ears and eyes? Were we about to make it away with THREE spoons?
The dessert arrived, and though I don’t have photos or notes, I can definitively tell you it was green. My memory for carbs is devastatingly accurate.
When we were done eating, she pocketed all three spoons. To avoid any awkward conversations with a waiter who might not understand the implied gift, we hid the dirty dish under the couch. “No smoke, no fire” Annie reasoned, sitting back comfortably.
The couch was big, and cosy, and the bar was warm, and I’d had a full day of excitement. In many ways I am like a dog. I just want food and a head pat and then to sleep in front of a warm fireplace.
“I’ll just rest my eyes for a tick” I said to Annie, scooting down a little into the couch.
I drifted back into consciousness to see Annie’s beer replenished; hearing her passionately discussing the political situation in Zimbabwe. She was talking to an older couple who had joined us at some point. All three of them seemed unfazed with me sleeping, so I shifted position and shut my eyes again.
When I awoke again, it was because Annie was screaming “encore, encore”, and getting the rest of the bar to join in. Up until this point the music had been background noise, no one even applauding after a song. For the singer it must have been extremely validating to suddenly have the entire room behind him. That is, up until he started singing again, and Annie immediately turned her back to him to return to shouting about the African government.
When it was finally time to leave she woke me up properly and introduced me to the couple. “We have loads of photos together!” the man exclaimed, “weekend at Bernie’s style! Hilarious!”.
“Nice to meet you” I mumbled and then hooked into Annie’s armpit for support. We shuffled down the street to the hotel for sleep.
At the hotel, I did my mother proud: I vomited, twice, and then fell asleep on top of the bed, fully clothed.
It had been a day.
The next morning we were up bright and early to go quad biking. I’d never done it before and didn’t know what to expect, and was utterly delighted at being able to wear a head-to-toe yellow suit while driving through mud, snorting with laughter. We got stuck maybe four or five times each, our very kind host grinning and hoisting us out of the mud.
I then insisted on hair of the dog (in both beer and potato form) and we sat inside another pub drinking other beers and eating other potatoes until it was time to catch the train.
In hindsight, I really don’t know if we explored EVERYTHING Greymouth had to offer.
The train was at 2pm. We were there half an hour early, as is my preference, and boarded as soon as they opened the doors. When we got in and put down our bags, Annie looked out the window, spotted a supermarket, and hopped with excitement.
“Countdown! I’m gonna go get some bubbles, ok?”
I protested. We could buy a bottle from the dining car. We were hungover. We didn’t need it. The train was about to go. But it fell on deaf ears as Annie hopped off the train, left the station, and started striding towards the supermarket.
Annie likes to be exactly on time. If she could have her way I think she would arrive at airports and breeze straight to the counter, then through security, then onto the plane, the doors closing behind her, the plane taking off as she buckles her seatbelt. Constant motion and no wasted time, that’s the Annie way.
I am not like that. I like to get everywhere far too early, waiting at each stage in a different chair, reading most of my book before the plane has even taken off. I like to pause. I like to reflect. I have fond memories of being at airports for entire mornings, where I got to properly explore every single shop. (Airports must LOVE me and my wallet).
I sat in my train seat trying not to hyperventilate, chewing off my fingernails, staring out the window trying to will her to get there faster. I didn’t know how I’d explain to Dad that I’d left her in Greymouth. Or would I have to hop off the train too? Make a scene? Pull the emergency brake? Risk a derailing? Literally die?!
Of course, she made it in time. She always does.
We weren’t in our assigned seats for the trip home. Annie had decided the table opposite was better, it looked out a different window than yesterday. She wanted to see the other side’s view. It wasn’t bad reasoning, but it didn’t take into account that the table might already be booked. When an older couple got on the train two stops in and said we were in our seats, she looked at them like they were the ones in the wrong, and said she was sure they would enjoy the table over the aisle. She has a way of doing this. She says something and holds eye contact, and people do what they’re told.
They did what they were told. But daring them to fight us, in hindsight, was probably not the smartest move we could have made.
We’d bought a bottle of bubbles as soon as the dining car was open. This train was definitely not BYO (though it would not be the first time we created our own BYO rules; nor the last); and we needed plastic glasses and a bottle for cover.
The couple across from us were talking about whether they’d bought double or queen sheets for the spare room. Our bubbles were filling us up with NOISE and STORIES, and we were quickly becoming annoying. The couple were focusing on what they were calling “su-du-ko”, not looking at the view at all. It seemed to annoy Annie that they’d wanted this table and they wouldn’t have even used it properly, even though we weren’t using it properly either; we were spending our time looking at them not looking at the view.
We finished our bottle quickly, and then Annie went to open the illicit, definitely not allowed, supermarket bottle. The woman opposite was watching us, and I could tell she wasn’t happy.
Annie tried to do it discreetly, timing the pop of the cork with a cough. It did not work. It popped, she coughed, she said ‘oops’, then she said ‘shit’. Pop-cough-oops-shit. It was melodic, a musical interlude, not the subtle single blast we had hoped for.
She refilled the glasses under her denim jacket, aiming for too-little-too-late subtlety, and the woman opposite got up and headed for the bathrooms.
A few minutes later the train – what, supervisor? commander? attendant? – was standing by our tables, asking to search our bags. They had reason to believe we had our own alcohol, which was not permitted on board. Feigning wide-eyed confusion and affecting a sort of southern belle persona (“oh golly gosh!”) I hopped up to get our luggage down, showing her yesterday’s tops and undies and socks. The only paraphernalia she could find was the empty bottle we’d legally purchased on board, as well as our full glasses.
She apologised and moved on, and Annie’s eyes narrowed at the empty chair opposite. “Where is it?” I mouthed and she gestured under the table, to where the almost full bottle was squeezed between and behind her ankles, suspended in air by her calf strength. I mean, if there was any reason to work out…
The woman returned to her seat and we both silently stared at her as she walked down the aisle and sat down.
“I can’t believe they would QUESTION us” Annie hissed in her direction. “Of course they didn’t find anything. We PAID for this fucking bottle”.
I tried to shush her through my teeth, but it was a lost cause. Someone was going to have to learn a lesson. In Munich the woman who’d told us off refused to leave our shared table. There’s no way Annie was going to back down either, so she sat fuming at her, ratcheting up the dildo talk. After an hour, when the woman got up to leave, Annie said after her “yeah, you BETTER go”.
For our last half hour on the train, Annie lifted her (to be honest, already fairly flimsy) filter. Every topic was fair game. We played Phase 10, drank our contraband, and giggled at the naughtiest things we could think of to say out loud. Eventually we pulled up to Rolleston station and had to disembark, leaving the older woman on the train through to Christchurch Central.
As we climbed down the steps we had to frantically come up with a plan to properly end the lesson. “Flash her!” I suggested, but Annie had a much better idea. As we reached the train window from the platform, she stopped, waving our contraband bottle at the woman. “Yeah, fuckers!” she cackled. She danced back and forth on the platform, wiggling the empty bottle in the air, sniggering at her successful con.
I was falling over my own ankles with big gulping wheezing laughs, when I turned to see Dad waiting for us.
“Come quick! Annie’s teaching someone a lesson!” I yelled, and we watched together as she frolicked to the small sour lemon face peering out of the window, before the train rang the bell and took her away.