That's pretty much the end of all my birthday stuff. Everything else that made my October so special for me was just all the events and gatherings that kept me busy pretty much every weekend in that month.
One thing was having 2 friends who had gone overseas, to pursue lives and careers, come back to New Zealand for a short visit, and the opportunities I had to see them again after all the time between then and when I saw them last (months for one, years for the other).
Another was that I managed to create a lot more baking successes in October than previously: a chocolate mousse cake to finish the last of the dark chocolate I had accumulated, a coffee cake, parfaits for the family, and a practice sponge cake for my guitar buddy whose birthday is this month.
I also managed to go to the temporary ice skating rink that the city had brought in for October. I hadn't been before and was hoping that my skiing ability would translate into making me somewhat competent. I did manage to fall over once towards the end when I wanted to see how fast I could go. I was just grateful my fall wasn't anything like my brother's, who, last time the city had an ice skating rink, broke his face open across one of his eyebrows and now wears a scar from the experience.
And of course, there was the Simply Ceroc ball and showcase over the long weekend, as well as all the Rugby World Cup games, both of which I've blogged about already. One thing I didn't mention was that one of those games where I watched and then went out with a couple of friends, ended-up with a video of me singing loudly and drunkenly somewhere on Facebook.
All of the above, and all I've written in the previous instalments of this blog post, (and maybe a few other things which have completely slipped my mind,) combined to create a memorable October for me. So when I see the ticker tape still draped about on the overhead power lines throughout the city, a reminder of this country's biggest sporting achievement in a long time, I let it remind me of the month that was, and smile a little more than I used to. Hell I even skip through a bunch of the more melancholy songs on my MP3 player (favourites of mine just months and years before) when I'm listening to it now.
I've found I can easily be broken from happy little trance though, like when I find myself walking behind a smoker and one of their puffs of smoke makes its way to my face, I instantly become annoyed, silently mouth the word 'motherfucker' behind their back (man or woman, I don't care: I am an equal-opportunity hater), and wish that their lungs would explode then and there.
The Rugby World Cup was over a week ago, but remnants of it still remain throughout the city: the World Cup logo still flies prominently beside street lamps, country flags are still visible in shop windows, cars still carry the All Blacks flag proudly attached to passenger-side windows, and the aftermath of the parade - ticker tape and streamers all the colours of the visible light spectrum - occupy cracks in the footpath or are still tangled in the power lines that give life to our fleet of electric buses.
I've been walking through the city a tad happier than I normally do, a small smile making its way onto my face if I allow my mind to wander and think about everything that happened in October.
The biggest thing for me was of course my birthday.
Yes, I'm one of those October-born people, throwing all our birthdays into one month of the year to make peoples' calendars look super busy and to annoy gift-buyers. I passed my last birthday milestone a long time ago, which I reckon is the 21st. After that, card-makers stop being specific about your age and you find yourself receiving a lot of non-numbered birthday cards until your age starts resembling a new decade.
I didn't really know what to do this year for my birthday. I've already written that my normal birthday traditions have gone out the window, so I thought to do the only other thing I could still continue to do - take a day-off from work - and see what happens after that.
Melissa was in the country on the day of my birthday for the first time since... 2003? She took me out for breakfast, meaning that on my day off, I had to get up early. On any other day I might have complained, but I thought I better get as many waking hours as I can out of my birthday. That, and I'm not one to turn down free food.
Free breakfast on my birthday; a good start to the day :)
After I walked Melissa to her work so she could start her day of working and I could continue my day of not working, I went to my favourite place in the city to kill time: the library.
When I sat down to read through my current book, I found myself unable to stay awake. Sure waking-up at my normal time on a day when I would have normally slept-in might have taken away some valuable sleeping hours, but I didn't just feel sleepy: I was sniffling a bit more than usual, and I felt really tired already. Oh no, I thought to myself, don't be sick, don't be sick, not now, not today...
The only other thing I had planned for the day was to meet-up with Katrina, who I hadn't seen since she was discharged from hospital, at which time I tried (and failed) to make her dinner since she was unable to cook herself and needed help until her family were able to come home (they were all away at the time). I needed to be well enough to travel some 20km to visit her at the hospital after one of her physio sessions, and my stuffy nose was looking to ruin that.
I didn't catch-up on my sleep at the library (I didn't want to look like the homeless guy sleeping in the library since there was already one there in the far corner), and I didn't want to catch-up on my sleep on the train to the hospital either (I didn't want to miss my stop, which I had done several times before when I'd slept on the train), so with a few hours to go until I had to meet Katrina, I went back to my place, collapsed on my bed, and fell asleep.
I woke up with time to spare before the train I planned to catch, without that nagging fatigue I had at the library, but I still had that damn stuffy nose. So this is how it's going to be huh? Fine then. I told myself, and off I went to the train station with an extra handkerchief, just in case.
Last night was 2 things for me: the 'All Black Tie Ball' for the Simply Ceroc weekend (the year's major event for the dance classes I attend), and the Rugby World Cup 2011 final between New Zealand and France.
When I signed-up to the ball, I wasn't thinking that much about the Rugby World Cup. In-fact, the Rugby World Cup didn't really enter my mind until the weekend it started, so when I learned earlier this year that the final and the ball were on the same night, the thought that went through my head was, 'meh'. Regardless, the advertising for the event said that they'd have the auditorium next to the dance floor open for us to go watch the game on their giant screen. That didn't really factor into my decision of going to the ball, but as the world cup final drew nearer, I'm glad they did it.
I signed up to the ball because my friend Melissa - the one who actually got myself and another mate of ours, Alexey, into dancing in the first place some 3 years ago - wanted to go. Despite being our progenitor, Melissa had never been to the ball, whereas Alexey and I and had been to 2 each in our time, so when Melissa got me to sign up to accompany her, this ball became the main motivation for going to dance class at all this year - I had dropped-off the ceroc radar for a good 6 months last year (when work started to eliminate any semblance I had of a social life) and so I felt I needed to get back into classes so that I wasn't totally useless come this weekend.
One nice thing about the ball is that I get to wear a suit. I don't really get many occasions to don suit, so when I do I usually end-up wearing a bit of a "I'm wearing a suit!" smile from the simple idea that this is probably the nicest-looking I will ever get. The location for the ball isn't far from my place, so I walked through the city towards it, wearing a suit and my silly little grin.
Now that Melissa and I had 2 events to balance, we went to the ball with one eye always on the clock: doors to the ball opened at 7:30, dinner starts getting served at 8:00, kick-off for the game was at 9:00. We arrived on time, got a dance in, and it was during that dance we could smell the mains meal being lined-up at the buffet table not far from the dance floor. Melissa was particularly hungry, so mid-dance we manoeuvred ourselves across the dance floor between other dancing couples and right up to the edge closest to the buffet (I had actually failed to lead myself and my partner between a moving crowd several times earlier this week, so was very happy to have not stuffed this up here). When the song ended, we promptly let go of one another, ducked under the barrier at the edge of the dance floor, and were practically the front of the line at the buffet.
We got back to our table, ate away, and were almost done by the time everybody else managed to grab something to eat. A decent line stretched away from the buffet, and we were wiping the food from our mouths ready to go to the auditorium to watch the All Blacks play France.
Things were looking up: we got to the ball on time, we secured a nicely-placed table, we managed to weave our way through several dancing couples towards the buffet, we beat the crowds to mains, I was wearing a suit, everything was going right for us.
We made it to the auditorium, everyone really got into the mood by standing and singing the national anthem and cheering with the haka, but then we sat down and everything started to fall apart.
The game was a nail-biter: we had the lead, but it was never convincing, and the French were putting-up one helluva fight. By half-time, I was resigning myself to the fact that we could actually lose, and then riots would run through the streets and all the cars outside would be flipped-over and/or set alight by the ensuing mob - move over Vancouver, we'll show you how a real sporting-loss riot can be done.
When we all returned to the auditorium for the second half, the cheering had audibly died to make way for a collective nervousness. Someone behind me made the comment that you could feel the tension in the air, and that tension also had the ability to slow time to a crawl. At 8 points to 7, a 1 point lead to the All Blacks, that last 30 minutes to the second half became the longest 30 minutes of my life. I thought I was watching the clock too often before to make it on time to even get here, now I was watching every passing second of game time with both of my eyes, swearing at one point that I saw the clock go backwards.
We won, eventually, and the tension was replaced with cheers of relief more than anything. We were so very lucky, and we all knew it. We exited the auditorium and Melissa and I had to sit back down at our tables for a while to let it all sink in. I'm not one prone to nervous habits like nail-biting, but after that game Melissa had worn down 9 of her fingernails, and someone else I danced with later that night had chewed through all her fake fingernails, enjoying a healthy diet of acrylic to go with dessert.
Melissa and I left the ball soon afterwards to join friends who were partying in the streets. On the way to where they were, we saw people climbing trees, cars honking everywhere, impromptu chants, scrums, and one guy push himself down one of our main streets on an office chair. Oh and man hugs on every corner. Even in my suit I wasn't immune to the bromance, and was dishing-out a bit of man-love myself, in between the whoops of victory and photo-bombing peoples' shots in my hired finery.
It's 4:52am now. I got home and started writing this about 2 hours ago. I'm out of my suit, showered-off all that sweat from dancing which came from dancing away my nerves from the rugby, and now I'm just glad. Even though I wasn't biting my nails (or tightening my sphincters as some friends tweeted), I was staving-off epic disappointment and maybe some kind of heart attack with that 1 point lead.
I'm not sleepy, even though my normal bed time was over 5 hours ago. I've said before that I'm not the biggest sports fan, but thanks to my dad who got the family into those pool games and me really into the spirit of things, I've witnessed history and now I want to know what happens next.
For the last month and a half, our little country of New Zealand has been host to the Rugby World Cup - a tournament between the top 20 rugby nations of the world. About this time last year, my dad, seeing this as an opportunity to be a part of something big, asked the family if we wanted to attend the World Cup through a package deal which would get us tickets to every pool games being held at the local stadium. I remember how I felt at the time - rather reluctant and not as enthusiastic as I could've been. I thought about it and finally settled on saying 'yes' to the idea, forking over a large sum of money to my dad, large enough for the bank to wonder if the transfer was legit.
I'm not the biggest rugby, or even sports person in my family. If there was a game on you're very likely to find my mum and/or brother shouting obscenities at the television if things aren't going their way, or just shouting at the television if things are going their way, and me cleaning-up the table and washing the dishes all by myself if it happens to be that we've just had dinner. This happened a lot when I lived with my family, not it only happens if I'm over for the weekend.
The year passed, September came around and with it, a crapload of tourists descended on our little city. Now I don't mind the tourists, but there was just something a little different about this bunch - they were mostly wearing their country colours, proudly proclaiming from where they were and who they're supporting. I thought it was kinda neat seeing so many people supporting their country, but for my first Rugby World Cup game, it wasn't a New Zealand one, but South Africa vs Wales.
I have virtually no connection to either South Africa or Wales: I have a friend from South Africa, and a temp who worked in our building years ago during her OE is from Wales. That was pretty much it. But I liked what I was seeing happening on the streets of our city: people here flying their colours and who were actually here to watch the rugby, as opposed to all those other occasions where the main event has taken a back seat to just another reason to party, eg: The Melbourne Cup, The Rugby Sevens, and any event with the word 'tasting' in it.
So I thought I'd get into it, and crowd-sourced my allegiance to Facebook and Twitter:
The response was overwhelmingly in favour of Wales, so in the days leading-up to the game, I bought a Welsh flag-cape and brought it with me to the game.
It wasn't the first time I'd been in the stadium, but it was the first time I'd been in the stadium when it was full, and the atmosphere was so much more electric than the smaller crowds I'd normally been a part of. I fell-in with the crowd so easily and within minutes I was shouting, chanting, standing, clapping, mexican-waving, and going all-out at the top of my lungs and whatever the equivalent is for arm-waving. I was louder than the rest of my family and I surprised myself at how quickly I got into the swing of things.
The game was great, and I really thought we (Wales) were gonna win; the score being so close and everything. I had a helluva time, and was sad to have to part from it and go back to my apartment, sleep, and then go to work the next day (it was a Sunday night game).
We had more games to go to, and this carried on for another 3 weeks: I picked a side to go for, I got a little souvenir for that side to take to the game, I went to the game and supported that team until my throat ran dry. I was a mercenary selling my support to whichever team I wanted (usually the underdog) and I had a blast every time I did it. The last game we had tickets for was a New Zealand game, so I did get the opportunity to cheer for my own country for once.
That last game was over 2 weeks ago, and even though I haven't attended a game since, I've been watching the games with friends or family, choosing a side (when it wasn't a New Zealand game) and trying to be the best fan I can. I'm still not the biggest sports person in the family, but I've really got into the swing of things with the Rugby World Cup.
I guess it also helps that New Zealand is in the final for this weekend, for the first time since... what, 1995?
After the South Africa vs Wales game all those weeks ago, I brought my Welsh flag cape to work and pinned it to the divider beside my desk. People pass by and wonder aloud who the Wales supporter is, obviously not drawing the link between myself and Wales because I extremely un-Welsh-looking :P When I hear those comments though, I just smile and think how glad I am to have chosen to go to the rugby after all.