It’s not really Friday but we fancy a bit of fish. Just over the river there’s a chinook salmon farm, which lends visitors a line and lets them try their luck. They charge 20 Dollars a kilo, and even prepare and cook the catch for that price too. It sounds like a “real deal”, as they say Down Under, so we go along.
The girl handing out fishing equipment makes it sound so simple. “Just throw bait all around your line and the fish will bite in no time. “ Handing me a bag of fishy-smelling pellets she adds “This should be enough. Only two Dollars. Pay me when you come back with your catch”. I’m a little surprised that the line itself doesn’t need bating, but just assume it’s so easy to catch something here without.
Two hours later and it’s not looking great. I’ve thrown in heaps of bait and the greedy salmon are biting every single scrap I throw in – everything that is except my hook. A small group of young tourists on the other side of the lake seem to be having a lot more luck. They’ve just netted a real whopper and are posing for photos, holding it over their shoulders like some Olympic trophy.
Having resigned myself to possibly leaving the lake empty handed I ask – half seriously, half joking – if they’ll let me pose with it too. Laughing, they suggest I take over their “good luck” spot on the lakeside, while they go off to get their catch cooked. Just that moment, one of them reels in another whopping great chinook – it must be at least two kilos. I notice a German gentlemen nearby, who like me is having equally little luck. Reeling his line in he sighs and says with a heavy accent “Enough. I go for a glass of vine”.
I wish I’d joined him actually, since I spend the following hour unsuccessfully instructing Matilda how to make the catch of the day. A born multitasker, she insists on both casting the line and reeling it in too. The chance of catching even a tiddler decreases yet further, particularly when she finally manages to cast the line (“Wow, super darling!”), only to find, seconds later, that it’s got hooked up nice and firmly – not onto a tasty Chinook but my brand new Aotearoa t-shirt. We manage to get the hook out without ripping too much of a hole in the clothing, but that’s the end of fishing for us today.
At least we don’t go away hungry. They’re selling fish at the farm café, although it’s hardly the “real deal”: Six salmon nuggets for the same price as the divinely fresh filet that my trophy-winning neighbours have just been served up, all nicely smoked with Cajun sauce. Watching them lick their lips I ask how they managed to catch two fish. Weren’t they, after all, using the same unbaited line, just like everyone else? “Hey man”, says one of them, “you gotta reel the line in every time. Not just let it float around, hey”. “I did”, I reply slightly impatiently, “what else?”. “Hmmh”, he says, “You gotta throw loads of bait in of course”. I’m just about to reply “Did that too” when the German man comes up to and tells me, leaning in, as if to share a secret: “Zees man, he use real bait. He put salmon on zee hook”.
So that's how they did it, so simple. Too bad I didn't figure that out earlier.
The film that I’ve been waiting months to see is finally showing Down Under. I’m really glad we’re seeing it at Takaka. Although named “The Village Theatre”, it’s actually a cinema, and apparently it’s so unique it even has its own entry in Lonely Planet, which describes it as “Possibly the best cinema in the universe”. I’m not too sure about that but it’s certainly the most comfortable cinema I’ve ever visited. It’s a really old building, clad in timber, with rafters crossing the ceiling, so that it almost feels more like a barn. Instead of standard cinema seats - which I personally find very difficult to relax in - it’s furnished just like a lounge: Bean bags for kids and plush twin sofas for adults. They’re big enough to put your feet up and lie down together – which quite a few couples actually do, I notice. What I love most though is the intermission. Halfway through, the film suddenly halts and the lights go on. No cause for panic though – it’s simply an invitation to join the queue for the “lolly lady” –the usherette, as they were once known, who used to show you to your seats with a torch and come round with ice creams at the interval. It’s a real throw back to my first trips to the cinema as a kid.
Oh, I almost forget to mention the film - “What we did on our last holiday”. Set in the beautiful Scottish Highlands and starring comedian Billy Connolly, it really is laugh-out-loud funny – certainly the funniest British film I’ve seen in a long time. What strikes me is how similar the Scottish scenery is to our surroundings here in South Island. Which is probably why I laughed particularly loud at the following line in the film: “Poor Uncle George can’t come to granddad’s party – he’s stuck in New Zealand.”
As we leave this sweet little cinema someone giggles and points to a poster proclaiming the premiere of “Fifty Shades of Grey” the following Friday. “Come in Drag!” says the invitation.