"You're from England are you? Do
you know Mr Mitchell?" the young girl asked, clearly expecting
that I would. She seemed so sure I figured he must be someone
I'd met on the road. "Is he living in South Island?" I asked.
"No England, he's got a wife and two kids… both girls,"
she added by way of clarification, "…but I don't know their
names." I thought hard, "Ummmm I know a Jenny Mitchell,"
I offered. "Oh right, that must be his wife then." the girl
said with certainty. She smiled, pleased that I knew someone
There's well over 50 million people
in the UK and we don't even know half of the people in our
own village. New Zealand has between four and five million
nationals and they're very mobile. As well as moving around
their own country for work or holidays, about a million
at a time are travelling or working overseas. Everyone seems
to know everyone else and it's really not that unusual to
keep bumping into the same people as you travel.
"Stuart, stop there's a barbers,"
Kirstie shouted from behind me as we rode into Motueka in
search of a haircut. I swerved and pulled over to the kerb.
There was no barbers but instead I found myself staring
at a friendly and almost familiar face. "Hi there," I said
returning the friendly smile. "So you made it then?" said
the shorn-haired woman. Beside her sat a smiling older woman
with her partner grinning out of his dark set face. It took
me several seconds to place them without their Peruvian
hats. It was the Staring family whose eyes we first met
over 1000km and six weeks ago in Omarama and then again
in Tekapo. "Good to see ya," said the mum, "What brings
ya here?" "We're looking for a barbers," I said, "looks
like you might know a good one." The shorn-haired one giggled
and ran her fingers through the fresh shaven spikes on her
head. "Cheapest salon in town's out near the high school,"
she said proudly. We passed a few moments exchanging pleasantries
and catching up. Turns out the Starers live further up our
route on North Island and know some of the other people
we're due to meet up there. "See you again soon," said the
mum with confidence as our paths parted once more.
The sign above the door said 'Shirley
Snipps Hairdressing Salon.' The children pushed open the
door and ran in. "We're family on a haircut," announced
Matthew. "Got my peppermints," said Cameron, scattering
them onto the hair covered floor. The two stylists got to
work, turning me into a carbon copy of the shaven haired
Starer. The cut was neat and square with a small adventurous
spikes on top. When they finished with Matthew, he swung
around on the chair and beamed into the mirror; his hair
was smooth and neatly trimmed with a perfect fringe. When
Cameron had finished picking the hair off his peppermints,
he bounced off the stool with a grin; his mop was randomly
cut, due to his wriggling, and was now gelled and spikey
all over. "I'm smooth," said Matthew. "I'm spikey," said
Cameron. The stylists had given us haircuts to match our
personalities. The haircuts proved a turning point in Cameron's
understanding of himself. As I dressed him for bed later
that night, he emptied the contents of his pockets in a
pile on to the floor. "Spikey put sand in his pockets,"
he explained. "Spikey wear jamas now Daddy." He now refers
to himself as either Spikey or Cameron, depending on his
Square, Smooth and Spikey outside
A week or so later out of the corner
of one eye I caught a familiar stare at another roadside
camp, this time not just staring but waving.