Part 5: Holiday makers

“Hagley Park is the second-largest manicured park in the world. It’s the largest in the southern hemisphere.” The airport shuttle driver provided a commentary for the English tourists in the van. “It’s a real asset for the city. I always love seeing people walk along the river, jog along it.”

It was a cheerful, sunny Sunday morning. My four days in Christchurch were up and my itinerant itinerary was demanding that I jump on an aeroplane and fly to Dunedin. But it was such a nice day it seemed like it would have been more enjoyable to make the five-hour journey on the ground, listening to good road-trip music.

But I saved my road trip tunes and instead got on a plane and journeyed into the gothic world of green, purple, gold and grey, grey, grey Dunedin.

By the time I had checked into my hotel, it was late in the afternoon. I was hungry so I stopped off at a kebab shop for a felafel. Now, I’ve had a fair few felafels and I know the basic felafel-making process – it doesn’t take long.

But somehow the lady in this kebaberie took a really really long time to warm up the pita bread. She stood by the hot plate and slowly moved the pita around with some tongs. While she did this, the Holiday Makers’ 1988 hit “Sweet Lovers” played in its entirety (3:51) on the radio. The kebab lady had a frozen look on her face, as if she had recently realised that none of her dreams had ever come true.

Was there anything I could do? I thought about telling her some fun facts about the song.

“Hey, kebab lady! “Sweet Lovers” is a cover version of an obscure Bill Withers song called “We Could be Sweet Lovers”, from his final studio album, 1985’s “Watching You Watching Me”. Wellington covers band Holiday Makers faithfully covered it, but innovatively turned it into a duet.”

By this stage, the kebab lady would have started considering if there was life outside the kebab shop, and what it would be like to not have to work on a Sunday.

I would continue with more music trivia.

“It was a number-one hit single, and earned the Holiday Makers a fistful of awards at the 1988 New Zealand Music Awards, including Single of the Year, Best Video, Best Producer, Best Engineer, Most Promising Male Vocalist, Most Promising Female Vocalist, and Most Promising Group.”

This would inspire the kebab lady, making her wonder if such success would come to her one day if she set a goal and went after it.

“Sadly that promise was not to be realised. The ‘Makers fell victim to the curse of being a band whose first single was a cover version. Their follow-up single, “Waiting in the Sunshine”, flopped and they eventually took their place in New Zealand music history as beloved one-hit wonders.”

But, the kebab lady would realise, sometimes even something as glorious as a number one single can end up amounting to little if you don’t follow through on it. But at least you will have tried and enjoyed it. Yeah, we could be sweet lovers.

Finally my felafel was ready. It was cold.


4 thoughts on “Part 5: Holiday makers”

  1. Actually I’ve noticed this all over the country — Wellington kebab shops work fast, in most other places they move at glacial pace. It might be the stiff competition here that keeps them keen.

  2. I suspect the relative speed in Wellington kebab shops is do with the predominance of Assyrians there.
    If there’s one thing Assyrians have learnt in their thousands of years of oppression it’s not to fuck around when making kebabs.
    The Holidaymakers were one of the only NZ bands to strike it big in South East Asia, but failed to cash in due to the rampant music piracy at the time.
    I’m really enjoying your posts RObyn. You’re now in my two favourite travel writers along with Dervla Murphy.

  3. I think perhaps the frozen look on her face was more of the “damn it all, i forgot to turn the hot plate on, I’ll just fiddle around on it for a minute so that it looks like I’m heating it up, and i’ll pretend to turn it over but why is that woman looking at me as if she wants to talk to me, i’ll just avoid all eye-contact with her” sort of look.

    I get that all the time.

    Don’t take it personally

Leave a Reply