We have been coming to Wanaka since our kids were toddlers, and for them as well as for my husband Ted and I, it’s very much our home away from home.
Even though our cabin here is incredibly small, we still all love coming here to chill out and recharge our batteries. There's no TV, but there are loads of books, board games and packs of cards. It can be whatever you want it to be – social or solitary, active outside or in a hammock reading.
When the kids were little Ted would drag us all out of bed at some ridiculously early hour for 'still water' in the waterskiing days of summer, and 'first run up the mountain snow' in the cold, bright days of winter. There were endless moans and groans, especially from me – when it comes to both waterskiing and snow skiing I am not in the game. I always dislocate something, and after a very bad horse-riding accident in my 20s, which saw me laid flat on a hospital bed for four months with a broken back and seven broken ribs, I no longer do any kind of risky active sport. (The family took me cross-country not so many years back on the basis that there was no way I could hurt myself – and I cracked my coccyx!) Hiking and swimming are just fine, thank you.
But there were kids to be helped into their skis or given encouragement after a faceplant, picnics to be made and enthusiastic jollying to be administered. And always, fun friends holidaying at the same time to meet up with during the day.
So I would more often than not be part of the family team, and I am pleased about that. Even though I couldn’t participate in what everyone else was doing zooming around the bay or up and down the slopes, I now have such wonderful memories of special holiday times with our kids when they were young. Now that they are big (18 and 20) it all seems to have whizzed by so fast!
I decided my sporty activity would be fly fishing. I've always loved to line fish, and with fly fishing there’s a real buzz in playing a fish and also you get to discover some wonderful places in the wilderness. Each autumn the Wanaka art school runs courses in both fly fishing and fly tying, and so a few years back I enrolled in both. It was fantastic, and such fun to construct my own flies out of feathers, deer hide and wool. I had some of that pleasing beginner’s luck and landed quite a few trout. My hobby became a great inspiration for Christmas gifts – the lovely rod came first, then waders one year, the jacket another, some new flies… and though I don’t get out there often I always love it when I do.
One day out fishing last year the glue on the reel seat at the base of my rod came unstuck while I was casting. I managed to rescue the kit before the whole thing went into the big deep. Given my propensity to lose things I made an absolute point of putting this little but very important part of my rod in a safe place by my bed. I could see it there every day but life got busy and it wasn’t until the day before we were about to film our trout fishing episode for my TV series Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook: Simple Pleasures that I remembered the rod needed fixing.
Ted, as the number one fix it/sort it/solve it man on set, got strict instructions to take the rod to the shop and get it glued back together. Being the typical can do Mr Fix It Kiwi man that he is, he decided this was an easy job he could do himself. The point to note here is that Ted does not fish. Just as I don’t like the cold discomfort of skiing, he has zero interest in anything to do with fishing – except the picnic. He has never cast a line in his life. Maybe I should have thought about this when I gave him the rod – but I didn’t. And so when I asked, 'Is the rod all fixed?' I got the reply, ‘Sure is'.
Packing up to head off on our fishing expedition, I had my lovely samosas hot out of the oven for our picnic, a thermos and a nice bottle of wine chilled for after. There was the rod already packed up in its nice little fabric pouch, along with my reel and all my flies. And so we were off – across the bay a good hour and a half’s drive to a secret fishing spot, miles from nowhere.
Time to put it all together and what ho! The shank shaft was glued on backwards! Who would have thought of such a possibility? To me, the parts go together one way – it all seems entirely logical… But no, it was apparent this was not my husband’s logic. Can you fish with the rod like this? No. Is the glue unstickable? No.
Thank goodness my friend Wilbur had brought along a spare rod, otherwise instead of the bucolic fishing scenes, you may well have seen some crazed woman on the side of the lake having a major meltdown!
I think the best thing for that rod is going to be framing it and putting it up on show in the cabin. I’m going to get lots of mileage in the retelling of that story. At least I now have some ammunition in the 'who stuffed up what' stakes of our relationship – currently my side of the slate is running considerably longer than Ted’s. Like the time I thought I had hit a rock on the drive as I drove through a gate towing the trailer – until I got five kilometers up the road and saw smoke coming out of the trailer. I had actually hit the gatepost so hard I broke the post and jammed the trailer hard onto the tyre. Screwing a rod back together the wrong way doesn’t even come close.
But as long as no one dies or gets hurt you just have to laugh. Here's to adventures!
To see behind-the-scenes photos, recipes, video clips and the menu from this episode see the TV pages of my website.