there’s an old man, nursing a pint, sitting on a stool at the end of the bar. aside from me, he’s the only patron here. i wonder how long he’s been coming here and how many transients have passed through in that time. out in the beer garden, the rain has just started up and that, the sound of rushing water, and the occasional car passing by, are the sounds that fill my ears.
funny the memories that turn up in the quiet spaces. almost like they’ve been waiting for me to be still.
almost 20 years ago, at the end of my teenage years, i spent most of a summer working at the fox glacier hotel. it was my first job in hospitality and an interesting way to begin my short-lived career as a waitress. with a population of around 250 people (at the time), fox glacier wasn’t big. everyone knew everything about everyone else. and what they didn’t know, they’d make up. it was fun being a part of that community – even just for a whisper of time.
a couple of old regulars used to sit at the end of the bar, just like the place i’m at now. i remember the barman – an old aussie chap called john. he’d been making his way around new zealand on an adventure, got to fox glacier and stopped. that was 20+ years prior. he lived in a tiny room above the bar and seemed to have found his calling. as far as i know, he even cut his own hair, so he never needed to go anywhere.
those guys taught me how to appreciate a good whisky. they were very particular about their afternoon tipple. and i give them a silent toast every time i pour myself a glass.
people said you could set your watch by the rain. every day at 2pm for about an hour, they said. turns out they were right. not every day, but most.
a helicopter pilot who flew tourists and climbers up the glacier took me and a friend on a ride i’ll never forget. she asked only for the cost of the fuel and took us for a flight around mt. cook and stopped on fox glacier so we could put our feet in the snow. the skies were blue and clear and i remember thinking that my life simply couldn’t be any better.
i didn’t have a camera then. i have no physical record of ever being there, and, sometimes, it seems like a very distant memory. then the sound of rushing water, the light rain that’s just begun, and an old guy propping up a corner of the bar, bring it all back, if only for a moment.