'Turn down' offer out of sync with my social clock
EVERY evening, the knock comes like clockwork on the bedroom door: "Turn down service ... turn down, sir?" As one already well accustomed to rejection, there is little inclination to take up this woman's offer, and every evening the turn down has been turned down due to uncertainty as to what exactly it entails.
Subsequent research has revealed that the turn down involves a woman coming into your room, leaving a couple of chocolates on your pillow and folding back the corner of your bed to invite you in for your next trip to the Land Of Nod. All well and good, except for the fact that the invitation is made at the ridiculously early time of 5.45 -- I mean, who goes to bed before the Angelus?
However, that is in keeping with a country which operates on an entirely different timescale to what we are accustomed to in Ireland. Happy hour in the hotel bar is between three and four before the shutters come down at around 8.30 for, in this part of the world -- certainly in winter time -- we are 11 hours ahead on the clock and four hours behind on the social scene.
Rotorua is a good spot all the same. We had been warned about the stench of sulphur before we got here, but it's actually not that bad. True, you are occasionally hit with a blast of flatulence that would make an Easter Island statue cry, but, on the whole, the odours are more than manageable.
A tourist hotbed, there is plenty to do in terms of sampling the Maori culture or adventure activities and ample accommodation for Irish fans travelling here for the World Cup next year, with the main road out of town littered with hotels and guesthouses, while the centre has plenty of bars and restaurants
The problem in winter time is that very few of them are open. On Tuesday night, we ventured out confident that there would be a buzz around the place ahead of the All Whites opening World Cup match against Slovakia.
The papers, TV and radio are choc-a-bloc with All Whites coverage, far outstripping that afforded to the normally dominant All Blacks, but the excitement did not appear to have filtered down to street level.
And it comes back to the sleeping patterns -- one paper carried details of TV coverage for those who were thinking of staying up or 'getting up' to watch the All Whites when they kicked off at 11.30pm. When we arrived into the first pub at 10.50, we were told they would serve us a drink, but were shutting up at 11 "because there's not enough customers to justify staying open." The establishment next door, which was advertising itself as the 'Home of the World Cup' was locked shut and it was looking like back to the hotel until we were informed of a student pub five minutes away that would definitely be open.
Once you got over the fact that majority of the clientele were born after Live Aid, the Lava Bar was fairly enjoyable and, thankfully, had a bit of a pulse to it. That being said, there was not too much interest being shown in the match until New Zealand grabbed their dramatic equaliser and the place went mental, although still restrained by Irish standards.
Isaac Boss, the Ireland, Ulster and soon-to-be Leinster scrum-half, from Tokorua down the road, was there enjoying the occasion. A good bloke, Boss also turned out to be a handy tour guide as he led us to a shebeen that was available for a couple of nightcaps.
It is safe to assume that there will be more locals out for the All Whites next match against Italy on Sunday, but it is hard not to compare the situation here with the mania that has accompanied Ireland's World Cup participation in the past.
Not to worry, going to bed early is good for the constitution. There's that knock at the door now, time to try those chocolates.
WITH so much to see and do in Rotorua, there was a determination among the travelling media to get in some activity this week and escape from the laptop-room service existence that tends to dominate these trips.
There was talk of thermal baths, sky-diving, bungee jumps and white-water rafting earlier in the week as the various options were assessed for their thrill value. All tremendously exciting and the brochures were pored over for hours before a decision was eventually arrived at -- club sandwich, glass of Shiraz and Sherlock Holmes on the Sky Movies channel.
Ah, maybe tomorrow.
Rala's 'upbeat' tune
THE Ireland touring party were delighted with the welcome they received when they arrived in Rotorua at the start of the week.
Declan Kidney, Brian O'Driscoll and the squad were given the full works of a traditional powhiri welcome with speeches, songs and dances honouring the history of the Maori nation telling of how the sky father and earth mother came together at the dawn of time. The ceremony was capped off with a sumptuous, and much enjoyed, Maori feast. The Irish presented their hosts with a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion and even responded in song -- not courtesy of winger Tommy Bowe on this occasion, but rather via their popular and long-serving bagman Paddy 'Rala' O'Reilly.
"Rala's song went down very well," revealed one insider. "But I'm not too sure which song it was, it seemed to be about a guy losing his wife and killing himself by drinking whiskey."
Different strokes ...