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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

UFO spotter on wine tour


Today I had a one-person tour. I.e. just me and one passenger.
Normally I don’t take singles, because the margins are fairly low and it’s a gamble as to who you get on the day. Yet, strangely enough I have had some fascinating people on these one-off tours as well as a few very odd ones.
Odd ones:  A manic New York lawyer who hired me for $100 an hour to drive him around Auckland, looking at architecture.  He insisted on the air-con being on maximum, so I had to shout at him to be heard over the freezing cooling fans and could barely hear his many rabid questions.  Then there was the  US State Dept. Guy who said almost nothing during a full day tour.
Interesting ones:  Charming female Melbourne based romance novel writer (as yet unpublished) who seems to have a healthy inheritance and pops over to NZ almost yearly.  An old  ex-British Royal Navy captain who loved wines, but insisted on following a road map of our progress on the day.  A sad 60-ish Frenchman who had married a British lass, raised a family, ran a country pub and his beloved  French restaurant, till she ran off with the rep from the beer company, and took half of everything.

But today – John.  Ex British Air Force, born in 1932 in Cornwall.  Was a fighter pilot till he changed to air traffic control in the 60s and eventually ended up at Heathrow, London.  He was offered an air traffic  job in the ‘colonies’ in 1967 with a choice of Hong Kong, Australia or New Zealand.  He chose NZ.
When I picked him up, he was neatly dressed – shirt and tie, (plus a necessary rain jacket) and a baseball cap.  He is now eighty years old but has a keenness, humour and vitality which defies the years.  John also has a great knowledge of wine. 

When he was in high school (about 1948) his school did a student exchange with a French school. He was plunged into the French culture and stayed with a family in Bordeaux, who were associated with some of the top red wine producers in France.  Thus began his passion for wine.

Interestingly, he was an air traffic controller at Wellington Airport for many years – overseeing many a hairy landing on its notorious short and wind buffeted runway.  Also, he was on duty the night of the Kaikoura UFO incident where speeding objects were tracked on Wellington aviation radar on the South Island’s east coast – doing speeds of 240 knots.  John swears they weren't the planet Venus, fishing lights or migratory birds.

What a fascinating chap.  But he hates Chardonnay.

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