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The Man Who Was Tuesday

Now that I am retired, I find that my days are indistinguishably identical. I get up in the morning, I feed the cats, take last night's dishes out of the dishwasher and then I potter around. In the evening, I cook the dinner, I put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and then I go to bed.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Since I am no longer able to reliably distinguish one day from another, I eventually decided to stop making the effort altogether. Every day can be Wednesday, I thought to myself. That way I will no longer even have to try and work out what day the rest of the world thinks it is. It's a brilliant scheme that I am sure will save much wear and tear on my brain cells.

However, once I put my cunning plan into practice, it proved to have hidden flaws. My pension payment day always falls on Tuesday. Consequently it seemed clear to me that there was a very real danger that my pension would never arrive in my bank account if every day was Wednesday. Therefore I've now agreed with myself to make every day Tuesday instead, and after trying it out for several Tuesdays in a row, I am tentatively of the opinion that the problem has been solved. Robin is very happy with it as well.

“Tuesday is my favourite day,” she said. “I was born on a Tuesday, and I know all the words to The Mickey Mouse Club Tuesday Song. Would you like me to sing it to you?”

“No thank you,” I said.

So she sang it to me.

One particular Tuesday, about three-quarters of the way though the week,I went to our favourite café. Its name is Jolt. It has friendly, welcoming staff and it serves good coffee and good food. What's not to like? So that particular Tuesday I was in there drinking a cup of coffee and nibbling a comestible when Stephanie, the manager, came over for a chat.

“I'm thinking of having a quiz evening once a month,” she said. “Would you and Robin be interested in coming along to it?”

“Yes, we're up for that,” I said. “What sort of quiz?”

“A Music quiz,” she said. “Everybody else always has general knowledge quizzes, so I thought I'd do something different. What do you think?”

“Good idea,” I said. “I'm sure that people will enjoy the novelty. When are you planning on holding this quiz?”

“Once a month on a Monday,” she said.

“Monday?” I asked, puzzled. “What's Monday? Is it anything like Tuesday?”

Stephanie gave me one of those looks. “No,” she explained patiently, “Mondays aren't anything like Tuesdays. For one thing, Jolt doesn't open on Monday so this seemed like a good way to make use of an idle evening.”

“I see,” I said. But I was lying. I didn't see at all. I was completely bewildered.

“Can I put you and Robin down for a team?” Stephanie asked.

“Of course you can,” I said.

When the relevant Tuesday arrived Robin and I joined the rest of the teams at Jolt, all of us keen and eager to take part in the café's first Monday Night Quiz. Because it was a music quiz, we decided to call our team “The Show and Tell Overture”.

We failed to cover ourselves in glory. We answered “The Bay City Rollers” to every question except when we answered “Iron Maiden” (for the sake of variety, you understand). It turned out that we were almost always wrong and I think we came last. The real answers, we learned at the end of the quiz, were “Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders” except, of course, for the occasional question where the answer was “The Osmonds”. But despite all that, we enjoyed ourselves a lot, and Robin won a magnificent spot prize by standing up in front of the crowd and singing a song con brio. Her prize was a biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, a rock'n'roller who we both admire.

“Thank you,” she said as she accepted the book. “You've really made my Tuesday.” She got several puzzled looks and a round of polite applause.

We had no chance to rest on our laurels once the quiz was over. Not long after the quiz night, we were booked to go to a Science Fiction convention. These things, as any fule kno, always start on a Tuesday and finish three days later on Tuesday. This year, New Zealand's national convention was held in Rotorua, The City of Terrible Stenches. It's built on an active thermal area, and the delicate aroma of hydrogen sulphide is its most distinguishing feature. It's a place that Robin and I both love to visit. Therefore we booked ourselves in to the convention hotel for an extra long stay, leaving on Tuesday, four days after the convention finished.

As conventions go, it was pleasant enough. But the real purpose of our trip was the exploration of Rotorua and its environs. Some friends of ours were also staying on for exactly the same purpose and so, one bright Tuesday morning, we all set off to visit Hell's Gate, one of the most active and dramatic of the region's thermal parks.

Hell's Gate is a perfect place to visit on the Tuesday after a science fiction convention. The landscape is appealingly alien. It has boiling hot pools and erupting waters, with temperatures well in excess of 100 degrees Celsius. In places, the crust over the magma is extraordinarily thin and it is an eerie experience to think that you are standing only a kilometre or so above boiling rock.

There are steaming fumaroles, huge deposits of sulphur crystals and New Zealand's largest mud volcano. The volcano is very active and is constantly changing its shape and size as it erupts. At the moment it has two grumbling cones, though this is subject to change without notice

There's even a huge hot water waterfall just in case you fancy a shower!

“How about it?” I asked Robin, but she declined.

“I don't shower on Tuesdays,” she explained gnomically.

“Ah!” I said. “That would explain the fragrance.”

She hit me with a calendar. A big X marked the spot on Tuesday.

Most of the thermal features were named by George Bernard Shaw when he visited the place early in the twentieth century. Although he was a professed atheist, many of the things that he saw struck him as being of genuinely biblical proportions. He felt that the area truly matched the descriptions of the gates to Hell and so he named it accordingly.

We spent a very happy Tuesday inhaling sulphur fumes, sneezing a lot, and being bitten all over by the swarming sandflies which seemed to flourish in the hellish conditions. I was sure that I spotted Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies, peeking out at me from between the foggy inferno that enveloped the two erupting pools known as Sodom and Gomorrah...

The next day being Tuesday, we decided to visit Hobbiton. It's a drive of an hour or so from Rotorua.

The original Hobbiton set that was built for the Lord of the Rings movies was only a temporary structure and it was demolished when the filming was over. But that didn't stop the fans! They came to New Zealand in droves, seeking an authentic Middle Earth experience, and every Tuesday saw hundreds of them staring rapturously at the empty pastures where once the movie sets had been, much to the bewilderment of the cows and sheep cropping the grass.

When the set was re-built for the filming of The Hobbit, the owners of the land insisted that it be a permanent structure so that they would have a legitimate reason for charging the tourists an arm and a leg to come and gaze upon the round doors of the hobbit holes.

Before our tour of the village began, we went to The Shire's Rest Café for refreshments.

“Oh look,” said Robin with delight. “the first item on the menu is second breakfast. I'm having one of those!”

“I always knew you were a hobbit in disguise,” I said. “The extraordinarily hairy toes are a dead giveaway.”

Downstairs from The Shire's Rest Café is The Shire Store, a souvenir shop full of hobbitiana. “I wonder if they sell hobbit feet slippers?” mused Robin.

“Only on Tuesdays,” explained the lady behind the counter.

After two consecutive very active days, we decided to reserve the next Tuesday for more leisurely activities. All the wives in our party went to a spa for a gloriously hedonistic mud bath and a massage, while the husbands retired to a pub that sold locally brewed beers where we intended to do a lot of quaffing and to put the world to rights. I was astonished at the number of carefully crafted beers that the pub had on tap. It seemed clear that a system would be required so that we didn't lose track of what we were drinking. How would a hobbit solve this problem, I asked myself? The answer was obvious. I started with the beer from the tap on the far left and gradually worked my way towards the right. John, my companion for the day, started with the beer from the tap on the far right and moved towards the left. We bought alternate rounds for each other and only once did we drink the same beer simultaneously. Perfect!

Eventually the wives turned up, pink and glowing and overflowing with euphoria.

“That was a fantastic massage,” both the Robins said to me as they came through the door. “I do enjoy going to the spa. What are we drinking?”

“I've no idea,” I said to them. “The next beer for me has to come out of the second tap from the right. Or possibly the fourth; there seem to be twice as many taps as there were when we first arrived. Either way, it's your round.”

“OK,” they said. “What a perfect way to spend Tuesday.”

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