Land Of The LETS Green Dollar
Copyright � James Taris


Yuji, the Japanese violinist, was the closest I could get to finding Tom Cruise!

5. Saturday, March 29
(New Plymouth)

Choc Chip Crisps And Brazilian Specials

Joan loves to cook. And she loves cooking from recipes. I'm sure I've put on about 3 kilos in the last 3 days, but her meals are simply too hard to resist. And she's noticed my penchant for her Choc Chip Crisps (try saying that 3 times quickly!) In fact, she keeps baking them as fast as she can just to keep up with my appetite for them!

And today I had a Brazilian Special. No, girls, not one of those. This was a recipe for homemade bread that Joan found and whipped up for us. It was a very dark, but light bread, made from a mixture of plain and wholemeal flour, but with the unusual addition of coffee and cocoa, hence giving it a Brazilian flavour.

John and I finally went out for a drive at around 5.30pm. I'd spent almost all day writing the start of my book (Land Of The Bright Green Dollar) on the computer, so I was glad to fit something else into my day. And what a night we had!

Looking For Tom Cruise

Bryan and Joan gave us a map of the area and showed us where the filming of The Last Samurai was taking place. So John and I thought we'd go looking for Tom Cruise. The filming location had just moved from Pukekura Park in the centre of New Plymouth, down to the town's beach at Port Taranaki.

The large red and white sign saying, "SAMURAI DRIVERS � Drive Slowly", assured us we'd found the right place. And from the locked cyclone gates we could see the partially constructed Samurai Village in the depths of the pavilion. It had been raining all day, and it was now nearly 6pm, so we weren't surprised that there wasn't a soul in sight � let alone capture the prized glimpse of Tom Cruise. So we got back into the car and ended up at the Breakwater Tavern.

John and I ordered a pint of Red Lion beer and wandered over to the vacant pool table. But as we set up the balls, a local lady came running over and told us that she and her husband were currently the champs on that table, and we'd have to challenge them in a game of doubles if we wanted to play pool � our shout, of course. But when she tried to get her hubby over, he wasn't so keen. Nevertheless, she was determined to retain ownership of the table, so it would have to be a game of singles. I started off well by potting a ball in off the break, and the game continued until I was about to pot the black ball to end the game. She still had 4 balls on the table, so I was pretty cocky by then. But while potting my last ball, I'd snookered myself near the corner pocket.

"Watch this," I said to John, as I bragged about how I'd hit the black ball by shooting across the cushion and cross bouncing out of the opposite corner pocket and onto the black ball. And I would've done exactly that, except I hit the ball too hard and it bounced out of the pocket and off the table!

"I win," she said, and rushed over to her husband's table at the other end of the pub.

"Where's she going?" I asked John. I was just expecting her to take a 2 shot penalty. But the pub rules in New Zealand said otherwise. I wish I knew that before I played my shot!

Two young Japanese men stood out plainly amongst the local crowd. These would have to be actors from The Last Samurai. So John walked over to find out. Within seconds he was summoning me over. Both Yuji and Tommy (not his real name) spoke very little English, but were very pleased to here me mention some of the Japanese cities I'd been to last year, such as Fukuoka, Oita, Kagoshima and Nagasaki.

Yuji was carrying a large rectangular plastic case.

"Is that a samurai sword?" John asked. But it wasn't. It was a 'ko kyo', or Japanese violin.

"Can you play it for us?" John asked again. Yuji grabbed a barstool and sat with the base of the ko kyo resting between his thighs. Moments later it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop as the entire pub stopped and listened to Yuji playing his instrument.

"We place the violins under our chins," I said, trying to make a little conversation.

"You play violin?" Yuji asked?

"Me? No! But my son does. He's learning violin at high school." But I don't think he really understood me.

"Give him your business card," John suggested. So I took my card out and gave it to Yuji. He looked at it very carefully.

"What son name?" he said, scanning my card again.

"My son? My name is James Taris," I said, pointing to my name on the card.

But he was obviously baffled. He pointed at my picture on the card.

"What son name?" he asked again.

"That's not my son!" I exclaimed, after I realised his confusion. That's a picture of me before I grew my beard!

Until then, I didn't realise my beard made me look old enough to be my father!

This article is taken from the ebook,
Land of the LETS Green Dollar

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