Chameleon Chapter 8 - O'Neale!

Another great thing about out stay in Te Anau was the chance to spend time with Helen, Allen and the Prices, whose batch is next door.  We met Andrea first, who was about our age and had spent the last six years in Amsterdam.  She had just returned to NZ a few weeks before to pursue a screen writing career.  We met her parents, Neale and Joyce soon after.  A couple of weeks later the Prices had me and Sara over for dinner while we visited Christchurch.  After dinner got drinks Andrea and ended up drunkenly playing on this huge playground in the center of town.  It was amazing.   

The highlights of our time in Te Anau included: 1) Eating dinner at the bowling club with a live band playing rock music (and getting to dance to it!) and 2) learning how to play a uniquely amazing card game called ‘Oh Neale!’ The game is based off of the more well-known card game, ‘Oh Hell!’ which neither Sara nor I had ever heard of.  After the night at the bowling club, Sara and I sat down with the crew (Helen, Allen, Andrea, Joyce, and Neale) around a card table in mismatched chairs from around the house, and we learned about the history of the game.  ‘Oh Neale!’ came about one night long ago, when everyone realized that they had too many people at a party to play ‘Oh Hell!’ (there was no way to expand the rules of the game above a 52-card deck).  So, based on Neale’s insistence that it would work, they added another deck of cards.  They adjusted the rules as they went along, but with each snag that they hit along the way during the first game dealing with duplicate cards, they would turn to Neale and make him the authority/rule maker for the game.  From then on, it was the favored card game even when they had less people, and Neale was the man with the answers. 

They are a sarcastic, loving bunch and so they took it to extremes.  For example, if there is ever a dispute and Neale isn’t there in person, they will call him, no matter the time.  And they expect him to answer. 

In addition to the game being generally fun to play, that night gave us a unique look into the lifelong friendship that the families have formed.  The doors of their houses were unlocked and they visited each other without knocking.  They had met as neighbors in Te Anau, both being based in different parts of the country during the other times of the year.  They raised their kids together and continue to support each other in their current endeavors.  The joy and entertainment that they get out of spending time together, was very apparent.  Sara and I were so fortunate to get the opportunity to experience a small slice of what they built over all these years.  We felt lucky to share in their laughter and closeness – drinking beers, eating homemade dessert and telling stories around the table as we played.  I felt right at home.  Neither Sara nor I can remember who won, but it certainly wasn’t either of us, and it was probably Neale himself.  The aspiration we discussed that night was to attempt to make ‘Oh Neale!’ a global phenomenon, but to keep Neale as the authority on all disputes, as it seemed only right. I believe we may be official ambassadors, but I’ll have to check in with Neale about that…