Usually I am up reasonably early, take off for a walk once I’ve finished my chores, returning refreshed and ready for ‘work’. But, lately, I have been staying in bed longer, reading, not wishing to face the world. I do go out eventually, masked while walking, and steer clear of others coming too close. I look at at the clouds, the sea, and the trees still in blossom, to help lift my spirits like they usually do. But my heart is heavy, as the Delta strain of Covid has hit New Zealand and we are in lockdown again. I miss my family terribly. One week has become two, and I have done little artwork or writing. I knew I had to shake myself out of this slump, and gave myself a little drawing project to complete.
It all began with me couriering an artwork to Melbourne, as three of my son’s planned trips to New Zealand were cancelled through Covid, and I had intended to pass this over to him when he came. The artwork was intended as a gift when they’d finished house renovations, a year or so back, but I have been a bit slack. You see, I had promised him that I’d do an artwork as a house-warming gift. I did get as far as sketching the idea, but then I just didn’t get around to doing it. That dratted procrastination thing again. But, when I spotted a print in an art store window, by an old tutor of mine, I knew it was the perfect present, and I brought it immediately. I packed it securely for travel, and sent it off to Melbourne last Monday, anxious about it surviving the trip. I was thrilled when Duncan phoned to say that it had arrived safely and he and Harriet just loved it. I got to talk with my granddaughters too, which was great, as It has been a long time since I’ve seen any of them. Then, Beatrix the eight year old said, “Can you draw a sloth for me, NaniViv?”
We continued our West Coast travel northwards. The weather was no better by the time we reached Punakaiki, and it was clear I wasn’t going on any horse trek here. I have only ridden a few times, but always thought that I’d like to learn to do it properly – some day. Probably never now. And then there was the scenic flight over the glaciers which quickly became an unfilled whim, but once we walked around the Punakaiki (or Pancake) rocks, we held no remorse for losing those dreams.
It is true, that the weather was lousy the day we drove to Franz Josef, and the road flooded in patches, but we arrived safe and sound at the Alpine Glacier Motel. It was hard to realise that mountains surrounded us, as the sky had lowered to road level. Rain, and hunger saw us drive to Alice May’s restaurant for dinner (although it was a mere 5min walk), for rain continued to fall. This is THE place to go to dine, for three reasons: the friendly staff, whitebait omelet, and to read the legend of Alice May. One of twelve children, from Hawkes Bay. She worked as a hotel maid, fell pregnant, and was rejected by her lover when she lost the baby, when he’d originally promised marriage. She shot and killed the man, and was imprisoned. The Socialist feminist movement petitioned widely for her release, and she was, six years later. Later, after moving to the South Island, she married Charles O’Loughlin and they had six children together. Jennie O’Loughlin, the owner of Alice May’s restaurant, is one of Alice’s many grandchildren. Amazing story.
Last week, Kerry and I headed off for another South Island adventure, with family this time. No bike riding, but a train trip on the TranzAlpine, through the Southern Alps to the West Coast. On the day we left home I dressed for the cold, boots and all, as Christchurch, our first destination, is always colder than Auckland in winter. On the plane, I felt like a swaddled babushka and sweated in my seat, while I looked out in awe at the snow-clad Kaikoura Mountains on the East Coast. What stunning views. And luckily I had the window seat. And, yes, I was the photographer this time.
I was thrilled when my brother phoned a few weeks back to ask If I would like a painting of our Dad’s. It is an oil of the Hutt River looking towards the far hills and had hung on various walls of houses my mother had lived in since my father’s early death. When she died ten years ago, the painting came into my brother’s possession, and now, it has found its way to me. There is mention of this painting in my recent book The (almost) True Story of a Man Called Jack.
This blog recounts our three-day cycle experience, travelling on different trails in Central Otago. There were five couples and tour leader Gerard in our group. All had biking experience, and with e-bikes, which was good. On our first day, it was cool to start, but a fine day, and all were eager to get going. First, we were shuttled, with our bikes on a trailer, to Oturehua, and the start of our ride.
Since leaving my last post unfinished, I have been travelling in the South Island, and look forward to sharing those exploits next time. To recap, the last library photo shown was the disassembling of the old upstairs library in September 1956. The image above is the relocation of the new library in the main street: it is this reincarnation I would visit for many years to come.
We travelled inland through the heartland of Hawke’s Bay knowing that a large house was awaiting us to rent. With the hideousness of the previous day (see Part One) still bugging me, I prayed that this place would suit our family’s needs. The scenery was uplifting, though the hills were their usual arid summer colour. It was hard to believe that there had been torrential rain and flooding a week or so back in nearby Napier. But this region bore no apparent scars.
We had long thought of finding a holiday place in Hawkes Bay big enough to take all our extended family. And as I knew how hard it was to find accommodation in that area in the summer, we booked through bookabach agency a year earlier. When the time came, we were very sorry that our family in Melbourne weren’t able to come because of Covid restrictions, but the New Zealand bunch were still keen on the holiday, making us a total of eight. We were travelling by car from Auckland, Wellington, Whanganui, Palmerston North (all in the North Island), and from Dunedin in the South. We were to be staying at Haumoana, right near the beach; a favourite surfing spot for the children when they were teenagers. But that was not the only reason we chose this spot: it was also close to bike trails, great produce, and wineries – and the house could sleep up to eleven. We couldn’t wait to get there.