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.
With our lockdown almost over, Kerry and I got busy organising the trip to New Plymouth we had planned months before we’d heard the word Covid. Now were were in level 2, the government was urging Kiwis to travel within their own country; to help kick-start our local tourism industry, which had suffered with the border restrictions to overseas visitors. New Plymouth is within the Taranaki province (the Naki to Kiwis) and has many attractions. The most famous being its superb mountain; a mountain I’d only spotted from a distant road, or when I’d flown over the cone capturing a terrific birds eye view in a photo. Meaning always to go and walk around the foothills – sometime. That time had arrived! Continue reading
While out on my usual morning constitutional, I came across this house adorned ready for Christmas. How crazy I thought, as our Pohutukawa blooms and locals are heading to the beaches, that so many of us ‘grownups’ in New Zealand still treasure this chubby fellow from the North Pole. Look at him, abseiling, climbing a ladder, and parachuting in. I only hoped his presents weren’t melting in the sack. I tucked my phone in my pocket and kept walking, on the hunt to see if there were more interlopers from the North Pole around. Continue reading
I read Owls Do Cry by New Zealander Janet Frame (1924-2004) when I was in my twenties. Not that that is remarkable. What is remarkable is her personal story, which translates into fiction through much of her work, and this novel is no exception. The setting is the coastal town of Oamaru where the ‘Withers’ family face many hardships, including money problems, mental health issues, a disabled child, death, and grief. It is a profound book, touching and disturbing, for when Frame writes about ‘Daphne’s’ experiences in psychiatric hospitals, she is speaking of herself. There are passages which float between the lucid and the wild but Janet Frames’ writing carries the reader into these worlds using unique and brilliant prose. Continue reading
Monday I was back to the travel sketching class, where the focus was on people. People, faces, bodies, used to be my thing, but not consistently practising these skills has shown a gap in what I know I can achieve and what comes out on the paper. I cannot blame the pen. I have chased another passion (creative writing), too much, and let my art skills languish. By coming to classes, I hoped to renew the passion I’d once held for art.
The first sketch, was fine: a self portrait sketched from a phone ‘selfie’. I’d certainly not done that before, although I had done a few self portraits using the old-style reflection in a mirror. Luckily I happened to have a recent phone selfie, showing off my new glasses, as I could imagine the ten photos I’d have to take in class to get one I remotely liked. Continue reading
This week’s post is far from my usual offerings, as last Friday in New Zealand we were subjected to our worst fears: a right-wing racially-bigoted man shot at and killed fifty of us; among them men, women and children. This twenty-eight year old man went into two mosques in quick succession and opened fire with semi-automatic weapons and mowed worshippers down.
New Zealand is a small country, in size and population and up until last Friday, we had been considered a peaceful, fair-minded and friendly society. We do not have a culture of toting guns (including the general police force), and most of us would never have seen a gun, let alone held one in our hands. Guns, we thought, were the domain of farmers, hunters, special police force, the military, and countries other than ourselves.
We are not however, so naive that we close our eyes to the gun culture within our gangs, or have we been immune from the trauma of other gun-associated deaths; but these happenings, although horrific, are not generally committed by someone with a skewed ideology and an inherent hatred for those different from themselves. The man who walked into the mosques last week, had come to New Zealand intent on carrying out this heinous crime.
As a child, my parents hosted a Hungarian family who were escaping troubled times in their home country. They arrived in New Zealand with little more than the clothes they wore. This family was welcomed in by the small community in which we lived. The local Anglican congregation rallied around to find toys and clothes for the children, help the father find work, and a home. This is what I remember.
We had long welcomed other cultures into New Zealand and I was proud that my father had friends from India, Italy, France and Hong Kong. My mother taught new Dutch immigrants in her classes. This is what I remember.
To say our country is in grief, sums up the collective pall which hangs over us. Many of us have tears in our eyes.
Despite this, our country has rallied together, schools have held concerts, performed haka, sung their hearts out for the families who have lost so much. Others have written messages, left flowers, attended memorials, donated money. It seems we still have a lot more to give. This is what I’ll remember.
Last week I posted Don’t rubbish that first draft, and asked readers to share their thoughts on whether they thought the first draft of the train story I had written some time back, was better than the second draft, which is my post today. Please feel free to comment. Continue reading