Mum slipped into my dreams…

Mum came to me in my sleep last night. She slipped into my dreams.
It was kind’ve timely as today is the Anniversary of her passing. Just writing that makes my eyes prick with tears. The memory of that day floods back and the huge gap she left. If it’s possible, it also fills my heart with joy, that she was able to go on her terms and that we had such a wonderful long time with her.

Yesterday I spoke to a group at A Social Impact Summit 2020, about food security and gardening, among other things. I focused on ‘making do’, motivating, educating, and encouraging acceptance of success and failure… all things which increase our resilience, independence and self sufficiency. All things I learnt at Mum’s side. She lived that daily, and because I have set up a new facebook page called ‘The Patchwork gardens’ to share this, I started my talk by sharing Mum’s patchwork quilt… and a minute or two of tears.

That quilt represents so much to me. The huge effort it would have been as she did this in her later years. The fabric was remnants of not just my youth, but hers also as she had used all the stored pieces that had been squirreled away for years, and that out of her seven children, she chose me to gift it to, as sewing had been a skill we had shared.

I’m ashamed to say I had looked at it after she passed and considered it inferior. She had used a mish mash of fabric of all different textures, so a woolen square sat uncomfortably beside a rectangle petticoat, which was puckered by a strip of stretch knit, which struggled to stay flat rubbing up against a piece of cotton. She had used some fabric so thread bare it tore on its first wash. She had made pieces odd sizes, so there was no pattern or rhythm to the whole. She broke all the rules of quilt making, and as I looked at it again, I realised she hadn’t made it to be judged, or to be perfect. As in life, she had used what she had at hand to fulfill a need. Nothing more, and therein was its beauty. It shone with love and I will treasure this gift that reminds me ‘things don’t have to be perfect to function’.

Mum's Patchwork Quilt represents 
Things don't have to be perfect to function.
Mum’s Patchwork Quilt

In my dream, I was standing on the side of the road waiting for something. Looking ahead and looking back. A bus maybe, or someone coming? It was a young me in my teens with long, long legs and a short, short skirt, with unruly black curls and all the uncertainties of youth, as I searched the road ahead.

When suddenly I recognised Mum walking towards me smiling widely. It was a young Mum at about the same age as she would have been when I was in my teens. It was like we had both slipped back in time. She was slim and dressed beautifully with her own unruly black curls, just like mine. I recognised the way she moved. She was relaxed and happy with that certain swing, her head tilted slightly to the right and a smile I knew so well.

I was so happy to see her, I beamed back at her. Was I waiting for her?

When she got close she opened her arms wide and hugged me close before holding me out and she said. “Look at you. You look beautiful!” Then hugged me tight again…I felt her, and then she was gone. Like a puff of air. I had felt her body warmth and then it was empty space.

Life has been so busy. It’s like I’m on a treadmill but sometimes it feels like someone slipped it into high gear and I can’t get off, I just have to pick up my speed and keep running, running, running.

I woke and lay there quietly thinking about it. It was just a fleeting snip in my dreams but had felt so real. She was giving me a message.

She was reminding me to hug myself. To stop and smile. To not always be in a hurry. To not always walk pressed into the wind. To not always be looking forward and back, but to enjoy the moment. The here and now. To slow down, and to sometimes be the child…

Thanks Mum. I was listening…

Posted in Garden, Health & wellbeing, Whanau=family | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Grocery shopping – Tick

As the designated shopper since Covid 19, I find myself after a long sojourn, once again in the role I played for many years. Doing the grocery shop.

Somehow, we seem to have some role reversal, where Monie runs the kitchen and I merely cook from time to time. I no longer bake, and indeed sometimes don’t even care if I eat, finding sustenance in the simple pleasures of wine and cheese…but then I don’t have five children to feed, and she does.

Despite it being a busy day and I’m really tired, I text her, “I’ll shop after work. Send me a list.” Preferring pen and paper myself, she texts me a ‘notes app’, which I open on arrival at the supermarket. I look down the list as it opens up on my screen. “Sorry Mum she texts. It’s quite a big list, just see how you feel”. This is the third time I’ve had to do this and yet I still can’t remember. Does the tick mean buy it, or does it mean its in the pantry, so get the ones with no tick. She doesn’t answer the phone. I look down for clues and not being entirely sure of the pantry contents I text. No answer. I’m in a queue so I have time, but when my turn comes up, I obediently follow the line and head into the bright lights. It’s a strangely silent world now. One shopper per trolley and signs to remind you this is all business, no stopping to chat, don’t touch anything you don’t intend to buy, remember the distancing rules, but above all, ‘Be Kind’.

I stare at the screen that tells me to get asparagus. Ridiculous price, I’m not getting that, as I make a mental note to tell Monie when Asparagus is in season. Zucchini, also too expensive. Mushrooms …not getting. I’m sure there’ll be some in the paddock. Broccoli is not ticked, but surprisingly cheap at a $1 per head, so I throw three in the trolley as I wished I had sown those seeds. Red onions are ticked, yet brown are not. I’m sure it should be the other way, but do as she says. Cherry tomatoes are ticked. Can she be serious. I still have heaps in the garden! Tsk tsk. Must tell her.

The nuts and seeds section tells me to get cranberries, apricots, nuts, unsalted and more, along with almost every kind of seed available. What the hell is she making! Almond slivers and almond flakes, coconut threads and coconut flakes. I think there’s heaps of coconut in that jar at the back shelf. I shake my head. Not getting that. ‘Lolly things.’ What the hell is lolly things? I read on. ‘Assorted Lollies’, ‘More lollies’. Is it someone’s birthday and she’s planning some amazing cake? She actually makes amazing cakes. I read on. Almost everything is ticked. Shit, I know it’s been two weeks and the kids are baking up a storm, but seriously. I try to phone again. No answer. Jesus these kids are glued to their phones yet not answering. Shaking my head I grab pre-packed bags of what she’s ticked.

Fish section. Muscles. Hmmm, hate shelling these bastards, but she does do a nice garlicky wine soaked entree I remember as I lick my lips thinking. Bacon, yep. Chicken for pizza? I look around wondering what the hell she means by this and decide to ignore it. Looks like we don’t need any meat, but then cocktail sausages are ticked. I can’t remember where these live in the supermarket and trying to keep the 2 metre distancing, I check out all the blimmin shelving and at the end see a huge pack. Oh well. It’s someone’s birthday after all, and we can freeze any extra.

Now the dairy section, and she’s ticked almost every kind of cheese known to man. I stand there unable to believe it. Does she know how expensive this stuff is, as I gather up edam, grated, ricotta, mozzarella. Not getting mozzarella I decide as I chuck it back. I’m sure I saw that in the fridge. Mercifully parmesan is out of stock. She hasn’t ticked feta. My favourite. I get that too.

Now I can’t believe it. She’s ticked all the flipping yoghurts. Coconut, protein, greek…there’s sour cream, milk and butter. Next aisle…chips, corn chips…this going to be a party alright. I’m trying to think who’s birthday it is, when I see coconut water. WTF! I’m really going to have to talk to her about budgets. I’m glad I have a credit card on me. This is going to be expensive. Coconut cream, coconut milk, almond milk, reduced cream, condensed cream, milk powder…its like she’s preparing for the flipping amegeddon!

Shopping list

It gets worse…there’s every kind of spread, marmite, jam, honey, peanut butter. I am shaking my head as I check to see if she’s texted me. Cereals, every flipping cereal is ticked too and then all the canned goods. Pineapples, peaches, and then I see almond flour! Spelt flour, white and brown. I stand there looking at empty flour shelves, strangely grateful as the trolley is now pretty damn full. Cocoa powder, Baking powder, Baking soda. I look at my phone again, but if I’m doing the ticked, when I should be doing the not ticked, I’m in bloody trouble as I have a trolley full of stuff I’ll have to return. I’m really tired and can’t find some stuff and starting to not care. I slide my finger up the screen. All the sugars feature, white, brown and golden syrup, maple syrup and even bloody rice malt syrup which I have to hunt for. Did the devil Three year old press a whole lot of ticks while Monie wasn’t looking I wonder?

Raisins, dried fruit, more bloody cranberries and dates…I’m starting to worry she has a problem. She hasn’t even ticked toilet paper! I get two. Chow chow and relish, well I’m not bloody getting that, I just made ten jars of pickle for Gods sake!

Peanut, coconut, and canola oils. I get my favourite olive as well, and then move onto every kind of canned goods on the market. I balance a few different ones onto the top of trolley as a couple of young girls come past each pushing a trolley. “Woah!” The first girl exclaims as she passes and the second turns back to look at my trolley with everything balanced precariously.

I stop and look down the list and there’s every kind of herb and spice, bar one, almost all the pastas… That’s it. I’m seriously done! I’m not getting another thing, and if I have to come back tomorrow I will, but we need to have a talk. I swing by the chocolate aisle and slip a couple of large Whittaker bars down the last gap and head to check out. $659 and I didn’t even get any wine!

“Its taken me two hours!”, I start up as I come in. “I’ll unpack” says Monie as she heads downstairs to the car. “That list was ridiculous, I shout after her. Was I supposed to get the ticks or not ticks?” Incredulously she looks back at me. “The ‘not’ ticks.” We look at each other for a second. “Monie…ticks mean yes… get”. “No, she says, not sure whether to laugh or not. Ticks mean we have it already.”

Arghhhhhh……Monie tells me Ren’s coming to stay. She can do the groceries I tell her. There’s nothing to eat, as we try to fit several flours and sugars into an already full draw!



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Four Weddings and a Fortieth…

It seemed like there had been no weddings in the family for years and years, and then this year we had four. Two on Gilbert’s side and two on mine. One at almost the top of New Zealand, and one at almost the bottom. Two were on tropical Islands, both of which we had never visited before. I consider a wedding something very precious, and to be invited a real privilege, and here we were invited to four!
The first inkling was a ‘save the date’… a full year out!

Wedding no 1…5th January 2019

Blair and Chad’s wedding followed hot on the heels of New Year. They had picked a truly beautiful spot, but also one that was special to their whanau, as it is where they holiday every summer.

We had booked a bach with Tara, and the drive North was perfect, stopping for a snack, drink and stretch of legs a couple of times as well as a food shop just before the last big supermarket was behind us.

We arrived at the bach and were pleasantly surprised as it was just perfect for us!
Along the front length was all the living spaces that opened out onto brick paved areas and outdoor furniture. Fully fenced so we didn’t have to worry about dogs or kids, getting in, or out.

Tokerau Beach

Beach access was immediately across the road and was a typical stunning Northland New Zealand beach. At the end of the beach was what was locally referred to as ‘Coke a Cola lakes’. The tannin’s in the peaty bottom gave Rotopokaka Lake its colour, and the bubbles rising when you disturbed the bottom was uncanny indeed.

Rotopotaka boys

The weather was the best you could have asked for, and a colourful gay wedding at the local winery was superb. Blair and Chad looking gorgeous and happy, with fabulous music by one of the best DJ’s ever… I danced until my hip could take it no more!

Wedding C & B

A beautiful touch was a handmade beaded flower the boys had made over the year for each guest as a way of acknowledging their indigenous roots. Representing also hours and hours of work, it certainly was an honour to be sharing the day and this gift.
Karikari beaded flowers
We had surround sound Cicadas as we bid farewell to Karikari Peninsula. I watched the neighbour’s children making their way down to the beach as we drove away, buckets in hand and towels over shoulders. Their holiday has just begun.

It was a quiet start to the long journey home. Each lost in our own thoughts of the impressive Carrington Estate, the Bach stay and the unpretentious yet still stunning Tokerau beach where the children boogie boarded, tuatuas were collected and we all got our dose of sun exposure for the summer. Agapanthus lined the sides of the road, salt tangled our hair and a sand laden wind whipped into ears, leaving behind a reminder of the annoying bits about sunbathing at the beach.

“Tell us a story Nanny, the children begged as we drove. Tell us about when you went boogie boarding. Mum says you’re the queen of boogie boarding”. “Well… I started, at another beautiful beach called Tawharanui, we often stayed in a Dept of Conservation site, when all the kids were little. There was no Bach, and no fancy stuff like we had this week. Just a long drop toilet and a hose for water, plus our tent of course. The tent was fitted to a frame on the trailer….As they listened with eyes wide, I told them about sliding down sand hills so steep Chee ended up at the Drs with a bruised back. The screams of delight as we rode tall tall waves that slammed into the beach cliffs, only to find there had been a tsunami, but with no radio, we never got the warning. Collecting tuatuas and falling to sleep at days end to stories by candlelight, and finding hedgehogs and possums had raided our stores over night. That was a holiday to remember…just like this one.

Wedding no 2 – 21st June 2019

Save the date and the wedding invite came via facebook. Messages came with gorgeous pictures of sunny climes on a tropical Island a short flight away. Vanuatu. It was quite a decision, as we could only be away a few days with work commitments!
Leading up to the flight I was pretty excited and packed with sunbathing and cocktails in mind. At the airport the group settled, waiting for the last stragglers to arrive. A couple of gins later we headed down to board, finding we were at the front of the plane, while the bulk of the wedding party were at the back end. Once settled and a meal in us, the stranger next to me asked for another beer. The hostess smiled and said “Lucky last” as she handed it over. I had to smile thinking about the crowd down the back!

With about 50 of the wedding party on the flight, many of them children, six I know were under 3 years, made for an interesting four hours. Lindy said there must have been a few people on board that wished they’d been booked a different flight, but we never heard a thing apart from the occasional run away up the aisle being retrieved.

I nipped up to the loo when I saw the unoccupied sign light up and the flight attendant (Ni Vanuatu), smiled, and nodded at me as I went to open the door. Duane had jumped up right behind me and the flight attendant told her to go to the back as this was for first class seats only. Oops. ‘I obviously wasn’t dark enough’, Duane complained later.
As I sat back down, Livie, who had most of her family already there for a different family wedding on the same day, chatted companionably, confiding she would probably need to get up several times to squeeze past me as she had a dickey bladder that needed a regular empty, and that the Dr said she should just tell herself she doesn’t need to go when her bladder demands it. “I tried it, she said looking me in the eye. It doesn’t work! I can lie there trying not to think about it but I still have to go”, she implored. “Aha…” I listened sympathetically. Ten times a night. Wow you must be so tired I thought.

She introduced me to her partner, and then her Mum and Dad behind us. Hello! they smiled through the gap in the seats as I turned. We were buddies by the end of the flight. Turned out we were staying in the same resort, and I was introduced to little Liv who was waiting with pizza for everyone when we arrived. How lovely that they shared it with us. We were all family now! It was ten pm and at the invitation to meet at the bar…we politely declined, and made our way to our room thinking, we were not going to keep up with this crowd!

As dawn broke and the bird calls began, in the distance the strains of hundreds, perhaps thousands of roosters, all competing for the air space and their bit of territory began. I had a Lagoon view and it looked beautiful. By 7am I was sitting on the outside table and chairs. While cool enough to need a shirt over my bare arms, I could tell the day would be hot with a fair bit of humidity. I called Duane, and we swam before breakfast which was a buffet treat, before relaxing by the pool and the occasional dip to cool off.
The wedding day dawned with typical island perfection, and we made our way across the lagoon by boat, arriving to a stunning venue of white, white sands with hot sun, and a warm breeze. Tables and chairs were set ready and gorgeous guests in their beautiful best, with tans perfected before they even left New Zealand’s winter.
Wedding M Marinka and Alex
Marinka and Alex made a stunning bride and groom, and except for having difficulty understanding the local celebrant, it was something special. Tables set on the sandy shore of the lagoon, regular cocktails being delivered to tables, a sumptuous meal that even now, months later I can remember details of, finished with the DJ playing Van Morrison’s ‘Brown eyed girl’ before we caught our water taxi back across the lagoon. We made our way past Livie’s wedding party long over, their marque being disassembled to the strains of our lot singing across the water, and a fire walking display finishing with fireworks. It would be a much longer night for our group.
Wedding M end

It had been five days away but arriving at 10 pm on the first day, and leaving 6am on the last, it was actually a whirlwind three, and a very special memory, we felt privileged to share with Alex, Marinka and co.

Damen’s Fortieth – 14th July 2019
It was July, and Damen’s fortieth was soon upon us. He wanted ‘just us’. A time when we could all be together, and while Ren was enjoying Las Vegas, Chee and his four beautiful girls were able to join the rest of us for a few days. The kids were all ecstatic at the chance to be together again. Dinner was planned. Beds made and wine warming for a winter night in.
July 19 birthday night
“Are you the one who was so unhappy at having to wear a hand knitted jumper, you vomited on it?” Chee asked Damen after dinner…and so began an evening of ‘This is your life’, with Chee as compere. It was hilarious as we relived his childhood.
Nieces and nephews played the parts of invited guests. “Hey Damen, My family moved up from Wellington when I met you. Turns out our Dad’s were best mates when they were young. Nobody could tell us apart and we stayed mates right through High School.” Damen guessing immediately the answers.
Stories were told and gaps were filled in. Old videos played amid disbelief as the children saw their Mums and Dads at their age now. We laughed at hairstyles and clothes, thumb sucking and singing. We remembered old dogs long buried and discarded toys of another era.

The night ended with a magnificent birthday cake made by Amy. As our weekends all together are few, its a very special catch up where children pick up where they left off, time measure heights and achievements as months slip by unnoticed.

July 19 kids on tramp
Children picking up where they left off …Outside and Inside…

Jul 19 kids lounge


Wedding no 3 – 12th September 2019


The invite came via email and while an eon away, it was Bali, so some contemplation and saving was required. We arrived in the evening and had just settled in our hotel room, when Terese called to say she would collect me for the hens night. I had a quick shower and met the other girls at the pool bar before getting a taxi to the club where the rest of them relaxed after a day of cocktails and pampering. Looking like a cross between a fight club and a strip club, with the dance floor set up a higher, the top floor caged, and so many drunk young ones, I had never seen anything like it. They say you should aim for new experiences every holiday!

Breakfast was included and it wasn’t too bad except for the coffee that tasted like tar scrapings simmered. We soon found a cafe just across the road that became our local… for morning long blacks, afternoon beers, evening cocktails and delicious Indonesian curries for dinner.  All so cheap we felt quite comfortable relaxing there with overhead fans after forays into the world of Bali bartering. I felt like an over indulged tourist. Greeted with “Hello! Please look lady”. The bartering was far less aggressive than many other places we have been, besides I could hardly fit anything other than a kaftan while Gilbert happily stocked up his summer wardrobe.

Our hotel was tucked down a side alley. Apartments, villas, rooms, and many with their own pools and privacy. Our bathroom was open to the elements at the shower end, and on one night I was delighted to hear the heavy rain falling into our own private garden. I slipped out of bed and stood, eyes closed and my head tipped back, luxuriating in it. Fat rain drops slipping from the strappy leaves and running over rocks, before swirling away into hidden drains. Then the heat drying it all up by morning, so you wondered if you imagined it.

The Villa pools were heavenly. With the temperature at around 30 it was a perfect heat to get just hot enough to seek the pool to cool off and it was easy to lie out on the deck chairs till heated up enough to slip in again.
One day we hired a van for a group of us and delighted in the green, green, hot and steamy rain forests, coffee plantations and terraced rice paddies, as we drove through villages. Nasi Barak made for a  delicious vegetarian lunch. I requested a visit to an artisan market and was thrilled to find hand made silver smithed earrings to add to my travel collection.
Wedding Z Rice fields
We had our nails done at ‘Base coat’ with high tea on the side. The Mix and Mingle at Cliff house Uluwatu had us sitting almost suspended, cliff side in an incredible venue that overlooked the surf and beach, some 30 metres below with food and a bar tab that kept everyone happy.

Wedding Z reception

Wedding perfection was assured with a wedding planner guiding each step at a movie star venue with an expanse of green lawn, overlooking a long beach of waves rolling into shore, while a sun slipped down in a sky in shades of orange and red before dipping its head and gone.
wedding Z bike
A beautiful bride and groom, with their three gorgeous children, celebrated a perfect week. Beyond the strings of lights we were treated to a clear night sky and a balmy breeze, as we dined and danced, before the bus returned us sleepy to our beds.
We skipped the next days event of ‘back yard beats’ to just take it easy before being whisked home to NZ where we resumed our normal life and wondered if it had actually happened. We had certainly been spoiled, and we thank you Zhayna and Blair for sharing your incredible, beautiful week.
Only the ‘Tree of Life’ key tags I had bought for each of the grandchildren take me back to the warmth, the slipping out of shop keepers grasp and the tan marks, as I wash the gardens grime away, now back in my real world.
Wedding no 4 – 27th October 2019
With lots of staff upheaval at work we didn’t book for this, unsure if we would make it and it was not to be. Our last wedding for the year, Jade and Errol’s at almost the bottom of the South Island in Invercargill. I feel like I was there in spirit with the months previous planning hashed over our smoko table as Lindy’s Jade asked this or that? A different kind of wedding again.
Jades wedding
More country with the vows to be spoken in paddock 186, under the spreading arms of a tree with fabric draped. My vases joined others filled with lavender on tables and enjoying the photos later, made for lots of laughs. Pretty sad to have not got there to share Jade and Errol’s day but Invercargill awaits a visit some other time!
The Tree of Life…gift tags I made for each of the children.
Tree of Life
Representing to me how we are never alone. The trees roots representing those that came before us which have nourished us, even though we can’t see them, we are connected.
The biggest branches represent our parents and grandparents who protect us, whether they are in our every day life or not. Then we can see our Uncles and Aunties and great Uncles and Aunties, along with cousins in the tangle of branches.
In the flowers and seeds we have our future family. Those we have not met yet or maybe haven’t even been born, but they are there, part of our whole.
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Narla holidays in the Country

Just found this… I wrote it after Tara’s dog Narla came to stay. It went a bit like this.
Narla: Hi Paddy. WOW!  So much room, you should see my place, its tiny!
Paddy: Yeah…Oh don’t poo there! They like it on the deck or the path…true.
Narla: What? Thats crazy! My bitch hates it on the path.
Paddy: I know, but the old bitch here comes out every morning looking for Poo. I figure its easy to just put it where its easy to find.
Narla: OK…so just like here…on the deck?
Paddy: Yep…and the good thing is you don’t even have to get your feet wet…

Paddy: You’re kinda cute, wanna play a fun game?

Narla: Yep! What is it?
Paddy: Well I just come over your back like this…
Narla: Hey, get off me! I don’t like that game.


DAY 3                                                                                                                                                      Narla: Guess what Paddy! I found these little squawky things down the back. we should chase them. They can’t even run fast.

Paddy: Jesus, don’t even look at them. The old bitch gets really upset if you go near them. Its ‘the box’ for hours if I go there. But we can do other games.

Narla: I SAID… I DON”T LIKE THAT GAME, give it a rest already!

Narla: What are those huge things in the paddock?
Paddy: Giants, I don’t know, I don’t go there…they’re too scary, and the gate gives me a pain all over when I go through. I’m never going in there again.

Narla: They keep talking to me, but when I talk back that Monie bitch comes out and makes me go in the cupboard. I went in four times yesterday!
Paddy: Yeah she can be scary too, I keep away from her and be careful around the kids. The big one gets me into trouble all the time.  Wanna play a neat game?

Narla: If its that dumb one you keep trying …NO!


Paddy: Did you see the lightening last night? Man I was so scared when the thunder started…but the whole sky lit up.
Narla: Nah, I sleep in the garage. Not scary at all.
Paddy: I never get to sleep in the garage. Sometimes I  scratch the floor all night to try and get them to put me in there, but no!
Narla: Are you sure about the pooh thing. I did two for her in the garage so it would be super easy for her to pick up and she didn’t look happy aye. Cleaned it with that stinky disinfectant? I don’t know if I can sleep in there tonight with that smell.
Paddy: Plenty of room in my box. You can sleep with me tonight.
Narla: NO, and get off me!


Narla: I see what you mean about the girls. Blimin calling me in and shutting the door just when I get there. Then that Monie bitch comes out and screams at me! sheesh!
Paddy: Yeah, but we wouldn’t be locked up here in the box if you hadn’t kept trying to get in the house, ya dickhead!
Narla: How was I to know the kids were playing a game! Anyway I’m going. Your box smells like dead ants.
Paddy: Hey! WTF! How’d you do that.
Narla: Just pushed it… La la la…I love just running around here.
Paddy: Hey come and push it open for me so I can get out.
Narla: …push it yourself…ya dickhead!

Monie: Get back in the box and stop barking, ya dickhead!
Narla: Hey I was just talking to Paddy,  Oh Man…shes mean.
Paddy: Wanna play a game?


Narla: Can you keep an eye out for my collar. The Boss is gunna be cross.
Paddy: Who’s the Boss?
Narla: The boss at my house. Mostly it’s him, but sometimes, I’ve gotta watch out for her. She can be mean like Monie. I thought I was safe with no collar to grab, but Monie just picked me up and carried me all the way to the cupboard. I hate that cupboard. Smells like rubbish.

Paddy: Are you going home?

Narla: One day I guess. If I don’t have the collar I’m screwed tho.

Narla: Wanna play Paddy?
Paddy: Yep! My game?
Narla: NO! Lets just run around…
Paddy: OK.
Narla: Hey while you’re running around, can you watch out for my collar?
Paddy: OK
Narla: I’m gunna miss you Paddy Malone.
Paddy: I’m gunna miss you too Narla. Maybe we could play my game later?
Narla: No…


Paddy farewells Nala

Paddy and Narla say Goodbye



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Back to Nan Ling, China…

Twenty years ago today we went to bed with all our bags packed ready to leave for China in the morning. All seven of us. We were to stay in the Village Gilbert’s Father grew up in and experience the real China. The China of their heritage.
This is a snippet of what I wrote in my diary that day 11/3/99….
My extra, my cabin bag is massive and I’m hopeful I don’t get stopped at boarding. It weighs about 12 kilos! I have practised throwing it over my shoulder nonchalantly like it weighs nothing. While we have divied out some things, in the shoulder bag I am carrying all the main medicines, aromatherapy, homeopathy, basic medic kit, and all our travel papers.
It’s incredible how much I carried in that 12 kilos of cabin bag. In fact it was heavier than the bag I took to travel for six months on our Europe trip. That bag weighed 7.5 kilos!
I carried needles and medicines and prescriptions. Aromatherapy and all sorts of things we would never be able to take on board these days. Gilbert probably carried a swiss army knife! Times have changed in so many ways.
The blog which is daily for the most part is
If you tap on follow it will come to your inbox and you can check it out when you are free.
Its a public site, so if you know of anyone that might be interested. Feel free to share.
For the most part it is as I wrote it, daily in my diary, and occasionally I have guest blogs from others. The changes in China since that trip are massive.  I’m so glad now I was a keen recorder of events, as its been a great ‘journey’ to relive, and hopefully a treasure for the children to read and remember.


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T’was the night before Xmas…

Baby was due mid to end of December, the busiest time of year, so we knew we had to be organised, and organised we were!

A heater was sitting in the corner ready to plug in if needed. New baby clothes and blankets were washed and in a pile on the side board. A box on the floor contained plastic, sheets and towels ready for birthing. I made soups and broth, like I always do for the new Mum, and popped them in the freezer. We checked we had juice, snacks and lollies for the birth and prepared the children a pack as well each. Their eyes huge in delight at the goodies within.

…and yet every day I found new things I needed to get done ‘before’ the birth. Every night I’d take a walk through and check all was in place if Monie should go into labour tonight. Every morning I’d think of a new thing we had forgotten to do and quickly sort that, then congratulate myself quietly, that we were so organised. Monie told me later she was doing the same!

The due date came and went, and we waited, hoping baby would come earlier rather than later, as who wants a Xmas baby? There is no control over these things however. Baby will come when it is ready. It got closer and closer to Xmas and with this being the year all the children come home for Xmas, Monie despaired that it might be a Xmas baby after all!

Xmas Eve morning, we had an inkling baby was on its way, and while Monie relaxed into gentle contractions as the rhythm began, the children played, Lauren finished our Xmas food shop and we prepared the house for the rest of the family to arrive.

Mattresses were laid out in the family room for the little ones and the Xmas tree left in the centre of the room, with its lights twinkling as darkness fell. Labour was in full swing when Chee and Annie arrived from Christchurch, around the same time as the midwife. Stories were read to settle the children, but the air was filled with something special. Something almost tangible. It was different to the usual excitement of Xmas Eve.

There was just 2 year old Kaea to settle, who would NOT leave her Mother, and though so very tired, she knew something was different. No amount of coercion would draw her away, till Monie said, she couldn’t do this anymore. She couldn’t labour and hold Kaea, who was trying to drop off to sleep on her shoulder. Expecting this may happen, I scooped her up, and kicking and screaming, I held her tight to my chest and walked to the end room, as far as I could get from her Mother who now had work to do. I swung her as I sang loud and strong so she could hear me. “This ole man he played one, he played nick nak…” She kicked and fought until I got to, ” he played ten….” and then I knew she would settle, as she ‘hu hupped’ herself into sleep mode. When I got to “he played seventeen…” by which time I was making up crazy stuff, she was dead asleep, and I knew I could sit down. I moved to the family room and asked Wheriko to adjust the lazy boy and fell into it, continuing to rock and gently humming, cause if this one woke it would be all over.

Chee pulled back the sliding doors about then and I will never forget his eyes. It reminded me of him as a ten year old when something special was about to happen.
“Has she had baby?”, he asked excitedly. “I don’t know mate”, I answered, “I’ve been with this one. Did you hear a baby cry?” “No, he answered, I just heard Monie say “Thank God for that!” We both laughed and then Lauren popped her head out to say baby was born. All was well and did I want to come up? I smiled and said “No, Simone needs all the time she can get, so I’ll stay here with this monkey as long as she will sleep on me.” Monies older children headed up to greet their new sibling before coming back to sleep. It was 11pm, so we had just made the deadline to not be a Xmas baby, though just by a whisker!

Baby at Xmas 18

An angel right from the start!

I rocked gently with Kaea’s weight against me, her breath relaxed and regular, as the Xmas tree lights twinkled, giving the room an ethereal glow. I realised I had not read the ‘Night before Christmas’ to the children this year, as I usually do before bed. The children, all sleeping topsy turvey, turned in their sleep, while ‘sugar plums’ danced in their heads. Well, maybe not sugar plums. Maybe ipods….but I reflected that this will be a Xmas Eve we will never forget.


We sent out a note to guess if it was a boy or girl. Can you guess?

It was 2am before I got to have a cuddle, breathing in his new born scent, after Monie had a shower, as they all settled into bed and readied for sleep. Aunty Ren, then following Monie’s instructions, sneaked Xmas bundles to the ends of beds before putting loads of washing on. I took baby in to Gilbert and woke him as I laid the tiny sleeping bundle beside him. A little chubba, like all hers have been, weighing in at a hefty almost 10lbs.

So while I had crowed this would be our thirteenth grandchild, and the eleventh I would be at the birth of, I actually wasn’t at his birth, and Lauren had ably assisted in my steed. The rest of the children arrived through the morning, and though it was a wet and miserable night baby was born, so the day had also dawned. The table was set and food spread, just as the power went out. Candles were lit, and once again I marveled at the beauty of ‘family’ as we sat and shared with an extra babe in arms, in the soft candle light, as thunder rolled quietly over, drowned out with by the laughter within.

I couldn’t help but think how different and beautiful each birth is, and while I wasn’t physically there in the room, I was able to be an important part anyway, and that’s what makes a home birth even more special, as we surround the birthing parents with a tight net. Each filling roles as they are needed at this most special of times. I am so lucky that I am able, and welcome, to be a part of those early, early days of each of our grandchildren.


Sunny days followed with play and BBQ’s

…and Leilanis fourth birthday.

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Sleeep, sleeeep, sleeeeep…

Its 2.30am. I toss and check the time again. 3am. God the nights are sooo long. I remember Mum telling me this and in my carefree ignorance I nodded, as I was often awake with babies and would sometimes nod off to sleep at the table while she talked to me, in the knowledge that there, I was safe. She would watch over them till a scream from one or the other would stir me and I would make moves to head home. Pacing the floor with an upset baby sometimes had me longing for daylight, when it seemed a little easier to manage and some evenings I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed. We had different reasons for moaning about a long night. No doubt she knew mine and I now know hers only too well.


I slip into slippers and a dressing gown, and head out quietly as I jealously look over at Gilbert deep in slumber.  I look at my friend the moon and note its size and shape as I try to become more knowledgeable about its effect on me in particular. “Oh hello, I smile, fancy meeting you here!”
Red sky
Red sky at night, Shepard’s delight. Red sky in the morning. Shepard’s warning. I note the sky has a strong red tinge. Is 3am. Night or morning? I wonder as I pour a cup of chamomile. It’s pitch black and I can’t spa in the dark alone now. Once, years ago, I heard on the radio there was someone prowling around and to be vigilant. We are miles from anywhere, but still. As I lay in the spa that morning I was sure I heard breathing. I held my breath. I was sure I heard footsteps. I lay even more still and peered into the night. I was sure I heard a shuffle and felt eyes peering from behind me. I leapt up, flung the lid over and was taking the steps in a single leap as my towel swung behind me. The door was shut and lock pressed as soon as I was in. I stood there peering back at the night. Perhaps it was a cat, I thought hearing my ragged breath.  Almost definitely a cat I decided, but since that night I cannot spa in the dead of the night alone. I type up a story for the children that is going around in my head and as 5am ticks over, I hear Gilbert rise, wait for him to exercise and while he pushes himself to his limits, I laze around in there, pretending I’m doing stretches.

I keep all the lights off as I slip in so I really appreciate the last of the night sky. Its full of stars. Absolutely full. We are lucky to have not too much light pollution from nearby street lights or buildings. Its 5.45am when I hear the first bird call. Nothing answers him as he tests the night air and I wait for at least another 15 mins before there is another call. I push the jets on and after ten minutes they switch off and as if that has given them permission, the air is full of birdsong.

I’m out and quickly dressed before morning jobs are started. Gilbert asks me what time did I get up. “3 am,” I say as I look over at him. He knows I’ll be exhausted tonight. “Its because you think too much”, he says. “If I wake, I just say to myself, ‘sleeep, sleeep, sleeep’, until I just fall back to sleep” he tells me. “That way no thoughts come into your head to wake you up”. I look at him and wonder how he came up with that stupid idea. Could it actually work? We leave for work at 7.30 as the sun is streaming across the garden. Its going to be a beautiful day!

Post Script: I tried it and it does! It stops thoughts coming in and waking me up even more and its so damn monotone and boring, I soon find myself dozing off again. Now I’m wondering why he didn’t tell me this sooner, being I’ve spent a fair number of years  wandering around the house like a prowler at night…

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A perfect end to a perfect day. 

After waking at my normal time and reading for a bit, I got up late. It was my birthday after all. Weather forecast had a bit of everything coming, so I was thinking of a lazy day. Perhaps finishing my book and Tara and family might come for lunch. She wasn’t sure but would let me know. I had said I wanted no fuss. We’d have a party in the summer time. It’s too blimmin cold this time of year.
I watched Simone packing all sorts of goodies into the chilly bin as they planned to meet friends for morning tea at the park, but she assures me she’ll be back for lunch, and my scones. That’s odd I thought. Morning Tea with friends on a Sunday, as I watched container after container being loaded in. How could they even eat that much for morning tea? “Who are you meeting for morning tea?” I asked Kahu as I made my porridge. “I don’t know” Kahu said with a quizzical smile looking up at me. That’s strange I thought, as I buttered my toast.
When, with great fanfare Tara burst in the door with her children close behind, wearing party hats and a special one for me. “Oh you’ll have to get changed, she noted, looking me up and down, and don’t muck around ’cause we’re leaving at 10 on the dot. “Where are we going?” I asked. “I don’t know, she answered, we’re waiting for a call”. “Pardon?” “Hurry up Mum! Get changed, get changed!” she bustled me off. “Make sure its ‘active wear’, ” she shouted behind me, as I headed up to the bedroom.
Chee, on speaker phone wished me happy birthday and the rules were thrust into my hand on my return, to discover we were going on a treasure hunt. Tara had by now whipped the kids into a frenzy, as it was decided who was to be in which cars, seat belts on, motors running and we waited for a text. Simone left in a flurry with Gilbert, getting away before us, as Tara and I contemplated the first clue.
I was rural when Nanny T went to me, and I still am rural too. I gave reading, writing and arithmetic, which can help you get out of the poo. Need to hurry to me now, no one should be here as it’s Sunday. I’m en route to uku water, if you’re coming from Puke Hill way. Even though nanny hasn’t been with me, since before she became a teen. You’re all welcome to come and spend some time, and see a place Nanny has been.

“Puni School?” I looked at Tara. She didn’t seem so sure. “Its got to be” I said as she hesitated at the corner waiting for more info. Beep the next text came in…
– How much does anchor 1 litre lite blue cost at Jay and Hansas old place? 10 points
– what was the 3 digit code for a 1 litre lite blue? 5 points
– take a group selfie at the Mauku school with the sign in the background. 10 points
– take a group video at the Puni rugby club all singing a song! 20 points
We quickly turned right so as to pass the dairy en route to Mauku school and I raced in with Lagi to the fridge with our party hats on. I snapped a pic of the 1 litre milk and smiling broadly, waved cherrily to the staff behind the counter.
“Do you reckon we can phone a friend?” Tara asks as I’m racking my brains for the code. I had almost erased twenty years of owning a milk distribution business and all its now useless detail. Despite searching all the recesses of the filing cabinets in my brain, I came up with nothing. I dialed Damen’s number. “Hi Dame, How are you?” “Good”, he answered warily. “I was just thinking about the milk run and what the codes were for the milk. Like a 1 lite lite blue, I continued, as if I had all the time in the world. What would that code have been. I was just wondering mate.” He gave a little chuckle but hesitated. “Just a clue mate, just a clue”.


We try to remember the codes for milk

“Well, do you remember a 2 litre?” he asked. “Ummm 500? or 501”. Silence was on the end. So was a 1 litre 511, 512. I reckon its 512? Damen was still quiet. “Might be”, he volunteered. “Thanks Mate!” 512 seemed the most likely, but there was a nagging doubt. What was the order. Breakfast then blue or blue then breakfast. Did lite come before green? God we lived and breathed these codes…how could I forget that!

We arrived at Mauku school, where the children went to play centre, as Monie’s group snapped a pic, and we were taking ours as she wheel spun outta there. Debating what the song should be, it was decided Happy birthday would be the fastest and as we arrived at the Puni Rugby club, they were driving off. Shit they were fast and where’s Renny anyway! We jumped, out raced through Happy Birthday and cursed seat belts as we checked everyone was buckled up.
Pulling in to Puni school Monie’s group were getting out, so they took the points for first there. Ren arrived soon after and we meet Paul for the first time as she is teased for her late arrival and non ‘active wear’ get up as she wears a gorgeous deep green, thigh high dress and knee high blue suede boots on bare legs. Milan peels off into her group and can’t keep his grubby shoes off her boots, much to her horror and our delight, as we all negotiate our challenge of taking four balls over the jungle gym, tapping the green ribbon for extra points, before letting them go down the slide.
Ren’s group do it in 6 minutes as Tara whispers we have a definite advantage not being first on this one, as we watch them stumble at every problem. Monie’s team is next and when the way is clear I have a go at the jungle part and swing off only to discover what was incredibly easy when I was 5, is now incredibly difficult as I am hanging inert, unable to move forward or back and simply have to just drop to the ground. Our turn is next and with a fair amount of cheating we manage to do it in just over 3 minutes but Monie’s team has just edged us out, so we are placed second.
Back in cars Monie has gone to the bottom driveway for a quick exit and Tara attempts to block the other driveway but Paul slips up on our right side as Ren winds her window down and yells out “Give way to your right” and gives us the finger before winding it back up. “What!” Tara and I look at each other when suddenly Monie takes off and Paul immediately follows as the next text comes through.
When Uncle Damen grew out of his clothes, he gave them to Tara to wear. Then Tara she said “you ave them Chee”, who gave them to Ren with care. For you see at this place there was no Aunty Monie, she simply had not yet arrived, and so Mum and Dad and their so far four children with a German Shepard lived inside. So head up on East and then take a turn, up to the great big tall tree. Find Mum and Dad’s first big purchase, and go and have a look see.“Our house at Totara Ave” I tell Tara. “Go faster”, Lagi encourages his Mum. “No, she answers, we don’t break the speed limit…” The next text gives us our tasks.
– What are the opening hours of the delivery doors at the old Woolworths? 10 points
– who used to be the store man in the back of Woolworths? 5 points
– group selfie with 2 blue 2s at 222 in the background. 10 points
– group photo at Bledisloe park playground. No one can be touching the ground and the photo needs to be taken by someone else so everyone is in it. 25 points


We shoot around to the back door of Countdown and while I’m still trying to open my phone to camera, to take a pic of the hours rather than writing them down, Tara yells out, “Got it Mum, as we pull away. Who was the storeman?” We are both racking our brains and I can’t believe I can’t remember it for the life of me. I keep trying to remember his wife’s name hoping that will trigger his. It begins with a T. “Was he PI? Toa?” Tara yells at me, “Tia? I’m sure it was Toa, or like Toa” she demands. I feel like if I don’t try too hard it will just slip into my consciousness, but it doesn’t. Dammit!
The next one has us completely stumped. 222. what the hell does that mean? We both have no idea. We decide to carry on as we might get to the next spot first and get those extra points anyway. Wait a minute we have to get a pic, taken by someone else at the park. Monie and co are already there. Damn there’s no car parks, we lament as the play ground is full of families. Tara shoots past Monie to the next lot of carparks and is about to slip into the only free one when I yell. “No, it’s for disabled!” “Good to see our ethics are still in place.” Tara laughs, swerving out again and parks on the side. “Get the kids up on the seat”, she yells at me, running over to a woman with a toddler. She hands her my phone as we climb onto the seat and Tara quickly runs back, but slips in a mud puddle that covers about 4 sq metres and deep enough, that as she slides in, a wave almost comes in before her. She lies completely still and I get off and step into the puddle and stretch out my hand. “Are you alright ?” I ask. “Yep”. she answers tentatively as she expels the breath she had been holding and then takes my hand to pull her up. We step up onto the seat and I am holding out a muddied hand as she turns her back slightly to the camera so the pic gets it all in. An old towel from the boot is stretched over her seat and we are off again.

Astanding on the table

Tara’s back is covered in mud as she slides in for a pic

We take a pic outside our old home and delight in how beautiful it looks. The leadlights and new extended veranda and French doors. I remember the wide hallway and we can see they have added a huge new bit at the back. I almost wish someone is here so we can peak inside. I glance around the houses and remember Jack and Rosemary next door and how we chatted over the fence as we both hung washing out. Connie and Tory on the topside with the swimming pool and old Fred and Maureen in the house opposite. There’s Keitha and Dave’s on the corner looking every bit as grand as it did and memories flood back of our early days. The sound of children’s laughter and play as they nipped between houses. It was a real street of families and what a great start to my life as a Mother surrounded by wonderful strong women.

A totara ave

Outside our first home with the new and improved veranda

Wheri asks for a photo to be taken of her on her polaroid instamatic camera. I sneak behind to be ‘in shot’. Sorry but not sorry! Hilarious as she watches the photo develop and she’s looking closer to see whats behind her.

It’s Sunday lunchtime now and there’s barely a soul to be seen on what was such a busy street of young families with a healthy mix of other children’s Nana’s and Grandpas that we all happily shared. Tara takes us up to the bush as I tell the story of when Uncle Damen went missing and was found after a couple of hours and how frightening it was. I tell Tara there weren’t many days that I didn’t walk up here. A five minute burst of fresh air or quick wander through the bush on a hot day or an hours picnic on the grass at the edge. It was my sanity in the craziness of four children born in seven years and the fifth, Simone, born soon after we left when Damen was nine.

AAt the park

Tara’s activity is to collect bits from the bush and decorate frames that we slip our Polaroid Instamatic shots straight into.


A Lagis note

Nice little comments are added to each pic. Awww, Thanks guys….


Its a fun interlude before we stop for prepacked lunch at a different park. One that is a couple of acres and full of swings, slides and a flying fox, with a bike track and heaps of families enjoying it. We leave enough time to stop at McDonalds for coffee and the next text comes in.

On the side of the hill, where it all began. The home of many, and one Trish trash can. A basic home, kitchen with dirt floor. But much laughter and happiness, never wanting for more. So now all these years on, to the Burrow make haste. For the next stop and activity, there’s no time to waste!

– What is the street address of the place Uncle Chee was born? 10 points
– how many of Nanny T’s kids and moko were born there? 5 points
– how much does it cost for an anchor 2 litre blue from Pravina’s old shop? 10 points
– what was the 3 digit code for a 2 litre blue top? 5 points
– take a group selfie outside the Indian hall on Ward st showing as many teeth as possible. 20 points
“Johnies, I’m sure of that!” and we pass the hospital to be sure of the street address. Did many a visit there I did! Not only to deliver our babies but years of helping other new Mum’s get started with breastfeeding. I used to give talks on ‘being a new Mum’ and even did one a day after delivering one of ours before going home.

Agroup pic

Monie’s group get their Blue top 2 litres

We dive into Pravina’s old shop and they laughingly tell us the other two groups have already been. My hopes are dashed at being first there. We go the long way to get a selfie at the Indian Hall and don’t even take seat belts off as we take our selfie while still in the car. We’ve realised thats how Monie is gaining time on us. We are laughing aloud and still trying to remember what Woolworth’s storeman’s name is when we round the corner and see another car coming down the hill. “Thats Monie, I yell at Tara, Put your foot down so we get there first”. Tara floors it and we are shrieking with laughter as we arrive at the same time but Monie with the right of way, skids in blocking our entry to the house and we have to go in the top driveway. We jump out of the cars all laughing when Johny appears at the doorway, looking a little perplexed. No doubt wondering what the hell all the commotion is. We are all talking at once and he is smiling. “Of course I know its your Mother’s birthday, he smiles. I was going to text her soon. Come in, come in”, he steps aside as we confirm no one has told him this is happening and that we all should appear. Ren’s task is…” We are to reinact the first meeting of Gilbert and I, fact or fiction…


Sara and Johny are enlisted to judge first, second and third. There’s points to be considered after all. My group look at me. “Surely you remember?”. “Well, yes….We met at a dance at the local hall, I believe they were playing Van Morrison’s ‘Brown eyed girl’,” I added mischievously. When something reminded me we had met many years earlier. In fact when I was three and he was six years old. Gilbert’s Father had asked my Dad to help build his steel framed shed and someone switched the power back on while Dad was completing the wiring. He yelled as he got shocked and Graham, who about was 11 years old was standing nearby, quickly raced over and switched it back off. So as Gilbert and I apparently were there, that’s our first meeting!
We act it out with Tara playing Grandpa Louie getting shocked. I’m Goong Goong and Tara shakes very convincingly like she is actually getting electrocuted. Lagi is playing Uncle Graham and switches the power off. Leilani decided she doesn’t want to play act this afternoon. All three plays are hilarious and Johny and Sara leave the room to confide and return with us as the victors, and who cares what happened to the others…
Its pouring with rain now and we know the next clue is about to come in and are readying ourselves to leave. Then it comes…

Roast beef sandwiches warmed in microwave, rhubarb, or mince and vege pies in her speckled oven tray. A lovely warm smile is guaranteed, when she meets you at the front door. Sometimes, without her false teeth, but love and great conversation for sure. A racing car driver, who never really grew old, stories of his adventures will forever be told. It’s always a good time to call in and say hi, where they both lie together looking up at the sky.
Remembering Mum, Ren starts to cry as lightening cracks through the sky and we all realise its the grave side we need to go. The next txt beeps and we see our tasks.
– Group video on the top of puke hill telling a joke. 30 points
– how much for a head of broccoli from the vege shop at the the roundabout on Manukau Rd, opposite the new countdown? 15 points
– how many people have scored a perfect 300 at the ten pin bowling alley at the cossie club? 25 points

“OK, I say, its too wet to go to the graveside with the children. How about we give that a miss and go straight to the Cossie Club?” Everyone agrees. and we jump in the cars ready to sort out the task points. After a quick joke up on Puke Hill, we drive down. Suddenly the rain clears and the sun streaks amazingly through the sky. “Left here to the grave side”, I tell Tara. “But didn’t we say we would skip that bit?” she asks. “Bugger that, I say. It’s stopped raining and we need those extra points.” Tara whips up the road and soon we are at Mum & Dad’s grave side, lost in our own quiet thoughts. “Nana would have loved this”, Tara says as we make our way up to Gilbert’s grandfather’s grave. Its looking a little worse for wear as Mum tended that head stone and many others for the close to forty years she tended Dad’s. I decide I should come and spray wet n forget on it, as we head back to the car.
The Cossie Club is a great diversion for the kids who are all rather tired now and we don’t even have to give them any money as they play with all the games happily. Its a welcome rest for us all as we laugh about the treasure hunts we used to organise for the kids. There was the time Gilbert and I organised a rally just like this. We ended up for a swim and BBQ at Miranda hot pools.

“You can’t get more than 300 can you?” I ask the girl at the counter hiring out shoes and balls. “I have no idea, she answers. I just started here and you’re the third person to ask me that!” We relax for a bit and then the next text comes in. Man am I tired and so ready for a drink. I ask Gilbert if he knows if we are ending at the village bar and he immediately and surprisingly says, “Yes” . He’s not very good at keeping secrets I remember.

The journey, well it’s almost over, and you’ve done so well to be here. Time for some kai and surely a drink, maybe a wine or a beer! So teams, make your way to The Village, not a town, in a place that’s no longer so small. Where a dairy with fnc is now a 4 square, where paddocks are now houses galore. When you’re there be sure to reflect on the hunt, I really do hope you’ve had fun. Get some more bonus points on the way then count up to see who won!
– Collect 3 leaves from hunters bush. 20 points
– group selfie where we stopoed to get choc blocks on the way to music lessons. Opposite the golf course. 30 points
– what colour is the house at number 20 Helvetia rd? 10 points
– why is this house significant? 10 points
– Nanny T’s grandpa would make what kind of lunch on a Sunday after church for them all? 
A) beef B) lamb C) chicken? 10 points
– was it A) roasted B) boiled C) fried? 10 points
No 20? That’s Nana & Grandpas I assume though I didn’t know the actual number. I never pass there without a glance in and remember them. “Through the roundabout, I tell Tara and go straight to the Village”. No Mum we have to get selfies at no 20. She stops and I try to take one inside the car as she’s furiously texting and demands I get out and do it outside. What the? I get out and do it and she yells out, “Take a better one!” so I go back. What’s her problem, she wanted to do them inside before? Seems she’s not in a hurry any more but I’m tasting a ‘whiskey n dry’ in my mind and can’t wait to get there.
“Now where’s the place we got choc blocks on the way to music….?” Tara muses. “I don’t care, I tell her. That’s the Caltex station, but we’ll go straight to the bar.” “No, no, we need the points!” she prompts. “Forget the points. Left here. We’ll take a shortcut.” I cut her off. “But Mum…” “Nah, straight to the bar.” “Well, we’ll stop and get the leaves at Hunter’s bush,” she decides. “Bugger the leaves. We’ll get to the bar first and get those points, I say. Quick left here!”

ARenny group pic

The kids are busily collecting leaves at Hunter’s Bush, hehehehe….

We pull up at the bar and the place is packed, even more than I expected. “Lotta people here,” I tell Tara. “Will you know anyone Mum?” Tara asks coyly. “I expect so, I answer nodding at a couple going in. Lots of locals here on a Sunday. Probably see Pete n Lee as well.” I go straight to the bar while Tara’s texting still. We get drinks and I grab one for Gilbert knowing they can’t be far behind. Let’s go in here, I tell her as we head into the other side. The place is packed and as I look around for a space for our group I see Lai, Josie and Puea, Willie…what the hang? As it dawns on me, I look back at Tara who is grinning from ear to ear. What a fabulous surprise! “I couldn’t keep her away any longer.” Tara apologises loudly to the group. “She wouldn’t do any of the last clues!” “Oh, who cares about clues.” I laugh as I move from one to the other for a kiss and a chuckle about the day. What a day it’s been. I’m actually buggered. It’s been full on since 10am when Tara arrived and so much fun. The afternoon sun is streaming in to the bar. Platters of food arrive and more drinks. What a perfect end to a perfect day.

A At the bar

Thanks Kids, I loved it! The only thing missing today was Damen, Chee and their families. We’ll all be together in October for the other part of my present. A garden working Bee. Can’t wait.

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The Anniversary of Dad’s passing

Dad died suddenly in a car accident at just 49 years old. 29th May 1978. It was an unbelievable shock. As I write that, I see myself then at just 19 years old. I was smack in the middle of seven children. Maree, the oldest was 25 with two babies and Marica the youngest was just seven. Barely a year before, Dad had handed me over to my new husband at our wedding.

Dad asks Nana to dance at Colleens 21st 1974

One of my favourite pics of Dad. At Colleen’s 21st. He absolutely loved to dance and here he has encouraged Nana, Mum’s Mother, up onto the dance floor.

As often happened in small communities news spread rapidly. Gilbert was truck driving and hearing it on the RT, came straight to me where I was teaching at a Kindergarten. I was in the sandpit with the children when I looked up. It was unusual for him to visit, but I just assumed he was passing. He stopped and spoke to the head teacher before coming to me and he guided me gently into the staff room saying he had to tell me something. I had a foreboding because of his manner, but could never have expected what it was.

Gilbert told me Dad had been in an accident and to get my bag, we would go. He held me as I cried, but couldn’t answer my questions. I pulled myself together once we got in the car. I needed to be strong for Mum, but became distraught when Gilbert turned South for home, not North for the hospital. Gilbert couldn’t tell me anything, but when I kept insisting we go to the hospital, he simply repeated, we needed to go to Mum, not the hospital. I didn’t get it. If it was bad like Gilbert was leading me to believe…I was confused. My mind couldn’t quite comprehend.

Johnny told me a little while ago he had taken the day off high school. Tony had said “if you’re not going to school then you may as well make yourself useful here”, and got him prepping at the takeaway bar he ran with Mum. Dad drove a van doing deliveries. It was called ‘Fast Freight’. Dad and a mate, Laurie Hyland came up with the idea. The fore runner of todays courier van, he would pick up and drop off stuff as fast as he could. This job was right up Dads ally really. Going fast was in his blood.

Tony told me recently someone had rung Mum and said they thought Louie had been in an accident so Tony and Johny raced to the site, and Tony quickly realising it was bad, told Johny to stay in the car. They then drove to Mum and broke the news to her. How hard must that have been.

Lindy told me she was at work when our cousin came and told her, so she and Chip dashed home.

Maree told me she had dropped Karen to school and Tracey to Kindergarten when she got a rather strange call from an old family friend, asking if she had heard any news. She hung up thinking that was a strange call, when Tony phoned to tell her. No doubt Marica and Michael have their versions too. Every detail so clearly remembered.

When Gilbert and I pulled up at home Mum was walking in a daze outside and I remember her telling me Dad had died in an accident. Dad gone? The whole thing was too much and as each of us arrived, we sat and cried. Stunned. Disbelieving through the next few days, nodding as people held our hands and told us how sorely he’d be missed.

That first day Mum handed me a notebook of phone numbers of people she needed to tell. She was just numb. She hardly spoke. We sat on the side of their bed and I sobbed as I relayed the news to old family friends with her at my side. Nobody could believe it. Neither could I, even as I delivered the news. Mum and Tony organised much of the funeral. Tony was just twenty two years old, organising his Fathers funeral. It wasn’t fair, but he stood tall and shouldered the responsibility.

Mum had wanted to see Dad, and against all advice, we went to the funeral home and saw Dad in his Sunday best. We lined up against a wall, as far from him as we could after being ushered in. Silence. We stood there unsure of what should happen. We had never done this before. Such a strange feeling. I stepped forward. Closer and closer until I was at Dads side and touched his face. So cold, and the colour was wrong. Much too pale for his Arabic features. I fingered the silk of his tie with tears flowing freely as I heard Michael in the background protesting loudly to Mum that I shouldn’t be up there. I shouldn’t be touching him. “Make her stop” he begged.

Mum however stepped forward also and encouraged the others too. We all cried, but I remember, you had to try and keep yourself in check. Not let it go, as who knows…You might not be able to pull yourself back in, and then what would happen? You might not get control of your emotions. You’d be a mess forever. We were grown ups now. It was alright to cry, but just little sobbing quietly. That was OK. Not a screaming heap, like I was fast falling into. I was perhaps the most emotional of all, and even now am the most likely to cry over anything. My reaction was possibly scary for the others. Crying was for babies, not adults.

We left Dad there. That was protocol. The next time we were with him was at the church, but now the lid was closed. That was how it was done back then. There was no more real goodbye. Such a stupid British stiff upper lip way of doing things. I bet my Croatian and Lebanese ancestors never sat around the edge of a room with a hanky dabbing at tears quietly, and I know my Irish ancestors definitely didn’t! How did things get so distant and cold? How was it we pretended it wasn’t a big deal. That someone simply wasn’t here any more.

The church was filled to the gunnals, inside and out. Speakers were put up so people outside could hear, though I was oblivious to that. I heard later it was one of the biggest funerals they’d had and police were diverting traffic.

I remember coming out of the church and there were people everywhere. It was all a blur as we went to the cemetery. That final goodbye as Dad was buried was incredibly hard. Poor Mum. Just turned 46 and Dad 49.

Someone, with the best of intentions took Marica away for much of the time. Crazy when I think now that the best thing is to be together, to cry and share stories and say goodbye. Not stifle it back as you make endless cups of tea for visitors, or accept cakes that stick in a throat too dry to swallow. Eating to fill a belly that has no hunger.

Car 49

I believe it was Tony Buller who got the bright idea to paint the leopard onto Dads race car and he immediately became ‘Louie the Leopard’.

In the race team he was often used to come up the rear and bump off the competitors, so other team members could take the lead. He was the one the public loved. The one they cheered for.

I wouldn’t say Dad was famous but he certainly was well known. Not for his doing any greater good, but for his escapades, dare devil-ness and even now when people hear his surname, if they were involved in the world of cars and racing, then they know of him. Was it weird that he was forty-nine when he died and his race car number was 49?

The older ones who really knew him are gradually falling away now, but the stories have lived on. When we meet any old timers they love to share a memory and they are most often funny. Its good to laugh. Its good to know he touched so many lives in a fun way. I’m sad now that I never really knew him as an adult. I was 19 years old. Had not long left home, just married and was really just starting to ‘know’ him. I was always sad that our kids never got to know him. He adored children and they would have loved him. Now we would never be able to hand our babies over proudly to him, their grandfather. Never to see him rock them as a baby, to dance with them, play his piano accordion or tell them his stories, and I’m sad for that future they lost with him.

At Red Dawson's wedding

Mum & Dad at Red Dawson’s wedding.  Chee thought Grandpa looked like a movie star.

But I was always mostly sad for Mum. She was heartbroken. He wasn’t the best husband. He had his faults and she knew them well, but she loved him more than words can say.

He signed off his last love letter to her before they married. “Goodnight little sweetheart. Yours till hell freezes! Louis x x x x x x x

She told me much much later that just before his death she was worried about something and she had cried. What if he wasn’t around to help her, and he had held her and said, “I’ll always be here, alright? I’ll always be here”. That was just a few days before he died. She told me it took her about three years to stop being so angry and sad. To stop crying herself to sleep. The nights were the hardest, bought up in a world where you ‘grin and bear it’. It was the first time in her life she was to sleep alone. All her life she had slept with her sisters in a double bed, until she married Dad. It wasn’t till she went to a ‘coping with grief’ weekend that she could move forward.

True to my form the tears are flowing freely as I write this. I still think of Dad as we pass the spot where he died, and I’m grateful for that instant death. His dog, Rom a constant companion, killed with him. Thrown from the vehicle. Micheal apparently retrieved him, and Johny helped bury him. That would have been hard too.

The roads are different now. Realigned and widened so visibility is better. I get why people want to put crosses at the place of death as that’s the place I most often think of him. I never visit the cemetery. There is no solace in the grey rows marching down the field, marking death, after death, after death.

I read the other day of an app you can get where you get a reminder every few days that you could die at any moment. You would think it would be a morbid sort of thing to get, but they say it makes you stop and smell the flowers. To be grateful for each day and all that is in it.

Why am I thinking about this now? Because the 29th of May 2018 is the 40th anniversary of his passing, and our family gathered with yet more great grandchildren at the old homestead where Dad grew up, where we also grew up as he took over half the farm, and where Johny and Sarah have since raised their family. We stood and laughed over shared memories. The amount of times we moved the bricks, how careful we had to be with the water, the parties and Lindy sneaking out the window…that was a pretty high window Lindy! I can’t help but feel like a young girl again there.

Dinner was peppered with some of Dads favorites like Fried rice and Nasi Goreng that he got Lindy to bring home from her job at the takeaways, and Lindy had made Mum’s Lebanese cabbage rolls.

We ohhhed and ahhhed over Johny’s alterations and imagined the house warm and toasty, when it had been freezing when we were children. We were amazed at the master bedrooms new ensuite, comparing it to where we had nine of us with one bath and toilet in the same room, when we were young, to the three or four bath/shower options now! Amy marveled how small the house was for a family of nine, while Lindy marveled that Johny had kept the same wallpaper in the back toilet that Mum had done.

We watched a DVD Tracey had made of the days of racing with Ivan Swain who pointed out he often raced Dads No: 49, and we laughed uproariously as Tony clicked through reels of family slides. Lindy with her blonde hair halo in her communion clothes, as she assured us she could have been a nun. Dad chainsawing right beside the washing blowing in the breeze. God, he must have made Mum angry!

Tony with his arms around yet another dog and Micheal in the go cart. Our children were amazed at all the pictures of dogs, as we argued over whether it was Rom or Peter or Fritz or Patch or Remus or Loot or Jason… Who would call their dog Jason? Most of our dogs were pre-loved and pre-named.

But most precious of all, we were thrust back to a family, with a heap of kids and extras around a table. Full of life and laughter. So many memories there in that old place. Thank you Johny and Sara for opening your home once again.

ASCD&O assoc

I just might give my memorabilia another outing May 29th. Dads badge from the very early stock car days. Auckland Stock Car Drivers & Owners Association.


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That will be several hundred thousand dollars, thanks…

Channie goodbye

We were Christchurch bound to help Chee and Annie move into their new, OWN, home. There had been much effort perusing available properties with pros and cons weighed carefully. Under floor and roof cavities inspected carefully with a builders eye, and no stone unturned when the decision was made. Offer was accepted and suddenly it was time. We were ready to pack and clean, unpack and admire.

They give cakes with mortgages now!

The new house has the requisite veg garden and a potting shed, glass house, slash tool shed made from old window frames. The very best kind. Outdoor spaces for summer shade and winter sun. A large new garage, with a door opener no less, almost brings tears of joy with its beautiful floor stretching metre, after metre into a long driveway, providing hours of fun to two little girls on their bikes.


Time to find new homes for everything

Tara n Sifa’s move into their city house was the same, but different. Fresh paint and new carpet with the promise of beautiful floorboards beneath it suited them to a T. A tiny footprint meant careful planning inside and out. Engaging a landscaper’s advice first giving clear instructions and in just a few short years, the outside looks amazing. An architects advice for the inside also meant a clear way ahead, and a budget.

Both homes with some room for improvement, they will do just fine for the next part of each whanau’s journey.

I remember well the homes we looked at to buy for our first home in 1979. Some were new and tiny, with their low ceilings and boring layout, skinny halls and no storage. Then there were the ones that had been remodeled to the point of not being sure where the front door was or how you accessed a lounge through a bedroom. Oh there were beautiful ones too that we could never afford, but then we were always drawn to the older homes. The bungalows with good bones and a top line of lead lights, solid timber doors and brass fittings. In our price range these mostly needed work, but they were loved family homes and spaces we could see ourselves in.


An old photo of our first home forty years ago

Our first home was built in 1940, had two huge bedrooms and a large sun room on the side with windows that pulled right back to make it a veranda and sat on a quarter of an acre with plum, feijoa, apple, pear, lemon, grapefruit and a walnut tree. The kitchen had pull down flour bins and was painted in mint green with brass handles and a speckled green bench. The lounge was beautiful with a semi circle window seat with lift up lids for storage and every room had jewel like multifaceted lead light windows that lit the room up with the lower afternoon sun. It cost us $27,500 if my memory is right!


Piano lessons in the hallway

The master bedroom was so huge, apart from our King size bed, we had a bassinet on my side, a single on Gilbert’s side and a cot in the far corner. Children came and went from various sleeping arrangements as they wished. Not every one’s cup of tea but it worked well for us. We completely renovated every part while retaining its originality. We oiled timber, repainted sills, re carpeted with a patterned axminster wool, and built a new rimu kitchen. Then Gilbert decided we needed to move. We were expecting our fifth baby and had always said if we moved, it would be to the country. With my new kitchen and double oven, at first I told Gilbert he would have to sell me with the house, but soon became excited at the prospect of a new beginning in a new space.

We gathered up our jars of feijoa chutney, plum jam and guava jelly made from our very own trees and moved to the country, to a house that resembled a bit more of a house ‘for removal’ as it had not long been plonked there, than a loved family home, and we started again. Also built in the 40’s but with sheep grazing right to the door, both inside and out was a bit of a mess. Thirty years later and only the lounge ceiling remains the same. Everything has been improved and for now it still meets all our needs. We have created some great memories here. Lets see what the future holds…

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