Forty years on…

“Shall we go out for lunch?” Gilbert gingerly asks. Menopause is a bitch and sometimes I am too….

I can’t recall many wedding anniversaries we’ve celebrated, except for one that wasn’t the right date! I’m transcribing my diary from a time we took the children to China and stayed in the village Gilbert’s Father came from. I’ve just read in there that we spent our wedding anniversary in a hospital room lying on stretchers side by side. But that’s another blog all together! 

Life has been busy, with anniversaries many times slipping by unnoticed. This year the kids all texted, after no doubt reminding each other. I suppose forty years is a significant milestone with some couples having trouble staying together four. Not that it’s always been an easy ride.

In those days courting involved the girls wandering up and down the main street, looking in shop windows at things we could never afford to buy. While the boys hooned up and down the down the same main street in their cars looking at the girls. Sometimes we would meet in the milk bars where we had milkshakes, never coffee.

We lived just five kilometres apart and were a couple before I even left school. I guess we have grown up together. After five years we decided to live together. My Catholic parents loved Gilbert, thought it was a great idea and fully supported it. Gilbert’s Dad, in his broken English and with tongue firmly in cheek, constantly asked when he would be going back to China to get a wife, while Gilbert’s Mum, with a new strong Christian faith, had a blue fit at the idea of living together before marriage. To appease her we became engaged with plans for marriage soon and I chose a simple ring. We decided something simple would suit us for the wedding too, rather than a whole lot of drama costing a fortune. We had seen many thousands of dollars spent on what we thought was unnecessary palava.

It made much more sense to buy a sewing machine, rather than spend a lot of money on froth that would be completely useless the next day, so Gilbert handed me $200 for a sewing machine and the plan was I would sew our wedding outfits. I drew up a picture of the simplest of dresses and bought some fabric. Mum had some suit fabric she bought from a traveling salesman who also sold insurance. She bought insurance too by the way! I bought a suit pattern for Gilbert and started to sew. I made a very average job of his suit but a pretty good job of my dress, if I may say so myself. I wore a pair of sandals I had owned for some time. Well, who sees them really?

Gilbert and I on the big day

My dress was trotted out several times after in fact. I wore it at the end of the year at our teachers college graduation ball, after cutting the ‘train’ off it. I wore it again at a ball the next winter. If anyone else thought it was just a little weird, they never said so. I didn’t really care I suppose, and thought I looked amazing. Perhaps they were too polite. They were probably like ‘Jeez is she wearing her wedding dress again? That’s weird….’ and our girls have worn it to a number of ‘dress up affairs’. I talked about the making of these in my blog January 18 2017 if that interests you. 

Gilbert refused to marry in the church, so our wedding service was held at Gilbert’s brother’s house. The Catholic priest presided on the condition we did the Catholic, pre-wedding six week sessions with him. I can barely remember what we discussed for an hour each time, but vaguely it was about love, respect, contraception and God. We nodded at the right places and he agreed to marry us.

I sewed Gilbert’s shirt on the morning of the wedding which was a bit mad. Mum, Dad and Lindy arrived as I slipped my dress on. Fluffed up my hair myself and just as I was about to walk out, virtually make up free, our lovely neighbour popped in and handed me a shot glass full of whiskey. “One for the road”, she smiled. We had shared many a BBQ and drink with her and her husband, and a few nights earlier when we laughingly told them the wedding was going to be in a bit of a hurry, for not the usual reasons, and the budget couldn’t quite stretch to a ring for Gilbert. Jeff immediately took his ring off his finger and handed it to Gilbert and said “it’s yours for the day mate. You can’t get married without a ring”. When I had told Mum and Dad we were just going to use my engagement ring like a wedding ring, Dad went to a draw and plucked out an 18ct wedding band. Someone had left it behind years before and never came back for it. Perfect. We now had two wedding bands.

Dad, Mum, Lindy and I. Lindy can still fit her bridesmaid dress! 

We had a couple of photos taken just before leaving for the wedding. Actually…. just a couple. Dad drove Lindy and I to the wedding like a silly bastard in Tony’s red camaro. That must have been a tense moment for Tony. Haha! And just as we pulled up I spied Gilbert arriving through a side door, fresh from Rugby. Now that would have been embarrassing…

I spy Gilbert arriving out of the corner of my eye

The Catholic priest was ready and Don, Gilbert’s brother who was a Jehovah Witness, took his opportunity to stand up and preach about his God, as he was wont to do at any occasion. Oh well. We had written our own vows at a time when nobody did that. We had a couple more photos taken outside the house but never thought to take any gorgeous garden shots. We just lined all the family up and snapped before heading to the reception.

Gilbert’s family

My family

I was just 18 and Gilbert was 21 years old. The wedding reception was at the Puni hall, just across the road from where we were renting, metres from the primary school we had both attended, and a few kilometres from where we had each grown up. Gilbert’s rugby team and mates had put a hangi down earlier. A bit like a roast dinner cooked on hot rocks underground. After a couple of speeches, this was served out in the supper room, so you had to go and help yourself. Mum must have been having kittens. She knew nothing about hangis, so I’m guessing it was nerve racking for her. Dad had organised a whole lot of alcohol and Dad’s mate had offered to be DJ for the night as he had a turntable set up.
No complaints from us, we spent all night on the dance floor. I didn’t even go and change into a ‘going away’ outfit as was usual in those days.

1) we weren’t going away till next day and

2) I thought I looked gorgeous in my wedding dress. Why would I change out of that!

At about 2 am we staggered across the road to our house and fell into bed, only to be woken by stones being thrown onto our roof. ‘Bastards’ Gilbert muttered as we drifted off to sleep.

The next day we grabbed our bags and while most couples went to Whitianga or Northland for a honeymoon, thanks to Graham, Gilbert’s brother loaning us some cash, we flew to Fiji and what a great time we had. We swam and sunbathed and partied up with other guests. It was unbelievably hot and I kept getting blood noses which was a bit of a pain, but an old Chinese man went and got a eucalyptus leaf, rolled it up and motioned for me to stick it up my nose and it stopped immediately. I went off with a little stash of leaves and one up my nose and continued shopping.
This was where we first experienced cruise ships coming into port, when prices would be tripled for the time of their visit. That was an amazing trip and our first away from New Zealand. The year was 1977.

Today to celebrate, we wandered up one side of our town’s main street and down the other, chatting to the locals and enjoying the sunshine. We had a leisurely lunch and later movies and dinner. Life can throw out many challenges and marriage can be a roller coaster all on its on. Sometimes the troughs are deep and dark, while the highs pull you through. As long as we can recalibrate from time to time, we should get through the storms, one by one. 

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Survival, we all need a helping hand sometimes. 

As we begin to sit out Cylone Debbie fresh from Aussie, we are told to keep our survival kits handy and be ready to evacuate. I’m sure many people are thinking…’gulp, yeeah’. We all have great plans…or maybe we’ve done it and stolen from it and never restocked…or the tins have rusted and the biscuits gone mouldy… or the water leaked and everything got wet. All these things happened to our survival kit after starting it way back even before the Christchurch earthquake, and each major event has me thinking, I must restock it.

Right now I’m also thinking about those living in war torn countries for whom survival has been years long, no town council or relief aid to help them ‘get thru’. I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of stress some families endure. Lauren and her friend, Nadia have started a fundraiser called ‘The Goodness Gathering’, bringing people together for one day and for one charity, because ‘good CAN be built in a day’. Google this and it will work no matter where in the world you are. 
Take a look, The Goodness Gathering, because good CAN be built in a day! because like me, you will be impressed.

The children of Syria

That’s the beauty of technology and the other amazing thing is that when a lot of people come together with small amounts, they can make a massive difference to those who need it. The last one the girls organised funded wells in two Indian villages. That’s massive any way you look at it! I’m so proud of two young girls who are not just globally minded, but who are making a real difference. Now you have clicked on the link and know what its about, perhaps you can pop a few dollars in the kitty and watch that basket grow!

A little while ago I decided it could be a little exercise for our home schooled grandchildren almost 4, 6 and 8 years old, to get our survival kit sorted. I thought this would make me start it… and hopefully finish it.

We first sat and talked about what might happen if there was a disaster like an earthquake. The kids had been to the museum the week before and experienced ‘Earthquake house’ so it was fresh in their mind. We practiced dropping to a turtle, making ourselves as small as we could and covering the back of our heads to protect from falling debris. We started to look at places that were good to drop down to. An interior wall is good, under or beside a big piece of furniture could be good but is it under a big mirror or painting that might be hanging on that wall ok? You might not have a choice.

I told the children a story a lady told me. She was outside hanging out the washing when a big one came rolling through her property. The earth moved so much she could hardly stand and dropping down she grabbed the clothesline, but it too was swinging madly with the centre pole lifting and falling. We imagined how hard it would be to walk when the earth did this. We practiced what this would be like.

The lady said she in fact couldn’t walk. So if where you were wasn’t safe, we talked about crawling rather than walking. Then we practiced dropping where we were and crawling to a safer place and if we couldn’t crawl, then we stayed curled up like a turtle, just where we were. The kids took it very seriously. Its a drill they practiced at playcentre regularly enough that it wasn’t strange or silly. Annie and Chee told us their two little ones have never commented on the earths movements down in Christchurch. They have grown up with it and it’s just what happens. The Earth moves.

We talked about volcanic eruptions, after all this is most likely for us here and they knew about this too. They told me about lava flow and dust. They had seen it in the Earthquake house. We talked about tsunamis and flooding. Having no power, no toilet, no house! What would we do? We brainstormed. We could dig a hole for a toilet. We could sleep under the trees. We could make a fire to cook, We could catch rabbits and eat them. We could dig up stuff from the veg garden. How resourceful they were. Aaand what if we see someone who needs something? We share. So nice to see some of what we say goes in. 

Interspersed through the serious thought was nearly four year old Tai. “I know! He would shout. We could get a helicopter to take us away.” But what if the man with a helicopter doesn’t know we need help…”Hmmm, I know” his eyes all lit up like his answer was so going to work. “We ring the man with a helicopter and tell him to come and get us” But what if the phones don’t work. “Hmmm, I know! We could go to the fire station and tell them we need a helicopter.” But what if the roads are broken up? “Hmmm, I know! We run to the fire station and tell the man we need a helicopter”. But what if there is big flooding and we can’t even run on the road. “Hmmm, I know! We go to Koro’s and get his waka and go to the fire station and tell them we need a helicopter.” Pretty simple really…and where exactly is this helicopter going to take us? I didn’t ask but isn’t it cool that nothing is insurmountable. Young children are so solution focused. We should foster that, I think to myself.

We decided we needed to get some stuff ready and a couple of booklets were there to help as we made lists of things we needed. They say plan for three days but we decided to plan for five as we are in the countryside we can manage a bit longer perhaps and maybe the people in the town will get help first. I gave everyone areas to be in charge of. Tai, You’re in charge of toilet paper. We need enough for three days but maybe five, “Right!” He dashes off. Haha!  

Kahu you can be in charge of the medical kit. We went through the list and figured we had everything we needed, except eye wash and dust masks. In a volcano they might be needed. We lay all our medical stuff out before checking off a suggested list. Wheriko, you’re in charge of food. We all discussed what needed to go into these different bundles but one person was in charge of the final selection and pack. Baked beans are good. Pasta may not be so good, firstly it needs water to be cooked. We included some pasta, but where my last pack was almost all pasta stuff, this was mostly canned goods.

Wheriko checks out the bandage supply

We needed a minimum of 72 litres of water for 8 of us. I googled water storage and figured if we buy some which will be specifically for drinking, and bottle some of our own, the other will be for cooking and hand washing etc. Still need to buy some more for that quota!

Then we went shopping. OMG it was crazy trying to keep everyone on task. Checking use by dates. Deciding on sizes and amounts and best options. I couldn’t wait to get to the car. Exhausting business grocery shopping!

We packed into our click clack sealed containers, checking as we went. Last things to go is a torch and radio that doesn’t use batteries and dust masks. You’re in charge of that I told Gilbert over dinner. He smiled as if I was being a little over the top when I said dust masks. “What do you want dust masks for?” he asked. Volcanooooeees! we told him…and you won’t think its very funny if it happens.

“We’re coming to your place”. Tara told me when I told her what we were doing. Well I hope you’ve got a helicopter Miss. Just in case the roads are broken or flooded!

So……Ummmm, Our survival kits OK. Hows yours?

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I’m not really hungry thank-you…

“Mum, you better have a word to the kids about being grateful for someone making dinner, even if you don’t like it.” Monie called out to me when I came in from the garden. I called the children to me downstairs and told them Femi was coming to stay tonight and she had offered to cook us dinner. How lucky we were! They were excited. “But what if someone cooks something and you don’t really like it? Should you say you don’t like it?”, I asked. They looked at each other knowing the answer but unsure what to say, until finally agreeing that wouldn’t be nice.

“So what could you do?” I asked, they looked at each other for confirmation. “You should try it,” they agreed. “And what if you don’t like it after trying it?” I mused. After a bit of thought they had a few ideas….

You could say, ‘I’m not really hungry thank you’, or ‘Im so full, if I ate any more I might pop!’ or ‘Its delicious but I have already eaten thank-you’, or…. and the possible excuses ran off their tongues excitedly.

Femi and Ben arrived and what a delight they were. The children warmed to Femi especially and quickly trotted her out to the garden to show her the pond we had cleaned, down to the vege garden they showed the greatest enthusiasm explaining how we grew the seedlings and whose beds were whose. How they weren’t allowed to pick the peas or beans, tomatoes or strawberries yesterday or today as Femi was coming and we wanted a decent amount for dinner.

They took her by the hand and escorted her over the glasshouse step to count out the chrysalis. Sixteen in total now and still more caterpillars to turn. Femi was just as excited, exclaiming over each one in turn.

They were here to run a marathon and Femi decided she might take a quick run around the block before cooking dinner if that was alright. “Ohhh you’re gunna love it I tell her. It’s about six kms and a great mix of challenges. Some hills up and down, Through the village where I usually insist on stopping for coffee”. Not that I have ever run it mind you. I decided a long time ago that was bad for your health. There’s a girl that used to run for miles from around here. I’ve seen her all over the show over the last twenty years. Lean and fit looking with a pony tail swinging from side to side behind her. Now when I see her I shake my head. “See that? I said to Monie. That’s a good reason why you should only run if somethings chasing you.” She now has a funny hop walk thing going on in her running style. Her pony tail now swings in a haphazard lopsided way and her body is wrecked, yet she can’t stop. Her mind is pushing her past all good reason. No. I walk briskly and stop for coffee and cake. Sensible, you see. Sensible. 

But I don’t tell Femi this story. I already know she runs ridiculous amounts of miles and there’s no telling people who are gripped with mad obsessions. It would be like someone telling me not to turn my compost. I might hurt my back, but see the difference is turning compost gets you something. So it makes sense. Running makes no sense at all. But each to their own and it must’ve been a walk in the park cause Femi’s back, showered and in the kitchen in the blink of an eye. 

Dinner was soon on the table as Ben and Femi served up a delicious vegetarian risotto. Laced with olives and a salad on the side. “I hope you like it, Femi kept saying, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t like it. I won’t be offended” she declared. “If we don’t like it, one of the children butted in, we’ll just say ‘I’m not really hungry, thank-you'”. Oh I see Femi smiled. “Or we could say, ‘I’m so full I couldn’t eat another thing!’ Another butted in, or we might say, ‘I’m so full if I ate another thing I might pop! ‘ “Tai ended with a smile. “Oh, yes you could,” Femi agreed throwing her head back laughing hilariously. She must have wondered why they seemed so practised at politely refusing seconds!

“…and so what do you think Ben does for a job?” I asked the children when we started eating. Hmm they looked at him, studying his clothes and glasses and thinking hard. With quite a few clues we got there in the end. A statistician. It was hard to say the word let alone understand exactly what he did. He works with numbers and counts stuff. Geez. I could see they weren’t very impressed. Tried to talk it up but you know however you looked at it it seemed kind’ve boring. Not something they might aspire to I didn’t think. Haha! 

I swung around to Femi. “Guess what Femi does for a job now!” The ideas were flowing thick and fast. We ended up with she ‘draws stuff’. Ahhh, the kids nodded. Got it! As they wove their way through the risotto bypassing the olives. “Well yes, kind’ve right Femi explained. I communicate, or convey messages through pictures”, she expanded. The kids looked at each other blankly. “Like that picture, she quickly pointed to a logo. I work on things a bit like that”. Okay. 

Do you like your dinner? Femi enquired a little timidly. Yep, they agreed it was good. “Except for these, Tai said holding up an olive and adding it to his little stock pile. These are yuck!” 

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The Pond Clean

Tara looked at me strangely when I said I wanted to clean the pond out again, but as I explained it needs a complete empty and refill yearly. Last time was about eighteen months ago and the pump fell over at some stage and was now just pumping the water around in a swirl on the bottom. Perhaps still deterring the mosquitos? Maayyybe….

Not wanting to waste any water I bucketed out as much as I could of the green slimy stuff and watered around the garden, tossing it on the thirstiest looking, until I got it it down to just over a foot deep. I donned Gilbert’s beach shoes and climbed in. Acutely aware that there might be fish still there, I began to scoop up buckets full and pour the water over the rocks. I asked the kids to watch after I threw it to see if there was any flapping, which meant I would have got a fish in the bucket and I’d have to quickly scoop him up before he needed resuscitating. The kids weren’t sure how that would work, but Tai would yell out at random times. “Flapper!” which was code for “I’ve seen a fish” and when I’d straighten up quickly and look he’d yell out ” Nah, just kidding!” Little monkey did that a few times…Grrrrrr.

I wasn’t even sure if there would be any fish in there but a couple of times thought I might have felt something around my legs which was starting to freak me out a bit. Then I saw something quite big and the kids did too and they were getting a bit excited. “It might be a big fish or an eel,” one of them yelled. I stopped and got the mesh scooper and started to try and scoop up rather than bucket and then I got a glimpse of him and now the kids put the idea of an eel I began to think it might be. I wasn’t too happy about being a foot deep in water that an eel might be in, and began to think through how I might get myself out quickly if I suddenly wanted to, when he spun around my legs and did a couple of fast swirls in front of me. I screamed and Wheri started screaming and Kahu started screaming, so we had a reverberating crescendo while I flapped around trying to launch my self outta there, but ended up just sitting on the edge and lifting my feet up.

Nice clean water bubbling on the surface and a tangle of barbed wire

We ended up laughing like anything once we had finished screaming. “Why did you scream Wheri?” I asked. “Cause you screamed,” she laughed, “and it made me scream,”added Kahu. “I didn’t scream, Tai said matter of factly. I was just watching”. I wasn’t really sure if I could put my feet back in now but I sure as hell needed to get this finished tonight as I had one day off and a list a mile long of stuff to do, so steeling myself, back in I went scooping till I got him. A very large goldfish, I plopped him into a bucket of old pond water I had prepared earlier. A slightly smaller one soon followed and then five tiny babies, ‘flappers’ as Tai called them.

By the end I had both Kahu and Wheri in there scooping up the last bits of green water and then a quick clean of the pump and re set it up while the water was filling when I decided to check the pump was still going so climbed out. As I moved towards the shed I caught my leg in the barbed wire I had set at just a foot high around the pond to keep little ones out and immediately fell flat on my face. Both feet were caught and I landed with a thump on the rocks. I just lay there for a few seconds to see if all was well when Kahu asked quietly. “Are you OK Nanny?”, just as Tai began to giggle. I looked to the left of me as I spat out the bit of grass I had managed to bite and right beside my face was a big pooh from Paddy the dog. “Sheesh, that was lucky, I said to the kids, I just missed Paddy’s pooh.” Still completely flat face down I began to laugh out loud at which the kids joined in, imagining me face first in Paddy’s pooh.  

Monie, no doubt hearing the uproar, came out to see if I was alright and I marveled at how well I had fared as I extricated myself from the barbed wire which had torn down the back of my calf superficially. I put the barbed wire there to keep the kids out and in ten years, I’m the only one been hurt by it! I brushed myself off and we continued with our task. By nightfall I had refilled the pond, reset up the pump and potted up four tomato plants that I hoped would take us into winter in the glass house this year.  

Returning to the pond we gently scooped up the fish to return them to the water but we were gutted to see the biggest fish had died. Damn! The others were OK and we slipped them into the water with squeals of delight from the children as they quickly swam away. We turned back to the dead fish and I looked at it wondering what to do with him. “Is it a boy fish Nanny?” The kids wanted to know. I admitted I had no idea. “I hope it’s a boy,” Wheriko said. “Why darl?” I asked. “A boy is kind’ve useless but at least a girl has babies,” she explained. Hmmm I think I’ll leave that for your Mum to expand on, I thought smiling.

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Shall I cut my nose off to spite my face? 

Family quarrels are more intense, last longer and everyone is less forgiving. 

It seems my Dad and his brother quarrelled often and as a child I witnessed some of these. I was blissfully unaware of the whys and wherefores and Mum was careful to not colour our feelings. In my child’s mind they were both silly and I never thought bad of either. I understood more in later life when I questioned Mum, and I really admired her putting events behind her for the sake of family, but when I had a run in with him myself, I was furious. We agreed to disagree. Well that was my words, not his. 

I never spoke to him again and in a childish rant said I wouldn’t go to his funeral, but then I realised he wouldn’t actually be there! I had no quarrel with his family and all my cousins would be there. A case of cutting my nose off to spite my face. 

As I sit and listen to the eulogy I’m reminded that a persons time is many layers of interwoven threads. I remember his beautiful gardens and it’s nice to hear how special he was as a Father and a GrandFather. My memories are just a tiny slice of his life. So much more makes up a person than my brief encounter for sure. Nor do we always know what makes that persons view. Thinking this through makes me see my own short comings. 

Lindy tells me about two old brothers she knows who never spoke for forty odd years. But shared a close and lovely bond for their last ten years before they both passed away and I wonder aloud if people mellow as they age. The intensity of old disagreements fade over time. Perspective changes. The importance of the ‘thing’ diminishes. Blame reapportioned or simply the family bond is so strong it rises above the hurt of past times. Life is so short and we can waste too much on things that in the end are not important. 

In many families adult siblings have friction and as a Mother it would be pretty hard to see that animosity, especially if it runs deep and spills into the next generation, as it often does. 

If our kids fought for any length of time or had hard feelings I would pull them up together and tell them that their brothers and sisters were their best friends. That they need to really treasure that relationship because when times were tough and when others fall away it will be their brothers and sisters who will be the ones who will still be standing. Come hell or high water. These were the people you could depend on. Their angry little faces would be tipped up to me as I dispensed this wisdom they might not have been quite ready to take in. 

Was it these head bangings that made our children close or was it three months in a Chinese village when they depended on each other? There was virtually no English and water had to be bought up from the well and they travelled in pairs to the village market to shop. Was it times spent camping at doc sites where they slept together and shared jobs, or simply that we were out in the country and they didn’t have kids down the road to play with so made games up together? Or was it because Gilbert worked long hours and I depended on the kids to work together and help me? I don’t know, but I’m happy to report that they can laugh at each other’s mischief, forgive short comings and be there when needed. I don’t expect that to change, but will happily bang their heads together if it does! Hahaha! 

You would have loved seeing these gardens Uncle Des as I know you loved your roses!  

Taken in Butchart gardens. Victoria Island. Canada. 

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Another gorgeous wedding 

Every wedding is different in a hundred ways and I love the little things that make a wedding unique.

Holly and Dave picked a venue close to their home called Solscape that had cabooses, teepee tents and yurts you could rent to sleep in, and a cottage for the bride and groom. The site sat high on a hill over looking the Raglan surf and provided a vegan menu. The main reception area needed to be quiet at 10pm but the party could continue in the communal area later. All these things made it quite different to other weddings and there was much discussion about it.

The biggest concern for weddings though is always the weather. When we had Damen and Amy’s wedding here in our paddock, we discussed the ‘rain plan’ with them. No, they didn’t want to be relocated to a hall. No, they didn’t want a marquee, but we were not to worry as they had paid $10 and consulted with Ken Ring online who said the weather was going to be sunny. This was some ten months or so away from the wedding date. 

Gilbert and I looked at each other in disbelief. These guys had more than a couple of university degrees between them and they thought some guy known as the ‘Moon Man’ was going to be able to predict the weather that far ahead? But, the weather was fantastic. It couldn’t have been better and while we put that down to good luck, I purchased this ‘moon man’s’ next years calendar and began to watch his predictions. When our next son was to be married, Chee rang me up and said “We want a date somewhere in October, November Mum. Can you check out that book for a date?” I picked the weekend most likely and while it rained right up to the Thursday, just like my new mate Ken said, the sun burst through the clouds, the paddocks dried up and we once again had the best weather ever!

I used Ken’s weather almanac many times and only once was it wrong. Far better odds than the actual weather people. Ken has been mocked and reviled many times for his predictions but one thing people seem to miss, is that while official weather predictions can be wildly out and can change hourly, right up to the day. Ken has written his almanac a whole year ahead! So when Official weather reports put this wedding smack in the middle of a weather bomb with a week of thunderstorms and the highest rain fall in a hundred years, Ken said it should be fine. 

Right up to Friday night it was torrential rain and on the Saturday morning Gilbert showed me the official reports for Raglan showed a 100% chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms. I decided on wearing jeans down and if it stayed bad I would just leave them on. “Holly must’ve pissed in the Holy water”, Tony observed as we swerved to avoid road flooding, peering through heavy rain. 

We’d driven down in Tony’s original ’55 Chev. No fancy demisters or the usual mod cons, but comfortable and so nice to be chauffeured. People’s heads turned as we motored down. Duane and I in the back seat full of chat and laughter catching up. “Can you keep it down in the back, Tony complained a couple of times. I can’t hear myself talk”. Hahaha! 

Couple of hours driving but soon the skies were clearing. “Look! Tony pointed as we came over a hill. That’s where we’re headed, pointing out a halo of good weather. “Holly must’ve been a good girl after all”… and by wedding time it was sun, sun and nothing but sun. In fact it was sweltering, without a whisper of wind. 

Holly on her way in Tony’s ’55 Chev

We settled in the bach we were to sleep in where the girls were finishing hair and makeup. All absolutely gorgeous and Holly especially, a vision of loveliness when she slipped her wedding dress on and tucked a simple headpiece in her hair. We sipped on bubbles with them and enjoyed being a part of such a special moment. 

Wedding bough n boys waiting

Lindy and I set up the wedding bough we had prepared earlier to take advantage of the stunning view out to the Tasman as far as the eye can see. Manu Bay, Apparently world famous for its left hand breaks. Not that I’d know. Put me on a boogie board and if I’m lucky enough to catch a wave I scream at full throttle all the way in. With joy you understand. Although I did as a youngster have an altercation with the surf on ninety mile beach, where in my book, I nearly drowned. I dragged myself back up the beach after being knocked over repeatedly, dragged under and pulled out. I lay gasping on the sand until I had coughed up all the water I had swallowed, and then made my way down to Dad crying and told him I had nearly drowned. I was about eight I’m guessing. He barely glanced at me as he bagged his toheroas and said, “you’ll be alright”. While I still loved the beach it gave me a healthy fear of surf.

I made it my business to check out the garden and it was huge and fabulous

Down for a quick change and then back up ready for the service, the music was playing and the sun streaming in as everyone arrived, grabbed some liquid refreshments and greeted one another. A wedding is a such a beautiful positive gathering and it certainly helps if the sun is shining. 

Holly was flanked up the aisle with both Mum and Dad, vows made, special words shared and rings exchanged. It was simply beautiful. More photos as family groups reluctantly stood side by side to capture the moment and then we sat happily imbibing in the copious wines on offer, until Cam leaned across to me and said “Should we do the tables now Tricia?” “Pardon?” I looked over. What on earth was she on about. “Aren’t we doing the nibbles table?” she asked. Hell! yes! Couple of drinks in me and I lose track of all responsibilities.  

Nibbles Table was laden  

Dinner was soon served and while Gilbert and I are generally happy to eat almost anything, some people encountered banana and cashew nuts on a pizza and refused to try anything else. I however was in seventh heaven. Four huge salads. One green, one pasta, one spicy kumera and a delicious potato salad. The pizza oven disgorging many variations of vegan pizzas and the flavours were exquisite. Very happy by then, Johny, Sara, Duane and I helped fill the dance floor. Having been sipping since lunch time, I switched to water at about 7pm and felt great next morning, waking up in a king size bed with an unbroken view out to the sea.  

Breakfast was fresh fruit and juice, coconut yogurt, roasted nuts and grains followed by a tomato bean dish, Refried potato mix with tofu sausages, a black and white rice dish. Home made breads with a chia seed berry spread and a capsicum hummus spread option. With fresh coffee and coconut sugar it was just delicious. There were a few long faces who couldn’t eat. In their heads it had to be bacon and eggs or they might choke, and I heard a couple mention Mcdonalds. So much to miss out on when you restrict yourself. The only thing I missed was butter on that amazing bread and a dash of milk in the coffee, but I had no complaints whatsoever. 

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A day off – What normal people do

A trip to the Port and I decided to wear the dress that was too tight for me so I would be reminded of my need to be just a tad smaller for the up coming nuptials of Holly & Dave. It was either a hundred sit ups a day or eat less, neither of which were appealing, or frankly likely. “What you need, Ren advised, is a gut holder thingee Mum. Just to iron out those ripples”, as I waltzed up and down the hall way in my wedding attire options. 

So tight were these ‘thingee’s’, that Xtra Large, or ‘Xtra Lovely as one shop assistant called it, looked like it might not fit someone size ten, of which I hadn’t been since I was about ten. I looked at it and said to Ren, “I’m pretty sure I won’t fit this”. “You will, she assured me. Its supposed to be tight”. In the changing room I tried to pull it over my head but trapped somewhere between my arm pits and neck I couldn’t get the damn thing up or down, and in the end despite muffled pleas for help I had to exit the changing room for Ren to extricate me. One I did manage to get on made my breasts almost kiss my chin and I suddenly had fat rolls on my legs. What they don’t tell you is the fat has to go somewhere, so despite a svelte middle the rest of me looked strangely weird. I chose the least tight available at considerable cost. Just to iron out the ripples mind…  

Tara had stayed over night and she explained a day out was in order. “Ohh. I answered. So where are we going?” “To the markets, and then Uncle Grahams, and then the beach for a swim”. “Ohhh”, I answered. “That’s what you said before”, she said. “What?” “Ohhh…” she imitated. “Well I’m not sure I want to be out all day”. I answered. “Mum its called a ‘day off’. Its what normal people do. They slow down and just have fun. They relax and enjoy whatever the day brings”. “Ohhh…” I replied. “There you go again with your ‘Ohhhs’. “OK we’ll come”. I replied. 

Tara realises the kids hands are not facing the ‘right way’

First stop was the local market day in the now not so tiny town of Pokeno with a new subdivision explosion. Pokeno became famous when I was young for its delicious ice creams and even before we left home Gilbert looked back at me from the front seat with stars in his eyes wondering which flavour he might choose. “Umm some of these kids are allergic to dairy, I whispered, so I suggest you do that in secret somehow”. 

Wandering into the first stop, the markets. I found the local Rawleighs lady also sold delicious looking homemade biscuits. Some market research was in order as Kahu and Wheriko had planned to make biscuits and sell them outside the local dairy as an exercise in budgets and profits. Tai had decided he would make or buy lollies to sell. It seemed blatantly obvious to him that the only thing worth buying in a dairy was lollies, so he would stop people at the door and sell them his, before they even entered. Simple.

Nice smile Tai

We surveyed her offerings and prices and how many in a pack before deciding we should buy them anyway to take to Uncle Graham. The other items on my list to take to Uncle Graham was fresh home made breads, cheeses and salamis, of which there was none. But I did find a magnificent book on one of the old palatial homes of England and another on making the most of your pizza oven for Lindy. 
Further on I found threepence from my birth year made into earrings costing only $5 and a niece selling fresh veg so cheap, just ten dollars gave me two large bags full!  

My weight loss plan of wearing a tight dress doesn’t deter me from an ice-cream!

Gilbert had given me a nod and slipped across the road to the ice cream shop, so we made our way there sometime after him and discovered they had a dairy free sorbet option and a huge single scoop was just $1.50, so of course it was one each before piling into cars again and heading out to Uncle Graham where lunch was scoffed outside so our unruly mob didn’t destroy the place, and then off to the local park where we hung out for a good hour as we reminisced about the bach across the road. 

We had sold it twelve years ago after owning it for about ten years and the kids had absolutely loved it there. The hour was full of ‘remember how we flipped the quad when we raced over the sand dunes’, with kids holding on for dear life to a hunk of ply or an old bedspread or whatever the latest piece tied to the back was.

‘How we could go either one way to the surf or the other way to the river’. ‘How Lai and Willie would come and all the kids would sleep on the lounge floor as it was only tiny with two bedrooms’. ‘How we’d BBQ every night and the kids would dash across the road and play in this very park till dusk or dark when I would come out and scream off the back balcony like a shrew if they didn’t come at first call’. 

“Remember how when you got out in the sand dunes it was really easy to get lost and Mum showed us to look for the heart in the sandy hills and if you headed for that you would soon arrive at the path to the back of the bach”, Monie asked. “No”, Ren replied blankly. “So how did you find your way home then?” Monie asked. “I dunno”, was the reply! 

Amongst these chats was the regular screams of delight as everyone lined up for the flying fox. “Nan ny! Nan ny!” the kids started up the chant that was supposed to make me desperately want to have a go. “Soon, I called. Jesus you want the whole neighbourhood to come out? I shussed. Ok, I will have a go”. Tara held the flying fox seat while I considered how to leap on it knowing that as soon as it took my weight I would be off. “What if I hit the pole at the other end?” I asked Tara. “You won’t, she said matter of factly. I didn’t.” Somehow failing to see that her body weight of almost half mine could make a difference. “Renny didn’t hit it”, she added seeing my reluctance. “OK”, I answered. “Grab it high”, Tara instructed and after a couple of hesitated half jump ons, I was off. 

All elegance on the flying fox

Screaming all the way as the massive pole at the end loomed up so fast I was sure I would just splat against it, let go and fall to the ground in a crumpled heap of broken ribs. “Stooooop meeeeeee!” I screamed at Ren passing her as she swung round, kindly videoing me for the future delight of all and sundry, but just before what I was sure was to be impact, the top snagged on a stopper put there just for that purpose, and I was swung around to madly hurtle back. “Jeez that was fun, I said as I came to a stop in the dust at the centre point. I’m going to have another go”. “Get in line” Wheriko told me. I was now just one of the kids. 

It was now pretty hot and the beach just a few minutes down the road was appealing. With the tide going out however I was glad of the surf life saving clubs flags indicating where we should be swimming as I said, it was possibly the worst time to take city kids to one of the most dangerous beaches in New Zealand, with rips that have a reputation. “Jeez Mum, its only ankle deep, what can happen?” 

We wandered down and stood right back at the edge while the others were in a little deeper laughing and playing while further out the surf rushed in and out in a wonderful display of a receeding tide. One minute ankle deep and the next over their heads, crashing in great frothy rolls of sea spray. “Is that Milan out there?” Monie suddenly asked me. “Where”? I asked peering into the distance. “With the two life guards”, Monie answered. “I can’t tell at this distance,” I answered staring hard to make anything out. “One of them is Tara’s friend’s husband, and another life guard”. “Hmm”, I looked at Tara who wasn’t perturbed at all, still chatting with her friend and the little ones at her feet. 

Turned out Milan had just been rescued! Holy Mary, Jesus and Joseph….What! Yep. He was with Dom who was an experienced surfer on a boogie board when Milan was pulled out into a rip. He went to ‘put his feet down, but couldn’t feel the bottom’, he calmly tells me later as we drive home. He looks up and realises he’s drifted away from Dom, but before he can blink, a lady surf life saver is there beside him who asks “Are you alright?” “No”, Milan says. “Well you really shouldn’t be out here, you’re past the flags. You know you should swim between the flags?” At which Milan looks up and then informs her that they must have moved the flags, because last time he looked they were over there! “Ahhh no, she smiles, you have moved”. “Come on she says, putting on her flippers, we’re going back in”, and she calmly guides him back to shore where Dom meets up with them. He later tells Tara the current was so strong he couldn’t get to Milan despite trying to swim over to him. We look at each other in disbelief. That’s how easy it easy it is. Milan however is quite calm and a testament to how beautifully the surf life saver managed him, so as to teach him something, but not scare the hell out of him. Perfect!

The lady comes up to Tara after and says she needs to record some data about the rescue. Tara nods. “So you’re the big sister, wheres Mum?” “ummmm, Tara says “I’m actually the Mum”. We had a good laugh about what a cool compliment that was. “Nah Renny says, She just couldn’t believe a Mum would stand there and not realise her son was in trouble”. “He was with Dom! Tara exclaims. ..thirty years surfing! I thought he’d be safer with him than me with a baby on my hip!”

The younger kids spent the next hour finding crabs and other slimy stuff in the rock pools while the bigger kids collected rocks. The hardest part was deciding which rock to bring home, as if we don’t have enough here! Fish n chips in the Tuakau park rounded off the day. “Ahhhh, I could get used to this ‘doing nothing business’ I said to Gilbert as we slipped into bed. Today was great. Except for the rescue bit…I just might write a letter and send a donation”. 

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