I am currently in New Zealand for a family reunion and to celebrate my step-fathers, 90th birthday. We have just spent a night in Hamilton and this morning we visited the Hamilton Gardens. Don’t miss this if you are in Hamilton, well worth the visit. So we are now heading back to Auckland.
After a not too bad drive from Hamilton, we took a detour that cut out the bulk of the slowed traffic leading into Auckland, and we arrive at Beachlands in reasonable time. When I was growing up, Beachlands seemed so far away, but nowadays it’s no distance at all (apart from the horrendous Auckland traffic, which I promise not to mention again). It was and still is a popular holiday destination located on the Pohutakawa Coast.
One thing I learned was that while the area is connected to the Auckland’s waste water reticulation system, the properties in Beachlands still collect their own rain water. None of the potable rivers are used for water supply. And the water tastes amazing. I don’t drink tap water back home in Oz, I have a device that removes the heavy metals and fluoride from the water. It’s a personal choice for me, both for taste and health. And drinking tap water took me back to my childhood days when I lived on Waiheke Island where we only had tank water.
My brother’s house is up a communal driveway and the number we were looking for isn’t marked so it was a case of let’s knock on a door and hopefully they can help us find where we need to be. And it doesn’t take long before we find the right house and the hugs and laughter begin. Ayla, who has driven this hulking great van for the duration, drives it up the slanted driveway and parks with precision. She has done a sterling job considering she is such a tiny young lady.
A marquee has been set up and most of the guest have already arrived. Introductions are made and names spoken about in past conversations, are put to faces not previously met. This is a first get together for a very long time and I am so delighted to catch up with my brothers and sisters. Mandy and her family also live in Australia although we live in different states so we don’t meet up as often as we would like. Gavin, Derek, Ralph and Laura all live in New Zealand and it is always years between visits. We all promise that we will catch up more often and I hope we do. There is nothing quite like the love and bonding of family.
The afternoon starts of sedately with everyone being on their best behaviour, (ha that won’t last long). The family have prepared an awesome feast along with a barbeque, and once the food is partaken of and everyone is replete, it’s time to get down to some serious drinking. I start with a Tui’s East India pale Ale. It’s a beer that I drank in NZ before moving to OZ back in the ’80’s, and it wasn’t readily available there until recent times. the last one I had was at my sister-in-laws funeral a couple of years back. So I enjoyed the refreshing taste of the cold, crisp, malted beer that went down a treat.
Mingling with the group was educational, I found out what everyone was doing now that we are all so much older, who belongs to who, and finding out just how far this family tree is spreading. And after a couple of hours of polite chatter, it was time to get down to some serious fun. Derek set up the karaoke machine and that was it. Fun time all round. I love karaoke and so do many of the guests, I’m afraid you had to be quick to get those microphones from my girls, Mandy and myself. Outside in the Marquee there was another party going on with dancing and more woeful singing, so I alternated between the two sessions.
The younger kids, of which there were a few, were so well behaved and in between playing games they joined in with the karaoke and delighted the ‘adults’ with their singing and dancing. There’s quite a lot of talent in the upcoming generation.
Party Animals – Take 1
Party Animals – Take 2
The cake was brought our and we sang happy 90th birthday to my stepfather Derek. He had missed the party in his honour as he was in hospital recovering from a stroke he had experienced a couple of weeks before we were all scheduled to arrive. A piece was put aside for him for when we go to visit him in hospital.
The evening was a huge success and we were all so grateful to Derek and Lee for opening their home to entertain and accommodate the hoard of visitors. It was the first time I had met Lee, and she is every bit as delightful as I had been told she is.
So a merry night was had by all and of course there was just the mess to clean up the next day. Fortunately there were many hands on deck to help and it didn’t take too long to have everything ship shape again. Guests departed with promises to stay in touch and not leave it so long between visits,
Varinia wanted to take the girls to see some of the sights, but they were leaving in the afternoon and they had to clean and return the van, so that left our options somewhat limited. We decided on a trip up Mt Eden where we could point out ‘points of interest’ to the girls, places that had some meaning for Varinia and I, and places where my husband and I grew up and things we did in another lifetime before moving overseas. Mt Eden is a dormant volcano that was once a Maori Pa.
The road to the summit is windy and once you park there is still quite a reasonable walk to the top. But it is well worth it as you have 360º views over Auckland. I took a moment just to stand and reflect on the sight, looking back over the city with memories flooding back. We all had real fruit ice creams at Walt’s Real Fruit Ice Cream Kiosk and it is just delicious, there was even a vegan version made with coconut milk for Cedie who’s a vegan. We all had boysenberry but there are other berrylicious flavours available such strawberry, blueberry and matcha. Next time you are up Mt Eden do yourself a flavour….
All too soon it was time to drop the girls off at the airport. Cedie and I are staying on for a few more days.
Then Ce’nedra and I headed into Auckland. Cedie is heading off to Rotorua to visit Hobbiton. I am staying on at Derek and Lee’s and will spend time with Derek Snr at the hospital. I only have a short time here so want to spend as much time as possible with him.
Derek is an avid hunter and fisherman, very like my husband Val was, and he had recently been hunting with great success. So for dinner one night we had scallops with the roe attached, cooked in garlic butter and backstrap of venison from the 18 pointer deer he had shot a few weeks before. I don’t have a photo of it as it is at the taxidermist but here are some photos a couple of Thar and a Marlin that he has mounted on the wall. Awesome specimens.
On the Monday I went to the hospital to spend time with my stepfather. We had a long chat about the past and the present, and he was very responsive and cheerful, It was good to see him becoming less angry about what had happened to him. Derek is fiercely independent and has been living on his own so he isn’t ready to accept that he this may be the end of his self reliance, so it’s a matter of just taking it one day at a time. He has since been moved to a nursing home. I tell him about the party and how we toasted him and had a wine on his behalf. He’s happy we enjoyed ourselves and wishes he had been there.
After making sure he ate all his lunch, and was settled and comfortable, I left to drive across Auckland to Kelston to visit my Aunt Beryl. She is in her 80’s and what an amazing woman she is. I haven’t seen her since before my uncle passed away and we had a lovely visit. Beryl has a group of women organised to knit garments for the needy in Chechnya and showed me the bags of knitteds that she and her group had made. Apart from sets for children consisting of a hat, scarf, jumper and mittens, there are also blankets that have been crocheted and knitted for the homeless. The items are sent off to be vacuum packed and sent by container overseas to Mission Without Borders. Such a wonderful group of women doing such good deeds. We talk of past family transgressions and put the family skeletons to rest with lots of laughter, tea and fruit cake. When you get to our age things that once seemed so important are reduced to the trivial matters that they are.
Now here I am in Kelston and I have to get across to Beachlands. Google maps tells me its a 48 minute run. Yeah, well nearly 2 hours later I arrive home. Auckland traffic again, sigh.
The next morning Derek, Gavin, Hayden and I go up to the hospital and take Derek his piece of birthday cake. We sing happy birthday to him as today is his actual birthday. He’s not quite as bright today but he seems pleased with the visit. Gavin and Hayden set off for home and Derek takes me to see his boat and some of the properties that his firm have constructed. He works as the Senior Project Consultant and his phone hardly stops ringing. I am impressed with how he handles the calls and deals with the problems. He has a knack for diffusing any situation so calmly and quickly.
After the tour around Beachlands Derek heads off to diffuse another tricky situation and I get ready to go to the motel that I am staying at for the night which is near the airport. I am going to return the car and go back to the hotel using their shuttle bus. This way I can settle in for the night and get ready to fly out the next day as I have to be at the airport at 10am.
Day of Departure
The departure board shows that the plane has been delayed and I get a message from Paula back in Australia confirming this. After a few hours a call comes over the speakers that the flight has been delayed due to mechanical failure, and the time of departure keeps changing. I am given a voucher by Qantas to get some lunch, so that’ s nice. Finally at about 6pm they announce that the plane has been cancelled and all the passengers need to collect their bags and queue up to get hotel and food vouchers. The whole thing was badly handled and at one point people were getting quite angry. I got chatting to people in the queue and so many had missed adjoining flights from Sydney, which is where we were heading.
There were a couple heading to Singapore for a cruise, a few locals who were not going to get to work the next day as they had missed flights to Perth, Darwin and Adelaide. Another family were heading to England and others were off to South Africa. I found the whole exercise entertaining as I learnt quite a lot about the people I was waiting with. And I work from home so it didn’t matter that I was late back.
I was hoping to be put up in one of the hotels near the airport, but no. By the time I got to the front of the queue I was sent into Auckland to stay at the Econo Lodge City Central and when we finally get there I am given a voucher to go to Tony’s Steakhouse in Wellesley St. for dinner. My meal was delicious, I had the fish and chips and it was really tasty. The staff were very accommodating and friendly, there were a few other passengers there as well, so they were busy with the extra customers. So I am happy, I’m well fed and I don’t have to stretch out on a seat at the airport.
On the way to the hotel I asked the taxi driver what time I should call a taxi for a 9:30am flight out and he tells me 5:30am, groan. So I arrange with him to come and pick me up in the morning. He is a bit late and I keep getting accosted by other taxi drivers to let them take me to the airport, but I wait and finally he turns up, having been held up by, you guessed it – Auckland traffic. We are so early heading out that we are just ahead of the traffic build up so I am grateful that he had suggested an early start. The traffic is really starting to build up on the other side of the highway going into the city.
There is another short delay and finally I am heading home with just a short stopover in Sydney. Paula picks me up from the airport and although I am glad to be back home I am sorry to have left my family behind. It’s been an absolutely wonderful few days and I look forward to going back. Soon.