Sunday, 4 June 2017

#52Stories, Week 20, Stories they tell

So this one has had me wracking my brain a bit. Favourite stories about Mum's childhood, or stories that my grandmothers told as well.

I don't remember too many that Nana told. Apart from the one about her grandfathers both having more than one marriage which got me hooked into genealogy, and ones about her great aunt going to America, and her uncles and their families emigrating there too. She didn't talk about much else. 

There was an aunt who ran a green grocer shop and some twin cousins who were blind. There was also someone else who would shut the doors and windows to them (as children) when they walked by. Who would do that ?! I used to think it was the same aunt with the shop - but now I wonder if it was the step-grandmother ? She also told us that if they were walking along the street and saw their father while he was at work, that they were not to acknowledge him. He was a motor car driver - originally a groom and carriage driver, later a taxi driver. It wasn't a good look to have your kids waving to you as you went about your business apparently.

Occasionally she spoke about infrequently going to visit their mother, but not in a lot of detail. Life must have been pretty tough, I think.

I don't know any at all from my paternal Nana, which makes me a bit sad.

Mum had stories which I remember her telling us though, and which she could tell in more detail.

Sitting in the fields at Grandma's in Middleton Road hiding amongst the raspberry canes and eating raspberries until you were full. Walking from Riccarton to Addington/Hilmorton to visit Auntie Edie. Mis-steering the pram with her baby sister into the ditch drain which ran along the side of the road. Having her hair cut short when said baby sister was born and her father had had enough of dealing with the curls and knots and morning hair drama of a 4 year old on his own. Sunday school at Church Corner. 

The time they were staying at Grandma's and the bed collapsed in the night with Nana and Auntie Anne ending up on the floor. 

The "pet" magpie at Grandma's who was a bit territorial and would hold her hostage as a small child in the outside loo until she could get away using the wooden lid as a shield to make it back to the house.

Sliding down the hill on cabbage tree leaf sleds after school at Highbank because the road was too steep for the bus to navigate.

The time of the big snow storm when her Dad had to hitch a ride on a railway jigger and climb down the intake pipes to get back to work at Highbank, from Christchurch.  The big storm at Highbank that blew in the roller door on the power house, and the slip which buried some of the houses. 

The wild cats that her brother would catch in the bush and bring home to try and domesticate. I can't remember all of their names. Spitfire was one !

Then there are the ones about the shenanigans as student nurses living in the hostel at Waikato...

I hope I have told some of my stories too - in case anyone ever wanted to remember and record them in the future.

#52Stories, Week 19, Mothers' Day

Mum was born in Kurow. The little town that had founded a support system for it's community which became the basis for our Social Welfare system. Where if you didn’t dig the carrots before the first frost, you might as well leave them in the ground until spring – because you would never get a spade into the frozen earth.

The family moved around a lot since Granddad worked with what became State Hydro, in the construction of hydro power stations. Waitaki, Highbank, Mangahao, Maraetai, Whakamaru. But actually looking back, the time spent at Waitaki, the station with it's aesthetically pleasing curved dam across the Waitaki River, near Kurow, was one of the longest. About ten years all up.

Reflecting back on my childhood for this topic - Mothers' Day - I have been thinking about things.

Mum went to floral art and pottery classes at night school when we were kids. She sewed (and sometimes un-sewed in frustration), she knitted and taught me to knit too. Patiently stopping whatever she was doing to pick up all my dropped stitches and getting me back on the right track - for a couple more rows until she had to repeat the process.

Mum loves to read, and if it is a good book don't try to talk to her. She will be in another world, absorbed with story. Oblivious to anything else she might need to be doing - like cooking dinner. Reading, like jigsaws, often resulted in burnt dinners, or dinner not even being started...and fish & chips instead !

She's very determined - she says it is a middle child thing. But once her mind is made up, that is the way things are going to be and woe betide anyone or anything that tries to say or do otherwise. She is a tad impatient too. If things aren't happening quickly enough, or going to the plan - she will be there tweaking things and hurrying them up, to get the desired outcome.

Like deciding to wallpaper their bedroom one day by herself because she was tired of waiting. The wallpaper was a thinner paper than normal and didn't like the extra weight of glue. It kept pulling itself apart from the corners and falling to the floor before it could be stuck to the wall ! But not even something as frustrating and inanimate as unco-operative wallpaper was going to beat her.

Or going to the bank to withdraw the housekeeping money when Dad had been paid (in the days before computers and simple banking) to find that the Government pay run had been delayed. That bank manager must have shaken in his boots every time that happened and he saw Mum enter his building.

To keep us all on our toes, she used to reorganise the contents of all of the cupboards while we were at school. We'd come home and discover that the glasses & crockery or the food wasn't where it had been the day before. Or she would rearrange all the furniture about. That still happens !!

Life seemed so simple. Mum was quite relaxed about things - even the incessant bee stings we would get from that bee & bucket game we made up. We would wait until the grass was long with lots of clover and daisies, get a small bucket (sandcastle size) and invert it over a flower with a bee on it. Then dare each other to remove it and free the angry bee ! When the inevitable happened Mum would just produce a wet blue bag from somewhere (what were those ?) remove the sting, place the bag onto the wound and so "it serves you right".

That go-getter attitude can be a bit frustrating at times. Like when she mentions that she has seen something she would quite like, and you think to yourself "Now there is a good idea for a present". But she just goes ahead and buys it herself, because "why not ?"

She's a great Mum, my Mum. Interested in all sorts of things and with so much going on. I hope we have had some of those go-getter qualities and drive instilled in us too.


Saturday, 13 May 2017

#52Stories, Week 18, Grandmothers Part Two

Right then, part two.

My maternal grandmother Elsie Lilian nee Timms, was always known by her given name. To us she was "Big Nana" to differentiate her from Little Nana who was shorter in stature by close to a foot (30cms to those of you who don't remember imperial measurements). She was born in Milverton, Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire in 1907. Her father was born in Milverton too and her mother in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. Two of her grandparents were born in Shropshire, one in Warwickshire and one in Oxfordshire. 

She is the one in the middle

When I was very little they lived at Whakamaru where Grandad worked at the power station. I remember going to stay when my brother was born, and when Mum had her tonsils out. I'm sure there were plenty of other occasions that we stayed too. We would sometimes visit for the weekend if we had a car. I remember once going by bus with Mum and Mark.

Hours of fun playing with that fire hydrant pump thingy

We baked pikelets together, watching for the bubbles so that you knew when to turn them over. We made fruit cake and had a turn stirring so we could make a wish. Nana made cottage pie and we could help mincing the cold meat in the mincer (no health and safety worries then - just "be careful of your fingers"). Rice pudding was a favourite too.

She and Grandad went for a holiday to Australia to see Grandad's brother who lived there, they bought me a baby doll back. I called her Lynnette.

At the Three Sisters, Blue Mountains with Uncle Frank & Auntie Kath

We all went to the airport to say goodbye or welcome home...

She was a knitter, we all had jumpers, cardies and dresses created by her. She crocheted as well and did some needlework. She liked to read - magazines and novels - and enjoyed tv and crosswords.

When I was about 9 they moved to Hamilton after Grandad retired. They bought a new house with no established gardens and Nana made it her own. Many trips were made to garden centres and some plants were even bought by mail order from nurseries too far away to drive.

After we moved to Wellington, we would go back and stay most school holidays and sometimes she came to stay with us. She regularly drove to Auckland to visit with Auntie Anne after they moved from Te Awamutu, and once (maybe twice) drove to Wellington in her trusty Morris Minor to stay with us.

In 1973 she returned to England for a holiday with her sister. It was the first time she had been back since leaving in 1929. It must have been such a contrast to sailing to New Zealand - flying all the way there and back. They toured around England, visited with their brother and had a short tour of Europe as well. She visited me twice when I lived in Australia too.

Paddling at Palm Beach, Sydney

She knew so many nursery rhymes, ones that none of my friends knew and she shared them with Lauren too. She gave her bouncy rides on her foot, like she had for all of us too.

This wheelbarrow was a carriage for us all, and even the next generation

Nana didn't talk about her family a lot, but the bits she shared really grabbed my attention and I think got me hooked on genealogy. I mean one grandfather married twice and the other three times ?! I had never heard of anything like it when I was little.

So, there you have it, on the eve of Mothers' Day, memories of my two Nanas.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

#52Stories, Week 18, Grandmothers Part One

I have two, but I don't think I will ever be one myself. As cool as that could be, it isn't in the life-plan of the only person who can change that outcome. In the first place I am surprised I am a Mum. That certainly was never an aspiration at the top of my list - like it is for many people - so it would be wrong of me to feel that as a Mum it is my right to also be a grandmother. It also isn't my place to influence her decisions. 

So anyway, what are my memories of my two grandmothers ?

They were different, but the same, in many ways. They were both known as Nana. They both drove the same type of car - Morris Minor. At one point they both lived in Hamilton. One was tall, the other was not. One was from a large family, the other was not.

My paternal grandmother Violet Ruth nee Cooper, was always known as Ruth. To us she was "Little Nana" on account of her height and in comparison to our other Nana. She was born in Manakau near Levin in 1896. Both of her parents were born in Marlborough, 2 of her grandparents were born in England and 2 were born in Nelson, New Zealand. I remember visiting her at home in Frankton and being served morning tea in the kitchen. Crackers with slices of tomato, or cheese and tomato. 

She had a great laugh, a hysterical uncontainable giggle that could just get out or control. My Dad has it too. I remember one time sitting at the table, maybe on Dad's knee, having morning tea there. My Uncle Gordon was there too and Nana had over-peppered the tomato. He sneEEZED ! and then sneezed some more. It was pretty explosive, but then Nana and Dad just started to giggle, and giggle and giggle. They couldn't stop. Even Uncle Gordon joined in, after he had recovered from the sneezing. I think it is the first time I remember seeing someone laugh so much that tears rolled down their cheeks. In some photos I have she is in a fit of giggles, or has a mischievous glint in the corner of her eye.

Nana went on some cruise holidays; to the UK and to Fiji. I have postcards (in a box somewhere) which she posted back about her travels, and a little sailor doll from the Flavia. I am sure I remember going on board with Dad to see her cabin on her return from one trip. Imagine that ? It seems so incongruous now that customs didn't stop us. 

Can you spot her in this one taken at Gretna Green ? Look closely - you can see her giggling !

When I was 5 and a 1/2, Nana remarried and moved to the bottom of South Island, near Invercargill. Dad had a reel to reel cassette tape recorder and we used to record "news" on to it and post a reel to Nana in Spar Bush. We visited a couple of times on Christmas holiday trips. What I remember most about those times were the enormous farmhouse kitchen (it was so sunlit), fresh baking, Fluffy the cat who always seemed to have kittens, milk fresh from the cowshed, Tip the sheepdog and the night a bull got into the vege garden and woke us all up.

Later they moved back to Hamilton. There was a wishing well in their front garden, fuschias and a well maintained vege garden at the back as well. 

Excuse the clothes choices - it was the 70's ! be continued 

Friday, 28 April 2017

#52Stories, Week 17, Where are your roots ? Do you feel strong ties to a particular place, either because of your own personal experiences or your ancestry ?

Where are my roots ? 

Definitely not in Auckland.

There is some thing about the "Tron" (Hamilton) but I think really it is just it's familiarity; growing up there and returning for holidays to visit people after we moved. Then moving back for a couple of years as a young Mum after returning from Australia.

Welly ? It is probably some of the same. When I came back from overseas, flying in to land in Wellington always felt like coming home. But actually ? Although I probably have spent the majority of my life living there, and I have some great friends (who I don't see nearly as much of as I would like) it doesn't have the same pull that it used to anymore.

Christchurch ? I LOVE this city, I really enjoyed my brief time living there and I love visiting. It has family connections too (grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents...) Great drives north to Blenheim along the coast (before the earthquake), and south to Dunedin, inland to Tekapo or over to the West Coast. It doesn't quite have the pull to make me want to return and stay - just yet. Maybe one day.

There are plenty of other places that I like to visit in New Zealand; Matamata, Thames, Cambridge, Blenheim, Motueka, Kaikoura, Dunedin... But I'm a city girl and I think the idea of an idyllic life in a small town or city would wear thin pretty fast for me. New Zealand doesn't do provincial towns well compared to what I have seen in other countries.

Sydney is always exciting to visit and it still has that pull drawing me back. I love it's familiarity, the ease of getting from place to place by ferry, bus or train. It does still have a bit of a feeling of coming home, and it is always hard to say goodbye.

Brisbane, not so much. It has some great points, don't get me wrong, but it never really had that "home" feeling for me. I don't know why.

Adelaide is a bit the same. I liked living there, the architecture and the ease of getting around. Maybe that has something to do with why I like Christchurch too - they were designed by the same person (Colonel Light) with squares and parklands and an easy to navigate grid like layout. Streets inside the parklands, roads and long avenues outside of them. The weather was a bit extreme 40+ in the summer and snow on the hills in winter. For me though, at the time, it felt a l-o-n-g way from home. I've been back once and found the quiet pace a bit too slow for me.

Melbourne, not a city I have lived in, but definitely a city I COULD live in, or try to live in. Something about the vibe, and all the green in the inner city. The walks along the river and the public transport.

Canberra, a new city I have recently discovered and one which holds a certain amount of interest for me. I could live there, there is a lot of artsy stuff going on and they have proper weather. I could fly back to Wellington without having to drive, train or fly to Sydney first. I'm just not so sure there are enough work opportunities.

Other places in Oz ? Bendigo, Tamworth, Port Macquarie, Forster, Wollongong, Kiama, Goulburn...I've only lived (briefly) in Forster and in even smaller Werris Creek (near Tamworth) but these are all towns I have enjoyed visiting, so who knows.

Utah, the friendliest and most surprising state from last year's whirlwind tour. All of the states which were part of the holiday were unexpected surprises. But the friendliness and welcoming nature of people encountered in Utah was a stand-out. The landscape offers plains and prairies and enormous mountains with ski resorts. Anyone up for a timeshare ? I think I could be. The only negatives are the getting a green card palaver...and the current administration. 3 years 265 days to go (at most).

England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Europe. It is almost ten years since I first travelled to the UK and arriving there just felt like I belonged. Returning three years ago with big plans (which faltered and failed) that feeling was still there. Like my bones and my soul know. From a distance I still yearn for it, Somerset, London, East Anglia, West Midlands, the Marches, Wales, Scotland. In fact every inch of it. The villages, the cities, the people, the scenery, the history. I don't think there was anywhere that I didn't really like. Circumstance made some places seem a bit unappealing, but not enough to not go and try again, sometime. Ireland is one country I haven't been to yet, along with most of Europe - but one day I am sure they will draw me back - and hopefully let me stay.

So, where are my roots ? I don't think there is any one place yet, I just don't think I have found that exact place just yet. 

But I do know, it ain't here. Auckland, you're on notice. Your time is nearly up.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Christchurch: Autumnal Glory and an Air of Renewal

After the frenetic pace of the last few weeks at work, a long planned weekend away was suddenly upon us.

Christchurch has to be one of my favourite New Zealand cities. I really enjoyed living there, even though it was just for 12 months. Returning to visit is always enjoyable. In it's current rebuilding phase, there is always something new to see, always stark reminders of the pain and suffering the city and it's people are still working through.

The autumn colours are much more vibrant than in Auckland where it still feels too warm to be called autumn. The rivers and parks provide opportunities to be amongst nature and to enjoy walking in the fresh air.

Two days was just not long enough really. Time to meet up with friends for meals, and family too as Mum and Dad had come down from Blenheim to see a show. Time for a wander about some of our favourite places - even a drive over the hills to the hidden gem which is Lyttelton, Charteris Bay and Diamond Harbour.

Flowers at the airport
Gorgeous wallpaper at Little Poms - reminiscent of the airport flowers

Street Art is always amazing in Christchurch

 Some houses are still hurting
 Where once there were homes and streets, now there are pathways
 and signs only visible to those in the know - boundary planting and 
 clues on fences where letterboxes once stood, and telephone cabling at the "kerbside"

 Stoddarts cottage - Diamond Harbour

Sunset, back in Auckland

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Canberra, a planned city, but is it part of my plan ?

So grabaseat had one of those deals a while back. You know, the hard to resist ones. So we bought tickets. But this time we thought we'd go exploring somewhere different.

March rolled around and we flew to Sydney, picked up a rental car and drove to Canberra. Never been there before - apart from a whistle-stop detour once. But only to the outlet mall to get food and find restrooms on our way back from a tiki tour from Nowra.

We'd done a fair amount of research prior to this trip, places to eat, places to stay, places to visit, how to get around.

Canberra is young city, just 104 years old in the form it is now. The area has been inhabited by European settlers (some free some not) since the early 1800's. The city as it is was designed, a planned city. People rave on about the roundabouts - I didn't find them that confusing. What did surprise me was the size of the city, for a small city, with a small population as cities go, there is a lot of wide open spaces. The centres of Belconnen, Woden etc look fairly close on a map - and are when you consider the sprawling chaos that is Auckland. But actually getting there on ring roads, means driving through vast tracts of unpopulated or industrialised land. There are possibly more direct ways, but we didn't find them.

We loved the CBD, the inner suburbs of Kingston, Manuka, Barton, Forrest, Braddon, New Acton. The sunsets, and the ever changing vistas across the lake. The orderliness of it's being. Canberra is shaking off the mantle of boring city, filled with stuffy public servants and becoming quite hip. Great food places, cafes, food trucks, coffee, bars can be found all around. It isn't super crowded busy bustling city either. The pace of life seems very relaxed. It is filled with great attractions, museums, art galleries, libraries, zoo, parks, parliamentary life, memorials, an arboretum. It is driving distance to the ski fields in winter, the coast, wineries, markets. There are many cultural events as well to appeal to all spectrums.

I could live there, I would in fact, if I could get myself a job. Direct flights back to Wellington - just an added bonus.

We fluked being the week that Enlighten was on and also the beginning of the balloon festival.