Thursday 22 November 2018

Tongaporutu - part 1

I first went to Tongaporutu when I was 4 years old, I think - well, it was in 1954 when we'd moved to New Plymouth from Hawera less than a year after we arrived in NZ from the UK. I turned 4 in December of 1954.

At first, our camping trips to Tongaporutu were really basic. My brother and I slept on the front and back bench seats of our 1938 V8, and Mum and Dad slept on canvas camp-stretchers under a tarpaulin that was draped over (and somehow secured to) the side of the car. Cooking was done on a single primus stove and water was boiled in a Ben Ghazi, and our only light at night was a kerosene lamp that had the little cloth bag in it. We washed the dishes in the stream that ran down from the farm on the hillside to the river, and scoured the pots using the sand, we cleaned our teeth in the stream too. No showering or baths - swimming took care of cleanliness. Dad and Don Riding used to dig a longdrop toilet that was walled, if I remember correctly, by sacking.

In about 1955/56 we graduated to a red and white candy-striped canvas tent and 4 camp-stretchers but with the same cooking, lighting and toilet facilities; but as we had moved to camping on the other side of the main highway on what was then still Hill's farm but about to be sold in sections, we had water from the Corrick's bach - we were very up-market then! At about that time, Dad brought up from his work an old fridge that someone had traded in on a new model. Dad had fixed it so it would work for the three weeks we were on holiday** (see below), and it was placed in Corrick's outside shed, and each family (Corricks, Ridings, Booths) had a shelf in the fridge - see what I mean by being very up-market?

In 1957 (the year my sister Denise [Dee] was born) Mum and Dad bought a section from the Hills. They paid £150, £75 deposit (saved from wages of £10 a week, not bad going when paying a mortgage and feeding and clothing a family of 5...) with £75 to be paid in a few months. Saving another £75 was going to be too difficult, so Dad spent the winter nights and weekends building a boat for someone for wages of £75. Clever man, my dad.

Then we built the bach - well, the downstairs of it. It was a single room with an enclosed toilet in the far corner with a handbasin outside it. A sleeping area, dining table, lounge area (well, a divan couch) and kitchen complete with the still functioning fridge. It was sheer luxury in comparison with the tent - electricity, a zip for hot water instead of the Ben Ghazi, running water (rationed because there was only one pretty small corrugated iron tank that was fed from rainwater from the roof - if it ran out we had to go home till it rained again!) Dad built two sets of bunks for my brother and me and for him and Mum, but Mum ended up preferring the divan, and when Dee was out of a cot she had a bunk. The bunks were true dad style: built of 4x2s, sturdy, and painted with apricot-coloured paint - don't know why, but it was probably free ... But the crowning achievement was that dad used wire netting as the base of the bunks, attached with fencing staples. Looked cool, very comfortable with two and a half inch foam mattresses. But god, were they noisy! Every turn or movement made a wire on wire screech. Very easy to be persuaded to get up and make tea in the morning if everyone else set up a wriggling competition!

When I was 10 and Dee was three, the upstairs of the bach was built. The framing was done by Dad, Don Riding and Harold Rowles (another bach owner) in a week off work, they got the roof on and the windows in, in that week. After that Mum, Dad and my brother, along with Don and Harold when they were there at weekends, did the walls and the interior fit out. It was all paid for either by cash or barter or returning of favours done. Most weeknights after work, Dad would be out in the shed doing something for someone, that would result in being provided with timber, or glass or pipes or roofing material.

My part was to make dinners. Nothing adventurous - I was 10 after all, and probably my job was more to prepare potatoes and other vegetables and put them on to cook along with warming up stuff mum had already made. There was a strict timetable: carrots on to boil first, when they came to the boil, turn on the potatoes and then the cabbage (which of course, as was the custom, had to be very very soggy ...)

Much as people who drove through Tongaporutu wondered what there was to do up there, we were constantly busy. If we weren't water-skiing, we were walking around to the front beach and exploring the rockpools around the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock, or swimming in the river or having mudfights or going musselling at Mohokatina or rowing up the river in the dinghy dad made for us and using the shufti box he also made so we could see below the water or catching small fish in Agee jars with bread in them or going for bush walks or climbing the hills behind the baches and sliding down them on cardboard or going out mushrooming in the early morning, or riding my bike at 6.30 in the morning a kilometre or so along State Highway 3 to buy and bring back a billy of fresh milk straight from the cow-shed (milking parlour to UK readers). So we didn't have much to do really ...

We had that bach until Dad was in his 60s and decided he'd lost his nerve about being two storeys up doing painting or gutter-clearing (still on tank supply). He and Mum decided to sell up, but when an agent brought some people around to look at it Dad burst into tears and said he couldn't let it go. So, he approached Rob Brown who had a smaller single storey bach across the road, and asked if he wanted to swap our bach for his with some additional cash. Rob told me years later that he had to stop himself from biting Dad's hand off in his eagerness to accept.

So the swap was made and Dad then set about extending the new smaller bach - of course ... He made the lounge bigger, installed ranchsliders in the lounge and the bedroom, put on a deck, took the bath out of the bathroom and installed a shower, installed a new hotwater cylinder and a new secondhand stove - we all LOVED that stove, it was big, fast, and fabulous for cooking meals for the 14 extended family members.

After Mum died, Dad decided he didn't want the bach anymore - he thought the grandkids had grown out of wanting to be at Tongaporutu (WRONG!) and he didn't want the cost of the upkeep. So in 1999 my niece Nicola and I bought it, then 9 years later in 2008, I gifted my 2/3 share to Tim and Kirsty. After a few years, it was decided to sell - much sadness, but it was time really, especially for the McDonalds: Kirsty lives in Australia, comes over to NZ at least once each year, but doesn't drive so couldn't easily get there, Tim had moved back to the UK. They were both contributing to the running of the bach, but not able to use it, and Nicola made good use of her share of the sale proceeds to buy a home in New Plymouth.

It was the end of an era that lasted from 1954 to 2013 - lots of family memories there. After the bach was sold, I avoided the place - too much emotion to be able be there with any sense of ease. Even though I didn't own it when it was sold, I still, like everyone in the extended family, had a sense of emotional ownership of the bach. All of the grandkids had been going there since before they were born; my brother, sister and I had spent most weekends of our childhoods and all summer holidays there and after Mum and Dad were both dead, we invoked their memories whenever we were there. You know the kind of thing:
"What would Grandad Ted say about that?"
"Mum would want us to be checking in the bottom of the freezer to make sure we are using the food before buying more ..."

So deciding to go there, on the spur of the moment really, as I noted at the end of my last post, was a bit of a leap for me. And I won't be avoiding it again. In fact I am keen to go back - very soon! The photos below may explain why.

N.B. I have only put a few in this post, as there are lots more I want to include but it would stretch your patience. So I am going to do another post after this which will be essentially my photo album for that two day piece of our holiday. If you want to see why you should visit Tongaporutu, then best you check out the next post, but it is Taranaki's best kept secret and we like it uncrowded, so don't all rush here, OK?
This is about where we used to camp, and the stream for dishwashing and teeth cleaning is directly in front of the grass bank. The river mouth is to the left of the cliffs that mark the northern end.

A much more salubrious dwelling than the V8 and the tarp ... Parked about where we used to camp though, about 64 years ago.

And looking out to Clifton Road that goes up on to the farms above and along towards the White Cliffs.

This was the first bach we had. Much extended since Mum and Dad sold it. But the original is still there intact. The original upstairs part that we built is the left hand portion, and under it is the original carport and the downstairs bach (if you look hard you can see the white door with two sash windows either side). Rob Brown added a couple of extra bedrooms over the garage at the righthand downstairs end that Dad built - when we had it, the roof of the garage was a large deck. We didn't have any of the wraparound decking that is there now or the little conservatory on the end with the outside staircase. A ranchslider has replaced the (for its time) very large picture window that Dad, Harold Rowles and Don Riding installed. Don was on the wooden scaffolding outside and used his boot to get it into position - said scaffold wobbled alarmingly, I seem to remember.

The river outside the bach at low tide. Special time and place as the mudflats were great for creating mudslides and for mudfights ... David has taken many photos from this spot, as on chilly early mornings the mist looks wonderful as it rises from the river.

The boat ramp outside the old bach. The round sign signals the end of the ski lane used a couple of hours either side of high tide when the water was up over the bottom of the ramp - we'd start and end our ski runs from here. There's nothing like the feel of the mud between your toes as you walk out to wait for the last skier to drop off and for Dad to come around with the boat, expecting you to be ready to go, regardless of how cold the water was and how difficult it was to lower yourself into it...

The bach dad swapped the bigger one for - since we sold it, it too has been tarted up a bit. The new owners have put novaroof over the deck and covered it in. The fence and gate look a bit suburban for bach territory ... That hill behind the bach is the one we used to slide down on cardboard. It is rather steep and certainly looks steeper than it did when we were kids and fearless!

I had to lighten up this shot so the stuff in the carport (boat shed really) was visible - that red waterski was one of a pair that Dad made when we started skiing - this is the one with the slalom fitting that we all learned to single ski on. Perhaps the new owners are keeping them as archeological artefacts ...

And here is the boat launching ramp that Dad and several other men built was back in the 60s. Until then, getting the boats in and out was a difficult business as the mud meant that the trailers had to be wheeled down to the water and then hauled back up using a winch with wire cable. I remember that after skiing, my friend Lalage and I used to have to winch the boats up while Dad and his mates stood around chatting. One of us would be on the handle doing the winding, the other would be pushing or pulling the wire several feet from side to side to generate some slack that could be more easily wound in. Is it any wonder I figure that girls and women can do anything, with a start like that? Once the ramp was built, getting the boats in and out was a doddle, especially for Dad as ours was a jetboat and he could drive it straight up on to the trailer.

On the front beach - the two right hand rocks are what remains of the 3 Sisters. The 3rd one which was further out, was washed away by the storms and heavy seas of the last few years. The two left-hand ones have been created by those same storms and heavy seas from what was previously farmland on the cliffs above. So a fair bit of land has been lost. And to climate change deniers who say it's always happened and those original sisters used to be part of the actual land rather than off the coastline - yes they did. But and it's a big but: the original 3 sisters that I remember as a kid from more than 60 years ago stayed the same until about 12 or so years ago when the third one started to crumble. So the change was minimal in 50 years and has accelerated dramatically. The beach always changed with the tides year on year - either lots of sand or lots of rock, and the river channel changed course. But the erosion has significantly increased. I'd estimate that at least 30 yards of land has eroded to form the new rocky outcrops.

One of the new additions - it is already paper thin.

OK, that's it for this post. More tomorrow, if you are interested.

PS ** David and I inherited that fridge in 1974 and didn't get rid of it until about 1990 - it was still working but Dad had run out of spare parts for it. The only thing it ever needed was a new switch or something that he posted to us when we were living in Maxwell in 1977 and again during the late 80s in Johnsonville. So the fridge he fixed so it would work for 3 weeks kept going for about 35 years ...

Friday 16 November 2018

An extended family weekend

We left home on Friday last week, the day after the Democrats cleaned up in the mid term elections for the House of Representatives, but lost one seat in the Senate. Had to stay home till the day after as it all had to be listened to and watched...
I seem to remember it was fine as we drove towards Taranaki, but the cloud started to come down. This was the best view we had of the mountain from just north of Eltham. It was clear to the west and south, but dense cloud to the north and east.

VERY low cloud, about 5 minutes up the road from where we took the photo of the mountain.


My lovely sister Dee, her husband Murray (Muzz) and their son, Kurt, and his partner Charlotte have taken over the lease of the Waitara Holiday Park. They are doing a grand job of bringing the place up to scratch. They bring a range of skills which fit together well to cover the gamut of tasks, both developmental and maintenance. One characteristic that they all have is a wonderful manner with people; they are both welcoming to new guests and compassionate and helpful to their ‘permanents’.

David and I are having a holiday in the motorhome and had 4 nights with them, with a night in the middle at Judy and Jim’s in Onaero.

But before we went to Onaero, there was a series of family get togethers. Great to see all of the NZ-based kids (now adults, mostly in their 40s) again. Friday night there was a shared dinner.
My nephew Joe and constant family friend Ripa who has been part of the family since he got together with Julie, a neighbouring bacher at Tongaporutu back when they were teenagers.

I'm in the shadows, as always (yeah, right!). To my left is Dee's son Jonathan, Muzz (who ALWAYS avoids being photographed) and my lovely sister Dee

Julie, Joe and Ripa

I promised scones for Saturday morning, so they all came back. Cheese scones plus lemonade scones with jam and cream (Dee supplied the jam ...). L-R: Nicola's boyfriend Gerard, Jonathan, and Dee and Murray's son, Kurt. Charlotte and Murray in the background, waiting their turn ...

Charlotte, Julie and Charlotte's twins, Luca and Ziana. They are pretty much identical and I haven't known them long enough to tell them apart easily.

Sitting on the porch is my brother with his new partner Estelle. Gerard and Nicola are sitting on the step, Dee is hidden behind Charlotte, and there am I. Julia and Mick, do you recognise my T-shirt? Purchased on our expedition to Leamington Spa, where there were a number of out-and-backs from the Wethersppon's base camp.

Julie and Ripa's son - I am sure he must take after his koro (grandfather) James who is a guitarist and has played at many parties at Tongaporutu and elsewhere.

After the scones were cleaned up and later servings of pea and ham soup at the house, David and I packed up and headed to Onaero.

Saturday night was not the best night to choose to stay at Jim and Judy’s, as there had been a wedding that day and the music at the post-wedding party across the road didn’t stop till about 4.30am. However, it didn’t matter as I had earplugs in and slept well. I had a spare pair but thought David was asleep so didn’t want to disturb him by offering them to him… He operates much better than I do on little or disturbed sleep so it didn’t matter, and there were plenty of podcasts for him to listen to, to keep him occupied.

We’d had a walk along their beachfront in the evening, and were stunned by how much erosion there has been in the last few years.

In the morning we went to Wai-iti to the beginning of the Whitecliffs Walkway, then an early lunch at the Wai-iti CafĂ©. Very yummy pizza …
While we were waiting for the pizza to arrive, Judy and David played two square - a variant of four square. But if Jim and I had wanted to play too, the infrastructure was in place.

Back into Waitara, as there were curtains to make for Ollie’s room. Dee had cunningly purchased a double duvet cover and pillowcase set from the op-shop for a couple of dollars, and she’d been given some former motel sheets; my job was to turn them into lined curtains. Mission accomplished after a time of wonder, and they look pretty cool. Not my best sewing effort, so they are not perfect, but are definitely perfectly adequate.

Charlotte putting the curtains up.

The finished result - not fab, but as my mum would have said 'a blind man would be glad to see them.'
 Nicola and Gerard came out on Sunday to do some planting for Dee - she had lots of pots outside the 5th wheeler before they moved over to behind the camp managers' house (now occupied by Kurt, Charlotte, Luca, Ziana and Ollie). The plants have been in a trailer and some had been placed in their pots waiting to be put into the garden beside the shed. Nicola is a great and keen gardener, so she was the ideal person to get the task done.
The pots are ready, but photos were required first. Nicola and Gerard.

Caption competition - my entry wins: You are right! You are not worthy ...

Well, OK, maybe he is. That's Dee and Murray's 5th wheeler behind them. I note the plants still haven't made it in to the garden ... But that was soon remedied once the paparazzi moved off.
Murray and Kurt were removing the old gatepost and it needed some welly to make it move. So the Dodge was called in to action.

A bit more digging was required, and just how much was subject to debate. You'll see the orange strops are waiting to be re-attached.

The fence post and its gate are out and Kurt is taking them for a walk round to the home of old unused artefacts ...
Ollie had to help his dad with mowing the lawns so he found his earmuffs and his glasses ...

It was hot work, so a swim was called for - wearing Kurt's large hat to keep him sheltered from the sun.

I missed the photo opportunity in which Ollie was looking down into the tub - the hat was pretty much sitting on the tub's rim and it looked very cool!
Roly is part of the camp family - he's the camp cat and extremely friendly!

On Tuesday Dee had some time off and she and I went for brunch with her best friend, Sarah. I have known Sarah for ages too as she is a long-time Tongaporutu bach person. I knew that she loved Penguin biscuits that are available in the UK but not in NZ, so I bought some for her (managing to keep David away from them …) and brought them home for her.

She had asked her brother to get some while he was in the UK but he failed. so I was the heroine of the day!
While we were out lunching and shopping, David had packed up the motorhome, so when we returned all was ready for the leave-taking. We decided to head for Opunake with a visit to Cape Egmont first. We were in New Plymouth and had got almost to the beginning of State Highway 45 (the Surf Highway around the mountain) when a text came in from Dee asking if a plug with split pins found where we’d been parked was ours. Yes, it was! So instead of turning left, we turned right and went back to Waitara to collect it.

That brought about a change in destination – on we came to Tongaporutu. More about this beautiful and very nostalgic piece of the trip in the next post.

Saturday 10 November 2018

Second photo post to bring me up to date - a trip to Sydney

Last weekend (2 - 5 Nov) David and I flew to Sydney to see the lovely Kirsty.

On board after a couple of hours in the Koru Lounge. Time flew in there, assisted by a couple of G&Ts for David and 3 chardonnays for me. Plus nibbles...
We stayed about 700 yards from Kirsty's flat, in the Urban Hotel in Newtown, . It used to be the RSL. It has a large atrium complete with tropical plants that are watered from on high, so not a place to sit, but certainly very cooling to look at when in the midst of a Sydney heatwave (38 degrees the day we arrived).
A pre-theatre chardonnay. Kirsty had very wisely arranged for us to go to the musical The Book of Mormon  on Saturday afternoon - the wisdom was two-fold: 1) we escaped the heat of the day in an air-conditioned theatre, and 2) the show was very irreligious and VERY funny. At intermission, David heard two sets of people organising rides home immediately, as they were not enjoying it at all. Must not have read much about it before purchasing tickets ...

A pre-theatre G&T for a grinning Mr McD, with reflections.

After the show we walked and walked to catch a train back to Newtown. In this upmarket shopping centre we saw a lovely shirt that I would have bought for David (at Rodd and Gunn). But even with 30% off it still would have cost $160AU and that was too much, esp for a pensioner ...

A few different architectural styles in the downtown area.
On Sunday morning and selfie: Mother, father and daughter: xxiixxiixxii
We went into the city on Sunday morning. After walking around The Rocks area, and down by the waterfront and under the Harbour Bridge, we had tea, sandwiches and scones at a little cafe, then back to the Museum of Contemporary Art for me while David and Kirsty sat outside people-watching. I went to the David Goldblatt photgraphic exhibition. He's a South African photographer whose work tells stories. (He died in June this year.) If his exhibition comes to an art gallery or museum near you, do go and see it. Very moving stuff. Mostly it's photos of people, but not all ...
This is not well photographed by me, but it really struck me as a commentary on apartheid-era South Africa.
Coming in to Wellington, David was checking speed, height, direction, ...
Approaching landing in Wellington
That flat piece of land is the airport. It rose up in an earthquake in the 1840s I think.
And when we got home, this is what one of our rhododendrons looked like. It's not visible in the photo, but I think the wildflowers that have self seeded several times in the last 3 years, are starting to sprout again! They are lovely, but the cornflowers do rather overwhelm everything else and inhibit other growth. I am probably going to have to be ruthless and pull them out.

First photo post to start to bring me up to date ...

My cousin Gordon and Sharon's dogs in their usual place and doing what they do best all day ...
Gordon's Harley. It lives in his office indoors. His other bikes live (more properly) in the garage ...

Dinner with Tim just outside Reading before we left the UK. It was great to catch up with him, even though only for a couple of hours.
Pre-take off champagne in Singapore Air's business class. Where was David? back in Economy - his choice, please note!

Dinner on board with chardonnay, of course ...

Clearly I have had a haircut!
Back in Paraparaumu, in Jan's Cafe down at the beach. We came out without money or cards and had breakfast on tick - as regular customers they knew we would be back!

The best eggs benny anywhere are to be had an Jan's Cafe! And we rank them wherever we try them.
Breakfast at Jan's was undertaken after we had been to have a look at the Kia Sportage. Several days later we picked it up. You can see it is taller than me, and it's red!!!

And it looks very smart in the driveway at home.

We had dinner for 14 at Cafe Rata when Bruce and Gary arrived back and I made this fabulous double layer chocolate cake - really simple and extremely yummy. I meant to take a photo before I cut it in half but forgot in the heat of the moment ...

Very yummy strawberries to accompany it, plus a lovely lemon cake made by Diane.

A lone sparrow came at first to eat the sliced pineapple, but then ...

... the flocks arrived. There is also a lamb bone there that got pecked very clean in short order!

Scones (cheese ones and lemonade ones) had to be made for the tradies ...

This is part of the team installing the ultra-fast broadband around the country. They were working in our street, so needed to be fed to show our appreciation.