10 Truths I learnt on Holiday

We’re just back home after a glorious five day holiday in the Coromandel, and I feel great! Here’s 10 truths I learnt on holiday. IMG_2706 (1)

1/ Whangapoua, a small holiday spot in the north of the Coromandel (situated just opposite its flashy older sister Matarangi) holds my heart. The kids and I last holidayed together at Whangapoua before we left for England, eight years ago. Going back brought back a flood of memories. Some wonderful, some achingly sad. The black house we sheltered in during the storm of my marriage spilt, is still there, but holds no power over me now. It’s an aching memory I reflect on with wisdom. The Easter we spent there when the kids were little and the Uni girl (then only about four) ate so much chocolate she spewed everywhere and Son was banished to the attic in the old A frame bach, for beating his sister at Monopoly – happy memories all – has been replaced by a new modern creation, but the memory lingers like sea foam in the breeze. Picking pipis at Opera point with a young pup (now a grande old dame of 14 years literally  on her last legs), who kept diving off the path through the bushes and into the water…And driving up the ranges to try and get a decent internet signal – that hasn’t changed. My 38th birthday – my first as a newly single woman – spent dashing into the surf one cool April morning alone but free. Whangapoua has changed a little, just as we have but it still delivers this heart-stopping scenery, and reassures that there is a Master Artist.

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Whangapoua beach at sunset

2/ The little store at Kuaotunu has the best and biggest icecreams I have ever seen. Truly. Ask for a double scoop ONLY if it isn’t a hot day and you can gobble quickly, and you can eat something larger than your head! Right next door there’s Luke’s Kitchen which is legendary on the Coromandel, and rightly so. This is how pizza and fish and chips should be made!

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Kuaotunu Store has the best and biggest icecreams in the world. Note – there are no pics of the icecreams because my hands were FULL! Go on, you know you want a lick!

 

Luke's Kitchen at Kuaotunu - quirky, yummy and a little bit backpacker!

Luke’s Kitchen at Kuaotunu – quirky, yummy and a little bit backpacker!

3/ The  Thames coastline road along the Pohutakawa highway is still a challenging drive, made significantly more challenging by meeting logging trucks laden with trees or large boats and trailers coming the opposite way, on the terrifyingly narrow road. As you wind through the corners and along the single tracked road – with no margin for error – you have to take it easy, and in so doing, soak up all the glorious views across the Firth of Thames.

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The road winds around the Firth of Thames and then up and over the Manaia Hill and Coromandel Hill itself. The views are amazing and the driver needs a drink when she’s done.

4/And just when you think the ‘scary bits’ are done you reach the Manaia hill, and soon after that the Whangapoua Road over the Coromandel Ranges. If ever you needed to do a ‘Thelma and Louise’ this would be the place to give it a go.

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5/ Kids grow. It’s funny how you never think they will and  you live alongside them as this growing happens, a quiet metamorphosis, and never notice a thing. Until, you go somewhere that is still populated with memories of little girls in pigtails, wide eyed boys challenging dwarfing surf and three tanned little berries fast asleep at the end of a full on day. Nothing points out the passing of time more than the memory of a little boy spending $20 on lollies at the shop, when it intersects with the modern day image of a bearded man checking the price of the Vodka RTDs.

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6/ There is a way to ‘go beach’ in NZ. We don’t rely on activities, ferris wheels or gaming parlours a the beach, instead we depend on a dumping surf, a fishing game of cat and mouse, and foraging for food for fun. We leave the lipstick at home and forget the bra and undies preferring instead togs and sarong, and remember how to have fun around the BBQ without the distraction of the Internet and our always-wired modern day life.

My Englishman enjoying the PYO plums at the local Castle Rock cafe.

My Englishman enjoying the PYO plums at the local Castle Rock cafe.

7/ Sense of humour is well and truly still alive in the Kiwi Zeitgeist and so is honesty!

 

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Seen outside shop in Coromandel Town.

 

Cormandel town is quirky and quaint.

Cormandel town is quirky and quaint.

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We still sell fresh produce on the side of the road and use the honesty box system – where you put your payment into the box or jar supplied.

8/ I’m significantly fatter than I thought I was in my mind’s-eye, and I care not half as much as I thought I would. The sun and sea and calm will do that for you. Photo’s lie, it’s what’s in your head that matters most. But yes, it’s back to the gym and the revised healthy lifestyle tomorrow.

9/ If you live your life as you swim in the sea – fully respecting its beauty and its potential for danger and chaos – you can’t go far wrong. There will always be riptides and undertows, and sharks and other bitey things, but as long as we swim in the shallows when the surf is high, and ride the waves with confidence and head held high (not fearing the end of the ride) when the surf is up, we will be OK. In the end all seas, no matter how rough, reach the shore.

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10/ After travelling the world and living overseas, I am reminded how incredibly blessed we are, to live here. This beauty, this very affirmation of a good life is only 3 hrs from the modern metropolis of Auckland, and I am beyond grateful.

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Looking down the Whangapoua Estuary towards Castle Rock in the distance.

Looking down the Whangapoua Estuary towards Castle Rock in the distance.

 

 

Tadpole Heaven

I’ve never pretended I was a great housekeeper. Not once. Not even in the early days of being a Mum, when it was expected that you would pop out a baby and graduate cum laude from the school of Housekeeping Fanaticism.

But, there are times when even my meagre standards appear inconceivable.

We have a perfectly functioning pond, that the dog uses as a swimming pool.

We have a perfectly functioning pond, that the dog uses as a swimming pool.

As you know, dear reader, we’ve been renting this amazing house for over a year now (woohoo longest time we’ve been in a place since we returned to NZ) and we are pretty blessed to have it. It has a gorgeous view out over the beach and a pretty cottage garden. It was one of the original beach cottages in Bucklands Beach, I can even make out its form  on early maps. There it is the little white cottage with the blue tin roof high on the hill overlooking little Bucks.

It wasn’t a flash house then. It still isn’t. It has a simplicity that Kiwi houses often have. It’s not the house but rather the view and the position on the hill that is spectacular. My Englishman calls them barns, because of the tin roofs, but I like the unpretentious windows clanging in their frames when a Sou’westerly blows, and the tired cork floor and the funny twists and turns of the hallway that comes from having verandahs built into rooms.

There is of course that other massive benefit of renting an older, tired house – your housekeeping doesn’t need to be quite as pointed. Cue big sigh of relief.

Last year was busy, full of the detritus of living. Life is busy.  It took all my energy to keep afloat and concentrate on the key things – feeding, clothing us, being the heart of the home – that I let the garden restore itself to a natural order and the house itself soon followed to its natural state. Chaos.

The little pool we have behind the house has been a problem. All through winter we’ve had issues trying to keep the pool clean. The old filter is stuffed and the owners reluctant to fix it. I have no doubt this house will become a building site when our lease expires at the end of April, and the little wooden cottage with soaked in memories of generations of Aucklanders, will fall to dust. I hadn’t even looked at the pool for about a month as the weather had been dodgy and work had been busy and then one day renewed with Spring enthusiasm I went to turn the filter on and ‘open’ the pool for summer.

It was green.

I expected that.

It was also a tadpole water park.

This, I had not expected.

This is the pool NOT the pond. And no, we are not the local tinny house.

This is the pool NOT the pond. And no, we are not the local tinny house.

So then the issue became not so much turning the filter on and dosing the pool, but what to do with the wildlife that was enjoying the pool? My Englishman, the kind-hearted Engineer, was determined that we shouldn’t commit tadpole genocide. Instead he started to scoop the tadpoles out with an enthusiasm I thought he’d reserved for building Remote Control Airplanes and studiously turning our lounge room into an engineering workshop. Buckets, plastic tubs, even my new mixing bowl was called into service as emergency shelter for the amphibian masses.

There were, so many tadpoles.

Tirelessly he worked, to scoop them out before I turned up with the liquid poison that would sanitise pool water for swimming for people – you know for which purpose the pool was previously used.  I should point out that we already have a pond for frogs and tadpoles, in fact we have three, but the Englishman didn’t want the tadpoles to become part of the carp’s food chain. We struggled on – the Englishman frantically digging tadpoles out of the pool handful by handful, me working at my desk in a state of ‘hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil’ denial.

Then a funny thing happened. I’d been so hard at work inside and hadn’t noticed activity in the garden until all of a sudden there was a knock on the door. My Englishman works from home so it isn’t unusual to have people knocking on the door at all hours. All sorts of people. You’d be surprised how universal it is to have a broken mobile phone. I loped to answer it, and standing there was a woman holding ice cream containers.

“Here for the tadpoles.”

My answer was a face shaped like a question mark. And then my Englishman appeared, full of mission like a breeder off to show his thoroughbreds. He didn’t seem to feel any remorse for the drop in our housekeeping standards. Rather, he seemed proud of the boost we’ve singlehandedly given to the native frog population.

For the next few days we had a constant stream of natural looking nature loving folks lining up at our front door clasping containers of all shapes and sizes. If the neighbours hadn’t thought before we were the local ‘tinny’ house they will do now.

I’m grateful to be able to report that the pool has since been sanitised and is now safe for human use. And the tadpoles? Well I can confirm that at least one happy lot have turned into frogs – or so I was told gleefully at the local supermarket just after Christmas, and the rest are sitting in huge plastic tubs on our front porch.

Good thing we don’t have any pretensions of class or Good Housekeeping, isn’t it!

Restored to pristine glory and not a tadpole hurt in the process.

Restored to pristine glory and not a tadpole hurt in the process.

 

For the Storytellers

This year I’ve done something different – I’ve signed up to #NaNoWriMo. Which is simply to say that I intend to take telling stories seriously. And this is why…

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In the beginning there was the word. Img:graphicstock.com

Stories are important. We need more of them, and more storytellers.

There’s a recent kerfuffle in the blogging world which goes like this: blogging is dead, long live brand relationships and instant celebrity.

Us, old bloggers – those of us who are clawed and long-toothed – say ‘bollocks’ to the kerfuffle. We’ve seen it all before, and we understand that the real point of ‘blogging’ as with writing anything, is to tell the story. It’s the stories that encourage faith and hope, stories that share the love and stories that help us to go on.

I’ve known stories that once told, have saved a life.

I’ve known stories that have been carved from the storyteller’s own soul and shared with their readers in such a beautiful way it was almost self-sacrifice. Stories that remind us of our own strength, and our own humour – even if at times that humour is as black as the challenge we are facing.

We’ll always have time to read stories like that.

And here’s to the storytellers who believe in the power of stories. To the Parable tellers, and the oral historians. To the teachers and entertainers. To the pastors and caregivers. Storytellers all.

So even though I hear constant threat of blogging’s imminent demise, I don’t listen. I know that we will always have time to read – whether on a kindle, or an ipad or a good old-fashioned pages-smelling-of-dust, book.

Even though our news feeds are full of beautiful blogs, adorned with pastel-perfect pictures of pretty things, there are those blogs that aren’t simply eye-candy – blogs that are real. Blogs where you can almost see the blood from the rent vein, on the page.

Interestingly, these blogs remain well-read. We respect the blogger’s sacrifice of privacy, of time, of tears.

Some of the most beautiful and inspiring blogs I’ve read are from bloggers I’ve known for ages. Have a read of  Kirsty’s blog. I dare you to not come away smiling with admiration. Or check out Bruce (no, not like that!) and the beautiful words he’s managed to craft as he’s shared his family’s crisis. Who knew a fart could be such a miraculous thing?

For relatable words drawn from the humdrum and blogged so achingly realistically try Mrs Woog for size. To my mind, this is talent; the ability to draw out something interesting from the mundane everyday. This is a type of Sartre writing for the present day.

And there are others – Bronnie the journo who writes about her fractured heart and family and throws in a little everyday chaos for some good laughs, Simone who shares the joy of her family and faith without fudging over the difficulties and Dan and Audrey share the stories from people who would otherwise not have a voice, and manage to travel wide, and live deep.

These people, these storytellers are our Greek chorus and our Maori elders. They are the Plutarchs of our generation. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John from the New Testament and the Brothers Grimm. Sure, they type rather than speak, they organise widgets and plugins and they have their sponsors, who help pay the bills so that they can tell their stories.

But the raison d’etre is not all about the brands they represent. It’s about the stories they tell, the people they meet, the twists in the tale that makes their life seem so coherently written, even if only when read back. These people are my everyday heroes and heroines, and I want to be just like them.

When people bemoan the death of blogging, I smile a little.

Perhaps, what they mean is a death of a certain stage in worldwide blogging, a stage when we were all fresh and new and made newbie mistakes and when there was a fragile freshness – something that made being part of the blogging scene absolutely irresistible I might add.

But the death of telling stories? I fear the story of [that] demise is very much exaggerated. (Apologies Mark Twain).

Words are more powerful than swords, and words that are cut out from the writer’s heart of their own life, and laid bare on the screen for us to read… well, that’s priceless.

Do you think #bloggingisdead ?

Share with us in the comments below your favourite bloggers so we can all hear and share their stories.

As for me, back to the keyboard, NaNoWriMo and the rent veins.