A New New Year

Good bye to Hoki Hubby.

As the new year rapidly approaches, Wifey and I split open box after never ending box, setting up our old life in a new environment.
We are still in Northland, not all that far from the place we called home for the last couple of years. The Mighty Hokianga Harbour, only an hour and a half or so up the road, suddenly feels like a world away. Because, it is.

On the outskirts of Whangarei, we are setting up in a house further away from neighbours than we had in the old place. But here, they feel so much closer. Less cars seem to go by, not like they did on the main drag of Rawene, on the hour every half hour. Here, there is no race to catch the ferry, a leisurely chug with or against the powerful tidal currents of the harbour waters, leaving behind the backdrop of New Zealand’s thrid oldest European settlement.
Better yet, approaching it, the joys of the boat shed cafe or No.1 Gallery cafe at the start of Parnell Street, a convenience store conveniently located on poles, balanced out over the ever changing tide, a pub with more history than you can shake the proverbial stick at. For a town with nothing going on, it is all happening.

But this is not a travel blog. I am not here to sell you on the wonders of the Hokianga, as you cruise through Rawene after alighting the ferry, head for the beaches of Opononi and Omapere, go further over the bumps and twists of State Highway 12 and delve into the native forests atop the hills, home to Tane Mahuta.
I don’t need to point out the stunning views, from sweeping sand dunes to glistening waters, the tempestuous Tasman Sea, making its presence felt on the wild west coast. There is no need to make mention of the native flora and fauna and in particular, there is nothing I need say about the dusk after dusk after stunning dusk, full of the most spectacular sunsets.
In it’s heyday, the Hokianga must have been a spectacular spot. That harbour, so alive and vital, surrounded by a crop of native trees the likes of which we will never see again. Because, sadly, crop is what those forest giants were viewed as and like so much of Aotearoa New Zealand.

This isn’t an environmental rant either. Nor is it a dig at the perils of post-colonization. So many wrongs were done, to the place and people of Aotearoa and so many of those wrongs will take multiple generations to put right, if ever. So many good things were achieved too but sadly, much of that either never reached the Hokianga, never took hold if it did, or was resoundingly rejected.
It’s easy to romanticise the region, casting it as some sort of frontier, shrugging off the trappings of a modern world as much as possible. Last of the wild west, NZ style.
The reality is, the Far North in general, and the Hokianga in particular, are forgotten zones, abandoned by central and local governments alike.
There are no rate payers, not many voters. Just miles of sandy beaches, warm blue waters and the homes and abodes of the disenfranchised.

Even that is a stretch. Never ‘franchised’ in the first place. Lost and forgotten peoples. And in many instances, that is just the way they like it.
Life in the Hokianga is maybe best described as relaxed. There certainly isn’t the pressures of city or metropolitan living, no commute from the burbs, no queuing.
The trade off? A lack of infrastructure and what there is, maintained at a bare minimum, if at all. The trade off is unemployment and therefore, poverty.
But hey, it’s the Hokianga. If you can’t afford a warrant on your car, don’t get one. If you can’t afford to register it, don’t bother fretting over it. While it is a shame there is runoff issues effecting the harbour waters, swim in it anyway. Eat from it anyway.
Relax. That is what the Hokianga seemed to be telling us, so that is exactly what we did.

We stayed relaxed about the holes forming in our children’s education. No hokey teams, no volleyball or netball or football or tennis or cricket or whatever other sport an energetic young kid might want to turn those energies to.
However, there were whole new avenues of learning being opened to them. Culturally the kids really swelled, embedded in an old school Kiwi culture and a deeper Maori one.  We stayed chilled about the lack of childcare, the lack of employment options, the near non-existence of extra curricular activities for our kids and for ourselves.
Like the populace around us, we were nonplussed. Maybe not as laid back as some of the locals…we put our kids in car seats and seat-belts, life-jackets and all the rest.
The trade off? Off they went, a little crew, down the street on their own, unaccompanied by adults, Number One in charge. No drama, no fear.
Safe. Everyone knew our kids and they knew most everyone. No motorways to go play on, no concrete jungles to get lost in.

Kia ora, G’day, Howzit, Hi.
Most everyone said hello, most everyone asked after your well-being and most everyone genuinely wanted to know. Maybe the guy asking if you needed a hand was diabetic, maybe he drank too much, maybe his diet was shocking, maybe he fished illegally. The point is, he was offering you a helping hand.
In the Hokianga, you pick people up and drop them down the road. You help lift this, carry that. You give of what you have no need for and people gladly take it. Koha. All that is asked in return, if anything is asked at all.
No one turns a nose up at the next-door neighbour. No one looks up or down at the next person. A handshake and hongi means something.
There is nothing golden, no matter the nostalgia, about the Hokianga and her people. Nothing special, or endearing, nothing wonderful going on the world could learn something from.
In fact, the place is broken, to an outsiders untrained eye flawed, badly in need of this, that and the next thing, to make it even close to ‘normal’.

I miss the place.
I miss the scenery, I miss the vibe, I miss the remoteness and I miss the smiles and laughter and good-natured jesting. I miss the helmet-less kids on bare back horses, the king tides and the pelting rain, thunder storms and lightening and sodden ground, water bubbling from beneath its surface everywhere. I miss the fresh air and the strong, drying winds and the birdsong, from nesting Herons to the silent, reproachful gaze of a perched Kingfisher.
I miss the spontaneity, the freedom, of having nothing particular to do and being able to do it where no one else is. I miss no one caring, no one around really giving a shit what you were doing or why. You just got on and did it, where, when and how you wanted to.
I miss the smiles and the open, gap-toothed, head back laughter.

I miss the sunsets.

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Fix the Hokianga.
Never change the Hokianga.

Dogs, Rods and Paddles.

We made memories the other day. 

There could, if you are an extremely positive person, be a memory a day, every day.

Wifey and I did that very thing at the weekend, one of those summer days which is going to stick. With a bit of luck,  and the effort on our behalf, a day like last weekend’s will go a long way to forming how our kids look back and see their childhood summer.

We followed some rules. We were prepared.

opononi

There was shade. There was shelter. There was food. There was water. There was company. There was participation. There was entertainment. There were the dogs splashing around, having just as much fun, if not more, than anyone.

Opononi and the Hokianga Harbour provided the majority of the latter. Natures playground at its finest. At about midday, no need to hurry after all, we were unpacking the sun shade thingy, erecting it, unloading kayaks from the roof racks, flicking a frisbee, making lunch, baiting rods, throwing sticks for the dogs and of course, swimming. Everything and everyone was free of stress and drama. There was no bickering or belittling, there was no animosity or petty jealousies.

The kids all had a smile on their sandy faces. And when your kids are smiling, you are too.

Impossible not to smile along with a toddler’s delight, when he discovers his first washed up jellyfish. Only the heartless couldn’t find joy in all the shrieks and hollers and yells, as a bunch of kids splash about in water warm enough to keep them occupied, happy and content for long periods of time.  It is contentment for Mum and Dad too, knowing that your kids are playing and have fun in a natural environment, engaging with the country around in the best possible way. Literally diving in.

Sunscreens and hats and life-jackets and supervision water and food. Nurtured in nature

I get a slightly dopey looking little smile on my face when I am content and happy. The way you look after a big feast; leaning back in your chair, rubbing a full, protruding belly, eyes nearly closed and lips slightly upturned in the smallest of smiles, looking for all the world like I am about to doze off.

The kids are happy. They are running free and wild and getting stuck in to it all, sun on their backs and wind in their hair, framed by sparkling sea before a backdrop of golden dunes.

Are Mum and Dad smiling because they are? Or, are the kids smiling because Mum and Dad are?

Either way, it’s infectious.

 opo

 

 

The Walking Talking Dead

I would like to this opportunity to introduce you all to Jake.

Jake is three. He is a little boy that lives in the forest.

Jake does not attend school, Pre-School, Creche, Kindergarten or Play Center.

Jake owns a car but does not drive. Jake drinks beer. Jake only eats Lolli-pops, Lollies and Chocolate

Jake is my daughters best friend. As far as I can tell he is invisible. It could be that he is more fantastical than I am giving him credit for. Perhaps he has cloaking devices or magical disappearing shrouds or perhaps he is hypnotising me (and everyone else too).

You see, I am not entirely sure Jake exists. Having said that, I think Jake is very real. He certainly has a great impact on our days at the moment. We all get to hear a great deal about Jake and just what he is up to.

This weekend we had a BBQ and socialised with the nieghbours. Jake was invited, but as my darling daughter put it so eloquently, he was not available.

Jake is an imaginary friend. I feel the need to spell that out, in case there are those out there beginning to believe my daughter has supernatural friends. Or perhaps, sees dead people. Jake is however, all too real as far as the E-Bomb is concerned.

She knows we are on to her and the E-Bomb is not silly.  Several attempts have been made by the family to meet Jake, but conveniently, he has always had other things on at the time. I don’t believe Jake is intentionally avoiding us, but he certainly seems unwilling to make an appearance.

Jake and his exploits have become a bit of a running joke over the last couple of weeks, since he appeared on our doorstep, seemingly out of nowhere. However, I am becoming increasingly wary of belittling his presence. It has in fact led me to question some things; is our daughter bored? Is she lacking social interaction, so much so she has to invent some? Is she not challenged, is she  fearful of others and therefore has become too insular? Is our daughter a headcase?

The answer to the last question is pretty simple. No. The E-Bomb is not mad, she does not have ‘issues’. She just has an imaginary friend. I have heard stories of parents having to go so far as to set a place at the dinner table for a child’s little invisible mate. Seats need to be made available for the mystery one in the car, an extra ice-cream has to be bought. While we have not had to go so far as placating to Jake quite to that extent, I can understand the need or desire to.

To our little one, Jake has rapidly become as much a part of her world as anything ‘real’ or tangible.  He is in her life, very much so, and therefore in ours. Jake has become a part of the family and that in no way concerns us and I don’t believe it should. If we are still hearing from Jake in ten years time, if Jake is still accompanying us on family outings, if we are still needed to BBQ an extra sausage or two, when both he and our darling daughter are in their teens and beyond, then there might be an issue or two worth discussing.

The E-Bomb does not see dead people. She does not have visitations from ethereal beings from the ‘other side’ and she is not cavorting with mythical creatures like faeries or pixies or anything of the sort. And Jake sure sounds like no fairy.

Our daughter is not delusional. Well, no more so than anyone else in this family; her mother still thinks we are going to win lotto, I still think I have my baby-faced good looks. I would hope that she isn’t lonely. We are a fairly tight-knit family, our third daughter gets on well with her older siblings and with her little brother. Gone are the days when she was doted over by her sisters, but she is still very much a part of their day and theirs to her.

We live in a small country town. That means we lack some of the facilities and extras readily found in metropolitan areas. Child care is one of those things. But there is a playcentre the E-Bomb attends twice a week and she loves it. There are some other kids in the neighbourhood she gets to hang with every now and then and, as has been proven by the arrival of Jake, she has a vivid and active imagination. She is a great little communicator, good with language and has excellent comprehension. With our little E-Bomb, there seems to be a great deal of excess, rather than anything lacking.

All the while she seems to have some form of telepathic means of communication with Jake. She knows what he is up to pretty much at all times and where he is at. She knows what he has been doing over the last few days and where he was doing it and she knows what his plans are for the coming days. I don’t think Jake is alive. But I do think he exists, if that makes sense.

Then again, maybe the E-Bomb does see dead people. Perhaps, Jake really is real. Either way, welcome to the madhouse.

 

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