So this is Christmas in Whangarei 2018
And so this is Christmas
In the Anglican Church, outside the vast glass apex window the sky darkened behind the flowering pohutukawa’s while the colourfully dressed and talented choir of 100 and orchestra belted out a list of familiar carols, occasionally letting us join in.
Jeannie was in the choir, that is why we were there and the church was packed. A young professional Maori man and a lady soprano graced the stage with their performances and then an elderly chorister missed his step and fell into a group of choristers sitting on the lower level with us. They caught him and sat him down to collect himself. He was making his way to give a reading when he tripped; so very smoothly and without a break another man took his paper and did his part for him.
The recovering chap was a retired dairy farmer who years ago had courted a young lady who herself had been training with Kiri te Kanawa but chose to marry her farmer instead and spent the rest of her life training others to sing.
The sweet irony of all this was that the choir was Scottish Presbyterian by nature, from Waipu just down the coast. They had proved so successful with burgeoning numbers that they had outgrown their church hall and health and safety booted them out of the vast barn they had been using so the broad thinking Anglican vicar invited them to use his venue, an English church, the very like of whose unwanted influence they had left Scotland to escape from 170 years before.
Christmas Day 2018 – Parihaka then pouring rain.
Rob and I drove early to the car park at the start of the Dundas Road trail to the top for the first time because Alaine’s house (Jeannie’s late mother) where we were staying was a ways from the hill. The morning started clear and blue and pleasantly cool as we started the familiar climb. The usual view from the top would be one of our last as when we return from our travels at the end of April we will be busy getting ready to leave here for the last time.
De-frocked after a night of strong winds and rain pohutukawas cast shadows over their royal red carpets of blossom on the pavements as we walked over them back through the swimming pool gardens back to the car. There were a few ducks on the river but even fewer in the Town Basin where hungry eels have eaten most of this year’s ducklings.
We relaxed over croissants with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon until the text came through from Jeannie that they were ready and together we drove to Naylene and Phil’s for their Christmas Extravaganza. We couldn’t wait to see the new home that a few months ago was delivered by road from Auckland up the windy lane and steep drive to its new rural location.
Being a prime mover at the marina Naylene has a constant willing workforce in the form of the cruisers, “You guys want to come up and lift some loads at our place? Then we’ll party!” All in an Arkansas dialect of course.
I held the washing up bowl with a little salad dressing in the bottom while Naylene plucked fresh rain washed lettuce, herb leaves, nasturtium flowers and leaves for the green salad from here new raised vegetable beds all thriving and growing behind high wire fencing to protect from wild and domestic teeth.
We missed her guided tour through her Kauri woods, that’ll be for next time, and the home built BBQs were nice and hot by the time we arrived. Storm clouds were merging and the forecast was not wrong when it said ‘rain’. Never mind, Phil had built an impressive machinery barn since we last visited in November 2016 and we lifted the tables and chairs into there on a carpet of fresh soft hay. We sat and chatted as the rain sheeted down outside, but it was warm and we were cosy.
Boxing Day Brunch and a swim in Paraua Bay.
We joined Jeannie and Merv late morning for a tasty bit before heading to the coast and a pretty bay area protected by high hills, an ideal place for the youngest children and their grannies to test their water skills. It was quite windy inland so we sat beneath a giant grassed sand dune facing the Tasman Sea to whip off our outer clothes. Merv was the first to brave the water, tippy toing into the cool waves. He has lost a lot of weight recently with all his building work so he really felt the cold, but the three of us well covered folk were able to stay in longer and even numb a little while the sun warmed our heads and shoulders.
Next day we went to Zoonie once more for her final checks, washed the car which we had previously cleaned to within an inch of its life, changed some NZ dollars for Aussie ones then relaxed back at Alaine’s until Merv and Jeannie arrived to follow us to Riverside to leave the car at Steve’s house and drive us on to the airport. We were off, Aussie and UK bound at last.
The flight to Auckland was on time but our Sydney bird needed new front tyres and we had to await delivery of one of them, then there was a fire in the Duty Free area which caused an evacuation. But there is always something to watch at an airport isn’t there.
So it was just before 11pm in Australia as we searched amongst the bicycles in Waine Street, Surry Hills for the stripey lock with the three number combination that would let us in to our little 14th top floor apartment.