Copyright © Robert C Jones 2016
Being blessed with reasonable health and a Capricorn’s quest for ever wanting to know what’s around the corner and over the hill, dreaming about faraway places comes naturally and consistently. It’s not until you reach a ripe old age when you realise that faraway places are not the answer but it is only within where you will find true happiness, contentment, satisfaction and bliss. But it’s still worth a try!
Having already tried the good old US of A back in 1969 and the Isle of Wight in 1981 I, despite having a wife, two daughters, a son and a dog all dependent on me I could not resist the urge to give the other side of the planet a try, hoping and using the excuse, that maybe the move would be good for all of us.
Marcia bravely accepted the suggestion but said nothing to put me off.
In the early sixties many friends and acquaintances were sailing off to faraway places emigrating for £10 a ticket to Canada, Oz, NZ and elsewhere and I seriously considered joining them but events dictated I had to put that idea on hold.
Staring out of the window on the 6th floor in one of the tower blocks in New Malden working for Air Products re-ignited the desire to go somewhere, anywhere. Drawing lines and circles in NZ was surely a better option than drawing lines and circles in New Malden?
Eric, on the drawing board next to me, being a tad more adventurous than I, had already decided to up sticks and take his wife and young family to start a new life in New Zealand.
I was fast approaching the cut off age when New Zealand wouldn’t want me so with not a lot of thought (again) about what Marcia my children and the dog would think I set about making plans for the other side of the planet. Buying my ticket was probably the most exciting bit as I decided to fly Air New Zealand via Los Angeles and Tahiti and return British Airways via Perth and Bombay thereby completing a ‘round the world’ trip.
In those days it wasn’t necessary to get a work permit before arriving in New Zealand, it was acceptable to arrive in the country find a job and then get the permit. I had already contacted Hallam Eames and Partners a Consulting Engineers in Auckland who seemed keen to interview me on arrival. Not a bad start, I thought, I should at least get enough to cover the trip.
Sunday September 19th 1982
With not much more than a fond farewell one might give to a friend when off for a long week end I said goodbye to my family and the dog and told them that there will be money in the bank whenever they want it – I hoped. I did have a return ticket in my pocket so convinced myself that it shouldn’t be too much of a hardship to do without me for a few months. In hindsight I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that three young(ish) children and a dog was somewhat of a demanding task for Marcia on her own with no real clue as to when (or if) I would return, I should have……………….?
The Air New Zealand 747 bound for Auckland via Los Angeles and Tahiti (a new route for ANZ) blasted down runway 26 at Gatwick and headed for Glasgow, I was convinced that the Captain was not sure of the route but trusted him nevertheless. The roast lamb with all the trimmings went some way to re-assuring me that I had was doing the right thing.
Beautiful people glided up and down the aisles in negligees and whispy track suits all with feet pointing at ten to two, it turned out that they were from The Sadler’s Wells Ballet company – obviously!
I settled down with Chay Blythe’s account of his round the world trip in a yacht and considered myself a touch more comfortable. Iceland and Greenland drifted by the window presenting spectacular snowscapes and mountainscapes, followed by what seemed like hours of lakes and then hours of wheat fields of Manitoba. Turbulence over The Rockies I was convinced would bend the 747 permanently but then I remembered the structural tests carried out on the 747 I had witnessed at Boeing in 1969 which were far more rigorous and relaxed. Ten hours and 30 minutes later we touched down in Los Angeles. The transit lounge was an unwelcoming inflatable ‘blimp’ parked out on the tarmac miles from any civilisation.
The next leg to Tahiti was somewhat more comfortable as the plane was only half full and most of the passengers were Tahitians and other Pacific Islanders dressed in flowery shirts throwing off a pungent jasmine waft. We didn’t land at Tahiti we hit the runway very hard but once again the rugged 747 took it in her stride. It was 1.30am local time and the brief wander around the terminal building only hinting at the tropical wonders to be had outside in the darkness. Bit of a shame not to see the runway at Pape’ete Airport as it is virtually surrounded by sea
The next leg of 5 hours and 15 minutes to Auckland was in total darkness, outside I mean, so any sense of crossing the International Date Line and the Equator was a non-event. A smooth touch down at Auckland was followed by an aerosol spray from Official looking Kiwi’s marching down the aisles spraying as they went prior to disembarkation presumably to reduce the possibility of illegal immigrants or more likely bugs of some sort that may affect the 70 million sheep. It’s 6.30 am local time.
Eric, bless him, was at the airport to meet me, he whisked me off to meet his family, visit his half built timber 5 bedroom house which he was building single handed (that’s Eric), visit the school, the Post Office and then to downtown Auckland to meet Rob and Jimmy and drink beer and Drambuie till 5 pm! Rob turned out to be ‘an agent’ in the engineering recruitment business and by 5pm had offered me a job up at the Marsden Point Oil Refinery, some 100 miles up country, start Monday. Back to Eric’s for the night. Phew! I hardly had time to reflect that I was now as far away from my family as it was possible to get without leaving the planet, the Pole Star was replaced by The Southern Cross for navigation, the mid-day sun was in the north so a south facing garden was no good, I was upside down, my family were getting up when I was going to bed and vice-versa and the water went down the plug hole anti-clockwise. But I did (reflect).
Wednesday 22nd September 1982
Slept from 7pm to 6am still jet lagged. Another whistle stop tour of downtown Auckland to visit Eric’s offices, the bank, Dept. of Labour and ended up wandering around Queen St in a bit of a daze. Wrote a letter home – what have I done? Jeepers where the hell am I? Back to Eric’s.
Thursday 23rd September 1982
Still about 3 hours jet lagged another drive with Eric and family to visit friends and yeuky parts of Auckland. Noted ‘Pole houses’ built on steep slopes ready to collapse when the next ‘quake occurs, which is a regular event in NZ! Not feeling too bouncy. Back to Eric’s.
Friday 24th September 1982
Catch a bus to downtown Auckland. Visit Hallam Eames offices for ‘interview’ which turns out to be ‘When can you start?’ The job is about 200 miles south in New Plymouth. Also Rob confirms job start on Monday up at Marsden Point Oil Refinery near Whangarei up north. So, here we are two job offers in the first week – must be time to celebrate with a lager in the Meridian Room in the South Pacific Hotel! Followed by a curry! Check out a few second hand cars but the prices are ridiculous and the bank won’t lend me any money – bugger. Feeling a touch more bouncy nevertheless.
Saturday 25th September 1982
Eric and his wife Mavash (she’s Iranian or Persian as it used to be) and their two children have been very kind to me, the breakfast enjoyed by the children was large quantities of cheese, sugar and yoghurt – not something that Marcia would approve but they seemed to enjoy it and I hope they are well. Another scenic drive with the family to high points around Auckland but visibility was no more than a few feet at times so imagination was needed. The mist turned to rain which continued all night, you might think that in New Zealand with everything upside down the rain should rise (from the clouds) but it doesn’t - it falls.
Sunday 26th September 1982
Pack my case ready for the 100 mile bus ride to Whangarei in the pouring rain, said goodbye to Eric and family. Where am I going? What am I doing? The bus leaked like a sieve which took my mind off trying to find the answer.
Rob, very kindly, had also arranged for me to be met by John and Katriona at Whangarei which also included a room in their house for the night. John worked at the refinery and also offered to give me a lift to work the next day – lucky? John also allowed me to borrow his car so I set off to tour Whangarei and its surroundings, the surroundings included the small airport where I checked out flights out of this hell hole as I sensed things were about to go pear shaped. I also checked out The Whangarei Hotel on Main Street which looked like a reasonable option for my stay at $NZ19 a night! John and Katriona return late at night, obviously had enjoyed some riotous party. Uncomfortable night, but grateful for the accommodation.
Monday 27th September 1982
The 25 mile ride to the offices located on the Refinery site curled up in the boot of John’s car was not the best but tried to think of something positive. It seems strange to arrive at a job and then be interviewed by the boss which was in fact what happened – fortunately he offered me the job with immediate start!
‘The boss’ was a pleasant enough person who went by the name of Mansoor Sultan who seemed suitably impressed with my qualifications and experience, however I already had the feeling that this job was not going to suit me but at the same time I felt that I didn’t want to let him down.
Settling down in a new job was nothing new to me but I was not at ease for some reason. The situation not helped by being asked to study ‘The Standards’ – again – ‘The Standards’ are virtually the same everywhere in a piping design office and are a pain – 12,000 miles to read The Standards? Should have stayed in New Malden. The design office as I said was located on the refinery site adjacent to a white sandy beach which was very pleasant for a lunchtime stroll – slightly different to New Malden! A tour around the thunderous refinery belching steam and gunge from every orifice, writhing pipes struggling to break free and explosive steam traps blasting up your trouser leg is something you have to get used to when ‘on site’. By early afternoon I was back in Whangarei collecting my work permit, checking in at The Whangarei Hotel which initially I thought had a ‘homely’ atmosphere, checking out the library and the Information Centre. Back at the hotel I enjoyed a Shrimp Cocktail starter, a heaving plateful of Goulash followed by Apricot Pie and Cream and early to bed. Marcia would be impressed!
Tuesday 28th September 1982
Woken at 4.30 am by a helicopter. Tea and toast for breakfast and rush off to catch the company bus along with dozens of other ‘Gorilla’s’ from all parts of the planet half of them Maori. Back by 4.30pm. Wander up and down Main Street Whangarei looking for life but dead by 5.30pm, decide to catch a film in the local cinema, I counted 7 people in the gloom and 16 mice. The film was a bit steamy ‘Body Heat’ a new release but the mice were unmoved.
Wednesday 29th September 1982
Tea and toast for breakfast at 6.30am, in the office by 8am for ‘Induction’ Photo and I.D. Card. Issued with hard hat, steel capped boots and a red Swandri waterproof – never had this before in a drawing office! Presumably I have to go outside at some stage and risk getting swallowed up in some vessel or man eating tundish. It was wet and cold that day so useful kit anyway. A warm bath back at the hotel, a phone call from Allan Dickinson the manager at Hallam Eames to arrange another interview down in New Plymouth made things just a tad brighter. Looking around for alternative cheaper accommodation but after visiting a few ‘doss houses’ decided to stay put in the Hotel.
Thursday 30th September 1982
Breakfast at 5.30, this time chatting to ‘The Big Maori’ - incredible character. Rickety old bus to work, almost back in the old routine – more pipes to draw! Been here a week now, feels like a month. Look at yet another grotty hotel for $75 a week all in – poke it. Meal back at The Whangarei, Chili Con Carne, swede, cabbage and roast potatoes – very Gourmet!
Friday 1st October 1982
5.30am T and T for breakfast bus to work. Boring?
Issued with bicycle in order to ride round the site checking on rattling pipes, decide to cycle round the whole site including the port facilities – fixed the rattling pipes – on the drawing board. Rumour spreading that the Unions are about to call a strike. Fortunately I have the shared use of a company car so drive back in to Whangarei only to find that Friday night is Booze Night and the hotel staff have abandoned the place to the drunkards, cans and glasses litter the stairway to the bedrooms – animals – decide not to join in!
Saturday 2nd October 1982
Woken by ‘noises’ from the room next door - very thin walls! Took a stroll around Whangarei checking to see what it had to offer, not a lot as the shops seem to open and close when the shopkeeper’s feel like it, manage to grab a pot of marmalade before the door closes. Found a full size replica of ‘The Bounty’ moored in the harbour, wonder what Fletcher Christian and his crew would have thought of Whangarei – probably mutiny!
5pm. The bar back at the hotel is still full of drunks littering the place but comforted by a dose of ‘Porridge’ with Ronnie Barker and friends on the TV. My car sharer Derek returns with the car and car keys for my turn tomorrow, on the way to the gas station to tank up I am stopped by the police and asked for driving license, I.D. and breathalysed, comforting to know that they are on the ball! I plan to drive 100 miles down to Auckland tomorrow – just for the ride?
Whangarei Hotel I think all these old facades have disappeared now. Probably called Yummy Roast or something.
Just dropped out of my brief case so all this must be true!
Sunday 3rd October 1982
Hotel staff not too happy about me spreading my own marmalade on my toast at breakfast also complaining about my request for breakfast 10 minutes early. Hey ho! On the road by 7.30 am, sunny but cold, pleasant drive down to Auckland, pop another CV into the letter box for another job in Gisborne out on the east coast. Drop in to see Eric and family and lend a hand knocking a few nails in his house down on ‘the section’. Set off back to Whangarei at 6.30, not looking forward to Monday morning, tired, drive through unimpressive towns and villages littering the highway – what am I doing here? Quit moaning and enjoy.
Monday 4th October 1982
Breakfast and bus ride with ear banging music is not the best start to any week but no option. New intake of hotel ‘guests’ make the weekend crowd look positively saintly. Decide to redouble efforts to find a decent Motel after work. Barbara from Kiwiland shows me round her rooms after work – very impressed – with the rooms! - not bad at $100 a week. Might move in next week.
Tuesday 5th October 1982
Atmosphere at work already going downhill despite trying to stay positive. A call from Allan Dickinson from Hallam Eames confirms all expenses paid trip down to New Plymouth for an interview next Friday – yippee! Telephone home to check on Marcia and the children, they all sound like they want to join me but I don’t tell them that that is not likely to happen – I’ve already decided that New Zealand is not for us. I also call Gerald, now Gerald is an old neighbour of Marcia’s from her childhood and has lived in New Zealand for years and he also sends us a calendar every Christmas, he is a builder, single and I’ve never met him but promised to visit him down in Tokaanu next Friday (as well), it’s about 260 miles south in the middle of North Island on Lake Taupo. Had a glass of wine or two. Chat to some guy in the bar who has a small drawing office in Whangarei and may have some work for me for evenings/weekends. Radio blaring from the next room all night.
Wednesday 6th October 1982
Book air-taxi for Friday with a local travel agent from Whangarei to Auckland and then Air New Zealand flight to New Plymouth, feeling a lot better about New Zealand not to say elated. Difficult not to talk to somebody, anybody and share my good news but keep schtum as I'll probably be handing in my notice on Monday. Wander along the glittering beach at lunchtime considering my options. What a lovely place! Back at the hotel I ate too much, again, I’ll blame it on the ridiculous portions of mutton and swede offered at the carvery. One thing they don’t have on the menu is New Zealand Lamb, believe it or not; they export all the poor little critters which leaves them with Mutton and Swede, Mutton and Chips, Mutton Pie with gravy or custard to choice!
Thursday 7th October 1982
The mournful wail of the distant freight trains in NZ are the same as in the USA and wake you at 4.45am but I don’t care everything is rather rosy at the moment and I’m feeling excited about the prospect for tomorrow. My request for a knock on the door at 5.15 am is on time as it seems everyone else in the hotel has made the same request, too bad for those that haven’t as its mayhem. Two eggs, bacon and full English for breakfast (or full NZ) at 5.30am and off to work in a bit of a dream. Arrange a day off for tomorrow which requires a ridiculous amount of form filling but job done. Another visit to the ‘pictures’ in the evening to see ‘Last Tango in Paris’. Two letters from home await me at the hotel – can life be better than this? Yes – tomorrow will be even better. Posted an anniversary card for our 16th anniversary on the 15th – thoughtful?
Friday 8th October 1982
The big day. Breakfast at 5.30am followed by a change into interview suit – impressive – well I think so! Taxi arrives on time at 6.30 am for ride to airport, weather sparkling and first blue skies for weeks. A Cherokee Six taxi’s across from the flying club and the pilot invites me in to the co-pilot’s seat – well he would wouldn’t he? Two smartly dressed females in the back introduce themselves; one of them recognises my voice as she booked my ticket at the travel agents and her husband works at the Refinery – whoops! A smooth flight down to Auckland with Exec-Air but the Captain doesn’t need any help. Meet Allan Dickinson and his business partner Tom Highams with his wife Tricia in a bar in the airport; they are off for a trip to Singapore. They are not Kiwi’s but they love NZ and wouldn’t live anywhere else – maybe I’ve missed something.
They tell me that this interview is purely a formality and wish me a pleasant trip down to the site in New Plymouth – lovely people. So far I’ve only been exposed to a rather rougher strata of hard men, heavy drinkers and Maori’s although the Maori’s are very pleasant people and harmless when inebriated. Board a 727 to New Plymouth and engage in a conversation with Karen who informs me about all the new strains of Venereal Disease which are invading NZ – amongst other things. The approach into the airport at New Plymouth offers magnificent views of Mount Egmont in Taranaki State Park although now it seems they call it Mount Taranaki in Egmont National Park. Met by Dave Morris who works in the local Hallam Eames Office he treats me to lunch in a particularly nice restaurant – things are looking up. New Plymouth looks and feels inviting. I have arranged to pick up a Hertz rental car (a big Datsun Automatic) as I have decided to drive back to Whangarei – about 350 miles after visiting Gerald. Dave drives me out to the site to meet Terry Sherry, a yank, who is in charge of the Quantity Surveying Office my job this time will be on the Q.S. side monitoring all the materials – much more interesting (I hope). After a brief interview and a look at the 1/33 and a third model of the site all parties seem satisfied that my qualifications and experience are just what they are looking for – fortunately. The job will probably last 3 months or so taking over from 3 students who are off to college. The site is a green field site (not built yet) Gas to Gasoline Plant near Waitara about 5 miles up the coast. Seems like there is another Union Meeting or something as very few seem to be on site – ominous? Only the money to sort out at a later stage. Dave drives me back to the Hertz office to pick up my rental car, say goodbye to Dave who is a very pleasant and helpful Kiwi and I’m free!
It’s 4.15pm so off with the tie and braces and set about sorting out the route over to Tokaanu (no GPS or mobile phone remember) which can be a long drive around the mountains, about 200 miles, or 150 miles over the mountain road – I choose the mountain road which was probably the wrong decision as the surface was loose shale and precipitous for most of the way and not another vehicle to be seen. Scenic drive nevertheless, passing through ‘Thermal Reserves’ oozing steam and sulphurous fumes also littered with sheep and dead possums. Long descent down the other side of the hills. Arrive at a telephone box in Tokaanu and try to call Gerald as believe it or not I don’t have his street address, only his PO Box Number, silly me! It’s now 7.45 in the evening and I’m feeling a bit knackered after a full day. No answer from Gerald. The only place that seems to have life is The Delta Restaurant, must be somebody there who knows where he lives? No, but they recognise my description as ‘The Long Haired Pom’ but nobody knows where he lives. Have a rather nice meal of a large Perch in the restaurant while the manager offers to ring around to try to locate ‘The Long Haired Pom’. No luck, he’s probably hiding, forgotten I’m coming or disappeared for the weekend. It’s now 11pm and getting really tired and the local Motels are full so contemplating a night in the car. A big fat Mamma in one of the Motels senses my plight and suggests I try the Fisherman’s Lodge a few miles out of town. One final call to The Long Haired Pom and take the last room in the Fisherman’s Lodge. Should have stayed in New Plymouth. (or New Malden?).
Pole houses Auckland Eric's siction sorry section.
Your carriage awaits!
Probably built up a bit by now.
Thursday 7th January 2016
I’d just like to pause for a mo’ and reflect on this riveting story, which I promise will get even more riveting, and will test my powers of description and vocabulary to the limit. We all have a special day, don’t we? Well tomorrow is Elvis’s special day and today is my special day. For those of you who are keen, sharp eyed, blog readers you will know that already so I will admit that today I have reached the grand old age of 27½ (but the half is half a century). Lucky? A happy birthday to you when it comes and to Elvis for tomorrow and thanks for reading my blog. Love and hugs, Bob. (Fellow Lover of Rock and roll, pop, rockabilly, country, blues, gospel, soul, rhythm and blues - not forgetting Pompey!)
Saturday 9th October 1982
Slept very well, so well I haven’t a clue where I am for a good 15 minutes after waking except that I must be in a forest somewhere as the birdsong is deafening and reminds me of home. Maybe I’m in Oxshott Woods! Bloody cold morning so why get up? Why should I? I’ve decided to forget trying to find The Long Haired Pom and head back to Whangarei, (at a leisurely pace) a distance of about 300 miles via Rotorua Thermal Reserves and Auckland. But first things first, ablutions, the hot water is coming out of the cold tap and the cold water is coming out of the hot tap but this is New Zealand!
Breakfast at 7am, alone, except for a waitress who has had no training in breakfast etiquette or customer satisfaction. I’m not one to expect much in the way of service but I don’t expect to get my own cutlery and tea cup. Too much breakfast – again, well it was $5 for all you can eat!
On the road by 8.15am, head up the east side of Lake Taupo on Highway 5 towards Rotorua, beautiful drive, scenic forests, spring flowers, lush vegetation. Take a detour to The Lady Knox Geyser which is in a Thermal Reserve near Wai-O-Tapu. The Lady Knox Geyser is renowned for its regularity, it blasts steam 20m skywards at 10.15am precisely every day, it is worth the detour if you happen to be in the area. On the Saturday morning I was there, there was no one to be seen – no car parking attendants, nobody to collect admission fee and no tourists so my wander around the area was like being on another planet. Menacing looking sulphurous craters, boiling mud pools, gurgling ‘cooking pots’, spectacular coloured encrustations, I am enveloped in Sulphurous fumes and stench and the arrow indicating the route to take is across a dodgy looking plank floating on a thin crust of red custard, the end of the plank is not visible through the sulphurous fumes and steam, might never be seen again. By now the sun is adding to the heat and spectacle. Fortunately the plank leads me safely to firmer ground.
Head on to Geyser Land Rotorua, a much more ‘touristy’ spectacle of bigger and better ‘cooking pots’ inviting you in for a swim or a hot mud bath, steam once again firing up your trouser leg from all directions. Incredible power from the depths, endless power and pressure. There are many Thermal Power Stations generating electricity in the area, I wonder if these are classified as renewable or green energy? Drive on into Downtown Rotorua which has a mini Las Vegas feel about it, stop for a Big Mac and a strawberry shake. Drive on towards Hamilton feeling a bit peuky – never learn. Nevertheless a ‘Devon’ cream tea in Hamilton seems to settle the situation.
Now getting tired and really shouldn’t be driving, head and neck ache aggravating the problem but a long way to go to Auckland. Finally reach Auckland and pop in to see Eric and family, fortunately he insists I stay for the night. Thanks again to Eric and family.
Made it to Tokaanu but not sure why!
Central Heating Pipes.
The sinter encrusted flat below is so named for the coloured pools which frequently change position and the chemical deposits that streak its surface. Colours -
Orange - Antimony
Green/Yellow - Sulphur, Arsenic
Dark Grey - Sulphurous Mud
On the right is The Champagne Pool, the overflow from which is forming the terraces on the left. Champagne Pool occupies a crater formed by a steam explosion which occured about 900 years ago. The clay and block material on which you are standing was ejected by that eruption.
Sunday 10th October 1982
Wake up still with the headache, must be the old neck problem. Thanks and apologies to Eric for not stopping but need to press on the last 100 miles or so back to Whangarei and ‘home’ before incapacitation sets in and before I squash any more possums - sorry. A relaxing bath and clean laundry back at the hotel go some way to getting me back to feeling normal. I’ve arranged to move in to Kiwiland Motel tonight but looks like I’ll have to cancel as Allan Dickinson calls to confirm $20.50 an hour plus $20 a day expenses start Monday week down in New Plymouth - fantastic. Barbara at Kiwiland has forgotten about my reservation anyway so no worries! Another gourmet meal of sweet and sour chicken, swede, cauliflower and roast potatoes, headache back with avengeance.
Monday 11th October 1982
5.15 am call comes about 2 hours early, or that’s what it feels like. Company bus fails to turn up so lucky to get a lift to work with John but lying prostrate in the boot again does nothing for the neck problem. Not feeling too good either about handing in my notice but Hey ho! There are some things that don’t feel right and some things that do – this feels right. Rob the agent calls to complain about me leaving already and him losing his commission and wants my expenses back – sorry Rob. Agents have to take that sort of thing – they are thick skinned. However it will be the day I leave NZ before I receive my cheque for work done so far – a grudging gesture even then.
Manage to book a session with an Irish Physio to sort my neck problem but all I get is some nasty neck graunching sounds, a burnt neck from a hot water bottle and a less than friendly fare well . Somehow the sandstorm outside helps to relieve the situation. My view of NZ is going downhill fast but maybe uphill from here?
Tuesday 12th October 1982
Another day in the office trying to keep a low profile and not upset anybody else as I need to get my time sheets signed by the boss, which he does, reluctantly but mumbles a comment that sounds like ‘he’s been paying for my holiday’ – my diary records my real feelings. Call Hertz to book a car for the drive back down to Auckland and then book the flight down to New Plymouth on Saturday. Letters from my children await back at the hotel - a bit choked – seriously consider forgetting New Plymouth and NZ altogether and start the journey back home on Saturday instead. Write a long letter home and asleep by 9.30.
Wednesday 13th October 1982
A brilliant day – but I don’t know it yet. Mansoor signs my expense sheet, beginning to like him and the job! Visit the Northland Centre after work to see a Country and Western show which blows me away, the kids in the show transform my view of NZ – NZ is great. Back at the hotel I meet Colin an auctioneer/dealer who also impresses me with his enthusiasm for everything – lot of nice people about – maybe NZ is not so bad after all. Maybe it’s me that is screwed up.
Thursday 14th October 1982
Not a lot to report except that I collect my cheque for expenses, a few more circuits around the site on my bike in the warm sunshine, a few beers with the lads, back to the hotel for Oysters, Steak and Kidney Pie, Swede and Roast Potatoes, start to pack my case as this will be the last night in this place and finish the evening in a warm bath considering flying instead of driving down to New Plymouth tomorrow. What a prospect?
Friday 15th October 1982
Today is our 16th wedding anniversary and I haven’t forgotten – but not much I can do about it. I shan’t be sorry about the fact that I have just spent the last night in a particularly uncomfortable bed also the breakfast is particularly yucky this morning. One more bus ride to the site in the pouring rain – but I don’t care. Some of the lads invite me down to the pub for a farewell drink which I am surprised about as I don’t know any of that well but a nice gesture. Hand in my free issue gear and try not to look too happy when 4.30pm arrives. Bus back to Whangarei to pick up an expensive rental car, a Mitsubishi Mirage. Return to the hotel to pick up my gear but on entering my room I discover that all of my gear has disappeared and been replaced by somebody else’s gear scattered all around – a touch annoyed but I suppose it’s my fault for not clearing the room out before I left for work at 6am. My gear has been roughly packed and left at reception and the receptionist is off hand when I request somewhere to get a wash and shave. Jump in the car with my gear and spend a long time trying to work out if I’ve left anything behind and whether or not I am doing the right thing. Yes.
Hit the road at 5.45pm heading for Auckland and maybe a new life. I encounter many vehicles without lights with signs on saying ‘Disabled Driver’ – wonder if being disabled entitles you to drive around with no lights in NZ! Snapper and Chips at some road side café before arriving at Eric’s for the night – good night’s sleep.
Camper van New Zealand style, Maori meeting house and Maori Carving
Saturday 16th October 1982
Breakfast with Eric’s children tucking in to a box of Roses Chocolates! – hope they are OK. Eric says goodbye and heads off to his ‘section’ (or ‘siction’ as they say in Kiwi). Thanks to Eric and family for putting me up, again, and head down to Auckland Airport for the flight down to New Plymouth – getting a bit concerned about cash as haven’t been paid yet. Smooth flight to New Plymouth pick up another rental car to check out the area as I haven’t a clue where I will be staying tonight – 'Cheyenne, Cheyenne. Where will you be staying tonight'!
At least the sun is shining – could be an omen? Where now? Drive around New Plymouth which initially looks welcoming but most of the shops seem to be closed on a Saturday afternoon? Drive a bit further North to a place called Waitara which will be nearer to where I will be working, first impressions are reminiscent of a town out west (USA) with board walks and a Main St with a derelict Gold Rush town feel about it – the shops are closed. Back to New Plymouth this time to a pleasant area called Inglewood and Egmont Valley – obviously a touch more up market but no Motels.
Back to Waitara, weather turned cold and miserable which reflects my mood. Check out the local deserted beach which is a beautiful shade of oily black, obviously been deposited there some years ago by the local volcano towering on the horizon (Mount Taranaki). Collect a sample of black sand in an old film canister.
Reluctantly check in at The Waitara Hotel at the corner of Main St, the residents are loud and could be an issue, the meal at the hotel does nothing to enhance its reputation. Not much to do except try the bars up and down Main St for a beer and maybe some interesting conversation but most of them are too far ‘gone’ to converse except for one young lad who seems to pick up on the fact that I am missing my family – wonder why? The hotel room is particularly poky with very thin walls so if you are unlucky enough to get a moaning drunk puking up all night in the next room it is not very pleasant also my room stinks of half burnt paraffin but not sure where it’s coming from. The moaning drunk suddenly burst into hysterical laughter. I have now decided to start my journey back home to Cobham in the morning. My view of NZ is now at its lowest level – I think.
Sunday 17th October 1982
Pack case as I don’t intend to spend another night in this place. I decline breakfast (which for me is unheard of) as the moaning drunk is now eagerly tucking into a ‘full English’ – feel sick. Decide to drive off without paying the bill but conscience kicks in before I leave town and return to pay the bill. Where now? Visit the local airport to check flights to anywhere but not a soul to be seen. Drive to ‘Motonui’ which is where I will be working, chat to a jolly Yorkshireman on the gate who goes some way to restoring my faith in human nature. Perhaps I’ll stay? Drive round New Plymouth trying to find a decent Motel with vacancies, find one called the Timandra Unity Motel which looks more like a mobile home park so decide to book in at $26 a night plus meals, bit pricy but quite like the quiet location. Drive around checking out the local area (again) discover some nice parks and then a longer drive up to Mount Taranaki Park Visitor Centre, very impressive but again not a soul about. Where the hell is everybody? Contact Dave Morris as he is my liaison person for the job, he kindly invites me over to meet his family for the evening which is spent chatting mostly about England. Drive back to my ‘unit’ which I discover is perched on the edge of a cliff with great views vertically down, I hadn’t noticed before – hope it’s not earthquake time. Looking forward to tomorrow and doing some work.
Saturday 9th January 2016
Celebrated Elvis’s birthday (and mine) last night at The Bulls Head Barnes, The Fallen Heroes blew everybody away, shame you missed them but you can enjoy HERE.
Monday 18th October 1982
Lovely to lie in until 7am, breakfast left on a tray outside the door, grab it before the possums wake up. First morning on the job and already ‘comfortable’ taken out to visit two companies who are fabricating sections of pipe for the plant, this will be my job as it is a QS role (Quantity Survey) and involves checking on suppliers, costing and keeping an eye on ‘the books’. Back ‘home’ to a nice meal, received another large cheque for expenses. It’s cold and windy. Put an ad’ in the local paper ‘English Gentleman seeks accommodation’, well it sounds good. Still struggling to come to terms with my new situation but don’t know why.
Main Street Waitara on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Large pipe arriving on site on a 160 wheel trailer.
Tuesday 19th October 1982
Fortunately my cabin stayed perched on the cliff edge again, try not to look over the hedge as there is nothing there except a 500ft void. The work I am doing is tedious (already) but it is better than drawing lines and circles. Wondering how I will cope without the rented car as I have to return it tomorrow. A phone call to Dave to see if I can wangle a permanent rent. I do have the use of a company vehicle for running around during the day so perhaps I shouldn’t be too greedy. Check out a house for rent at $100 a week, includes bed linen, cutlery, stereo record player and fully furnished – can’t believe it. Back to the edge of the cliff and in bed by 8pm. Cosy?
Wednesday 20th October 1982
Two answers to my ad’; visit one of them on my ‘rounds’ but turns out to be disgusting, filthy, smelly but cheap, perhaps not. Hoping to work over the holiday (Labour Day) weekend but disappointed as it’s not to be, not going to make much on this trip. Phone home in response to a letter from Marcia – she puts on a brave face.
Thursday 21st October 1982
No deal on rental car from Dave so trying to work out how to exist without a car. Discover that the company are not prepared to pay Hallam Eames for my first two weeks as they say I am ‘learning’ the job – cheeky b………s – decide to quit tomorrow. Check flights and times with a local travel agent who confirms that there are seats available. Sorry NZ. Another response to my ad’ for accommodation which sounds worth checking out, if this no good decide then goodbye NZ.
32 Ihaia Street, Waitara turns out to be a tin roofed bungalow (which is standard in NZ) owned by middle aged Dorothy, or Dotty, as she prefers to be called, with a potty cat that goes by the name of Kit (Kiwi for cat). Dotty tells me I can have the use of her motor bike as well, all in, including meals for $50 a week, done, move in tomorrow – give NZ another chance.
Pay the bill back at the edge of the cliff, phew, $194, daylight robbery and pack my case, hopefully for the last time.
Friday 22nd October 1982
Last breakfast on the edge of the cliff to the sound of loud adverts from next doors radio for ‘The very best Cows Tits you can buy’. Today I have to plan carefully as I have to drop my gear at my new ‘home’, drop the car back at the airport, collect some photos and, Oh yes! Do some work. Then quit NZ, but hang on a bit I can’t go without my photos so I’ll stay.
Not too keen on the feeling of being without wheels so join the line for the company mini-bus after work back to town but the driver obviously objects to ‘contractors’ riding the company bus but reluctantly relents – miserable sod.
Walk back to my new ‘home’ and to Dotty who has cooked a reasonable meal of powdered milk amongst the fumes of a stinking cat – well it tasted alright! Two letters from home cheer me up no end, a bright and breezy one from my eldest daughter and one from Marcia who sounds OK but the letter is at least a week old and I am wondering if I should catch the next flight, again. It’s damn cold again and the windows are wide open which helps with cat smells but does nothing for your core temperature. The cat, fast asleep, falls off the cold radiator.
Saturday 23rd October 1982
Woke up in new ‘digs’ feeling a lot better after a good night’s sleep, what have I been moaning about? You’ve got money in the bank haven’t you? No. You’ve got a good job haven’t you? Yes. Dotty cooks a nice breakfast while the cat is strolling around the kitchen working surfaces looking for any scraps. Stroll around Waitara collecting thoughts, another visit to the oily black beach strewn with driftwood, select an interesting looking piece for a souvenir. Stroll back ‘home’ via the golf club and a shop that happens to be open on a Saturday morning and buy a bottle of wine. To hell with the expense. Spend the rest of the day in Dotty’s deck chair in the garden writing a letter home. Contemplating borrowing Dotty’s motor bike but maybe leave that till later – quite like that idea.
Keith, one of the guys at work has very kindly offered to pick me up and spend the evening at his place with his young wife Kathy. They are lovely Kiwi’s and tell me that they much prefer Dunedin on the South Island – so it’s not just me! Maybe I should try the South Island? Howling wind and rain all night testing the corrugated tin roof panels.
Sunday 24th October 1982
Lie in till 9pm – bliss? Can’t find any bread so stroll round to the deli’ for a loaf in between the cold showers, not feeling too good without wheels. Only one bus out of town today and probably doesn’t return. Dotty kindly drives me round Waitara introducing me to some of her friends. Dotty is a middle aged Kiwi who has had a tough life which shows, she goes to ‘bid at tin past tin ivery night usually with the cit wripped around her nick’ – but she’s lovely. Dotty invites her friends round for a game of ‘Euchre’ some card game which produces lots of giggles but not much conversation.
Not sure why I make notes of what we had for ‘tea’ but tonight it is White Bait Entre, Chicken and Spuds followed by pancakes cream and passion fruit. Still very cold howling wind and rain and the cat falls off the cold radiator again.
Monday 25th October 1982
Today is Labour Day which for me means no work, no wheels and it’s still raining and raining try to read but not concentrating. TV is unwatchable even the cat is bored. But for ‘tea’ it is baked beans served with heated up leftovers wrapped in pasta all nicely served in pea soup – so not all bad!. What I wouldn’t do for a pie and a pint up the Vic’ in Oxshott, Marcia’s clean sheets and a clean fridge. Thank the Lord its work tomorrow. Maybe I should learn to cook. Dotty invites me to join a coach party at the weekend to Palmerston North with her mates – thanks but no thanks – ungrateful sod.
Tuesday 26th October 1982
Temperature climbs to 5 degrees centigrade, beginning to feel, believe it or not, undernourished; clothes feel like they don’t fit any more. Wonder if I will be allowed to ride the company bus to work – the driver grudgingly allows me on, feeling like a refugee. Wonder if this bus stops at Cobham! My task today is adding up columns of numbers checking on hours and blokes but I don’t complain as the sun has come out. Collect photo’s after work – if it wasn’t for the photo’s being late I wouldn’t be here and enjoying NZ! Despite my situation I am beginning to feel as though I’m in ‘control’ of events rather than the other way around.
Wednesday 27th October 1982
A touch warmer, invited to sit in at a progress meeting but not a lot of progress being made. Drop in the Waitara Hotel for a beer after work – nobody to talk to but the meal is a tad better than Dotty’s. Dotty usually goes to bed with the radio blaring so I creep in to her room and turn it off trying not to disturb the cat curled up around her neck. Not a pretty sight!
Thursday 28th October 1982
Friday 29th October 1982
Invited in for chat with the boss (Terry Sherry) and tells me that the contract will be ending at the end of November which is good news so a good reason for a few more beers at the Hotel with Dave and Keith who then invite me round for a pleasant evening at Dave’s strumming his guitar, they are impressed with my 'flamenco'. Dave drops me ‘home ‘at 1am. Creep in trying not to disturb the cat.
Saturday 30th October 1982
5 am. Dotty crashing about getting ready for her day out with The Toast Mistresses to Palmerston North which means the cat and I have the place to ourselves. The sun is out and Dotty has left me a hard-boiled egg for dinner so things are looking up. Keith calls to invite me to join them for a visit to Fama-Rama a sort of horticultural show which again is appreciated. The displays of crop sprayers (aircraft) are for me the best bit. Steak and eggs at Sisarich’s Restaurant on Main Street is my choice tonight but something has given me a headache, Dotty arrives at midnight trying to be quiet but fails miserably.
Sunday 31st October 1982
Clocks forward one hour (remember its springtime in NZ). Headache not responding to pain killers so try to ignore breakfast and Dotty’s Sunday morning noises until 10.30. Dotty excels herself for lunch with cold sardines on toast. In the afternoon Dotty takes me for a short ride (bless her) to visit Les’s place, Les is a likeable old Kiwi with a yard full of junk, his son turns up with a sheep shearing machine and proceeds to demonstrate his sheep shearing skills on a scruffy old sheep that was loitering about minding its own business amongst the junk. I decide to stroll on down to the nearby beach and wander amongst the drift wood and oily black sand thinking about what happens next, Oz is about 1500 miles over the horizon? Stroll back to Dotty’s for a Mutton Chop and potatoes followed by two hours of the Rolling Stones on the TV which does nothing for my headache so decide to seek out a chiropractor in the morning.
This is Barry demonstrating his sheep shearing skills.
Notice straight back and straight legs.
New Zealand lamb with bent legs.
Farmarama horticultural show, hard working crop sprayer and helicopter a touch vertical.
Kathy, Keith, Dave and family.
A pleasant bunch.
Montage attempt at Waitara looking down McLean St, Waitara Hotel on the corner first building on the right over the bridge (now flattened and called The Waitara Town and Country Club) thankfully.
Monday 11th January 2016
Just like to interrupt this riveting story as looking at Barry reminds me of me every day doing an exercise. All those of us with back problems need only to work on your hamstrings, in other words touch your toes keeping your legs straight (or try) whenever is convenient – on the platform, at the bus stop, anywhere. After a few weeks you will find you will be able to get your head between your knees with straight legs, just like in the last scene of Billy Elliot, or those Sadler’s Wells Ballet dancers – no more back problems - promise. Stretch those hamstrings. I’m very old and very supple. Living proof!
Monday 1st November 1982
Now it’s the neck and back giving me gip, not much sleep. Dotty and the bus driver can’t live without a radio blaring all the time. Manage to locate another Physio’ and make an appointment for tomorrow. Grey day. Jim the Texan joins me on my ‘rounds’ at work who is louder than a radio and doesn’t have a volume control. Terry informs me that my contract will be ending in 4 weeks. What? WHAT? Wouldn’t have started the job if I’d known that? What if I’d brought the family out? Just settling down, making friends, liking the job and now I’ve got to go home? Suddenly things are looking up, not to say positively rosy.
Tuesday 2nd November 1982
Thick fog, all internal flights grounded so couldn’t get anywhere even if I wanted to. Hallam Eames apologise for contract only being a few weeks – maybe some recompense - like paying my fare home for instance (I don’t let on that I already have a return ticket). Very busy and satisfying day checking iso’s and spools. Perhaps I should explain that this job involves juggling hundreds of isometric drawings of pipes (A3 size drawings which indicate north, south, east, west, up and down but not to scale) and the spools are transportable sections of pipe that the fabricators are welding together and transporting to site. I visit the two fabricating companies every day to check on progress. One of the fabricators is very welcoming, open and friendly and the other isn’t. I am suspicious.
The physio cracks my neck a few times followed by a hot lamp for half an hour which doesn’t help much. Another beer after work waiting for the chemist to open so I can collect the photos, the chemist opens and closes while I’m watching The Melbourne Cup on the bar TV next door – bugger.
I plan to attempt another visit to Gerald over in Tokaanu (The Long Haired Pom) next weekend but he’s not answering the phone -bugger.
Wednesday 3rd November 1982
Finally manage to contact Gerald and this time make sure I note his address. Pop in to New Plymouth to arrange car rental for the weekend. Telephone home and speak to Marcia and the children, they sound in good spirits and cheer me up no end, although I am already cheered up to some degree. Dotty picks me up in Waitara after picking up my photos and a bottle of wine – lucky to catch the shops open! Barry’s wife Vervian pops round to introduce herself, she has a leg covered in open sores apparently the doctor has advised fresh air for the problem – poor Vervian. Watch Nanny and Bounder on TV feeling very relaxed as things seem to be clicking into place.
Thursday 4th November 1982
Busy day running around checking on progress also visit the Bank to check on the balance – a bit better than I thought. Splash out on a bar of soap before the shop closes. Vervian picks me up and runs me back to Dotty’s. Saw a News item on TV about the IML Group in Gisborne (remember I sent a CV there way back) must get to Gisborne at some point as I know a family there. Dotty out for the evening – probably come back noisy. I must have eaten something during the last couple of days! I’m not suffering I just mean I haven’t noted anything down – must have been good.
Friday 5th November 1982
Warm sunny day. Another busy day achieving. Gerry calls to invite me over for ‘tea’ on Wednesday? ‘No Gerald, I will be with you tomorrow lunch time and you invited me to stay the night – remember?’ Mmmmmm?
Keith kindly offers to drop me down to New Plymouth after work to pick up the rental car for the weekend. This time it’s a Toyota Starlet. Keith and I drop in to the Weston Hotel to meet Dave and Peter for a beer, I’m not sure who Peter is but he insists on buying me dinner, very nice meal but the service is diabolical. Beginning to feel a bit guilty about enjoying myself, the prospect for tomorrow is a tad more than exciting. Lots of fireworks in the sky as its Guy Fawkes night – didn’t realise that NZ celebrated November 5th. Dotty out for the night, early to bed, this time it’s the air raid siren that wakes me up as something has caught fire – probably a bonfire.
Saturday 6th November 1982
The plan for today is try to find Gerald in Tokaanu a distance of about 180 miles via Inglewood, Stratford, Hawera, and Whanganui and then via Highway 4 and 47 up to Tokaanu. There are shorter routes but I want to see a bit more of North Island. So with a full tank I set off at 06.15 looking for sign posts but they are few and far between so back to first principles with a compass and watch.
Managed to get to Whanganui without seeing any open restaurants or road side eating establishments but passing through interesting looking towns and villages. Spot a 1930 Morris 15 – 6 for sale in a garage which sparks my interest but not just now. Find Highway 4 out of Whanganui heading into ‘the route of 1000 hills’. Fortunately a shack advertising breakfasts eventually appears which is very welcome. Also manage to find the BBC World Service on the radio which reminds me of faraway places – but I’m already in a faraway place!
The next 50 miles or so is through not only the 1000 hills but hundreds of different types of scenery, gorges, rivers, falls, scrub, valleys and tortured landscape of one sort and another which obviously has been bent into place by years of volcanic activity – very striking. All the grassy bits, which are many, are fenced off and holding back a few million sheep – no footpaths. The road is a good surface and the Toyota responds well on the fast, twisting road.
Eventually reach Highway 47 heading east towards Tokaanu but decide to take a detour up to Mt Ruapehu and the ski areas but only get as far as Chateau Tongariro as any further is on hard packed snow and the little Toyota doesn’t like it. This area is called The Tongariro National Park and is vast. Back down to Highway 47 and on to Tokaanu and The Kuratau River Mouth where Gerry lives. Arrive at 11.30 having clocked 380 km (235 miles).
Chateau Tongariro 3740 feet above sea level. Toyota Starlet at ground level.
Wednesday 13th January 2016
Last night on TV (8pm BBC 4) was a very beautiful and disturbing story about a lovely lady who swims with and studies The Orca (Killer Whales) off the coast of New Zealand. Beautiful, because the backdrop was lovely New Zealand and disturbing, because pollutants of our seas are threatening many species – including us. Dr Ingrid Visser who happens to live near Whangarei (they pronounce it Vungeray) travels the waters around New Zealand in her rib studying the Orca. In the background of many of the shots was Marsden Point Oil Refinery where I worked back in ‘82 no doubt still pumping out gunge and fumes -it is only one of thousands around the planet which we can’t live without and for which we are all guilty. How do I explain this to our little Lottie?
Saturday 6th November 1982 (continued)
Hello Gerry, in order to describe Gerry and his situation I would only say that compared with Dotty, she was a Princess and her place was a Palace. Gerry, as I said, was a neighbour to Marcia in Perivale back in the 50’s and emigrated to NZ. He was single, some 10 years older than me, a builder and had built his own house. His décor was faded old English Newspapers half stuck to the wall – very chic!
Within 10 minutes of my arrival he took me out into his garden and introduced me to a wild cat snarling in a metal cage. Now as many of you know I am not a lover of cats but the next few minutes I felt sorry for this cat – wild as it was. Gerry calmly lifted the cage and dropped it into a large rainwater tank, the tank ‘boiled’ for many minutes before stillness. Gerry presumably had staged this to impress me with his disdain for the wild – but I am at a loss to know why.
We then conversed for some hours drinking tea and whiskey. I was keen to treat him to a meal at his local restaurant as anything from his kitchen would have been fatal. Gerry accepted my invitation and donned his going out sweater which was rigid. I noted that the waiter in the restaurant (which was the same one I visited on my previous visit) ushered us into an out of the way corner as he obviously knew ‘The Long Haired Pom’. Back at the house, more tea and whiskey and loud one way conversation until the early hours. The pillow was decorated with a nice pattern of cigarette burns.
Sunday 7th November 1982
Gerry comes into my room with more tea and whiskey and sits on the bed continuing his one way conversation. Eventually we stroll out into the sunshine (phew!) and down to the edge of Lake Taupo. It is now 10 am and 75 degrees F. The lake is lovely in the sunshine; it is 520 feet deep and 1200 feet above sea level – just for the record! By 12.30 I have my case packed, decline the offer of lunch and leave Gerry to his hermit like existence of which no doubt he is very proud.
Another fantastic, scenic drive avoiding the Possums and the melting tar via Route 4 of 150 miles back to Waitara and the lovely Dotty. Her microwaved greasy chicken is the best and I have a couple more letters from home – how much better can it get?
Monday 8th November 1982
Return car back to New Plymouth and hitch a lift in somebody’s van back to work. Satisfying day but rapidly get cheesed off back ‘home,’ however Dotty tries to remedy the situation with a large plate of sausages and mash followed by prunes and custard. Is she getting amorous? Arthur Daly in ‘Minder’ on TV takes my mind elsewhere.
Tuesday 9th November 1982
Dotty complaining about me using too much hot water – quite rightly. Whatever next? Another busy day checking invoices. Dotty invites an old dour Scottish no nonsense couple round for tea. They have fixed ideas about everything including NZ and tell me that ‘all the best Kiwi’s have gone abroad and only the trash are left’ – her words not mine. They explain that many of the place names in NZ are Scottish for a reason and they were here first. So there. There are others other than Scottish of course, like the Maori for instance but I say nothing, switch off and write another letter home.
Wednesday 10th November 1982
Dotty and the radio competing for maximum volume at breakfast, I tune the radio to a classical station, Dotty turns it off and microwaves up yesterday’s porridge – just for a change. Call Rob who owes me some money for the job at Whangarei but no answer. Two letters back ‘home’ a cheery one from Marcia and one from Dave Williams about the job in Gisborne – could be another interview. Nanny and Bounder on TV complete an OK day.
Thursday 11th November 1982
I am informed that I am definitely not needed at work after November but there may be work for me back at Hallam Eames Head Office in Auckland if I want it otherwise it looks like some sort of compensation package. Negotiating honourable exit. Dotty on the wine again.
Friday 12th November 1982
3am thunderous rain on the tin roof at least I think its rain – it could be lava! News of my lay off gets round to one of the fabricators I visit every day (the one I get on well with) John the boss of Newcan Engineering offers me a job paying $30.000 p.a. plus car plus house, I am somewhat taken aback. I seriously consider the offer but I’m afraid I’m too far down the exit road to change course now and bring my family to New Zealand, nevertheless I am chuffed with the offer. Call in at the airport to check flights to Gisborne – could be another option!.
Manage to negotiate 6 hours overtime tomorrow. Allan from Hallam Eames calls to offer me $660 compensation which is equivalent to my fare home or work back in Auckland until Christmas. I don’t take long to make up my mind. Terry offers to pick me up for the overtime tomorrow morning – what’s happening everybody is being extremely kind to me? Back ‘home’ there is even a letter from Marcia, she sounds OK but she doesn’t realise yet that 2 weeks tonight I could be on my way home. Take a stroll down to the beach to collect my thoughts which get blown away by the thunderous surf. It’s Coronation Street and Butterflies back at Dotty’s. The cat is unmoved with my news.
32 Ihaia Strret, sadly no pictures of Dotty or the cat.
On the black beach at Waitara dreaming of faraway places - like New Malden!
Saturday 13th November 1982
Apart from the 6 hours overtime spend most of the day working out how best to retrieve money owing to me from the job up in Whangarei. Also decided what’s missing in New Zealand – its footpaths. No access to woods or ‘common’ land or fields it’s all fenced and out of bounds except to sheep. You can of course drive miles to a National Park if you so desire. Cold evening, cold night, cold radiators and cold cat.
Sunday 14th November 1982
Woke up with a rotten headache – must have been the wine Dotty was feeding me. Generally wandering around Waitara wondering. Wander round to ‘the freezing works’ crowds of sheep doing the same thing except the sheep are not looking too happy as they only have a one way ticket. The sun is out but so is the wind. I’ve heard of windy Wellington but not windy Waitara. My favourite for Sunday lunch, a tomato sandwich, finish with an ice cream and chips down at The Dairy. Dotty invites a pleasant Dutch couple over but Dotty is the loudest.
Join the queue for a tour of the Waitara Freezing Works.
Monday 15th November 1982
Neck playing up again. Letter to Rob requesting money still owed. Call Dave Williams about the job over in Gisborne, he offers to put me up if I can make it. Splash out $2 on a haircut! Warm and sunny outside but bloody cold back at No 32. Sneak a boiled egg while Dotty’s out. Another letter home. Thinking about getting out ASAP and not waiting to Friday week. Don’t be silly.
Tuesday 16th November 1982
Pop in to the Travel Agent on my ‘rounds’ and ask them to book me on ANZ flight Saturday week, they call back to say the flight is fully booked – bugger – but they have provisional booked me on BA flight on the Friday which means I’ll lose a day’s pay – bugger. But at least it will mean I will have completed my ‘round the world’ trip, plus, the fare is a tad cheaper than ANZ. Bought a few souvenirs.
Wednesday 17th November 1982
Snowed under with bits of paper at work. Dave arrives with a cheque. Telephone Allan back in Auckland, he offers to pick me up at Auckland Airport and buy me lunch – a lovely gesture. Dotty not feeling too well but manages steak, mushrooms and chips for tea – another lovely gesture! I write a letter home most days but I’m not telling I’ll be home next week.
Thursday 18th November 1982
Picked up flight tickets after work which is a good feeling. I suppose I had better start thinking about what I’m going to do when I get back but the feeling doesn’t last.
Friday 19th November 1982
Awake at 4.30 to the sound of howling wind and rain (again). Pay a visit to the bank on my ‘rounds’ to arrange a money transfer = not much. I am informed that I won’t be able to use the company bus next week - ********. Discover that Jim the Yank (actually he’s Canadian) who is due to take over my job is quitting, he disappears never to be seen again – curious. Have words with Terry who offers to pay me for next Friday – another nice gesture? He also offers me 4 hours work tomorrow. ‘Home’ to a nice plate of fish, chips and peas – from the Dairy. One week tonight I will be up, up and away……………..
Saturday 20th November 1982
Dotty kindly runs me in to work – a quiet morning at work checking the books. A relaxed walk back to Waitara, a distance of about 2 miles, taking in many trashy back streets. Starving. Pop in to Sisarich’s for sausage egg and chips and buy a bottle of Kiwi Fruit Wine. Another letter from home and the wind is howling. I decline an offer from Dotty to join her and her friends for the evening, I sense that she is a touch disappointed as she has made a reasonable effort in front of the mirror. Turn on a concert programme as soon as she is out the door. Dotty back early with Barry and Vervian, chat till 12.30am and off to bed. 1am Dotty turns the radio on, loud, as there is some ****** rugby match she wants to listen to on the other side of the planet – I think the other side of the planet can hear her radio.
Sunday 21st November 1982
A final Sunday morning stroll down by the river watching the dinghy racing, back to Sisarich’s for 50 cents worth of chips but there is a power cut so no chips. The wind is still howling – probably flattened a few dinghies. Dotty invites me to join her strawberry picking, this time I accept and she allows me to drive her car back. Chicken and strawberry flan tonight - separately! Early to bed. Can’t stop writing letters.
Monday 22nd November 1982
A good night’s sleep for a change. Weather warming up but still very windy. Sun very high in the sky now as the North Island is semi tropical – lemons on the trees. Arrange a ride in to work with Garry. Busy day includes banking some spare cash – lucky. Still no money from Rob for my first job. It’s ‘Minder’ on TV tonight which Dotty and I watch together – cosy?
Tuesday 23rd November 1982
Dreaming up schemes to make a fortune back home – Executive Air Travel is my favourite. New Zealand not looking so bad after all – wonder why? Wind still howling. Dave arrives at work with some more money for me, thanks Dave. Even Rob calls and condescends to pay what’s owing but I won’t get the cheque until Friday, ask him to send it to Hallam Eames office. Telephone Eric and arrange a fare well meeting on Friday. Thinking about arranging a ‘shout’ for the lads on Thursday but the beer is disgusting. Another letter from home – they seem to coping OK – they still don’t know I will be back very soon. Beat Dotty at chess. Write baggage labels with my own address on – never thought the day would come.
Wednesday 24th November 1982
A final drive round the fabricators saying goodbye, most of them wish me well – touching. A final visit into New Plymouth for a few more souvenirs and back to Dotty’s to pack my case – didn’t take long.
Thursday 25th November 1982
A quiet day saying goodbyes but not quiet down in Waitara as its market day, lots of crazy people about selling piles of junk. Buy another bottle of wine and stroll back up the hill to Dotty’s for the last time. She has excelled herself this time with a Chinese no less. Rob calls to say he has posted the cheque – left it till the last minute. An evening of dreaming about faraway places through which I will be travelling tomorrow but right now it’s a final dose of Coronation Street followed by Tenko.
Friday 26th November 1982
Made it. Goodbye to Dotty and the cat – she’s lovely really – shame I didn’t get round to enjoying her motor cycle. Dave on time to pick me up and run me down to New Plymouth airport for a mid-morning flight to Auckand. Middle aged lady in the seat next to me still homesick for England after 20 years in New Zealand – very sad. Allan picks me up and runs me in to downtown Auckland for lunch and also to meet Eric who updates me on his many projects. He tells me he has bought another ‘section’. Collect my cheque from Rob, finally arrived in Allan’s office. Eric kindly drives me and my bag to the airport. Thanks Eric – see you back in New Malden! The creepy crawlies emerging from my piece of souvenir driftwood in my case don't seem to bother the customs officer. The ‘British’ Boeing 747 is provisioned on time ready for its eager passengers who include Cliff Michelmore and a BBC film crew who have been filming a travel programme in NZ – wonder what they had to say?
Still flying the BOAC 'Speedbird' emblem.
Just for the record I designed parts of the Wing Leading Edge and Variable Camber Flap back in 1969. Impressed?
9.30pm local time, goodbye New Zealand and head for Melbourne (4 hours) and then Perth (3 hours 40m) so far with 4 seats to myself – lucky? Then on to Bombay (or Mumbai) an interminable 8 hours and 35m (seems like 18) in blackness occasionally lit up spectacularly with electrical storms all around. Tiny babies screaming, watched all the videos 6 times over. Can’t find a socket for my shaver. Finally touch down in Bombay at 5am local time and its 80 F already.
Allowed to wander round a ‘bazaar’ like terminal which seems odd, the place is littered with humanity, eventually find a disgusting toilet with an electrical socket which actually fits my razor but it has bare wires and under somebody’s loincloth. But it works! Back to the 747, this time no spare seats as the place is heaving with humanity most of them on their way back to Southall. We have 412 people on board. One poor soul next to me spends the whole flight shaking and praying. Manage to arrange a visit to the flight deck (remember?) as I thought my old school friend, who is a 747 captain, may be in charge but sadly not.
Slowly but surely the Arabian Gulf, Turkey and The Alps slide beneath the 747 then the Captain informs us that a diversion because of fog may be on the cards – bugger. The approach to Heathrow is initiated on the autopilot and she kisses the runway in 200 metres visibility. Fanbloodytastic.
The taxi driver wants £23 to Cobham – daylight robbery so catch the 727 (bus) to Surbiton Station and taxi from there.
So that’s that then!
Saturday 16th January 2016
For my family and I New Zealand didn’t have what I was looking for. Of course there were many aspects of New Zealand that I didn’t experience but the fact that (even in this reduced digital world) it is such a bloody long way away from everything and that isolated feeling will never go away.
I understand that the Kiwi’s are among the most travelled people in the world which may say something about New Zealand.
I regret that I didn’t see the South Island, experience more of the Maori and their culture, get involved with the feverish sporting and ‘All Blacks’ world and I am sure many other ‘strata’ of New Zealand life – like the thriving ‘Victorian’ way of life and the love of ‘the old country’.
Names in this diary have not been changed so to any of the characters who happen to be reading this, thanks and I love you.
Thanks particularly to Hallam Eames and Partners for everything and also John at Newcan Engineering for the job offer, personally I would have taken it but I know I would have been out voted by my family.
A NEW ZEALAND DIARY 1982