Memories and present realities

And now I want to talk about another one of the photos on the blog intro page. This one.

I took the photo on Waiheke Island in March when I was last back in New Zealand. I spent a lot of time on the island when I was growing up: every school holidays for years, at first with my mother and sisters, and later by myself, staying with one of my aunts. My grandparents owned a house at Ostend where my mother and her sisters lived until, I think, they enrolled at Auckland Girls’ Grammar School and so needed to stay in Ellerslie during term time. (In Mum’s day you couldn’t commute into Auckland city from Waiheke because the ferryboats took hours to cross, wallowing slowly through the waves. Now the ferries do the trip in a brisk and painless 45 minutes.) 

I have lovely memories of Waiheke. When my painter-grandfather was living there we visited him in his house, but I remember only an irascible old man painting in his studio at the back of the house who didn’t want to be disturbed, especially not by children. So Mum rented a tiny cottage across the field and we stayed there in the holidays, where my two sisters and I took turns to sleep in the coveted top bunks, swam every day, and played on the hill behind the cottage.

As I remember it, the old wooden house – the Garratt house, as it was always known in those days: my grandfather was Henry Garratt – was immaculately kept, with verandahs on both sides and views out across the water. The long path from the hilltop where it stood down to the road was surrounded with neat flowerbeds and trees.  So when I found it again this year, looking like this, I hardly recognised it. I spent 48 hours imagining I’d buy it and restore it to its former glory, but in the end I was glad the present owner likes it too much to sell it.  I just hope it doesn’t fall down before I see it again.



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