05 June 2012

Getting back to my roots {while autumn lingers}

These days we never take for granted a trip to the Naki, as we lovingly call Taranaki. Each trip is very special and a little bittersweet. It's not that I like to think fatalistically but with my gran (Gee Gee) going on for 87 this year, the fact that we are able to go and stay with her in her own house and be treated royally from the minute we walk in the door to the minute we wave goodbye from the driveway as we head home again means every moment is most certainly treasured.

She finally showed her face on the morning we left! Thank you Egmont.

We usually try to make the trip up every few months, but this was our first time up since Christmas but we'd managed to see Gee Gee recently in Melbourne at my brother's wedding anyway. We're usually sticklers for our kids' bedtime and we'd normally have had a quiet Friday night at home packing up and leaving first thing in the morning, but we figured the boys are now more than old enough to survive having a later night. So instead we left straight after school, and despite a fair amount of holiday weekend traffic heading out of Wellington, it was pretty smooth sailing. Other than a short stop for Subway at Bulls, we kept on the road arriving just before 9pm.

Any wishful thinking that the later bedtime would make the boys sleep in longer was shattered by two chirpy voices entering our room at 5am! So we separated them and took one each back to bed trying to get at least another hour of 'quiet time' out of them before relenting and letting good old Disney Junior do some babysitting so Mum and Dad could crawl back into bed, that was until hungry tummies came a calling for someone to make porridge.

We were trying to see our steamy breaths in these pics in case you were wondering about all the open mouths!

We made the most of the early start to the morning to head over to visit my other granma (Nan to me, Great Nana to the boys) in her retirement home. She also recently celebrated her 95th (!!) birthday with all her children there for the occasion. Despite the fact I feel very close to Taranaki, I also love hearing my Nan talk about her early childhood growing up in Wellington. She even went to the same school that Noah attends now, and the first home that Mark and I bought was, amazingly, right across the road from the home my great grandfather built in the 1920's. You know, I do wonder how much our history calls to us, and makes us feel so welcome and so right that we end up putting down roots in a spot where our forbears have literally gone before us.

Despite never having actually lived here, coming to Taranaki always feels like I am coming home. We spent most holidays here growing up, either on my mum's parents farm in Tariki or at my dad's parents place in Waitara where my Pa was a much loved and respected local doctor and a decorated war hero. When both sets of grandparents retired to New Plymouth, they had houses within five minutes drive of each other. And with my grandfathers having passed away now, my Nan and Grandma now live within five minutes walk of each other, which is super handy for us when we visit.

This weekend Gee Gee also shared two special moments of family history with me, one an article which was in the local paper only last week, dedicated to the story of my great-great-great-grandfather, Alfred Marsh, a well known first settler in Taranaki. There was also an article recently about a special piece of wedding cake that is being stored in the district museum Puke Ariki, which just happens to be a piece of my gran's parents wedding cake which has been preserved since 1922 - wow! These in themselves deserve a special mention of their own very soon, since preserving these little snippets of our unique family history for my children and their children is such an important part of keeping our heritage alive.

After an hour with my Nan, we collected Gee Gee and attempted an early lunch at Petit Paris but the volume of people inside soon changed our minds, so we ended up at the equally tasty Lush Cafe in the Centre City complex. Mylo, not surprisingly, could barely keep his eyes open and after our lunch and a few quick turns on the kid's ride-ons (which I don't think our kids realise actually move as we are way too cheap to ever put any money in!), it was time to come home for some shut-eye.

My gran had set my gadget happy hubby the pleasant task (for him at least!) of helping her choose a new TV, as her 35-year old set was on its last legs. So they pootled off to scout out the Queens Birthday sales while Noah and I played noughts and crosses, hangman, join the dots, petanque and some 9-pin bowling (the last pin got lost quite sometime ago!)

Later Mark took the boys out for some fresh air whilst I lazed on the couch attempting to finish reading Rushing Woman's Syndrome..a fascinating read and one which I might share some insights on before returning to my friend Tracey who kindly lent it to me.

Don't ya just love their energy so early in the morning!

Sunday brought more showers with a few glimpses of sunshine in-between. There was a mad rush to organise a vet's appointment when it turned out Panda, Gee Gee's cat had hurt one of his eyes quite badly. He's holed up there for a few days being looked after now as he needs eyedrops 4-5 times a day and it is a bit much for Gee Gee to handle a squirming and uncooperative cat to try and administer the eyedrops at her age.

In a break between showers, we headed out of the cul-de-sac and down a steep path on foot to visit an old work friend, Anneliese who has recently relocated from Wellington to New Plymouth with her partner. I had caught up with her recently for the first time in a couple of years, and was super excited to realise she would be moving literally 50 metres around the corner. It was great to hang out over a cuppa and the boys were rather taken with her wee doggy Mr Duke, not to mention how cool it was to see Miss Dixie for real, the awesome 61 Chevy Impala that she rebuilt from nothing in the years when I worked with her.

While the littlest dude snoozed the early afternoon away again, Noah, Mark and I had fun playing pick up sticks and reteaching ourselves how to play Chinese checkers.

We then headed out into the country in search of Pouakai Zoo. We managed to mostly dodge the showers until right at the end when the rain really set in, and were grateful for having brought a couple of umbrellas as well as rain jackets for all! Despite the beauty of the white Bengal tigers, the funny-looking friendly alpacas, and being able to stroke several lizards, the most entertaining and amusing animal by far was the talking cockatoo.

He had Mylo and Noah enthralled, they couldn't quite believe their eyes and ears that this bird was actually saying 'hello' back to them. They kept us entertained on the drive home saying 'Polly wanna cracker' and 'who's a pretty boy then?' and dissolving into fits of giggles thereafter.

After a short stop at home to change out of sopping wet socks and trousers, we headed back to Great Nana's house for a quick catch up with my aunty and uncle who'd arrived for a visit this afternoon, before a family meal out with Gee Gee at Flame - an Indian restaurant. I'm not sure if it was overtiredness or hunger or both, but our boys whom we'd had several comments over the weekend about how well behaved they were, came unstuck and went a little loopy for a while there.

Despite the fact the food was absolutely gorgeous when it arrived, I kept my eyes somewhat averted from the other tables in the restaurant who must have wondered who this rowdy family who sounded a lot like flaming galahs (or at the very least noisy cockatoos) were!

And after filling our bellies, it was all we could do to keep them from falling asleep on the comfy wall couch. I think you can even tell how tired they were from these pictures!

On the return car journey home, we had our obligatory lunch stop at Virginia Lake in Wanganui. This town isn't exactly known for being somewhere people flock to visit usually, plagued as it is by a few gangs and  recently a pretty unsavoury murder. Having said that, it's not all bad, and there is this one spot in town that is quite simply a piece of paradise for us. It's not only a place to stretch our legs and admire the views and the wildlife, but today we were able to totally lose ourselves amongst the autumn colour, which at least here, seems to be refusing to give up its grip to the grim clutches of the deepening winter.

I must say I do like a season with a bit of spunk. You know, a season that decides there's absolutely no point going gently into that goodnight. Instead, it's gonna shine brilliantly, each leaf is going to hold on just a little longer to that branch before fluttering to the ground, and each ray of sunshine is going to try just that little harder to provide enough warmth to make us turn our faces heavenward and smile.

Thank you Autumn and Thank you Weekend. You have been utterly delightful.


Anonymous said...

Oh, lovely post. It looks CHILLY in NP! I miss it so much though. And I've always found Wanganui beautiful as well - we had many many stopovers there during childhood road trips.

jacksta said...

looks like a fab trip home
I love cockatoos too!

Catching the Magic said...

Such beautiful photographs and stories of your family heritage. What an amazing, rich weekend of family time, fun and experiences you had. A great read. Thanks for sharing - and this is so lovely for you to look back on in years to come x

Julie said...

Such a lovely read I had to re-read it today! Gorgeous photos too - love those autumn leaves. The Naki is dear to me too, as my sister has settled there. Thanks for the cafe tip - will check it out if the French cafe's full in July! xx

Steve and Sarah said...

So lovely for you and the boys to be able to have that special time with your gran and nan. Sounds like a wonderful weekend.
I grew up in Wanganui (unfortunately!) and my gran still lives there not far from Virginia Lake - one of the gems in what can be an unsavoury town.

Simoney said...

WOW, what an amazing bunch of pictures! You've got about least three-posts-worth right there!!
That picture of Mt Taranaki/Egmont is AMAZING... as an e-Naki girl myself i know HOW RARE a sight of her looking like that IS.
What a great trip you had!!


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