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Ghosts of Christmas Days past (2)

‘Twas after lunch on Christmas Day afternoon and we were out in the wop-wops near where I grew up. I wanted to ‘go take photos’ so with Dad as chauffeur, Gran riding shotgun and me wedged in the back seat we headed out the narrow metal road to the end of South Head.

This is the end of the road for most people. A fair bit of traffic comes up because the beach below (down a steep track behind where I took this photo) is now accessible to the public

The end of the road for most people. A fair bit of traffic comes up here because the beach below (down a steep track behind where I took this photo) is these days accessible to the public

The road continues - today some of the land gets planted in maize crops

The road continues – today some of the land gets planted in maize crops

The road continues - we'll come back to that house on the hill a little later

The road continues – we’ll come back to that ‘house’ on the hill a little later

Mum and Dad moved here in 1970 after they got married. Dad had just left the army and secured a job working on this farm. We left in 1984.

Our old house...

This is our old house

And this was it in 1972 - that's me in the pram!

And this was it in 1972 – that’s me in the pram!

Christmas Day 1982

Christmas Day 1982

Me and a cousin in the early '80s, the lighthouse and trig faintly visible in the background...

Me and a cousin in the early ’80s, the lighthouse and trig faintly visible in the background…

The lighthouse

…And today. Not much has changed here!

The farm is still owned and run by the same family, the ties forged long ago enabling us to periodically visit. Today our old house is used more as a family holiday home. I haven’t been inside it since we left almost 30 years ago – or at least I don’t think so. My memory may have a few leaks but I clearly remember the house layout.

The road continues for a few hundred metres to the farm owner's house at the end

The road continues for a few hundred metres to the farm owner’s house at the end

The house and tractor shed

Our house and tractor shed

Visitors making the long trip out to the end are rewarded with views of the Kaipara Harbour. I have wondered if coastal erosion may eventually threaten the owner’s home, set back a short distance at on top of the cliff, but all seems hunky dory for the foreseeable future.

Papakanui Spit - the northern tip of Muriwai Beach which extends some 60km. In the distance is North Head, the other side of the harbour entrance

Papakanui Spit – the northern tip of Muriwai Beach which extends some 60km. In the distance is North Head, the other side of the harbour entrance

The Kaipara Harbour is one of the largest in the world and has a treacherous entrance because of shifting underwater sandbanks, which have caused the most shipwrecks of anywhere in NZ

Another viewing point. The Kaipara is one of the largest harbours in the world and has a treacherous entry because of shifting underwater sandbanks, which have caused the most shipwrecks of anywhere in NZ. When a vehicle track down to the beach washed away, we would get there by scrambling down this hill. It seemed easier then than looking at it now!

One of our common walks was along this ridge up to an historic site where a Maori settlement had been situated, long before Europeans settled in the area

One of our common walks was along this ridge up to an historic site where a Maori settlement had been situated, long before Europeans settled in the area

This bull was sitting dozily...

From the same vantage point I noticed this bull sitting dozily…

...but got up amazingly fast when startled by cattle in the adjacent paddock, so I scarpered

…but he got up amazingly quickly when startled by cattle in the adjacent paddock, so I scarpered – mindful of not only of my broken toe but of the time when I, aged 3 or so, ran down the same hill and fell into a pile of fresh cow dung

Back at the car (and dung-free) we set out on the return journey, veering off soon after for a closer inspection of two other landmarks.

The woolshed now...

The woolshed now…

... and the woolshed in the mid '70s, partly obscured behind me, Dad and the pet heifer!

… and the woolshed in the mid ’70s, partly obscured behind me, Dad and the pet heifer!

I decided to venture inside. I undid the bolt and carefully opened the door, only to be mown down by two pigeons. Cue mild heart attack.

While not the hive of activity it once used to be, there are signs that it's still a functioning woolshed

While not the hive of activity it once used to be, there are signs that it’s still a functioning woolshed

old woolshed, south head

old woolshed, south head

old woolshed, south head

A facility for the brave or the desperate!

A facility for the brave or the desperate!

Here in the stock yards outside we once kept a pony, named Star, a gift from my late grandfather. I don’t think I visited him very often and that makes me sad.

I walked up the hill to a house long past its prime but one that’s very prominent in my memory. It was the first house out here in the 1860s when a pilot station was established to help ships navigate the harbour. Back then it was located right at the end, where the owner’s house is now.

It should be recognised as an historic site and preserved appropriately – instead, this is it today.

old playhouse, south head

The house was moved to its current location back in the days when sheep ruled the pastures and shearing gangs would come and stay in it. This happened for the first couple of years that Mum and Dad lived here, but after the farm converted to beef the house lay empty much of the time. Swallows moved in, nesting and pooping.

old playhouse, south head

In 1976 or thereabouts, Mum, who was by then encumbered with joys in the form of me and my brother, decided to ask the owner if she could do up a room as a play area. One room became another, and eventually the whole house was cleaned of nests and poop and transformed into a child-friendly space – thereafter becoming known as The Play House. Rooms were given themes: the shop room, the dress-up room, the school room, the Womble room.

The corner where the 'shop room' used to be

The corner where the ‘shop room’ used to be

The corner where the main room used to be

The corner where the main room used to be

What's left of the hallway - the outline of my and my brother's names, which were tacked as individual letters onto the wall, still visible

What’s left of the hallway – the outline of my and my brother’s names, which were tacked as individual letters onto the wall, still visible

How the house looked when mum and dad did it up - very old but still intact

How the house looked when mum did it up – old but still intact

Little me with my littler brother in 1978 or so

Little me with my littler brother in the main room, circa 1978

It used to be a play group venue for children in the district

It used to be a play group venue for children in the district

Little me in the old 'Womble Room'

Little me in the old ‘Womble Room’

The house in 1998 - both of us really starting to show our ages now!

The house in 1998 – both of us really starting to show our ages!

The 'Womble Room' in 1998

The ‘Womble Room’ in 1998

We left the farm, making a couple of futile attempts to stalk peacocks. Those guys are so camera shy. After some further time back with our friend we left South Head, via a quick stop at the venue for many a community event back in the day.

The South Head Hall - venue for many an event when we lived out here....

Dress up party (that's me in the 'medieval princess hat')

Dress up party (that’s me in the ‘medieval princess hat’)

Gymnastics club prizegiving (me getting a certificate)

Gymnastics club prizegiving

There used to be a Carol Service each Christmas (I'm kneeling on the right, slightly obscured)

There used to be a Carol Service each Christmas (I’m kneeling on the right, slightly obscured)

And that’s probably enough of those flashbacks!

Red deer across the road from the hall on a farm that Mum and Dad worked on in the 1990s

Red deer across the road on a farm that Mum and Dad worked on in the 1990s

Other significant places in South Head, my primary school and our home during my high school years, were visited six months previously so we gave them a miss.

And so, having had a reminder of Christmas Days (and many other days) past, we rolled back into Parakai for the remainder of our quiet Christmas Day present.

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17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Janice Strong #

    Hayley this is the most fantastic blog I absolutely loved it and you write brilliantly. You haven’t really changed; your lovely blonde hair standing out and your long legs ( that’s a compliment). What a neat place to grow up and your Mum is so clever and imaginative doing up that house. It is such a shame that it has not been preserved.
    A wonderful trip and blog. Janice xxx

    6 January 2014
    • Janice your comment gave me such a lift on this long and arduous first-day-back-at-work day! Thanks so so much. I hope the year has started well for you both. x

      6 January 2014
      • Janice Strong #

        Thanks Hayley glad that this gave a bright spot for you. Not so good that you have to work in this hot weather. I have been on night shifts and they have been so hot hard to stay awake. Craig and I have worked through but a new year is always good gives one a chance to make new resolutions and hopefully try to stick with them. Looking forward to more blogs. Janice xxx

        6 January 2014
  2. Ali #

    What memories! I love the current photos versus the older ones…great comparisons and beautiful photos.

    7 January 2014
    • Many thanks Ali! I enjoy seeing old and new side by side so it’s rewarding when on occasion I’m able to do that – helped greatly by Mum’s diligent record keeping during those childhood years. (My cataloguing on the other hand is fairly disorganised and I need to put some time toward working on that this year.)

      7 January 2014
  3. Such wonderful memories for you – and how fantastic you can visit them again as your adult self! I haven’t had that opportunity yet, but your posts are inspiring me …..

    It’s been wonderful to get to “know” you through your blog. I look forward to reading more of your posts throughout 2014!

    7 January 2014
    • Thank you Cindi – and ditto!

      It’s invaluable having the visual reference of the albums my mother put together.

      7 January 2014
      • And think about the digital references YOU are putting together for future “time travelers” – especially your play house that really should have been saved.

        7 January 2014
  4. Ni cki #

    Oh that brings back wonderful childhood memories!! 🙂

    7 January 2014
  5. What a great post – really enjoyed those photos old and new. Looks like a beautiful place to grow up, but so sad about that house!

    9 January 2014
    • Yes it’s really unfortunate actually. Thank you, much appreciated!

      10 January 2014
  6. Loved the old and the new pic’s. Bittersweet I’m guessing. 🙂

    21 January 2014
    • Thank you!…. yeah it was a bit.

      21 January 2014
  7. Great post indeed. Your vintage photos are gorgeous.

    24 January 2014
    • Thanks, Matti! They’re a bit of a laugh too.

      25 January 2014

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