An interruption to the China series for something a little more topical. Hello from my hometown of Helensville (technically, the small adjacent settlement of Parakai) where I’ve spent Christmas with my parents and grandmother. Christmas nowadays gets shared between Wellington and Auckland in a mixture of new and old traditions. Read more
Posts tagged ‘helensville’
A century ago this was a treasured hub for social functions, meetings, church services and acquiring library books. Today the old hall sits quietly at the top of the rise, a structure you’re vaguely aware of as you fly through the blink-and-you-miss-it settlement of Woodhill on State Highway 16.
My dicky toe had scuttled plans of getting out and about on foot properly. In any case, the weather wasn’t exactly conducive to lengthy walks with a camera. To satisfy the itch to get out and get snapping it was clear I’d need to rely on my car a lot more.
In the middle of June I returned to my old neck of the woods, South Kaipara Head, the rural district north-west of Auckland where I grew up. Mum had timed my visit with an errand out to my old primary school and so on Saturday afternoon we bundled Gran in the car and took off on the 15 minute drive out there.
The errand was donating a book to the school library, a book written by my aunt. Taketakerau: The Millenium Tree has been received fantastically well since being published about 18 months ago, and was a finalist in a recent childrens’ book awards held in NZ.
She has loads of creative talent and one of my cousins inherited a supercharged dose of that too. Check this out.
But I digress… once at Waioneke School, Mum and I left Gran perusing a magazine in the car and we went to meet Merril, the school librarian.
When I first started there were two classrooms: the Junior Room and the Senior Room. Along the way we acquired a third, which was duly called (and I’m sure you will be shocked) the Middle Room.
Being here provided a great opportunity to look around the rest of school. I was last here in 2005 for the 75th jubilee. This time it was getting late in the day with light fading fast so it was a quick blat around.
The school has changed SO much since my day but a lot is still familiar.
Today the library is in the old Senior Room. The old library is gone, and the Junior Room has several of these new fangled electric boxes called Computers. The Middle Room, like the other classrooms, is full of colour and creative stimuli and a vast contrast to how I remember it three decades (sounds better than 30 years) ago. New classrooms have sprung up to cater for the 30-odd additional pupils – the roll now hovers around 90 – and there’s even a school hall.
We left Waioneke. As a spur of the moment thing, a few minutes away we swung up Wilson Road where we lived when my brother and I went to high school in Helensville. Up the metal road a ways, then left into a right-of-way.
This was (maybe still is) a deer farm and a beautiful place to live.
Past our house and onto the airstrip where we turned around in front of a guy holding a gun. (He was target shooting.) (I don’t think at us.)
Time to end the nostalgia and get back – Dad was cooking a roast!
I make it back home a couple of times a year. To get there is a one hour flight and about the same again by car, or about nine hours if I have time to drive the whole way. It’s ‘home’ because that’s a convenient label to give the area where I grew up and where my parents still live.
These days they live in a small town at the head of the Kaipara Harbour and my grandmother lives with them. We used to live further out in the country, my brother and I going to a small rural primary school (which is still going strong) and then the high school in town.
In February I made a weekend trip back as I didn’t go up for Christmas and two birthdays were about to be celebrated, including Gran’s 96th.
As well as spending time with the family I got out around my old stomping ground. I’ve posted separately the old dairy factory and cemetery. Below is a picture summary of the remainder and I’ve delved into old photo albums for a trippy flashback or two.
It’s good to have a place like this from your past to periodically revisit. It’s also good to be able to leave it behind each time as well.
I like cemeteries. Which is not to say I hang out in them regularly, but occasionally circumstances take you to or near them and I find it easy to while away time just walking around.
Though I’m not religious I appreciate the symbolism and aesthetics, from the sombre beauty of military and battleground cemeteries on the Western Front and Gallipoli, to old and crumbling UK graveyards, to above-ground graves dotted across Vietnamese paddocks, to simple unmaintained burial grounds in rural Turkey. You get an impression of the history and culture of a place. You also get a fleeting insight to the lives of those who have passed and those left behind.
So during a walk around my home town earlier this year I found myself heading up to the cemetery.
I actually had in mind to find the grave of a boy I grew up with but try as I might, it evaded me.
During my infrequent visits to family further up the North Island I always rubber-neck while driving by the old dairy factory on the outskirts of my old home town. And should I have time for a walk, I will usually linger around the perimeter fence and take a photo or five.
From the road side…
The factory was still in business when I started high school (the mid ’80s, if we must date it) but it had closed by the time I left. Over many years it was bought and sold a number of times and became increasingly derelict. As you can imagine, local youth looking for things to deface and destroy loved it.
Many people said it was an eyesore and sure, I didn’t have to see it everyday, but I liked it. Or at least appreciated its history and decayed character.
From the river side…
Nothing happened for so long it seemed it would remain one of those goliath reminders of the past. Here’s a news article from 2011.
But recently mum emailed me with the news that much of it had come down.
I was glad to hear they left the end of the original art deco building (even though there are no particular plans for what to do with it), and the other end will be renovated for re-use.
So that’s that. I’ll have a look when I’m back there in June.
Later on back in Parakai we walked around to see friends who live not far from mum and dad. I went to primary school with Krissy and she stayed in the area, now married with two children. On the way is this eye-catching place. Pretty sure if I was a pre-schooler I’d want to go here.
We had tea with mum, dad and gran, though the Indian takeaway in Helensville did the cooking. Mum went through with dad some plans for their upcoming trip to the UK. They’re off in April and I’m joining them early May. More about that later!
The next morning it was time to move on to the next phase of our holiday. We called in to say bye to the family.
Didn’t see much of my brother during our brief stay in Parakai. I left this likeness of him on the kitchen message board.
We travelled to nearby Kaukapakapa, another rural district on the other side of Helensville. My friend Trish lives there and I hadn’t seen her for a few years.
I met her at my first job and back in our single days we used to go out a bit. Fond memories of Georgie Pie pies and ice cream sundaes in the wee small hours! Anyway, fast forward some 20 years and today Trish has two teenage daughters and various animals. I took a shine to one pet in particular…
Then it was time to head into Auckland, stopping off in Albany where it seemed that much of the North Shore population was in the Westfield mall. We were destined for an area of West Auckland and in the olden days the north and west parts of the city were not conveniently located so I was expecting a bit of phfaffing around. Well blow me if a new motorway hadn’t gone and popped up and it took next to no time.
And so we briskly arrived at our hosts for the next couple of nights: Kirsten, Mike and one year old Mitchell. I’ve known Kirsten since we were toddlers, growing up in the wop wops of South Head.
And now she has a toddler. Mitch is adorable – Aunty Hayley is a big fan!
Our walking adventures the day before stopped short of the long detour needed to see my old high school so we did a quick drive by. It’s a much more imposing place these days with a steel fence around the perimeter, a bit of a sign of the times I guess. Mind you, 1985-89 is a very long time ago.
Next we sailed on through Parakai and out to South Head. About half way up the ~35km peninsula is my old primary school. Its 75th jubilee was held there in 2005 and it was good to have a proper look around the place again. Either those playing fields got a lot smaller, or I got a lot bigger. Hmmm.
I grew up at the end of the peninsula though we didn’t go right out there again this time. We zoomed back toward town, noting the flash vehicles in the golf club carpark, and stopped briefly on the corner of the road where we last lived before I moved into Auckland to go to polytech.
The plan for lunch was to stop at the macadamia nut farm café but it was closed. Mike had been looking forward to visiting the shop and especially its bags of chocolate-coated nuts (which you’d think the local town might sell, but apparently not). After that crushing blow we decided to detour down to Shelly Beach.
Shelly Beach is a small community within the general South Head community, being a little seaside settlement about 5km off the main road. It has continued to develop over the years, with new subdivisions and a pretty decent little cafe now. A new concrete wharf helps cater for the boating traffic it gets and also I imagine those who like to chuck out a fishing line. The beach was as I remembered, fairly small and narrow, lots of shells, and flanked one end with mangroves.
Taking a wide berth around a couple of, um, interesting local male specimens, we returned to the car and back to Parakai.