Friday, 11 October 2013


It's only one story

I ended my last blog with a photo of the sign that said that our house was for sale.
Craig Palmer, of Metro Dunedin, asked me if I would write something about my experiences of having lived in our house for nearly 40 years.  And so I did and have decided to blog this little story.  Craig sold the house within a week!  He fulfilled his promise to make the sale as painless as possible and I can thoroughly recommend him.
Kowhai in full bloom, October 2013

In 1966 we bought our first house.  A rambling roughcast house which needed a lot of renovations.  We were not daunted.  We were young.  The main attraction of this house was its quarter-acre garden.  We wanted a garden where our Down syndrome daughter Miriam and our twin sons Foster and Ray could play and run around to their hearts content.  This garden became an adventure place for our children, initially playing in sandpits, using the swing in the huge chestnut tree, then moving on to climbing trees, running around chasing each other, always having friends around.

Photo on right was taken in December 1966
 Unfortunately, Doodle, our black, shiny 'sheep dog' was hit by a car.  She loved to chase cars and people on bikes, perhaps training for the sheep that might eventually wander into our street!  At that time we had a white kitten. Doodle's favourite pastime was to pick up the kitten, run to the bottom of the section with the kitten in her mouth, run back and deposit the poor wee thing in the dust under the house.  Whatever we did, she had to follow her hunting instinct.  The kitten survived!

We did extensive work to improve the inside of the house, taking out walls and chimneys to create an open living space.  The garden stayed the same, an open place to use trikes and play soccer and other ball games.  Our whippets, Dody and Muffin joined in the fun. 

Miriam with dogs and Ray and Foster on trikes
In 1973 we decided to have a two-storied house built on our back section and it was a special moment when in September 1974 we moved into our new sunny house.
Foster, Ray and Bart creating a new path alongside our old house (1975)
Bart built retaining walls, for us a priority to keep our house safe.  Later, surrounded by bags of cement, sand and a pile of grey uneven shaped rocks we created rock walls close to the house.  Water and a fine mixture of cement and sand bonded the stones together.  I remember thinking: these walls won't move once the mixture between the rocks has dried.

We created a garden where we could rest and relax between bouts of work, either indoors or outdoors.  Using Kokonga stones Bart made a terrace.  We planted shrubs and trees and flowers that gave an intensity of colours.  There was no organised colour scheme but the texture of the plants created their own images.  I planted a climbing rata against a bank, thinking of the day when I would see its red fluffy flowers amidst the dark glossy leaves.  Near the letterbox we planted a kowhai.  A hamamelis found a place in a corner where it displayed its yellow tendrils in the middle of winter, just before the first spring flowers shot through the winter earth.  I knew that whenever I planted a tree or shrub, a small part of myself secured a stronger hold on living in this new land.

The countdown to leaving has started.  I'm dreading having to say goodbye to our special suburb where we've lived for more than 50 years.  As I move from room to room - sorting, tidying, cleaning - I think of the good times we've had in this wonderful part of Dunedin, the many friends we've made, the old-fashioned caring attitude of people around us.  The changes we've observed in half a century.

And now our apple tree is in flower again.  The beginning of a new cycle, new growth.  I am sure the new owners will enjoy its beautiful apples.  Our Dutch habit of often eating appelmoes (apple sauce)  will have to be modified.  But ... there's always the fantastic Farmer's Market!
Apple tree in 1981