Apposite. A shoe story.

When you have lived in different places it is almost as if you can never unlive those experiences and you become almost spiritually homeless. It isn’t so much about not belonging as belonging to more than one place. When we went to New Zealand we suffered huge culture shock at the beginning but then became assimilated and the reverse culture shock when we returned to the UK more than 10 years later which was just as punishing. What was suddenly glaringly apparent was that anyone who had never lived in another country with another culture had no real concept that in other places there might be other ways of doing things that are almost opposite and yet apposite and make perfect sense if you are in the other persons place and shoes.

In fact shoes are a prime example.

We arrived in Whanagrei in the early summer of 2006, and the first thing I noticed as we drove through the centre of town and along the main street was that the children were barefoot, they weren’t wearing any shoes. You have to remember that we had never visited NZ, and I had engineered all of our migration from the living room of our detached house in the Isle of Man with the aid of my trusty computer. All my assumptions about Whangerei were based on what I knew of towns of that size based on my exisitng experience of the UK, US and Europe and a little bit of applied logic. Shoes had never entered my head, I had never studied shoes. My first thought and reaction was- Oh no they must be poor. I have brought my family to a poor place where they can’t afford shoes.

My knowledge of shoe habits was entirely linked to my own poor range of experience and my very working class roots where shoes were actually a symbol of security wealth and status. The wearing of shoes indicated that your family could afford them and they were worn with pride and tended only to come off your feet at bedtime. There were also cultural overtones to shoe wearing, there were new shoes or special shoes for special occasions, in childhood the Whit walks always guaranteed a new pair of shoes, generally white (so very different to school shoes) and obviously the start of a new year at school was always a new pair of appropriate footwear. I also got into very big trouble one year when I was sent out with money to buy my own shoes and came back with an aquarium and two terrapins from the market- no shoes.

In the early 1970’s some family friends of ours emigrated to South Africa, we helped them pack and saw them off and when they came to visit in 1983, they regaled stories of barefoot children, and even though they said they strolled barefoot, to my mind it conjured up images of sand and dirt roads and I wondered how their feet were not cut to ribbons on glass and debris. The stories did little to challenge my clealrly poor understanding of culture geography or shoes.

So here we were in a hire car, all our wordly goods in the car-boot, two children aged 6 in the back, and we had moved half way round the world on a whim to wonderful Whangarei and despite the drizzle and the umbrellas, there was no mistaking that these people were roaming the streets with no footwear. So I had resigned myself to the fact that our new home was a place where there was abject poverty. The truth was and still is, that to some extent Northland and Whangarei could be described as of lower soio-ecomomic status compared to other parts of New Zealand, but what it lacked in economic wealth it more than made up for in culture, compassion and collaboration and the shoe issue was absolutely nothing to do with the economics of the place.

It soon became apparent that in this new place it was more respectful and appropriate to be barefoot and in fact in virtually every Northland place and home there was a cultural expectation that you would remove your shoes and leave them at the entrance/doorway. We learned this very quickly as even when viewing houses this expectation was a non negotiable. We quickly learned that the best and most appropriate footwear was footwear that could be removed quickly and easily and not mourned and grieved for if it was forgotten or left behind.

We soon adopted so many of these unwritten and previously unknown cultural customs and practices. It was apparent that all children under the age of 12 seemed to go everywhere barefoot. The girls would go to school with shoes on and somehow come home without them. Endless visits to the school on Friday afternoons to try to retrieve shoes were largely frutless, there just seemed to be a bagful of totally unrelated shoes in every cloakroom. You would take shoed children to Mcdonalds for a treat and arrive home to find they were shoeless. On May 3rd 2006, shortly after we moved into our own home in Kamo, my husband called me from work before I had taken the children to school, to alert me to the fact that we were on a Tsunami alert following a significant earthquake at sea. My snarling response was related to shoes not impending doom. I have two children to get to school and I can only find one size 8 left shoe and one size 9 right shoe and how am I supposed to get them to school. I gave in, and my children went to school barefoot like everyone elses children. We were officially done with shoes.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Te Matau ā Pohe

It was a crisp clear winter’s morn

The town was still waking

The bridge was awash in early morning glory

Breathtaking beauty in a moment

Of luxury and peaceful contemplation

These moments are cherished

The moments where our existence

However minuscule is in perfect harmony

With the world around us.

 

Alison Jean Hankinson

 

Te Matau ā Pohe is the name of the bridge in Whangarei, it was opened on Saturday 27 July 2013. The bridge spans the Hatea River from Pohe Island to Port Road. Its name means the fish-hook of Pohe.

The symbolism of the fish-hook, it represents strength, good luck and safe travel across water.

This was written in response to d”Verse poetics. Link here:

d’Verse poetics abridged

I took the photos on the morning described, I had taken Ellen to work very early one winter’s morning and just had to pull over and take in the beauty of the moment.

#d’Verse

 

The resilience of trees.

 

In response to the daily prompt Photo challenge.

This is one of a stand of Kauri trees at AH Reed memorial park Whangarei which we visited last week. Kauri trees grow for thousands of years. The size is not possible to fathom without human interaction. The largest living Kauri in NZ is Tane Mahuta and he majestically resides over towards Kai Iwi lakes in the Waipoua Forest and is about 1500-2000 years old.

They are the epitome of resilience, they have survived and bear witness to time beyond our time and understanding. When you stand beneath them you are made very aware of how short our existence and life is in real terms and how our plights and pleasures are relatively insignificant when put in true perspective next to such greatness. What would they say if they could talk.

Resilient

Beauty in the eyes of the beholder

Tutukaka and Wellington’s Bay from the Lookout point.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but I suspect you would find it hard to find someone to fault the beautiful day and the beautiful vistas. We took a trip out to what have been some of our favourite local haunts over the years. Tutukaka for lunch and to take in the Marina and the sound and smell of the boats, and then on to Wellington’s Bay which has always been our safe beach when the children were smaller and our family favourite. Today I wanted to visit the lookout point as I had never ventured there before. It was  a little windy to say the least but it was worth the effort and the views from the top were stunning. A good day to live. A good day to be out and about.

Photo Challenge: Magic

via Photo Challenge: Magic

These images are from the Town Basin and represent the magic that is always present in the landscape around us. The nuances of light, the changing seasons, being able to focus on the smallest minute detail and experience the awe and wonder of what surrounds us. It is the magic of the landscape that often refreshes, revitalises and nourishes the soul.

Treasure of the week. Soju shots- an enchanted kingdom.

Ellen tells me that soju is actually a Japanese drink. How she knows this is beyond me- she is 17 going on old soul. Anyway last week I passed a poster in a window telling me of the work of Soju shots in an upstairs room on Rathbone St. The picture immediately grabbed by imagination- it reminded me of the Henkies and I knew that Ellen and Emily would love to see the pictures, but the staircase looked a little uninviting and I was a little too scared to tackle it on my own. Instead I took a snapshot of the poster to remind myself that next time we were all in town together we might tackle the staircase. That day was Friday, my last day of freedom before returning to work on Monday, we had lunch together at Mokaba and then walked around town. Ellen and I both spotted the poster simultaneously and we instinctively knew it was time to investigate further.

The journey upstairs was reminiscent of ascending into some long forgotten flat that no-one really owned and the smell of fried food from somewhere nearby was overpowering but we continued on our journey, up the stairs along the uninviting corridor and then there it was, like the old curiosity shop of my dreams. I had anticipated a little wisened old lady standing at a till saying “yes dear” through dislodged spectacles and a few pictures to adorn the walls, but what I was met with was a far greater treasure trove. The images were fabulous, creative, imaginative, each touched with some kind of kindness and magic, even the monsters were friendly and inviting. There were tote bags, Christmas cards, mugs, cushions, and of course pictures and prints in frames. The back part of the shop was a workspace and there sat in the window was the artist himself and he was absorbed in what I assume is a new piece. He was as magical and enigmatic as his work. It was a very heart-warming experience.

We could have bought the whole shop, we loved it all, the images, their stories, the magic. We had walked into a cavern of childhood stories and memories. There they all were Hansel and Gretel, the kittens who lost their mittens the three little piggies, a huffin and a puffin and some wonderful creative ventures through new and old dreams- fears mingling with plays on words of wisdom. I purchased a few cards and Ellen a couple of Mugs. We were limited in our purchases by what we had in our wallets at the time, but we will go back. If you are looking for something a little different for a loved one this Christmas to make it special it is well worth a visit. I suspect therein is just a small sprinkling of fairydust. Peace be with you.

http://sojushots.blogspot.co.nz/

https://www.facebook.com/konbae/?fref=ts

Henkies- trolls/goblins who danced with a limp.

Whangarei Love my Life Northland.

These are some images from this last month, whilst I have been out and about walking, mostly in and around the Town Basin but also at the Whangarei Falls. Northland is a beautiful place to live. The scenery is stunning from the wild and windswept vistas of Ocean’s Beach to picturesque coves and inlets at Tiaharuru, all sheltering amongst the giant embrace of Mount Manaia and Mount Aubrey. Whenever you reach the summit of the Brynderwyn’s heading northwards you can see its beauty and you know it calls you.

The Town basin and the sanctuary it provides has always been one of  my preferred go to haunts. It is a little bustling community of bingly-bongly shops, higher end gift boutiques and wonderful eateries, with a smattering of art galleries, beautiful gardens, unusual architecture and the ever present bohemian appeal of boats from afar moored in the safe confines of the harbour.

It is a town that knows its place and isn’t afraid to try something new and reinvent itself. It is a town with pride and more than its fair share of artists and artisans all seeking to maintain its quirkiness and individuality.

It is simply stunning at this time of year, the sun shines and everything looks bright and vibrant the flowers are in bloom, the flax flowers entice the Tui, and the banks and bushes along the river and estuary are teeming, full of song and new life. A stroll along the new Hatea Loop reveals hidden treasures, a derelict pier, some fine sculpture. an adult playground with gym equipment, some excellent outdoor artwork and the occasional glimpses of Heron’s and Cormorants feeding close-by.

Whangarei, Love my Life Northland.