Friday, March 6, 2015

Nana and Poppy's Garden

Driving down a narrow inner city street the other day, I saw the tips of trimmed trees in a walled garden in front of a very old house. It looked like a traditional Japanese garden, so I was keen to peek through the gate to see if it was - it looked like it had been once, but was not kept up, so the ground was a mess of dirt and leaves with a scratchy old path. It looked like the kind of tired old garden you'd play in at your grandparents house, I thought.

Which sparked the memory of my own Nana and Poppy's garden, which was neither Japanese nor unkempt!

There was a front lawn, and a path going round the side of the house. The most interesting part of this was the concrete wall, which of course we had to balance on. A gazebo gate led to the back garden. The repertory society was on one side of the house and the bridge club on the other, with a big lawn, which we played on sometimes.

The house with the car shed to the left

From the other side, showing the path up to the back garden. I'm on the fence to the right

 Balancing on the concrete fence by the front lawn.

Showing the Bridge Club with the green roof on the right in the photo above and at the top below. I could not recall that concrete and sure enough, the satellite photo shows it not there, it must be very recent! 

The back garden had a lawn with the ubiquitous Hills Hoist in the centre, a concrete path leading from it to the house; tomato vines along the left, north-facing wall, and a greenhouse near the house, and a big garden along the back fence. There were 3-4 mature trees with a path winding through them, and shrubs and flowers planted underneath them. The best tree for climbing was in the back left, and looked over the bowling green, which enabled us kids to pretend to be spies, spying on the suspicious activities of a bunch of oldies rolling heavy black balls over a lawn. I'm sure the old codgers shook their fists at us because they knew we were pretending to be spies, and not because they were really annoyed!

This photo clearly shows the Repertory Society with the cream roof, and the bowling club green to its left. Nana and Poppy's garden is in the dead centre; though its run down now as they have been gone for 25 years, you can make out the tree in the corner overlooking the bowling green, and how the area is divided into two parts, the back garden walk and the lawn area. Hills Hoist gone! Looks like the greenhouse has gone too. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Three Little...

Graces? Fairies? Gymnasts? Little House on the Prairie? I can definitely see some of that influence in the proud way we are wearing those bonnets. Aren't we cute? Purple, blue and pink, with contrasting straps. I wonder if Mum made them?

And our gym leotards. We all did gymnastics, and I think we all stopped when we started high school, or not long after.

I wonder if this was part of a performance we put on? We loved dressing up and putting on a concert, with songs and plays. We'd set the chairs up in the hall and make our parents pay to watch our painfully long shows.

Standing in front of the ubiquitous stone wall of the house on the front patio, a popular place for photos, as a flash wasn't needed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Back Yard

The back yard

We had a great back yard when we were kids. We lived on a quarter-acre section, the standard yard-of-envy or achievement. That's not actually that unusual in a small town in rural NZ, but ours was pretty special I think. We had playground equipment in it that made it our own private park. 

I've arranged the photos clockwise, from east to west. 

Peter, Jolene, Rachel and Maria on the swings. The swings were made out of old tyres, typical in those days. In this photo someone's stuck a plank across so we can all swing together. I'm the little one, I can remember feeling just a little unsure about this, hence my being the only one holding on for dear life while the girls whoop and Peter does all the work, you hero! 

Behind us is the line of trees and a low corrugated iron 'fence' that separated us from our neighbors, the Holloways. A little birdie is telling me that the proper fence built later on just might have been to prevent snot-nosed little Greenwoods from crawling into Mr. Holloway's vegetable garden and stealing his carrots. Apple tree to the right. More about that later...

Many years later, this is me on the scooter. I got my scooter license years before I got a car license, but this photo is years before I got the license. We just loved riding round and round the house on the scooter. Speed freaks at 30kmph! Ignore the photo on the right, it's the front yard, which deserves its own post! On the left, there's that apple tree again, and the swing set with the tyre swings. The windows on the right are from what I will always think of as 'Maria's room', and on the left, 'Peter's room'. The rest of us just squeezed in wherever, lol! 

Back to May 1976, as the photo says, so I am 4 and Bec is 1. And yes, she is eating the sand off the spade. Beech trees, grass and presumably that bit of corrugated iron fence behind us. We are sitting in a huge old tractor tyre, otherwise known as the sandpit. Grab a tractor tyre, plonk it on the lawn, get some guy to bring you some sand from the beach - only Taranaki black sand, thank you - dump it in the tyre, and you have a sandpit! 

This sandpit was in the triangle of lawn between the fence, the shed and the path that led from the east side of the house to the entrance of the shed, and the clothesline. The jungle gym was there too at first, right in front of the french windows on the shed that we pushed Maud through. I remember that vividly, because I fell off that jungle gym and broke my arm. I was attempting a bar to bar transfer in the high part (I can remember the inner geography of that jungle gym, I assume my siblings can too, so I think you know what I mean), but my hands were still wet because I'd just gone to the toilet and washed my hands. I was five. I remember landing, and the shock, and running into the house, and hiding under the sofa in the dining room because it HURT, and Mum having to drag me out, then take me across the street to the hospital, the x-ray, the cast being put on...

This photo is much later on, in the 80's, Mum, with her tape measure around her neck (she was always sewing something!), putting out the laundry. Where the garden is behind her, is where that triangle of grass with the sandpit and jungle gym used to be. You can see the white of the shed, the french doors are on the side facing the garden. And there is Peter's banana seat bike!!! We were supposed to keep our bikes in the shed, but they often ended up just about anywhere on that path that led out to the side door and front garden. We used to steal Peter's banana seat bike and ride it down the concrete ramp that led to the shed door.

And see that grey box at the base of the clothes line? That's a state-of-the-art automatic electric Hill's Hoist generator. Yep, and electrically rotating clothes line. Turn that dial there on the side, and the clothesline would rotate automatically! I don't recall ever having seen it in action. Maybe it broke early on. More likely, it became obvious that in south Taranaki, in the path of the Roaring Forties, your average Hill's Hoist was pretty much going for broke on a slow day, and like lightning when the south-westers picked up. BUT the gleeful, gorgeous secret of this crazy contraption was the fact that it had a PLUG in it - we could plug in our radio/tape decks and listen to music out here, either on the trampoline (during that period adolescence when you were as interested in jumping on a trampoline as you were listening to pop music), or to fuel parties in the secret garden behind the shed.

Rebecca posing for me in the garden in the triangle, right where she was eating dirt in the photo above.

Chris posing for me now. This was not long after I got my first camera, so I was doing some family portraits that day! I'm facing south now, with the house behind me, the shed and fence to the left, and you can see the clothesline behind the tree. Behind that is the vegetable garden, and behind that, you can see the roof of the Swainsons' house.  Just to the right of the frame was the trampoline. When we first got it, for Christmas, it was in the front yard, but soon it came into the back yard, and there it stayed, between the apple and feijoa trees.

This is Jo doing a handstand. Go girl!! And the famous jungle gym behind her, finally getting on film. That's the Bourkes' house behind the fence, and the wall behind Mum and Dad's bedroom behind the jungle gym.

More trampoline and jungle gym photos! We are soooooo cool, aren't we, Jo?


Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas 1979

We must have waited until the baby was down for his nap before starting. I can just imagine how much trouble a 14 month old would be while trying to decorate the Christmas Tree!

There is so much to write about Christmas in the Greenwood house at 42 Hunter St!!

Waking up super early in the morning, reaching a tentative foot down to the end of the bed to see if it touched an object that scrunched (every other day of year I was too afraid of the bed-foot foot-grabbing troll to try that). I shared a room with my sister(s) and we would both be awake, taking turns to poke a foot down and be rewarded with that special scrunch of present wrapping. It didn't matter what time we woke up - we KNEW it was too early, and had to endure the next few centuries under our blankets, toes scrunching the presents, before it was time to wake up.

Father Christmas always put our presents in a pillow case at the foot of our beds that we had set out the night before in great excitement. In early years, it was just a pillowcase, but later on Mum did some craft workshop and we decorated our own especially for Christmas, using fabric markers.

Unlike many of our friends who would get up as soon as they woke and open all their presents right there, our family's rule was that you could only open the presents in Mum and Dad's room. We had to wait until it was time - about 6 o'clock, but it always felt like an eternity. An eternity of incredible excitement and anticipation as we ventured from toes, to feet feeling the presents, to sitting up and FEELING them, counting them, and discovering their shapes and trying to guess what they were - but not guessing too hard, in case we ruined the fun!

When that time came, we all hauled our pillow cases into Mum and Dad's room - we all had our own places it seems, not by design, but just by habit - mine was next to the wardrobe doors, and Jo was in the middle nearer to the dresser. Or vice versa. And Bec was near the wardrobe too, but closer to Mum and Dad's bed. This is important, because quite often, we three would get rather similar gifts, so we learned to coordinate opening them! I also have quite vivid memories of enjoying Christmas morning right there but never anywhere else. If I remember rightly, Peter was by Dad's drawers and Maria was over by Mum's duchesse. Chris, in later years, being the baby, got the spot right by Mum's side of the bed.

So here we are, gathered around the tiny artificial Christmas tree in the lounge. The tree was usually kept around there, near the indoor pond (IN in it later years when the pond was drained). The presents would pile up next to that low stone wall behind us, to be arranged, and re-arranged by one or another child up until bedtime on the 24th!

Maria is 14, Peter 12, Jo nearly 10, me 8, Rebecca 4 and a half and Chris 14 months.

Goodness, look at our feet! Barefoot Kiwi kids!!!

I LOVE my dress!!! I want it now! I remember Maria's top too, how I would wear it in later years, with those frills pulled down on my shoulders.

Dad is talking in the photo. Again.

Maria and Peter are old enough to hold the same pose, though why Maria chose the 'look down shyly' pose we'll never know.

I love how completely different Jo looks in the two photos. Rebecca is just pure 4-yr old cute.

Me? I almost vaguely remember deciding to do that 'fun Christmas tree branch pose'

Proof positive that Dad was a better shot with the SX70 than Mum.

In later years, we got a 'real' tree, or a forestry pine tree tip. Some were so huge they brushed the ceiling (and that lounge had a very high ceiling!). They smelled divine, but were hard to decorate, especially since fake snow was invented around the same time...

At one stage Mum and Dad tried a real tree, which was then planted in the garden, and I think never dug up again, or maybe once after. Then Mum went back to artificial trees again. Now she has the standard dark green tall leafy fake, but the tree here is a 1970's artificial tree - sparkly tinsel-like branches that you had to stick into the base separately.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Pool Room

42 Hunter St was architecturally designed, meaning it was not a page from a builder's book but a one-off. Mum and Dad didn't commission it, they bought it second hand, but it was still a unique and very special house. Its size, spaciousness and design set it apart for sure, but for us kids, it's mostly special because it was our childhood home. As a child, the house you live in IS normality: it's not until you grow up a bit that you realize that the place where you live is a little bigger, or smaller, a bit flasher or a plainer that others, or downright unique.

But by the time I reached my teens though, it was clear that pretty much no-one else had a "Pool Room" quite like ours...

The house was a big 'F' - across the top bar of the 'F' was the four bedrooms. Down the side was the bathroom and laundry, with a hall running down the inside, then the kitchen and dining room. The bottom bar of the 'F' was the lounge.

Then one day the builders came and filled in the space between the bars of that 'F'.

i vaguely recall the patio that was there before, a light and airy outdoor space between the two bars of the 'F', concreted, with a central square garden, and gardens along the edges. It was a step down to a concreted space between the patio and the fence, with the carport next to the lounge. There were two doors onto the patio from the house, one opening from the lounge/hall corner and a sliding door along the bedroom side.

I remember the builders who came and built on the one extra wall and the clear corrugated plastic roof. Mum made them morning tea.

It was the 'pool room' partly because of the pool table, and partly because of the spa pool. We often hopped in the spa pool (I'm sure my adult obsession with Japanese hot springs originates here) and Dad taught us how to play pool. It was THE venue for parties, and was a cool place to hang out with your friends, happily out of parental sight (but happily within sight for our parents, no doubt!).

I've gathered together a few photos I found with the pool room as background, because of course, no-one thought to take a photo of in all its glory!

You'll recognize this photo from the previous post, this time it's not cropped, so you can see the architecture! Behind us is the wall that was built between the three existing ones to make a room, and god bless whoever it was who filled up a third of the photo with ceiling! That roof! It was SO noisy when it rained. But it let in so much light, and heat, that the room was always the warmest place to be. We are leaning on the spa pool, of course, and you can see the corner of the pool table, with its wooden cover (so it could double as a sewing table). Mum gets pride of place in the wonderful hanging cane chair. We weren't supposed to, but we always used it like a swing, or wound it round up and up so we could spin out in it!

From a slightly different angle, with a better view of the pool table and spa pool and the cane chair on the right that I believe now lives in Mum's conservatory. Oh, and Peter. In the swinging cane chair. In his pyjamas. You can see how addictive that chair was... the window on the right is to the lounge, the yellow ones above Peter's head are actually the ones in the far wall of the carport.

And here we are again, posing in the pool room, this time in front of the lounge room windows.

Yes, me, but Look Behind Me! That old telly, where we played the first Sega video games, and I used to watch Eastenders when no-one but me wanted to watch it.

The pool table in action, with Rebecca and Jolene. In front of the hall windows. The garden under this window was filled in and a bench seats installed on top, the stereo lived in a gap between them. I remember listening to Michael Jackson's Thriller out here, and Madonna's Like a Virgin. My first album by Culture Club and ALL the Duran Duran LPs. Later on the Cure, the Clash, Blondie and David Bowie. I still have all the vinyl but no turntable to play it on!

The pool table doing service as a sewing table this time, though Mum's clearly taking some time out. Dad trying to fix the spa pool. Again. We had a lot of problems with it actually, and ended up not using it anymore.

Behind me is the spa pool, ready to go with the blue cover. We were allowed to use the spa pool pretty much whenever we liked, with friends too, as long as covered it again after to keep it warm.

I loved that chair! It was one of the warmest, and most peaceful, spots in the house. I remember reading 'Child of the Morning' in that chair, with my own internal soundtrack, Baltimora's Tarzan Boy

The chair. And me teaching Chris how to kick a football. huh???

Friday, August 19, 2011

Family Photos

Mum and Dad had six kids, but the years where all six lived at home were short, only about two and a half years by my count. There's nearly 14 years between the eldest and youngest, with me about in the middle, around seven years older than Chris and seven years younger than Maria. Chris was born in 1978, Maria in 1965. However, Maria moved out of home to study nursing in Palermston North in (1981?). She was only 16 when she left, but turned 17 the month after she started. In those days, nursing was not a University degree, and was studied in a separate nursing college attached to a hospital. Also in those days, you didn't need to finish the Seventh Form to attend a tertiary institute, University Entrance examinations were held at the end of the Sixth Form, with School C in the Fifth Form and Bursary in the Seventh Form. This had changed even by the time I went to High School, and I had to have Seventh Form before attending University.

So Chris was just a baby when she left, and also when Peter started going to Boarding School. Of course, both of them were home for holidays, and we had a full house again then. But perhaps this is one reason why finding a photo with us ALL in it is more challenging than you'd think. It seems someone's missing from most of them - Chris, or Chris and Bec from the older ones; Maria, or Maria and Peter from the later ones.

Thus, the above is what I *think* may be the earliest photo of the six of us. It's taken on the occasion of my First Holy Communion, so I would have been seven or eight, Maria about 15 and Chris a baby of course. I'm trying to figure out the dates. I think this is around Easter 1979, and Chris is about six months old. Then the one in a previous post with Poppy, on the Dining Room sofa, is from Christmas that year, so Chris is just over one year old.

I vaguely remember the photo session taking place after the ceremony, which would explain the bare feet on Jo and Bec. And the lightning-speed with which Peter appears to have shed his Sunday best for the more usual polo shirt and shorts combination! Chris looks like someone shoved him into the photo in the middle of a nappy change. Is Maria in her Sunday best or casual clothes?? Hard to tell with a teen in 1979. I, of course, am dressed up to the nines - what happened to that dress, Mum, I know Rebecca had a new one for her First Communion, so did it get tossed? Jo and Maria wore it too, right? I'm also wondering if you sewed Jo and Bec's matching peasant dresses.

And the most recent photo I could find with all six of us is this one, from my birthday party at Maria's house in 2008.

Just in case our offspring can't recognize us in years to come:
left to right on the sofa: Rebecca, Jolene, Grandma, Chris. On the floor: Maria, Rachel, Peter

And the grandies! Sofa: Maysen, Michael, Josh, Rachel holding Erica, Keelah, Shaan and Corbyn.
Floor: Gabi, Amy and Lena. Little Sarah was also there that night!

The 80's

I have this photo dated as 'about 1986'. I'm not sure of the occasion, if any, or perhaps we just took the chance to get a family photo when Maria was home. Peter was back in Hawera by now, but living at the fire station or flatting. Jo must have still been at High School, and it was around the time I switched from Sacred Heart to Hawera High. Maybe Maria was back for her 21st. She's so trendy with her red hair and that dress - I think I may still have that dress somewhere, I know I kept it for ages. Mum and Jo in their cardies, I look pretty grungy. Rebecca probably loved that jumpsuit, but I don't remember it! Dad looking jolly enough that I suspect this was taken sometime well after beer o'clock. Chris, you little blond angel. Peter of course, with the oh-so-80's moustache...