Saturday, January 6


This picture is of trees & the river above the Waterfall at Whangarei, NZ.

I love trees, & am always amazed when people dont plant them, or cut them down. Apart from the necessity of taking down dangerous trees, of course.

Or Privet, which is just a menace.

Some of my earliest memories involve trees. When I was born, my father was in Italy, part of the NZ soldiers sent for the war effort.

A favourite Aunt was his younger sister, & she used to collect me from my grandmother's house, & take me on her horse, up to visit my other grandmother. They lived on a farm on a hill, in wild & rugged bushy country in a remote area, the 'outback' of New Zealand. I can remember asking my young Aunt the names of all the native trees on the way, & she would patiently teach me their names. New Zealand bush is very unique, & the trees were very beautiful to my young eyes- they still appear that way to me.

When I was about 3, the war was over, & my father had returned. We lived in an old farmhouse, on a farm where my father worked. There were huge old, ugly, pine trees at the back of the house, & they were dark & forboding looking. I was slightly frightened of them, & they harboured lots of Mynah birds, whose screeching nearly drove my mother mad.

The main farmhouse was quite close to ours, & I was allowed to go to play with the owner's son quite often. He was a large boy, I think he must have been older than me, & was somewhat rough. His mother, Mrs B, was lovely, & she used to let me play with his older sister's dolls, which were kept in a loft. The older sister was away at boarding school, so she was rarely home, & I cant remember her at all.

Mrs B had planted a beautiful 'Avenue' of trees she loved, & there was a huge old Magnolia, that used to flower so beautifully, plus a lot of Rhododendrons, which were also beautiful. I dont remember all the other types of trees but I can remember walking through that avenue holding Mrs B's hand, & feeling so happy.

My father had returned a 'changed man' as so many soldiers did, & the marriage of my parents failed, after the birth of my brother. (Who makes us laugh, as he tells everyone he wasnt a mistake, he was a genuine attempt at saving a marriage!)

Our mother took us, & moved back to live with her parents. At that time they were living in an old homestead on another farm, & there was an old orchard near the house. It was filled with old apple trees, & wonderful plums of all sorts. There were several Datura trees there, & I used to play with the fallen flowers. I was always fascinated with them, though my mother hated them, & hated the heavy scent they have. Now I know a little about them, I would never touch them.

Once I started school, there was a huge old Oak tree, that was a focal point of the playground. Our school photos were usually posed under that old Oak, & it provided shade in the heat of summer. There was another old huge tree, but it had horrible smelling flowers, & the hated school milk used to be placed under the tree. It would sit in the heat, & always made me vomit. I had a note to exempt me from having to have it! I always associate the smell of Privet with the flowers on that tree, & the rotting milk.

Once we got into the 'Standards' classes, we were allowed to play on the lower 'flats' as they were called. They were large areas levelled out, & grassed & used for football mostly. Later swimming baths were built down on one of the flats, & we learnt to swim in those.

These flats were surrounded by thick Lawsoniana trees, which had been planted in double rows, & were called the Air Raid Shelters. They were dense & dark, & when we were in the 'Primmers' they were a forbidden area. Of course once we got into the 'Standards', we would sneak down into the Air Raid Shelters, & the boys would sneak tobacco from their father's stash, & they would roll disgusting, deformed, cigarettes, & smoke them down among the dark trees.

There was a farm adjoining the Air Raid Shelters, & the old man who owned it used to peer through the trees, & we always believed he was 'spying' on us. His name was Bishoprick, so you can imagine the names he used to be called!

The Headmaster's house was next to old Bishoprick's place, & it bordered the bike sheds. Which were also the scene of smoking capers by the boys. I dont remember any of the girls smoking in those days, though perhaps they did.

One daring lad stole his father's pipe, & brought it to school, & braggingly smoked it, to everyone's admiration or horror. He didnt come to school for several days after that, & his brother told us it was due to the hiding he had recieved from their father. I dont know if it was true, but it could have been.

There was a lovely area in the front of the main school buildings, with thick hedges of trimmed Lawsoniana, & Camelia trees in the centre. I regret not going back to see the old school, on my recent trip back. My brother tells me he thinks the old Oak is gone now. And I would suppose the old Air Raid Shelters are also long gone. They were never very attractive, but they were fun to hide in, or handy to meet with the current 'crush'.

I always feel sad to see rented houses, with no trees. I know renters are not going to spend money on a plant they will never see grow much, but I wish owners would plant them.

I think part of the reason I love living here, is the fact we are high, & can look out on trees. And we have some nice ones of our own.


Molly said...

" i think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree". I loved reading about your memories of trees.....

aunty evil said...

Ah Meggie,

It is all about perspective and personal experiences. You have lovely memories of the trees in your life.

While I was growing up, my parents' house was surrounded by 4 large gum trees. That, due to woodworm, has reduced to 2 now. But, to this day, my mother is obsessed by the leaves they drop in her yard, and is forever out there raking them up. She no sooner finishes, then along comes a breeze, and down they come again! Then, their gutters are always getting clogged, no matter what they try to do to combat it.

I always vowed I would never buy a house surrounded by trees. I never wanted my life dominated by such things.

Enter into my life MDH, who would read your post with much admiration and agreement. He loves trees. He is filled with disgust at a lot of the new housing developments we drive through now, his only comment is "where are the trees? Not one bloody tree! This place is ugly, let's go!".

It's gonna get interesting later in the year when we start looking for a house! :)

Alice said...

Wonderful memories you have stirred up, Meggie. Some of my earliest recollections of Primary School are the trees and shrubs that grew nearby.

Mention of the oak tree reminded me of one of the first books I was given after I learned to read. It was called "The House in the Oak Tree", about some children in England who built a cubby house in a big oak tree. I loved that book.

Alas, so many housing blocks are too small to allow for any decent sized trees, thus increasing the overall heat in these estates and the increasing reliance on air-conditioners, adding to the greenhouse effect. It's all so short-sighted - the only 'view' being that of the $$$ in the pockets of governments and land developers.

You mention about the swimming pool being built at the school. That was one thing that we noticed when visiting NZ nearly 40 years ago, the number of rural schools that had a swimming pool. We assumed that they were also used by the community. Was this the case?

Anonymous said...

I loved reading about your memories, because I live in a house surrounded by trees.

meggie said...

There are more tree stories I could write about!
I am in agreement about the sterile looking housing estates, with no space for trees. How awful.

I have never regarded the leaves as 'enemies'- they are wonderful mulch to go back to the earth!

Yes, most rural schools in NZ do have pools, & no the pool wasnt used by the community in our small town. The community had it's own public swimming baths, & we had our swimming carnivals there, as it was an Olympic sized pool. I suppose our school one, was smaller- it didnt seem to be too deep, & no diving was allowed.
We were shocked when we came to live over here, to discover Aussie schools didnt have pools! In such a hot country we thought they would have been routine.

Stomper Girl said...

Love the tree story. And I want some of that lush green-ness from your photo. The drought is turning Melbourne into a dustbowl.

Lee-ann said...

Meggie hello from Central victoria, what a lovely tree story and I do love the green and fresh look of your picture I wish there was more green to look at here but not at the moment I am afraid.

When I was first married my hubby was in the army and so we lived in many army homes if I go back and visit them now they will be hard to find behind the trees :o) well I hope so see I grow trees anyplace even over the pipes I am afraid! lol lol lol

I guess it was because like you the memories of school days and the trees in the country schools I went to have fond memories for me.......why! I even got my very first kiss under a pepper corn tree and it still stands there today some 47 plus years on!!!!

It has been so nice to visit your blog and I look forward to visiting again.

joyce said...

I too went to a country school surrounded by trees and with a creek which we were not supposed to go into but did regularly anyway. Our trees were probably all different from yours but your story brought back memories anyway. One thing we lack here is the large number of flowering trees you have over there. We have a few but they are mostly shrubs like lilac. I was impressed by the huge Jacarandas in flower when we went to Australia.

Lois R. said...

I feel like planting a tree! What a wonderful musing about Trees. Happy New Year Meggie!

Angie said...

What a lovely post on trees, Meggie! And you have so many memories; I love reading them. I share the same sentiments about having trees about and planting trees. We only burn 'deadfall' in our wood stove. And I've been nagging my husband for the last two years to set aside some money for me to buy some good-size trees to plant, partly for the environment and the critters, and partly to serve as privacy. I just love looking at trees, and we have trees all about us, but we need some closer to our house too. :) Thanks so much, Meggie, for sharing your memories with us...I feel as if I 'know' you more each time I read a post of yours. ;p

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

A wonderful post, I loved reading of your experiences and tying them to trees; splendid symbols! Thanks for weighing in on my quilt naming contest, stop back by my blog next week to cast your vote!