Saturday, February 3

Beaches

When we were kids, our mother didnt get very many chances to take us for holidays.

She usually had to work, so sometimes we went to stay on our Uncle & Aunt's farm, which was always lovely & we have many memories of the lovely- & loving- times we spent there.

One lovely holiday was spent with our Grandmother, in some Flats (units) at Mt Maunganui, which was a beachside Resort, with both an Harbour Side & an Ocean Side, very close together.

It was a lovely holiday, filled with wonderful swimming, every day, in the lovely Harbour side sea water, Which was gentle with no waves, & when it was low tide, we could walk out, across the sand, & see all the little crabs & sea critters dashing about. And we would have little walks over to the Ocean side, which was the surf side of the beach resort, & we could hire 'Lilo's' which were inflatable rubber 'surfboards' for want of a better description, & we would paddle out into the surf, & float back to shore on the Lilos. Pre-'surf-board' surfing, I guess you could call it.

We would have long walks along the sandy shore, & collect shells, & examine the wonderful seaweed that washed ashore, & wonder where it had come from. Sometimes it still had it's 'roots' attached, & we would wonder what storm or upheaval had caused it to be ripped from it's 'bed'.


And when it rained, because it did now & then, we would spend the day playing Snakes & Ladders or Ludo with our Grandmother in the cosy little cabin-like flat. And occasionally it would be so cold, we would need to have the little heater on, & it would seem like a really cosy little world, where no harm could befall us.


And we went fishing with an Uncle who would come down to meet us, & take us to fish off a little wharf on the Harbour side, under the shadow of the 'Mount'. Sometimes we caught little fish, & we would take them 'home', after our Uncle, who was really a 'Great Uncle' had cleaned & scaled them, & our Grandmother would cook them for us for our tea.

My brother never liked fish, having had a very nasty experience with a fish bone once, so, I am ashamed to say, I was pleased, if the fish were very small, because it meant I only had to share with my Grandmother! I think my brother would have Baked Beans on toast, or scrambled eggs for tea, instead.


But some of my most memorable Beachside holidays, were to a Private Beach, which belonged to my mother's Best Friend's family. It was in the North of the North Island of New Zealand, & we had to travel a very long journey by bus to reach the nearest town, & then proceed to catch another bus out to the little beach settlement.


The first time we went, I remember the huge bus, & little me, standing behind it, as we said our goodbyes. My mother had made me a new blue dress, & I loved the colour & the fabric. Imagine my horror, when the bus driver got into the bus & started the bus motor, revving it madly, presumably to 'warm it up'.
The filthy exhaust blurted out a stinking black blast- right onto my new dress skirt! I was devastated, & of course my mother was pretty peeved! I got the blame! The stain never came out, so the dress was effectively ruined, before I had a chance to enjoy it. And I had the added embarrassment of having to wear it for the duration or our trip.


We eventually arrived at the little beach, tired & a little sick. I was a bad traveller as a child, & was often car-sick, & I had fought bravely with my sickness. On top of the ruined dress, I think it would have proved too much for my mother to bear!


But oh that Beach! It was glorious, & when the tide went out, it went out for seemingly miles, & we would walk out to dig for cockles to bring home to "Nanna". "Nanna" was the Matriarch of the Family who owned the beach, & she lived in a cottage close to the shore. We would go over to "Nanna"'s at command, & she would direct us kids to clean out her water tank, with Condes Crystals, that turned us all purple!! We had to really scrub that tank! And for our reward, she would cook us Cockle Fritters, which she fried up in butter.


I confess to not actually liking the Cockle Fritters that much- they always seemed tough, though Nanna had minced them, on her old metal mincer, which was screwed to the kitchen bench.
And they were nearly always gritty with sand. I didnt fancy eating the sand from the beach.... after all we all piddled in that water, when the tide was in!!


Our accommodation consisted of several 'Army Huts' which were joined together to form a sort of house. The sleeping huts had bunks, & to me, they smelled musty, & felt slightly damp. We all slept in a series of these huts which were joined together, & it was a fraught experience the first couple of nights. I would lie, smelling the horrible musty/damp smell, hoping desperately, that I wouldnt have to get up to pee. The toilet was an old outside 'longdrop' on the hill side. It was under trees, & was very very dark, & very spooky!!


After that we would be so tired from our days swimming in the sea & also the creek which was tidal, & therefore filled, & ideal for swimming in the evening when the tide was high.


The 'kitchen/dining room' was another Army hut, which had a stove & some tables & seats. It was mostly casual food, such as salads, & lots of fish & little meat- which suited me fine. I think, from memory, we got fresh bread delivered daily.


One of the 'Uncles' was a swimming trainer down in Auckland, & when he came up for the weekends, he would give us all tutoring in swimming, using the creek at high tide. He told my mother I had talent... I think I lacked enthusiasm, not being born with the 'sporting gene'! Plus I couldnt be bothered with 'training'.


There was a type of Sandstone substance which we could find on the banks of the 'toilet hill', & we used to dig it out, & carve it, into what we imagined were very artistic shapes & things. I wish I had kept some of it. It was quite pretty, & seemed to have veins of colours running through it, which made it interesting to work, carving & shaping. It was almost a soap like substance, but would not crumble or break, if you were careful when working with it.


We spent many sun filled days on that lovely beach, & collected the soapstone substance, shells, driftwood, & happy memories of times shared in golden innocence.


We would go 'floundering' in the evenings if the tide was right. I remember wading carefully through the water, peering to try to see the flounder, which we were supposed to spear, to catch. I dont think I ever caught any, but I remember seeing them. I also remember eating them, cooked on tin, on a fire on the beach.


My mother's Best Friend, is now dead, as are her husband, daughter & son. It all seems so long ago, & far away.

I understand the Private Beach has been sold. It was a golden place, with lovely memories for us all.

I think I had a wonderful childhood, filled with magic things.

9 comments:

jellyhead said...

Your memory is amazing, Meg. It makes your stories so detailed, so vivid. What wonderful slices of your life you share with us...thank you.

joyce said...

Your holiday sound like paradise for a youngster. We never had summer holidays because my Dad was a farmer and was always very busy in the summer. No winter holidays either because we were in school. Still I feel I had a pretty wonderful childhood.

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

I think you had a wonderful, magic childhood too!

telfair said...

These are such beautiful memories, I almost feel like I was there, too.

DubiQuilts - Debbi said...

You remember so much about your childhood it amazes me. I truly have very little memory before I was 12.

Anne said...

You have a wonderful way of making it all so real! It sounds like your childhood was really a magical one:-)

Henri said...

Meggie ,
The ' Mount' was always magical -- probably still is -- & that holiday especially so .
All these years later I sometimes go floundering at a very different beach & harbour from O & M's one up north and sometimes manage to spear one or two flounder which I still don't really eat ,( I enjoy the company, the wonderful atmosphere and the exercise more than the catching ), Your SIL, my beloved , and our sons & family enjoy the eating though !

Island Cowboy said...

A nice read....sounds a wonderful place and a host of great things to store in the memory bank :-)

Cynthia said...

i really enjoyed reading about your holiday. Every Summer holiday we would go to Phillip Island and camp in a tent at a caravan park. I have so many fond memories of those times.