Hard News: Stories: Home
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Home. For 18 years, my home was a beautiful house by Lake Pupuke in Takapuna. Home was a huge family, beautiful summers, my mum and dad, winter holidays in the South Island. And then I left home, and wandered a bit, as you do, and mum and dad built a house in the country. That was their new home, but it was never mine. I went overseas, and NZ was always home. I pined for her, and breathed again when I returned. I met Ian shortly after, and his home became my home, and I've been here ever since.
But home, to me, is more about the people I love, and communities who have embraced me.. I found my first home, in that regard, in my friend Carol. For 33 years, I was at home in her heart. I found home in the community of Mangere, my place of work for the last ten years. And since Carol died, I have found my home in a small house in Mangere where there is an ever changing cast of characters, and some vital steady hearts. For me, home really is where the heart is.
Thanks Russ. This is timely.
I questioned my own involvement in the fracas you refer to, and will be mindful of what you say. I also felt something nostalgic about the community at the time. Overall, this has been a sanctuary from an uncaring world, and I hope it endures. Which will depend on the ‘people’.
A story. On Saturday I ended up in A&E after breaking my foot in an unfortunate ‘middle aged man plays tennis for first time in several years’ incident.
I shared the story, mostly in a self-deprecating humour way, on Twitter, but as is often the case in my experience, I received nothing but empathetic comments, and sympathy, including from you, Fiona, Emma, Lilith, Danielle, Jackie… etc. At the time, it was just what I needed.
And as you will note, the core of the people were all those met through Public Address, and then their friends connecting online through Twitter.
This place has been amazing for me. Just wanted to share that.
Thank you, and Arohanui all.
Thanks for your timely appeal for us to behave as peaceful citizens.
The downside of letter writing in the net age, is that it's all to easy to be reactionary and ill-informed, especially in the comments sections of blogs. I relish the life and debate that PA offers and on a rainy Grey Lynn day I can read screeds of threads to test the temperature of the community I'm in. May the stories feed us with tolerance and mercy for the battle against ignorance . Ups!
It's funny how a word can elicit so many mixed feelings. We averaged one house per year when I was a kid, mainly due to my feckless stepfather and his inability to hold onto work in the 70s. Then divorce and remarriage.
All within Auckland, so the actual moves weren't that much upheaval, but the new neighborhoods, new schools - 9 of them - and different class profile of the various locations made for mini culture shocks. Going from Epsom, where we were the poor beneficiaries, to GI, where we were relatively ok due to mum having an under-the-table job, was a big one.
I know some people who loved moving as kids - military families who went all over the place. Not me - introversion is not great for those circumstances.
As an adult, I've managed to average a move once every 2-3 years now - I detest it, but circumstances demand, sometimes.
I agree that home is where your people are. While I'm near my partner, most of my people are in NZ. Fortunately I'll be home to see them for a few days at the end of the month. It's like waiting to breathe.
Home today is my bed. It is raining in Auckland, a soft fall, a bare hush. I woke this morning feeling sick and, even though I have a whole marching clutter of deadlines tromping through the week like soldiers, I returned to bed after waking.
I’ve never minded the bedroom I share with my partner. Its not quite a standard bedroom. Firstly one wall, my wall, is dominated by a bookshelf, and the bedside table, on my side is piled with books that today range from all of Joan Didion to Tove Janson’s The Summer Book and a couple of Jacques Lacan’s seminars. The bed is one we purchased in Australia 30-odd years ago. A late 19th Century, or early 20th Century bed with wooden end boards. It came from a charity shop called Kids in Crisis. Its been ours ever since. Its been up and down the East Coast of Australia and crossed the Tasman. I sleep with 7 standard-sized pillows, that prop me or cover my head. At the base of the pile is the pillow I actually rest my head on. Its probably a century old. Once it was covered with ticking but it began to leak so John recovered it which is how I know that the kapok that filled it has turned to a very mouldable dust. I shape it around my head. The other of the pillows are for weight. Ever since I had a brain hemorrhage five or six years ago, I o like weight on my much battered head.
The walls of the bedroom are perhaps its oddest feature. John collects images of the Virgin Mary. They used to line the entrance passage of our last house in Melbourne. Now in a smaller home, they’ve somehow ended up, Russian style, in the bedroom. I sleep amid fifty or sixty framed images of the Virgin Mary. There is the Madonna of Perpetual Sorrow and an Aboriginal Madonna found in another Melbourne charity shop. There is the Madonna of Gaudalupe, a Madonna from Malta, another from Albania, any number of 19th Century chromoliths, some oddly-framed by their original owners, others embroiders around by nuns. I’m not religious at all, but the first thing I see ever morning is the gold Byzantine Madonna De Perpetuo Succursu with another very dolorous Madonna to its left… It is odd, for an atheist, to spend so much time in these surrounds. Even the bedroom mirror, flanked by Madonnas reflects back another wall of Madonnas. I explain to people that it is my partner’s collection, which it is, but now, somehow reluctantly they are part of me too. What this has done to my psyche, I can only speculate…. They do, however, on a rainy Auckland morning, when I’m feeling sick, return me to some sort of world that offers comforts that maybe aren’t real, but still surround me with an air of sympathetic presence.
When I was a child of about 5 years I suggested to mum that there was no way she could prove I’d been borne and that maybe I was just dreaming my life in advance, inside her. She agreed, lovingly-in-a-casual way, and carried on pulling weeds out of the garden.
Then a few years later my dad was in the media commenting on a fracas that blew up between the Communist Party and the SIS, and kids started hassling me for being a communist. I asked what it meant. And after a long talk about people owning the outputs of their own work, and banding together to get what’s right, and so on, I said: but what about communism, that bad stuff? Oooh …
Then there was this period when the Auckland Star kept publishing maps of Auckland, illustrating with concentric circles the kind of damage that would be sustained if (or when) they dropped the bomb. I came to see no point or future in life at all. I became entirely nihilistic. Enter: punk rock, right on cue. Communism plus nihilism equaled anarchy.
Then one day I fell in love and got married. And it dawned on me that children might appear. And that even if I was still dreaming my life inside my mother, the fancy-pants idea of multi-generational intra-uterine dreaming was probably stretching the hypothesis beyond any usable application, and cut that shit out for a while.
So now, if there’s such a thing as lucid dreaming, I figure that’s probably just as well done with the eyes open.
Home follows me around.
It will always be my parents' place in Mangere, bought in the 80s when it was ramshackle and barely a house at all, before expanding like an accordion and becoming the place where 4, 5, 6, and 7 people lived (and sometimes more). It stays, the family changes shape.
It will be wherever I live. When I lived in Australia, I thought 'this is a nice place to live', and stayed. It felt like home. Wellington is as close to comfort as I know, and despite the constant wind and rain living here is easy. There are people here I care about. I'll follow the person I love to another city shortly, and I'll call that place home because that's where our hearts are.
Russell Brown, in reply to
Home follows me around.
It will always be my parents’ place in Mangere, bought in the 80s when it was ramshackle and barely a house at all, before expanding like an accordion and becoming the place where 4, 5, 6, and 7 people lived (and sometimes more). It stays, the family changes shape.
That's one thing I don't have: the house where I grew up. I could always go and visit the houses, but that's not quite the same thing. I do feel good about the stability we've provided for our autistic boys, who would have struggled with change.
But it's going to be hard to avoid the temptation to cash up and move somewhere cheaper when Fiona and I reach 60. Through nothing but dumb luck and timing, there is a lot of money locked up in this place.
We also moved around a fair bit when I was a child. And since moving to Christchurch when I was eighteen, I've lived in ten places. Four of those, with my children. The place where we've lived for the last six years, which I'd intended to be my home for life, and to be the 'home' the kids could always come back to when they were grown, has encompassed for them the earthquakes, disruption to their schooling, and the break-up of their parents' relationship.
I really valued the stability of my mother's house, where I lived from 6 to 18, and where she lived until she died five years ago. That was Home for me, and remains my mythological home now it's passed from our family. As Jackie says, the place your parents move to after you leave Home is never home.
What I share with my mother is the sense that home isn't so much the building as the garden around it.
First of all, Depeche Mode:
My father also worked for a bank – but as he could mostly transfer between Wellington region branches, we were fairly solidly based in Lower Hutt, interrupted by a 5-year exile in Wanganui. Only the second Hutt place, and my grandfather’s place in Avalon, have really stuck in my memory as “homes”.
I hate the mess and chaos and upheaval of moving – so much so that I’ve stayed in the same run-down apartment in Saitama for longer than in any NZ residence to date, rather than face going through it by myself. But it’s not home.
Of course, I tend to live mostly inside my own head anyway: just even more so while in Japan.
Which leads me to Tim Minchin:
It’s a understatedly powerful song, though I think he leaves out an important step in the progression here: possibly because rhymes for “community” are hard to fit into a song lyric.
And in that sense, PAS is as close as I have to a home right now.
I'm really attached to home. I have an imaginary rubber band which links me to my patch of ground (my turangawaewae). With a bit of preparation it can stretch but readily brings me home. I've lived in three houses in the street I was born in, now halfway between the first and second. I'm never going to leave. For a few years I lived further down the hill, not far away. This attachment to lifelong place is very rare for Wellingtonians who have mostly come from somewhere else.
I've been away from home for a couple of days for a quick trip to Christchurch. The travel and touristing was interesting - but that was long enough.
Home has become primarily for me a refuge from chaos, a place of safety for this nuclear family. Once – it seems like aeons ago – home was about stripping 14-inch kauri skirting boards and finding the right shade of paint; that is mostly gone. Now it’s about solidity: a roof that will not fall on our heads, land that will not flood in a
storm. An abode with room for all of us, our hopes and dreams and hobbies and pets and forthcoming grandchild. Sunny and warm, light, and cosy nooks. A house for a sustainable future for the whanau and friends, whatever the world throws at us.
Home is also the familiar places in this city and this country, the friends, acquaintances and web built up over decades of living here. The internet feels like that now too: layers of familiar sites and people.
Re-establishing the commons that lured me into PAS – the generosity of spirit, respect, openness and play along with robust debate of ideas rather than defending harsh ideological stances – is an inspired action. I need it more than ever.
NZ has been home for 20 years and waiheke for the last 10. I left the place I grow up (I cannot call it home anymore) poor and disappointed… I represented to country in 2 sports and went to war for them… I had a job as a scientist, but with a cleaners salary, because I did not have the right political connections. I came to NZ without knowing anyone and with 300$ in my pocket… bFM was my first “home” even if my body rested in a boarding house in Balmoral. For getting a job no one ever asked my who “recommended” me, which political party I belong to… nor mocked my dark skin. “Do your job and you’ll be alright mate"… I was told on my 1st job here (a fishing boat).
NZ has changed a lot since then and not all has been good. But still is “home”. I lived for work for periods of time in other countries (because my present work with the UN) but Waiheke is “home” by choice… we still have it good here. We just need to be aware of the inevitable drift that society takes, and try to slow it down and insist in control and balances. “Home” is were i’m at my happiest… home is here.
Moz, in reply to
I'm glad you're here and like it. Long may that continue.
For me home is a mixture. Growing up we moved fairly often, but only within the little town I grew up in so I never changed schools, just houses. That and moving regularly when I was at uni have made me more willing to move, but also aware of the value of "stuff". I'm kind of itinerant, but I travel heavy.
Or more accurately, I'm aware of the cost of replacing or hiring stuff when I don't have it because I got rid of it when I moved. So I own a bloody great steel-framed workshop bench with a 30kg engineering vice bolted to it, because that's something that I use a lot. Trying to fake it with a little clamp-on vice... doesn't work. And so on, until I have ~20 cubic metres of stuff weighing several tonnes. At least, I did when we moved from Melbourne to Sydney a couple of years ago.
Place is likewise mixed. To some extent home is where my partner is, and that's Sydney. But we have a shitty house in a shitty location, and that doesn't feel like home. I'm hoping that building a granny flat will fix that, but right now there's a whole lot of "can't do that until the flat is built" in my life. The "garage" leaks but can't be fixed since it's is made of asbestos and while we wait to rebuild it my tools are rusting and I can't build much. I can't plant much garden because it's too likely to be damaged when we build. Etc, etc. It is, unsurprisingly, very stressful.
My roots in NZ are more more tenuous by the day. That's largely because my partner can't move to NZ, so I can't either, so I'm only ever going to be a visitor. But I do like to visit.
David Hood, in reply to
A story. On Saturday I ended up in A&E after breaking my foot in an unfortunate ‘middle aged man plays tennis for first time in several years’ incident.
Sympathies from me as well, as a victim of middle-aged man falls over taking a photo and breaks arm" last year
Home. I've lived in several houses in different places in NZ; the ones I lived in with my husband were home - "home is where we rest our head at night" we used to say. When he died I moved from Auckland to Christchurch where my daughter lives. I call it home, but it's not really. I've not yet replaced the pictures on the wall since the house was repaired after the shakings and I don't suppose I'll bother now. It's a perfectly nice place and I'm very grateful it looked after me. I know I can trust it not to hurt me.
But home? Home is the sea I guess, a broken-down little bach in the Bay of Islands, boat - only access. The small launch we had. The old fig trees, the remains of Maori trenches on the hill, the soldiers' brass buttons that sometimes were washed up on the little stony beach and slender white remains of clay smoking pipes. When a road was finally put through we went there so I could show my darling this magic
Heh! Lots of big glassy houses with views. All ghosts driven out. Now a website shows exclusive 'hideaways' for sale or rent. Not home any more.
But the sea is still there. I watched a Marae programme the other day on Maori TV and my heart lurched when I saw the river where my father's boat lived. Eventually he got a mooring at Opua, but until then we waited until the tides were right before we could chug down the river and into the open sea. Bliss. Home.
I recall that a few years ago there was a thread on PA about 'fromness'. Where are we from? If we are overseas and are asked that we tend to say we are from NZ. But when we are in NZ we tend to name a town or a city. I remember then that I had a problem defining my fromness. I'd not lived in Christchurch for long so I felt no attachment to the city - I'm loving the changes that are happening here now. I no longer felt that I was from Auckland. The Auckland I knew had grown grotesquely different from the city of my student days in the 50's. Even the harbour there was contaminated with floating gin palaces.
But I'm content now.
Russell Brown, in reply to
bFM was my first “home” even if my body rested in a boarding house in Balmoral.
Yeah, I totally get that. It's the place where people like us live.
PA folk who feel the same may also wish to chip in a little to this week's Bombathon pledge drive.
Thanks Russell,this a great idea. Not wadding in, can at times be an excruciating exercise in restraint, and there are times when my over exuberance has left me foundering in a tidal rip thats hurtling towards the rocks.I either have the good sense to bow out or I make a fool of myself ( less of the fool theses days, I can be a slow learner)
Home; I too am a habitual nester, which made me a lousy squatter in London in the early 90's ( three squats in two years).
When I move, I move reluctantly. I grump and sulk, the prospect abstract and severe. I hover around and around the new place suspiciously looking for a place to land, but when I do, I become attached.
When I first moved to Mangawhai ten years ago it was a big lurch, away from the city and all its boisterous frivolity, colour and diversity, from friends and family and connection. I still worked in Auckland at the time so I was able to hold on to connections, but it was different ,disconnected. Within five years here we had built a Straw bail house and my marriage had failed. But five years on from that I love it and find it hard to imagine living anywhere else. Its quiet but for the birds and the occasional rattling of a passing quad bike, and I guess its not so surprising how you can get used to star filled skies and abundant silence. The fruit trees are now producing obediently, The gardens are establishing , the house is warm in winter and cool in summer, its close enough to the beaches to be easy and far enough away to feel like an escape from the throngs of summer visitors. I can indulge in nude gardening ( I do wear a hat) and play music as load and as often as I please. I have cultivated good friendships and feel a part of a diverse and eclectic community . I visit the market on Saturday mornings for coffee and social intercourse and am involved with local music and theatre. And, its only an hour and half to Auckland.
Home is like a memento to ourselves, to remind us who we are, where we have been, where we are now and where we are going. It is, where the heart lyes, and where I have lain my hat…. for now.
We live on a bush clad main road in West Auckland. It used to be we would meet the neighbours whenever there was a car crash, which was once or twice a week in winter and when ever it rained, for the rest of the year. Fortunately for the motorist the road has been fixed but the social side of disaster has palled. Stafford set up a community weeding group, which was pretty ineffective but a good get together in the local gardens and reserves. Stafford fell off a ladder earlier this year and died, Mark up the road has taken up his role but is more interested in trapping pests than the weed bags, a more solitary pursuit. There are other neighbours who we don't see much of but I know we can turn to for help and advice. Our immediate next-doors were a self contained unit, until the unit fell apart now they are moving on as the cost of living in Auckland is prohibitive with half a mortgage each.
We wonder who the new neighbours will be, we've had pot growers with mastiffs, who were sweetie pies once they knew we carried tux biscuits (the dogs, but come to think of it it may have worked on the owners too) A toothless, paranoid, amphetamine taking truck driver, a professional jazz drummer and the worst, a misanthropic curmudgeon from an old settler family. We think we will most likely get a young family as the schools are quite flash around here, possibly poms (Britirangi) but we dread the rental investment; "secluded with ample garaging", shouts clanlab to me.
I think home is defined by where you live with those you love, the people around you and how you share space and time together and how we negotiate difference and help each other out.
Moved house 25 times – be that across town, to another city or another country, barely ever through choice. We’ve only been here about six months and from time to time I still wake up wondering when I’ll be saying goodbye to this place too, so there’s seldom a day goes by when I don’t pinch myself and deeply appreciate that this one’s 4life and that (fingers crossed) we might get to see some of these young trees reach maturity. Thanks so much for this thread Russell, it’s provided some sorely needed focus amid the turmoil.
After finishing our post-grad degrees we are very very strongly encouraged to leave NZ for "personal growth". Kicked out might have overstated it but it was close. We ended up in Texas for 13 months. Texas is beautiful but the people were strange.
It was a period when we were most definitely NOT home. In many ways it crystallised how important home was to us. And when we finally escaped Texas (after driving with a U-Haul behind us and a broken fuel pump in Amarillo) and we drove over the hills into California's central valley, we saw green, and it felt like coming home.
That moment of seeing green made me realise how much of home for me is the green of Auckland and New Zealand as a whole. Not 100% pure, not all wild or natural, but alive.
great stuff Russell. I'm in the position of not owning a a home. Have owned 2, just not in the rising part of the property cycles! I love your reference to a nest. As a grandparent I have my 2 moko & my brothers moko for sleep overs from time to time & it is a great experience consciously making a nest even when you don't own the straw!
Re stories, I host over night talk back most weeks on RadioLIVE. I have a person who texts me most mornings telling me to stop talking about my family & my life. My response is that they are the only things I know for sure. Much of everything else is, as you point out, mere opinion., even if it is at times well informed. When we as a species can tap into our empathy, I believe we will have so much more of a chance to live to our potential. Bottomline, many of us could relate to each others stories, if we were willing to listen & to share.
My parents came to New Zealand, from England, in the mid 1960s. Dad had done his military service on Christmas Island (where they were testing H bombs but life was otherwise idyllic) and had wanted to return to the Pacific ever since. He found a job in Nelson working with DSIR as an entomologist and he and Mum boarded the Ruahine and sailed right across the world to start a new life.
The first year was hard on Mum. Without work she was isolated and her sense of identity was slipping. When she did secure some relieving work at a primary school she found the contrast between school in New Zealand and the, rather progressive, school she had been at, too much to bear.
Eventually Mum got a position as a children's librarian where, despite some trying working conditions, she spent 19 years running legendary story times and creating a happy little space for hundreds of children. When the DSIR moved to Auckland Dad decided to stay in Nelson and became a jeweller, first learning from, then working alongside, Jens Hansen. Somewhere in there they bought the house where, aside from a stint of house-sitting the year I was born, they have lived ever since.
My parents are aging now and I know there is a day coming when they won't live in that house any more. The odds are good that, when that happens, the house (with its rimu floors and ceilings and my purple bedroom) will be bowled and the section (where half a dozen cats are buried) will be subdivided. Other places have been home since I left at age 18 but my roots are firmly planted in that quarter acre of Nelson soil.
I had no concept of home growing up. I thought, naively, NZ was home, specifically west AK. But growing up I heard stories from my parents of casual racism(dad was from Croatia and married a NZ girl) much to her mothers disapproval. And at work dad when an adolescent unable to read or write english and speaking with an accent. One specific incident comes to mind.
As an apprentice brickie after labouring for a while he was given a first small wall to build, which he completed well. When it was finished the foreman( a "pommie" apparently) wandered over and kicked the wall over with no explanation, just a laugh.
Boy! what would that do to your self esteem.
Having been to Croatia twice I find the climate suits me and there is still family land there, but I cant get there for one reason, money.
So I imagine I'll live out my years in NZ not really feeling like its home.
Not thats its wrong, just not quite right.
I dont really gel with most pakeha NZers in particular those of English descent.
But if they rub along with me I'll return the favour.
We've all just got to get along somehow.
Home for the last 8 years has been a small house in St Kilda, one of Dunedin's lower lying suburbs. A warm, comfortable place, until the third of June this year.
Over the night before, and during that day, Dunedin had record rainfall. I watched the water rising in the garden, until mid evening, when it was obvious Trisha and I had to leave. We spent the night at my brother James' place.
The following morning, I drove back to the house. The water had been inside - not much, but enough to soak the carpet, and the walls. Surprisingly, furniture on any sort of raised foot was OK.
I tried to dry out the carpet, until the loss adjuster told me that the carpet would have to be pulled out, and the walls opened to dry out. I ripped out the carpet, on the Sunday after the flood, and then we had the builder here, opening the walls, while we shifted our stuff out to storage.
We rented a flat in Dunedin's city centre, and squatted there, while the house was dried out, and repairs done.
We moved back in nearly 15 weeks later. 1200 houses were affected. Some still haven't been repaired - ones with structural problems discovered when they were stripped to dry out.
You don't appreciate home, until you have to leave it.
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