Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: My Life As a Palm Tree

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  • Danielle,

    Parental instructions issued from a lavatory are difficult to enforce; unnecessary lingering almost always leads to disaster.

    What amazes me is that you were ever left alone at all to... do your business. I often have an in-room audience of a preschooler, a toddler and a dog. The only advantage is that now the older one is in the process of toilet training, I will usually get a round of applause from him. "Good peeing, Mama! HOORAY!" It can feel quite validating.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    My solution to having a child who won't stop talking until he falls asleep, and another child who won't go to bed without far too many stories, was to put them together. You can set your watch by their bedtime now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Danielle,

    Less validating recently was my youngest discovering how to lock me into the toilet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    My stomach turns in horror at the thought of my children doing what we used to do.

    There was a pohutakawa tree that used to , and probably still does, hang out over a cliff, at least 10 metres above a stretch of hard flat rock next to the sea. We used to sit out on the trunk of the tree and dare each other who could slide out furthest.

    There was the sliding scar of exposed dirt that you had to run across at speed to get to the other side and find the path to some hut. If you didn’t run fast enough, you’d lose momentum and slide to the bottom of the scar. If you slid down, it was harder to get up again. At the far end the edge of the scar was not bush, but another sheer cliff down to rocks and the sea.

    The only child death we knew of was someone across the bay whose tent had caught fire from a candle. Nevertheless, the fact that none of us fell off the pohutakawa, or down the cliff, gives me little comfort when I also consider that a good part of the decreases in infant and child mortality has come from a reduction in the practice of leaving children in the care of their older siblings, or to their own devices.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Unless I was very quick, Bob would clamber into the upper boughs, almost invisible in the greenery. “No, I’m not coming down. I’m living in this tree now. I don’t live in Christchurch any more.”

    My older brother cured me of this annoying habit by the ingeniously simple method of shaking the branches until I was too terrified to stay up there. This kind of mentoring prepared me for primary school, where targeting the little'uns in bullrush and brandy was as obvious as collecting low hanging fruit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    So this is where that horrible ALAC advert came from.

    I always thought it came from that baby swinging scene with Donald Sutherland in Bertolucci's 1900 - shudder!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7885 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I, too, was lucky enough to have tribes and wild spaces in my childhood.

    I may have mentioned this here previously, but my brother and I were turned loose to forage at the local dump, which was just round the corner.
    And then there was the time the two of us went missing on the interisland ferry, and were only discovered asleep in a cabin several hours later after the ferry had berthed in Picton and all the other cars had disembarked ..

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 821 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Our home in Titirangi backed onto reserve. I could and did literally walk out the back door into the bush to randomly play.

    I mostly grew up in the northwestern suburbs of Christchurch, where there were plenty of undeveloped sections on which to get up to mischief (such as hurling clods of dirt, or, in season, powerful fireworks at each other) -- but it was the three years we lived in Greymouth I regard as absolutely formative.

    We were right up against the bush and my friends and I would disappear for hours on end up the slippery trails. The greatest thing that ever happened was a big slip -- it took us a while to get up, and not long to get down. We built rough sleds and hurtled down bumpy tracks on them, occasionally being thrown off and crashing into trees. We trapped possums: my first taxable income was from the sales of furs, age 11. We rode our bikes to Shantytown, on the open road, or around the sewage pond, as if it were a velodrome. We climbed tall pines to cut down bits for Christmas trees. A lot of what we did was dangerous. It was marvellous.

    I was back in Christchurch for my adolescence, which I think was a good thing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But she and Bob are growing up with a father who makes things. Real things, things they can touch and break and then watch him repair. It’s a kind of magic.

    I feel the lack of being able to provide that for my boys. I think we faced some special challenges pretty well, but our younger one in particular would have benefited from a dad with a workshop, tools, soldering iron, etc. I'm just a bit rubbish at that stuff.

    On the other hand, I knew how to do things with a computer and they had running-around and various ball (and puck and frisbee) games until they were old enough to credibly demur. I could do that part.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to BenWilson,

    My youngest saw me disengage the privacy lock on our bathroom with a breadknife one morning. I made the mistake of closing it behind me later that day, and next thing I hear her bashing away at the paintwork with a knife she's retrieved from the drawer.

    I've learned to handle lack of privacy - it's the commentary that breaks my spirit. I'm looking forward to the day when I hear someone else's kid say "I like your undies mum" from behind a closed cubicle door.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I, too, was lucky enough to have tribes and wild spaces in my childhood.

    Playing on the street with the local kids used to be thing when I was little. Lots of memories of swimming completely unsupervised at the beach (by which I mean we were supposed to go to the swimming pool, but decided to spend the entry money on something to eat and to swim for free) from as young as 7. Pt Erin is right next to all the beaches of Herne Bay, after all.

    Homemade trollies were also a thing. Low slung wooden vehicles with rope or foot steering, no suspension or brakes, on which we took on steeper and steeper roads wearing nothing but shorts and t-shirts. Bicycles were a way of making us safer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Brislen,

    Toileting with boys is one thing but with two girls...

    I shall relate this tale on the basis that they're not reading it and nor is their mother.

    Picture, if you will Dad with two daughters (3 and 6 I want to say) on a trip to the zoo. It's a lovely day and the park is mostly empty, however when I realise my bladder is full to overflowing and will require me to either burst or find a lavvy, trouble sets in.

    Neither girl will stand outside. Both insist on coming in as well.

    OK, fine but this isn't one of your new fangled bathrooms, this is old school Auckland Zoo (under the stone bridge for those that remember that part of the zoo) and involves a long trench-like affair I refer to as The Trough for the weeing.

    Nobody else is within cooee so I make a Dad Decision and head on in with both girls in tow, holding hands sweetly as they are won't to do.

    The floor is slick as only a mensroom floor can be. "Stay here" I declare in my sternest voice while I proceed to The Trough.

    For those not familiar with male public toilets, let me tell you that The Trough has been replaced with The Bowls, a single pisser affair that is much less entertaining. Troughs and Bowls have one thing in common - a regularly pre-programmed flush that kicks in no matter what else is happening roughly every two or three minutes.

    There I am, mid flow as it were, when the flush kicks in but unlike a normal "woosh/reset" toilet, The Trough is roughly 100 years old and so consists of clanking that emanates from the cisterns (strategically placed above the exit), much banging of pipes as air blocks are sorted out, wheezing as if from a nearby dragon and much screaming from the two children.

    "DADDDDYYYYY" they shriek as they run forward to safety and me.
    "NOOOOOOO" I shriek as they try to rugby tackle me mid stream.
    "ARRRRGH!" they scream as they bounce off me, and the eldest one slips, rolls and manages to pull both her and her sister into the downstream portion of The Trough.
    "EWWWWW" we all shriek together.

    Eventually we depart the mensroom firm in our agreement that we shall never speak of it again.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Paul Brislen,

    I realized only recently that the family changing rooms at pools are actually meant for father-daughter and mother-son combos. I'm just hogging it, when my boys and I are perfectly safe to expose to the perpetual shower hogging old men soaping their balls, of the standards men's changing room, and walking barefoot through piss to change on wet seats and floor is our lot in life.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Paul Brislen,

    Eventually we depart the mensroom firm in our agreement that we shall never speak of it again.

    I am horrified and helpless with mirth.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I mostly grew up in the northwestern suburbs of Christchurch, where there were plenty of undeveloped sections on which to get up to mischief

    Similarly, we had free rein over the bush, cliffs and waterfalls around Whakatane’s Hillcrest suburb. I recall from the age of 8-9 we only really went home for food and sleep, and every other hour was spent with pocket knives and skateboards building huts in the bush, or racing headlong down the hill into traffic. A favourite was on an admittedly quiet road, where after building up a decent head of speed, we’d be given the all clear to cross a road and launch ourselves into a pond. Good times.

    I also had friends whose families hunted, who had access to rifles from what now seems a ridiculously young age (13-14). We would go off into the bush for possums, where we also had traps set, and bring them home to skin them. We did quite well out of those skins.

    I do have 50+ stitches in my leg to show for all this freedom, however.

    On the fireworks, we had an aunt who seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of thunderbolts. Nothing we made came close to that.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2448 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Paul Brislen,

    Thank you for writing that family horror tale: I laughed until I cried.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to JacksonP,

    I do have 50+ stitches in my leg to show for all this freedom, however.

    I was the big sister who carried my little brother home from the wars. Stitches and mashed lips were run-of-the-mill. Highlights were him running smack into a metal carport pole: immediately unconscious with a purple egg-sized lump on his forehead. Sticking four prongs of a garden fork through four toes, tidily two on each foot. And I arrived in time to watch the coal-throwing contest where two boys hurled an adult’s fist-size lump of coal straight up the air and stood looking up to see whose went highest; stitches on the snout and scalp and blood everywhere.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    You want bathroom horror stories?

    Changing the nappy of a squirmy toddler in a cafe bathroom with highly polished concrete floors and no changing table. Kid bumps dirty nappy spilling contents onto the floor. I stand up to locate more paper towel, put my foot into the mess and immediately slip over, landing hard on my tailbone and spreading poop far and wide. Quite a lot of long, stinky minutes, and many, many paper towels later, toddler (who has not been entirely helpful) and I emerge to a family who are somewhat perplexed by my insistence on leaving immediately.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Swain, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Snap?! I grew up near the Glen Eden end of a stream that led to Titirangi/Konini.

    I'm not sure if we're referring to the same stream, but in any case you've just sparked a whole lot of reminiscing about getting up to mischief in the bush out west.

    Japan • Since Apr 2013 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Susannah Shepherd, in reply to David Haywood,

    On rainy days, his preferred method of entertainment was to have me swing him in circles by his heels, and then flip him yelling into the air, so that he somersaulted once (or preferably twice) before crashing onto the settee.

    For your future reference, my uncle (and brother) would advise that it is sensible to leave more than ten minutes between (1) ingestion of a bottle of raspberry fizz by said child and (2) the swing by the ankles indoors game. Spectacular to watch, though.

    My maddest toddler game, and one of my first memories, was inserting a sheet of paper into a bar heater to see if it would turn red. It did. (I must ask my mum whether she was actually in the loo at the time this was all happening - I do recall her scooping me and the flaming paper, still clutched in my pudgy little hand, straight into the kitchen sink.) The one upside for my parents was a strongly-developed fear of matches that didn't ease until I was old enough to not be completely stupid with fire.

    And when we were slightly older - I have lots of cousins much the same age as me and we used to spend hours unattended in a quarry / yard complete with water-filled shingle pits and the full cave-in horrors, not to mention someone not much older than we had been being abducted and murdered nearby a few years later. If we got bored at the quarry we'd play chicken on the railway bridge...

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    I feel your pain. Literally

    +1. The Word of Fear in our house is 'Again!'. Demonstrating centrifugal force to Ms 3 by putting her in a basket and spinning round as fast as possible seemed like a good idea. But not when the lesson needed repeating for the rest of the afternoon. My inner ear ain't what it used to be.

    We also have 'walking across the ceiling', a variant of 'being held upside down at the waist' which can only be played When Mother Is Elsewhere in order to avoid conniptions. I once absent-mindedly picked up a friends daughter by the waist, flipped her upside-down and held her above my head (hey, force of habit). We don't get invited round for playdates that much any more....

    I also once desperately attempted to buy myself five minutes to check my e-mails by responding to a request to 'play music on the computer now!' by cueing up some filthy dubstep, hoping she'd run screaming. The resulting new game is called 'jumping on the bed to the monster song'. Jumping at the wrong moment is met with stern injunctions: 'No, daddy. Wait for it to drop'.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Rich Lock,

    responding to a request to ‘play music on the computer now!

    Hehe, me too. Not dubstep, though, but the opening bars of Hunters and Collecters' Holy Grail or Bob Marley's Iron, Lion, Zion have my wee one doing her absolute best to pound whatever bed she's on into eternal submission. A few other songs have a similar effect, but for whatever reason those two work best.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    My angels when they were three months old (and 9 weeks prem) would settle down to sleep with a growly voice like Bob Dylan or Rod Stewart. If we put on a female singing lullaby, the boys would howl and weep (and that was very unusual for them).

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Paul Brislen,

    is it any drier in the Powder Room?

    ...The Trough.
    “EWWWWW” we all shriek together.
    Eventually we depart the mensroom firm in our agreement that we shall never speak of it again.

    quite an arc from the plight of the trough through to the blight of plighted troth...
    ;- )

    regarden garden danger

    Sticking four prongs of a garden fork through four toes,
    tidily two on each foot.

    Good tines!
    :- 0

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7885 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Sticking four prongs of a garden fork through four toes,
    tidily two on each foot.

    Forkin 'ell.

    Two kids chopping. (Wifey's younger sisters). Small tomahawk. Wood chopping block. Tractor shed. Farm. Slightly older one is chopping. Other one wants a go. Slightly older one won't give up the axe. Littly puts hand on chop to stop her swinging the axe. "Move your fingers!". "No." "MOVE your fingers". "Make me".

    Chop.

    Two ends missing.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1588 posts Report Reply

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