The door to my memories of childhood opens on the house we moved into when I was eighteen months old. It was newly built in the Hamilton subdivision of Claudelands.
It was my whole universe and I can distinctly remember the pink and grey bathroom tiled flooring and the only mirror in the house above the bathroom basin that I would gaze into looking at this strange creature gawking back. When my mother washed my hair in the basin, I would watch the patterns on her skirt jiggle as she scrubbed. Her mood would determine how fast the skirt moved.
Outside was a wonderland with a beautiful rose garden in the front, my own garden by the garage where I grew Christmas lilies, and the vast vegetable garden and fruit orchard behind the house that offered countless hours of industry along with the happiness of playing on bikes, trikes and in paddling pools. Beautiful plants and trees: dahlias, daisies, hydrangeas, geraniums, irises, the ornamental ‘black’ cherry tree with a dark maroon-red leaf, the kowhai and lancewood and there were ‘blackboy’ and ‘golden queen’ peach, apple, nectarine and quince trees in the orchard at the back. The names come to mind so easily because I can hear my mother speaking as she so enthusiastically plans and plots where things are to grow. To me this seemed like a living paradise.
Many years later, after a long stretch of time and a period living overseas, I returned to Claudelands and saw a small house on a quarter acre section, the gardens completely gone. It looked so bereft of love and interest. But what was not lost is what I absorbed about structure, balance and beauty. My early influences have helped me define my own style and approach to the way I live my life today.