To visit my paternal grandparents, our journey involved a tramcar ride to the Cenotaph in Wellington followed by a long train ride to Plimmerton.
Mother and Father, as we called them, lived at the top of the hill overlooking the sea. The snow-capped mountains of the South Island loomed in the distance. I felt royal sitting on my throne surveying that wondrous scene. In fact the throne was the one and only step leading from the dark sitting room to the long verandah that stretched across the front of the house. I cannot recall anything more of the house, but I remember the garden with its concrete path winding up to their cottage through trees, bushes and bordering flower beds.
It was my grandfather’s custom to look after my brother and me as soon as we woke. Father was the one who took us for walks in the morning stillness, while our parents enjoyed a luxurious lie in. ’Did you see that one?’ he would ask in a low voice so as not to disturb the fairies under the blue hyacinths. I looked at him in awe, amazed that he could actually see the garden spirits I so longed to greet. With his twinkling eyes and warm broad smile I was sure he connected with these creatures.
One crisp clear morning he said he had something wonderful to show us. We climbed up the hill to observe my very first sunrise and suddenly the silhouette of my cousin riding his horse appeared in front of the sun.
Those first memories at the age of three have never left me. They are the only memories I have of a dearly loved grandfather. He died shortly after, but I feel his presence in my garden every day.