Riverton/Aparima by Marie Lynne Mitchell
Marie Lynne was born in Christchurch and after a degree in English at Canterbury University, travelled and worked in London for several years. The following years, while the family was growing were spent in San Francisco, Argentina and Singapore. Eventually the lure of home was too great and the last working stint was nearly twenty fulfilling years at the University of Auckland Business School supporting students and staff with research and learning resources. Marie is now a passionate New Zealander who is drawn to spending more and more time in the Coromandel.
Riverton/Aparima, was one of the early places in New Zealand where Maori and Pakeha first met, forged bonds and where my grandparents made their home. Grandad was a gnarly Foveaux Strait fisherman in summer and a builder by winter. My grandmother was the domestic, lighting the parlour fire every morning, cleaning, baking and playing bowls in crisp whites.
The house has a particular smell that I can recall even now; wheaty, rose talcum powder, tobacco and furniture polish. I remember the quietness, broken by the chiming of the hall clock and the particular ring to our party line —short, long, short — and my Grandmother picking up the receiver with a loud broguey “ Aye There”.
We were fascinated by our grandparent’s treasures and their unknown to us, past lives. My grandfather hung souvenirs of his Pacific voyages in the long polished wooden hallway, a large American bright red coloured hide with a painting of a Red Indian in a canoe in the middle and a fearsome tier of tribal blow pipes cascading down the wall. My grandmother had a softer trove, an embroidered box crammed with beautiful gloves, fine kid, fur, fabric and lace and a chest under the bed full of musical scores from when she toured provincial stages singing and acting. ‘I remember this one’ she would say, “Ae fond kiss” and would hum the tune reminiscing about the weddings and parties she’d sung at.
We stood on the concrete back porch on summer evenings looking down the harbour waiting to see my Grandfather’s boat, the Southern Light come over the bar. I remember my annoyance at not being allowed on the Southern Light. Probably I was too young but I felt it was because I was a girl. My cousin, a boy of a similar age did go out on a fishing expedition!
The house, sheltered from blasting southerlies by the wild Takitimu hills, was surrounded by paddocks leading up to the wild bush. As a band of bolshy cousins, aged from four to nine, little ones trailing, we trudged, in our gumboots, across the cow paddocks and into the thick, dark, bush, where we pushed over pungas to make log huts in dappled light, threw crawlies, (koura) at each other and trekked all the way through to the wild ‘back beach’ facing Stewart Island, where once we got lost. Excitedly running down to the wild surf, we turned around to find we had lost the trail back into the thick bush. The older ones decided the only option was to walk around coastal headland after coastal headland to find our way back to Riverton. We knew it would work, but it was a long hike and nearly dark by the time a bedraggled tired bunch of children saw the lights of their Aunt and Uncle’s car shining for them at a beach reserve on the outskirts of town.
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