Catherine is a journalist who has been hunting and gathering stories for around three decades, mostly in Taranaki. The best part of her job is the interesting and sometimes quirky people she has the privilege to interview and write about.
When my mother was in the Marton maternity home with my baby sister, Granny took us older three out along country roads picking flowers, which we later put into preserving jars to decorate the house and welcome them home.
That afternoon, I walked beside the pushchair with my baby brother and little sister riding in it, me holding on. It seemed like miles to my five-year-old legs.
It was early summer and the verge was lush with foxgloves, wild roses and buttercups golden in the grass.
At bedtimes during that visit and others, Granny told us stories of her wartime exploits when she and her husband were in the Dutch underground. They had five children at that stage and when Grandfather was betrayed he had to go into hiding as he was wanted by the Nazis. He was away much of the time so mostly she was on her own and dicing with danger for she also hid Jews, a German officer who had defected and sometimes British pilots who had been shot down, in her attic in occupied Holland. She would send the children down to a nearby stream to wash their hands and faces before meals to give her time to ferry food upstairs to the ‘guests.’
Finding food for these extras as well as her family took all her resourcefulness.
Once, she saw a soldier toss a stale loaf into a rubbish bin. Quickly retrieved and with the mould cut off, it was a feast.
Other times, she bought a few potatoes from a farmer, smuggling them home in the pram underneath the baby.
My memories of my grandmother begin in the 1970s. By then, she and my grandfather and their nine children had been in New Zealand for about twenty years. What I remember is her greying hair in a soft bun and her lovely singing voice. To me she was always smiling and kind. She relished cream in her coffee, and her bread thickly buttered. Although Granny never drove a car or had a paid job, she was always busy.
In her later years, now widowed, she relished the freedom of having her own money to spend, or not, as she wished - for the first time in her life. She died aged 94.
I often think of her as my sister’s December birthday approaches and the summer growth turns the roadsides green. Her motto was: ‘Do the work your hand finds’ and hers always found plenty.
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