A really special outing was getting to go with Nana on Friday nights after her work, to visit with her big sister, Minnie, Digger’s mother. We took the train to the Wellington railway station before swapping over to the train that went to Shannon where they lived.
In the waiting time between trains we had a cuppa at the train station’s tearooms. Nana would also buy her Golden Kiwi ticket and a newspaper to read on the train, at the, station’s news stand, kiosk.
On the train, always being kind to me, Nana let me have the window seat to get the best view. Pulling out of the station, I was fascinated to see the giant sized, Kiwi bird, on top of a tall building beside the railway tracks. From my window seat, each time we rounded any bends, I got a great look at the engine puffing away out front with all the dusty-dirty, red carriages, clicking along behind. Sometimes my view got blocked by the white fluffy clouds of steamy-smoke pouring out of the engine’s smokestack, swirling and billowing back to engulf us.
After the stop at the Porirua station, the towns were left behind as the train tracks crossed over lots of swampy bits, where the sea nearly swamped them. Further on, the tracks ran alongside a rocky seashore of really wild waves, and the train raced through lots of short tunnels carved into the hills. The, in and out, causing the light inside the carriage to flash from bright to black and back again. Then we charged really fast across lots of flat farm land, scattering startled animals, racing straight through the little stations without stopping, until our mad gallop ended at, Shannon railway station.
Nana used to say, we could always count on Uncle Alf, Auntie Minnie’s husband, to be at the train station to greet us. He was a very tall, English man, and according to her a ‘real’ gentleman. Carrying Nana’s suitcase, he lead the way up the street, in the dark night-time, to their house.
Uncle Alf and Auntie Minnie’s big girl, Thelma, and her children, my cousins, also lived with them at their house.
Some memories from visits at my Auntie and Uncle’s house include, the giant plum tree in their backyard smothered in red plums us kids feasted on, a noisy, billy goat with a long white beard hanging down, that kept sticking his head, through the back fence, and the Saturday nights, after tea-time. Uncle Alf, would walk up town to the dairy, to buy his Sport’s Post to read. And us cousins knew, because he was kind to kids, as well as rather funny, that without fail, he would return carrying a big brown paper bag, filled up with chocolate frogs, fishes, and hokey-pokeys to be shared out.
Nana and me slept together in a big double bed with cosy, fluffy-woolly, sheets, I had never seen before. We filled up her ‘Hottie Bottle’ to put down the bottom to warm our feet up. Nana did the boiling water part, but let me squeeze all the hot air out and screw in the plug.
The best memory of their house, is falling asleep in that bed, hearing the adults voices drift in through the half open door, while they played poker on a card table in front of the fire, whose glow also shone into my room. I was asleep in no time, never hearing Nana come to bed, in the wee small hours, as she put it.