Besides her cards, Nana also loved everything about the horse races. The trots were her favorite because she loved how really beautiful the Jockeys and horses looked, trotting around, all decked out in their colored silks.
She used her two horse books, the ‘Friday Flash’ and ‘Turf Digest’ to keep up with the horses bloodlines and form as well as the Jockeys’ wins and losses. Her best Jockeys were called, Skelton, and Holmes, whenever they were riding she liked to have a bet.
One of her Saturday card cronies had a car and picked up Nana and me to go to the gallops, at the, Riccarton race course. Superstitious Nana, decided it might bring her good luck if she got me to pick out a horse’s name for her to bet on.
I read all the horses’ names listed in her program book and showed Nana the one I liked the best. She had a big laugh, telling me I had picked a real outsider, but she went to the ticket booth and backed it both ways for a win and a place.
Watching the race, we both got really happy and excited when my horse pick, got up to the front and hung on to win. Nana collected five hundred pounds, and the next day we left Auntie Bonnie holding the fort at the shop and went into Christchurch shopping for new clothes for us kids.
Our day began visiting, ‘Hay’s’ department store, all decorated up for Christmas, where my sister and me had our picture taken with Santa. In the Hay’s, Childrens’ department, Nana let us pick out new coats for ourselves. Both of us chose the same colors we liked for our fizzy drinks, red and green.
Outside on the busy street, headed to,’Hannahs’, for new shoes, we bumped into one of Nana’s card friends. Noticing our new coats he laughingly said, ‘Hello, port and starboard’. I had to ask Nana what that meant. She thought it was something to do with the colors of the lights on each side of boats.
The shoe shop assistant got us to stand on a special machine they used for measuring feet, to make sure we got the right size. My choice was the lovely shiny black patent leather shoes on show in the window, that were all the rage. I can’t remember what my sister picked right now.
Before going home, Nana shouted us a scrummy lunch at the tearooms. When I told Nana about how mum’s wardrobe back home was stuffed full of new clothes when we came home from Aunts, she reckoned it was because her and our Auntie Bonnie, whose wardrobe was the same, had gone without as poor kids back on the farm.
The days when Nana’s shop was all quiet, she liked to sit up straight in her chair and get one of us kids to brush her hair with her special brush, she said that it felt nice having someone brush her hair. She also told us we were to be sure and brush our own hair one hundred times every day. Nana loved long hair, and was sad hearing about how mum, fed up getting our knots out, used the big black scissors to chop off, us kids’ hair, to sell it to be wigs.
Another thing we pestered Nana about, was to tell us how old she was, but she would never let on. She dodged by saying something funny to get us confused. I was sort of able to take a rough guess, after hearing during our card games, that, back in 1910 as a young girl on the farm she had seen, ‘Haley’s Comet’.
She remembered how the comet, lasting for weeks, had appeared with a really long tail, stretching right across the sky, and was so bright they could see it even in daytime. Nana’s wish was to live long enough to see it again. Because, it only came around every eighty years not many people got to see it twice in one lifetime.
For some reason, I couldn’t figure out, Nana was also just as cagey about her middle name. Her first name was Edith, but she tried to trick us by making up all odd names to go with it, Edith Europa, was one which sounded funny but we knew it could not be true, as who would give their kid the same name as the petrol garages.
When I got older she confessed up her real names were, Edith Jane. She hated the ‘Jane’ one, handed down through the line from a family ancestor. It was all because the kids at her school had taunted her, calling her a ‘Plain Jane’ as a kid, that she wouldn’t own it.
On really hot summer days when we were dying with the heat, Nana let me walk down to the South Brighton beach all by myself for a swim. I remember it was a big decision to cool off by diving under in one go to get the shock over quick, or walk in slowly and let the water torture you by slowly creeping up bit by bit.
It was exhilarating jumping through the really big breakers crashing in, even though I hadn’t learned to swim proper yet. Back at the dairy, Nana was selling new TT2’s, ice blocks on sticks, that she shared out to each of us for a try out.
Thursday nights were a big event in South Brighton. Everything came to an early halt, waiting the arrival of the dreaded night-cart man doing his rounds with his horse and dray. All the little tin, outhouses with dunnies at the bottom of everyone’s garden were about to get a change-over.
They were all pretty much the same as each other, having a built in wooden shelf, with a bum shaped cut-out hole, strategically placed over a tin drum. Mod cons were old newspapers ripped into little squares by us kids for bum wipes and a candle in a jam jar, with a box of matches for night-times light.
Nana shut up shop early and joined with all the other neighbors, hiding indoors, in a vain attempt at keeping out, what she called, ‘the stink to high heaven’. She usually talked very proper English but somehow her voice saying,’the stink to high heaven’, sounded sort of, like swearing.
With all the windows shut tight and curtains pulled to overlapping, we sat with ears pricked for the sound of clip-clopping feet. The horse’s hooves halting out the front of the shop, announced his arrival.
The night-cart man, loaded up with a drum on each shoulder, how did he stand the awful stink? then jogged his way to and fro, along the alleyway behind our row of houses and shops swapping empties for full. It took him a few trips to complete his mission, meanwhile, we all were pressing our hands over our noses unable to get a fresh breath.
Without letting Nana see, us kids, half pie scared, peered out into the dark night at his shadowy figure, through a tiny gap in the curtain like we were watching the ‘devil himself ‘. I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the full up ones ever spilled over him.