Following along behind, the boarding house owner, carrying my suitcase, I noticed from the footpath out front, there were actually, two, double storied houses linked together with an upstairs hallway. Going up the stairs, and down a long hallway, he pointed out the bathroom, I was to to use. Taking a quick peek in the door, the first thing I noticed, was a hand written note stuck on the wall, admonishing, ‘Please clean the bath after use’, beside a tin of pink ‘Chemico’ cleaner. Further on down the hall, towards the back of the house, we entered a sunny side room, whose window gave peeps of the towering triangle shaped trees along the roadway, interspersed with flashes of blue sea. It was my first ever room to myself.
After unpacking my suitcase, lent by Nana and covered in ‘Newmans’ stickers from her many journeys with her favourite bus people, I was stumped about what to do next. The two weeks of rest and relaxation stretched out before me, with nothing to do and no-one else to think of, seemed a long time. I had never been alone in my life before, and the silence felt strangely over quiet.
I decided to go for a walk and explore my new surroundings. Outside on the pavement, I stood looking in both directions, trying to decide, what now. As far as my eye could see, all along my side of the road, there were many other similar looking, quaint old fashioned houses. Each one, dangling off their front porch a sign fluttering and rattling in the sea-breeze, extolling the virtues of their particular, boarding establishment.
Crossing over to the sea side of the road, I came upon a beach path, weaving its way through the sand, alongside a very, angry looking, surging and sucking ocean. Turning right, I happened upon, ‘Marineland’, an attraction featuring performing dolphins. The gate was open and I ventured through. It wasn’t show-time, but I sat poolside, mesmerized, watching the beautiful, dolphins. They were racing around the pool doing various clever jumps for fish rewards from the trainer. Curious, when they spotted me, they came to the edge to look over at me and allow me to run my hand over the lovely rubbery soft smoothness of their skin, like nothing I had ever felt before.
Retracing my steps to explore further along the seafront in the other direction, I discovered, ‘Pania of the reef’. A large bronze statue of a Maori girl, with polished skin glowing in the sunlight, sitting among the lovely gardens. The plaque attached to her, retold her sad story of unrequited love. According to the Maori legend, ‘Pania of the Reef’ had drowned, attempting to cross the angry wild raging sea behind her and reach the lover for whom she pined on the other side. Now, she was destined to be a reef out there in the ocean for all eternity.
I was mindful to return in time for my first evening meal. Getting dressed up in one of my new outfits, while keeping an ear out for the sound of the dinner gong being struck, I felt very flash and posh, like I had stepped into another life altogether.
Downstairs, in the long narrow dining room, looking like a scene from an old fashioned movie, I was seated among the clusters of smallish tables grouped together. The table tops were covered with white linen cloths, and laid out with gleaming fancy silver tableware, the center pieces of glass jugs filled with iced water, surrounded by up-side-down glasses were sparkling in the lights. It was all just as us girls at Wellington East Girls College, had been shown, in the home making class.
Snatching a few quick looks around the room, trying not to look too nosy, I noticed there were a mixture of seated guests, single people, couples and families of varying numbers.
A waitress, emerged through the curtained doorway, hiding from view, the kitchen, (wafting out delicious smells), to take orders. Soup of the day was the opening course, followed by roast and veggie, finished off with a delicious layered yummy dessert, called trifle. I had never seen or eaten it before, however, it instantly became my all time favourite puddy.
Sitting down to be waited on, with fabulous meals three times a day was a big kick, making me feel very spoiled and special. I was careful to return from my ventures out and about in Napier, in time to hear the chiming of the gong and never miss out at meal-times.
After our meal, the adults all moved through to a lounge furnished with large leather couches and big cushions, for tea, coffee and chat. Two of the men guests introduced themselves to me, one a newcomer to New Zealand, an Englishman with a funny accent, here to take up a position in Television, the other, a manager of an Insurance company from Wellington, checking out his Napier office. They intended to hire a taxi for some local sightseeing on the following Sunday, and invited me to join them.
On the Sunday, I joined my two fellow residents in our taxi, and our driver drove us up a narrow winding road, on the side of some steep hills, to a high point lookout, called, Te Mata Peak. Climbing out to stand looking out at the vista of the whole district laid out beneath us we discovered it was quite a windy place and were blown to bits. From there, we were driven through the countryside of orchard trees dripping in various fruits, to arrive, at the, ‘Greenmeadows Mission’.
This was a winery run by monks, who dressed in long brown gowns with girdles around their waists. They grew their own grapes, and turned them into wine to sell in their little shop to support themselves. Inside the shop we saw rows of wooden wine barrels all laid out on their sides. The monks offered free tastes of their wines before buying, and my companions needed lots of free tastes to help them decide which they liked best. Not being a wine drinker, after having a look around, I retreated to wait for them in the taxi. I couldn’t help thinking, that selling grog, seemed a funny occupation for God’s people.