I’ve been invited on a day out on The Flying Carpet, a two mast catamaran around twelve metres long and owned by a Waihekean called Bernard. It took him seven years to build beginning with the felling of Macrocarpa trees. It’s had a few adventures in it’s time, including sailing to Japan. There are ten of us on the trip, mainly from Rocky Bay, plus the Skipper and his two apprentices. The boys are learning boat-building and having grown up on a local house-boat have the sea in their bones. They are learning their trade by restoring a boat called Kate, which is conveniently located near the houseboats, so not far for them to travel to work. Our donations for the day are contributing to this restoration.
Christine from down the road collects me in a car-share arrange-ment and we make our way to the end of Wharf Road where the Flying Door-mat, a catamaran dingy, collects us from the boat ramp. Unlike your conventional dingy, it’s extremely stable and ideal for those of us who are older and less agile that we used to be. Christine and I are the first aboard as she has nominated herself to be in charge of the Galley, thus earning the title Galley Slave for the day. The first task is to get the kettle on and make coffee and it’s all coming along nicely when there is a mobile phone call from Carola to say she’s just stopping off for takeaway Coffee and Christine can be heard shouting down the phone, ‘There’s Coffee on board.’
The mooring is slipped and I help to raise the mainsails, although the apprentice boys are completely capable, having been well trained by Bernard. We motor out of Putiki Bay with the Te Whau Peninsular on our Port side. We pass the old O’Brian homestead and the part-time Islands cut off only at high tide. We’re heading west, towards Brown’s Island passing Motuihi Island on our Starboard side.
This route, the ferries take in rough weather and high seas rolling in down the Hauraki Gulf. Motuihe Island is, like others, in the process of being re-planted with natives. Motukorea (Browns Island) by contrast has been left in grass. Its small volcano is sexily curvaceous nestled on a large flat area to the West. It makes a lovely sight from the ferry to and from Auckland, so I’m very excited to be landing here.
One of our company, Bruce, is an ex-perienced skipper and volunteers to take the helm. We have to steer outside a marker to avoid the reef surrounding a sub-marine crater. This of course, brings us into Crater Bay and a short ride on the Flying Doormat takes us to the beach armed with togs and towels.
Carola decides to show off and swims ashore and as some of us climb the under-used steps up from the beach, we can hear other bathers telling each other, ‘It’s not too bad,’ with reference to the water temperature.
The two brothers, have scampered up the steps and by the time we get there, they can be seen running up the steep side of the volcano. We feel somewhat demoralised and not a little exhausted by the climb so far and I make regular stops which double as respite and viewing opportunities. From the summit we look down into the now extinct caldera only to see that the boys have gone down there and are now climbing up the other side. There was once a homestead on the island, and we can see the remains on the flat below.
They apparently farmed the place and there is also a story that a governor Brown, for safety, lived here at a time when local Maori tribes were not that friendly. There are great views for miles and the sun has come out to greet us.
Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands are to the North and we can get a clear view of Half-moon Bay and the mouth of the Tamaki River. Christine decides that it’s easier and much more fun to descend the volcano sliding on her bottom. Half-way down we meet Carola, who has abandoned her shoes and is making great progress up the slope on hands and knees.
Back on the beach, it’s my turn to swim. It is indeed ‘not too bad’, but a few degrees colder that Palm Beach a few days ago. In case anyone is thinking that climbing a volcano might take all day, I should point out that the whole expedition, including looking time takes around half an hour, so we are all back aboard for lunch. Part of the deal is, in true Kiwi style to bring food and drink to share, so we have a feast with loads of food left over.
No wine or beer remains so it’s time to make way back to port leaving Motuihe to our Starboard side, motoring past Matiatia, Blackpool, Surfdale, rounding Kennedy Point to home. The left over food is given to the boys and the empty bottles taken ashore to the recycling bin by the boat ramp. A great day out for everyone, with a wish list of future trips including Tritri Matangi and Great
The secret to running events on Waiheke Island is to associate them with a charity. In this case the Jassy Dean Trust, looking after sick kids on the Island, is the beneficiary. Now in its 15th year, the Garden Safari is staffed by a host of volunteers, meeting, greeting and checking our clip on tickets. Waiheke is the volunteer capital of the world and with a sizeable population of retirees with time on their hands; you meet up with the same faces at different events, all helping to sustain the great cultural offer on the Island.
I’m trying to fit in most of the 13 gardens on the Saturday so I take a gamble that the plant sale at Rangihoua will be open before 10am. It is, and I grab a couple of Carex grasses, ideal for arid conditions. Starting on the north side of the island, I arrive at my first garden in Bay Road ten minutes before the 10am starting time.
This is a new garden which has been beautifully planted with predominately natives and appropriate exotics, under the shelter of a few giant specimen trees. There’s a small lawn planted in the native ground cover selliera radicans which requires no mowing. At the back, are sub-tropicals with fruit trees and raised vegetable beds.
I’m interested to look at the McKenzie Reserve in Great Barrier Road. This land was home to a straggly forest of Pinus Radiata which was felled and left to decompose back into the earth. A ten year programme of native planting is on-going. The site is a challenge for any vegetation, which is probably why someone planted the pine trees. Its north facing and baked by the summer sunshine, so Totora, Kanuka and Manuka have been planted. In the valley there is a winter stream where flax and Kahikatea (white pine) grow in the damp.
There are several tracks down to the valley below where an excellent display of the project has been set up. Already the Tuis are out feeding on nectar from the early flax flowers.
Literally next door is the Sacred Blessing Sanctuary . The first amazing sight is a Trachelospemum Jasminoides (Star Jasmine) covering the entrance wall. It was one of those prized specimens in trendy gardens back in the 90’s, but this one has a variegated leaf, which I’ve never seen. This garden just keeps on getting better and better the more you explore.
There’s fantastic herbaceous borders, herb garden parterres, roses, vegetables, orchids and sculpture. The work of Paul Dibble features with dramatic effect. There are lawns, ponds and quiet places of contemplation looking northwards into the Hauraki Gulf. Three houses on the property accommodate motivational projects, a perfect place to be inspired.
Delamore Drive is one of those roads running across the top of a ridge which we associate as a place where the rich live in their mansions. It’s a bit of a challenge finding where the turnoff is, but fortunately there are ‘Safari’ signs pointing the way.
There’s a volunteer directing parking then a steep concrete drive to walk down with an option of waiting for a shuttle van on loan from Waiheke High School. The main attraction is the stunning view of Matiatia Bay.
Vistas emerge through the planting and the added bonus is a walk through regenerating native bush. Hundreds of trees, grown from seed, have been planted amongst the sheltering Kanuka and Manuka. It will be stunning in fifty years time.
Mudbrick Restaurant in Church Bay Road is the next stop to enjoy their fantastic lavender beds and edible parterre using Hebes instead of Box for low hedging. The pictures say it all. My neighbour Sue, has been on volunteer duty here for the morning and we set off together for the rest of the day.
Further down this peninsular in Cable Bay lane are two adjoining properties. Hei Matu lodge has a fantastic view west to Rangitoto Island and while the planting is minimal, sculpture is a strong feature.
We walk down to the sea and scramble across a couple of rocks to find a walk way to Uma Rapiti Farm. Bright red and orange fabrics wrap around the giant Kanuka trunks on the driveway and I feel that something special is in store.
This is not a commercial farm but an exercise in self sufficiency and low environmental impact methods. WOOFFFers come and do 4 hours a day in return for board and food. There’s a newly planted olive grove, a great range of vegetables and brightly coloured herbaceous borders, its organised chaos and delightful. The composting toilet can be found in an architecturally striking shed.
Weaving our way back across the Island, Sue and I squeeze in three more gardens before 4pm. Hamilton Road, a low lying part of Surfdale has a tropical jungle theme which isolates the place from surrounding suburbia. There’s a stream running through the garden, some impressive vegetable beds and a delightful shrine to lord Buddha.
Jellico Parade is showing off the artist owner’s ceramic heads, but the real spectacle comes from a giant red Bromeliad. The garden in Calais Terrace has fantastic views over ANZAC bay, a live artist painting, a jewellery stall and a pizza man.
It’s time to visit the Sundowner Gardens along Gordons Road, Whakanewha.
The Caretakers’s Cottage dates from 1928 and is densely planted in the English herbaceous style, complete with white picket fence and very high raised vegetable beds.
The homestead down near the sea is very grand indeed. Built in 1865, this Kauri farmhouse with the cottage, guest accommodation and farm land is currently for sale for an undisclosed sum. There are bronze sculptures on the lawns where we gather for drinks and platters of food. Below us is a swimming pool and even lower, a tennis court looking out to the west over Whakanewha Bay. There’s a jazz band on the veranda and the late afternoon sun is shining benignly on its way the western horizon.
I have time on Sunday morning to visit the last garden on my way to swimming training. It’s in Valley Road in Rocky Bay. The entrance looks very overgrown with gigantic bamboo and palm trees. Surprisingly the garden opens out to large lawn areas in front of and behind the house. A mixture of large natives and exotic palms bearing fruit for the Kereru (Wood Pigeons) are the landscape into which a mass of Bromeliads nestle. A helper is armed with a bottle brush on the end of a stick and is using it to remove cobwebs from these epiphytic plants.
There’s been a great variety to look at over the weekend and Its pleasing to find that the Blessed Sanctuary has won the people’s choice. My other favourites were the Uma Rapiti Farm (So Waiheke) and the fabulous lavender beds at Mudbrick.
The Waiheke Playwrights Festival is now in its 4th year and Ive got two contributions in the programme. I was attracted to The Other Flag by Mano Pratt and John McKay because of its subject, The Treaty of Waitangi, something which rumbles around the New Zealand news and media seemingly without resolution after 150 years. The script reveals things I didnt know about or had forgotten, buried under white mythology and justification. On returning to New Zealand I found that people have stopped listening, even though the issue is not going away. I was also interested in composer John Mckay, whose War is an Avalanche I raved about in ANZAC Arts back in April. John has contributed to the text and written the final song.
The performers are musicians Mano Pratt and Richard Cannon who play two guys jamming. John cant get his tongue around Mokos name and has to have lessons. This leads to him learning how to say his own name in Te Reo Maori and then to a discussion about the Treaty and onward to the Maori flag, Te Kara.
I wrote a version of The Four Horsemen back in 2012 for something called The Clash Project under the auspices of London New Play Festival. Back in 2009 I directed the first plays to be written, when writer/ musician, Cheryl White, a fan of the Punk Band The Clash had an ambition to present a programme of short plays, each inspired by a track of their album, Londons Calling. I had a cast of four actors to do all the plays which played in a fringe theatre above a dodgy Irish pub in Kilburn, West London, one of the few remaining rough spots in town.
By 2012 there were nine short plays ready which we presented as script in hand performances over two evenings. Id originally been interested in The Right Profile an unexpected lyric about the pain suffered by gay actor Montgomery Clift after his car accident. Someone else had got there first so I went back to the album lyrics and found The Four Horsemen which begins with a rant about grapes and wine leading onto harder stuff and attracting
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, straight from St Johns book of Revelations in The Bible. Again, this is astonishing material for a punk band to be singing. That was it – I had to write about Death. I set the original play on an island, using Waiheke Island (New Zealand), a landscape I knew well so it was appropriate to submit the play for consideration here. I set about cutting more than a minute out, a curiously satisfying exercise, leaving the play with the essentials to reduce it to ten minutes. I have handed the play over to director, Louise Roke, who was very enthusiastic about the play and, more importantly, understood it. I went to a rehearsal last week and the two guys playing the gay couple are excellent. Its shaping up to be a moving performance.
We’re opening at Piritahi Marae on Friday 9th October and again on Saturday 10th @ 7.30pm bookings at email@example.com Tickets $15
I never really understood why we celebrate QE II’s birthday at this time, when it’s not really her birth date. Probably the actual day is inconvenient for the spread of holidays. The upshot is that we have three days to explore the variety of artists who live and work on this island and there are 40 open studios and galleries to choose from. Its $15 to get the map and entry badge, each one individually made from recycled fabric and beer bottle tops. There’s also a wine and cheese soiree included on the Sunday.
Church Bay Sheep grazing
I study the artists and mark those I’m interested in and set about creating a systematic route. It’s a stunningly clear day as I arrive outside the studio/house of Gabriella Lewenz on the west end of the island, overlooking Church Bay. Sheep (a rare sight now in New Zealand) graze safely on the hillside, back-dropped by the sea. I’ve timed my start for 10am but there’s no one about as I enter the high airy studio.
You can’t rush abstract art and Gabriella’s sea inspired work gradually draws me in. My attention turns to a work in earthy tones, standing out from the crowd of blue.
These are pictures you can live with, stress busting after a hard day at the office, they demand space to breath. I want to buy a card and fortunately Gabriella arrives. We get into a conversation about the art galleries of Boston, where she studied and I leave just as the next visitors arrive. Barbara Robinson is on the way back to Oneroa. An art teacher from Christchurch, she finds inspiration from the earthquake and Waiheke. She’s brought her father’s South Island landscapes with her to create some remarkable collages by cutting them up and rearranging them to reflect both places. It may sound sacrilegious, but her father’s work has had new life breathed into it.
On the other wall, her mother provides the materials. Barbara has made angels from old table linen, crochet and lace work which would otherwise languish in a forgotten drawer. Found drift-wood make up the arms and legs providing the perfect solution to every Waihekean Christmas Tree, to be brought out each year for generations.
Leslie Baxterhas very recently deserted creative Melbourne for artistic Waiheke. He does dramatic kiln formed glass incorporating metallic oxides to great effect. I wish him well here in his new life. Emma Wrightdoes abstract paining using resins to create three dimensional calming swirls. Peter Rees is demonstrating how to photoshop an image. He opens a very dark picture of sky, land and water on his computer and makes it look fabulous. They are an engaging couple in a dramatic house perched high amongst the Kanuka tree tops.
John Freeman’s Kauriartis worth a look. He has a stockpile of centuries old swamp kauri waiting to be turned into beautiful things from a huge sofa to small turned bowls.
I make my way over to Palm Beach to call on Alex Stone, another abstract painter and entertaining contributor to the Gulf News. I’m met at the gate by two large black dogs, who gently and silently escort me up the drive. His studio is packed with stuff but his non-abstract painting depicting the legs of First World War soldiers catches my eye. Alex wants to know about my blog and googles me on the spot. My book Twenty-two Eighty-four is on the front page, so he wants to know what that’s about. More people arrive and he demonstrates his technique of line making on the canvas. A great conversation from a well known Waiheke Bloke – you can look at his portrait at the Red Shed – see the blog before this. Further down Tiri View Road is Wendy Grace Allen, newly arrived in Waiheke. She’s spent time in Thailand producing bronze and glass casts of woven rice pots. She’s still finding her feet but her work inspired by Van Gough’s Irises is stunning. She’s painted her version of this very famous painting, photographed it and created an inkjet collage.
I’m starving now so a quick dash back to Rocky Bay for lunch is necessary. This lines me up perfectly to visit Gwen Rutter just along the road where I admire her vibrant flax flowers and pohutukawas for which she is famous. She tells me her husband hates flax and pulls it out at any opportunity. Ceramicist Kiya Nancarrow is also in Rocky Bay. She’s shivering in her south facing garage/workshop even though the sun is shining on the other side of the house. Her large sculptural pieces remind me of giant wood shavings or pasta. One piece is reminiscent of DNA. She tells me that some of her work was in a Christchurch gallery during the earthquake, but when she plucked up courage to call and find out the damage, all of her work survived.
There’s just time to go over to Trig Hill Road, Onetangi where Kim Wesney is showing her dramatic and brightly coloured paintings inspired by grand South Island landscapes. I remember seeing these large works struggling to breath at the community art gallery. Here they make sense, particularly with the option to look at the photographs which inspire the work. Also here is Paula Richa, who combines fabric with paint to good effect.
The Strand Onetangi
It’s coffee time and The Strand at Onetangi is the perfect place to gaze out at sea and sky to reflect on the thirteen artists I’ve visited today.
Waiheke Blokes – part of the Auckland Festival of Photography (Fringe)
I’m always up for an exhibition of black and white photography. Back in the days of film I spent many happy hours in the dark room developing and printing, so I’m off to the Red Shed in Palm Beach for the opening of Waiheke Blokes – Environmental Portraits of local men, many of them local characters and each may be considered a work of art in their own right.
It’s dark when I arrive at five minutes past six on a Friday night, to find there’s a premium on parking. It seems that Waihekeans don’t do ‘fashionably late’ and the shed is packed. The eagle eye of organiser Linda Young spots my solo entrance; welcomes me and points to the ‘man in the green jacket’ who is dispensing drinks. So, clutching my plastic cup of Tui beer, I enter the ‘Man Cave’ where the work of 16 photographers, (two of them are senior art students from the High School) are displayed on recycled wooden pallets. Is there a typical Wahiheke look? I’ve been looking at people to try and work this one out without success. This exhibition has a good selection of the craggy faced and skinny with long hair and flowing white beard type of bloke. You can see younger versions, bare-footed and wearing shorts in the supermarket car-park in the summer getting ready to move into this slot. There are, however plenty of other character types like the bee-keeper, the classical conductor and my favourite, the coffee roaster.
Here is a list of subjects and their photographers:
Rhys Hughes by Gordon Cuthbert : Craig yw fy awyd ers cyn fy magu. Mae’r creigiau a’r yr ynys yn adlewyrchu y pobl, lliwgar, wythienau wahanol a elfenau manwl. Craig imi yw yr ysbryd, y Blwch, raid gwrando gyda dy fysedd. Craig yw’r ceidwad y cof, dwi’n teimlo fel llyfrgellydd!
Stone has been my passion since before childhood. Waiheke stone reflects the people here – colourful, full of elaborate seams and various elements. Stone for me is being the space, being present without thinking, listening to stone with your fingers. Stone is the record keeper, somedays I feel like a librarian!
Graham Hooper by Phillipa Karn: Eco Friendly Music Loving Photographer
Alex Stone by Richard van Kuyk: “The pen is mightier than the sword”
Malcolm Philcox by Heather Arthur: “Waiheke has made me the bloke I am!”
Robert Harris by Polly Nash: “Working together for the common good”
Stephen Burn by Shelley Wood: Coffee ……. it’s a love affair!
Ernie Ford by Jakob Legge: Enclosure Bay local Ernie Ford is well at home in the water as his youth was filled with snorkeling and swimming in the Enclosure Bay rock pools. These pictures are taken at Divers Rock which is one of Waiheke’s classic hangout spots for teenagers.
Bob Edward Hiko by Kai Otte: An island resident for over forty years, Bob is always ready to help anyone in the community in need. He worked as a fisherman before he retired. Bob was 73 when I photographed him at the Rocky Bay Store, a place he visited frequently before it burned down.
Trevor Darvill by Carol Pearce: My Man Caves, two sheds on Waiheke Island! It was my romantic idea of living like Robinson Crusoe. Responsible for self-sufficiency. Planting trees, using wood to cook and heat the house. Providing my own water supply, food production, waste disposal, solar panels providing household electricity and charging my electric car.
Paul Stanley-Hunt by Graham Rook: “The Sunshine Man” enjoys the eclectic mix and eccentricity of the island people and their lifestyles. Endeavours to promote colour and wellbeing in people through his music and bring enjoyment and happiness to visitors and children.
Danny Shortland by Jan Robertson: One of the highest ranked honours you can have is to feed people. As you get older you may forget the names and the faces but you never forget the food.
Floris Roggeveen by Anne Robinson: Floris has worked as a chemist, and a potter, and he loves to engage with the elements, physically, mentally and spiritually. He enjoys the uniqueness, solitude and diversity of Waiheke Island. His light-hearted, joyous attitude was easily captured in this portrait.
Richard Melville by Rosemary Adler: Bringing his wealth of knowledge and years of experience, Richard takes a moment to pause and reflect before rehearsing Beethoven’s Mass in C major with the Waiheke Choral Society.
Bernard Rhodes by Leah Beaumont: Busily working I’m reminded of what Ratty said to Mole in “The Wind in the Willows”: “Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats” (Kenneth Grahame, 1908), and take time to enjoy the beauty of it all.
Paul Rhind by Linda Young: As individuals we work against the tide of our times, attempting to keep the balance between the hand of man and machines. Striving to maintain mans uniqueness, the individual mark we bring to our surrounds and pass on with our works has, in a small way, a dignity and distinction.
Glenn Fowler by Bob Scott: Visited Waiheke in the early 70’s, starting a love affair with the island, which continues today. Finally moved here in 2006. My dream job, a tour driver, showing our beautiful island to visitors. Each day someone will say ”Do you live here? You’re so lucky!” And yes we are!
This is a new group of people for me, so at first I can’t see anyone I know. Playwright, Colin catches my eye across the room and we talk about writing. He also paints and has sold a piece to a Russian, he tells me but sadly not one of those rich oligarchs. Then I spot Annette, who sells me her fabulous Te Whau olive oil at the Rocky Bay Hall on a Thursday. She is planting lots of native trees on their place, so there’s a possibility of finding homes for some of my seedlings which have germinated in abundance.
By now the crowd has dispersed and there’s room to take a closer look at the exhibition and chat to photographer Richard, who has captured artist and Gulf News contributor Alex Stone.
It’s on until June 21st Sat & Sun 10am – 4pm. Well worth a visit and the prints are on sale.
After the emotionality of the ANZAC service at Ostend, Waiheke Island, then retiring home to listen to the live radio broadcast of the dawn service at Gallipoli, it seems madness to attend War is and Avalanche in the evening at the Waiheke High School Hall. Ive booked a ticket and feel obliged to now turn up and support local composer and lyricist, John Mckay. He has been awarded a grant fro the Waiheke Local Board to compose and perform a contemporary song cycle based on letters from ANZAC soldiers at Gallipoli.
First impressions of the Hall are one of austerity, with very hard seats and no ambience. The Narrator of the piece, Pat Urlich, a well known local vocalist, is sorting out his spotlight with the lighting box when I arrive. Theres a band comprised of: John Mackay on keyboards, supported by guitar, base and drums. As the lights go out, the poor ambience of the hall fades as suddenly we are engaged by the rich tenor voice of young Maori professional singer/actor Rutene Spooner. Pat Urlich isnt singing tonight (except in some pre-recorded vocals), hes showing of his deep chocolaty speaking voice to great effect in the telling of the Gallipoli Story. Theres no sentimentality here, he tells it as it is. Rutene is joined by Mezzo, Eve-Marie Hess, who has a most unusual quality to her voice. In some numbers its like a choir boy, opening up to a full chest belt (musical theatre style) when required. The cycle is nine songs accompanied with fantastic graphic images, by Bruce Woods, projected onto an up-stage screen. The songs cover a range of themes, beginning with the horror of it all in A Hole in Hell. Sexual tension and frustration between soldiers and nurses is explored in Ive Got an Itch and party mentality on leave (because tomorrow we may die) gets the treatment in Paint the Moon. The last song tells of a field of ghosts in Here is Tehono-i-wairua. Its the first time Ive heard that over eighty thousand Ottoman Turks were killed here, some of them as young as fourteen. In the second half, soprano Rose Myer joins to make up a trio, adding a very high pure layer to the vocal mix. Theres been no schmaltz or emotional manipulation here and the musical styles have ranged from contemporary lieder through the modern musical, jazz and an anachronistic slice of rock and roll. Weve been transported with delight by professional talent and the audience stands in ovation at the end. The Waiheke Local Board has spent wisely here.
Gentler Than a Rifle Butt by Dean Parker
I know nothing about the play or the playwright, Dean Parker, except that this local production is an adaptation of his radio play. To my embarrassment, I find that Deans been around writing since 1974. Playmarket provides me with a list of his titles, some of which I have heard of. Nevertheless, its smacked wrists for me.
Im attending the penultimate performance at the Omiha Hall in Rocky Bay, because I support the Hall and I can be environmental and walk. Walking down the hill on a damp, dark Friday evening in May at 6.30 is a challenge. Its been raining all day and although there is a gap, drops are still dripping from the trees, so that my umbrella is up. Darkness between the sparsely spread street lighting necessitates the use of my wind up torch, requiring two hands. This is particularly important going down Agony Hill a steep walkway with irregular steps.
The adaptation imagines the Narrator from the radio play as an academic lecturer with a slide show of images from Gallipoli and of the Protagonist poet, Rufus Dewar. We are told that while he is not the best New Zealand Poet, he is (arguably) the most important in that he changed the course of poetry in this country. Rufus is an ex Auckland Grammar School boy (part of the establishment) and initially a war enthusiast. Dylan Hinchey is almost perfect for the passionate poet who quickly gets a reality check. Although hes slightly too old for the part, hes very sexy and disbelief is willingly suspended. Predictably, he is wounded and ends up in hospital in Alexandra, a very angry man, ranting against the war and its waste of life. His nurse, Cissie Kerrisk, intelligently played by Renee Cassely is initially horrified by his unpatriotic behaviour, but is gradually won over and they begin an affair. Rufus posts all his poetry to his Mum and the lovers escape on a ship to America on the same day the ANZACS withdraw from Gallipoli, defeated. Mrs Dewar tries to get the poems published, but they are deemed too unpatriotic and contrary to the war effort. A small left wing printer takes up the task, but the book is immediately banned by the Government. The printer, seeing an opportunity, prints more copies to distribute clandestinely. Rufus and Cissie return to New Zealand to become the darlings of the growing anti war movement. They are pursued around the country by a police officer, Arthur Craven, humorously played by Rocky Bays Grant Lilley. Theres a revelation that in retrospect, makes sense. Rufus is having an affair and Cissy finds out. Rufus is bisexual (most gay men in New Zealand before 1986 were) and his lover might be the bachelor leader of the Labour Party, Joseph Savage. Proof is offered in the form of the inscription inside Savages copy of Rufus war poems. There is a peace rally due at the Auckland Town Hall, but the way is blocked by the police. Rufus appears like a saviour and to the awe of the protesters and police flings open the doors of the hall. The only character not in awe, Arthur Craven, pounces and kills the messianic poet with his kosh. The Narrator tells us that on the 24th April 1916 Savages Labour Party swept to power and on the 25th the troops were recalled from the Great War. It is here that knowledge of New Zealand history is needed because Dean Parker is a great story-teller, going to some length to suggest verisimilitude. He relies on the atrocious inattention by the New Zealand curriculum, which left generations ignorant of our heritage, preferring to dwell on British monarchs, European wars, the now discredited hero Edward Gibbon Wakefield of the New Zealand Company and a cute view of pre European Maori.
This is a what if story. By basing Rufus on the British War poets Parker has cleverly made them part of us. Having caught us in his hook and reeled us in, he suggests that the reason for celebrating ANZAC day should be the recall of the troops home, not some landing on an isolated coast in a disastrous campaign ending in withdrawal. The ending however, is too prolonged with the Narrator and the now dead Rufus in a duet of If you want to know where the Private is, which clearly is there to make the play the required length for the radio.
Makes you think, this sort of stuff, doesnt it? This may have been the last year I will attend and ANZAC parade.
It is with some trepidation that I set off, almost reluctantly, to attend the ANZAC service here in Waiheke. Its forty-five years since I last did this, and I want to know what happens here on the Island. Radio New Zealand, has been hard at it with wall to wall stories. One interviewee, who has written a book about Maori Involvement, tells how a troop performed a haka and found they had terrified the Ottoman Turks, who believed that they were being attacked by savages. The Radio succeeds in winding up my emotional vulnerability. Images of my grandfather at Gallipoli keep coming to mind, the terrible waste of life in that place and in Europe.
I park in the almost deserted supermarket car park and note the continual stream of cars entering, realizing that the supermarket is closed because it’s ANZAC day, and driving straight out again. Some are so incredulous that they drive right up to the doors to read the opening hours. I walk up the short hill to Belgium Street – the centre of the district known as Ostend – to the RSA Hall, the War Memorial and the Field of Remembrance opposite. This is a grassy slope on which white wooden crosses seem to be set out twice a year. They were in place last November for Armistice day and removed some weeks later. A few Saturdays ago the green space was made available as a car park for the Ostend market. (There’s a new supermarket being built on the waste ground where we normally park)
I investigate the ‘Peace Rock’ – brought from the local quarry and embellished with two plaques promoting peace in the world. Today, people are inspecting the rows of crosses, reading names and taking photos. The main road to and from the rest of the island is about to be blocked off and a diversion is arranged. The Volunteer Fire Brigade have brought out two engines and the fire-fighters (M&F) are uniformed and meddled. Groups of other uniformed people are gathering.
Over a PA system Flower of Scotland and Loch Lomond are playing. There are no bands, but a male voice choir and electric piano are getting ready, testing their equipment. People have come in all sorts of dress as one would expect on Waiheke – not the uncomfortable Sunday Best required in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s still warm so some are in shorts and sandals. Surprisingly, the young man from the Native Plant Nursery is wearing a dark suit with a pounamu (greenstone) where his tie should be. He’s very excited and carries a wreath.
One man has fished out of his wardrobe a very crumpled blue checked jacket with a stain on the back; his friend wears a navy-blue jacket and black trousers. Dave, from Rocky Bay, by contrast, looks immaculate in perfectly pressed black shirt and trousers. He clutches a black casual zip up jacket. Poppies and medals are pinned to clothes – those wearing their ancestors’ medals have them on the right. One jacket-less man, too young to have fought, wears medals pinned to his shirt.
Outside the RSA Hall is a mounted machine gun with a corrugated iron (iconic here) poppy as an upstaging backdrop.
More people arrive and suddenly a group of teenage Maori warriors emerge from the RSA Hall and take up their position in the road. They are supervised by a woman elder and her taller junior. Both have tattooed chins (moko) now common on the Island.
The parade of marchers is gathering only fifty metres down the road and once the four marines have marched on and positioned themselves around the memorial, the march can begin. They don’t get very far before being challenged by the korero (challenge/dialogue) of the older woman.
The warriors do a war-like routine (haka) with their Manuka staves, the taller woman performs a waiata (chant/song) then the leader of the warriors, the only one with a taihia (spear/weapon) breaks through to challenge the military leader of the march.
They hongi (press noses) then the rest of the warriors rush forward to escort the marchers the remaining distance to the memorial. Here is an acknowledgement early in the proceedings, of the role Maori played at Gallipoli and it is very moving and appropriate for Waiheke and New Zealand as we are now. There was never a hint of Maori culture back in 50’s Waipawa – before the ‘renaissance’.
First up is the National Anthem. God Defend New Zealand has been promoted, much to my delight. Not only that, but the first verse is sung in Maori. Thankfully the male voice choir know the words though many around me do not. I make a note to learn these. By the time we get to the English verse, I’m inexplicably too tearful to sing, even though I do remember the words. A Bishop is on hand to say prayers sprinkled with some well pronounced Te Reo Maori. He is speaking of his hopes for peace in the world just as I remember from all those years ago and yet war continues. Perhaps my emotional state is to do with the futility of it all.
The Head Prefects from Waiheke High School address us with well written and delivered speeches. The Head Boy was born in Australia and has a Kiwi dad. He has a long list of ancestors who served, were wounded or killed. He remarks that one hundred years ago, he would most certainly be going off to Gallipoli.
The Head Girl, Maori and beautiful is the only one to greet us with Kia Ora (to life). She also speaks of her hopes for peace in the world and I am thankful for this evidence that the young still believe that we can change.
The format of the service is familiar, but different. We have three hymns to sing and I remember How Great Thou Art but not sung at ANZAC day. There is Amazing Grace, which comes from America and definitely wasn’t sung when I was a boy. By this time, I’ve recovered enough to sing and the RSA have distributed a laminated order of service with the words of the Hymns, so clearly this is the order every year. The Last Post – incredibly sad – is followed by the Ode, which always gets to me.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
We make an attempt here to take away their suffering, leaving us with the burden of old age and infirmity.
Then there is the Reveille, full of hope for a new day. We sing Eternal Father Strong to Save, which seems very similar to O God Our Help in Ages Past, another tear-jerker, followed by the laying of the wreaths, starting with the three branches of the armed forces. There are wreaths laid on behalf of politicians and political parties, all called out in order of importance beginning with the local MP. When the MC calls out New Zealand First, whose leader, Winston Peters, just won a by election in Northland, there is a pause. He corrects himself – it is the Green Party and the young man from the plant nursery steps forward, his blond hair plastered into conventional shape by gel and a tattoo of the sun peeking incongruously above the collar at the back of his neck. The wreath-laying continues through the list until the MC asks for any others whose names he hasn’t called to step forward. A lone woman, dressed smartly in red and black, lays a bunch of flowers. The Marines guarding the memorial retire and the marchers cross twenty five metres to the doors of the RSA and lunch. There is a hiccup as an elderly woman has fallen and has to be helped to her feet.
We crowd around the memorial to look at and photograph the tributes and I notice the crosses made from knitted red poppies. One of the women collecting for the poppy appeal out side the supermarket had been making these the week before.
I return down the hill to the car park, and observe an increasing number of cars entering and leaving, unaware that it’s ANZAC day and a national holiday. Don’t they listen to the radio or read the local papers?
On the eve of ANZAC day it seems that the whole country is obsessed with the centenary of the landings at Gallipoli by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Certainly the news outlets on Waiheke, comprising: Radio New Zealand National Programme, the $2 Gulf News (weekly) and two freebie papers are full of comments, articles and news of commemorative events. The strap-line for the radio is The day that changed New Zealand forever! This, to me sounds overly dramatic. OK, it was New Zealands first military action on the world stage in support of an ageing parent that was the British Empire and weve continued along these lines in every war since. The latest, only this week, is the deployment, along with Australia, of troops to help with military training in Iraq. (Australias Prime Minister today unadvisedly described this as an ANZAC initiative to howls of protest the politicians in this part of the world have large feet and even larger mouths in which to put them) The other thing is that the whole expedition was a disaster leading to massive loss of life and a humiliating retreat. As my Mother used to say, Only the British (including her colonies) can make a victory out of a defeat.
The local papers are full of stories about Uncles killed or Fathers wounded. The storytellers are themselves now extremely old and appear in the papers pictured with their ancestors medals or pay books which miraculously stopped that shell from killing them. My own grandfather was one of the wounded but never attended a single Anzac Day parade, nor wore a poppy or his medals so, to us, it was no big deal. However, I have to confess to adding to the verbiage by writing a short play called Granddads War. There was a suggestion from the director of the Waiheke short play festival that Gallipoli might be a fundable theme for this year. I initially felt uninspired, and then as happens with writers, an ideal crystallises and out came a seven a half minute play.
My grandfather never talked about what really happened in the war, and when I look at the stories being told now, they are either light hearted, neutral or descriptions of military strategy. Some insights are to be had from letters and diaries written on site, but afterwards nothing. As children we got funny stories about the war things like the mispronunciation of Ypres, the Belgian battle field, which ended up as wiper not a hint of the horrors encountered there. So the point of my play is that there were no stories which they could bear to tell except the funny ones. I included two of these in the play but had to send Granddad to sleep, to dream of the scene where he got wounded, which I had to invent.
My memory of ANZAC parades as a child and teenager in Waipawa is of Dad getting out his best (only?) suit and polishing his black shoes. There were also the medals rescued annually from a box hidden in an obscure cupboard. Where are my bloody medals? was the cry. They also had to be cleaned, a job my brother eventually took up. We never made it to the dawn parade but would assemble at one end of the main street, Dad up front with the Returned Servicemen, my brother and I with the Scouts or Cubs, shivering in our short pants in the cold autumn mist which rises out of the Waipawa River. The towns highland pipe band lead, followed by the Returned Servicemen. My father in perfect step with the others, made an impressive sight. This small town of 1700 people also produced a brass band and a team of marching girls who strutted in their white calf-length boots, dazzlingly short skirts and Hollywood style military hats. The Cubs, Brownies, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts plus the St Johns Ambulance Brigade, slotted in somewhere to make up the parade and marched down the main street of town, which happened to be the main North South highway. Traffic was diverted, not that there was much, as ANZAC day is a national holiday and the railways still carted most of the freight the heavy duty inter-city trucks were then unimagined. At the other end of the Main Street is the white Memorial Town Clock where the names of the fallen are to be read. Standing guard is an archaic cannon preserved for posterity in multiple layers of grey paint. This iconic image of Waipawa, to be found on a few hopeful tourist souvenirs, was for a few decades in the 70s and 80s , unaccountably usurped by a huge yellow duck the sort you might find in a childs bath which stood guard at the entrance to the town. Fortunately this was disposed of by friendly vandals returning us to sobriety at the town clock.
Here we were, assembled for the ANZAC day service the prayers, the bugle calls Last post and Revellie and the Hymns; O God Our Help in Ages Past and the National Anthems, which in those days were God Save the Queen and God Save New Zealand. All these played by the brass band.
I saw it then as an annual chore. War was still a mystery at that age, although we all had some expectation of experiencing it as we sweated under the brilliant autumn sunshine which had dispelled the mist and now shone unrelentingly on the servicemen in their dark woollen suits.
I havent been to an ANZAC service since then. As a student I demonstrated against our involvement in the Viet Nam war, sang antiwar songs at folk groups in the 70s and was generally against all war. In London I marched, protesting against the Iraq war one of 2 million. It was heady stuff, but in the long run, our voices went unheard. Its great that the young still believe, as I did, that we can change the world. I now know that its more complicated and that just maybe, mankind is destined to continually be at war. History tells us so.
Te Ara Hura (Path of Discovery) is a new walking promotional idea to attract visitors to the island. It’s mostly an amalgamation of existing tracks, and there are many, linked by roads and some new tracks, to create a round-the-island walk. Doing the whole lot might take 2-3 days, so I’m setting off with my British friend Ros, to dip into parts of Te Ara Hura before she meets up with her serious walking partner to take on more challenging parts of New Zealand.
We start off locally at Rocky Bay, walking down the hill to Kuakara Bay where there is a picnic area with a sculpture and a new children’s playground. We climb up the steep stepped path around the cliffs and down into the deserted bays which make up the Te Whau peninsular. There are still some late Pohutukawa trees in flower, adding some red to the ocean blues and forest greens. We’ve taken advantage of the cool morning, but by the time we reach Te Whau Drive, which runs along the peninsular ridge, it’s blazing hot.
We dip down to Okoka, aka Dead Dog Bay where once many years ago a small boy reported a dead dog on the beach. We then climb up to a little-used track which skirts around the houses nestled in the bush and emerge on Bella Vista, almost back where we started. After an afternoon snooze, it’s time to cool off in the high tide at Rocky Bay.
I notice in the local papers that free guided twilight walks ending in a sausage sizzle, have been arranged on Tuesdays, so I set Ros down at Little Oneroa to join in a walk of northern beaches, while I take the ferry to swimming training in Auckland. On Wednesday it’s Rotoroa Island so we drive along the island to Orapiu and catch the Auckland to Coromandel ferry. Rotoroa is only twenty minutes away, barely enough time for a cup of tea. Still, we manage to get to know Christine, another Rocky Bay resident. She hasn’t seen me before, so is surprised to learn that I live just up the road from her. Another connection is made.
Rotoroa is a small island once owned by the Salvation Army. General Booth made several visits to New Zealand and chose this island as a drying out place. Drunks were picked up on the streets of Auckland, brought over by boat where they sobered up to find themselves in a cell to dry out. There was little opportunity to escape as it is too far to swim and of course there was no alcohol to be had. The accommodation catered for men and women and there is a well curated museum near the pier, telling the story of the almost self sufficient farm which used the inmates/patients as labour. The island had been cleared of trees to graze stock, but now a trust has taken it over and thousands of native trees have been planted by volunteers. We walk around the island along well made tracks and everywhere there are Wekas.
These are chicken-sized brown birds which are very tame and amusing. Being ground dwellers, they thrive in this predator free environment. Recently Kiwis have been released here, so hopefully they will multiply, but as they are nocturnal, won’t be as evident as the Wekas.
We find ourselves at Men’s Bay, presumably so-named because the male inhabitants would swim here. It’s very hot and we are grateful to cool off in the sea before continuing on around the island to North Tower where we can get a panoramic view of nearby islands, including Waiheke.
We descend to look at the island cemetery, perched on a promontory. It contains staff and patients. We end up at Ladies Bay which is in fact just around from Men’s Bay and cut off at high tide. We’ve brought lunch and sit on a grassy bank eating sandwiches and enjoying the beautiful and dramatic beach.
The ferry returning from Coromandel, collects us after we’ve been counted out by the deputy conservation officer. She had counted us all on to the island and given us an introductory talk.
We chat to Christine on the way back – she’s been in Coromandel to shop for the day and is loaded with bargains. When we disembark and the ferry this just leaving, she exclaims ‘Where is my Daughter.’
‘How old is she?’ I ask.
‘Forty’ is her answer.
The ferry is hailed and stops just in time to let two women off. They had been unaware that we had arrived.
On Thursday I decide to take Ros on the ‘Friends of Dorothy’ route from the November walking festival. It’s another scorching day, lucky that we’ve set out early. We start at Oneroa Beach where there is a very high tide and then up along the high coastal paths and beautiful bays, all the way around the headlands to the ferry port at Matiatia.
On the way we pass some dramatic and architecturally impressive houses, presumably owned by the super rich. The following week we do the biennial Headland sculpture walk, beginning at Matiatia and ending at Church Bay. Four years ago I was a volunteer, but arrived on the island too late this time to get involved.
This year everyone is bussed to Church Bay and pointed the other way, ending up in the massive marquee where you can look at and buy sculpture, listen to bands and taste Waiheke food and wine. It’s a retail opportunity. It suits us to start off at the Marquee and walk the other way – it’s less congested. As usual there’s a range of exhibits for all tastes. A trail of wooden Maori figures emerging from the sea and coming ashore to be buried in the sand represents the sculptor’s loss. He had twin boys, one of whom died at birth and was scattered at sea. Small brightly coloured bundles of plastic cable clips cover objects hung like litter in the trees. Gigantic silver-like dandelions impose on a promontory.
There’s a dramatic mirror installation that reflects according to where you stand while the only traffic lights on the island (so far) are spaced throughout the walk and change colour. At night you notice them from the ferry and hopefully no one has confused them for nautical port and starboard lights. James Bond takes a selfie while telegraph T bars and cables are arranged like string instruments with sound effects to match.
The winning sculpture has been attacked overnight so we are not able to judge it and there’s another one which has been destroyed by the wind. Right at the end, which is really the beginning there’s a sound sculpture which requires my mobile to scan a bar-code. I can never get these things to work and suddenly can’t be bothered. The volunteer sitting under a gazebo tells us we’re walking ‘the wrong way’. It was apparently designed to be enjoyed ‘the other way’.
‘No, it’s not the “wrong way”, just another way of looking at it,’ I respond. I’m getting quite cross, particularly as we enjoyed ‘the wrong way’.
I’ve wanted to go to Rangitoto for some time, and this is the perfect opportunity. The island is a dormant volcano, a mere 600 years old, with a classically shaped cone. I pass it every time I take the Waiheke ferry. Today we have to go all the way to downtown Auckland and then get another boat to Rangitoto. There used to be quite a community here but new batches have not been permitted since the 40’s so only a few remain and the place is now a wildlife sanctuary. You can take a tour in carriages pulled by a tractor, up to a walkway leading to the summit, but we opt to go by foot up the dark grey pumice track.
There are still great areas of lava which has only been colonised by lichens. It’s a perfect example of ecological succession which should eventually end up as forest. The closer we get to the top, the more established the bush. Everywhere are mature Pohutukawas which must look amazing in December. We take a detour to walk through lava tunnels. The map guide provided on the boat, recommends us to bring a torch. Lucky that I’ve managed to find the light widget on my phone and that the battery is charged.
The Views of the mainland from the crater rim are fantastic, with the city of Auckland nestled away to the South West. We descend onto the wooden walk-way and take a westerly track. It takes an hour on a hard and hot pumice road to reach McKenzie Bay.
By this time we are melting and gratefully plunge into the sea. A few others have gravitated to this beautiful beach. There’s a yacht anchored in the bay and suddenly two old guys appear, get into a tender and row ashore. They have a net and proceed to sort it our on the front of the tender. One of them rows out and round in a semi-circle, returning further along the beach. They have caught quite a few small fish which they tell me will be used for bait to catch snapper. They offer some to me and other on the beach, but I have nothing to carry them in or any way of keeping them cool on the journey back to Waiheke. It’s another hour or so to walk back to the pier past the historic batch sites and the few remaining ones in good repair. It’s been a lot of hard walking, but worth it.
Ros’ walking friend, Michael arrives and I drive them to Awaawaroa to walk over the hill to Te Mauku. Later I collect them at the other end as there is no public transport on that part of the island. The big walk is from Rocky Bay down to Whakanewha, past the endangered Dotterills on the beach and then up though the most amazing forest, much of it Nikau Palms. This is the coast to coast walk I did in November in pouring rain. Today is sunny and hot and I’m glad to be in the shade of the forest for most of the time. We stop at Peackock Sky winery for coffee and then continue down though the Onetangi Reserve, looking at Kauri trees and then to the beach where we can have a late lunch. Michael is impressed by the Waiheke walks, which is a bit of a relief. He’s also quite impressed by the beer in New Zealand. They go off to explore Northland the next day leaving me a couple of weeks to get ready for the next lot of visitors.
I’ve lost a friend, Warwick Broadhead, who met me off the ferry on my return to Waiheke and drove me plus luggage in his little red car to Rocky Bay. He’d organised two Argentinean Guys to un-pack my store room, unroll the rugs and place the furniture. Warwick unpacked some kitchen boxes until the teapot and kettle came to light then made tea. He was famous for making tea. I’d been away – off Island – for the first performance on his new solo show, Monkey, which he planned to perform in 30 episodes on the first Saturday of every month. It is now Friday and I am about to phone him to find our how it all went. There’s a voicemail on my phone from mutual friend, Richard asking me to call, and an email from both Richard and my cousin Mary Taylor saying that Warwick had died.
I collect Richard from the ferry and drive him to the Warwick’s house, collecting victuals on the way. His house is on top of a hill above Palm Beach, looking over native bush to the west towards Auckland and east over the Hauraki Gulf. Warwick’s friends and family, led by his younger sister, Anne are gathered – there are nephews, wives, partners and close friends. The house is mostly one large bare room of specific and magical dimensions. It has a curved ceiling meeting at a high point in the centre where a cupola entertains a small glass chandelier. At the kitchen end the wife of one nephew is preparing food – people sit on the built in banquettes talking, but the main activity is through the hall in Warwick’s small bedroom where he has been laid out. Strict instructions have been left for the procedures around his death, preparation and burial. There is to be no embalming or refrigeration and he is not to be cremated but buried on a bier (no coffin) at a depth of less than two metres. There is to be no headstone, just a Kauri tree planted on top of him. It’s a hot January and Richard is worried about the no refrigeration rule. Warwick’s sister and family are washing the body and rubbing on fragrant oils and eventually we are invited into the bedroom where he is lying on his side wearing only a loincloth. As predicted, the body is already starting to go black and we are all invited to place Kawakawa leaves on him. These have great medicinal properties and were used by the Maori people, so it seems to make sense. I place a few leaves on his feet, but there is a crowd all eager to help, so I pick the leaves off the branches and hand them to the other mourners. He has to be turned and with guidance from Anne, everyone contributes.
The family want to use St Mathew’s in the city but are worried that a non religious ceremony may be unacceptable. I’m able to offer reassurance as the service for Phillip three years ago was held there and they are known to be inclusive. I make myself useful by driving a couple to catch a ferry, then go home and ring my cousin Marie, the celebrant for Phillip’s funeral. She confirms that St Matthews is inclusive and that there should be no problems and also there is an Auckland cemetery for natural burials. I ring Warwick’s number and talk to Anne. They are in the middle of discussing arrangements and so are glad to get the information. Apparently the natural burial cemetery is full and he will have to go in Waikumete Cemetery in west Auckland at a depth of two metres. He can’t have everything. Richard phones, asking me to come and have something to eat and collect him but there’s not much left by the time I get there and we are just about to leave when there is another arrival.
‘Will we see you tomorrow?’ Anne asks.
‘Just to bring Richard up, I think you need the space and there are so many others to visit.’
Her face brightens in tired gratitude.
The funeral is on Tuesday, five days after the death and I’m worried how decayed the body will be in the summer heat. It’s time to get the black suit on but wearing the jacket is just impossible in this heat. I pack sandals and shorts and my swimming gear for training later. There are others on the ferry obviously going to the same funeral. I’ve time for a coffee in town, but this means that when I get to the church it’s fairly full – standing room only or seats behind pillars in the nave. I eventually find a good seat in the gallery at the back with a clear view of the proceedings. Warwick is already in position on a bier which has low plywood sides with cut out handles. He’s covered with white fabric, an ostrich feather fan and flowers. Someone is swinging an incense burner around to reduce detectable odour of decay.
Once the family and close friends have entered, Anne begins by telling us how he died – on his bed reading a book about angels. She then goes on to itemise Warwick’s demands for the post death process, which apparently pushed the limits of the Natural Funeral Company and some compromises had to be made on both sides. Anne describes the fascination of watching the body decay, something that Warwick wanted her to experience. She links this to the many dead, decaying in the heat, in war-torn parts of the Middle East. Family difficulties are acknowledged and his nephews speak about the life of their gay uncle, who they clearly adore. They are proud of his achievements and particularly grateful to him for showing them how to be sensitive men – not always easy in this country. Two of the nephews have been brought up speaking Te Reo Maori so there are speeches and waiata (song) in the language. The wife of one of the nephews is Maori and sings beautifully as does one of the choristers from his choir. There is a woman from the Waiheke Spinners and Weavers who speaks. They were very much a part of his life in later years.
Some weeks ago I happened to be on the same ferry and sat chatting with him as he spun his wool using a spindle – amazing. Three years ago I’d collected lichen and used it to dye wool for him to spin.
There are tributes from friends, many of whom performed in his astonishingly creative productions. They speak of the inspiration and the frustration and of Warwick’s playfulness, bordering on wickedness at times. His search for spirituality was a life-time journey to escape his Catholic background. This search took him around the world. He studied the tea ceremony in Japan and brought it back to New Zealand, adapting it to his own design. One friend tells the story of waiting for a train in Turkey and Warwick engaging with a group of very handsome guards in uniform. With no common language, friends were temporarily made, creating an impromptu play. Photographs were taken in every combination with the eventual discovery that the train had been cancelled.
And so the stories continue for two hours. My friend Richard speaks last – about his relationship with Warwick, describing them as ‘Play Mates’. Richard wants to explore the darker sides and, using the quote form Monty Python’s ‘The Live Of Brian’ explains that Warwick ‘was not the Messiah, he was a very naughty boy.’ He had a need to be the centre of attention and his crimes are listed, including ‘attempted murder’. This reference goes back to the time Warwick was staying with me and Phillip in London during his ‘Hunting of the Snark’ tour – a one man show he performed in people’s living rooms, using little figurines and props. Phillip and Warwick took to each other and became firm friends. Phillip however was a wind up, teasing person and one evening at dinner the play became too much for Warwick who threw the cutlery down the other end of the table. A deathly silence ensued and Warwick was mortified. Friendship cooled and forever after, Phillip would always remind him of his attempted murder. I guess Warwick had some vestiges of Catholic guilt but they eventually patched things up and three years ago on Waiheke, Warwick was a great support when Phillip died.
Richard also recounts his own Father’s funeral only a few weeks ago when Warwick, feeling a lack of attention, began hitting him on the head – hard. It is all delivered to us so comically that we are roaring with laughter. Throughout the service there is sadness, silence and great laughter. One woman gets us all to stand and clap – it goes on for ages. Warwick liked applause. He is carried out by his nephews and nieces leaving us to tea, savouries and cakes.
Four of us eventually pile into Richard’s Rav4 and speed out to West Auckland and the grave-side. We are the last to arrive and screech to a halt just in time for the last ceremony. Some of the children have questions, like ‘Do the eyes rot first’ and ‘how will he get down the hole?’ A girl offers a polished stone to be buried with him and one of the nephews had been wearing their father’s silver tie pin all day. Should this go in as well? No, some of the other nephews haven’t got to wear it yet. Finally they are ready to lower the bier with the straps, when Anne cries out that there is plastic. An artificial rose is recovered – he didn’t’ want to be buried with any plastic. Someone points out that the clasp on the Ostrich feather fan is plastic. She makes a gesture of resignation and defiance as if to say that if he wants his Ostrich feathers, he will have to put up with some plastic. Shovels have been provided and everyone takes a turn to fill the grave while a Maori chap plays a guitar and we join in the singing. A man with a digger waits quietly to one side, in case. But the family are determined to complete the job and eventually the digger man, un-needed, trundles his machine up the hillside and away.