Nelson

Last Saturday I drove to Duntroon, to celebrate the 1700th anniversary of St. Martin of Tours in St. Martin's Church. On Sunday  I drove to invercargill to celebrate St. Luke's day in St. Luke's church. On Monday I drove to Nelson. 1500km in 3 days. I left home at 5.30 am. In Rolleston I called on Bridget, and Ada ran to meet me. I picked her up and she pressed her tiny body into my shoulder in the deepest, longest hug that a 1 year old can give. I stopped in Murchison in the middle of the afternoon and slept for a while, sitting in my car in the car park of a cafe, and got here in time for dinner.
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I spent Tuesday with my family. I sat at a table on the waterfront at Mapua for an excellent lunch of squid. I sat in my mother's serviced apartment in the Earnest Rutherford home and let her explain, again, a picture from her childhood. A group of my long dead kin stares resolutely at me from 1930: the men with moustaches and fedoras and rustic looking suits, the women in aprons, and upright in the middle a 3 year old girl in a white dress: my mother. Beside each of the faces there is small, spidery writing: Howard Kippenberger; Eric Rollinson; Joan Rollinson; Pat Rollinson.The names are talismans of my belonging in a stream that reaches far back beyond my memory, and, increasingly, beyond my mother's. 
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I am in Nelson to attend the Tikanga Pakeha Ministry Council. There are 18 of us in the room, and if I was told I had to go to a national church meeting and had to pick one, this would be it. These are smart people, and good with it. And some I have known for a very long time. Sue relates to me, in surprising detail, a conversation we had in Hamilton about 20 years ago and tells me how significant it was for her. She tells me, also, of a workshop she attended recently with the poet Malcolm Guite. We talk about poets. And Irishmen. I have dinner with them all in what is certainly the best Indian restaurant I have ever been in. I ask myself why I am not living here. 
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I wake in my sister's beautiful house. Outside the tuis and bellbirds and warblers are greeting another gorgeous morning from their vantage points in Val's and Mike's many trees. I eat the eggs from the hens at the bottom of the garden, lightly poached and served on oat toast with pesto and sun dried tomatoes. There are long, hard edged, early morning shadows in the vineyards which stretch across the plains beneath us to the Tasman mountains in the far distance. Val and I talk out of the acceptance of one another that can only come from a lifetime of knowing. I ask myself why, exactly, I am not living here. I have no sensible answer. 
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Alistair texts from Perth where he is visiting his daughter, my niece Tracy. We all agree. Tracy can have Nan's dinner set, the old Doulton one which was given to her when she and Pop left the Pleasant Point district in 1927. It's pretty much unused and Tracy is overjoyed to have this link with her forbears. 

Belonging. Being known. Being accepted. Having a part in the lives of others you know and care for. These are treasures beyond reckoning. 

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