My view of contemporary New Zealand is wilfully distorted. I see it through summer-coloured glasses, and get most of my news the old-fashioned way, over the fence. The good old New Zealand Herald is no longer worth its cover price, I'm sorry to say, so we did without the paper. For some reason, our car radio didn't pick up National Radio, we hardly saw a television, and because 3G signal coming off Kawau Island is so hit and miss at the beach I hardly remembered to check with the BBC that the world was still turning. Now that we're back in Sydney, I see that it is - we visit the accountant this morning - but for five weeks we've been in our South Sea bubble.
We've been tuned into other things. Like fishing. Alex and I caught fish. Hallelujah! Like walking through the regenerating bush at Tawharanui where the song of bellbirds, tuis and other secretive little New Zealand birds rings as beautifully as church music. Like learning to bodysurf as well as Robyn does (I'm working on it). Like drinking Pimms on the verandah with Barb in the late afternoon sun. Like organising for the family to come to lunch on Mum's birthday. Now that makes catching fish look easy, but then again, whose family net does not have a few gaping holes which need mending?
The New Zealand I see is up close and very personal. The emotional undertow of the place is huge, and at some point each summer I get knocked off my feet by one rip or another. I never quite get used to that, I must say. This year I said goodbye to the farm, which Mum will put on the market in late autumn. My dad is buried there, under a kauri tree he planted. It's a beautiful resting place in the natives, as we call that part of the farm. When they came to the farm 25 years ago, it was just a swampy gully. Now it's a growing forest of kauris, rimu, totara, kaihikatea and other trees whose names I can't remember (or spell). Tuis and fantails, of course, have found the place but as yet, no bellbirds or wood pigeons. Give it time and one day, I'm sure, the whole choir will turn up. Another church is being born.
We said goodbye to another old friend whose time was up. Here he is on his last morning with Bridget and her mother Freddie. His eyes are telling Bridget that he will devote the rest of time to her. But Bo's body was filthy sick and exhausted. It was time to go. Like all we animals, he'd met his match in his flesh and blood. It was ever thus, as Alex so often says.