For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
I have recently partook of events that cause me great gratitude and to reflect upon my good fortune, the wonderful nature of my neighbours and the few firm and steadfast friends we have.
The immediate circumstances aside, my reflections this morning wandered further afar in geography and back in time to the long gone decades I enjoyed in my youth.
To childhood family holidays on the wild west coast of the Paparoa Ranges. Exploring old abandoned mines and railheads retaken by the bush. The drive from Canterbury to the coast through the Lewis: a tunnel of trees the whole way, the branches from each side intwined above the roadway. Of rainforests, ghost towns, brothers whacking their way through the bush down to the creek, panning for gold, bathing in ice cold waterfalls or meeting the new neighbour’s children: sure to be holiday friends with whom to build a dam in the creek and splash in the thus made swimming hole. The winter floods would move huge boulders, rearrange the course and make sure that again the following Christmas there would be a noisy bunch of young builders.
As a young boy, standing in the dusty old shed looking at the old style empty beer bottles on a windowsill, a strange mix, preview of the accoutrements of an adult life to come and along with a Vat69 ashtray, a nostalgic residue of some imagined festive past event. Maybe a New Year’s Eve party with uncles, aunts and neighbours, but their younger versions from the 50s. Ruddy faced, chatting and laughing.
To teenage years in the Port of Lyttelton. A pub on every corner. The great romance of a harbour town. The dirty, gritty docks nestled in the extinct, flooded volcano surrounded by the bare Port Hills. Zipping around, chucked side to side in the back tray of the work Mazda B1500 ute, grinning ear to ear, driven by some equally callow and stupid youth, an experience that would have a much later echo, decades later: The back of a Mog on Army bases, diggers and packs and rifles thrown about. Huge white teeth grins, Cultana, Shoal Water Bay, Singleton, Pucka, (as every driver who ever has driven a Mog seems to require a certificate in suicide by vehicle) in a country thousands of miles from my childhood home.
Working on the Coastal Trader, the Monowai. Trawlers and ice breakers. Cargo ships and private luxury cruisers. The old roll- on, roll- off wharf, complete with advertising billboards for a service that long since departed Lyttelton. The ferries haven’t come here since around the time of the Wahine disaster, yet the posters still tout, with sixties font and stylish bikini ladies, a trip to exotic Wellington.
Meat pies and a Coke for lunch. The best bakeries in the world. Railway canteens, still government run, with white teacups and club sandwiches. Platforms to destinations with wonderful and enticing names.
Hooning around the dairy farm on the Honda. Cow pats and tractors and hay making. Silos and bobby calves. Sunburn and the itch of hay in my jocks and socks.
To the workshops and teachers and friends at Polytech, rows of lathes and mills. Fridays at The Grosvenor (The ”Grov”) beers and talking nonsense and mysterious female hairdressing apprentices. Gary with his endless tales of mayhem and shaggy dog stories and jokes. The night Doug came off his Trident on the low side, sending his girlfriend down the road, coming in the bar and hurling his helmet on the floor. Closing time and there was always a party somewhere, usually some share house with a few sticks of furniture. And girls. Always, always girls to chat up.
Rugby paddocks and the clack of my sprigs on concrete before the game. Beers afterwards. More pubs and friends around tables with jugs of DB and talking nonsense. Practice in the middle of winter, tackling and running moves over and over again. Jugs of Raspberry Coke. Pool comps and meat raffles. Soggy, sticky pub carpets.
Of long dead friends, long gone factories. Of cute young girls now grown old and staid. Of family pets who remain only in our memories, but in the distant country of our youth chased our scrawny selves. Woofing their excitement at this great game.
Whoever is right about what comes after: The Buddhists with their endless series of past lives, Christianity with it’s heaven, or Nietzsche with the eternal recurrence, one thing is for sure: I am thankful to have lived these times and places alongside these people.
The task remains as it always has, not what the tech billionaires think it is, attempting to elongate their lives, corral life and wring as much as they can, but to accept that everything comes, rightly, to an end, so that others can come after us and have their own wonderful experiences.
I am thankful for what was, what is, and that the great machine rolls around with an ever changing cast of players in what is to come.