The Waikanae Chronicles #1
I am staying with my superb parents in Waikanae (pronounced why can I? ) on New Zealand’s Kapiti (this is pronounced as if you are describing a product that isn’t carpet, but closely resembles it: carpety) Coast (which rhymes with toast) for a few weeks. When you consider how wonderful my Mum and Dad are — as parents, partners and people — the rather spectacular shambles I have made of my life suggests that, in the great Nature v Nurture argument, the former has the greater claim and, in my case at least, the latter is totally blameless.
This three-week Waikanae sabbatical is first and foremost a great opportunity to spend precious time with my folks, both in their early seventies and in stupendously good health. By 2020, they may have slowed down enough to run for Council — but not yet (see earlier post “The Senescence of NZ Local Government”) . It is also a chance to gain something of an anthropologist’s insight into the place they have made into such a happy home. This will prepare me for my own retirement decision-making in future decades, by which time I hope and expect Kylie Minogue would have opened a chain of retirement villages for ageing queens, complete with personal trainers, part-time waxing staff, and an abundance of pool boys unrelated to the presence or otherwise of an actual pool.
So what is this Waikanae place all about?
First, a note on the demographics. This is the politest way to put it: when the average resident of Waikane enters their date of birth online, there is a great deal of scrolling.
This is a good thing for a recently-turned 40-year old such as myself. In this town, I am still a child. When introduced to my parents’ friends about town, they often ask me where I go to school and slip me chocolate Freddos while Mum and Dad aren’t looking. One lady actually pinched my (upper) cheeks.
My last radio play script earned a few admirers, so allow me to return to the format to describe a conversation I overheard while enjoying a coffee at Ambrosia, the town’s award-winning cafe and patisserie .
The whirring of an espresso machine, cafe ambient sounds, distant SH-1 traffic, clinking cups. A group of five women, aged late seventies, coming to the end of a weekly get-together, perhaps after a Yoga-for-Oldies class.
Beryl: Six months, they say.
Distressed murmurs, groans of empathy.
Janice: Well, she hasn’t looked well ever since the operation.
Muriel: And the husband’s not much better off, they’re saying.
All: Are they?
Muriel: Yeah, they are. Between 32 and 35 weeks, they reckon.
Flo: Just like his brother. They gave him 183 days after they found the tumour and he fell nine days short.
Ethel: Not like my Tommy — they gave him 72 hours and he almost made the week.
Flo: Well, Tommy was as tough as nails — in stark contrast to my Freddy, the weak sod. After Dr Aitken told him he only had 45 minutes, he didn’t even make it back to the car.
An audible clip-clop.
Janice: Well, here’s my lift….must away. Giddy-up.
Ladies departing, with age-appropriate groaning
The end of Part One