Memorial picnic

It was a glorious day on Sunday.
We packed up and headed into town to meet up with friends and rellies for a wander up the hill to Mum’s memorial seat.

My grandparents farm is now subdivided and called ‘Dry Hills Estate’.
When I was young I remember driving up a gravel road over cattle stops and narrow bridges to the converted shed which my grandparents made their home.
Now it has a ostentatious entrance way and sealed roads to very up market, prestigious houses.

The paddocks my grandfather grew wheat in are now converted into vineyards and lifestyle blocks.
We were walking up to the seat which is just above the large white house at the top centre of the subdivision.

We met at the tennis courts.
Lloyd & I drove our Terranos up to the locked gate and we all walked up onto the Wither Hills.
This is the emergency location marker just below the seat.

My Uncle Lloyd chose this spot for  the seat.
It is nestled below the water tanks and trees and looks out over the old farm.

The plaque we had made for the seat.

Ruby & Ruth did a spot of ‘guerilla gardening’ 
They planted some spring bulbs which hopefully will grow and add some colour to the dry brown hills.

Roland & Tim were the last to arrive.
This is the view looking out over the farm.
It extended from the road at the left across the 4 colourful vineyard blocks to the fenceline hidden behind the pine tree on the right and up the hill to the line of trees which my grandfather planted directly behind the guys,

Mum’s younger sister Janet, sent over some memories which her youngest brother, Lloyd read out to us all.
It is a wee bit long, but very moving & interesting, so I have included it here with her permission.

When I received the invitation to today’s picnic to reminisce, share memories and have fun, I thought, ‘What a nice idea!’ I’m sorry not to be with you all, but wanted you to know that George & I are thinking of you as you find your way up onto the hills. And as I thought about the Wither Hills and the part they played in our growing up years, memories came flooding back. I had never known life without my sister. I was 4 years old and Lesley 5, when we moved from Hillesden to Shelfield Farm, and as we grew older we ventured further afield on the farm and these hills became our playground – the steep tracks were each given prestigious street names & made up ‘Our City’, sliding from one part to another down the slippery shiny tussocks – great fun!

Then came the war years and like many other Marlborough families our parents offered hospitality to the many young Americans based at Omaka. So most Sunday’s, two or more would join us for Sunday dinner, then afterwards we would invite them to walk up onto the foothills to view Cook Strait, and weather permitting, get a glimpse of the North Island. Once at the top, we would produce some barley sacks and introduce them to the thrill of ‘riding’ them to the bottom, sometimes reaching great speeds as we manoeuvred our way from one lot of the tussock to the next, dodging the erosion ditches if possible…..! When everyone was exhausted, we led our unsuspecting friends once more up to the boundary fence and down into the creek to fill the aforementioned sacks with fir cones, which of course, once full, were far too heavy for a couple of 10 & 11 year olds to carry!  And so back to the house where our sympathetic Mother had cold drinks and plenty of eats for the lads. We kept contact with some of these young men for several years and watched with interest on our world map on the kitchen wall, where they were posted and where they eventually settled down after the war.

During our teen years we went further afield – over the boundary fence and up on to the ridge to the Trig Station, often taking with us groups of school friends (boys & girls!) and sometimes even a teacher or two. It was a wonderful place to go – a place to get life’s ‘tangles’ back into perspective. We could go day or night (by the light of the moon) and know we were perfectly safe.

Boarding school was the next big milestone in our lives and maybe that was when I really began to appreciate having a sister. Entering Nelson College for Girls as seniors entitled us to our own rooms and certain other privileges, but it was Lesley who encouraged me through patches of homesickness and kept me on the straight and narrow. Two years later we reluctantly separated – Les to Training College in Wellington for 3 years and me to Christchurch Hospital for 4 years. It was hard, but Lesley was a prolific letter writer and we both survived!

What excitement, when later on she got a job teaching at Burnham School, and if I was fortunate to get a weekend day off, I would ‘smuggle’ her into my room in the Nurses Home, and next day we would explore Christchurch by foot and on our trusty bikes (no gears in those days!)

Then back to Blenheim and our courting years – what better place to escape from 2 pesky little brothers than up the hills to sit and ponder life’s imponderables! – by the way, maybe you could prompt Owen & Lloyd’s memory of the wet cow pat episode! What the 2 suitors had to put up with! Both George & Reg put up with these 2 young rascals with long suffering good grace.

Following our double wedding we lived within cooee of each other for the first year and spent most of our weekends together. It was within that time that our firstborns arrived, so – more to share and precious times together.

The years sped by, with life taking us in different directions and lifestyles, but we kept in touch and always managed to celebrate our wedding anniversaries together – numbers increasing as their 5 and our 8, one by one put in their appearance. And so the cousins grew up knowing one another and when we could we shared holidays. Some of you here today will remember rough-housing it at Rakautara, camping at Huia, holidaying at Port Ligar – what fun!

So the years have passed, each one bringing more and more memories. Our nests have emptied and our families scattered, but one thing remains – the preciousness of families – each member so different, but each so important in their own right and as part of the whole. I am just grateful to God for Lesley. As sisters we didn’t always see ‘eye-to-eye’, nor understand where the other was coming from, but I always knew she was there for me and that was all that mattered. I miss her hugely, but know without a doubt, that the time will come when we will meet again and be more alive then that we can ever be here.

So, thank you, Lesley’s family, for today, and for the thought of a memorial seat, to which we can come and view this lovely corner of Marlborough whilst reflecting on the impact that Les & Reg had on each of our lives. And as we move on in life, may it lead each one of us to reassess life’s values and priorities.

Thank you for bearing with me as I’ve committed these few thoughts to paper. I’m sure today’s outing will be memorable and maybe the first of many such occasions – I hope so!
With our live
Aunty Janet & Uncle George

Then my niece Ruby read out a letter written about Mum’s historical work which was not able to be read at her funeral last year.

We enjoyed a picnic together and had a very happy time in the sun.

I was so thrilled that ‘The Golden Girls’ were able to come.
They are the group of ladies Mum used to hang out with, go on walking & traveling adventures with.
Bet W,  Sylvia O, Ann D, Anne P.

Some of the grandchildren – representing the 5th generation.

Our Couper cousins – Pete & Connie and kids came to represent their side of the family.
It was very special to have them join us.
Connie was so wonderful to Mum.
She used to come and sit with, and look after her, every Tuesday morning before Mum died.

Lloyd – the only representative for the 3rd generation in the centre,
with the four of us representing the 4th generation
Ruth, Roland, David & myself.

5th generation representation!
Luke, Shoshannah, Ruby & Azzan at back
Mahalia, Nelson, Sarah & Ben in front (Lincoln chose not to be in the photo at that point!)

Looking over David & Sasha at the gorgeous view of the farm

 Tim and I

Tim & I with our 3 youngest.

We spent a lovely couple of hours up there before the weather began to change.
We walked back down to the vehicles, said our goodbyes and headed home.
Tim took Shanni & Azzan, picked up the kakariki from a friends house where I left them so they wouldn’t get too over heated in the car.
Mahalia & I did some grocery shopping and then trundled homewards too.
We got home around 8pm.

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