96A George Street, Tuakau, New Zealand
June 2006 – October 2006
After scurrying up and down New Zealand for four months or so looking for work, with every possession on earth packed into the car, we at last landed a job in Auckland, New Zealand. The new job put us up at a very nice hotel for two weeks. That gave us plenty of time to find a house to rent.
We did find a house in one of the suburbs. It seemed quite nice, and would be available on the very Friday that we had to leave the hotel. We turned up at the rental agency to pick up the key.
“Oh, sorry, but we rented that out to someone yesterday. We have nothing else available.”
Needless to say, it was pretty devastating. We went straight to another rental agency and told our plight. The woman said she had two houses available. Have a look at both of them and say which one you want. One was in the suburbs and a bit run down. The other was in a little village called Tuakau some way out of Auckland. We chose the one in the little village. That night we unloaded the car of all our possessions in the world. No chair! No bed! No table! But we had a computer! We sat and ate and slept on the floor!
The next day we purchased a dining table and some chairs.
My mother had died several months earlier. One of my brothers packed up some of Mum’s furniture and freighted it to Tuakau, including a clothes dryer. With it he had included money to buy a washing machine!
The neighbour had eleven dogs and seven cats. The palm tree outside our back door had a large family of rats living in its branches. (In case you didn’t know, rats love living in palm trees). There were snails in the wilderness around the house in the thousands.
The house was a bungalow – as the majority of New Zealand houses are. It had recently been painted inside. There was no heating; no wood burner, no heat pump. We bought a heater. We might as well have tried to heat the Antarctic. It was useless. It was freezing. I’ve never been so cold in my life. It was damp. When it rained the entire water from the street ran down the driveway and under the house. Quickly mould formed on the newly painted walls.
One of the neighbour’s kittens, clearly tired of living with eleven dogs and six other cats, decided to take up residence with us. She was the only warm thing in the house all winter! The neighbours had called her Bali because she had been born six months earlier while they were on vacation in Bali in Indonesia. We didn’t think much of the name, so for the last sixteen years we have called her Pussy Cat.
I would manage the Village Bookshop when Penny the owner went away. It was a good way to “meet the locals”.
Our house used to be surrounded by a cottage garden. It was now all brambles and weeds. I decided to clear it. In fact I dug over the entire quarter acre by hand and planted a pretty cottage garden all around. It was delightful. In fact it was so delightful that the owner decided the time was ripe to sell – “While it’s looking so pretty”.
At the final rental inspection the agency declared that “The window in the garage is more broken than it was.” More broken? I said. I simply cleaned it. “It is more broken and you will not get your bond back.”
We left with pleasure and with Pussy Cat. Over the next four months the house was sold four times – each time fifty or so thousand more than the previous sale. As far as I know the “more broken window” never got fixed.