Moving to Broad Bay

Moving to Broad Bay

I grew up across the harbour from Broad Bay, in Burkes, that tiny little suburb with just three streets, between St Leonards and Ravensbourne. It was on the wrong side of the hill and the sun disappeared much earlier in the day than on the other side of the peninsula, a fact my mother complained bitterly about. Maybe that’s why I dreamed of living here one day … or maybe it was the happy memories of trips to visit my father’s friend in Broad Bay. I loved the narrow winding bay road and the old rock wall with lovely pink and blue ice plants growing down it. I don’t remember the man’s name, just that he lived in a converted tram, drank a lot of beer (why he was dad’s friend, most likely) and made cane baskets in the late afternoon sunshine. We always came home with cane baskets which my mother thought were pretty enough, but … what to do with them? They all went on the top of wardrobes to collect dust.

The chance to move to Broad Bay finally came about 38 years ago when my now ex-husband Chris and I bought an old run-down house at 16 Matariki Street. My oldest son James from a previous relationship was about 10 years old at the time and not the best-behaved boy, but the wonderful headmaster Mr Harrison took him under his wing and from then on his schoolwork and behaviour improved very much. That reason alone made the decision to move to Broad Bay a good one.

The sunshine was lovely but the house was a disaster with rotten piles barely keeping the house standing; it was an uphill walk through the living room to the kitchen. The kitchen’s louvre windows let the cold southerly blow right through the house, which was barely insulated. There was a problem with the plumbing, and the taps didn’t so much run as dribble and trickle.  Chris was a very enthusiastic DIY-er and immediately started fixing everything up, but we hadn’t been married long and I didn’t yet know that he much more enjoyed starting a project than finishing it. We were an unfortunate match as I was the same. The house was partly jacked up to replace the piles when the floorboards from the kitchen to the bathroom had to come up so we could replace the water pipes.  It seemed like the best time to tile the bathroom with tiny, expensive ceramic tiles, but they cost so much we then couldn’t afford the pipes or more jacks for replacing the piles. There was a problem with the drainage in the front yard, and Chris was kept busy digging drains most weekends, which he seemed oddly to love doing. I was also very busy as we had a baby daughter as well now. She was very mobile from about six months and had to be watched so she didn’t fall through gaps in the floorboards or into one of the many drains Chris was digging outside. Any visitors who made the mistake of driving up our driveway risked getting their car stuck in a drain, as happened quite a few times.

Living close to the water, it was natural for us to want a boat. Chris said he could sail and I believed him. I said I loved sailing (we were newly-weds, still romantically inclined to please) and he believed me. We spent the money that should have been spent on house repairs on a beautiful old rimu hand-built yacht. It wasn’t very seaworthy, and every time it tipped over (which was most times we went out as we did love a good stiff breeze), it was impossibly heavy for us to right. We relied several times on the kind and uncomplaining people from the yacht club to come and rescue us. The friends who took up the invitation for a lovely afternoon’s sailing began to dwindle. The last to go was our good friend Jack who was thin as a rake and not built to withstand the frigid dunking. He was practically hypothermic by the time we were once again rescued. In hindsight, we should have called an ambulance, and it took us all afternoon to revive him by the fire, with hot water bottles, blankets and almost a whole bottle of bourbon. When he could finally open his blue lips to speak, he told us he would never set foot in a boat again. We decided then that the boat had to go; it was time to get serious about fixing up the house.

Four years later when the house was finally habitable we moved to Melbourne. It was only going to be for one or two years, but we ended up being away for eight. We were very fortunate that the house in Sandpiper Street where I still live today came up for sale just as we felt ready to return to New Zealand. Our two younger children attended Broad Bay school, which they came to love in spite of the initial teasing over their Australian accents, which soon disappeared.

Nyree’s two younger children were pupils at Broad Bay School when the Broad Bay 150th celebrations took place back in January 1998.

By Nyree McInally

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