Fernhill is down the road from my parents’ house. These are photos I took in the weekend, on my way back from coming and going.
I would say that Fernhill is quintessential New Zealand if I wanted to sound like an art history book from the 1940s. (It kind of is, though).
It has a quality about it; I’ll say that much. There is something derelict and timewarpish about it. Especially when the sky is such a flawless blue and the rest of the whole world seems to be elsewhere.
To get to anywhere from my parents’ house, you have to go through Fernhill. It’s like a mini something – I don’t know what. A gateway. Its own shabby microcosm.
You have to slow down so as not to hit the kids playing unpredictably at the roadside. Quite often you have to drive out wide as the bare horseback riders clop past with no haste in the world, apparently nowhere pressing to be. And bare-chested, bare-footed kids trail behind them, or idle in dirt driveways on quad bikes, irrespective of the day of the week or time of the day.
We have families on both sides of the Bay. Fernhill is a strange in-between place we have to cross to get to either family. It’s a punctuation, a breathing space, of sorts. It’s iconic and intriguing, in its way. It is the starting point to so many of our journeys, and yet so far removed from our everyday lives.
Once, when I ran a packhouse (but that’s another post altogether), I actually knew people from Fernhill. One Christmas Eve we were invited back to the home of two of the apple graders for homebrew cider (the irony of that has only just struck me now, right now, writing this) and I just about choked. Some of us had to avoid eye contact to stop ourselves from laughing, it was that bad. I still drive past and look out at their house (sort of like a giant shed with a corrugated iron awning attached to it) and wonder whatever became of Natasha and Jackie.
This is Mary of the Crossroads. I guess it’s crossroads because she sits at a very asymmetrical six-pointed intersection. We don’t really know Mary’s story, but apparently there’s an old man who tends to her. I’ve never seen him, but the enclosure is always ship-shape, and she is always safe behind glass.
When I took this photo, leaning over the locked gate, I ripped my dress on a piece of wire. I’m not reading into anything, or assuming hidden meaning where there isn’t any, but sometimes it’s the little things that resonate. And, henceforth, that rip will always remind me of Mary. Even when I have taken to it with my needle and thread (which I must do tonight, imperfectly and with some reluctance, now I remember).
Si&I got married 3.14 kilometres (approximately, to the nearest metre or so) from this graveyard. On a day when the sky looked like this one.
Upon leaving the wedding some time late in the evening, our friends Matt and Jo decided to stop off for night-time photos in this very spot. Matt in his drug-runner-esque white suit and fedora. They stumbled upon some graveyard trouble that night and were chased away by menacing locals.
But back to Natasha and Jackie of cider fame for a bit. Post-university I returned to the packhouse for – shall we say – some time out. Possibly the most demanding role of all time, so not really time out at all (although, as I said, this is not a subject for this particular entry).
Natasha, now within my remit (along with Jackie, her mother), would often sneak off to the coolstore. I don’t know what the set-up was, but we took on inmates for work experience. I’ve forgotten the name of our prisoner that season, but I will never forget what he looked like.
He was a skinhead with a giant swastika on his neck. He was an intimidating direct report, to say the least. He used to stare. It was pretty unnerving actually, especially when I was trying to tell him to pack his fruit trays with greater precision (or words to that effect).
Anyway, Natasha and said skinhead fell in love on the job (amazing what can happen in the duration of a smoko break). Which is where the coolstore came in, given he was escorted back to Mangaroa Prison in a van at knock-off each night, and romantic opportunities were limited. I can’t say I found it particularly romantic, myself. Or even that I could muster any half-arsed sympathy for their ill-fated situation. It was more annoying than anything, having to leave my control box and venture into the depths of the cool store, utterly freezing, to break them apart. I have no idea if the love affair lasted. But among those parts, having an incarcerated, mean-looking lover carried with it a certain cachet.
We like to imagine this is a tinny house. We have no proof whatsoever; it’s just a misguided folklore we’ve created for our own amusement over the course of many drive-bys.
And this is where this ends. We’re back in Wellington now, and already I’m regretting the Fernhill photos I didn’t take, the ones that are just occurring to me now. The Tukituki River. The closed-up general store, now just a concrete barracks where Mum used to buy her cigarette supplies on our way out to knees-ups with our farm cousins way out Taihape Road, in a little place we’d come to know as Why Worry? (aka Waiwhare).
Maybe there will be Fernhill, part two. Now that I’ve started I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface.
Filed under: New Zealand landscapes, photos, things I like, travel | 5 Comments
Tags: New Zealand landscapes, photo essays, sightseeing, things I like