I’ve lived in the deep south of the South Island, for twenty years now. I love it down here, nestled alongside the Southern Alps. But I’m a Shore-Girl at heart and when summer heats the land, I crave the saline depths of the ocean to cool me down, not our pristine lakes.
Fussy maybe? Nonetheless, I was born that way. On the Ides of March, 1964, at Takapuna Hospital, a stones throw from the beach in the North Shore suburb of Auckland; sun and stars and hours of labour aligned, then like Jonah being spat out of the whale, I emerged. Zodiac sign: Pisces. The two fish - salt water obviously. My destiny chosen. I would love water and swimming from that moment forth.
And I did. I was that kid who reappeared at the end of a beach day; wrinkled as a prune, last years Speedos cutting into sunburnt shoulders, a dark peppering of freckles across my nose and cheeks, salted blond hair, ears full of sand and a satisfied grin.
“Pisces love to swim…this easy glide… in the sea…serves to alleviate much of their stress.” I read on an astrology website just now. Any chance I get to leave our lovely landlocked home and head to the coast I grab with my finned hands.
A couple of weekends ago we spent a blissful 24 hours at the sleepy seaside village of Aramoana, just out of Dunedin. The weather was stunning. Hot. The sea artic. Probably around 12 degrees Celsius. I sunbathed and read my book. The kids swam in wetsuits. Day-trippers ate chips and drank bear under umbrellas. Mums ran after toddlers. A seal rotted in the sand. No mind, you couldn’t smell it. There wasn’t a breath of wind. Ah the great kiwi summer. Sun, sand and tiny surf. Bliss
Despite my sunny loved up state I couldn’t take my mind off the, Aramoana Massacre of 1990. The entire time.
Later that evening the kids and I explored the narrow streets of the village looking for a track to the northern side of the beach. I'm not obsessive or anything. Much. But I wondered...
Probably a bit palatial.Had the street names been changed since, you know?
I bet the beach hadn't looked like this on the day David Gray had an argument with his neighbour.
Perhaps a morning sea mist had rolled in, dampening his deranged spirits:
Weirdly. It still didn’t feel like that long ago. 23 Years. Apparently he was a schizophrenic. A loner. I didn’t tell the children about NZ's deadliest shooting. A total of 13 dead. No point. Didn’t want to freak them out.
Us Pisces have a sixth sense, we're a bit psychic supposedly. I do have flashes of esp regularly. Think of someone and then they call. Make a note to replace the Strepsils in the medicine cabinet then a child comes home with a sore throat. Nothing startling. Although I can report that I felt no angry spirits lingering in Aramoana. Phew.
We walked past a home-built house in the shape of huge Noah's Arc. Bloody brilliant. Next door a mini castle had used slightly wonky driftwood as spires on its turrets. There are some classic cribs at Aramoana. Most are tidy square boxes with matching long-drops. Excellent use of paint.
'Good evening,' I said, to two men chatting on the short mown curb.
'Evening,' they replied, then continued their conversation. The locals weren’t that friendly. Perhaps they’d tired of rubber-neckers?
Despite bragging about being similar to a fish, I hadn’t managed to get my radiated body into the sea earlier. Not passed my ankles at least. But after a glass of Macs pale ale ($4.79 for a tall-neck at Port Chalmers, New World) and encouraged by the need to stop, son ten, swimming over the channel to the Otago heads, I did dive into the briny. It was divine. The sea is probably the only place you can hold hands with a ten year old and jump up and down without being called a nong.
'It's so nice, isn't it Mum?' We dove under waves, got seaweed in our hair and sand in our ears. When we were shivering we bodied surfed to shore.
The sand was littered with turret shells (a popular use of path cover in Aramoana I noticed). Along the beach a mum and child picnicked near a sleeping seal. A gargantuan flash of white flying down the channel turned into a cruise ship leaving port. The white tower of the Taiaroa Lighthouse, tiny in the distance, reminded me of France. I'd like to come back when the Albatrosses swoop in to their headland nests.
Sadly, we were wending our way home to the mountains, less than 24 hours later. If I could've stayed, I would've.
The next day was another stinking hot day in Central Otago. The sun filtering through the arched window of my tower office burnt my right arm as I typed. The heat made my head, already groggy with too much sleep, heavier. All I could think of was the SEA at the idyllic beach-side village of Aramoana, four hours and a lifetime from Queenstown.
I imagined diving into its salty depths, tumbling with silver Kawahai in the shore breakers, being cleansed by its frothy hubble and bubble. Then I put on my bikini and headed over to our pond. Cool spring-fed mountain water would have to do.
Below, writer acting like a mounted fish (in favourite speedos) at Pony Club outing, Tukituki River, Hawkes Bay, circa 1973.
Obviously any water will do. REALLY.