Friday, 8 March 2013

The Secret Diary of a Camp Mother

Lonnikers Beach, Half Moon Bay, Rakiura

I applied for a job a month ago.

It all started with a meeting.

‘Sell yourselves,’ they said. ‘Tell us why we should pick you. Talk yourselves up.’

So I did. I added a few lies. I couldn’t help myself. Not really lies, just little exaggerations of the truth. I wanted the job.

Problem is. I got it. Whoop whoop I thought. But then I asked questions and questions were asked of me. I said I was fine with it, but I turned my back and thought: I am SO the wrong person for this job. More to the point, it was not the job I applied for.

I put my name forward for, ‘Camp Mother’. The nice mum, comforting tired home sick girls and boys; giving yoga breathing sessions, in their cabins at night, as they cried themselves to sleep. The nice mum, boogie-ing after dinner to newly loaded i-tunes hits cranked out of my plastic chilly bag speakers. The energetic always up the hill first with the secret supply of chocolate mum. The funny joker mum. Think Topp Twins, but wearing three quarter black running pants with cutaway side tee, not clutching a handbag to my bosom in a pink terry toweling jumpsuit.

Alas, somehow I’d oversold my skills and inadvertently ended up as, ‘Camp Cook’. I was led to believe they only wanted professionals for that role, chefs or caterers. Master-chef or Best Home-baker material I am not.  I honestly thought I was in NO danger of being put in charge of the kitchen.

I should point out, that parent help positions on this school camp are highly sort after. There were a lot of applications. If I pulled out, my job would have been filled faster than a sandfly bite.

It’s the destination that’s the draw card: five days on pristine Stewart Island, 1hour ferry ride from Bluff, at the bottom of the South Island. Resident population: 390. Maori legend says that Rakiura (Stewart Island) acted as the anchor for Maui’s canoe (the South island) while he fished up the North (Island).

I’d only been there twice. Native birds fell out of trees I recalled. Carefree and abundant. One day we'll visit the bird sanctuary, Ulva Island, home to a newly revived Saddleback population. I've been wanting to go there forever. I wasn’t giving that up.

I attended meetings. I tried to hide my chagrin as the pennies dropped around me. I was to be stationed kitchen-side pretty much for the duration; providing breakfast, morning teas, lunches and dinners for two rotating groups. ‘It’s full-on,’ said previous cooks. ‘You’ll be exhausted.

A mega challenge? So be it. I ordered the mince. Two shopping bags full and spent the best part of seven hours last Sunday cooking it. I thought of writing to Jamie Oliver. I had a new TV series idea - ‘Vegetarian Camp Dinners’. I researched Teriyaki Chicken thigh recipes and easy codfish batter. A cook has to be prepared.

I checked the menu portions when emailed to me and made my two cents worth. Then like a giant turtle I pulled my head in. Electricity on Stewart Island is three times the price as on the mainland. So is food. Running out is not an option. Any navvy worth their salt should know that. If the system is tried and true, don’t add extra fresh vegetables to it.

I've packed my apron, rubber gloves, paring knives, i-pod and my sense of humour. Another mum assistant is bringing a special fruit cake. 

I've purchased my first NZ Book month read. Deborah Challinor's, "Behind the Sun". A seaward historical drama of four unlikely women on a perilous voyage to a new world. Hmm.

I've also ordered lovely NZ children's author, Melinda Szymanik's  latest book, "A Winters Day 1939". This amazing book is based on the actual experiences of her father, when Germany invaded Poland and the world was at war. He and his family were forced from their farm by Soviet troops, made to board a cattle train and so began an equally perilous journey...

As Arnie once remarked, 'I'll be back.'

Stewart Island anchors more than Maui's canoe. It anchors in its rocks, rivers, and rugged shores and in its garnishment of plants and animals, the hope of generations unborn that places like this will always exist.”
Neville Peat 1992

1 comment:

  1. Oh to be the cool Mum... funny thing is, we have more chance of being the cool Mum with kids other than our own! Great retelling of your perilous journey to S.I!!


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