This large flat area of the city
draws more elderly people it being
easier for them to move around on
their own sets of wheels, mobility
scooters, wheeled walking frames.
Driving cars is difficult for many,
also walking from cars into shops.
Observing road rules helps us
move along our footpaths as this
wheeled traffic brows. Alas cars
parked across footpaths break
road rules too to the fury of the
mobility scooter man travelling
from council flats to supermarket.
He roars at the car owners for
parking on the footpath from
drive’s end out to the road.
They stare at him blankly for
they are former refugees, he
does not slow his English for
them to understand.
Who is discriminating against whom ?
Still they are now parking on
the footpath a little less often.
The old council flats built on a vast
spacious lawn over eighty years
ago are no longer fit for purpose.
Research has proliferated on
strengthening buildings against our
unsteady country’s earthquakes.
New laws lay down detailed building
codes for all houses to be built to
be safe when shaken or stirred.
In the last decade a series of
massive earthquakes have shaken
much of our country. All new codes
are now applied in retrospect to
public buildings with deadline
dates set in law.
So new plans are drawn up for new
council flats for our city that has
grown so much over eighty years.
Two long rows of well planned
flats shot up at the end of the
spacious lawn. Their concrete pad
floors dull the earth’s upheavals,
tall windows at each end lighten
these compact little flats.
The residents of the old flats move
into the two rows of new flats.
The first cluster of old flats is
demolished, the next two lines of
flats are built. Three times as
many new flats will fill the
spacious open lawn.
These homes are needed – the
spacious lawn is sacrificed.
In the 1930’s between two world
wars our little city built fifty two
one storey flats in blocks of four
particularly for the elderly after
the world’s traumatic financial crisis.
Little blocks of four one bedroom
flats lined up in their three columns.
Tiny windows letting in some daylight
flanking small open front porches, little
back doors opening on to tiny verandahs.
Small clotheslines near flights of
back steps and recycling bins
all sheltered by neat trellises.
Fifty two tiny flats in their columns
surrounded by wide open grassy
spaces next to vast playing fields.
Eighty years later massive
earthquakes rocked our shaky
isles followed by more five years.
all public buildings meeting all
requirements of today’s regulatory
building codes all enacted in law
in the last twenty years.
Those elderly council flats can never
comply. Relentless demolition comes.
Little brother is three years old
officially a big boy now that a place
has opened up for him at kindergarten
after several months wait. His sisters
are in years four and five at school
he has not yet caught up with them
in spite of all his efforts.
He proudly showed around Nana
Grandpa Auntie Jo when they visited.
The tree shaded playing area, the slide
and climbing frame, the rabbits’ house
and enclosure, the guinea pig in his
little yard staring at them all, and the
hens which have to be shut in their
run when the children are eating –
hens like to eat children’s lunches.
Then inside to the painting area,
the cooking corner, the building blocks.
Into the room with the children’s
progress files each stored in a kete*
hanging on the wall with the child’s
photo on the front. Little brother
is excited about his kete.
His sisters came to the fence between
school and kindergarten on his first
day to his great joy. A teacher
opened the gate to let them in, then
took a photo of all tree of them
which is now in the file in his kete.
Then he ran to the building blocks
while the girls returned to class.
“kete” – Maori kit bag woven from
dried split leaves of “phormium”
or New Zealand flax.
Auntie Jo hangs out a big wash
after lunch while Mum prepares
dinner before driving with little
brother to the nine year old’s
horse riding class after school.
School uniforms, Dad’s work shirts
and shorts, little t-shirts, trousers
leggings big t-shirts jeans with
little brother’s muslin face cloths.
Also an amazing number of girls’
underpants found around the room
when dad stood over them while they
tidied their room, put clothes in
drawers or laundry basket, put books
treasures on bookshelves, dressing table.
As Auntie Jo pegs out tiny items on
lines in a carport never used for cars
little brother rides the big tricycle
round and round so happy that his
feet can now reach the pedals while
lines fill up with so much clothing
face cloths, towels dish cloths, tea
towels flapping in the afternoon breeze
from lines sagging under their weight.
Now the outside rotary line is
weighed down with sheets, pillow
cases flapping, cracking in the wind.
After a breezy afternoon small
items move to the airer inside
large items move rotary line
to carport for further drying.
A never ending cycle from
a non stop machine.
Little brother was always so
excited to walk the long drive
with Auntie Jo to the letter box
pull out the letters, carry them
back down the drive for Mum.
At first he walked down the drive
then he rode the little pink tricycle
_ renamed as motorbike”. From
time to time he tried to ride the
big red tricycle – too awkward
even with the wood blocks
Dad fixed to the pedals.
At last came the day when his legs
were long enough to ride the big
red tricycle without blocks on
its pedals. He and Auntie Jo
turned right at the end of the
drive, went towards the end of
the cul de sac under the trees
– only a little way then back –
for it was hot and sunny.
As the weather cooled down
their walks lengthened, little
brother would ask to walk
“round the trees” of the tree
lined cul de sac. Sometimes he
even remembered the mail,
asked to take the mail,
asked to take it back on his
wagon behind the tricycle.
Little brother on his little Daisy
Duck stool at the kitchen’s corner
bench bopped happily to the
rhythms of Mum’s play list
resounding from her cell phone.
“Watching “Tainted Love” !”
he cheerily told Auntie Jo as
she passed through with a
heavily laden laundry basket.
“What !” called Mum from the
far bench, still slicing vegetables.
She wanted to listen to her play
list on her phone which showed
the video of each song playing.
Busy as she was she did not see
little brother watching videos
she thought unsuitable for a
lively three year old.
Quickly she lifted her phone to
its usual high cupboard shelf as
little brother still bopped along to
the beat on his Daisy Duck stool.
A mass of tight bright curls
crowned little brother’s head
just like his sister and father
in their very young days.
He hated having it brushed
would not keep still at the
hairdresser’s. Right from the day
of his very first haircut when
the hairdresser asked Mum to
stand at the shop window holding
little brother so he could watch
the cars go by. His head turned to
and fro as her pointed at each passing
car, talking excitedly as the
hairdresser snipped at passing curls.
The resulting haircut was adequate
but not one she was proud of.
Last week, two years later, little
brother went to the hairdresser,
sat still as she trimmed each curl.
This time the curls did not spring back
as she clipped, but stayed straight
just like his sister’s and father’s.
Mum is grieving.
Those curls are growing out.
Going …… going …… gone.
All weekend the nine year old cried,
for her good friend the riding teacher’s
daughter was flown by helicopter to
the big city hospital with serious injuries.
For nearly two years the nine year old
has been riding horses at weekly classes.
She fully understands the impact of
a horse falling, rolling on you when
you fall under it. She gets anxious
very quickly, fearful about broken
ribs, punctured lungs, fractured bones.
After school on Monday her mood
lifted although her riding lesson was
cancelled. The riding teacher rang
Mum to say her daughter was out
of intensive care, in a general ward.
Two girls talked to each other
on their mothers’ cell phones.
Both were happy again.
There is a hole in my leg.
Just above my ankle, though
it has been stitched up now.
Five years ago a tiny hole was
cut to remove a skin cancer from
my ankle, a nasty mini greebly
o the kind our blazing Antipodean
sun fosters over our southern ocean.
that tiny hole was stitched up
neatly, delicately, most ladylike.
Now that skin cancer has returned.
It was removed with a margin of
healthy flesh to make sure it
never returns. That very large
hole is now building a healthy
scar above my ankle – not ladylike,
large stitches, not delicate.
New flesh is glueing itself around
my ankle, the bones will not
stick out, It meets decency standards
if not ladylikeness standards.