Help, Mike! - I need you to tell me what it is I have forsaken to live on the southernmost coast!
Truly I love your article but is there really something I haven't thought of, that I am missing out on?
I have spent half my life here - for the earlier half I lived and worked on four continents, learned six languages after English, attended or was employed by five universities, also four transnational corporates, including in the biggest worst cities such as Johannesburg and Sao Paulo.
I've been to 'The Uttermost part of the Earth' (Tierra del Fuego), hitched across Sudan, ridden horses in such as the wild Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe and Medellin (Colombia), kayaked on Bowen Island off Vancouver, hiked to Glacier Gray (Parque del Paine, Chile), climbed Mount Kenya twice, am I going on too long? There's lots more!
Right now I'm sitting in blazing sunshine with door open, no sound except birds, trees blossoming fit to bust, calves and lambs littering my pastoral heaven. Family is coming and going on relaxed Sunday jobs - I'm expecting visitors from Bethesda, Maryland, another place I know a little.
I've had the delight of National Radio interviews - Saturday and Sunday are so often a major source of satisfaction.
I can look up the entire contents of the collective human brain via the magic of Google and its sisters, and if I want to read a particular book for bedtime I can order through the library.
I'm in touch with people from all of those distant places that are part of my past.
For entertainment - you should see the amount of local activities there are to choose from - then there is Invercargill half an hour away with the whole gamut of possibilities - as long as you take up the offerings when they come - there isn't a ballet performance every night, that's for sure.
My friends and neighbours include Canadians, a Norwegian, South Africans, British, Dutch, and a lady from Leeston.
What about our children, what have they forsaken? Oh well Thomas drove from Perth to Brisbane at 17, worked in a Post Office in deepest darkest London, on big machinery helped flatten an old coal bing in central Scotland, drove across the Canadian Rockies, circuited Nova Scotia, seen NYC, Washington, Las Vegas, Los Angeles - oh and Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, Belgium, UK, Bali. He is an engineer and designer in metal, wood, electronics, water supply and a quiet gentle stockman. He is happily married to a beautiful girl from Auckland - who looks as good in overalls and gumboots as in her high heels.
Our daughter took about five years to get her 'OE' - a year in Norway, 18 months in Scotland, a season with cattle and horses in Aussie's hot wet tropics, another season shearing sheep in South Australia. She's a trained vet nurse, a trained travel agent, a trained dairy inseminator, now a successful real estate agent, living in Invercargill.
I haven't mentioned how our summers are full of visitors from all over the world. Our mantra is 'Strangers are just friends we haven't met'. After twenty years of having people to stay we still look forward to making a welcome and having a good conversation.
Yes, all right, Mike, there are times I feel a bit isolated. That's when I think it's up to me to become more self-sufficient. The opportunities for stimulation are always there. Eg your article has stimulated me to respond in a lively fashion. :) Now I've neglected the lunch!
Thanks again for writing about us and about Waipapa Point historic Lighthouse and the tragedy of the Tararua. By the way there is an 'Opening' on 10th October, of 'improvements' made by DoC - car park, toilets, interpretation, a new walkway. It has tamed the wild landscape, somewhat to my regret.
'Remoteness is a state of mind'.
Do please call in and visit when next you venture south!
Very best wishes
Christine J McKenzie
Christine & Colin McKenzie
476 Fortrose-Otara Road
RD5 Invercargill NZ 9875
Ph/Fx 0064 3 246 9526
Catlins Community website
And his response - 'remoteness -pah!
Many thanks for your exhilirating letter. Feedback to my magazine column is always fun (even when it takes me to task) but your response was a sheer joy to read. I love to hear of someone who has done so many interesting things and can still feel enraptured about Home.
Perhaps everything is relative, after all. Surely most readers would find your area remote, compared to their mostly suburban wildernesses. However, I tend to agree with you, that isolation has become an outdated concept since modern communications brought the world so close.
I lived in Southland for three years and explored your coast and the Catlins before it became fashionable (or the road sealed) _ in the early 1970s. It is "one of my favourite places", though not, I fear, one where I would want to live. Like many interesting places, it is nice to know it is there and to be able to go back and savour it from time to time. Perhaps you feel the same way about Christchurch, and I couldn't blame you.
Certainly, I would love to stop for a chat next time I venture south.