In January we took our three granddaughters (aged eight, eleven and thirteen) to Red beach on Whangaparoa Peninsula for a week while their Mum was busy at work.
It would be quite different from having them to stay at our place where everything is familiar. There they can occupy themselves on their iPads and our computer when they get bored or play with Abby our Labrador. Would a traditional kiwi beach holiday match up?
Their Grandfather John had been to Red Beach for extended family picnics half a century ago. In those days it was a big excursion. Now it is only a 30 minute drive on the motorway from Auckland.
On the way he shared his boyhood memories. Where there is now suburbia there was once rolling farmland. It was an era for formal picnics and one piece swimsuits. When they reached the beach the sandwiches and homemade fruit cake would be taken out of the picnic hamper and daintily spread out on a tablecloth. The tea was poured from a thermos. Cafes were unheard of.
The bach we had booked for our holiday was one of the original ones at the Pinehaven Motor camp and stood high on a cliff. It overlooked the ocean, a vast empty expanse. From time to time a seagull swooped past the window.
The porridge bowls were Crown Lynn. There was a pile of Enid Blyton books to read.
“It feels as if we’re back in the fifties,” said our granddaughters
After the first night the telly went on the blink and never recovered. Wi Fi was unavailable. We had to find other ways to amuse ourselves. To fill in the hours, we had brought board and card games and books to read.
I had promised I would teach them to crochet. They were keen to give it a go as it has suddenly come back into fashion. I hadn’t held a crochet hook for several decades so it was almost a forgotten art. But with a ball of wool and a crochet hook each we made a start. The youngest never got past making a chain, the middle one was soon hooked and crocheted her first scarf. The oldest found it boring, quickly gave up and moved on to writing stories on her iPhone.
Red Beach is a popular swimming beach but on most of the days we were there it was too windy or chilly so we took some bracing walks on the sandy shore which was scattered with piles of red shells. One day, when their aunt drove up to join us, we climbed down Jacob’s ladder and explored some small caves.
We took short trips a little further afield. A highlight for them was the day John took them out, togged out in life jackets, for a fast spin in a dinghy.
At Wenderholm Regional Park we walked down to the sea. Here a section of the beach had been cordoned off for a nesting dotterel. We couldn’t spot the nest but sighted a dotterel strutting in shallow water nearby, possibly its mate.
At Warkworth, at a shop advertising its award winning home-made pies, we stopped for lunch. Afterwards we walked by the river where, if you come at the right time, an old sailing ship and a scow have been renovated and will take you for a ride. We walked on a little further and found a park where the girls practised their cartwheels and rolled down grassy slopes.
In the middle of the week there was an 11th birthday party, a cake to decorate with plenty of icing and assorted lollies, balloons and chips.
Another day, at the Puhoi Café and Cheese store we watched the cheese makers at work and had a sweet treat and a drink.
On Friday, our last night, we headed for the Whangaparoa night market and let them loose with $10 each to choose what they liked for their dinner. You can get 15 dumplings for $5.00 or chicken satay sticks for $2.00 each and they make ambrosial mango lassis.
The youngest two spent some of their dinner money on huge balls of sticky pink candyfloss “Please don’t tell Mum” they begged.
Although there was a fair amount of sisterly bickering, a twisted ankle and some mosquito bites we all survived our holiday remarkably well.
If they return to Red Beach fifty years from now I wonder what kind of stories they will share with their own grandchildren. Will they remember the eight year old’s bad mood day, the birthday party, the crochet lessons or the candy floss?