Tuesday, January 18, 2011

small town nz

until recently, i actually thought that we kiwis had made up the word 'kiwiana'. then i was looking around on e-bay and discovered close to a billion 'americana' stores and i came across the term 'australiana'. not a native term after all. according to the oxford dictionary it means 'denoting things associated with a person, place, or field of interest'. as in americana, victoriana, and yes, kiwiana.
new zealand is a new country, as far as countries go.  our iconography is quite new as well, mid-20th century items mostly, according to wikipedia. tonight though, as i write this blog, i have a particular image in mind. small town new zealand. from my own country-bumpkin perspective.
my ma's family are from a region in the mid-west north island called the king country. in particular, a tiny, and i do mean TINY, town called ohura.  it used to be a pumping town, until the local coal mines shut due to political and environmental pressure. now it is part of forgotten highway 43.
mark and i went back there for christmas just gone. my great aunt hazel is an 81 year old wonder and will have my head for telling you her age. what a woman!! she runs the local church, rides around town on a push-bike, bakes up a storm and recently won a Queens Service Award for her work in the community. she was the chaplain at the ohura prison for many years, until that too shut down five years ago.  she is phenomenal. i hadn't been back to ohura since mark and i've been together and i wanted him to know where i'm from and get to know this amazing octogenarian.
thanks, auntie hazel, for a great time. love you.
so i hope you enjoy these photos - this town is an extreme example of small town nz. about 200 people. maximum. it is very very peaceful. and incredibly kiwiana.

a sight for sore eyes after hours of driving
i kid you not. be prepared.

only 10 minutes before ohura, this is the main street of matiere  - where my grandad was born.

finally. ohura.  main street - side one.

and - side two.  my whole life i have managed to miss out on getting into it, and i still daydream about the treasures i will dig out of it!
home sweet home. this is the home hazel has lived in since she was married. while we settle in at auntie hazels...
she heads off on her bike. she even wears her helmet so the local kids learn its important!
i took mark for a walk through these stunning pastures to the local cemetery where all my maternal ancestors are buried.
and this is the view that my grandparents (etc) have from their final resting place. 'how's the serenity'.
ohura's version of the inorganic rubbish collection?
hazels stunning church where my gran played the organ for a million years and where i have spent many a hilarious midnight-mass event, including this christmas gone. the bells are rung to wake up all residents at midnight.
and finally after hazels outrageous midnight mass, back home to her place for amazing afghan biscuits, baked in the original coal range.  we stayed up into the wee earlies drinking tea and icing them. how kiwiana is this christmas biscuit?

i hope you enjoyed this little tour through my own forgotten small town. tomorrow i'm taking american blogging legend, marian schembari, to kingsland and grey lynn in the hunt for kiwiana. i plan to get some good fodder for the next post. until then, kia kaha!


alisha said...

Thanks so much for your lovely tour of ohura. Your Aunt Hazel is a gem and I can just picture her trekking around town on her bike (helmet on). And you've inspired me with those amazing Afghan biscuits. I shall have to introduce the Seattle locals to those bad boys! Have fun with Marian. :)

Dee said...

ah the serenity. :) hehe. such a great post Mel! and am in LOVE with that pic of the rusty car junk. might steal it and blog it. love YOU xx

melissa-jade gregan said...

ha, its the coolest place there. you may go bit wild living there...but visiting was lovely. glad you like the pics dee, and the afghans alisha! they are just mini jaffas and spearment leaves cut in half and glued on with thick thick chocolate icing!!! perfect combination. and dee, take the old fridge! its amazing right? love you guys! thanks for the comments!! xxx

The Wilsons said...


Anonymous said...

Memories! Isnt Aunty Hazel amazing? Glad you had such a good look around, and yes it certainly has changed. It was the most beautiful picturesque little town. There is a website called Ohura and it shows pickies of the past and the present. Interesting. I find it nostalgic. Love you, your Ma

Liz x said...

Hi Mel,

I just loved this post.

There's something about tiny little country towns like Ohura that make my throat tight, I think it's their vunerability that gets to me. If it wasn't for people like your Aunty Hazel, who will keep these little towns going? I haven't been to Ohura, but there are lots of places similar to how you described it across Australia, with original shop buildings, etc and I dearly hope the younger generations will see the value in living in little towns like these and keep them alive.

I always toy with the idea of moving to places like that and learn as much as I can from the oldies, they know so much and are so tough and resilient - they're from a completely different world to what we are used to today. I wish I didn't need to be near a city to work!!

melissa-jade gregan said...

Thanks Liz. I totally agree. I would love to live there - and houses are so incredibly cheap...but schools get smaller and smaller, and my hubby is in advanced IT stuff, so the smallest place in nz we can live is auckland. its where all the work is for him.

Liz, thanks so much for checking out my blog! will be checking out your shortly! Good luck with it babe.