Thoughts: RIP Mum

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been. Out of nowhere I got news that my birth mother, Rachel, had passed.

It’s been a lot to process.

I have known my whole life that I was adopted. It has never really been a self-defining part of my life, and I always had in the back of my mind the motivation to track down my origins and see if I could get to know my biological family. Years came and went. Every couple of years I’d get motivated to progress things. I obtained my original birth certificate, located a name, located a home address from the 60’s. Then I’d hit a roadblock and have to park the search. Over time, the Internet evolved and around 2007, my mother (well, someone with her name and broad location) popped up on a genealogy website.

I had confirmation. She (I thought it was her) was alive.

I found someone with her surname in the local telephone book, and one night made the call from Auckland to Somerset, UK. I finally had a current address.

I had actually forgotten over the last decade who the person on the end of the phone was, and was delighted to meet him at Mum’s funeral. He’d kept the secret.

So around Christmas 2007 my mothers life irrevocably changed. As did mine. I met her for the first time in 2011. The memories from that occasion flood back with such clarity.

And now I find myself in Somerset, saying goodbye. It’s been hard. The grieving process has been brutal and now the healing begins. I am so grateful to my cousin who has been handling everything – I think we’ve helped each other get through this time.

The funeral was lovely. In a setting steeped with history and legacy. I was proud to be able to address the congregation with some thoughts. I have posted this below for posterity.

So now I continue to sit, and to think, and to process.

 

 

Pieces of the Puzzle

Good morning everyone,

We are here today to celebrate the life of Rachel, my mother.

Everybody here has memories of Rachel. Each memory is different, each memory personal. Each memory is a piece of the puzzle that when collected together presents a picture of who Rachel was.

That’s the great thing about life. People, all of us, have the opportunity to impact others and leave behind a lasting memory.

My story is a little different to most here and I’d like to share some of it.

Rachel was an adventurer. She went to New Zealand to have an overseas experience decades before that became a common thing for young people to do.

I was an outcome of that adventure.

Growing up with my adoptive family, I always felt… different. I think differently to them. I see the world differently to them. I certainly have a mischievous streak and a wanderlust that did not come from the nurture I received. It was always in the back of my mind that I needed to find out more about who I was.

It was around 2007 I think, that I tracked Rachel down. All I had was a name on an original birth certificate and a very basic Internet. I remember finding a Somerset Sealey (I can’t remember who it was) and making a telephone call to locate Rachel’s current address and to ask if he thought it would be ok if I wrote.

Mum received that letter shortly before Christmas Day. And I know her world changed. I like to think for the better.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I was able to come out here to meet her for the first time, and meet many of you here today. My blood relatives. I remember arriving at London Heathrow and seeing her in the arrivals hall quite clearly.

Thank you Mo for being there at that time also.

That moment in 2011 was a time where some of the missing pieces of my own puzzle were located. And placed.

Rachel and I were able to get to know each other as adults without the angst of a parent-child relationship getting in the way. She was desperately proud of her family here and she loved telling me about all what you were doing. She was delighted to get to learn of her grandchildren, my son Aidan and daughter Caitlin, their strengths and interests, and to see her heritage passed on.

Rachel and I realised early on that I am definitely cut from the same cloth as her. My extreme curiousity comes from her. My off-beat sense of humour comes from her.

At this time I would like to acknowledge my birth Father, Phil. I am so grateful to him as he made it possible for Mum to come to New Zealand in 2016 to see me in my habitat, and also to meet Aidan and Caitlin and give them an opportunity to meet and get to know their grandmother. He sends his condolences to us all.

Rachel reflected to me that she felt that she and Phil were incredibly selfish when they gave me up for adoption. I told her that far from being selfish, her actions at that time were completely selfless.

Because of her, I have had a good life, raised by great parents, knowing nothing but love.

And now Rachel is gone.

But she also continues.

In me, in her grandchildren.

I know that she wouldn’t be comfortable with all this attention but I also know that she would be ‘right chuffed’ as to what is happening here. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that this connection grows and strengthens. That this connection endures.

The puzzle that is Rachel may be completed today, but there are more puzzles to complete.

More pieces to find and to place.

I hope that you will help me as I honour her memory through living and in some way, perhaps, I can help you also.

Thank you.

 

Diary of a Shore Thing #3

So I’ve been a resident of the North Shore of Auckland for nearly two months now. Is it growing on me? I’m not entirely sure, but there are definitely aspects of this place I like.

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Seeing Rangitoto from this side of the water is nice. Particularly when boats and ships meander through the channel. The way the sunlight bounces off the swells does my heart good.

I’m still not a fan of beaches. (Of course, this may due to my stoic inland Palmerston North upbringing). There’s nothing to do on them, and the glare of the sun makes it hard to read books on my iPad. But they do have the moments of pretty.

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From a transportation perspective, I’m getting used to it. Lake Rd still sucks immensely, but I’m working out the traffic patterns and how to avoid them. I LOVE being able to catch the ferry from Devonport into the CBD and back again. It’s the way to commute.

However I am a bit grumpy about some people. My car has been hit twice, by two buses, on two separate days whilst parked on Constellation Drive. This makes me sad. Then two days ago, it was hit again, by someone completely failing to work out how to drive in the Devonport New World carpark. My son was in the car at the time and texted me (I have told him after the fact that it would be better if he’d taken car details etc. first which he didn’t). But still. It’s just a thing. Can’t control it. Can’t change it. Moving on…

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Devonport is nice too. It has art and history and stuff. It has galleries, the Naval Museum, hills to climb and tunnels to explore. When I get a bike (I’m getting fat apparently and need to do something about it) I’ll be discovering a lot more. And yes, when I get a bike, I promise you won’t see any unsightly lycra-clad bumps and bulges on this guy. Promise.

 

 

Thoughts: the New Zealand School of Food and Wine

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I had the opportunity to visit the New Zealand School of Food & Wine this week.

I have wandered past their front door in Customs St West on several occasions, always on my way to various meetings, always having a brief ‘I wonder what they do’ moment each time.

And now I know. And it’s pretty cool!!

Given my increasing love of all things food, wine and hospitality, being in their office felt… it felt like coming home. These are my people!

They run culinary, wine, coffee and hospitality courses for people wanting to start their career, and also short courses for people who want to add to their cooking knowledge. And the best thing is that they have practical components on-site at local restaurants. They don’t leave their students hanging with a qualification.

In the week of 13-15 September they are presenting a Wine and Food Celebration on site.

Sessions include ‘Discovering your Palate’ (Celia Hay – working out why you like certain foods and how they influence pairing wine with food), ‘Taste with a Master (Bob Campbell MW talking wine), ‘Italian Wine Regions’ (A tour in your wine glass), an ‘Artisan Food Producers showcase’ and a ‘Coffee Masterclass’.

There will be cooking demonstrations – learning how to ferment foods, how to smoke fish, how to make sourdough bread. You could learn how to create your own doughnut. You can learn about Mexican Street food.

I’m seriously excited.

Find out more and buy your tickets online: event.foodandwine.co.nz.

School Holiday Fun – The Boy post

In School Holidays I do focus on the one-on-one time with my kids. I wrote about my day with my daughter yesterday, so here is a piece about my day with my son.

He’s 10, and likes tunnels and dark places and military installations.

We made a plan to go visit Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

I decided to take my car across so we could explore properly. I picked him up at 7am in order to make the 8am Sealink ferry sailing from Half Moon Bay, Auckland.

It was a perfect weather day.

WaihekeWe arrived on the Island and then found a local store to stock up on snacks. And then we just drove. No maps. We just followed our noses and went down random roads. I have to say, there is a lot of beauty and seclusion on Waiheke.

After killing some time by looking at nature, we headed to our primary destination: Stony Batter. This is an historic gun emplacement on the western side of the Island. The appeal is the extensive network of tunnels, some 20m below ground. It’s really great seeing some progress towards restoration. Being able to roam them with torches whilst following a written guide made for a lot of fun. Especially when we’d turn the torch off and I’d hide around a corner. Yes, I do enjoy freaking my child out. I’m sure I should feel bad about that but I also think it’s important for one to grow in confidence in the dark.

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It was about this time that my phone died so I couldn’t take any more photos. I’m still a bit annoyed about that as I do like to retain memories.

After leaving the tunnels and checking out the massive gun pits, we headed back to where we parked. We had a lot of fun exploring the boulders in the fields around the site. My son was adamant that Peter Jackson should have filmed The Hobbit there (yes, we did have to do a little re-enactment of ‘dwarves running across boulder-strewn fields avoiding Orcs on Wargs’).

We had lunch at the Beach Front Restaurant and had a nice chat with the owners. I love that people from the other side of the World are able to find and purchase a business online and then move here for the lifestyle.

We returned to the ferry terminal via all of the roads.

All in all, a great day. We had fun misbehaving and exploring. I can’t wait until the next time. (Of course, the next time is probably going to be Tree Adventures again because the sister had such a great time there).