Posts by Paul Smith
Apart from people, letterboxes are the most pedestrian sights on any street. Without a second glance we walk past every one except our own, which is perhaps the way things should be. But like everything else post-digital, letter boxes are no longer the proud receptacles of mail – handwritten letters, invitations, birthday cards and their more sombre messages of condolence.
To say he had a beard would be an understatement- his whole face bristled with pepper and salt whiskers so thick they looked like an uncut hedge. In one of Auckland’s coldest winter spells, he wore a coat which had seen too many winters and was at least two sizes too big for him. And then there were his shoes, or perhaps one of them. It remained staunchly unflappable while the other had clearly given up the pretense of being a shoe, and its uppers flopped open with every step he took.
Two men, two wives, six daughters between them. So in their conversation, a liberal sprinkling of domestic chit-chat – the kind you’d also imagine women having over a cuppa. Except that these were two old blokes who’d notched up a century of marriage between them.
And blokes talk about sport, who should have won the one day cricket final at Lords, politics – and of course the good old days. There’s a pause between all this chaff and then this:
Picture this: An 80-year-old grandfather of four children – three boys and one girl – is picked up from his central city flat by his only son every Sunday. He drives him through suburban streets which he can now barely recognise. The once lush avenues of bungalows and villas seem gap-toothed here and there. Or they sport towering new townhouses which block sunlight from their neighbours.
When was the first time you felt, umm… elderly? Well okay – old? It’s not as if it’s something that happens often because we live in a self-made reality, now and in the past.
But it’s right there if we bother to look: on the car radio Magic FM specialises in music for the ‘oldies’ – that same music which revolutionised the music world when we were in the Swinging Sixties, is now a commercially viable lullaby for early baby boomers.
It’s always been there.
And I, like so many other Aucklanders looked on it as an iconic sight, simultaneously everyday – and spectacular. Like Mt Eden where we could climb any time for 360 degree views of Auckland. Or humble Mt Roskill where as kids we hurtled over sheep ruts in wooden sledges. Or gracious Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill, (now better known as None Tree Hill).