Bob strolls to the new coffee house not far from his home. The sun’s out, shadowed now and then by fluffy white clouds. He’s on his way to meet his old friend John and despite the weather he wears his faded raincoat – because, as he always tells everyone in summer and winter, you just never know with Auckland weather.
Category archive: Encounters
Standing on the fourth-floor balcony of Tūranga, Christchurch’s recently opened library sited on Cathedral Square, I gazed down onto the sagging ruin that is the post-earthquake Christchurch Cathedral. From this angle the decision to restore makes even less sense than it did three years ago when I viewed the wreckage from behind a ground level wire-mesh safety fence.
Why would anyone think I’d vote for them if they give me a leaflet I don’t want! Look – it says ‘NO CIRCULARS’!” I consider explaining that local body election leaflets are actually not ‘circulars’, or indeed, advertising at all. They are instead an important part of the democratic process. But I fear a bureaucratic distinction will be lost on this vehement elderly woman intent on keeping her letter box clear of bumf, and for that matter, on most others whose letterboxes are firmly labelled as to what can and cannot be posted within.
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.
Grandma has lost her purse. She’s hurrying from one room to another and back again, opening cupboards and lifting cushions. Wispy white hair works loose from the floppy bun at the back of her neck, her hands twist together, her faded blue-grey eyes dart.
“I know I had it yesterday, where can it be, oh dear, oh dear, I know I had it yesterday.” Her litany of distress is on repeat and winding up.
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:
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.