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.
Winter lingered like an unwelcome visitor, but finally Spring arrived – one little step after another.
Jasmine scented the air on crisp mornings in the lull between seasons; daffodils thrust dreary winter aside, lambs gambolled in Auckland’s Cornwall Park and in the burbs, pink cherry blossom brightened the streets – on days when it wasn’t raining!
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.
Pressure, according to Sonny Bill Williams, told The Listener, is not about being an All Black. Pressure is starving children, a single mother raising three kids, atrocities faced by refugees, and racism. The sneering response from three media worthies, Mark Richardson, Duncan Garner and an unnamed Herald columnist, was telling. Richardson and Garner are famous for making rational people change their minds if they find themselves agreeing with anything they say. But pressure was evident in the week between the Bledisloe Cup games between the Wallabies and the All Blacks.
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.