Chapter 2: Miss Spoon's to Rosskeen

At least I thought it was Miss Spoon. Mum said later it was Miss Boon, but she'll always be Miss Spoon to me. A pub was no place for a little kid. Miss Spoon had a red telephone and a sand pit. Andrew from next door ate the sand in the sand pit - which I thought was stupid. She also had a paddling pool. Miss Spoon was a bit hoity-toity. I never liked her. In those days any one with a red phone was not my mother.

Queen Elizabeth II of England came to Wanganui and all my brothers and sisters went to see her. I didn't. I screamed instead. And screamed and SCREAMED. It's not that I wanted to see the queen, it's just that I was homesick at Miss Spoon's. It was the time of my birthday because I was given a cake. It had a blue aeroplane on it. I also got a blue pedal car. I bet the Queen doesn't realise how much her visit cost my family.

Mum and Me

Us kids moved with Mum to a house in Wanganui. In Nixon Street. It had two kitchens. My sister Francie and I played in one of them. Then we shifted to a farm at Matarawa, near Fordell. Dad came too. He would milk the cow and carry the bucket of milk to the front door each morning and call out "Doreen!" Mum would appear with a large metal pan, and Dad would tip the milk into it.

Each morning Dad called "Doreen!" But one morning, Mum came to the cow shed and called for Dad.

"Frank! Frank! Your sister Rene died in the night". And Dad went back to the house and I helped Mum milk the cow. It's like what my sister Suzanne said. Mum sat on the edge of the bath and cried. Sue had plaits and would have been three. It was before my time. She said Mum sat on the edge of the bath and cried. What does a little girl do when her mother sits on the edge of the bath and cries because her mother's only brother is killed in a war? 1944.

Mum had special places around the house for doing things. The edge of the bath was for crying on, although sometimes she cried at the ironing board no doubt. In her bedroom was a sort of Miss Muffet cushion chair where she would take you. You would sit on her knee. When you sat on her knee on that chair it was always very important. Once I said that Mrs Robottom next door was "FAT! FAT! FAT! You should see her!" Mum sat me on her knee in that chair and said "Mrs Robottom is going to have a baby". It was a very important chair.

Me on tricycle

The other important place was the back of the kitchen door. It was where we kept our hot water bottles. But Dad's belt hung there too. Mum had only to put out her hand towards that door and we'd behave. Sometimes we were smacked, but usually Mum would say, "You naughty, naughty, NAUGHTY boy". Sometimes, if it was really serious, Mum would say, "We will wait till Dad gets in".

When I was about three years old we shifted from Matarawa to Springhill, Hawke's Bay, way in the wop-wops. At Springhill we had a farm next to Pendle Hill where Mum's ancestors had lived. Every second neighbour was a relative. Our farm was called Rosskeen, after the place in Scotland where Mum's brother who was killed in the war was buried.

One day, when I was four, Mum went away. My oldest brother, Tony, was at boarding school. Dad was making the school lunches for Sue, Rick and Francie. Dad always asked, "What do you want in your sandwiches today?" He always asked, even though the answer was the same every day. This day Dad called out to me from the kitchen: "Do you want to go to school today?" That was my first day at school. The teacher was Mr Allen. I drew a wobbly line from a dog to a kennel. Two weeks later, Dad took me in the car to Waipawa and we picked up Mum. On the way home we saw a train.

"THERE'S A TRAIN!" I shouted.

"Shh!" said Dad. "You'll wake the baby!"

So here we all were: Mum, Dad and the Humber Super Snipe, and Tony, Sue, Rick, Francie, me and Leo. Up the road on another farm at Wakarara was Mum's sister, Aunty Margaret and Uncle Bert, and cousins Bear, Jane, Rachel and later Naomi and Ray.

It was going to be great.

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