Our year of travel

2015.

Maybe it was something in the water, maybe it was a sense of impending old age.  Maybe it was the fact that we started the year with a house-full, literally, of Dwedish visitors, from about as far away as it’s possible to get from New Zealand – we loved having you here, Alex and Tea, and your Mums and other family!

Or maybe it was just the plethora of too-good-to-miss opportunities that saw us feed our wanderlust to excess this year!  Japan, Europe, Namibia…  not quite around the world, but certainly close to it.

The trip to Japan was particularly special – a long awaited opportunity for Howard to show us all what he misses about a place where he has lived and loved.  And suffice to say, we fell in love with it too.  Travelling in a herd of six adults and two children in strollers sounds like a daunting task, especially in a foreign culture and a country of 125million people!  Not so.

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The Japanese people are gracious and organized.  And it has to be said, just a little bit weird!

I went from not actually having Japan on my ‘must see’ list, to planning our next trip.  The only question is will it be for RWC2019?

From one of the most populated places on earth, to one of the emptiest for sure!  Our road trip from Windhoek to Cape Town – 3,500km on mostly unsealed roads – was an opportunity to truly unwind and enjoy the vast emptiness (and again resolve to return, to see the northern bits of Namibia that we missed this time around).

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A trip prompted by a family occasion, a 60th birthday “bash in the bush” on the banks of the glorious, game-filled Crocodile River in SA.  Truly special, but a long way to go for a party, even a week-long party, so Namibia was a spur of the moment, while we are there decision, and one we were thrilled to have made.

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Europe was, as has become our habit, the annual cycling trip for Peter (this time a return to Argeles in the Haute Pyrenees), and an opportunity to stop in on Rob and Jenna in London.  Excessive, yes.

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Which is not to say there weren’t plenty of local highlights too…

  • a fleeting week-long visit from Rob, home for a friend’s wedding (and a bit of Cricket World Cup!) – a very well times wedding indeed!
  • the very excessive Trinity Hill Garden Party out at their gorgeous winery in Hawkes Bay
  • hosting a group of tables at the amazing Diner en Blanc in Auckland  (if you don’t know about it look it up – now running in over 40 cities around the world)
  • a birthday treat for Mum with a trip to Wellington, with Peter and Don’s partner Helen from Melbourne, to see the World of Wearable Arts show
  • a full-on international angel investor conference in Queenstown, with a truly exclusive wine tour at the end, organized by Peter and hosted by me when he sadly had to return home prematurely due to his mother’s health…

… the list goes on!

So this is ‘retirement’.

Somehow, in between all of that, Peter managed to find time to continue building his now vast and perfectly curated music collection, while ‘looking after’ one of our growing list of start-up investee companies as the investor director, doing some consulting to the Reserve Bank, and taking on some pro-bono advocacy for another company I’m involved with, in what should have been a quick and easy negotiation, but has dragged on for almost 6 months.

I’ve kept myself busy too, with a reappointment to the occupational licensing board for electrical workers, a couple of directorships and a fair bit of mentoring of young companies and their founders.  I really do love the challenge of building young companies – though I have to say that changing women’s lives one bra at a time is extremely hard work!  Besides bras, I am learning more each day about data analytics, property valuation and software-as-service… With a soon to be added interest in baby and children’s shoes.

Plus, of course, my most important role – being Ouma to the fast-growing-up Izzy and Matthew!

The downside of travelling so much is missing out on my weekly day with the grandchildren – something I’m making up for during the coming school holidays!  Izzy finished Year 2 at school, and Matthew has one more year at kindy before he joins her (well, actually at the boys’ school).

Izzy’s school reports talk of her unfailing enthusiasm, attacking everything with gusto, be it a reading task, a French conversation, a complicated sum (her real academic talent, I suspect) or even, amazingly the school cross country which she determinedly completed, despite only having 1 1/2 legs, and little ones at that!

Matthew is a real boy…  No ears, completely fearless and always hungry!  Articulate and nimble, he can not only climb into the most extraordinary places, but then engage in a debate about why he should or should not be up there!  Be it sitting in the upper story window with legs dangling out – “I’m just sitting” – or setting off for a “walk” across the top of the pergola over our front path…  Suffice to say, this is the child that Philippa always deserved!

Family remains the most important thing in our lives.

Our great sadness this year was to see June, Peter’s Mum, deteriorating after a number of falls.  Finally, in October, she seemed to decide that enough was enough, and passed away peacefully after what has been, for all the family, a truly anguished battle with Alzheimers.  Such a cruel disease.  She would have been so proud of Peter, Lindsay and Anne – battling for her rights, and her comfort, to the very last.

As Isabel observed, she’s now down to just one ‘great-grand’parent (having had – and known 5 when she was born!).   My mother (Nanna) just keeps on keeping on, despite many ailments which seem to limit her mobility more each week.  Despite her ever-present pain, she remains mostly positive, and still enjoys her craft groups, her friends, and especially having the children at her place regularly, playing board games with Matthew and teaching Isabel a vast array of arts and crafts.

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She remains generous beyond reason, always true to the adage that it is better to give than receive – a truly good person.

Waifs and strays dinners – a gathering of the younger generation of the family, and assorted others who happen to be in Auckland – has continued at our place most Monday evenings.  Sometimes a low key affair, sometimes a hotbed of debate and shouting…  food quality variable, company almost always good, an opportunity for Philippa and her cousins to keep in touch with each others’ lives, and with the lives of the rest who are now scattered to the four winds.  We miss you Rob, Catherine, Jess and James!

So now it’s Christmas.

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As we gather this year, we will remember those missing from our table, those who have passed, those who have settled afar, those who we hope will one day come home and those who are just travelling on various adventures.

More importantly, we will celebrate that wherever we and they are in the world, from country to country, from generation to generation, family is family.  We may be crazy, we may not always agree, but we know for sure that we are here for each other – and that’s why we gather with those who are here to celebrate!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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