by David Bell
|Nana, a Great-great grandmother at 90|
A special whanau occasion occurred on Saturday, 30th January 2010; the celebration of our mother Jean Bell's ninetieth birthday. This should have been written in the blog much earlier but as the old saying goes, better late than never. It is important to record this event because it unexpectedly brought our family together from all over the country and from overseas. Our Australian whanau, particularly, expended great effort and sacrifice to make it to the celebration.
We begin the story at its humble origin; a simple suggestion that the family should do something for Nana on reaching such a grand old age.
It's not remembered who, but someone thought it would be a good idea to do something a little special for Nana on her upcoming ninetieth year.Those present readily agreed and it was decided we would take her somewhere for lunch and then home for a small party. Mac and Pat offered to arrange it and we all thought that was that. We had no idea it was about to take on a life of its own and grow into something we never imagined.
Jess Fealy was the culprit.
In every family there always emerges an organizer; one who instinctively takes the role of pulling everyone together; one full of good ideas and with the drive and energy to make them happen. Jess is one of these.
As it happened, David and Winnie were conversing with her - probably by email or other electronic media - and casually mentioned Nana's small ninetieth birthday celebration. Immediately, Jess seized on it and said, "We'd like to come to that!" and she wasn't thinking small, she was thinking of the rest of the Aussie whanau.
We, (David and Winnie) were impressed by her good intentions but pretty much dismissed it as wishful thinking. It seemed to us an impossible task to get such a big mob across the ditch at such short notice.
But Jess was not deterred and she put the word out to the Australian Bells and it took off from there. Stewart and Myra threw their hat into the ring and sponsored their brood while Colin and Beryl came on board.
This, of course, had a galvanizing effect on those in the homeland. Suddenly, were we looking at a whole different ball game; the goalposts had dramatically changed and we had some work to do.
Thankfully, Mac and Pat's new home at the foot of Pirongia Mountain was the perfect venue and Mac as our family kaumatua, the ideal host. The farm offered plenty of space and the house the ideal gathering place with its large lounge and patio offering the most spectacular view over the whole Waipa valley to Hamilton an beyond.
The view of the Waipa valley from the front of Mac and
Pat's house, Waites Road
Fortunately, Mac and Pat were both enthusiastic about the expanded plans and took the lion's share of the organizing with the rest of us chipping in where we could; and there was a lot to organize; food and accommodation, entertainment and activities, and a host of other considerations.
It was decided that the bulk of the food would be cooked in a hangi and Bully was assigned the job of umu chef. He is an expert at laying hangis so that problem was easily solved.
Accommodation threatened to be a bit more difficult but out of the blue it was discovered that two neighboring farmhouses had vacancies and were for rent at precisely the times we required. One was five minutes down the road and the other was at the end of the driveway up to the house; how do you explain that for a happy coincidence? These two farmhouses were reserved for the Aussies with the South Islanders to set up tents on the flat near the bush behind the house. We dubbed it 'Tent City'. Other smaller groups were spread out between Denise and Barry's place and the spare rooms in Mac and Pat's house. That took care of the accommodation.
|Above and below: fun on the slippery-slide|
Entertainment and activities were the next consideration. The Australians - consisting of Stewart and Myra, Beth and Rob and their kids, and Jess, Matt and children - were scheduled to arrive a few days before the big party and had all planned a visit to the Waitomo caves and Rotorua, so that took care of them for a couple of days. A big whanau trip to Kawhia was also scheduled and other than that all other
entertainments were to be more home-based.
|The trolley in action|
The trolley also proved its worth despite a few spills and bruises.
The Aussies all arrived on schedule and it can't be explained sufficiently in words how thrilling it was to have so much family together. It probably won't happen again in this lifetime so we all made the most of it. The Aussies took off on their sightseeing trips and when that was done we all went to Kawhia for a day. After that it was all about catching up, slippery sliding, trolley rides, a visit to Purekireki Marae, lots of eating, singing and just enjoying being together.
Denise horsing around. Notice the amazingly similar facial characteristics - especially the teeth. Denise has been too long around horses!
|Rub-a-dub-dub ten kids in a tub...and a few more not in yet|
Finally, Saturday rolled around and it was time for the big event for which we had all gathered.
At this point in the narrative we'll let the pictures do most of the talking.
A Day at Kawhia
The day we went to Kawhia was hot and sunny, perfect for what we had planned; sun bathing, swimming and digging holes in the sand to wallow in the warm spring water that percolates up from below ground.