We were a family of six. Mum, Dad and the kids. In the early seventies my parents decided that they didn’t want to continue to live their hand to mouth existence in the UK any longer. They applied to the New Zealand government and were accepted on an assisted passage to New Zealand.
We arrived and settled in a small provincial city. We older kids were placed in a tiny school on the outskirts of the city. It was vastly different to the last school that I had been in. The windows and doors were open all day long, even in the middle of winter. We had to take our own food to school instead of having over-cooked school dinners. There was a swimming pool, a new game called Four Square to learn and climbing frames in the playground.
I had to learn to play another new game called netball. Being uncoordinated and conscious of my new glasses, I didn’t enjoy it very much. Somehow I made it into the school “B” team and secured the wing defence spot. We played other local schools and on Wednesday afternoons would set out on our bikes to go to our interschool games.
Mum settled in to the life of a Kiwi housewife. She made jams and chutneys with the fruit and vegetables from our garden and learned to bottle the fruit from our trees. She took to riding a bike and caught the bus to get into the town or to get the groceries.
Dad didn’t settle quite as well. He had a good job in a local business but he didn’t always get on with his colleagues. He would come home from work angry and tired.
I remember our first couple of years in New Zealand as being full of “new”. We had so many new freedoms and we explored our new environment thoroughly. I made new friends and, looking back, I was probably a bit of an oddity. I joined the local library and was annoyed that I was limited to children’s books. Although I took a good look around the place I was generally happier reading. While my sisters found the local swimming pools and parks, I looked for trees to climb. All I ever wanted was to sit in a tree and read books.
In the mid-seventies Mum and Dad decided that our family needed another child. Specifically, they wanted a boy as a companion for my young brother. They embarked on a campaign to convince social workers that we were a family fit to have the privilege of a chosen child. Looking back, I am not sure how they managed it. There was no money and we were crowded into a small three bedroomed house.
By the middle of the decade we were Mum and Dad, three girls and two small boys. I was at intermediate School, the girls at primary and the boys at kindy. Dad continued to work in the city and Mum had a job as a teacher’s aide at the local primary school. We had explored further parts of our new country and met the glamorous older cousins who had moved to New Zealand before us.