Imagine the excitement! Jacqui and I had only been married for a few weeks and now here we were walking up the gangway of the ‘Rangitoto’, heading for a completely different life in New Zealand. The intervening weeks had been a happy blur for us, passports, tickets, packing luggage, (two types, ‘wanted on voyage’ and ‘not wanted on voyage’), and visiting all our relatives for a final farewell before we left. For us, young and inexperienced, it was a wonderful, thrilling occurrence, something we remember and enjoy to this day.
Of course, not everyone was as happy as us. Our parents for a start must have been thinking a lot about the fact that we were moving, not to the next town, but to the other side of the world, at a time when Skype and emails had not even been thought of. They covered their feelings very well, but I am sure they were very sad at the prospect of perhaps never seeing us again or at the very best, not seeing us for years.
That was the reason why, the day before we boarded the ‘Rangitoto’ I had insisted that they farewelled us at the station in Bristol, rather than coming to the docks with us. Imagine the stress on them, standing on the dockside as the ship moved slowly away, among another thousand people, until the paper ribbons connecting families, eventually broke! That would have been agony, but at the station it was all over in about two minutes, without time for passions to be aroused.
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The trip itself was another blur, of eating, playing, and quiet times spent alone in our cabin, (for reasons we don’t need to go into here!). We discovered new foods we’d never heard of before, we played new games, deck quoits and shuffle board, all great fun. In the whole trip there was only one black spot. Jacqui developed a pain in her chest, which the doctor put down to her having slipped up in the bath. As we were to learn after we had been in New Zealand for several months, this was actually the beginning of TB and new problems for us, but on board she was simply bound up by the doctor and we got on with what we were doing, but at a somewhat slower pace because of Jacqui’s lack of energy.
Thirty two days after leaving London – wild excitement on board the ship. We were in Wellington Harbour, unable to go ashore because we arrived too late in the day, but at least we could look at New Zealand! Wellington was one of the most beautiful towns we had seen, all its buildings golden in the setting sun, the sea between us and the shore like a sheet of glass and happy sounds all around us from the other passengers crowding the deck. I hugged Jacqui tightly to me and whispered in her ear, “We’ve made it! I just hope the rest of this place is as beautiful as Wellington.”
And it was. We travelled overnight on the ‘Limited’ to Auckland and were met by my new boss-to-be, who gave us a tour of the city. He then gave me a week off from work, so we could acclimatize, and left us to it. We spent a glorious week exploring the place, strolling through parks thick with strange flowers and shrubs, and eating in restaurants that served fresh food we hadn’t experienced for over a month!
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We climbed one or two of the extinct volcanoes Auckland is liberally dotted with, stunned, after a lifetime in England at the sheer clarity and cleanliness of the air.
Those seven days marked the end of a wonderful, thirty nine day honeymoon and the beginning of fifty five years of joy and sorrow, health and illness, parenthood and grandparenthood, success and failure, the sort of experiences most married couples have, every one of them worthwhile, good or bad.
We have travelled a long road together, a wonderful adventure that started on a dockside in London and is still going on to this day. We have been lucky, our love has never faltered, we have enjoyed everything we have done, good or bad and we have a great family of kids to be proud of. I guess we must have done something right, somewhere!