Thursday, March 04, 2021

Living in Paradise

Here's the third in my series of guest blog posts from regular readers of the blog who live far from here (the Derbyshire Peak District.)

Today I'm welcoming my friend Jan Hill, who lives in Pleasant Valley, Geraldine, which is a two hour drive south of Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand.

Photo: April 11th  2020

We came to New Zealand in 1995 - ‘just for two years.’ From the moment we arrived, we loved the clean fresh air, the sun, sea and mountains, and the (mostly) quiet roads. We stayed. 

We often say that we live in paradise. We have a one hectare ‘lifestyle’ (i.e. ‘hard work’) block, large veggie garden, orchard,  4 goats, 2 sheep, hens and a dog, just six minutes drive from our local small town of 3,000 with its vibrant arts community. 

In 1998 I went on a five month writing course. I doubt if I would have had the opportunity in England. My ‘Maungati Mouse’ stories were born, (the latest is  Magnus and the Lockup’ ) and I became a poet.

Geraldine High Street

Looking Back:

March 23rd  2020

There is panic. Today we should have been flying to Sydney to meet our first grandchild, now 2 months old. I have an urgent email message from the Travel Agents to ring them…yesterday. I thought I had cancelled. Get it sorted. It’s OK. Phew. We are about to go into lockdown. Our wonderful PM rallies our team of 5 million. “We will go hard and we will go early.” 

I have a dental appointment for 1.30. They are the first to ring and cancel; then the hairdresser, then the hospital. I had been due for a hip replacement the following week.

March 3rd  2021

Nearly a year later. I now have new hips (brilliant), our grandson has had his first birthday but we haven’t yet met him. 

We get away lightly with lockdowns here in the South Island- three months hard lockdown for the whole country originally. But Covid has just escaped again from returnees in quarantine. Auckland has it hard in level 3. Their fourth time. We are in level 2. The weekly community lunch I run for those who live on their own is cancelled. The Arts on Tour flamenco player scheduled for Thursday is trapped in Auckland. I am not sure if our local Academy concert on Saturday will be on. We await our PM’s decision on Friday…

I loved lockdown. It suited my health and well-being, we had more than enough to do, and I turned into the sort of stay-at-home wife my husband had always wanted. Thanks to our government and advisers we have got away lightly, though with much of our economy based on overseas travellers, some sectors have not.

My Covid journey is recorded in my poems, interestingly, not all bright and hopeful:

May 2020

You wouldn’t think it would take four and a half weeks to wind down, to find a new rhythm.

To start with-stress, totally self-induced stress, stress of emails, poems to write, books to finish,

papers to sort, drawers to tidy, garden calling, weeds rampant, sycamore, blackberry…


Then damsons picked, hazels harvested though walnuts imminent

goat hooves trimmed, newly dug potatoes sorted, onions drying, black boy peaches picked and processed,

apples graded in sacks, some for eating, some for cider, some for goats and birds


I write a poem, drink fragrant coffee, there’s still some baking in the tins, the phone’s gone quiet.

Four and a half weeks into lockdown, jam made, harvest sorted, winding down,

I’ve relaxed. It’s amazing. Time to stop and be thankful


May 2020

It was March, then it was May

The sun shone day after day

Virtual Good Friday turned into virtual Easter

The rabbits had gone


Piwakawaka (fantails) thronged the garden

Pied and black ones in the autumn birch

Working the eaves, up and down the verandah

Through open doors unafraid

Where I sat in the sunshine that Sunday

With the dog, a cup of coffee

And our morning service on Zoom

There were eight or more

One dared to perch on the upraised lid

Of the laptop and touched down on my chair arm

It was March, then it was May

The country road was quiet, the air fresh, the birds

And all creation rejoicing


August 14th 2020: 

It’s a foggy morning.

The grey hangs heavy over the fields and in my heart.

Here we go again.

The moisture seeps into the thirsty earth.

Droplets from a hidden enemy find a welcome home.

We are at war once more.

A hundred shades of grey have fallen on a struggling people,

on businesses and schools, on doctors and hospitals.

Historic times.

I have seen earthquakes and now a pandemic,

have worried about loved ones

as rampant bush fires turn to greedy conflagrations,

grieved for all creatures in its ravenous maw.

I have read of locust plagues in distant lands

fugitives in leaky boats or airless trucks, desperate and dying.

Here we have faced golf ball hailstones and swirling floods,

inconsequential on the scale of things.

My parents lived through world wars, the great ‘flu, economic depression.

Young men were cut down in swathes like scythed oats.

Our world war is different. Here in New Zealand

I am protected, privileged, blessed.

I have NOTHING to complain about.

But today the grey mist twines and twists around my heart,

hangs heavy in my guts, suffocates my freedom

and drains the colours of my being.

The Academy’s Virtual Blackboard Concert for May. 

Covid-19 home lock down and subsequent Level 2 restrictions have prevented our community venue opening to the usual crowd, but so many hours of volunteered time have captured live performances on video.

See the resulting public playlist free on YouTube here. This is my husband Rob and me, here. 

Here is today's paper on March 4th  2021:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How wonderful to read a lockdown missive from the other side of the planet!

And how hard to still be waiting to hold your grandchild.

Thank you for sharing your world, Jan. When we visited NZ many years ago, we realised the many reasons why people find it hard to leave.

And your foxgloves are immense!