Chapter Five Back in New Zealand…. Briefly
When we were leaving Fiji, there was quite a little crowd at Nausori airport to see us off. There were tears and hugs and generous things said. Then the Oliver family boarded the plan with much waving and the plane trundled down to the end of the runway. After ten minutes waiting there, the Captain announced we were returning to the terminal as one of the switches wasn’t working. We thought, “Gosh, we have to go through all that emotional stuff again”, but fortunately all of our little crowd had gone home.
We had purchased a brand new Honda Civic car in Fiji and had seen it off on a ship about ten days before we left. The plan was to go down to the wharf in Auckland and drive to Hawera, home base of our parents. But, at the wharf, for the first hour, our car was nowhere to be found. And then we found it. it was about three foot shorter than we had last seen it. Eighteen inches crushed in at the front, and eighteen inches crushed in at the back. What was more, everything that could have been stolen off it, had been stolen off it; mirrors, wiper blades, battery. It transpired that our car had been put in a container in Suva, then the container had been closed without first strapping the car secure. Perhaps the lunch break had interrupted. The ship had come through a violent storm, so the effect had been, “put in container and shake vigorously.’ We spent the next day or so at the wharf and at the shipping office and the insurance companies office arguing to get our car fixed. At one stage we were informed that our car was considered to be ‘one parcel’ and that the limit of liability for one parcel was 100 pounds. It took a very assertive stand by us with implied threats of exposure to Fair Go before the insurance company agreed to accept responsibility. We hired a car to get us to Hawera where we rested for a couple of weeks.
We were to relocate to Wellington where I had accepted the position of Assistant National Secretary of the National YMCA of New Zealand with special responsibilities for South Pacific liaison and Asian Area of the World Alliance.
While we were in Hawera, Jean decided to renew her driving licence. She was shocked when she was told that our old licences and the Fiji licences were no good and we had to sit all the exams again. So she made an appointment for us to sit the exam and brought home all the test papers for swotting. One of us sat up every night swotting like mad and the other one said don’t panic we can drive as good as the next bloke. So we went to the tests and one of us passed so I said “You will have
to drive me home.” A couple of weeks later in Wellington, I went to the Transport Departments Area office and asked for a new drivers licence. The desk clerk told me l had to sit the exams again. I told her that if she could show me the printed regulation that required me to resit, I would do it, otherwise I politely insisted on a new licence. She told me that she knew she was right and she would go and get the Area Commander to back up her claims. Away she went and came back after five minutes saying that the boss said to give me my licence. So she did.
When we lived in Fiji we were constantly asked, as all expatriates were, ‘Where do you come from?” Everybody could answer as most were on two year contracts and would be returning to the same house and town that they had left. We had sold everything, house, furniture, car, and would not be returning to New Plymouth. Over the six years in Fiji, when we were asked where we were from, I had begun to reply, “From my mother.” And we felt a little insecure when we couldn’t give a home base location to the question. We had a bit of a look around parts of Wellington and finally settled on a house in Newlands overlooking Johnsonville. It had several attractive features. lt was moderately new, at a guess ten years old; it was on leasehold land which reduced the asking price by 20 percent; it had a pleasant outlook to the North and was sheltered from the Southerly winds. We were there about eight months and we had Southerly winds for about five days and all the other days the wind was a Northerly. But another advantage the house had was that it was a short walk to the Johnsonville railway station which had a regular frequent service to Wellington.
We needed a car, especially as we both now had licences, but we had no money. So through our friend John Sutherland, a buyer was found for two of Jean’s rings which we had been buying up through good contacts in Fiji, and for the princely sum of $700 we bought a car which we named ‘jewel.’ It was an English car with very unreliable suspension, or something underneath. It broke down regularly, usually at awkward places.
In the meantime, the insurance people were trying to fix the Honda Civic. We had not realised that there were no four door Honda Civics in New Zealand so all the parts had to be brought in from Japan. Twice they brought in the wrong parts and the delays to the repairs went into months.