How many have we lived, how many were perfect and how many can we recall? Mostly, I suspect, we remember the summers of our youth. Those long hot days of sun and beach, of swimming through days of blissful freedom.It’s January, here in New Zealand. The last of school holidays are being lived to the full by our children soon to be back in their February classrooms.
Today, at a midday high tide, our local beach spilled over with a large bunch of teenagers laughing and shouting. Seventeen young Janes and Tarzans grabbed the rope that has ever hung from the old pohutukawa tree branch that stretches out from the cliff rocks and hurled themselves out and over the high tide waters; their lithe young bodies wet, slick and shiny as they leap out swing to the peak then - let go – and drop, splash into the clear water - while the rope returns to the tree to be caught by the next swinger. It’s so important for young ones to be part of a group of friends.I am working on the sequel to my novel, River River Raupo Rye, published last year. A central character in this second book is Miriam, Iona’s daughter, who is now thirteen. It is summer1934, and her family, friends and relations are camping on a Northern Wairoa beach. Miriam is compelled to stay ashore while her peers go out rowing. Her mother thinks the girl is unwell. She is to rest.
Miriam stomps along the river beach on wild legs. Her toes grab at the sand – but she will not run. Oh no, she will not give her mother the satisfaction of seeing her run away in a paddy like a big kid; because that’s what her mother thinks she is – a big kid. And she isn’t a kid. She isn’t. She’s thirteen for goodness sake. Fancy being told she had to have a rest in the afternoon when she’s thirteen years old – lumped in with Jimmy and all the other little kids. How embarrassing!‘Auntie Maryanne wouldn’t make Maggie have a rest.’ Miriam snapped at no-one – seeing nothing in her rage. ‘No! Hot! Hot, hot, too hot!’
She has wandered up the beach onto hot sand and runs, inelegantly on the balls of her feet, on burning toes, straight into the baby ripples of the slow incoming tide – and there she whimpers – feet and feelings smarting on the last hot summer’s day of 1934.’
This is Jean ‘Angel’ Allen hoping you are enjoying your summer of 2013.