I had another holiday in the Marlborough Sounds when I was 14. By then we were living in Australia and my parents gave me a trip to New Zealand as a Christmas present. I stayed in Wellington for a while and then took the ferry across the Cook Strait (wonderful voyage this time) and then our family friends, who by now had their own speed boat, came and picked me up and took me back to their holiday house.
My parents’ friends had three children. A boy aged about 17, a girl my age and a younger daughter. Close to their house were quite a few holiday houses dotted in the hills and as there were no beaches because the hills rose straight up from the sea, everyone had a deep (as in really deep) water frontage with their only means of transport (a boat) tied up at their jetty. Being January the houses were all occupied and filled with teenagers and the older brother always seemed to have plenty of teenagers his age hanging around the house. Sometimes he would let me and his younger sister join them.
Some days we went water-skiing and other days we went swimming but mostly we just sun-bathed on the boats. All the girls wore bikinis and the boys wore board shorts. The girls just loved flirting with the teenage boys and my friend and I found this highly amusing. It was the era of topless sunbathing and my friend complained to her mother that the girls were all taking their tops off and letting the boys see their bosoms and that was upsetting her because she was feeling left out as didn’t want to go topless, especially in front of her brother. Her mother dismissed this saying, ‘ Don’t be so silly. If the girls want to go topless that’s fine and how lovely to have nice brown breasts and no tan lines.’ (This was in the pre-skin cancer awareness days when the browner you were, the better and tan lines were the ultimate ‘no no’).
Her daughter said, ‘But mum, they only take their tops off when they’re going to dive off the boat and go swimming, when they get out of the water they put their tops back on.’
And her mother then changed her mind and agreed saying, ‘Well that’s just being silly. If the girls aren’t going topless all the time they’re just showing off’.
And so my friend told her big brother that all the girls he was hanging around with were just show-offs and that started quite a fight with him defending his topless girlfriends.
One night the brother wanted to go to a party. We wanted to go with him. His mother said none of us were going because we’d be taking the boat and that’s too dangerous at night because it doesn’t have lights so how would we be able to see where we’re going. He said he’d take a torch. She said it was too dangerous and we weren’t to go. He screamed at her that she was just so unreasonable and non-trusting and that she treated him like he was still a little boy and, ‘I’m nearly an adult mum, when are you going to treat me like one’ and he went on and on and on until she caved in and next thing I knew we were all dressed up for a party and heading out on a boat with no lights and just a torch.
We didn’t have any trouble getting there as it wasn’t yet dark. My friend and I had a good time at the party observing all the flirty girls who were wearing tops but throwing themselves at the almost startled boys. At about 11pm we went back down to the jetty and climbed into the boat. It was now pitch-black and you couldn’t see where the hills and rocks jutted out of the water. The water was dead calm creating not even a ripple so that made it harder to see the outline of the coastline as well. And there was no moon, just the stars. There were about five of us who climbed into the boat and the older brother, the ‘I’m nearly a man’, was driving the boat and he asked his sister to get up the front and shine her torch so he could see where he was going. He asked her to shine it down in front of where the boat should be going and she was saying she should shine it further ahead and then he was screaming at her insisting she hold it down in front and I was up the back listening to them fight like they had been all their lives when suddenly we went over a freak wave and the torch light was thrown upwards and we saw a few metres in front of us a rocky out-crop with an enormous hill behind it. We all screamed as a nasty death was imminent but he threw the boat into reverse. We still hit the rocks but not at a speed where any of us or the boat were damaged.
For the remainder of the journey he let his sister shine the torch further ahead, not immediately in front of the boat, but he screamed at her that she was not to tell their mother how we’d almost all been killed. And she promised she wouldn’t say a thing. But she told her mother first thing the next morning.
I learned a lot that holiday – topless sunbathing is only okay if you’re topless all the time and, if you’re going out on a boat at night, lights would be good.
I grew up on rock cakes. They are something my mother made all the time. The recipe I have used is from the Edmonds Cookery Book, which has sold over 3,000,000 copies and can be found in almost every New Zealand home. I was unable to buy mixed peel so substituted glace cherries as I had a lot leftover from my Christmas baking.
Degree of Difficulty: 1/5
- 50g (2 oz) butter
- 1 cup plain flour
- 50g (2 oz) sugar
- 50g (2 oz) mixed dried fruit
- 25g (1 oz) mixed peel
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp baking powder
- milk to mix (about 1 tbspn)
Rub butter into the flour, then add the other dry ingredients, the beaten egg, and sufficient milk to make a stiff dough. Place in rocky shapes on greased oven tray, and bake at 200C for 10 to 12 mins.
All images of the Marlborough Sounds are by David Wall Photography.
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