Fr Kevin Neal
Our Christmas holidays were late this year – very late, in fact.
The couple with whom I usually spend Christmas were in Palestine visiting her brother last Christmas and, by the time this and that were covered, half the year had passed us by. So we set off for our Christmas break in the middle of winter.
The only one thing to do when that happens is to go North – a long way North.
Our destination, Kerikeri, is quite a distance. We stopped in Pukekohe and Orewa to meet with family and friends and then moved on.
Northland has the reputation of being winterless and, compared with the rest of the country, it probably is. I think the weather could mostly be called benign.
As usual we hired a house through Rent A Bach. It turned out to be excellent – just seven minutes out of Kerikeri and interesting in its own right. It was run by a Ragdoll cat breeder and lover. They are the most cuddly of pets and plain good fun.
Our hosts also kept llamas. I had seen plenty from a distance but now was the chance to get up close and personal. One thing I always presumed about llamas is that they would ‘baaa’ like a sheep. I nearly died of fright when the first llama to address me let forth a deep seated ‘mooo’. Just thought I’d mention that!
One of the first places we set out to see was the Edmonds ruined homestead. The original John Edmonds was an ancestor of the family I was with and it was an exciting turn up when we found the old relics still reasonably well kept. John, his wife Mary Ann and their five sons were the first European settler family on the south side of the Kerikeri Inlet.
This Edmonds isn’t related to the ‘Sure to Rise’ Edmonds line in Christchurch, but it was good fun finding a well-preserved bread baking oven.
John was a stonemason sent by the Church Missionary Society to build Kerikeri’s notable stone store, but it was all but finished by the time he got there.
One of the things we do when we’re visiting new areas on Sundays is to find the church and where it fits in the local area. The churches are the same in many respects yet every one is different.
We always locate the church beforehand so that on Sunday we know where and when Mass is without having to ask anyone. There are always people around on Saturday getting the church ready and Kerikeri was no exception.
This Sunday, we were informed, there were to be baptisms at Mass. There were four as it turned out, all from the same family. They were really made welcome and didn’t seem fazed by the large number there or their role in the scheme of things.
The Mass went well past the regulation 55 minutes and I never heard a whisper from the people. Very promising. After Mass there was a morning tea – it seemed a fairly regular set up, and it went on forever. That was also a good thing.
There was plenty going on around Kerikeri, even in the middle of winter.
These are two things that really stick in my mind.