Tuesday 27th, October.
Picton to Dunedin.
On arrival at Picton, and after a little confusion as to the exact rendezvous point, we eventually located our campervan.
An extremely likeable chap called Brian–who not only looked just like my Father, but also seemed to have his demeanour–showed us where everything was and how to refill the water / gas tanks; how to dispose of things / hook up to electricity supplies, etc.
‘Maybe everyone, well, every male, down here looks like my Dad?’, I thought to myself; ‘maybe it was something to do with the Scottish descent?’.
A lot of cash changed hands. I was a little unclear about this part. I’d taken care of the deposit before leaving England, and though I knew the balance would need to be paid on our arrival here I felt certain that there would be a means of paying with a credit card; I was wrong, and it was just as well I’d received cash in hand for the work I’d done thus far.
So this was it, after all these years I was finally on New Zealand’s South Island. And from all that I’d been told, I was in a ‘holding pattern’, a state of suspended anticipation; and I wondered when my jaw would start dropping.
There was little need for a GPS, all we had to do was find Highway one, and keep going until Dunedin gets in our way. Our plan is to stop about halfway between Picton and Christchurch, and tomorrow about the same between Christchurch and Dunedin.
It’s very difficult to write on a regular basis, let alone write at all when constantly on-the-move and travelling as I have been these last two weeks. Much of what’s been written has been done so well after the event, and I’ve struggled to recall many of the small backwaters we passed through or stayed at as we journeyed south along the east coast.
It’s almost not even worth saying - because we all know it; I already knew it; but you don’t ‘really’ know it until you’re there seeing it for yourself; but the scenery is actually remarkable. As my Cousin, Nicola stated to me later: ‘if the sun is out, it’s difficult to take a bad picture’. Here are a few more pictures taken on our first two days here. . .
Wednesday 28th October. Solo. Celtic Music Arts Festival, the Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin.
I’ve dreamt of this day ever since I sent my first tentative email enquiry to NZ. I knew I’d probably get the odd gig, but didn’t think it would go much further.
The prospect of playing in Dunedin was something I had a feeling about that I’ve tried often to articulate without much success. I don’t get overly sentimental or precious about matters of heritage and ancestry. If I’m to be completely honest, I’ve looked toward some of my relations here in England with a somewhat conditional view; it’s a view that was coloured very much by the difficulties I had growing up. Some of the rubbish that was said to me as a kid was nothing short of brainless; and whether it was a school teacher, an Auntie or an Uncle, it gave the phrase, ‘you can’t chose your relations’, significant meaning.
I know that it’s not necessarily the smartest thing to go through life viewing things on the basis of what your impressions were as a seven year old, and I’m not sure that’s even what I’m doing. I just like the idea of relating to one-another as people rather than swearing some blind allegiance on the basis of bloodline. But of course, if you’re interested in the lives of others, you do also become interested in your ancestry, and interested in your relations - as people.
Marcel Safier is someone I met for the second time when I was in Australia a few weeks ago. Marcel’s a doctor who lives in Brisbane, and as well as being pretty handy with a camera (see his pictures: Courting With Kangaroos. Saturday 3rd Oct, The Tivoli, Brisbane), he’s very much into the subject of genealogy. I told him a little about my family on my Father’s side, and within a couple of days I received two family trees, and this, a picture of a newspaper cutting from the Otago Witness, dated 6th March 1890.
This was my Great, Great Grandfather, the original Nicol who spent not much short of four months at sea, taking his wife and eight children with him to start a new life here in New Edinburgh.
On ‘my’ arrival in Dunedin I phoned Cousin, Nicola, for the directions to her house. For the next three nights we’ll be lodging with her and husband Alan; not forgetting their trio of children: Hannah, Kate and Amy.
They have a lovely house overlooking the fifth hole of the Balmacewen golf course - purported to be the oldest course in the southern hemisphere. Speaking of which, we have a tee-off time tomorrow afternoon.
But back to the show. It’s at the Otago Settlers Museum, a building dedicated to all of those, like David Nicol, who took the fateful decision to board one of those primitive sailing vessels of the nineteenth century.
This is ‘the’ place to not only learn about these early settlers, but also to carry out research into your family history; as they put it, they have 'an extensive collection which includes manuscripts, photographs, newspapers, directories, cemetery records, church registers, and diaries'.
So from my own point of view it seemed the perfect place to play.
I kept thinking, ‘I bet my Dad came here as a young man’. As I stood on stage I looked out and imagined him in that same room - oblivious to the day I would be standing there myself, performing to these people. It’s surprising I could remember the lyrics.
Actually, when I got to the encore, ‘If Ever I Return This Way’ I couldn’t remember some of the lyrics, but that was more because it had been so long since I’d last played it - not very professional, I know; but I just thought the sentiment was fitting.
The agreed fee for the concert wasn’t particularly high, but I was so pleased to play here that it was the least of my concerns. Based on what else was happening in the city tonight, the organiser had anticipated a small audience; we were, however, more than pleasantly surprised; it was sold out, and the fee was doubled.
The evening concluded with food and wine in the company of family and friends of family. A truly magical night.