Tuesday, July 28, 2009

End of an Era

In the mail, (addressed to our previous home), there was a letter from the NZ Transport Authority pointing out to me that as I turn 75 in two months time I’ll need to renew my driving licence. As I gave up driving last year it no longer is a concern to me. But somehow its loss is another erosion of identity. Its presence in my pocket was of significance – adulthood, independence, and identification.

I got my licence as a university student in Christchurch. I have driven all round New Zealand – to Cape Reinga, Hicks Bay, Haast, Invercargill, (never made Bluff). When I was in the inspectorate I drove all round the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and East Coast. I loved the drive to Te Araroa. When I lived in Thames I explored the Cormandel. And from Hamilton we could go to Kawhia or Raglan or explore the hydro dams dotted along the Waikato River.

My first wife, a geographer, had a sister living in Greymouth so from that base we roamed around the West Coast, especially pottering around the old gold-diggings. We were at the opening of Shantytown. I recall years later taking Mum to visit my half-brother Rick in Holitika. We went over Arthur’s Pass but heavy snow closed the route so I drove back to Christchurch over the Lewis – a magical drive for the beeches were covered in snow which kept dropping on the car.

Overseas, three times I’ve driven around Britain – the first down to Land’s End and up to John O Groats. The Cortina’s windscreen wipers stopped working so I took it to the Avvis depot in Bournemouth. They gave me a Jaguar at Cortina rates so I drove to Cornwall and then north to Scotland in luxury. Though the bed and breakfasts we stayed at looked surprised when we arrived in such a magnificent vehicle.

Several times in Australia. A visit to Hanging Rock was a highlight. Once in France, rather nerve-wracking that right-hand drive. And once in Hawaii, right round Oahu.

The last big drive I made was in 2006. After a family wedding in Rotorua – the drive up had become ritualistic, morning tea at the Brown Sugar cafĂ© in Taihape and then a picnic lunch on the shores of Lake Taupo – we drove on to Ohope for a beach holiday. We feasted a lot on rock oysters. On the way south Anne sprained her ankle which meant she couldn’t share the driving. I remember driving along the Foxton straight and thinking I’m getting rather old for this caper.

When I stopped driving last year it was with a sensation of closing a book – that chapter of my life had ended. I was reliant upon others, or taxis.

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