Miramichi Caucus in Napier, NZ

Posted on March 6, 2008
Filed Under Commentary, Travel | Leave a Comment

I have run into increasingly new and odd behaviour on the part of my blog software. It has not been allowing me to post pics. I’m using Michelle’s Mac so there may be some compatibility problems but they seem to be getting worse. I’ll fix as I can.

Back in late October, I met Dan Johnston in Miramichi. Dan is a peripatetic teacher from
Sillikers. He has been a world traveler since his youth. He has used his teaching credentials, augmented by credentials as an English-as-a-second-language teacher to land teaching positions in Russia, China, Europe and New Zealand.
Some years ago, deciding to forego Sillikers winters, he acquired property in Queenstown, NZ, near the bottom of the country with the intention of spending half of his year there. Later, preferring yet warmer weather, he sold his properties there and moved to Napier on, Hawke’s Bay, 400 km southwest of Auckland on the Pacific Ocean.
Dan gave me a host of pointers for planning our trip and insisted we go to Napier and visit. We did.
Napier is a beautiful city. In 1931, an earthquake leveled the place and raised the ocean floor creating more land. The city was mostly reborn all at once when Art Deco was the style. The city’s gorgeous Pacific beaches are separated from the port area by a high rocky promontory.
Following Dan’s directions, we found our way to his house, high atop the promontory, looking out over a stunning vista of ocean, parkland, and a prison-gang-built artificial cascade falling to a setting far below where wedding parties line up for photographs on a little wooden bridge.
The panorama compelled our attention so fully, it was quite some time before we really noticed the rest of the house and the yard where flowers, a lemon tree and citrus fruit trees abound. Dan’s lemon tree has produced over 400 kilos of lemons since he got to Napier in November and continues to bloom while bearing ripe fruit. The song is right. The lemon tree is very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet.
To the time we left, though, I had a hard time taking my eyes off the view to the ocean.
With its wonderful vistas, fine Hawke’s Bay wineries, and the popular art deco festival featuring antique cars, jazz-era entertainment and fashion, Napier is a very popular and romantic town. Frank Sinatra is having a very big year in Napier.
The Marine Parade is a strip of waterfront pavilions, beaches, parks and gardens. It is also the location of the national aquarium featuring New Zealand and South Pacific fish, reptiles and marine fauna. Visitors walk through an underwater tunnel with dozens of species, including sharks on both sides and overhead.
At the risk of boring you with repetition, Napier is another version of Miramichier heaven. I don’t know if Dan Johnston really knew what he was looking for as he roamed the world, but he certainly knows and appreciates what he has found. His life is one the rest of us fantasize.
To add to the fun, Dan insisted we stay another night and meet Ken and Jean Goodfellow, stopping by from Blackville. Ken and Dan went to school together. Ken spent his career in various parts of Canada, ending up in Mississauga, before he and his Saskatchewan born wife, Jean, decided to relocate to Ken’s home ground.
Speaking for myself, it seemed a bit surreal to be among five Miramichiers meeting half a world away in a summer paradise in February.
The Cadogan family crest bears the motto, “Qui invidet, minor est” – Who envies is lesser.
I can truly say I am very happy for Dan Johnston and the life he has made for himself. Still, I am monitoring myself carefully for signs of shrinkage.
On we go! Next on the list is the capitol of New Zealand, Wellington and then on to the South Island.


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