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When we hear the news of New Zealand's enviable handling of Covid, friends – standing at the approved distance, of course – ask what on earth caused me to leave and never return.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The wilds of the wilderness ... The countryside is often wild and untamed and quite beautiful, back then when Paul first arrived and certainly today. Photo by Matt Lamers on Unsplash, with many thanks.
My family sailed to NZ back in 1950. Friends feel it must have been like arriving in Paradise, especially one you don't have to die for, and one that very many are dying to move to.

It is a marvellous place, no doubt about that.

Pleasant people

Most kiwis are bright and pleasant people and the weather in many parts is just about sub-tropical.

Probably best of all for long and healthy life, it sits in the Southern Ocean where the air has to be the cleanest in the world.

I have citizenship and the passport, and even did their military training.

The question then demands some head-scratching. And the answer that surfaces surprises me, I admit.

The negatives happened in my very early years which is usually the stage of life when we tolerate and adjust best. Perhaps, though, that ability had been used up by the experience of bombing and air raids during the war.

Relief from what seemed extreme ugliness came – at last! - a few months later. We were to travel to our new home, far into the backblocks. Of course, as a little lad, I couldn't guess that there might be challenges to reaching our home in the bush, the wilds.
Migrating, we were quite a tribe: parents, maternal grandmother, an uncle, three sons, plus a baby daughter.

As families will, we stayed with settled relations – a wonderful aunt, her newish husband, and an adopted lad – in their pleasant Napier home.

Deepest and darkest

My father swapped aeronautics for hydro-electric engineering and quickly went off to the deepest and darkest inland location.

His new life must have been really demanding. For our relations, it meant at least one less to accommodate.

We waited for the Mangakino project to build housing. What grew faster were overcrowding tensions in our foster home in Napier. Such things are usually hidden from young children, but before long it took centre stage.

For the first time in my young life, I experienced a stinging blow from a man - a presumably frustrated new husband.

Our school in Hampshire had been an upmarket Catholic college, so we boys were enrolled in what seemed to be a local equivalent. It wasn't.

It was run by nuns who dispensed more discipline than knowledge via plentiful whacking of legs with rulers. Oddly, I still remember the shock of witnessing the attacks.

Punching his bride

Then, returning from school one day, I saw the man of the house punching brutally his newish bride, my very pleasant aunt. A man striking a woman. Had I arrived in Hell?

Relief from what seemed extreme ugliness came – at last! - a few months later. We were to travel to our new home, far into the backblocks.

Of course, as a little lad, I couldn't guess that there might be challenges to reaching our home in the bush, the wilds. We piled into an NZR bus and began a twisting, jarring, road-dust filled 18-hour journey.

This little lad from flat and civilised Hampshire learned very abruptly about astonishingly steep and unsealed roads … and travel sickness, all the way to our new home.

Very many classmates at my new school were also from migrant families – and the local kids gave us hell.

For almost every hour of school time, we were reminded mockingly of our status as Poms, and unsavoury variations on the theme, plus the fiercest hostility with which young people seem specially accomplished.

Thanks very much for visiting the mostly Tuesday and Thursday blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, which are introduced each time on Facebook Facebook dot com/Sailingtopurgatory

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The blogs for Sailing to Purgatory are introduced on Facebook.