Te Maika – 7

Back view of James McNeish’s house on the hill – rather more modern than it was in his time of residence.

It’s interesting how little things in life line up… While I have been re-living old experiences at Te Maika a friend directed me to a broadcast she has been listening to recently. Some of you may remember one James McNeish, a New Zealand author and journalist of some renown who actually just died in November last year (2016).  Jamie (as he was known) lived for several years at Te Maika and wrote about much of his time there in a book called “Touchstones”.  This book has been recorded in chapter bites by Radio NZ and can be heard online starting from Part 12.

Personally, I remember when Jamie bought his house on the hill and resided there with his new wife, Helen. The most vivid memory being the time the two of them swam in “our” bay – stark naked.  My mother didn’t know whether to look and laugh or tell us to look in the other direction! As there are just two baches that look onto the beach and they were uninhabited for at least 11 months of the year it was quite likely that Mr and Mrs McNeish didn’t realise we were in residence.

Jamie also mentions the shop which I referred to in an earlier post. He describes it as a tin shack (or similar) which was actually the Post Office… I guess a post office was needed for the inhabitants of Te Maika and further up the harbour… all ten or so of them! Beside the shop-cum-post-office was a telephone box… actually, “was” is inaccurate as it is still standing… just… As you can see from the date on the photo, that was taken in 2011 – it is more decrepit now and the rail has since gone.

This phone was the life-line for holiday-makers before the days of cell-phones and other modern media. Initially it was a service provided by the government, I believe, but eventually bach-owners had to pay a subsidy to keep the service running. Toll calls being the exception, of course, and there must have been a way of depositing coins to cover these costs.

Of course, there were more phone calls made from the phone than received as one would need to ask a caller to ring at a certain time and then be at the phone box at that time to answer the call.  At the height of the holiday season I do remember having to queue to use the phone or to wait for your call to come through. I guess evenings would be the popular times for calls as we were much too busy to think of ringing anyone during our busy days!