“When you come inside you get ready for bed.”
The children knew this and it was a great ploy to keep them outside for as long as possible! By the time my children and my friends’ children had another friend or cousin at Te Maika we often numbered three adults and six children in our tiny bach. None of us really minded where we slept so long as we had somewhere to lay our heads so we had energy for the following day’s activities.
But evenings were quite special, too. The first task, once night came upon us, was to light the lamp. The procedure went something like this:
- Check that there was sufficient kerosene in the base for the evening.
- Turn various knobs for whatever reasons…
- Pump a knob to build up pressure until gauge reached a red line.
- Fill tray below mantle with meths.
- Light meths with match.
- When meths has mostly burned off turn another knob and light the mantle with another match (I think).
- Hope mantle lights.
- Pump again to ensure gauge is at red line.
I lived in fear that the whole thing would blow up in our faces; the children loved to help and were quite in awe of the procedure. On occasion I did have to rush the lamp outside as something went wrong, and we would wait until the flames died down before beginning all over again! But the lamp generally worked very well and provided ample light to sit around the table playing games. Another benefit was that the fumes kept mosquitoes and other little insects away.
A smaller and less complicated kerosene lamp was used for light in the kitchen and bathroom and torches were kept handy if one needed to visit the long drop in the night (though, I think the moonlight served instead when one just popped out the door…!)
One night each holiday the children were allowed to go outside again after dark… Moonlight was not a video game back then. It was game where players hid and then returned to an allocated spot (“home”) before the “in” person spotted or caught them. Of course, the adults joined in … and visits to the long drop were essential before the game began! Even so, I remember more than one occasion when one of the girls came back laughing loudly… “I’ve wet my pants!” or she crashed to the ground just short of “home” with her legs crossed laughing so much, “I’m peeing my pants!!”
The kerosene lamps were gradually superseded by more modern ones and then camping lamps and flash torches until now we actually have solar-powered lighting – turned on by the flick of a switch, and in all the sleeping areas, too!
My daughter, on a recent visit, asked if we could light the old lamp “for old times’ sake…” “Ummmm, no!”