Yet inside, upstairs I could see the motorway heading south out of the city. From that motorway you could go anywhere, down towards Tauranga, or to the Lake or keep going to the Capital and the Mainland. I guess some people would hate it – that room overlooking the cars. But I liked watching them zipping past when it was empty or inching slowly when it was full. They were like pieces in a board game. On the near side, cars flicker past just out of my view. Those cars were heading into the city and I felt sorry for them.
The flat was just one of a block – flat, cream painted, tilt slab concrete. At night in the halogen spotlight that spilt out through the double glazing, I noticed the potted herbs in one window, the fake crystal hanging in another and through mine there was nothing because it was all still in a couple of boxes. Boxes wearing the lint of gathered dust, shaken off on the courier trip north. The writing on the sides of them, was careful, rounded black marker for if I ever came home to open them. They hold an old life; perhaps they should just be taken to the dump. All these years, they have stayed closed, untouched, and unrequired.
January 3, 1984
Tonight Mum made damper dough with flour, sugar and water. Dad looked after the fire and we went looking for damper sticks in the bush.
We wanted long straight sticks that we could mould our damper onto the end. It had to be long enough that we could hold the mixture over the fire without our hands becoming too hot. Dave found the best stick. We got handfuls of the damper mixture and squeezed it over the end of the stick. We held our damper over the fire. We kept tapping them to see if they sounded hollow and cooked.
A couple walked past from a campervan that had just arrived. The campervan couple went away and came back with golden syrup. We filled the middles with the golden syrup and got very sticky fingers. The man from the campervan said he hadn't made dampers in fifty years. The lady hadn't made them at all.
When the damper dough was gone, we had hot milos with a tacky taste from our plastic, camping cups. The sandflies were fierce and now I itch. When we were in bed we heard thousands of frogs but they didn’t say ribbit and there was something else.
January 4, 1984
Today we packed up and drove to Reefton and put the tent up again.
We looked around the town. The shops were wooden and there was a cinema with a sign that was made up of thousands of tiny silver disks. It was supposed to sparkle but the disks were rusty. They shook in the wind against the peeling, white paint. On the way back to the tent, it started to rain. It rained hard and soft.
After tea we went for a walk and Dad took us to have a look at this thing. It was the ruins of the first hydroelectric power station in the Southern Hemisphere. I looked down into this pit and there were just heaps of bathtubs lying around with pipes.
This first box had been mostly old certificates, reports and my academic record from university, typed up in black courier font with Degree Conferred, not even in bold. I should probably keep them. I had worked so hard for them and I thought they held my future. Then I found the diary. My cellphone started ringing in the lounge. The laptop replied with a ping of new email arriving.
Episode 888: The First Shutdown
4 hours ago