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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 61 - Our Leafy Suburb

…When I reached the top floor I saw sunshine flooding in through floor to ceiling windows…

Gayle Woodward and her family decide to buy a house in a leafy suburb of Auckland.

To read more of Gayle's engaging story of family life in New Zealand click on Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine in the menu on this page.

I had a strange phone call from my mother. I was back in Upper Hutt while we sold one house and found another in Auckland and she was delighted that the family was moving back close by. My sister had moved to Hamilton, with her husband and girls on promotion, and Mum felt it would be good to have at least some of the grandchildren back home.

Mum had been out shopping when one of her legs had simply given way and she had fallen, crashing to the ground. She was on the pavement and her shopping had flown from her hands. Mum was grazed, cut and bruised but mostly shocked. She worried about what could have caused the fall. I thought that it would be good if I was back with her to offer some support while she worried.

At the same time Woody’s father was in advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease. He could no longer speak and it was difficult visiting and sitting with him, keeping a one sided conversation alive. The younger children in past years had found no difficulty talking to him. With the egotism of childhood they prattled on about everything which interested them and he enjoyed hearing the adventures. Now that they were older they had the same problem with conversations that we did. It might be easier when we lived close by.

Woody was flying back and forth from Auckland, preparing to take on his new role. He was house hunting while there with the idea of presenting me with some houses he thought might suit our purposes.

We had been looking at prospectuses of secondary schools for the two boys to see which area we might like to live in.
Our friends, Carol and Owen, had moved back to Auckland, also on promotion, and had settled in Bucklands Beach, an expensive suburb in Auckland’s east. Their eldest son was attending Macleans College and urged us to think about this very prestigious secondary school for our two. We doubted our ability to buy into this area as it was very expensive. There was another school in Pakuranga, a suburb still well thought of but less expensive, being slightly further away from the beaches of Bucklands Beach.

But the boys solved our dilemma. They looked inside the prospectus of each school at the respective uniform codes of the two schools. At Macleans College, boys, including seniors, had to wear roman sandals in summer and they both threw up their arms, aghast, at the thought of this. At Pakuranga College, either shoes or sandals were suitable while in the senior school, which Jeff would be attending, students wore mufti. The boys were adamant. We had to buy in Pakuranga; that is where they would like to attend school.

Woody found one house which he thought had good possibilities for a teenage family. It had a huge in-ground concrete swimming pool, news which the children found very exciting. I flew to Auckland to look at that house and a selection of others. The real estate agent took us to the least appealing first. I was horrified at some I was shown. I had lived the past eleven years in brand new houses and now I had to think about renovation and houses that were not perfect but nearly so. But I liked the suburb. It was leafy and quiet, had good facilities and was relatively close to my parents.

The house that Woody liked best was last on the list. It was hidden at the end of a long driveway off a street called Meadway. My first impression was that it was very brown. It was a double storey house, painted brown all over.

The house had a strange entry as it had been converted to a house above with a flat downstairs. We entered at the back door, through the garage, which had a carpeted strip to make the odd entry more acceptable. There was a narrow staircase leading up and it was only when I ventured up that I began to see what Woody had seen in the possibilities of this house.

When I reached the top floor I saw sunshine flooding in through floor to ceiling windows and large open living areas. A small intimate deck opened off the dining room and tropical bougainvillea was blooming in chaotic purple profusion in the pagoda above it. The pool was sparkling blue in the sunshine.

There was a free standing copper fireplace, four bedrooms and a small but well appointed, solid wood kitchen. The carpet was green shag pile and the lounge wallpaper was a red with a regimental flavour, glaringly unsuitable. The bathroom was awful; Jeff would have to sleep in the flat bedroom downstairs and in the small cramped kitchen when one opened the dishwasher, one could not open the oven door to the left of it. But there were beautiful tall trees, a large flat backyard suitable for cricket games and a spa pool.

I felt daunted by the amount of renovation we would have to do the make this house suitable, but it was in zone for the college which the boys had chosen, the school year was nearly over, the asking price was not too far away from our limit and we had to move in January. I agreed. We determined to go home and make enquiries as to how we could pay for this house should our offer be accepted.

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