Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Great way to see the country

As I was driving slowly down the road recently, eyes watering and sneezing with hay fever after having just fed out the hay, I saw a lone figure walking on the left side of the road.

I knew immediately it wasn’t a local because the person was not wearing gumboots, a swannie or a beanie, so I pulled over to offer a lift. A bright, smiling face came around to the driver’s side of my ute and introduced herself as JD. She was walking to the store to buy a newspaper and still had 1.5km to go.

I grabbed the five litres of drench, an electric fence reel, an expensive packet of National Identification and Traceability (NAIT) scheme eartags and fencing pliers and threw them behind the passenger’s seat to make room. JD managed to squeeze herself in among the remaining baling twine, loose hay, thermos and hay seed-covered cup and came home with me for a cuppa.

When I ran her back to her house-sit accommodation, she offered to help me with a list of things I can’t do on the computer, and also to proofread my new book for me. JD and her husband Murray come from Himatangi Beach, north of Wellington, and Murray told me later he used to print Dairy Exporter magazine at the Standard Press in Wellington about 40 years ago.

It was all black and white – no colour in those days. Murray had to do a 10,000-hour printing apprenticeship, which included a night shift on Mondays printing the racing publications, Friday Flash and Best Bets.

He was at work the day and all night of the Wahine disaster, as people phoned in news for 18 hours. This was then sent by teleprinter (similar to a fax machine) throughout New Zealand and the world. He earned £10/week in those days.

Murray said anyone working near the rollers of the newspaper, male or female, had to secure their hair in a hairnet and this didn’t go down well with the rock ’n’ roll era. Some men left rather than comply with regulations or have a hair cut.

Compact car

Once he witnessed a huge roll of paper tip off the back of a truck and squash a car. In the 45-plus years he has worked as a printer, he has seen many changes, especially with the advent of computers.

JD joined the printing industry about 20 years ago as a typesetter and page layout person. She would originally type an A4 page, then page lay-up people would cut and paste the news items. Today it’s all done on a computer.

The old printing plates were used sometimes to roof dog kennels or were wrapped around posts for possum control. They were also used as garden edging to stop weeds escaping to the neighbours’ garden.

The printing combination of JD and Murray started their own business in Himatangi, producing monthly community newspapers for local districts and still handle the Himatangi News.

However, as time went by they decided they would like to see more of New Zealand and joined house-sitting websites, as WildTui House Sitters and Pet Minders”. Wild is their surname and Murray likes a drop of Tui. Murray told me he had just read an article on the dangers of drinking, which scared the daylights out of him, so “after today, no more reading”.

They don’t charge for house-sitting because it’s more a combination of helping out home owners and seeing the country and meeting great people.

It was late spring and Murray, not being a country lad, asked me why the dairy cows had blue or pink paint on their backs and tails. I tried to convince him it was blue for bull calves and pink for heifer calves they had conceived from AI. Of course he didn’t buy that one, so I explained the heat-detection process.

Their next house-sitting job is in Northland for two weeks. They touch base frequently with family at home and have kindly let a family from Christchurch who needed to de-stress house-sit their home in Himatangi Beach. I’m sure they will give their pets and home the same loving care that Murray and JD give with their house-sitting.

What a wonderful way to see the countryside at a meandering pace, meet new people and make new friends.

The view the couple has been enjoying in rural Bay of Plenty.

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