I found myself coming on holiday by mistake. Not because we had lifted a key from Uncle Monty but because a work event I booked for had moved dates when I had already booked tickets and set up dog care. So I found myself setting off for 4 nights in Otago with one night in Berhampore beforehand to settle the dog down and spend some time with mum.
And so on a unseasonably brisk Thursday in October I find myself , and Rubes being driven to town by mum over the new transmission gully road. Mum , feeling the cold a lot more than me has the heating set to ‘Saharan Extreme’ , Rubes shuffles between the back set and my lap trying to get comfortable, she pants with a wild look in her eye. The hot dry air pulls the moisture from my eyes and leaves my mouth and throat dry and dusty. Just when I think it’s too much and I will have to ask mum to turn down the heat we hit Wellington , I can lower the window and both the dog and myself bask in the cool air rushing in.
Berhampore is a relic of empire. It’s name comes from the city Berhampore in Bengal , the suburb having been laid out by civil engineers and administrators who escaped the heat of colonial India to weather the gales of Cook Strait . It has streets of Edwardian villas and semidetached cottages that were once shiny and modern, then reviled run down and cheap, and are now expensive and controversial. Most importantly for me Berhampore was, is, and always shall be home.
Ruby is staying with my friend Shannon , dog walker by week , dog lover this weekend. She has a one room wide workers cottage down the hill from my family home where mum still resides. We unload the crate and bean bag I have packed to make Rubes feel at home, I load in my luggage which seems as always far too much for such a small trip. I drink a beer while mum goes to park the car at home. I feel good . I’m Home.
We spend the night at the local pub, now a Sprig and Fern after being many things through the years. In my childhood it was our local post office . I remember the NZ Coat of Arms on the door, the plush red velvet stanchion ropes that set out the queues . The smell of the salami factory smokers across the road. Neoliberlism came along and our post office had to go. We organised , we wore ‘Save our post office!’ badges , we lost. It’s now a pub.
Mum and I eat pizza and curly fries, drink beer and talk about everything. Rubes sits below the leaner , two ladies come and heap attention on her, they tell us about their dog that in it’s 18th year still used to visit the pub but in a push chair. It’s a good evening. We walk mum home past my primary school, then wander down to Shannon’s past the house whose garage used to be our greengrocer , past the house of the girl whose body I first explored , past the bowling club now a golf club , and to bed. I sleep surrounded by the ghosts of a million memories.