Around the bend

First attempts at family camping

We decided on Otaki Forks for our first family camping holiday. It was far away enough to jostle the synapses. There was no cell phone coverage. There was a section of unsealed corrugated road, and a small ford. Enough deterrents that anyone going there had to go there on purpose, yet close enough to home that we could bail if the going got too tough.

The Guy in the Orange Togs

Celebrating the swimming hole

New Zealand might be all coast yet my childhood camping trips were rarely by the sea. Instead we went inland to immense grassy campgrounds in South and Central Canterbury. There we endured the tedium of setting up tents, bending pegs into the hard soil and discovering a mean bloom of mildew in the nylon. We labelled our sausages and milk before hiding them at the back of the communal fridge.

A Crucifix Almost Cut It

How to build a Christmas tree that means something

The definition of a Christmas tree has always been pretty loose in my household. Often it meant propping a dead branch we’d found on the ground against the wall. Before they bought into the fibre-optic revolution, my grandparents had one of those metallic red plastic ones. And once, when I was little, Dad went out and felled a huge pine tree from the back paddock of the farm.

A Timms Trap and a Bag of Apples

Man versus possum

My wife and I just bought a house. Mum has taken responsibility for the garden. Our place backs onto a neighbour’s overgrown section. Beyond that is a stand of blue gums. We have possums. At night they cross the wasteland and eat the new roses and strawberries.

I Was Afraid of a Lot of Things in There

Ashleigh Young revisits the dense bushland of her childhood


The bush that grew over the hills above our house wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t make an easy sense. It was grubby and damp, a muddle of tree roots, rotted tree trunks, supplejack, and periwinkle – a scrambling, hairless weed with tubular flowers. None of the trees were conducive to treehut building. They were too spindly, too tall, or too difficult, their trunks lathered in moss.