Jenny’s Place

The flight to New Zealand is mercifully short, if a little bumpy and very cramped. It is hard to believe that the long beach which appears from the cloud below us is really part of that almost mythical land.
On arrival and after due processing by the border folk we are met by Jenny. Efficiently she supplies us with water, loads us into her car and carries us off to her home near Matakana. We travel through the city of Auckland and past its huge harbour bridge before traversing the suburbs. The buildings are generally low, wood-built and well spaced out. It is immediately obvious that we are in yet another zone as far as the flora is concerned. The landscape beyond is reminiscent of Derbyshire, but more tumbled, more turbulent. To the north of Auckland we are soon into farming country which once again recalls England, but England with an odd accent.
Matakana is a small, neatly kept settlement with a distinctly upmarket feel. It reminds me of Norman Rockwell’s Stockbridge. But we go straight through Matakana and onward into increasingly hilly countryside by narrow roads and finally by a very steep gravel track we arrive at Chez Jenny. This is where we are to stay thanks to her generosity.
My first reaction, which remains with me throughout our visit is ‘Make the most of this, you’ll wake up in a minute!’ We get out of the car. We are on top of a high hill. There is a sloping lawn before us surrounded by beautiful trees and shrubs. This opens onto a truly stunning view over a wide bay dotted with islands and with a distant hint of Auckland beyond. It’s now after eight but still light and there is a distinct and un-Queensland-like but welcome chill in the air. In the evening light the view conjures Avalon, indescribably lovely and for ever out of reach. Behind the house is eleven acres (count them) of New Zealand bush. Strange birds are flying around making previously unheard, exotic sounds all of which adds to the dreamlike quality of the scene.
The house itself is a large open plan structure with a very spacious lounge and kitchen. It is an eco-house and there is a high wall of heat-retaining bricks in front of the open wooden staircase. The high roof itself with its big beautifully coloured wooden trusses is visible above the main living area giving something of the impression of a Saxon hall. There are lovely tiles and carpets on the floor and some splendid wooden furniture. The colours, enhanced by the choice of pictures on he walls are a glowing warm honey buff and faded pinks and crimsons. The interior is described by Jenny as ‘rustic’ which I guess is technically true but the overall air is of an easy-going and welcoming opulence.

We are in the cottage which is down the garden through a path bordered by fine plants. The cottage itself is large and well furnished and has the same wonderful view of the bay with its islands through a large picture window. A big comfortable bed ensures that our nights are warm and restful. If we want an even clearer view we can sit on the decking at the front.
Back in the house we are served a thick and delicious vegetable stew with bread followed by a fresh fruit salad for dessert. Jenny positively mothers us all evening and indeed is the most attentive of hostesses throughout our visit. I can’t help thinking of the Hobbit and his visit to the Last Homely House, it seems somehow appropriate.
During the night I am up for an hour southern stargazing. In spite of the glow from Auckland which obscures some of the stars of Centaurus and Triangulum the view of the Night sky is terrific. I look at the Tarantula nebula within the LMC and at the bright globular cluster 47 Tucanae and eta Carinae, all real treats in the binoculars. The southern Pleiades also look good but would have to yield pride of place to the northern original which is still visible, upside down of course, in the northern sky. I am pleased to see that my grasp of the southern constellations is improving.