Ch 7 - Richard Colin Fifield AKA Colin My Input

Colin’s Input

Dad left out quite a chunk of information here so I have inserted this to help bridge the gap. Anything I have put in is all in Italics.

After Dad left the army I’m not sure when exactly, but Dad & Mum went to live in Dover and I recall we lived in Castle Road. I was a Child of about 3 or 4 then. David & Frank had been born and from there we moved to 105 Folkestone Road. I loved this house. 4 Stories high, it was a semi detached house (a block of 3). We were the middle house. It was some time here that Dad joined the Merchant Navy as a cook. He was often away for periods of up to 3 months at a time. He did not like being away from home but it must have been worthwhile as he had obviously been able to save up for the deposit on the house in Folkestone Road. I remember him coming home one time and he passed us by as he climbed the thirty or so steps from Dover Priory Station, I was with other boys, I can’t remember who at the time it could have been David, but I’m not sure, whether he recognised us at all, as he seemed to walk right past us. Dad seemed to be away much of the time when I was younger. I don’t recall him being there when I was five and started school.

Paul was born at home in Folkestone Rd, I remember, David, Frank and I being shuttled of to Grand’s house in St Radigans on the other side of town at some unearthly time of night, and it was freezing cold. Really unaware of what was going on. A few days later mum & Dad came back to collect us from Nan’s and we met our new baby brother Paul.

Mum wanted to earn an income and so they, (Mum & Dad) decided to turn the house into a “Bed and Breakfast”. There were several along the Folkestone Road but there was room for another it seemed. It seemed to go OK. Dad was determined to do allot of the work himself. He started by converting a shed out the back into a bathroom for the family to use. It didn’t seem to take too long, the one upstairs was upgraded for the guests. Wallpaper was put up throughout the house. I recall when they were getting the house ready the guy who did the wallpapering, was hanging it from several flights of stairs high. All in one drop, it looked pretty impressive to me even then. I know dad was impressed, and within a few short months it seemed to be finished. They put a sign up with lights which looked like a big speech box that you see in comics, but it worked, and they had guests starting knocking on the door the first night they switched it on, They started to get some regulars from time to time. I recall Mum making a deal with David & I to help out with the cleaning of the rooms making the beds and vacuuming the floors including the stairs.

I don’t remember Mum doing any advertising as such, I remember the sign being put up that was lighted and we would turn on or off if we were full or not, I remember being woken to the smell of bacon and eggs being cooked for our guests. They were looked after very well with breakfasts.

Dad was pretty handy with his hands as he did allot of the work on the shed that was turned into a bathroom and also put a kitset cabin that he turned into a bedroom that David and I had. He also dug out a courtyard and fashioned steps that would lead up to the garden behind the house.

Dad was still going away on the boats to work and supplement the income for the house. It was on one of these last trips that he was able to meet Derek and Janet, his niece who had emigrated to New Zealand a couple of years before. I think that it was on another trip that they had convinced Dad that New Zealand was a good place to live and bring up children.

When Dad came back to talk to Mum it was a no brainer, it didn’t seem to take too long before we were up to London to talk to some commissioner at New Zealand house. There would have been forms to fill in but things went well and within about 3 months we found ourselves on a ship called “The Southern Cross” heading to New Zealand. The day we left Southampton was a lovely day and just happened to be Mums and Dads Wedding Anniversary. 13th June 1967.

We arrived in Wellington on the 13 July 1967. As kids we all had a great time for the month we were on board. All of a sudden we were there. The first thing we had to do was board a train to take us to Frankton, just outside of Hamilton. It was the most uncomfortable train ride I had ever been on. The seats were the pits and we were forever stopping and starting or so it seemed.  They were nothing like the trains in the UK. We started off from Wellington at 6pm and arrived in Frankton about 3am. It wasn’t over quite then as we had to get on a bus that would take us back to Rotorua., which was another 2 hours away on the bus as there was no rail link from Wellington to Rotorua. There was a railway line in Rotorua but where it went I don’t have a clue, even today.

Dad started work pretty much straight away at a Restaurant called the BBQ at the Lake end of the town’s main street. The owner had agreed to sponsor dad by him working for him, guaranteed for 2 years.

Janet and Geof had found us a house to live in when we got there. It was quite a big house, not far from the lake, and it was not far from where Dad worked. First things first, as kids we had to be enrolled in school. I was enrolled in Rotorua’s Boys High School, David and Frank to the Intermediate and Paul went to the Primary School. Personally I did not like the school. The headmaster was a bit of a tyrant, and so were most of the teachers. The cane was threatened and used often on boys who would continually play up. Some of the rules were draconian. Look out if you had lost your cap (usually stolen by other boys) so you would have to be smart to hang on to it. But this is not my Journal but Dads so I must not digress.

To get anywhere in New Zealand you had to have your own vehicle as buses ran few and far between. (Still do I must ad). So Dad had to learn to drive and pass a test for his licence. Dad got his licence after about a year or so, I know that later on he did not like driving at all. Once Dad had his license he would take us all out in this beat up 1953 Hillman. It was wheels I guess, and it got us around from time to time. We would sometimes go to far of places like Tauranga or visit the Blue & Green Lakes. But I knew Dad didn’t like driving because we wouldn’t go too often. As kids, we probably made him nervous as we could be quite distracting for him and he was also nervous of the other traffic on the road as well.

I think it was about 12 months after we arrived that the money from the sale of the house in Dover came through as we moved into a brand new house that had been built in a new suburb called Fenton Park. When we moved there, there were plenty of empty sections ready to build on, but this took years. We had so much space to run wild on.

After Dads time was up at the BBQ he stayed for some time after, but a while later ended up at the Rotorua International Hotel which was walking distance from home. It was during his time here that Mum started to get quite sick. The doctors had no idea what was going on until someone figured out that it was renal failure. It started off with Flu like symptoms and then got gradually worse until one day she was taken to hospital by ambulance. She was eventually taken to Green- lane Hospital in Auckland again by ambulance and was treated there. There was no quick fix for this as she was put on Dialysis. Her kidneys had failed and I believe they were removed. She was on the list for a kidney transplant. This treatment was very new to New Zealand and Mum was the first along with another guy (Murray Murray was his name ) in New Zealand to have a kidney transplant.

 It was quite expensive and time consuming for Dad to run back and forth between Rotorua and Auckland being 4 hours away in the car, so eventually we all moved up to Upper Queen Street, Auckland. Dad found a job I believe in Parnell at a fancy restaurant. At the time I was at the age of leaving school if I wanted, David, Frank and Paul still had time to do at school.

After about 3 months or so Mum was released from hospital but had to go back two or three times a week for dialysis. Mum was on dialysis for 18 months.

We had shifted once again to Mt Albert. Due to the fact that there would be a motorway construction not far from the house and so we had to find somewhere new to live. I think that we were there about 3 months when a call came from the hospital to get mum there as soon as possible as a kidney had come up that was a close tissue match to her. What it also meant is that someone else had died so that she may have life. (This worried me at the time) But the gift that the person gave was an incredible 22 years of life with a Mum who only ever had one care and that was for her children.

The operation was a success; she was on all kinds of strong medication that would do many things to keep her body functioning even pills to counteract the side effects of some of the other pills she was taking.  Apart from that she lived a relatively normal life.

Mum & Dad ended up moving to Turangi after a few years. Dad had a job at the Bridge Fishing Lodge. They had accommodation on the premises. The Boys had started to forge on with careers of their own. I started out in the Hotel Trade. David started an apprenticeship inMechanics, Frank & Paul were in Turangi with them. Frank had to finish school but started out in forestry after he left school.

It was at some stage here that Dad started a project that would take at least 15 years to complete. He started to build a 33ft Ferro Cement yacht. He had got permission to build it down the back of the place that he worked. I remember when the frame of the temporary shell of scaffolding that he would hang the hull framing from went up. He had a visit from the local building inspector as he had not applied for a building permit. It was a bit odd because it was nothing like a building at all but I guess it could have been turned into one if he had wanted to. Anything put in the ground that extended a certain height I guess constituted a building it seemed. It seemed to be an odd place to even build such a thing being so far away from the sea as Turangi is about the centre of the North Island. The closest sea port would be Napier, some 200km away. This was a good three hours journey in the car in those days. The journey would go : Turangi –Taupo -Napier. The roads were not as pleasant as they are today. I just find it unthinkable today. But Dads boat was not strange to Turangi as there were about 6 or 7 others doing the same thing. Dad had hit hard times in Turangi and had somehow finished with the Fishing Lodge and had got a house in the town and work he found in the stores at the site of the dam they were building there. I don’t know how or the circumstances why.

One day David and I turned up with about 12 sheets of marine ply that we towed down from Rotorua for the bulkheads and cabin for the boat. The gesture seemed to make quite an impression on him. I think the fire might have gone out at some stage to complete the boat and money seemed to be a bit tight for him, so I thought we would give him a hand. It really did make his day.

I left for the UK soon after and when I came back with Fiona, two years later with my wife to be, they were in the Hawkes Bay, Hastings, and the boat was parked on the grass area of the Napier yacht club just off the main highway. It was still not complete but I could see that the plywood had come into good use. The mast was yet to be made and a lot of the interior work was still to be done. This would take us another 3 years to complete on a part time basis. Working on weekends where and when we could. I do recall quite clearly the time when we were to build the mast. Over several weeks prior, Dad had got the timber together and had been making up these clamps out of steel rods and 2”X2”  pine. The steel rods had been threaded to allow bolts and a washer on each end so we could tighten them around the pieces we were laminating together to form the mast, and all this in his driveway.  (Talk about the boat that Dad built) I know it took us nearly all weekend to complete it. But there it was all 35 odd feet of it.

Mum and Dad decided to shift to Napier not long after the “mast” was completed, they found a 2 bedroom unit and there was of course the mast to shift as well. I’m not sure how he got it to the new address I think he must have got a carrier to do it. It still needed a few fittings on it and it took a couple of months to do so, as they were custom made to fit and quite expensive. Anyhow, the day came to move the mast from his flat in Napier to the yacht club, where the boat was. About a 5 km distance. Dad had decided that he was not going to call the carrier but he had rigged up some wheels for each end of the mast and that we would push it down there early on a Saturday morning. I thought he was kidding when he asked me to help out but he was serious. So early one Saturday morning here we were pushing this great big mast in all its glory down the main roads of Napier on this Gerry-rigged trolley.  It took us about an hour or so to complete the journey, no mishaps, except a few sharp bends but very little traffic on the road made it quite easy. No police on the road either as this did worry us a bit due to the length of it. I don’t think he checked this out with them at all. I couldn’t stop laughing at some of the looks we got from the few cars we did see at that hour. It would have been a sight to see. I would have loved to have had my camera with us at the time but digital cameras had not been invented at this time and mine was nowhere to be found. The mast lay beside the boat for a few weeks chained to the frame, not that anyone could pick it up and carry it off anywhere but it gave us some peace of mind.

Time came to launch, all had been prepared. With anti fowling on, the fittings on the mast were all correct, with the cables that would hold it up. The crane that would lift the boat to the low loader truck, which would carry it to the water’s edge and then the crane again that would take it from the truck again and into the water and help set the mast. Then somebody mentioned “are you insured? No came the response, just don’t you drop it said dad.  What rigmarole for a 50 metre journey. Of course, the mast had to be set in place at the same time. Up she goes and into the water she went. All eyes were on the water line, (was the water in the right place) as she freely drifted in the water for the first time. It was a truly mementos occasion, after 15 years of hard work, blood sweat and tears all had  been forgotten.

A couple of months later, I was working in Hastings at the time, Mum and Dad turned up at the house with a Donut making machine they had purchased and said were going into business, would you like to come in with us. I was kind of gob-smacked. I was excited but worried about the way they just came out with it, but I was keen to give a serious look. It turned out a month later we were in business in a small shop in Napier with a Donut machine and a second hand Taylor Freezer soft-serve ice cream machine. As per usual Dad and I prepared most of the interior of the shop and got it up to health inspectors standard. Holes had to be drilled into 8”inch reinforced concrete walls for venting the smoke from the Donut machine out. I must admit that Dad did most of this work as I had to still work to bring in an income until we were ready to open. We had no business plan just the goal that we were all going to make a living out of this shop, and we did! A couple of years later we expanded into a bigger shop in the same mall. The biggest problem was with this we had no lease, due to the restaurant, in the same Mall had rights to all food in the Mall and we were given permission to sell certain foods as a coffee lounge. In some ways this was a dangerous move as at any time we could have been given our marching orders. But the landlord wanted his shops tenanted and so they did a bit of work behind the scenes with the restaurant owners so we could continue trading. At the same time we came to an agreement that we would not pay the price of a full lease because of the restricted trade that we were placed under. Also, to finance the shop movement and new fittings we had to raise cash. To do this Mum and Dad had come to the decision that we should sell the boat. I was not happy about this as the price of small boats and the depressed market we were trying to sell it in was not good. A broker had found a buyer but, he did not want to pay the price we were asking for it. We agreed under pressure to let it go for more than $20,000 less than it should have sold for. It was a big disappointment but what we did get for it got us out of trouble with the shop.  The shop lasted for about 11 year’s altogether. During this time Mum and Dad went to the UK for about six months. They came back with another project, a machine for making pork pies.

Their arrival back was a bit of surprise though; they were supposed to be away for 2 years. Paul and I arranged to go and get them in Auckland. When we got there they were nowhere to be found. We enquired to their whereabouts, the airport were no help at all. We eventually made the decision to return to Hawkes Bay. This was a 6 hour drive. The next morning we got a phone call from them. They had been caught up in bad weather and had had an extra day somewhere in a Hotel. They sent a message to the airport for them to pass on to us but  it never got through, so we had to drop everything to go and get them, again the next day.

A couple of year’s later disaster struck, Paul was killed on his motorbike. This really did devastate us all. Mum and Dad were in pieces. Things were not working out with us and it was decided that we would part ways in the business. I bought them out. After a few months Dad ended up getting a job as Chef at Iona College in Havelock North. Our differences were resolved soon after. He stayed there until his retirement.

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Ch. 6 - Richard Colin Fifield AKA Colin Getting Ma...

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Tom Cormier (website) on Sunday, 17 November 2013 13:48


This is remarkable! I love the down under terminology like "I was kind of gob smacked". Very well-written and fascinating!


Colin, This is remarkable! I love the down under terminology like "I was kind of gob smacked". Very well-written and fascinating! Tom
Dick Pellek (website) on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 14:21

The series is now on my reading list. Your descriptions help to educate us all.

The series is now on my reading list. Your descriptions help to educate us all.