Topic: A Fairy Story? by Marie Gaut

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It is said that truth is stranger than fiction. Is this a true story or a fairy tale? I’ll leave it to you to decide!

My second daughter, Rosie, had always been an alternative girl. She left home at eighteen and soon after joined a group in the Avon Loop in Christchurch. The women wore long hair and long skirts, sandals, no bra and no makeup. They ran a health food shop called Piko and the caring and co-operation amongst this group was commendable.

It was here that Rosie met Rod Donald and worked with him to improve members’ health and well being. Even then Rod had political aspirations which Rosie did not share.

At age twenty four she left New Zealand’s shores and flew to Sydney to join an alternative theatre school, Drama Action, where she learned, among other things, to be a clown and walk on stilts. She and her friend, Mary, performed on the waterfront in Sydney and in 1988 were asked to go to Brisbane to work at Expo.

They were called ‘The Tall Cleaners’ and were dressed as normal cleaners, except they balanced on very tall stilts, and, armed with a feather duster, conversed with each other and the many visitors. They were popular and enjoyed the work very much.

Rosie phoned me one day to say, “Mum, you will never guess who came today?”

When she was a little girl, the family had attended St. Barnabas Church in Fendalton where the vicar was Bob Lowe. A big man, he had the habit of patting children (in a kindly way) on the top of their heads. Mine didn’t really like that!

Bob Lowe had visited Expo and Rosie looked at him and said, “You don’t remember me do you?” as she dusted the top of his head with her feather duster. Sweet revenge, as he muttered, “Yes, I do.”

Expo finished, Rosie moved back to Sydney and shortly after, bought a house in the Blue Mountains. She worked for the national parks, and as a guide in a historical village, cared for the aged and children whose parents needed help, worked for a world authority on sea urchins, and ran a successful gardening maintenance and design business.

Not all at once, of course!

Then, last June, I became ill and spent a few days in hospital while all sorts of tests were carried out. Rosie came to stay and look after me while I recovered. She told me she really wanted to return to live in New Zealand. When I guardedly asked why, she said there was so much she missed about our country – bumble bees, hedgehogs, ice cream - and she wanted to spend time with her mother! She also wanted a permanent partner, a man who was around all the time.

So I said, “When you return to Dunedin you should think of speed dating because someone I know met her husband at such an event.”

My daughter replied, “I won’t wait, I’ll go this week.”

And off she went. It was an interesting group of very nice people and one man invited her to have coffee with him the following day.

“I’m about to go on a classic car rally this weekend to Mount Cook,” he said. “You might find that interesting and you would meet lots of people. Would you like to come?”

So the next morning Grant picked her up in a classy black car, which growled with a low roar as it stood idling.

Rosie certainly met lots of new people. There were sixty-nine classic, mostly American, beauties – and that was just the cars! It was a good idea. Coming back to live in Dunedin it gave her instant entry into relationship with a most interesting group of people.

It had been a good weekend, but Rosie was due to go home, back to the Blue Mountains in a few days. As she did. Determined to sell up and return as soon as possible.

In October, Grant went over to stay with her for a couple of weeks and was instantly popular among her Mountain friends. So that went well and I felt it was a good indication for the future.

Rosie started sorting and disposing of articles and furniture she no longer needed; arranged for her dog to go back to his original owner, gave intent to resign from her work and put the house on the market.

Christmas saw Grant return with celebration and much packing and  distribution of more goods – selling some in a garage sale. It was not an easy time, saying goodbye to good friends, but early in January they arrived back in Dunedin, and waited for her belongings to catch up with them. She moved in with Grant in his St. Clair house which happened to be right next door to the Women’s Club where I am a member!

Rosie and Grant get on very well. They will tell you they make each other laugh - and isn’t that the sort of relationship we’d all like?


Now, move on a couple of months and Rosie was arranging for her friend, Charlotte Smith, to come and take part in the iD Fashion Week. Charlotte has her home in the Blue Mountains, but travels extensively, showing and talking about her collection of vintage clothes – 3000 pieces which she inherited from her American godmother.

It was a busy time with Rosie and Grant transporting Charlotte in classy classic cars, getting her to her many appointments on time. She was much in demand during the week prior to the Big Weekend. She gave talks to audiences in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery; met models; dined with important people and lunched at the St. Clair Resort (where she stayed in the same suite Tom Jones had occupied) and went with Grant and Rosie on a lovely autumn day, to lunch at Careys Bay Hotel where the view is over the harbour waters, filled with little boats.

She was delighted with Dunedin, the city, and amazed at the people she met. In good local fashion, folk made her welcome and went out of their way to assist.

One highlight early in the week was a discovery with Rosie in the city of vintage clothes shops, many of them showing labelled garments. Charlotte purchased several to add to her collection.

Rosie and Grant were given complimentary seats to the Emerging Designers show and to the Friday night showing of top fashion on the longest catwalk in the world, the Dunedin Railway Station! It was here on Friday and Saturday evenings that Charlotte showed selected items from her vintage clothing collection on models who smiled (as instructed!) as they walked the long carpet. It was well received by the audiences – fifteen hundred people – a full house each night.

Charlotte has flown home but I think she will be back, and Grant and Rosie have settled back into their own interesting and full lives. Rosie is building up a nice little business, maintaining and designing gardens around St. Clair and loving that she is back living in Dunedin.


Now isn’t that a fairy tale?


'A Fairy Story?' written for the Memoir & Local History Competition 2011, run annually by the New Zealand Society of Authors (Bay of Plenty Region) with support from Tauranga Writers.


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