I left school, my cooking career turned full time as the day cook at the Crown Hotel in Napier. In those days The Crown had a popular seafood restaurant known as the Crown & Anchor and I was responsible for the lunchtime buffet. Not a huge buffet like you would in todays mega restaurants like Sizzler or Valentines…but a small intimate buffet in a restaurant that only seated 30 or 40 people. It was there that I learnt to adapt my home cooking skills to a more commercial environment under the sparse supervision of the Chef who did the evening shift. I recall the odd disaster but predominantly a successful transition to working life and the beginnings of my serious recipe collections.
After a time things changed and the wind blew…I became restless….I enrolled to join the Airforce….then took off to Timaru for a visit with my grandparents before my enlistment date. I love Timaru and I loved my grandparents so this was an awesome time for me…..away from home…an adult…..freedom….etc. I based myself in Timaru and spent a bit of time exploring the south Island of New Zealand (Te Wai Pounamu) as a hitch-hiker, meeting amazing people, staying with family friends if there were some nearby or with newly met friends I found along the way. Yes, I know it was risky, hitch hiking alone, no fixed plans, no cell phone….. but I loved every minute of it. Some where along State Highway 1 – I decided not to join the Air Force.
I flew back to Napier for my friend Raewyns engagement to John and planned to stay for the Easter MoVan Rally in Hastings – an event that changed my life.
What is a MoVan? Well, that is a very good question. MoVans or Motor Caravans were the fore runner to the modern day R.V. Now you need to understand that these were not professionally built campers – these were old public buses, taken out of service, sold and fitted out by families to meet their needs. Our wagon – known as Supertramp (1312) – was 30 foot long and had two sets of bunks that converted to seating, a fold out inner sprung double bed / settee, gas cooker with oven, three way fridge, plumbed toilet & shower – all the mod cons for family holidays – and a heap of good memories. As a family we were members of the NZMCA (New Zealand Motor Caravan Association) and each Easter a couple of hundred such MoVans and their people gathered together to socialise, share camping stories and discuss modifications of their vehicles. (Welcome to all the NZMCA members popping in for a read – more adventures of Supertramp and MoVan people to come.)
Back to the story…. Mum and Dad, Tony & Barbara Smith, were local NZMCA committee members and part of the team organising the rally so I jumped in and helped with the last week of preparations and took on the role of greeter for vans arriving to the site and keeping a register of attendees. One such arrival was a furniture removal truck whose driver insisted in parking, contrary to my instructions, with a space for Thistledome (659) to park when they arrived later in the night. Next morning I did a visit of welcome to the overnight arrivals and met the occupants of Thistledome – the Phipps family. There were a lot of them – no wonder they had a furniture truck as an extra bedroom!!! My official duties as greeter being over I was able to relax and socialise – getting to know the eldest of the Phipps boys, Craig, and making my acquaintance with his family.
After the rally I returned to Timaru, posted lots of letters to Tokoroa and made preparations to return to Napier where I secured a job as Cook at the newly opened Cobb & Co. My hitch hiking skills came in handy as I spent my days off getting to Tokoroa as fast as possible and back to Napier for my next shift. When it got to the stage I was in Tokoroa more than Napier – I made the move and was unofficially adopted into the Phipps family. There were already nine kids so one more didn’t really seem to get noticed and I was able to assist with home baking and looking after the littlies.
I think every teenager needs an external ‘adopted’ family where they can be taught the same lessons that they wont learn at home, where they can run to and be safe, where they can shed their tears and find healing, where that can learn how other families operate and realise home is not so bad either. I know that I did, and still do, appreciate to open door and open hearts that I found in Tokoroa – I also know that my parents appreciated knowing I was somewhere safe when I wasn’t at home.
Young love was awesome, but faded as young love does so I moved back to Napier yet the links to the Phipps family were strong and have endured over the years. As I write this Mum and Dad Phipps are here on holiday with us for a couple of weeks, getting to know their great grandbabies and reaffirming our enduring connection.
Many of Mum Phipps recipes feature on this blog…
…and a couple of the girls recipes too…
…and there are a few more still to add.
To Mum and Dad Phipps – and to Teressa, Karen, Craig, Adrian, Blair, Brenda, Damien, Lucinda and Matthew – Thank You for having me as part of your family, for encouraging me, for scolding me, for sharing your lives with me, for keeping me honest and for your love and acceptance then, now and into the future. Being part of your family has been a huge influence on the person I am now. Thanks.
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