Sunday: At the end of 110km on the bike with great mates, I rode past my old family homestead, looking over my left shoulder I regarded the wide weatherboards and classic example of Victorian colonial verandah. I imagined my Great Grandfather Edmund toiling endlessly on the plains around him, an archetype of the Irish Diaspora, a potato farmer who happened upon some of the best soil in the country. I hoped my Grandfather William’s childhood still echoed in the halls - maybe awake and sneaking around, peeking into the large front room with full sized billiard table, regarding gentlemen engaged the game. I later phoned my Father Michael and he spoke fondly of his Uncle Ray and time spent on the family farm. I felt grounded and belonging in the Oak and Chestnut lined lanes surrounding Okoroire. The family history of the edifice and the environment stirring in me.
Me and a merry band of mates had just ridden the old forestry roads up to Tokorora via Waotu. Glorious hills. Short, sharp, and then relenting, over and over again. Glorious hills. Over a few hours we toiled to our peak, overlooking the lush green and emerging autumn oranges of South Waikato. A final left turn and we bombed back roads and winding ways back down to where we started. Past the old borstal of Hodderville and finally into Putaruru, once a wildly proud and fine place, now and observation of rural decline and urban migration.
The week has been one of helplessness in meetings watching notification icons tick up unrelentingly nagging of contacts missed, needed to be returned. One of hope and happiness, new meetings, old friends, common grounds, candour and comradeship. Maybe it was the combination of the hwyl and the hills which provided an incomparable Sunday. And since, I have been unsettled, I am waiting, watching days tick by in my diary for, perhaps, Saturday, and another day with friends and my bike.
As I sought to soothe a striated soul I turned to favoured sounds, Mike Skinner called to me and I am challenged by him as I look backwards to generations past, my daughter tugs at my trouser leg and I’m given pause to stop and look forward: “Every single person on your Mum’s and Dad’s side successfully looked after and passed onto you life: What are the chances of that like?”
A note… I happily appropriate the word hwyl from the Welsh language. I am not welsh, but I appreciate that they have a mass noun for “a stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy”. If you’re wondering, it sounds a little bit like a u-ey huh - ‘oil’.