New Zealand

Napier, Hawkes Bay

Five weeks ago I had an email exchange with a man in New Zealand about a job.

The job description was brief and the communication minimal, yet the role sounded too good to be true. I was asked if I would like to work with a family, helping out on their vineyard and looking after their three children. In return I would have a room, board and a weekly wage. I was delighted.

But as the days passed I began to grow concerned about the ‘but’. If this opportunity was as wonderful as they were advertising then why would they want to employ me? I didn’t have any childcare experience. I didn’t know how to change a nappy. And I definitely didn’t know how to prune a grape vine and turn it into wine. I had narrowed down their motives for employing me to the following: they were either incredibly desperate, outrageously stupid, or they were murderers.

When my coach pulled into a car park in Napier I couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive as to who would be their to greet me. Three faces eventually presented themselves (it took a little while as neither of us knew what the other looked like), all with warm ‘hello’s’ and big smiles. Emma (the mum) had brought nine year old Stanley and two year old Ralph to collect me and take me to their home (the third child, seven year old Baxter, was at a sleepover).

Straight away I was struck with how beautiful their house is, with unbelievable views over Napier (they live near the top of a hill so it overlooks the surrounding areas), big spacious rooms for the children to play in, a large kitchen and dining area, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, and a cosy room for myself. I spent the evening chatting to Emma about my role, their family and New Zealand, and I almost immediately felt at home. All was going well, and not a murder weapon in sight. So where was the ‘but’?

Seven days later the ‘but’ has still not presented itself.

This family, the Easthopes, are truly amazing. Their lives are hectic; with their wine making business (a global success – my own parent can vouch for that), three children under the age of ten and an ambition to build their own home (an imminent project that sees them moving to a plot of land that will also be the new home to their winery and vineyard) I can completely understand why they may need an extra pair of hands.2

My first few days with the family were relatively calm as I spent my time shadowing Emma and getting to know Napier and the surrounding areas. Before arriving in NZ I had been told that the South Island is far more impressive than the North (Hawkes Bay is located in the North Island), with arguably better views and scenery. However I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a mesmerizing landscape (and pictures really don’t do it justice). The greenery, the hills, the ocean. It’s impossible to take it all in. .

After discussing with Emma how long they would like to me work for them, I now know that I have until May to immerse myself in the beauty of Hawkes Bay. And so I began learning the family’s routine – school, after school clubs, vineyard work. I was quickly deciphering the part I would be playing within the family. As the week went on I undertook more of a role looking after the children, in particular Ralph (2). Because Ralph still needs a daytime nap it has meant that Emma’s day is severely restricted with work. So I have been around to put him to bed and watch over him whilst Emma attends to the vines. I should also add that post nap time is often Ralph’s ‘poo time’, so I’ve briefly been taught how to change a nappy… Luckily I’ve discovered that this is a very straight forward process, and whilst I’ve only had to do this once I hope that there won’t be any disgustingly hilarious stories to reveal anytime soon.

Friday morning saw me getting behind the wheel of Emma’s car (or bus. It’s huge, and an automatic which is something I’ve not driven before) and dropping the kids off at school before heading over to the vineyard for a morning of work. I was dressed in my glad rags as I had put on an unused shirt of Rod’s (the dad), black leggings, a large straw hat and white gardening gloves. Emma showed me how to prune the vines, searching for small green grapes that may be growing above the grape line and cutting them off. We went along four long rows each, searching for these anomalies and extracting anything unwanted, before stopping for the day. Four rows may not sound like a lot, but in thirty degree heat whilst squatting and leaning over the vine I can certainly say that this was incredibly tough work. Thankfully we were only doing a half day as we had to get back to the house to pack for our weekend away (I’ll be writing about my trip to the families bach in Taupo soon).

And so, seven days into my life with the Easthope’s and I couldn’t be happier. And more alive (I mean that both metaphorically and literally).  Luck is very much on my side for the time being, and I truly believe that I couldn’t have found a better place to call home for the next few months, nor a better family to live with.3

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