So there we were then. Poor lonely souls. New arrivals. New country. Mother, father and two children together with three suitcases and a cardboard carton with left-over nibbled sandwiches. Lyttleton station. Six o'clock in the morning. Cold. Tired. Terrible trip down on a ferry from Wellington, tossed around like a Waldorf salad. Up we go, onto the train with broken windows, rumbling along. What are we doing? Is anyone meeting us? Yes, there is.
He said “You are…? "Yes"we said "that is us. "Good” he said, “take you to your accommodation in the city square”. He did, to a hotel room. In the square A big lop-sided room with beds and nothing else. A bent sloping room which creaked if you moved around. "Pick you up later” he said, “show you around”.
Washed, changed and unrefreshed, we were picked up later.
“You are a bit of a problem really" he said "We didn't know you were coming".
"Didn't know we where coming? But you arranged it. You interviewed me eighteen months ago and said you wanted all of us, children and everything - and now…?”
“Can't help that” he said "you’re a bit of a nuisance really, seems you slipped through the system. Anyway we have found you a house to live in. And you start work tomorrow".
Oh!. We perked up no end, so where is the house?
“Come on and see”. So off we went to the house – a house of horrors complete with mice and a leering landlord. Dilapidated, filthy, peeling paint, baggy scrim wall coverings hanging down, moths, overgrown garden - welcome to our new home.
"It’s… its awful" we said cheerfully
"Did our best" he replied looking offended, "Didn't know you were coming."
“Even though you arranged it?”
"Well yes, but not many houses around to rent and we thought you only had one child and you have two, so that made a difference."
“Did it really? If we only had one child you would have had this place painted and cleaned up would you?”
"Well we didn't know - you might have come from a slum or something being from London and all that."
“This this is the closest we've ever been to a slum”.
“Oh well" we said, comforting sobbing children, "we'll make the best of it for now -where's the front door key?"
"You just turn this bent nail around" said the landlord. "The back door - just push a chair under it when you go to bed."
To be continued...