Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

July 21, 2011

Gather ye rosebuds. And lamingtons. #eqnz #chch

Rosalie McLauchlan met John Riach at the Latimer Dance Hall.

Rumour has it she looked down from the balcony, gave him the once over and knew he was the man for her. According to legend, he laid eyes on her and the same occurred to him.

Aunty Rosalie knew there’s such a thing as love at first sight. With nearly half a century of marriage behind her, she proved it’s the kind of love that lasts.

My birth mum Bev’s oldest sister, Aunty Rosalie is one of the reasons I’ve had annual mammograms since I was in my mid 30s. When I met Bev almost 25 years ago and my family tree of two parents and one only child morphed into an ancient wisteria vine too complex to explain, one of our first discussions was about what genetic landmines lay in wait.

I’m very grateful to have that knowledge, and very grateful too for the screening programme that’s offered in New Zealand. I’ve had the experience of failing that test and being called back because they’ve found something (which was nothing, as most of the things they find are) – it is the most awful feeling in the world. That happened to me this February. I got the all clear just a few days before the earthquake.

I have a pink ribbon on my black coat at the moment. Another of the aunties was handing them out at Aunty Rosalie’s funeral yesterday. That was my ninth funeral this year. If I have to hear Amazing Grace one more time between now and Christmas I may well scream. I couldn’t bring myself to sing it yesterday. As soon as I heard the wretched thing movies of all the other funerals and memorials I’ve been to started playing in my head again. It’s a trigger, that song. Best avoided.

The song my sisters Sandra and Brenda and brother Dion sang however, Bette Midler’s The Rose, was a fine and fitting tribute for a lovely good woman. I’m so proud of my siblings. It’s hard enough speaking at a service, that I know from experience. To get up there, play guitar and sing when your voice and your heart are both breaking – that’s above and beyond any expectations. They were wonderful yesterday, as they are every day, and I am lucky to have them in my life even though they’re all taller than me.

Aunty Rosalie was sent on her way on the most beautiful warm winter’s day you could hope to imagine, her casket covered in pink camellias and sweet scented daphne, a single purple helium balloon released as the hearse pulled away. A bright orange digger was busily knocking down a building on the other side of Cashel St, and a giant crane a couple of blocks to the south was helping the deconstruction of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, its onion dome now a transparent frame.

They served raspberry lamingtons at the aftermatch function that matched the flowers. They served chocolate ones too. I was no lady. I rather like those.

To burn them off I took Pepper for a long walk after that, the longest since I’ve had this stupid cold and the nasty tickly cough. The weather was so beautiful and I’ve been inside so much I seized the moment and we had a lovely time.

Then to a tweetup before heading to sister Brenda’s to catch up with family again. A late night and it was a slow start this morning as a result. I’ve achieved very little today, aside from buffing and polishing. All in one day I’ve had the facial, the waxing, the hair all sorted. I’m downright peccable. Even the house got a look in today – wifey came and sorted the mayhem. What would I do without her?

Tonight I need to sort my clothes for tomorrow’s film shoot and also pack a bag for  the weekend. Judging by the weather forecast I’ve picked a good one to run away. There’s snow forecast down to sea level on Sunday. I do hope I don’t get stranded and miss a day’s work. I’m now going to try and write that again with a straight face. 😉

As I drove through town today I noticed a tree on the corner of Montreal and Oxford Tce in full pink blossom. I can remember filming a soft and fluffy news item for CTV about that selfsame confused tree. The harbinger of spring, I called it. I remember that piece vividly because we filmed it towards the end of August 1992. Any thoughts I had of being a weather forecaster vanished in puff of smoke round about then. A day or two later, on the 28th of August 1992 I was working at CTV which was broadcasting from Gloucester Street at that stage, sharing facilities with TVNZ. About 2 in the afternoon Jason Gunn got on the PA system and started singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” He got his wish. The blizzard shut the city for 3 days. I anchored the TV coverage until our transmitter died. Someone had topped up the diesel in the emergency generator but they hadn’t put the lid back on properly. We ran out of gas. After that I answered the phone on reception until my voice gave out. It’s worth noting that the blizzard, as awful as it was, was not enough to make the city declare a state of local emergency. It puts a state of national emergency into a pretty good context, doesn’t it?

I have a hunch that tree blooms this time of year every year. More than likely I’ve driven past it being beautiful hundreds of times, so wrapped up in trivia and my own thoughts that I haven’t given it the courtesy of a sidelong glance. I noticed it today because its petals reminded me of the colour of the lamingtons at Aunty Rosalie’s funeral, and it dawned on me that she won’t get the chance to see that tree again.

As I head to my very tidy room to pack, let me leave you with a poem, Bud.


by Robert Herrick

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying :
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer ;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may go marry :
For having lost but once your prime
You may for ever tarry.



  1. I wish I’d given you a bigger hug on Wednesday night.

    Comment by rachel_a — July 22, 2011 @ 1:19 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: