Wendyl’s coun­try di­ary: weath­er­ing the storms

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

Wendyl Nis­sen re­calls her first win­ter up north, when the coun­try taught this city girl a thing or two about sur­vival.

WHEN WIN­TER ar­rives in this coun­try, so too does the weather. Storms, floods and gales. And nowhere does it blow quite as hard as on the west coast. At our home in the Hokianga I’m be­com­ing quite ac­cus­tomed to the preva­lent north-wester that blows and blows and blows.

As an Auck­lan­der born and bred, I was never much af­fected by storms and gales. They say the only thing Auck­lan­ders worry about when a storm sets in is whether they’ll be able to get out for a cap­puc­cino and the pos­si­bil­ity that a power cut will pre­vent the chardon­nay be­ing chilled.

So my first win­ter up north was an eye-opener. We had so many thun­der­storms, my dog Rosie de­vel­oped a sen­si­tiv­ity to them. Now she shakes and shiv­ers and hides un­der the bed when light­ning strikes.

I learned to just trust that the house was well built and would not blow away piece by piece. But I wasn’t pre­pared for the power cuts. They hap­pen year round. I now have the power com­pany’s num­ber on au­to­dial as they are very good at telling you how long it will be out for.

That win­ter in 2014 it was out for not one day, not two days, but a whole week. The storm was par­tic­u­larly vi­o­lent and left many peo­ple iso­lated and in need of emer­gency help.

At our house, my teenage daugh­ter Pearl and I only had one emer­gency: after two days the cell­phone tower bat­ter­ies gave up, so Pearl was off­line. For the first time in her en­tire life!

This state of dis­tress paled in com­par­i­son to the fact that we were liv­ing by can­dle­light as I had not stocked up on lanterns and torches. We kept warm by hud­dling around the fire, but the wood was run­ning low. We were cut off from weather fore­casts and news be­cause I did not have a bat­tery-pow­ered ra­dio. And while I did have a camp­ing gas ring to cook on, we didn’t have a lot of food. We were sur­viv­ing on in­stant noo­dles, baked beans and rice. For me, the big­gest cri­sis was when we ran out of milk for my tea!

We couldn’t drive any­where be­cause the car was locked in the garage with an elec­tric door (more about that in a mo­ment). We con­sid­ered walk­ing to the near­est town if we did ac­tu­ally run out of food, but then re­alised they prob­a­bly had no power ei­ther.

Fi­nally, Pearl staged a cri­sis meet­ing. We had to leave and we had to leave now! The garage door had to have a re­lease on it some­where (be­lieve me, I had tried to find it but I’d never owned an elec­tric garage door be­fore). Pearl’s so­lu­tion was to take me by the hand and march over to the farmer next door to en­list his help. As we were march­ing back, I man­aged to trip on a rab­bit hole and land flat on my face in the mud, much to the farmer’s amuse­ment.

With the garage door fi­nally open, we Auck­lan­ders aban­doned the north. We piled into our lit­tle Toy­ota Corolla and headed south – only to find that the roads were flooded and we were un­likely to make it through. As we sat on the side of the road to have a think (again with no cell­phone cov­er­age), a kind man stopped and sug­gested we wait for a big­ger ve­hi­cle to go through and fol­low close be­hind in its wake. Bril­liant.

And that’s how we made it back to the city – wait­ing for trucks, then sneak­ing in be­hind them.

When we ar­rived in Auck­land my hus­band Paul was be­side him­self with worry. He hadn’t heard from us in three days. “But I knew you would cope –you’re very prac­ti­cal,” he said.

Not re­ally. I went straight over to my Dad’s and bought his old four­wheel drive truck off him to keep up north. I bought more torches and lanterns than a per­son would need in a life­time, my pantry is now stocked with pow­dered

milk and tins and tins of food, and I have enough fire­wood to last for years.

It all just shows you can’t take Auck­land out of the Auck­lan­der, but the coun­try can teach her a few tricks.

Rosie de­vel­oped a sen­si­tiv­ity to thun­der­storms... now she shakes and shiv­ers and hides.

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