(Written Thursday May 15th 2014 for Mike and Helen Hammond the day before they moved house from 134 Point View Drive to Pakuranga Park Village. I lived in their guest house for a few months in 2011. They are good friends.)
My dear friends Mike and Helen Hammond were moving house, and asked if I would like to help out on Friday. I was delighted to help. On Wednesday evening I went online and found out everything there is to know about moving a house. I was surprised they wanted to move their house. I thought they had been going to move to the Pakuranga Park Village. But my hearing has never been good at the best of times.
“Address?” I asked Helen.
“Yes, Mike bought me one specially,” Helen replied. I was glad Mike had chosen the Village home to please Helen and assumed they would give me the unit number later.
“A good view?” I asked.
“It will be with Helen in it,” Mike replied, “once we’ve picked it up. Then we’ll show it off at our daughter’s, at my friend Jim’s office at the Auckland Museum, and on a harbour cruise party. Finally, we’ll drop into the Pakuranga Park Village unit 37.”
“Right. Well, I suggest you go out on Thursday and let me take care of everything.” They thanked me.
On Thursday, Helen picked up her new dress and off they both went round their family and friends’ houses to show them.
Meanwhile I had hired my good friend Ken to pick up their house on his house-moving truck to save Mike and Helen doing it on Friday. He asked where to and I replied that first we had to drive to Cockle Bay in east Auckland.
It took all morning to get the house onto the truck but once on, it looked a picture. Ken said I needed to go ahead in my car and check for live wires. Instead I googled it and found the best way was to switch off all the power along the roads where we were travelling. The Council manual said it was cheaper and easier to shut down the whole city electricity hub than to shut down a few streets at a time. So I found a way into their system and did just that.
It backfired. When the TV and internet went down, everyone got up and went outdoors to see what was wrong, many discovering for the first time that their home had an outside. The streets were clogged with people having nothing to do. To combat this, I relayed a text message to every mobile phone in Auckland that said, “New online game special happening in 2 minutes. Must be by your computer.” Everyone raced inside, clearing the roads in a jiffy.
I wasn’t sure of their daughter’s address but was pretty sure it was 32 Adams St, Cockle Bay. So I phoned to make sure.
“Hello, Adams here,” a man answered.
“Hello, are you 32 Adams?”
“Oh, then the directory is wrong. It says you are 32.”
“I probably was when the directory was printed. I’ll be 34 next year.”
“Oh, so you move round a fair bit. Anyway I have a house to drop by in a few minutes. Just letting you know.”
Sadly, we missed the Hammonds by minutes we learned much later and with the citywide cell-phone overload their cell-phone had gone down so couldn’t be reached. As the Hammond’s house approached, we slowed down and parked the house outside. I went into No 33 Adams St and met a woman at the door who I assumed to be Mrs Adams, their daughter.
“Your father’s house is outside,” I cheerfully explained, pointing to the house. “He wanted you to see it.” The woman fainted on the spot. While her husband tried to revive her I asked what the problem was. Her husband said that her recently deceased father had said just before he died that he would love to have shown her the house Jesus had prepared for him in heaven. Once she started to revive, I quietly left the scene. Outside on the opposite side of the road a woman approached me and said, “This house is amazingly similar to my parents’ house but he sold it to an Indian man.” I knew this couldn’t be her parents’ house from that remark.
Back in the truck we headed to the Auckland Museum. Jim was looking out his office window admiring the autumn leaves when a house obscured the view. It’s not every day that this happened to him so he went outside to see what was happening.
“Hi guys. I’m Jim,” he said to us. “What’s with the house?”
I thought that was a strange question but answered it. “Ken, me and the truck.”
Jim thought that was an odd remark then realised we must be part of the new exhibition. “Great. Can you please park it near that crane?”
So we did. And strolled over to some trees to have lunch in peace. Returning to the truck, the house had gone! Looking up, I spotted it just as the crane swung it round inside a large opening at the back of the museum. We raced over to ask for it back but couldn’t get through the barricade.
“Quick, Ken. Round to the front entrance. You take the lift and I’ll take the stairs. It looks like the top floor.” Being an athlete, Ken got there 5 minutes before me, snuck in the side entrance, got the lift to the top, found the house sitting in the middle of two World War tanks, explained the predicament and they apologised and put the house back on the truck.
Meanwhile, puffing and panting, I reached the front door. The Balinese ticket collector asked me for $5 as a donation. I said I was just trying to retrieve my house. “Then that’ll be $5 for you and $5 for your horse, unless one of you is an Auckland citizen.” I produced ID. He looked at my Equestrian ID and said, “Ok, your horse is so you are both covered.” And let me in. I found the stairs and raced up them 2 at a time. I lost the race, beaten by an 8 year old boy who did them 3 at a time. He congratulated me for finishing the race, albeit 3rd. I thanked him. After catching my breath, which had come in 2nd place and which had been looking round to race elsewhere, I asked a staff member where I might find a new house.
“In the newspaper,” he helpfully suggested, handing me a NZ Herald. I looked through it and found lots of new homes but none were the home we were transporting though I did find a house that looked remarkably like the one we had which had been sold to an Indian man.
I handed the newspaper back and wandered off. Having a keen sense of direction, I knew the house would be nor-north west of my current position and strode off to the back of the building. When I arrived and found an exhibition of alien monsters, I asked a staff member if this was the back of the building. I was amazed to find that it wasn’t but that if I went through the teleporter and continued to the other end of the universe I would fine the back wall. And there it was, 10 metres from the stairs where I had managed to catch my breath.
After passing the 27th tank, I noticed a large hole in the museum wall. Big enough for a house. I peered outside and saw our house on our truck and Ken waving me down. To save going back the way I had come, I grabbed a rope swinging from the crane and leapt out from the 3rd floor.
At that moment the crane turned and the rope swung round in a crazy arc with me on it. Reaching out to grab something, I mistakenly pulled the NZ flag from its flagstaff. It swung round with me over a parade of army veterans. The crane driver saw my predicament and sounded several blasts of his horn which sounded like a revelry. The army battalion jerked to a halt and saluted and began singing, “She’ll be right Mr Jones.”
I didn’t hear much because I was soon swinging back the other way. Ken had kindly got the truck started and was trying to catch me by driving at speed round the museum roads, our house enjoying hanging out as it went about. Finally, the rope got caught in a statue of James Cook. I was flung onto the roof of the house and slid down the roof and into the cabin of the truck. Ken advised me to keep my head down as we surreptiously left the museum grounds.
Our next port of call was the Port of Auckland. A Waiheke Island ferry had just pulled in as Ken hastily drove down the wharf. Passengers dived in all directions to get out of the way, many of them opted to dive into the sea. The ones who didn’t opted to dive into concrete posts and walls. Ken extracted his captain’s license and said this was an emergency so the crew took a 2 hour break and we hoisted the house onto the top deck. Ken then skilfully sailed us out onto the harbour.
Eventually after asking round several fancy yachts, we found the harbour cruise on which Mike and Helen were. Before they noticed us, the power in Auckland had come back on and everyone was apparently glued to the TVs watching a special news alert of recent events at the museum. Mike and Helen looked at the house in the background and commented how similar it was to their recently sold house. At that moment, everyone’s attention was drawn to the house on the ferry approaching them. Mike and Helen looked out and spotted me and waved. Such friendly folk. I waved back. We were too far away to talk and I tried charades but fog came between us.
Enveloped in fog, Ken asked me to go below and check the depth monitor every 10 minutes. At one point I read “1 metre” but decided the gauge must have broken. I went back upstairs after a sip of tea.
“All ok, Murray?”
“Yep. Though they might want to check their depth gauge. Said we were in only 1 metres of water.” Ken went whiter than the white fog which lifted just in time for Ken to apply the brakes or we would have ploughed right into the Half Moon Bay marina. The staff at the Waiheke wharf were surprised to see us arrive but helped us get the house off the ferry and onto Ken’s truck. I asked how the truck had got there. He said it had a special GPS which followed him. A remarkable invention.
Finally, we arrived at Pakuranga Park Village and drove up to Unit 37. A house was already there. Checking with the neighbours that this was the right spot, which it was, we then took their house off the truck, put the house which was on the site onto the truck, and moved their old house into position at Unit 37. It bulged into the neighbours’ yards but we could see this was designed to build a closer rapport with those who would become their new friends.
It was all going well. We then took the unit back to their old property and placed it there. And drove home. I thanked Ken and offered recompense but he said being an old friend it was on the house. He then flew to Hawaii for a holiday.
The following morning Mike phoned me.
“Hello Mike. How are you?” I asked cheerfully, awaiting his surprised reaction to a job well done.
“I’m a little surprised, Murray.” Aha. I knew it. Now the thanks.
“I would like to thank you for all you’ve done…” (I patted myself on the back) “… but actually I’m aghast.” (Aghast with delirious joy, obviously. I beamed.) “Would you like a 6 month trip to Hawaii? We have a bach there you can stay in.” (An extravagant offer indeed.) “We would like to see you gone for at least that length of time. In fact, stay away for several years if you like.” (A magnanimous gesture.) I accepted.
Thus it was that I found myself in Hawaii not long after losing myself there, and not long after Ken arrived. I stumbled upon him on the beach. He was astounded to see me lying across his feet. He asked how I had got there. I explained how I had got there and he laughed, and suggested I watch where I was going next time, and asked me how I had got to Hawaii.
Mike and Helen must have changed their email address. I’ve been here 4 years now and not heard from them. Obviously they are loving their Retirement Village and all the friendships made there, and have no time to write. When I discover it, I’ll email and ask if they need any further help.
Postscript: Mike and Helen have just written saying they hope I’m enjoying Hawaii and asking if I want to stay longer. They are keen for me to stay indefinitely, listing 57 reasons why I should. I wrote back, thanked them profusely and suggested 81 reasons why they should come over for a visit. Sadly, they are out of the office indefinitely. They are such wonderful people and I am missing them.
I have just heard they are moving house again to California so I’m heading home quickly to surprise them again. I know they will be as delighted as before.
Dedicated to my (still) good friends Mike and Helen Hammond.