As I said, though, Piha was delightful despite this. Dad and I spent many hours with our friends Gillian and Rustem, two fabulous cellists from Switzerland and Russia respectively. Gillian is Rustem's mentor, a mother figure, and, because she'll do the work and it's convenient for him, his manager. She brought him to New Zealand for an international classical music competition in Gisbourne, which he won, and to relax on the beach at Piha. It was really fun to see them again, to share many cups of tea and eat chocolate cookies and walk on the beach.
I did manage a few hikes with Gillian and Dad, which were spectacular. I remember thinking that the New Zealand Bush really has a touch of paradise when the sun is shining through the umbrella-like fern fronds of Nikau Palms, the scraggly, swaying branches of Manuka and Kanuka trees, and reflecting off the ornamental burst of Pohutukawa. Unfortunately, these walks did leave me quite exhausted. One day, I turned back early and spent an hour or so sitting above a waterfall trying to read the journals of Marco Polo. Unfortunately, the copy I had downloaded had a scholarly preface, and you all know how scholars like to go on. While illustrating the world stage at the time of Polo's writing, and knowing his family's history, etc. is interesting, I wanted to get into the heart of the journals themselves. I kept flipping pages and pages, expecting to find the journal on the next one. Not until page 730- something did I find it! By that time, I was beginning to wonder where Dad and Gillian had gotten to, as they promised to find me on the way back to the car. Turns out they'd been too engrossed in conversation and had completely forgotten to get me! They did come back for me, though, and I found them on the trail as I headed back to the car myself.
Where there are not windows, the walls are covered in paintings, collections of Maori, or Maori-esque, art and artifacts, and a few other interesting pieces such as African masks. One carving, which dominates the lefthand wall of the main room, was traced by Lyle's friend Chaz as a final project for his Masters in Fine Arts (i think) and then carved by Lyle's son, Jos. Jos is very passionate about Maori culture and predominately makes a living filming Maori cultural practices and events. There are also spears, paddles, an old fishhook decorated with an iridescent shell and barbed with whale bone, woven mats, etc.
The paintings on the walls are mostly done by Dean Buchanan, Lyle's best friend and another old friend of Dad's. I love Deans vibrant, vital way of capturing the New Zealand bush and one of his paintings hangs in my room back home. We went to visit him one morning and I can tell you that he is just as vital as his paintings. In fact, he may very well be the most energetic person I've ever met. When we arrived he was in his studio, painting. Without missing a beat, he ran over, said hi, met me, and went back to painting, all while talking frenetically about 5 different subjects from school memories to art to The 3rd Reich to the best hikes that I should do in New Zealand, etc. It was a little hard to keep up, but was entertaining and ingenuous. He also invited us up to his house for tea and cake, which will endear me to anyone 😉