Memories of the Awa
Memories of Henderson Creek: A Conversation with New Zealand's Literary Icon
The man many consider New Zealand's greatest living author sits in a sunny corner of his living room in Nelson, thinking of another place, another time. As he talks about where he spent his own childhood, at Henderson near Auckland, 70-odd years drop away.
"I can't seem to get away from Henderson Creek," he says, in a voice that's little more than a gentle whisper. "It runs right through my imaginative life. So much happened to me there. I learned to swim there. I nearly drowned there. I saw a man die there; he dived into a pool and didn't realise the tide was out."
"I remember a great voyage with my older brother where we made tin canoes. We hammered all the corrugations out of some old iron, made wooden bow and stern posts and sealed all the nail holes with pitch, and we put them in the nearest pool to our place and went down Henderson Creek, right through the mangroves and out into the Waitemata Harbour. The tide was so far out we couldn't bring them back, so we just abandoned them and came home. I can still recreate every stretch of that creek in my mind, so it's not surprising that I set all kinds of significant episodes on that creek."
"These days Henderson Creek is smaller, of course," he continues. "It's shrunk and it's dirty. I don't think anybody swims in it anymore."