Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fais ce que Voudras


On a patch of windswept, barren, inhospitable East coast of New Zealand my husband’s family have this bach* which is called ‘The Whareama” - (pronounce that ‘wh’ with a ‘ph’), - after the river which provides the only access to the coast other than a 4 wheel drive over bumpy sheep tracks.

* Bach, pronounced batch, is a modest seaside weekender or holiday home usually made from cheap or recycled materials. Early post war baches lacked modern amenities of electricity, running water and indoor toilets. They were furnished very simply with second hand furniture.
In this case the bach is made from car packing cases used in the importation of tractors and cars to New Zealand in the 1950s.

The Whareama River mouth can be a place of desolate isolation or a place of rugged, untamed beauty depending on the weather and the viewer’s prevailing mind-frame. The family's bach is on the left hand side of the river mouth - not visible here in this rather faded snap shot.

Edwin Boyd-Wilson, my husband’s grandfather.

My husband’s grandfather, Edwin Boyd-Wilson was a professor of French at the University of Victoria, Wellington where he was beloved by his students for his abundant energy and enthusiasm.
He was a passionate gardener, builder, footballer, hunter and tramper.

In his old age nothing gave him more joy than to find a piece of totara amongst the endless piles of driftwood on the shoreline of the Whareama.
Totara, a native timber, is a long-burning firewood suitable for fuel for the coal range, which provided heat for cooking, warmth and generated hot water.

Grandfather left his mark at the Whareama in his contribution to the bach and its various additions or annexes, but more memorably in the passage that he wrote over the lintel of the doorway, inside the bach’s living area.

His message reads:

“Fais ce que voudras,”

Which translated means: “Do whatever (you) want.”

But in the spirit of the writer’s intentions and in more contemporary parlance it can be read as – to borrow a phrase of Joseph Campbell:

“Follow your Bliss.”



  1. I'm loving your blog! Your family has in it some most amazing figures.

    To follow your bliss is indeed a high calling, but one that demands, I believe, great discernment and wisdom in discovering what your bliss is.

  2. Dan: thank you for that encouragement and comment. Your readership means a lot to me.

    I think it can mean both your calling and your moment by moment joy. What do you fellow bloggers think?

  3. I love this post - everything about it is so familiar, so quintessentially New Zealand in character, but sadly a characteristic that is fading fast in many areas as these types of wonderful buildings are replaced by holiday home monstrosities of one kind or another.

    Have you photographed old photos with your digital camera to get these? that is what I do sometimes - the quality always surprises me - these are great photos

  4. Alden: They are very old photos that I scanned. The colour ones have faded considerably.

  5. Really Cool, I used to frequent the river when the bach was owned by Dereck Tatton of Masterton. I helped him move a new coal range there in the late 60's early 70's His boat was named "Motuku" twin outboards. I stayed at the first bach on the left side, which was timber framed and covered with corragrated Iron. Dirt floor and wooden framed bunks with sack mattresses.

  6. Welcome Ali, that is so wonderful to hear. How did you come across this blog? My husband (Derrick's son) will be thrilled to hear this...

  7. Ali: I've just remembered we called that bach you stayed in 'The Rodneys'- there was many a drunken group gathered there...

  8. Hi Delwyn, yes Rodney had that bach after me!! I can't remember your Dads name but did he make surf boards? I found the blog by searching Whareama. My Uncles, Jumbo Fly and Ken Wilton used to stay at the TAB> the blue batch 3/4 of the way down river

  9. If you check Google earth you should see some photos of the river I took on my last visit there. Sorry last should have said "My uncles the Faulknors" there was Norm Ian Doug Gordon Bob and my father Cliff. Dad owned the gas station

  10. Ali: My husband was the surfboard maker! He recognises the names of the people you mention.
    He remembers Norm well, and saw him at the Chapel St retirement home a few years ago. He has fond memories of the TAB and 'King Karoke' doing the haka in the mud...

    I remember the TAB windy corner too. I will look up your pics and thank you Ali for adding your information - its been a good blast from the past!


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