Portrait by Taja Farslow

Gilbert and Kamala will be familiar figures to many, walking their beloved little dog on the shore or around the village. Gilbert, a well known musician in the Paekākāriki community, has lived here half a century after he turned “randomly” across the railway lines for the first time, “smelt the air, loved the little baches and the spaces around them…and immediately wanted to move in.” It wasn’t long before he became the owner of one of the little baches on a large bush-clad hill section with no drive. The little shack there had started as a one-room hut in 1923 and has now had seven additions of which Gilbert has added three, creating a marvellous house “greatly assisted by a broad-minded building inspector.” Gilbert was then a teacher at Porirua College and later became an advisor with the Department of Education. A noted jazz pianist, Gilbert plays here for silent movies, a range of gigs and community singalongs. His mother who could hardly read music had become the pianist at the monthly silent movies in Tuai in the Urewera where they lived. The back bar in the old Paekākāriki pub had a piano in the corner and could seat 100, so you could put on any sort of show, a variety of popular music with various musicians joining Gilbert and some “quite arty shows.” And people could dance. “I did a long sulk when the pub went…. It was more of a railway town, we’ve lost some diversity especially politically.”

“To spend half a century in a place that you love, with a whole lot of people that you like, most of whom are younger than you, is quite a good insurance for a rewarding old age. You can’t go shopping without getting into about four conversations before you get to the shops. A great thing.”