My exposure to the eldest son, Grant, is limited. I know where he ended his escape from small-town New Zealand, but the details of that escape elude me. The story of Allan, the second son, is however a little more full.

As mentioned before, Allan seems to have maintained the pretence of holding down a full-time, square job in the local milk factory while using the laboratory to mix up a bag of tricks. Smart chap that Allan. These days you might be able to find the recipe for some of this stuff on the web, but in 1969? In Te Aroha? Regardless of how he got to it, he used his altered viewpoint on the world to get the heck out of dodge, and he decamped to Auckland in what must have been 1970 at the latest.

My understanding of cultural revolution Auckland is all tales of hippies in Albert Park; kids that no-one understood, and challenges to the status quo. New Zealand was still as yet to be shocked by the Whina Cooper’s Great Hikoi of 1975, but Maori activist groups were starting to find voice. It is a time much-romanticised by elements of the Baby Boomers.

It wouldn’t be too much of a stereotype to state that my uncle could have been effected by his hobby at work, and his consequent interest in finding a deeper, more spiritual understanding of life. After all, rediscovering spirituality after generations of sterile Christianity is a reoccurring theme of this era, and Allan,  finding himself in this new cultural milieu could hardly be different. Strangely though, he chose a path a little different to many Boomers,  and chose to find some sort of respite from rural idyll of Waikato by becoming a Marist monk.

While spirituality-of-a-confused-and-newly-reinvented-sort runs deeply in my mother’s generation, in their case it cannot be entirely attributed to the recreational habits of her and my uncles’ encounters with recreational chemicals. Certainly you’d think there would be a link between the two, that much is obvious, but it is most likely that these things tapped into a predisposition. A Catholic predisposition. Hence the Monks.

The initial attraction seems to be a life of peace, working in the gardens, growing something to help him think, letting the days unwind. Strangely enough, he departed, dissatisfied. Doubtless there was too great a cultural difference between the expectations of a Catholic order and those of an earnest, niave hippie. And so he began a journey in quest of enlightenment that ended long after my birth, in 1971.

It was in Auckland that he must have made the acquaintance of my father, and through my uncle my mother made in turn the acquaintance that lead to me. And so it was that there, during New Zealand’s own summer of love, a bit later than the American one, but we’re always a little slower on the uptake down here, that I was conceived.

Allan must have remained restless though, and so leaving sister and friends behind he departed again. This time, apparently, by stowing aboard a ship bound for Australia.

And so it is that part of the tale if my family turns in on itself. A young man, both escaping and seeking, climbs a rope to smuggle himself to an island he has heard tales of, driven by urges he does not yet fully understand, to find enlightenment, and to perhaps make his fortune.