I first met Fiona when we were 13 years old. She was a Fairfield girl, I was a Mosgiel girl and somehow, during that first year in the district high school, we became friends. And we've never stopped being friends in all the years in-between. 'Quite some' years, as some Belgians might say in English.
When Fiona and her Kiwi bloke, Barry, first heard I was finally coming home after so long away they said, 'We'll find you a car for while you're here!' And they did.
Monday night and they invited us up to their place on the hill for a bit of roast lamb and a catch-up. I should have known it might involve one of Barry's extraordinary inventions. In this instance, it was a massive oven he'd built ... absolutely massive.
Did I photograph The Oven Beast in its entirety? I did not. I'm currently regretting that but you do get a sense of it, perhaps, when you see how small the leg of lamb appears, in its cooking position, hanging from the Number 8 wire in the door. The logs were monsters too.
Fiona and Barry have achieved so much in the years I've been gone. They have built a new home on top of a hill that looks out over the east coast and down the valley into Dunedin city. A beautiful new home built to resist the fearsome winds that occasionally come calling.
There are 2 horses living with them these days, a few sheep, one dog and two cats. Fiona always has been a collector of small and helpless creatures.
At times they had Gert and I doubled over with laughter. Many stories were told while sitting next to that huge roaring oven as the leg of lamb cooked and Gert got to know something of these excellent old friends of mine. Friends I simply adore.
And the car they found ... well it's red and comes complete with its own set of stories too. I expect it to feature in more than a few after we leave to explore the South Island next week. I may have to start a blog page just for The Red Car. Let's see how that goes.
But to Fiona and Barry ... thank you for always being there over the years, and for being the kind of friends who accept all and expect so very little, including that 8 years of absence.
Here's a taste of the view from their house on the hill.