Seventy two years ago today John and Maisie Bond walked out of a London church to be saluted by a German honour guard.
That's stretching the truth. What in reality greeted the newly-weds was a German bomber overhead. In those early
Second World War days Hitler's Luftwaffe were busy strafing the nearby docks.
John knew a lot more about the presence of German aircraft than the vast majority of Britain's population. Although a Kiwi since his family emigrated from England when he was 5, he began his war years on secondment to the Royal Air Force where he was to the forefront of radar detection.
Combine John and Maisie's ages and they've clocked up an incredible 189 years. After more than seven decades together the Bonds' story is a Master class in making marriage work. Advancing years have treated them kindly. Both still drive and neither wears 'specs'. They tell us this in unison, proving the theory that those who spend many years together instinctively know what the other's about to say.
Radar's just one of the occupations John's had over his 96 years; singing's another. He's been a New Zealand Aria competitor for aeons, this year entering six categories and achieving several placings. As an aside, his voice has never broken, he's always sung as a bass baritone.
It was his vocal ability that took him to pre-war London. He'd won a place to be tutored by the celebrated diva Beata
(Grenellie) Juer. Like so many of his stories thereby hangs a tale . . . we'll let John tell it.
"The first thing she told me was I had to learn to breath and grabbed my hands, putting them onto her substantial bosom . . . no one ever learnt to breath faster than I did.''
To support himself and his singing lessons John was working as a radio design engineer, the business he'd been in since leaving school. He made his first radio at 12, more precisely it was a crystal set and it landed his mother in the dock.
"A radio inspector came to our house in Auckland, picked up my little radio, heard it was receiving and had her
summonsed because my parents only had a licence for a valve radio. She told the judge it cost me a shilling [12 cents] to build and he said `Madam, it's going to cost you a 30 shilling [$3] fine'.''
John Bond's life story's peppered with anecdotes. Maisie's not short of them either.
They met at a tennis club seaside outing. At the time Maisie was, John boasts, "a hot shot secretary in The City [London]''
When war broke out John wanted to join New Zealand's fighting forces but British officialdom wanted him and his radio skills for their own. ``I said `blow that', I'd only been there [UK] a few months and I knew they couldn't direct me what to do until after two years so I rushed up to New Zealand House and joined the anti-tank battery.''
On embarkation leave he became gravely ill. All the enlisting Kiwis had been inoculated with the same needle, some died.
As Maisie tells it John collapsed on her parents' doormat. "His nose started to bleed, so badly he filled my mother's pudding basin, that nose bleed saved his life.''
Despite John's desire to fight as a Kiwi he had his sites set on the RAF, waging his own war against the colonel who didn't believe his qualifications. The feisty John threatened to have the national media expose him.
"He didn't believe my [radio] qualifications, those were scurrilous remarks, I wasn't having it.''
With that battle won he was commissioned as a pilot officer, gaining entree to the "top top secret'' world of radar.
In 1942 he'd been scheduled to fly to Iceland but plans changed at the last minute.
"That Iceland flight was the one the Duke of Kent was killed on.'' The plan change was his posting to Malta to work
on plans for the Allies' North Africa invasion.
Two years on he was appointed New Zealand's Director of Radar. Maisie and the couple's infant son, Anthony,
accompanied him on the 10-week journey, dodging German subs. North Atlantic seas were so rough towering waves smashed the lifeboat outside their cabin.
"It wasn't a leisurely voyage, I was ship's adjutant [executive officer], we had 14 prostitutes on board on their way to be repatriated and 60 malcontent soldiers [soldiers who refused to fight]. Maisie's secretarial skills were put to good use typing up charges when Kings Regulations were breached.''
Wellington-based until VJ Day, John made several sorties to the Pacific. At the war's end he joined his wife and son who'd been living with his parents in Auckland.
"We built the first house in New Zealand after the war at St Heliers . . . part of the payment for the section had to be under the table.''
The Bonds' hadn't long been in their home when John's sinuses gave him gyp. "The doctor said I had to get an outdoors job.''
Their house was sold and the family (by then second son Paul had arrived) bought a hill country farm between Paeroa and Waihi.
"We didn't know a thing about farming but bought three books and studied them.''
John says what they didn't learn was how stupid sheep were. "We moved near Pukekohe and switched to cows.''
He was still farming when he was drawn to an advertisement "crying out'' for maths and physics teachers, his radar and radio backgrounds negating any need to retrain.
Teaching brought them to Rotorua. John was Lakes High's foundation maths teacher before a lengthy period at
Western Heights and, after his "alleged'' retirement, relief teaching around the region's high schools.
John Bond retired? Who's kidding whom? Our People had to book well ahead to be fitted into their chocker appointment diary.
A silly question, we know, but we asked it anyway; don't this astonishing couple feel even a little . . . er . . . 'elderly'?
Again we're treated to their delightful double act: "We don't have time to feel elderly, do we dear?''
JOHN AND MAISIE BOND
Born: John: Catford, London, 1916
Maisie: Bromley, Kent, 1919
Education: John: Herne Bay in UK, Parnell Primary and Auckland Grammar
Maisie: Bromley Primary, Eltham Girls' High (both UK)
Family: Two sons, 10 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren
Interests: John: Family, friends, reading, physics and maths, singing at competitive level and with Rotorua Music
Teachers' Federation, carpentry (has renovated and restored number of houses and makes own furniture), electronics, computing "I love Skype'', writing doggerel (comic verse), U3A philosophy group (with Maisie), RSA
Maisie: Family, people, practising natural health, spinning (dyes own wool which makes into pictures), gardening,
former church choir singer, reading, long involvement with Brownies and Guides, U3A, RSA, computing, has produced book on personal World War 11 experiences
Personal Philosophies: John: "Loving people and in some way nurturing them.''
Maisie: "Be kind to everybody and help them.''