John Roughan 's Opinion

John Roughan is an editorial writer and columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Me versus the Kaka Point sun

Add a comment

In the second of our series about childhood holidays, Herald writer John Roughan remembers the naive child who paid the price for a long, indulgent summer with a serious case of blisters.

Kaka Pt, at the eastern end of the Catlins coast, a real beach with sand hills, cribs and big water-coloured skies. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Kaka Pt, at the eastern end of the Catlins coast, a real beach with sand hills, cribs and big water-coloured skies. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Down south where the sun seldom shines on television weather charts, it shines on Kaka Pt. At least it shone there, fiercely, one summer near the end of the 1950s.

We kids had never had a beach holiday. We lived in a country schoolhouse in the hills of eastern Southland. When it was hot we would swim in the Mataura River, which sent you shivering for your clothes after a few minutes.

We never needed sunblock. Actually we had never heard of sunblock. Maybe it hadn't been invented then.

We had never heard the words ozone or melanoma either.

We had heard of Kaka Pt. If you took the road from Balclutha to the coast you came to it, a real beach with sand hills and cribs, as baches are called in the south, and a surf club.

Kaka rhymed with hacker, not haka, in our ignorance of Maori. Its most famous resident, poet Hone Tuwhare, must have suffered the local pronunciation in silence.

These days, Kaka Pt is the eastern end of the celebrated Catlins coast but back then we didn't know there was anything particularly scenic about the wet bush, the big water-coloured skies and the long swells of the southern ocean that broke on the points and swept the bull kelp this way and that.

Our parents had rented a crib for the summer and the weather didn't let them down.

Every day, we made the most of the sand, sea and sun.

I got burned, of course. You expect sunburn when you are a red-haired kid with freckles.

You knew there was going to be a price to pay for a brilliant day. You paid it at night, squirming in the sheets to find a section of your hide that might be bearable to lie on.

The pain would last only a day or two, which was usually longer than the sunny spell. But not that year. The golden summer was endless and I was damned if I was going to cover up for a day of it. Surely if I suffered enough, the red would turn brown.

I don't remember how many days went by before bubbles started forming on my thigh. I don't recall what my mother said or did when she noticed.

All I remember is the blisters widening, day by day, until the skin of both legs had turned into saggy bags of blue fluid.

The sight haunts me still, though not enough to diminish the bliss of lying on a beach with a book, a little bit of head-shade, the waves not far away and a long afternoon with nothing else to do. Thanks to the miracle of suncream, I seem to be intact.

But 50 years on, I wonder sometimes if there is a price yet to be paid for that blistering holiday.

- NZ Herald

John Roughan

John Roughan is an editorial writer and columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

John Roughan is an editorial writer and columnist for the New Zealand Herald. A graduate of Canterbury University with a degree in history and a diploma in journalism, he started his career on the Auckland Star, travelled and worked on newspapers in Japan and Britain before returning to New Zealand where he joined the Herald in 1981. He was posted to the Parliamentary Press Gallery in 1983, took a keen interest in the economic reform programme and has been a full time commentator for the Herald since 1986. He became the paper's senior editorial writer in 1988 and has been writing a weekly column under his own name since 1996. His interests range from the economy, public policy and politics to the more serious issues of life.

Read more by John Roughan

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 23 Jul 2014 21:22:09 Processing Time: 1147ms