Phil Andrews doesn't hear us approaching, he's sitting under a tree lost in the strains of Goodnight Irene. He's accompanying himself on guitar.
First recorded in the US in 1933 as a B side, the number was revived in the 1950s and became an international hit.
What exactly has this musical mini history lesson to do with Phil Andrews QSM of Rotorua?
The answer is that it encapsulates the sum of the parts of this historian, folk singer, former English teacher, author, collector, inductee in Boys' High's Hall of Fame and a vital link in the chain of those who've recorded this district's past.
Goodnight Irene belongs to that past. When Andrews first sang it, he was a member of folk group The Wanderers mostly playing coffee lounge gigs. Those were the days when the lounges were entertainment central for towns Rotorua's size.
And so the dovetailing of the song and his local years begins.
However Andrews isn't "one of us" by birth; he was born a Londoner only a year out from the start of World War II.
"My mother used to say if the Germans had any bombs left after blitzing London they'd empty them over our garden in Harrow."
Andrews' most vivid memory wasn't the actual war but the VE Day celebrations that heralded its ending, 75 years ago on May 7 just gone.
"We had a street party, I got on the stage and sang, I can't remember what it was but it was my first public singing experience."
Because of the post-war deprivations the British endured, his father decreed the Andrews high-tail it out of there and they sailed for New Zealand in 1948.
"Dad got a job on farms at Ngahinepouri [17km southwest of Hamilton]. By the time I was 14 or 15 I was driving a Ferguson tractor and grubbing thistles for pocket money. For us, New Zealand really was the promised land of milk and honey."
Andrews was 16 when his family moved to Rotorua. He enrolled at the then Rotorua High School.
"I was 50 per cent of the 7th Form [now Year 13]. The other 50 per cent was Bill Kingi. It was an excellent school, at the 50th reunion I was very impressed by what past students had done with their lives."
From school Andrews moved to Auckland University gaining a BA, majoring in English followed by an honours degree. He returned to teach at what was by then Boys' High, switching to Reporoa College in 1968 to head the English department.
"It was this amazing new school, there were some really interesting characters out there."
Four years on he and wife Jocelyn returned to town where Andrews led Lakes High's English department.
The pair had married in 1963. "Her father, Oscar Grant, was in charge of State Insurance, he'll be 100 in November. He got to 98 liked that, kept on going - he's still driving."
When they met at a church dance Jocelyn was at Ardmore Teachers College. "I did a lot of weekend travelling."
From Lakes High, Andrews transferred to what was then Waiariki Community College, now Toi Ohomai where he ran the arts and communications departments.
"About 1990 I took early retirement, that was code for 'paid out'. I ran seminars for government departments teaching staff things like how to write letters. I moderated exams then a TV firm approached me, they were planning a film on Camille Malfroy and had heard I knew a bit about him. I did a lot of research but it never happened.
"I was also commissioned to produce a script for Rotorua By Night but that didn't come off either."
Andrews continued to work on Malfroy, publishing Gold and Geysers in 2016, the story of the French-born engineer who created the Government Gardens' artificial geyser and chaired the town board.
His interest in history has always been with him.
"I took it at university, they wanted me to continue but I was majoring in English so figured if I could write essays I could do history.
"One day I was talking to [fellow Rotorua historian] Enid Tapsell and said I wanted to write about missionaries. It was strange because I'm an atheist but I wanted to know why they came 12,000 miles [18,000km] and live among people where English was an unknown language."
Tapsell encouraged him. There have been two missionary-related biographies since, the first featuring missionary wife Anne Chapman, the second her husband Thomas.
"His book's much bigger than hers because information about what the women did is so scarce."
He was commissioned to write Tarawera and the Terraces to coincide with the centenary of the mountain's 1896 eruption, has produced the history of the Government Gardens and the origins of Rotorua street names.
"God knows what inspired me, it was certainly interesting to research, I talked to a lot of surveyors.
"I've kept extensive files on Rotorua people, places and events, which are in the library now."
He worked closely with the district's official historian, the late Don Stafford.
"We'd chat away about things still to be found out."
It was Phil Andrews the late Andy Burnett turned to when he wanted a book on Ngongotaha's history and those who lived there.
"That was exciting because I interviewed so many characters, heard fascinating stories and a good deal of bull***" from people making sure they put the blame on somebody else."
Last year he produced a work marking McLeod's Booksellers 75th anniversary.
For 20 years, Andrews provided this newspaper's weekly Looking Back column followed by Picture This, historical photographs of local people and places.
In 2007 he was awarded a Queen's Service Medal for services to history.
All up he has 12 published works and two unpublished. One's a novel, the second's the Waikato River's history.
"I put a power of work into it but don't have the money to self-publish it."
Then there's his passion for collecting. "I'm a born magpie. I've collected minerals, rocks, fossils for years, I write about New Zealand geology three or four times a year for a UK publication and contributed to a New Zealand geological magazine for 22 years."
His shelves are jammed with Chinese ginger jars and Rotorua souvenir ware.
"I've got a couple of thousand books, when Jocelyn had a stroke a couple of years ago the family insisted I downsize, I thought 'bugger them, I'll just buy more'."
He did and is now writing his memoir. "It's just for our kids in case they are interested."
Who wouldn't be? Phil Andrews is one fascinating fellow.
Phil Andrews QSM
Born: London, 1938
Education: Harrow Convent School: "the nuns were great teachers". Ngahinepouri School, Hamilton and Rotorua High, Auckland University
Family: Wife Jocelyn, son, three daughters, six grandchildren, 99-year-old father-in-law
Interests: Family, walking, tramping, campervanning, playing guitar "only to accompany myself now". Collecting, member Scrabble club and U3A science and engineering group.
Covid-19 from a historian's perspective: "Lessons will be learned from it, our rapid response, the Spanish flu was far worse."
On his life: "I'm glad my parents brought me to New Zealand, the land of opportunity."
On Rotorua: "What hasn't it got?"
Personal philosophy: "Say nice things about people before they die."