Peter Malcouronne meets new arrivals at Auckland Airport

Paul and Joy White have only themselves to blame for the far-flung nature of their mokopuna.

Joy White's just got in from the grandkid run. She's so, so tired - the flight home's taken 30 hours and now she has the world's most Tiggerish husband bouncing about at the gate. It's been seven weeks: he can't wait to see her. Bounce, Bounce, Bounce.

That'll help the jet lag. But switch to Joy's favourite subject, grandchildren, and she comes alive. Of her 11-strong "fleet", four live overseas, with number 12 arriving in London next month.

She runs through the overseas contingent. In London are her daughter Riana, her partner Oliver and their three kids Max, Olivia and Holly. In Athens is another daughter, Alaina, and her partner Sarotos. Or maybe it's Satyros? "It's best just to call him Sam," Joy says.


The Athenians have just had a son, Stratos Yannis (or Stephen John in less epic English). This will sound harsh but Joy - and her irrepressible, story-telling husband Paul - have only themselves to blame for the far-flung nature of their mokopuna. "We've been travelling since the 80s," says Paul, a builder. "In 1988, we ran away for a whole year. Took the kids - they took a year off school - bought a motor-home and saw the world. We did 36 countries. Three months through the United States. Then Europe. I didn't believe the Leaning Tower of Pisa was leaning so we went there, then we went to Norway and saw the statues [at Vigeland Park]. England. Ireland. Scotland. Then someone said, 'Why don't you go to France?' So took the boat across from Dover and found ourselves in France.

"Went around and around, and then I said, 'Let's go up that hill,' and that was the Pyrenees Mountains. Next thing I knew, we were in Portugal."

And so it went on, through Spain and then into Italy. "When I was going through Rome, little did I think one day I'd be an actor in Spartacus."

"You were in Spartacus?"

"Yep. Spartacus, Hercules, Xena - done them all."

"Did you, you know, get to say it?"

"Say what?"

"The immortal line."


"No, not that part." Paul laughs.

"Can you now? Just once?" He beams and clears his throat. He loves the stage, this fellow. "I am Spartacus."

Paul: "Travel light. Get a guidebook and learn a few phrases so you can talk to people. Get up early - there's a whole world to see - but also stay out late. Most tourists are in bed by 10pm, that's when we'd go out. It's fantastic because the locals look out for you. That's the whole point. To be one with the people. So leave the camera behind.