Meeting Fred

It’s rained a ton this week and to take our minds off all the things we couldn’t do, we switched gears and began our hunt for a camper van. We’d been looking  through Trade Me on the web off and on for a while. The site is kinda like Ebay for Kiwi’s. This search is what led to our meeting the most extraordinary man. Fred has a 6 meter Mitsubishi Canter for sale so we  popped over to Mount Eden the other day to take a look. We walked past the van on our way in for a cup of tea and didn’t come back to it  until we’d been there for an hour! Fred is 79 and 1/2 and as Marc said, “he’s the kind of guy you wish was your uncle.” Fred sat us down in his light filled,natural wood floored dining room and proceeded to ply us with tea and cookies while he talked about how he had renovated his house and showed us pictures of the job. His grandfather and father were woodworkers by trade and he could point out a sideboard here or an etched piece there and tell us who made what. A “chippy” himself, he actually made all the carved pieces that adorn the top corners of all the  inside doors  and spoke of how he carved them all by hand from Kauri wood after he retired. From the second floor back deck, we could look down into a backyard filled with his interests. His  tool shed, with the International Harvester truck. Marc joked with him about the truck not having moved since they’d bought the house. Fred countered with, “but it has moved! It’s on the other side of the garage now!” Indeed, it is.


Other interests would include the  vines and fruits of the passion-flower that weave through his railings and over every other outdoor surface they can. “My grandkids love them.” And the bees that swarmed the boxed hive and lent a subtle music to the air.

We did finally get around to looking at the van and while nice, was maybe a bit too big for our purposes. When Fred asked if Marc wanted to take it for a spin Marc said no as it was parked in a small driveway and he already knew that it probably wasn’t what we wanted. The reply was,” well, you’re not serious if you don’t want to drive it.” He definitely got us there so keys were located and we took off with Marc and Fred in front.


Marc driving the van

I sat at the back table for the short trip around town. Interesting way to travel, sitting in the back of a camper van sideways. the big windows allow you to see everyone around you quite clearly however the jolt whenever we hit a bump wasn’t too much fun. They did offer to let me drive, but I believe I will learn when we’re out in the wilds somewhere. Still getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road.

After parking the van, we shot the breeze a bit more, bought some of his “sweet as” honey and were in the driveway when I asked if I could take a picture of him for the blog. I wanted one of him on his porch by the sign for the bees. Somehow, he talked me into seeing the hive. Up close! Marc said, ” I’m right behind ya honey.”

Preparing the smoker

Preparing the smoker

Fred smoked ’em up and then lifted the lid off the top. Bee’s buzzed lightly through the air all around us as I stepped closer  and closer  until I could actually look right down into the top box. He had put in a jar of last years honey for the bees to recycle and they had licked? scrapped? that jar clean. He also showed us another screen where he’s breeding queens and what the cells look like. Fascinating and scary experience all at the same time. Fred says he tries to educate folks that bees aren’t dangerous and do not sting unless provoked. I’m happy to say I was not stung, although Marc was wise I think not to tell me about the bees that landed on me for a short time.

Does my smile looked a little... strained?

Does my smile looked a little… strained?

While we won’t be buying his van, I don’t think we’ll ever forget Fred. His genuine niceness, empathy for others and  knowledge on so many esoteric subjects ( did I tell you he also plays a sqeezebox?)  have made an indelible impact. After we left, we drove around a bit so I could take some pictures of the gingerbread on some of the houses close by. Mt Eden is known for having some beautifully finished houses. Of course, Fred’s is probably one of the best, but then again I am probably biased.


Fred’s house. He did all those corbels on the side too.

GBH1Hedge Gate


One thought on “Meeting Fred

  1. Lil says:

    Cara – I think this is my favorite of your posts. Meeting people like Fred is an experience that you cannot plan, and that no amount of money can buy. That’s my favorite thing about traveling. Too bad the van was too big… from the inside, it looks spectacular!

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