Our First Year 1980/81
Peter & Debra’s first year together as a couple!
It feels funny looking way back to 1980 when we first met. Here we are below 37 years later in 2017 enjoying ourselves on a cruise around the Fijian Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands to celebrate my 60th birthday.
So how did we meet? We first met in August 1980 at the Industries Fair in Christchurch which used to be an annual fair for industries to showcase their products. A fairground with rides and sideshows was attached to the main show. Not a date as such as my brother Andrew was going out with Debra’s younger sister Sharon at the time and somehow Debra and her friend Linda (who Andrew eventually married!) came along for the outing along with myself. Very few words were exchanged between myself and Debra but something must have clicked and after a further 3 months, I decided to pluck up the courage and give Debra ring and see if she wanted to go out on a date. Luckily for me, she did.
When we started to go out, Debra was 18 years old and finishing her 6th form year at Avonside Girls High. I was 24 years old and working as a tyre retreader at Reidrubber Retreads in Sockburn, Christchurch.
Debra was my first girlfriend so it was pretty exciting for us. We clicked straight away and I think surprised both our families (especially mine) when we became an item.
Debra loved dancing so one of our first dates was to the RSA ballroom dances held in Christchurch. Not quite my cup of tea but it was fun dressing up and giving it go!
Seems funny now but back then I had a 1937 Austin Big 7 for getting around in. I’d always liked Austin 7’s and had bought my one cause I could! Not the coolest car to take your girlfriend out in but Debra was up for it and we had a lot of fun getting about in my old banger. The front windscreen opened outwards so on hot days we could open it out and enjoy the breeze blowing in. Debra had her own car that she has saved up for from holiday work. A bit more of a modern car than mine, a Vauxhall Viva.
Debra’s Mum and Dad used to have a static caravan at Oaro on the Kaikoura coast. A small community of of baches right beside the beach. Close enough to Chrischurch for weekend excursions. During our first year together I used to ride up there on my Suzuki DR400 and stay with Debra and her family. Lots of hot summer days enjoying the sunshine, fresh sea air with walks, fishing and just lying around.
Christchurch has the beautiful Botanical Gardens in the centre of the city and we have spent many happy hours there over the years enjoying the walks around the various gardens, the trees, the avon river threading its way through the gardens, the daffodils in spring. The gardens provided our inspiration and ongoing love affair with gardening together throughout the ensuring years culminating with our beautiful garden at Matarawa Cottage in the Wairarapa from 2008 to 2015.
After just 3 months of dating, we got engaged on Waitangi Day the 6th February, 1981. Somehow I had decided that Debra was the girl for me and I just assumed she felt the same. I launched into a conversation with her at the beginning of February about how we should get married and then go off to the UK and Europe for our honeymoon before living happily ever after. I think I maybe missed out the down on one knee bit and “will you marry me?” Bizarrely she seemed to think this was a great plan as well!
We purchased an engagement ring for Debra from Donnell Jewellers in High Street and after a small family celebration at Debra’s Mum and Dads home, it was all official.
Family picnics were big thing back in the 1980’s and Debra and myself enjoyed going to the various picnics held over our first summer together with both her family and mine. Her Dad was a member of the Christchurch Working Mens Club and the picnic in the photos below is their annual picnic held in the domain in the North Canterbury township of Amberley. Great fun with traditional kiwi fare followed by ‘races’ for all including the three legged race.
When we first started going out, I was renting a small bach just out of Christchurch in a small beachside village called Kairaki. We had our first date/meal together there where I cooked up my ‘signature’ dish for Debra, chicken drumsticks baked in mushroom soup and sherry. Kairaki was close to the Woodford Glen stockcar racing track near Kaipoi and we spent most Saturday nights at the track watching my the racing and in particular my brother Andrew who raced his own race car there. After a few months of going out, I decided to move back into the city to be closer to Debra’s family home in Burwood and found myself a flat to rent in the Christchurch suburb of St Albans. A really nice ‘upstairs’ flat that we had some great times chilling out together.
Going out to Woodford Glen was great fun for me with my new girlfriend and a source of much amusement to my family who hadn’t seen me with a girlfriend up to this point! It was nice to have someone to cuddle up to as the evening went on it got colder. Maybe not so great for Debra with all the dust and noise but. It was a good time back then at the speedway as it was very much family entertainment orientated and both my sisters and brother all sat together along with all our various girlfriends and boyfriends. Great fun.
In my younger days I went to Christchurch Boys’ High School. On a weekend day in February I took Debra for a look around the school and we got a nice set of relaxed photos of ourselves.
Another family picnic. This time Debra’s Dads employers (Vertex) picnic at Spencer Park just out of Christchurch.
Here is a few photos from an early autumn day out to the river near the Ashley Gorge bridge. We love this area of North Canterbury and bought a cottage near here in the township of Oxford a few years later.
We had two favourite restaurants during this time and after a walk on the beach or a visit to the Botanical gardens we enjoyed an evening meal out. Dymonds Steakhouse in Colombo Street was a special one for us. They did a mean chocolate mousse with Baileys that we loved. We also frequented the restaurant upstairs in the Shades Arcade, usually for roast dinner.
Another holiday at Oaro, this time for a sunny and warm Easter weekend.
After Debra finished High School, she got herself a night shift job at PDL Plastics working as a machine operator. This worked great for us with both of us doing night shift leaving our afternoons free to be together. We saved up our pennies over the winter in preparation for our wedding in September and our honeymoon trip to the UK and Europe.
Way back in the 1970s and 80s, video cameras were of the super 8 variety that you could use to make 3 minute videos in a pretty low resolution format (compared to today). A few years back, I had all my super 8 video collated, joined together and converted to a VHS tape.
Recently I spent some time learning how to edit video using Adobe Premier and from the VHS tape I have been able to extract all the various clips of Debra and myself from the 1980/81 period and make them into a digital format presented here for your enjoyment.