It’s more than a decade since longtime resident and local kindergarten institution Kay Wilson upped stakes and moved to the Gold Coast, but she confesses to still missing Raglan “very much”.
“I loved living in Raglan and having a harbour view … the peace and beauty of the west coast is still in my heart,” says the onetime colourful identity about town whose hair is now regularly dyed a mix of pinks, purples and blues!
The first five years in Australia were a real wrench, Kay recalls. Eldest daughter Tanya had not long returned from London to the Raglan district while her other daughter, Mandee, hadn’t been too far away to visit in Kerikeri.
But time’s a great healer and Kay reckons she and long-term partner Ross Youngson have now settled into the Aussie way of life, and 2½ years ago they bought a two-storey villa in a gated complex at Arundel. “It’s nice although not by the sea; we didn’t have much choice what with the exchange rate and things.”
Kay says everything’s a little easier now and that “life is good’”.
“We’ve established our own little niche. There’s lots of Ross’s family around – including two grandsons and a great grandson – and we’re busy doing this and that …having coffees out and enjoying the social life here.”
They say once a teacher always a teacher and Kay, who turns 70 next month, still does some private childcare along with unpaid work teaching English.
Kay calculates she lived in Raglan about 35 years all-up – from her late 20s – and was a kindergarten teacher here for 25-30 years.
“The kindy wasn’t really established back then (when raising her daughters),” Kay recalls. “The local mums just ran a parents’ get-together in the Stewart Street Union Church hall.”
At the same time, though, Kay was undertaking Playcentre courses, and an opportunity opened up for her when the local parents’ committee moved an old farmhouse on to a nearby site, painted it and put down lino. Kay ended up helping the main teacher run the Stewart Street kindy there, where it remains today, three mornings a week.
Later she got her early childhood qualification and eventually became head teacher as the kindergarten expanded.
Kay continued fulltime work in Australia with an agency called ‘Dial An Angel’ which provided childcare in private homes for “quite well-off” families. Some weekends she would work in a group at Couran Cove – an eco-friendly island resort, 35 minutes by ferry – looking after the children of professionals attending courses there. “It was lots of fun.”
Around the same time Kay relieved in a childcare centre for special needs children, and also had a job in a pre-school called ‘Creative Kids’.
These days Kay does some private childcare in the affluent Sovereign Islands for a pair of real estate agents and their families, and has three other families back on the mainland regularly offering her work. She says it all got so busy just before Christmas – ahead of a two-week trip back here for daughter Tanya’s wedding – that she could hardly keep up.
For the past five or six years Kay’s also done voluntary work teaching English through TAFE, the Australian tertiary education provider. “I did a course on teaching English as a second language when I came over here and now work with students, often refugees and mature students, in their own homes.”
She also teaches conversational English at the TAFE institute nearby in Southport.
But Kay watches how much voluntary work she takes on because “I have other things I like to do as well” such as swimming three mornings a week at an Olympic pool close to home, attending art classes and being involved in U3A – University of the Third Age – where retired and semi-retired people come together to learn.
“It’s nice to have the time to do these things without worrying about work,” she explains.
Kay also finds time now to indulge in “a bit” of travelling. That included a couple of years ago an eight-week trip to India to visit ashrams and attend lectures in spirituality. “And I saw the Taj Mahal which was one of my dreams.”
She and Ross also treated themselves last year to a month-long cruise around Indonesia.
While the couple are sad to hear their beloved old character home overlooking Lorenzen Bay has been redeveloped beyond recognition, Raglan may not have seen the last of them yet. “I hope to come back one day (to live),” says Kay somewhat wistfully.