Wednesday 8 June 2022 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in On the Street, Opinion
It was she who announced proudly to anyone who was listening that I had been invited to be part of a gymnastics display at the Auckland Domain being held for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh during her 1974 visit to New Zealand to attend the Commonwealth Games.
It was not because I was particularly good that I was invited, that wasn’t the point. The point was to put on a show of as many young children doing sport activities outside on the pristine cut grass among the Domain’s Wintergarden finery.
I remember it was the first time I attempted a cartwheel dismount and my vault of a tuck through resulted in my head down collapse right at her royal feet as she paused to watch. I believe I had my head down due to courtesy rather than ineptitude. I wasn’t privy to her response as she and the Duke of Edinburgh moved on to the other sights and sounds. It was a proud moment caught by mum on a little instamatic and somewhere I have a faded black and white photo with a white border to show for it.
Earlier the same year she visited Rarotonga and stayed at Government House which is now the home of the New Zealand High Commissioner. There is a room there that holds a small plaque announcing this is the room the Queen of England slept in. I’ve seen the room, my aunty has slept in it and still fancies herself to be a bit of a Queen Monarch of the family.
The royals had arrived by a British Airways plane to the beating of drums and dancers lining the tarmac, and the next day the Queen officially opened the new airport on January 29, 1974. By its very function the airport changed the way people lived and traveled to the Cook Islands. Leaving to go and work in New Zealand used to mean catching a sea faring vessel for a couple of weeks, now flying was almost instantaneous in comparison to sailing. And so began the slow migration outwards of our local population to far off shores, as many of our ancestors had done before starting with Kupe, and many have continued to do so over the years, including now.
On a tangent it does seem puzzling that we complain that all our workers are moving to New Zealand for better money, and in New Zealand they are complaining that all their workforce is moving to Australia for better money and in Australia their workers go overseas too. Everyone has people shortages - I wonder where they all went?
It was said that during the Queen’s first visit to New Zealand in 1954, the country was gripped in a patriotic fervour where three out of four New Zealanders saw her, and even the sheep were dyed red white and blue. From the look of the June 3 to 6, 2022 footage showing the streets lined with people and flags waving in the English rain, it could be a scene from a Beatles or One Direction concert with everyone rushing on to the streets after the 200 horses and golden carriage had passed, to be in the mosh-pit of sorts, to get as close as they could to the palace. Some slept overnight to be Johnny on the spot…. Red white and blue waves of jubilee glee on the streets and around the world with an estimated 2 billion people tuning in to watch - who says royalty is dead?
Perhaps it is the popularity of the TV series Downton Abbey and the more risqué Bridgerton which has reignited the royalist in everyone, from all walks of life and differing cultures.
The attraction of the old aristocracy may have sparked romantic interests from the TV series but the English themselves have long gotten over assimilating differing cultures into their society.
Since World War I and the huge loss of life of young working men, then the Spanish flu, the depression and followed by World War II and more horrendous loss of working-class lives, the only way to get the country back on track was to import labour. Hence the arrival of working populace into their society of various cultures from India, Jamaica and Arabic countries. This has been so long entrenched and accepted that no one bats an eyelid anymore. We are about to see changes in our workforce with the arrival of 700 Fijians to fill the need of hospitality and health workers, and more.
This will make a difference in our lives, one we should embrace as we evolve in this multicultural world.