Can you believe it – Charmaine loves exercise too!!



Tanya continues to do her regular mixture of tai chi, exercycle and swimming lengths at The Wave pool in Henderson to try and keep her arthritic joints open and moving.

Now Charmaine’s got the bug, after a lifetime of exercise phobia, and goes off to a gym when Tanya goes swimming –but this is a gym with a difference, as you’ll see from her story…

“Going to the Gym”….

Walk briskly up the path, push hips forward, pull shoulders back , don’t be a scuttling crab. Cross the road, most early traffic gone now, onto the shady side and into the Ranui Domain.

The first station has a machine for arm rotations, and a cross-trainer.  The arm wheels are meant for tall people with long arms -I  just do fifty turns, watching an old Indian man walking slowly on the path, and three sheepdogs racing around on the grass coming obediently to the whistle of a blonde Pakeha woman with a plastic bag in her hand.

The cross-trainer demands really brisk swing-left-arm-forward-and-left-leg-back-then-right-arm-forward-and-right-leg-back. Again. And Again. A hundred times.  I watch the shadows on the blond trunk of the big gum tree in front of me, the sky-seeking branches above…


At the next station, I try the heavy-duty sit-here-and-pull-yourself-up-by-your-arm-strings, a few times, and on the other side a twisting footplate and fixed handrails- left to right to left to right as many times as I fancy, feeling my waistline shrinking by the minute…


I step off and stride along the path to another  pull-yourself-up-on-this-seat machine beside a small oak sapling.. can’t reach the hand grips, so sit on it backwards, twenty or so lifts is about enough. On the other side, an exercycle –feet in cycle stirrups but little resistance, so go really fast, two hundred at least, for knees and lungs…


Teenagers are gathering already -not 8am yet- at the League clubrooms for the holiday programme. Joann, brisk young Maori youth worker, says “morena”, stops for a chat about field renovations. I pace along the path outside the fenced-off field. Wormcasts and grass tufts are sprouting through the newly-sanded surface, half-a-dozen black-backed seagulls are waiting for something. Daniel, the foreman, said last week they used to soak whole fields with worm-killer…not allowed to now, have to rake casts, water the surface in summer, hope birds get the worms,  hope grass grows…The underground irrigation sends spears of light…1-P1020351



The next station has two of my favourites – skiing and horseriding. Skiing in the sunshine, left to right, right to left, faster and faster, swinging from side to side in the sun, watching a heavy cloud come from the north-west, and a breeze stirring the tops of the poplars. Do a lot more than a hundred here, then step down and climb onto the metal horse on the other side.

Introducing Tanya to skiing and horseriding...

Introducing Tanya to skiing and horseriding…






Pulling and pushing, seat tilting, a bit too far from the handle grips. Pause to get more  comfortable.


Trevor, just passing, smiles good morning through broken teeth, stops to share  his torrent of memories… son, father, the war in Malaya, schools, failure, engineering success, safe-making (and breaking), bikie gangs, dope and drinking, selling his house and living for now in the caravan park, trying to help the hopeless have hope like himself, always a way up…best teacher he ever had was that Parata woman at Tokomaru Bay Primary School, brilliant, won’t hear a word against her..Trevor believes things can get better, people can survive…

Time to go, brisk walk home. I stop, seeing a shopping trundler, then a hunched figure beside it peeling convolvulus off a dead raupo stalk by the pond, and rolling it up carefully to put in a big black polythene bag. The pukeko have screeched off, but a magpie watches us silently from the bridge.   I say hello, introduce myself, and the elderly woman, small and bowed, tiny chestnut pigtails and a smile showing under her dark glasses and wide black sun hat, says her name is Kay or Kate, whichever I’m in the mood to use.  I tell her she is being watched by the magpie, I think she says he has come for his meat sandwich –”a meat sandwich? ” I ask. “No”, she says sternly, “wheat-  wild wheat bread and sunflower oil from the supermarket… ”  We talk about birds and weeds….

Pukeko regroup and pigeons gather expectantly…14-P1020356

Two hundred paces home. A kilometre of walking, and eight lots of body-stretching. No lycra. Lungsful of clean air. New neighbours. A busy brain again…




  1. Hi Charmaine!

    I love this! Both the way you wrote this piece, stream-of-consciousness, and that you have found such a treasure as an outdoor gym! We don’t have anything like this in our town, so instead there is the Earth Gym:

    Glad you’re feeling so good!


  2. Karen Dobric says

    Hi Charmaine,

    Delighted to know that you are enjoying exercise in such a wonderful way. Great to read of your engagement on so many ways – locals, stories, wildlife, the outdoors…. so lovely to read.

    All the best to you and Tanya,

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