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Family, new friends and green fingers

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on June 28, 2023

A sense of adventure has played strongly throughout the lives of Pat and Barbara Chamberlain, and in fact is what brought them together.
Pat, from Johannesburg, was following the path both his South African father and Yorkshire mother once trod which took him to Cambridge in England to train as a teacher.
Meanwhile Barbara, the younger daughter of an RAF pilot father and Canadian mother, had travelled extensively due to her father’s work. 
She was born in Germany in 1948 during the Berlin Airlift where her father did the air traffic control; she also lived in Cyprus for some time and along the way went to five different primary schools and two secondary schools.


It was a chance encounter during a skiing holiday over the Easter holidays of 1973 which eventually led to the pair going on a few dates, with a misplaced pair of sunglasses playing a pivotal role and still hotly disputed to this day!
“For visa reasons, I had a lot of holidays in Europe and it was when I went skiing in Austria and my friend and I came down to the dining room and there were two girls sitting at our table!” says Pat.
An invitation back to Barbara’s place on their return to England led to Pat’s sunglasses being ‘strategically left behind’ or ‘deliberately moved to a different spot’, depending on who you believe.
“We’re still debating it to this day,” laughs Barbara, a primary school teacher.
Pat had already started the process to move to New Zealand by the time they met: “I loved England but I did miss the sun.
“In the October we met in London and went to a very expensive restaurant down below street level and had parma ham and melon and snails, which were indescribably hard to eat.
“I said to her ‘would you like to marry me and come too?’ and fortunately she said yes!”
They were married in the December and, after a nerve-wracking wait for Pat’s papers to come through, they finally arrived in New Zealand in February 1974, with barely a penny to their name.
“I had my guitar, my bow and arrows and two cut glass decanters,” laughs Barbara. “It was crazy really because we hardly knew each other but here we were halfway around the world knowing nobody at all and we were absolutely broke!” 
This marked the start of Pat’s 32-year teaching career as a maths teacher at St Paul’s in Hamilton, with 25 years as head of maths.
Barbara taught at Puketaha Primary School on the outskirts of Hamilton, ending up as Associate Principal.
“Not surprisingly everybody loved her and people still bump into her to this day saying ‘you were my favourite teacher’” says Pat. “Secondary school maths teachers don’t seem to warrant quite the same level of affection!”
IMG_7466 (1) (Large)

Barbara and Pat love their apartment's sunny aspect with its surrounding garden area but the proximity to their daughter and grandchildren is the real icing on the cake.

They eventually bought a 1700m2 section and built their home for the next 34 years, with Barbara lovingly creating a beautiful garden to surround it.
From knowing nobody at the start, they formed deep friendships and connections with the community, raising two children and later getting involved in Meals on Wheels, Blind Low Vision NZ, hospice and Probus during retirement.
With their son settled in South Korea, it was their daughter Kathryn who prompted their recent move to Auckland, with proximity to her and their grandchildren being the reason they chose Murray Halberg specifically.
Not that their decision didn’t cause considerable shock and dismay amongst their friends!
“It’s quite a big thing for people in Hamilton to come to Auckland, especially to an apartment” says Pat. “I think they thought we were absolutely mad!”
What gave them hope that they would adjust to the new lifestyle was seeing one of the residents getting hands on with weeding in the village grounds and securing a beautiful sunny 2-bedroomed ground floor apartment which steps out right into the stunning garden.
“I get so much pleasure looking out here,” nods Barbara as she gestures towards the flowers and greenery outside the windows.
Since moving in in March they have already made many new friends, including, coincidentally, the parents of their daughter’s best friend, and have enjoyed a few happy hours and quizzes.
And now that their Auckland family members have returned from their own once in a lifetime travel adventure, they’re looking forward to enjoying the main purpose of their big move – spending more time together.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

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