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Bridging the gap

A happy retirement is on the cards for Pat

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Bridge is more than just a card game to Logan Campbell retirement village resident Pat Milliner.

After she was widowed in 2004, it became a lifeline.

“Bridge has been brilliant for me. It gets you out of the house and meeting people and when you’re left on your own that’s really important,” says Pat, whose husband Douglas was 15 years older than her.

The couple had moved out to New Zealand from England in search of sunnier climes after Douglas retired from a 35-year career in the Royal Navy.

They settled in Auckland’s Westmere in 1963 with their young son Howard.

“I had a shop on the corner selling wool, patterns, magazines, school stationery and clothes, you name it, we sold it!

“I did that for 10 years and we lived up above the shop.”

Pat and her husband played tennis and had played bridge socially in the Navy so she signed them up for the tennis club and bridge club in Herne Bay and has been playing there ever since.

While she is very busy, with bridge three times a week and regular meetings with the Ponsonby Probus club, Pat is content in her own company, a fact that she philosophically puts down to her unusual start in life.

“My mother died when I was two years old from septicemia and my sister was nine years older than me so I have always been a person on my own.

“I knew nothing about my mother at all; my father being a farmer he was too busy, and when I was old enough I went off to boarding school.”

It was only in 2012 when Pat went back to the UK that she discovered some journals written by her late sister describing their early life on the farm in Derbyshire.

“We lived about 1.5 miles away from the nearest village and being 1932, Dad didn’t have a car.

“My sister had written that my mother walked down to the village every Wednesday to play bridge. I nearly broke down in tears when I read that, to think that here am I today playing bridge!”

Being so active, Pat had been adamantly against the idea of moving out of her home of 44 years into a retirement village. Plus she was very attached to her garden full of swallows, blackbirds, tuis and sparrows.

“One of the neighbour’s cats would get under a shrub by the bird bath and the birds would land on the outside and would walk all the way round to see if they could see the cat. They would always make sure to stand on the side where they could still see her. I found it fascinating!”

Then Pat had a pivotal conversation with a friend who works as a home help to a lady in Whangaparaoa. Another person would visit this lady in the afternoon to cook her dinner.

“In between times she had nobody and I thought that could happen to me,” says Pat, 89, who realised then that neither her beloved birds nor bridge could solve that problem.

“My son lives in St John’s and if something happened to me and they have to come and keep visiting that’s not fair on them. So that’s why I’m here.

“Whatever happens, here I’ve got help.”

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Now, in her spare time, Pat is getting to know her new neighbours, particularly the bridge fans amongst them! The rest of the time she is enjoying all the mod cons of her brand new apartment overlooking the village bowling green.

“I’m really pleased, I feel like it’s the right thing for me and even though I have gone from three bedrooms to one, my apartment doesn’t feel small at all, it’s so spacious.”

The best part though? Her feathered friends still come to visit on the balcony.

“I just find them so interesting to watch, they bring me so much pleasure.”

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