Summer holidays are over. Some schools have re-opened and offices have filled up with workers returning to their routines. As for Christmas – well that feels like ancient history now.
But you can relive past holiday happiness by reading these joy-filled diary entries written by Horowhenua farmer, Leslie Adkin, describing his Christmas break in Hastings 100 years ago.
Leslie spent six days with his fiancé Maud and her family. His diary from this visit is an utterly charming record of a man in love.
The eighteen photographs Leslie took during his time in Hawke’s Bay also captured his bliss. The title he gave to the one above – ‘A rosebud for Fido’ – uses one of the many playful nicknames that Maud and Leslie gave to one another while they were courting.
During Leslie’s visit, the couple spent as much time as they could in one another’s company. They inspected Maud’s father’s farms, attended church, went to Hastings and Napier, to the movies, on picnics, and rowed for hours on the Tutaekuri river. (You can see Leslie’s foot in the bottom right corner of the photo he took of Maud in their boat.) And because they were officially engaged, Leslie and Maud were also allowed to be left alone in the drawing room of the Herd family’s Grays Road home.
The pair began planning their future life together – even discussing the number of children they might have. And Leslie innocently fantasized that when they were married, Maud would help him muster sheep wearing
‘a cow-girl costume – Wild West felt hat, scarlet handkerchief round her neck, riding skirt trimmed with fringes of soft leather and soft leather leggings.’
Of course, by December 1914, conflict in Europe had been waging for almost five months. This is mentioned only indirectly, in descriptions and photographs of floats in the Napier’s Mardi Gras parade – the ones with decorations referring to the war. The image above shows one of these floats – a cage in which Britain’s foes, the leaders of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, are held captive.
Maud and Leslie said their goodbyes on 29 December. Maud’s brother Ralph took a photograph of the two lovers just before they parted (above).
After this romantic interlude, Leslie’s diary reverted to more matter-of-fact accounts of his farm work.