Lyn & Bevan Jordan

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This is a tale of two adventures supporting each other.

Weighing in at one page, Lyn Jordan’s CV was the shortest I had ever seen.  The minimum for a college student is two pages.  I was to learn that Lyn specialises in distilling the essence.

Rather than making New Year’s resolution, she selects one word as an anchor for the next twelve months.  She’s been doing this for the last twenty-three year.

Example of words she has selected are ‘Peace’, ‘Hope’, ‘Dreams’, ‘Organise’, ‘Simplify’, & ‘Do’.  I don’t know this year’s word, but I see evidence of all of the above in the life she shares with her husband, Bevan.

Perhaps Lyn’s word for 2020 should have been ‘Change’.   When she called in a few months after the first lockdown in 2020, she and Bevan were in the process of winding up a vigorous life-style on the edge of wilderness.  A dream of Bevan’s had been fulfilled, and their property was no longer a good fit.   They were leaving the Lee Valley and building a home in ‘The Meadows’, the new development across the road from Eyebright.

A look of distain is all you would have got had you suggested such a thing to Bevan a few years ago.  Indeed, it took a lot of gentle reasoning for Lyn to pry him from the land.

Lyn was nineteen and Bevan was twenty when they married.  She was working at Henderson’s pharmacy (now Queen Street Pharmacy) and Bevan was a tree feller. 

Both had been toilers since childhood.  Lyn’s first job was picking outdoor tomatoes for the Russ’s at Pea Viner corner (Just beyond the Waimea River bridge on the Appleby Straight).  After school she and a few other like-minded children would be picked up at the Salisbury store, driven to the farm for two hours of picking when the other children were playing. The passenger in the ute’s cab had a seat belt, but, of course, there was nothing for the kids hanging on out back. 

The next summer she picked raspberries for the Flowerdays at Brightwater, and then worked two school holidays at Zip wholesalers in Tahunanui, where they made electric blankets.  

 

When she left Waimea College, she started work as a dispensary technician for Martins pharmacy on Trafalgar Street.   Her pay was 50c per hour, which worked out to be $19.95 per week, after tax.  Five dollars of this went on the board that she paid to her parents.  Her bus fare was $5.00 per week.  That left $9.95 per week to spend as she desired.

While his classmates were playing rugby or cricket, Bevan was working.  He spent the weekends on his grandfather’s farm.  As a teenager he would ride his bicycle up the Lee Valley to work on a neighbouring farm.  Bevan loved what he was doing, and aspired to having his own farm one day.

When he left school at the end of the 5th form, he started work in the forestry.  The money was good, and he revelled in the noise, machinery, exertion and comradery.

Lyn’s family home was on the same street as Bevan’s other grandparents, but Bevan and Lyn were only vaguely aware of each-others existence.  It was shortly after Lyn started work at Martins Pharmacy that this changed.

They married in 1975, and Bevan had saved enough to pay for a section in Brightwater.  With help from ‘State Advances’ they were able to build a new house.  Those were the days when the government run State Advances Corporation, provided first home buyers with mortgages at a fixed 3% interest.   At the time, the market rate was about 9.5%, so State Advances was a great help, to put it mildly.

After years of felling plantation Pinus radiata, Bevan was ready for the next thing. For him that was bigger trees:  Jarrah, and Karri, on the far side of Australia.  He and Lyn rented out their house, and with friends, Ray and Chris Pyers, flew to Sydney, bought a Holden Kingswood station wagon and set off on a 3,7000 km journey to Western Australia.  Their highway sidled around the southern edge of the continent, passing through Canberra, Melbourne, and Adelaide, arriving eventually at the eastern edge of the Nullabor Plain.  There, they loaded up with fuel and water cans.

They left from the Nullabor Road House at 5:00am and arrived at Norseman, Western Australia, twelve hours, and 900kms later.

Their ultimate destination was the town of Manjimup, 300 km south of Perth.  Manjimup, at the time, was not quite as big as Richmond is today.  Like our district, it was known for its fruit and vegetables.  In those days, it boasted the biggest Granny Smith orchard in Australia.  

 All of New Zealand lies further south than Manjimup, but only just.  If you travelled to North Cape and continued for another 20km, you would be on the same latitude.  As you would expect, it’s warmer than Nelson, but not searing. Its temperatures are similar to Auckland. 

Some of the trees around Manjimup were so massive that one trunk would load a logging truck and trailer the size of the ones we see around Nelson, loaded with dozens of logs.

Like New Zealand Kauri, Australia’s Jarrah and the Karri produce branch-free trunks.  They achieve this by shedding lower branches.  If one of these branches sheds while the tree is being cut down, it’s known as a ‘widow-maker’.  A close encounter with one of these caused Bevan to seek a career change.

Before starting his chainsaw, he exercised due caution, checking that there were no potential killers directly above where he stood, but this particular Jarrah had it in for him.  Soon after biting into the trunk a ton of branch came rushing downward, glancing Bevan’s helmet and one shoulder.  He was knocked unconscious, but apart from some bruising was unharmed.  That evening he told Lyn that he was swapping his chainsaw for a bulldozer, and forestry for earthworks.  He set up as a private contractor, doing dam building and farm work.

 

Lyn couldn’t get pharmacy work in Manjimup because Kiwis had a well-deserved reputation for just passing through.  She did a number of jobs including picking vegetables, grading apples, cleaning, waitressing, and reception for a chiropractor.

 

For eighteen months Lyn and Bevan stayed in an apartment, then they had two and a half years renting a farm house.   Manjimup was snake country, and all the snakes are venomous.  At the farm, both the laundry and the loo were outside, and Lyn was ever on her guard.  A fatal bite would occur in the area every few years, but more commonly pets, were bitten.  Bevan had a scare when a snake settled under his jacket and fuel can.  It lunged at him, but did not strike.

After four years, Bevan was ready to return home.  He bought a Toyota Hi Ace camper and prepared for what was to be an epic six-month journey. 

Lyn and Bevan weren’t the only ones wandering around the Northern Territories in a camper.  At Darwin they were swapping tales with two other couples.  Bevan said that he had decided not to venture into the Kakado National Park, east of Darwin, because he didn’t think the Hi Ace would cope with the terrible roads.

 

It turned out that Cliff, now retired, had a current pilot’s licence, and it was agreed that he would hire an aero club, six-seater for them to have a sight-seeing trip.

The next day was sweltering as usual.  They sat for over half an hour at the edge of the runway while Cliff tested different radio frequencies.  The radio was faulty, but he was finally able to receive clearance from the tower. 

Shortly after take-off the consensus amongst the five passengers was that they needed to have a pee.  The nearest airstrip was at a mission station on aboriginal land.  Cliff swooped down, and those with bothersome bladders dispersed to bushes.  They were soon on their way again, flying deeper into the park.  The radio remained silent until the voice of the captain of an inbound 737 cracked across the airwaves.  He informed Cliff that a search and rescue operation was being launched, because their planes radio had gone silent. 

They were away from Darwin for one and a half hours.  No doubt Cliff was the recipient of a few choice Aussie aspersions, as he had been aware that there was something wrong with his radio.  He was, however, asked to lodge a formal complaint about the aeroclubs negligence.

It was Melbourne Cup day 1985.  Lyn and Bevan were nearing the end of their northern odyssey.  They wanted to watch the horse race and expected to find a pub with a television at Appletree Creek, near Bundaberg.  That they did, but there was a snag.  A dress code applied.  The locals were gathered in their finery, but Lyn and Bevan only had their camping clothes.  With the race due to start shortly, it was looking as if Lyn and Bevan may have to sit in their van and listen to the commentary on the radio.  Finally, however, it was decided that they would be granted an exemption, but would have to stand in a corner at the back. 

Appletree Creek’s initial hesitance to embrace them was to be erased many times over.  What was to be a short stop turned into three days, as each day brought more invitations to parties and meals.

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Apple Tree Creek Hotel. 

Lyn and Bevan arrived in Cairns a few days later. Brisbane lay a further 1680kms down the coast.  Sydney was 900kms beyond that. Arrival at Sydney would mark completion of an Australian circumnavigation.

But Cairns wasn’t ready to let them go.  The wet season was looming (January, February, March), and once it starts it’s hard to get things done. In forestry it’s virtually impossible.  There is a sense of urgency in the months before the rains.  When someone got wind of Bevan’s experience, he was offered a job he couldn’t refuse.  Rather than continuing to Brisbane, Lyn and Bevan stayed on in Cairns for a month, or to be more precise, Lyn stayed in Cairns.  Bevan lived at a logging camp from Monday to Friday, and joined Lyn each weekend for mini camping adventures visiting the nearby Atherton Tablelands, Daintree forest and Cape Tribulation.

They flew out from Brisbane before Christmas to be back with their Richmond families for the big day.

Their Australia adventure was fulfilling, but during their northern odyssey, Bevan was incubating an idea for the next adventure:  Truck driving in America. 

Lyn was on board.  Women had started infiltrating the ranks of long haul, big rig drivers.

Their stop in New Zealand was to be brief.  They continued renting out the Brightwater house, and stayed in a caravan at Bevan’s parent’s place.  But when the tenant moved out of the house, they moved in.

Alas, once again, Bevan’s employability diverted them.  He got a job he loved, operating heavy machinery.  America was put on hold.

Lyn bought a hairdressing salon in Brightwater, called ‘Salon 56’.

She was had no hairdressing experience, but set out to fix that.  She signed up for a recently established, but ill-fated training course.  Despite her best efforts it became clear that the course she was taking would never lead to her being qualified.

After six years she sold the salon and took up an administration position at the Wakefield Health centre.  She remained there for 5 years, before taking up a position as administrator for the Nelson after hours practice, owned by Nelson doctors.

In 1991 Bevan’s farmer friend, was ready to retire.  He contacted Bevan to see if he would be interested in staking out a parcel of land to purchase.  Of-course he was interested.  Bevan selected 28 hectares, including flat pasture and hill side. The following year he and Lyn had a house built on a site overlooking the river.

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Lyn and Bevans Home in the Lee Valley  

Lyn was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 1999.  Surgery, six weeks in Wellington hospital and six months of chemotherapy was followed by a slow recovery.  Those were her and Bevan’s darkest days.  He still had to work.  She wouldn’t expect him to do otherwise.  The burden of Lyn’s illness and the demands of living where they did was crushing.  There were always jobs calling out to be done. 

They marked Lyn’s recovery by taking their deferred trip to America, but not to drive trucks.  That moment had passed. 

In America, Lyn was introduced to, and became enthusiastic about scrapbooking. That is: words and images carefully placed on paper to capture the essence of a time, a person, an event etc.

In 2004 Lyn opened a Scrapbooking shop in Richmond.  The word ‘scrapbooking’ doesn’t do justice to what Lyn aimed to achieve.   Her passion was helping others document their lives.  Journaling is a word Lyn repeatedly used to describe it.  I viewed a few of her journals, and Japanese Haku poetry came to mind.  Carefully chosen words and extreme brevity.

Lyn gave her all to her business, working all day, running classes, doing accounts and wages in the wee small hour.  

 

Scrapbooking is not, however, an essential commodity, and when the global financial crisis hit in 2008, her trade dropped below the breakeven point.  She was forced to close.  

While Lyn was preoccupied with her business, something special had arrived in Nelson.  It was a Japanese calligraphy school and gallery. 

Owners, calligraphy grand master Akiko Crowther and her artist husband, Tim, were drawn to Nelson by its creative culture.   Lyn was drawn to them by the art form and meditative discipline of Japanese calligraphy.  After closing the scrapbook shop, Lyn started attending classes.  These culminated in a trip to Japan with Akiko San to learn from grand masters in their own country.   Lyn also learnt about brush, ink, and paper making, visited a calligraphy museum, and had a day of calligraphy in a monk’s studio.

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Lyn at work in Japan

Lyn rounded out her pre-Eyebright working life, managing accounts for Echodale Marketing.  That’s a fifth-generation family owned orcharding business.  Those of you who remember Nelson thirty years ago will recall the Echodale Orchard on Nayland Road close to Saxton Road.  There’s still a road there, called Echodale Place.

After 29 years up the Lee Valley it was time for Lyn and Bevan to call it a day.  Challenges are essential, but any sports person knows that challenges need to be…  well … challenging, but doable.  Just like Bevan’s old friend thirty years ago, Lyn recognised that the Lee Valley property had become too much.

The change from 28 hectares to 600 m2 sounded extreme, but after visiting their new home I can see the logic.  There is an aura of calm and order.  I could sense a Japanese Zen.

Bevan is still driving heavy machinery, and Lyn is working part time at Eyebright. 

There is balance in their lives.

They’ve made some tough decisions and done a fine job of executing change.