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They live in beautiful island isolation, make their living from land and sea and home-school their children and they don’t feel they’re missing a thing
Words: Jacqui Gibson / Photographs: Mike Heydon
IT’S 7.15AM when 10-year-old James Radon wanders into the kitchen to start his school day. He’s barefoot. His short-cropped, straw-coloured hair is a riot of kinks and rooster’s tails. From one hand dangles a crumpled maths book featuring the day’s geometry lesson, from the other an almost-blunt pencil. The lanky youngster sits down at the kitchen table. “Hey, dad,” he says cheerfully to the 62-year-old sitting opposite him, “wanna hear my eight times tables?”
Mike looks up and gives his son an affectionate wink before downing the last of his muesli. He suggests James rattle off his 12s – after all, most real-life fishermen tot up their catches that way. And so James’ enthusiastic recital begins.
Mike, a long-time diver and fisherman from California, has been up since 5.00am. He and his Kiwi wife Antonia have already tended 40 or so tanks of paua (farmed in a converted woolshed on the beach), prepped spear-fishing gear for an afternoon dive and rallied the troops to “rise and shine”.
James, the youngest of the Radon’s close-knit brood, will lend a hand after lunch when school is done. Or maybe he’ll jump on a quad bike and gun it to Cook’s Lookout – a high point on the island where Captain Cook reportedly first saw the strait that now bears his name. That said, it might be fun to climb the gnarled pohutukawa trees out front and spend the afternoon spying on siblings Sarah and Jacob as they go about their chores. Hmmmm. But which tree for the best vantage? The options are endless for a young boy who fancies himself as a professional hunter one day and who can’t get enough of TV show I Shouldn’t Be Alive.
All three Radon kids – James and 14-year-old twins Sarah and Jacob – are Arapawa natives, having resided on the 75-square-kilometre island for their entire lives. Like generations of whalers’ and fishermen’s kids before them, they have learned to cope with social remoteness (albeit aided by the internet, cellphones and a near-constant supply of electricity). They’re expert at finding fun in hard work and the natural world around them. And they’re determinedly self-reliant.
Jacob explains: “Do I get lonely here? Absolutely. But when I feel that way I hang out with my brother and sister, I go rock-hopping or I find my escape in books – I’ve read 20, maybe 30 books already this year. They’ve taken me to all kinds of cool places. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have friends my age. But, truthfully, I just can’t imagine leaving here – it’s such a beautiful, peaceful place. Being in the native bush, hearing birds like the tui – it’s really very inspiring.”
For the full article please see Issue 46 of NZ Life & Leisure