Chance Encounters: Hometown Visitor – a short story by Lee Switzer


Robert took off on Anniversary Weekend to drive back up north to his hometown. But was it really a hometown? What is a hometown? He wasn’t born there, but he spent 12 years there from 5 years old until leaving school. It was more like a battleground. Hadn’t lived in this camp for many tree rings he said to the ghost in his car.

He just wanted to check out the old scene. The rented Housing Corp house remained in shambles, still, it was inhabited. The house where his parents fought, yelled, cried and finally split. Good thing too. Robert’s sister, younger, was more vulnerable, and watched, tried to hide the tearful nightmares of parents’ naked screaming fights.

During parties at their house, many guests offered little Charlene, named after her father Charles, a sip of their drink. Each ‘sip’ gave her a funny sleepy feeling. His parents, already taking their own 1080 were not aware, or did not care, about the free flow sharing. As she grew up, she said her name should have been Chagrin.

Driving down the main street, Robert saw desolation. The road was sealed, thirty years ago. Now it’s filled with slushy muck, dandelions and potholes so deep they probably go to China. And plenty of eels on the way like in the river, he thought.

Near an old bus stop bench, a woman sat on a tree stump, head down. He slowed the car, then saw it was Maria. She was waiting to flag down the bus and go back to Dargaville. Robert and Maria attended school together but never really got close. However, he did enjoy her sister who was 2 years older and more mature.

Hi, need a ride?’

Marie looked into the car, recognized him. ‘Yeah, thanks’ she replied.

Where to little Maria?’

Can we park somewhere for a quiet chat?’

Maria had matured, a lot. She smiled, sadly, glad to see him. They went to the old cemetery, Charlene’s plot on the edge, where trees and a stream merged like a painting with a fan blowing the wind. He parked the 4 door Holden beneath a podocarp entanglement. Rolled down the windows. Turned off the engine, keeping the electrical system on.

He told her about working in Waipoua Forest for 5 years. He went to Uni, graduating with a Forester degree, learning the ‘psychology of trees’ he joked. Sometimes going to Christchurch for classes. The Forester talked about the hippies living up Waimamaku valley.

The front seat was cramped. He plugged his ipod into the console and music came forth in surround sound like a magic kete, vibrating with hope and wisdom. Their thoughts and eyes wove another story. He turned down the volume.

In the back seat, they were slowly getting to know each other. A new stage in their lives now brought them together. A melding of stem and stamen.

I can’t have children’ she said in a near silent voice.

Robert sensed Maria’s need for warmth. His arm rested across her blouse, hand on her shoulder.

I was pregnant. Didn’t want it. I went south of the border’ she said, referring to Cook Strait. ‘I had a friend who knew a friend in Christchurch who knew a doctor. Said he was a doctor. I got his name. Went to his house. He did it. I came back across on the ferry so sick, sore, I got a hotel room in Wellington.’ She paused.

Robert waited; there is a time to listen and a time to do.

I almost died in bed. I started bleeding and passed out. A cleaning lady came in and found me the next morning because I hadn’t checked out on time’ Maria, monotone, showed him scars.

Sorry. It must have been hard, all the travel, all that emotion to be pregnant and not wanting to be. Nearly dying, alone.’

It was.’ Maria, scrunched up, body to body on the seat, looked at Robert.

They said no more.

Lee Switzer: Article and image by Lee Switzer. Lee is a regular contributor to ARTbop – photo essays, articles and poetry. Lee has suggested “Chance Encounters” could develop into a series of short stories, so ARTbop will wait and see! Lee is multi-talented producing sought-after images of local artists and exhibitions. He has been an archival photographer around Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty for some years – how to see this body of Lee’s work are below. ARTbop also has a “back catalogue” of several photoessays by Lee to publish – so keep an eye out for these. You can find examples of Lee’s previous contributions in our ARTbop archives.

More photos by Lee Switzer

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Exhibition | Molly Morpeth Canaday Award: Painting and Drawing  CLOSING 12TH MARCH 2017 – GET THERE NOW!

January 28 to March 12, 2017 
Whakatane Museum and Arts, Whakatane

The 2017 Molly Morpeth Canaday Award for Painting and Drawing will be exhibited across all three galleries at Te Kōputu a te whanga a Toi — The Whakatāne Library and Exhibition Centre — and open to the public from Saturday, 28 January until Sunday, 12 March 2017.

Presented by Arts Whakatāne in association with Whakatāne Museum and Arts, this nationally-recognised art award will recognise 13 category winners. The 2017 judge, Felicity Milburn, announced the winners on Friday, 27 January, including the artists to receive the $2500 Craigs Investment Partners Youth prize and the $10,000 Molly Morpeth Canaday Fund award.

Whakatane Museum and Arts

Date(s) – 28/01/2017 – 12/03/2017

The Judge:

Heather Hourigan, Molly Morpeth Canaday Co-Ordinator with 2017 Judge Felicity Milburn

Felicity Milburn is a Curator at Christchurch Art Gallery, Te Puna o Waiwhetu. She works with artists on a wide range of projects, from temporary installations through to large-scale survey exhibitions. Most recently, Milburn curated exhibitions of historical and contemporary art from the collection and beyond for the Gallery’s reopening. She writes regularly about art for local and international publications and is the art editor for the literary magazine, Takahē. This year, Milburn has worked with Billy Apple and Lisa Walker on solo individual projects, and prepared an exhibition on the paintings of Doris Lusk.

Editor’s Note: There is a large free parking area within easy walking distance of this complex which is part of a waterfront shopping precinct – including a New World if you feel the need to stock up on the basics. Whakatane has a number of cafes within its main streets area which you access through the Centre arcade. There is an outstandingly popular sushi cafe opposite with a great array of sushi and as a bonus “free” green tea. There are signposted public toilets and toilets within the Exhibition Centre. Whakatane is a magical “day out”.

You can also find the flavour of the Eastern Bay of Plenty in Arts Revealed

img_3864-web-lgbookcoverArts Revealed: Eastern Bay of Plenty

Andrea Cooper and Heather Hourigan

Read the review in Words by Lee Switzer



Hey Banksy is that you?

Here he comes…


Paradox the Street Art Festival coming to Tauranga March to June 2017 – W:




ZOETICA – life – passion – bravery 30 August to 02 September 2017 Tarnished Frocks & Divas in association with Carrus     W: F: Tarnished Frocks and Divas


donotleavemehangingbyathreadsecondseries2016-001Do not leave me hanging by a thread is a You Tube spoken word project to encourage support for the work of Medecins Sans Frontieres – Doctors Without Borders.

“Medecins Sans frontieres – Doctors Without Borders is an international non-governmental humanitarian medical organisaiton. It delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from health care. It was founded in Paris in 1971 by a group of doctors and journalists who believed that all people have the right to medical care regarldess of gender race religion or political affiliation. There are regionally based organisations. Australia has an organisation






Remember the fun of colouring in as a child? Tauranga City Libraries’ has two Adult Colouring Clubs!

tauranga Library: Held on the last Wednesday of each month from 10:30-11:30am. Register your interest by phoning 577-7177 or by emailing

Papamoa Library: Held on the second Thursday of each month from 10:30-11:30am. Register your interest by phoning 577-7177 or by emailing

BYO colouring book and equipment or give it a go using our basic materials supplied.   

Adult colouring helps reduce stress, anxiety and we have a lot of creative fun!

ARTbop the Bay of Plenty’s creative arts magazine – online anywhere, anytime!


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