The coast of Coromandel is, as you know, where the early pumpkins blow. It is where, in the middle of the woods, lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
When I was a child, reading the nonsense verse of Edward Lear, the coast of Coromandel seemed as likely a place I would one day find myself in as the Emerald City, Narnia, or the back of the west wind. It was a magical place, known only to Jumblies and the occasional Owl or Pussycat. It was a place of pilgrimage for only a devoted few who would cherish the two old chairs and half a candle, the one old jug without a handle (all the worldly goods of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò).
When I realised, therefore, that the coast of Coromandel was actually accessible as a day trip from Auckland, and that I would be in Auckland, it was but a matter of moments before I was figuring out a way to get there.
The first problem was that I had one day in our schedule: Boxing Day. The second problem I had was that no-one seemed to want to take us to Coromandel on Boxing Day.
“Is that because of crazed hordes wanting to make a pilgrimage to see the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò?” enquired my son, one of the other party members.
“No,” I said. “The drivers all think a) there will be too much traffic because it is a National Holiday in New Zealand and b) because it is a National Holiday in New Zealand, all the shops will be shut so we won’t get any lunch.”
Magic makes magic, I have found. Of course we discovered someone willing (for slightly more than one shilling) to take us to the coast of Coromandel the day after Christmas Day. There wasn’t too much traffic. At least, not unless your idea of “too much traffic” is seeing an occasional car on the road ahead of you. Also, the shops were open. We had a very nice Feijoa and Pear sorbet on the way, thank you.
We walked down to Cathedral Cove, marvelling at the ferns, the rocks, the sun, the sea, the sky, the little heaps of stones on which might sit the Lady Jingly Jones and so forth. We were amazed that such a place could exist and be here and be so beautiful and so deserted and so turquoise on Boxing Day.
I stood on the sand of the coast of Coromandel, squished it between my toes, walked down to the blue water, and confided my joy to the sky.
“I’m here! Where the early pumpkins blow!”
But then I had my doubts. Not about the pumpkins, about the geography. There is a coast of Coromandel in India, too. That is where the name of the coast in New Zealand originally comes from. We had actually passed through the Bombay Hills on the way to Coromandel. Arguing with myself about the exact physical location of a fictional character was an unexpected Boxing Day activity.
“Who is to say it isn’t here,” I said to myself, “that we will find a lady talking to some milk-white hens of Dorking, and weeping for her Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò?”
“Stands to reason,” I replied.
Although very little stands to reason when you are talking about poetry.
But the poetry is the reason I was there.
Don’t care if it was the wrong coast of Coromandel. I stood there, where the early pumpkins didn’t actually blow, and was glad to be there.
Thank you, Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò. I might not have seen Coromandel without you.