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One man’s pinecone is another man’s penguin

19 August 2019

An Ashburton tenant has been getting creative with driftwood and other items collected from his local beach.

Alan and Tenancy Manager Rochelle check out one of his creations.

Alan moves some books aside and slides a polystyrene box out from a cabinet. Its immense weight becomes obvious when he drops it on the floor to a loud thud.

“This is all my feet,” he says with a laugh.

Alan’s “feet” are an assortment of stones collected from Wakanui Beach over years past. Sure enough, they all look like shoes and some will one day become the feet for one of his creations.

"It's just a labour of love. I get joy out of doing it,” the 79-year-old says.

The Ashburton Housing New Zealand resident has been collecting items – driftwood, shells and shoes – for the past four years. He needed something to keep him going after a relationship broke down.

“I thought 'what am I going to do', and just decided to go down to the beach and pick up some driftwood. I bring it home, sort it, and eventually craft it into something,” he says.

“It’s not about the time I put into it, it's a hobby. You do it for fitness and to keep active. When you get to my age, if you don't use it you'll lose it.”

A quick wander through his home shows just how busy he has been. Paua shell animals line tops of cabinets and completely cover shelves in his living room.

All three bedrooms in his home are filled with creations – things like “Harry Potter’s dragon”, formerly a piece of driftwood that he carved, polished and crafted. There are snakes, penguins and items like “Ratty after cheese”, all of which have their own story.

There must be more than 100 items throughout Alan’s home. He doesn’t sell his creations but enjoys giving them to people.

“I've given some to St John and the local Lion's Club for an auction. I give them to them and they sell them off.”

For Alan’s Tenancy Manager Rochelle, he’s the perfect resident. Having lived in his home since 1975 – 44 years – he takes great pride in his own space and keeps it in ship shape.

Along with his creations, Alan carefully maintains his home and gardens, with beautiful flowers seen growing outside year round.

Recently Rochelle gave Alan a Certificate of Appreciation because she wanted to show him her gratitude.

“He’s lived in his home for 44 years and very rarely asks for anything from us. When we try to do upgrades he’d rather they went to someone else’s home because he doesn’t want ‘to be a bother’.

“Alan’s always happy to catch up and I think we should make sure people like him get more recognition for being lovely, respectful people.”

Left: Housing New Zealand tenant Alan, outside his Ashburton home. Right: From pinecone penguins to paua shell turtles, Alan sees a creation in everything.

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