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Granfather and grandson keeping an eye on the buce

For as long as I can remember the third Sunday of January has been dedicated to attending the Wellington Croatian Club’s annual picnic. I can’t remember a picnic ever being cancelled because of bad weather although there have been a few instances where it was postponed until the following day. The venue has moved twice over the years but what happens on this day hasn’t changed much as time has passed.

This picnic is all about catching up with people and their families that form our local Croatian community. Our community is not as active as it once was so events like this picnic are an important way of keeping connected with one another. So many life events have affected us all over the intervening years and these have been dissected and discussed at length at these picnics – births, marriages, deaths, divorces, all sorts of scandals. Talking and eating are the two primary activities that take place throughout this day.

The number of people attending this picnic has dwindled but the stalwarts of the community are there every year keeping the tradition alive as best they can. It is fantastic how they don’t give up. We have the races, the tug-o-war between those people that live in Wellington and those that live in Lower Hutt, the Macintosh toffee lolly scramble, chocolate bars given out as prizes, the bottles of whisky being passed around to share, and the baking provided by the women which we all enjoy with our coffee.

There is also another tradition that takes place – playing the game of buce (Croatian lawn bowls). The men go off in one direction and the women in the other.

My father loves playing buce. He is really good at it. He has played both indoor and outdoor bowls competitively and has won competitions. At home he has a sack which contains an old set of bowls which he uses for fun games at family gatherings and events like this picnic.

I was watching the men playing buce this afternoon and I realised something had changed. My 3 year old nephew Niko was running up and down following the bowls. At times he was getting in the way and would even touch the bowls. He was having fun and I was wondering when one of the men playing would say something or get angry because Niko was disturbing their game. This was what I would have expected to happen but it didn’t. Instead they were laughing and even egging Niko on. I suddenly realised that as part of the aging process these men had mellowed. They were so much more relaxed. These men were all now grandfathers and their reaction to children was far more tolerant than it had been when their own children were younger. Ah, the things we learn as we age. It is such a pity we don’t learn some of these lessons earlier.

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