Preserving a positive outlook

16:00, Feb 04 2014
WMP Pool
HAPPY DAYS: Maureen Van der Lee celebrates her 89th birthday with friends, family and colleagues before heading up north. ‘‘Don’t worry about food, just bring what you like to drink,’’ she says.

A move up north will not stop legendary jam maker Maureen Van der Lee from preserving a dollop or two of her magic.

The 89-year-old is planning to write a cookbook from her new home in Waipu.

It will have all the recipes for the jams and chutneys popular ever since she started making and selling them 20 years ago.

The Cheshire lass from Alderley Edge has been on Waiheke for 40 years after buying a converted container home costing $6000 in Blackpool's Nikau Rd.

She worked in retail, cleaning and did cooking but her passion has always been jam, chutney and pickle making.

Even when she moved to the Waiheke Retirement Village eight years ago, she continued to make her Traffic Jam preserves for sale at Ostend Market - such are her energy levels.


Her first day in her retirement village bungalow, at the age of 80, is an example.

"I jumped up and down on the spare bed to see if I could see the sea but I couldn't. I don't miss it though. I know where it is."

Now she has quit Waiheke - the very next day after throwing a party at the retirement village to celebrate her 89th birthday.

Unlike Bilbo Baggins, Maureen did not go off on an adventurous trip but a necessary relocation.

She is settling into a small apartment closer to family, vowing to keep her independence and continue doing things her own way.

It will include tending the small garden as she did on the island, growing fruit and veges for her preserves. She has 15-year-old Charley the cat as company, a stray she got at three weeks old, with an addiction for the vacuum cleaner.

"I've always vacuumed her. My carer Elizabeth can't believe it."

The cat will be an otherwise undemanding companion as Maureen plans her cookbook.

She says it will include recipes for her best-selling Brinjal chutney and the strawberry, rhubarb and brandy jam so popular at the market. The forthright stallholder will be missed on the island but she is leaving her philosophy: "The key to happiness is all inside yourself, your outlook. But speak your mind."

Waiheke Marketplace