Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Last March my grandfather, Da, turned 90 and he looked well. This is a photo of him in 1953.
My mother's parents have always been known to us and Nandy and Da. I don't know why this is, although I think like most nicknames it came from a mispronunciation by a young child, probably my eldest cousin.
He had been sick a few months previously and my sister told me Da had cried when she last saw him, afraid that this was their last meeting. I am leaving the country shortly before his 91st birthday and returning I don't know when. For these, and other reasons which I may go into later, I decided to see if I could record some of his life stories.
Da seemed reluctant when I first put the idea to him, but two minutes later he started talking light-heartedly about his years at the bank, which was annoying as I hadn't bought the recorder yet. However, the next morning he rang Mum. He was worried, apprehensive, especially about 'the war'- World War Two- he just wanted to put it behind him, he said. But he would be alright to talk about some other things.
So, nervously, I turned up for our first recording. We started on the lighter stuff- amusing stories about butter, dogs and revolvers at the Bank of New South Wales, and about going to the 1938 national swimming championships and just missing out on going to the Empire Games. I like the way he chuckles as he approaches the punchlines of these stories, the way he tells all the important details.
Then, he just started talking about the war, just like that. Before I knew it he was onto the Battle of El Alamein, and telling me both the funny stories and the quite serious stuff. Two stories really reverberated for me, and I have thought about them often since. I hope to tell them later, as this post is getting long enough already.
Without noticing it, over an hour had passed, and when I stopped Da, he said, "But I haven't talked about Greece yet."
Two days later, at Christmas lunch, without any prompting, he looked up Greece in the atlas and started talking about the battles again, and I got another hour's recording.
Nandy told me that he'd slept all the following day, exhausted from the telling and the talking. Yet, he appeared to have found a purpose in doing it, he became determined to cover all the parts of his history and was annoyed when he couldn't remember the name of a person or detail.
He seemed grateful to me, and I certainly felt grateful to him.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
My sister Rachael and I were lucky that Granny Jackman had forgotten that she'd bought us xmas presents, so we had twice the chocolates. Here we are dividing up the chocolates (Rachael doesn't like dark chocolate and I don't like white).
It was our first xmas with Brad, my sister's partner. Rachael commented that afternoon that she thought her family loved Brad more than they loved her. Mum certainly thinks Brad has better manners and her eyes are gleaming with the prospect of marriage and grandchildren.
Cody the Labrador enjoyed xmas, mostly because it meant more food from more people. Cody is getting old and this maybe his last xmas. I got fleas from Cody this xmas, and in return I gave him two washes with flea shampoo.
It was a hot day and after lunch we sat around lazily. My grandfather told us about his time in Greece during the war. Some of us went for a walk around the orchard. The day crept on, but the heat didn't abate.
At about 7pm we went for a swim at the beach to cool down, it was nice. And that's about how you can describe the day...nice.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
For me this drive is from Wellington to Gisborne, all 531 windy km. It usually takes 7 and a half hours, but with a heavily laden car it will probably take longer. I am just about to make a thermos of coffee and load up the final things. It will be a long day.
I will let you know what I forget.
That from the first moment you endure the sound of Cliff Richard's chart topping Christmas classic 'Mistletoe and Wine', until some moment in the new year when forgetfulness sets you free, these lyrics will haunt you.
Right now, on continuous repeat in my head, are the following lyrics:
"Christmas time, mistletoe and wine,
Children singing christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and da de da dee*,
Time to rejoice in all that we see."
I can even hum the woman background singer. I had avoided entering shops that might possibly be playing this type of music, that was until Friday when The Salvation Army in Levin unleashed horror sometime just before lunch. Since then I have rarely had a free moment without Cliff and his song of Christmas cheer.
On the upside I am very proud of my gift buying this year, especially the Darth Vader cuff links I bought for my sister's boyfriend.
* indicates forgotten lyrics- maybe 'bells on the tree'?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
All of my photos are in storage so this is the closest I can get to helping you imagine me as a teenager. I finished seventh form in 1999, and it could not have been soon enough. I remember girls at our final prize-giving crying because it was their last moment of school. Meanwhile, I was very unsentimental, instead feeling both relief and new found freedom. I'd felt school had started to take on a confining, choking feeling some six months earlier. Now I just had to get out of Gisborne.
A year or two beforehand I had decided (encouraged by my father) that I would stay on in Gisborne after leaving school and start my accountancy career at a local firm as they paid you to work and do a couple of university papers at the same time. By July of 1999 I had firmly decided 'no way' and applied to Otago University, the furthest I could get away without leaving the country (there were many events which has caused this firm decision, but I won't go into them here). So, I just had to survive the summer and then I could leave.
1999 was a year of uncertainties, but also possibilities. I remember feeling that my future was uncertain, but bright. I had dreams of doing wonderful things (although I couldn't articulate what things they might be). On the other hand there was y2k and the possibility that we might not be around for much longer. Oh, yes, and the drinking age was just about to come down to 18. All in all, I was glad time was moving on.
I don't have many fond memories of high school. It was just something that happened. Really, I don't think I was suited to a girls' school. My last few months at primary school had been spent playing cricket with two boys in my class, researching weta, doing experiments on plants and reading adventure and war stories. Suddenly, at high school I found myself sitting down all the time with girls and listening to conversations about TV shows whilst swapping Dolly and Girlfriend magazines.
Throughout my time there I had tried to become as little involved as possible. I never entered an event at Athletics Day, avoided doing work in Science as much as possible, rarely did homework and almost never studied. My achievements amounted to an Accounting prize, a contribution to Swimmming badge and winning the forth form speech competition (probably the only thing I am proud of- ironically my speech was on the theory that teachers were in actual fact aliens).
So at the end in 1999 I just said a brief goodbye to the few friends I had (most of whom I never saw again, but in truth I wasn't a very likable person at high school anyway), thanked one teacher, opened my time capsule (I had changed quite a bit, although I was still struggling to be cool- and had failed to get a boyfriend), and left vowing never to attend a reunion or go back.
I did go back, in 2006, for a placement while at teachers' college. And I sometimes wonder if my dislike of high school had anything to do with me becoming a high school teacher.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Fflur: university student
Richard: serial killer
Me: world domination
Perhaps, now we know what bass bags have been used for all this time.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I went for a swim today before the start of school at the outdoor Wainuiomata Pool. When I arrived there were a few swimmers already in the pool and a duck trailing across the water, looking assertive as if it belonged there more than anyone else.
The water was warm and it was nice to be swimming next to the bush, watching the sun spread across the valley and listening to the birds sing as it did.
Even the half-eaten sausage at the bottom of the pool (a recent school outing perhaps) could not dampen the moment.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
In our flat we have decided to make an effort to clean out some of the junk around the house. Tonight we went through the bathroom cupboard. We came across a giant box of panadol tablets and about eleven used toothbrushes, nothing special.
The real find came from a set of drawers. It contained a book called 'A hundred and One Uses of a Dead Cat'. You can imagine how excited I was. The above image is the only one I could find on the internet. My favourite uses so far in the book have been the shoulder pads and the oven mitts.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I hear Dubai has a lot of great products and services at reasonable prices like coffee, rugs, swimming pools and assassins.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Yes, it must be getting warmer.
Today I stopped for a swim at Petone Beach on the way back into town. Like most swims that aren't at the height of summer, the water felt icy from the outset, but by time I was back in the car I was glad I'd stopped.
And I was reminded once again (winter always has a way of making you forget) of how sand gets everywhere, and how it seems to stick to skin.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Firstly- Just because you buy yourself an expensive camera, it does not automatically mean you are a good photographer. Apparently you have to master these things. I realised this when I bought a guitar several years ago as well. I wonder if I buy a double bass what will happen?
Secondly- It pays never to assume someone is happy in their job just because they are cheerful. I was talking to a non-teaching colleague the other day and she told me she'd applied for another job. I was shocked because she always seemed cheerful and happy, but we hadn't ever talked much beyond the weather and how to catch the mouse in my room.
Thirdly- Going from living by myself to living with eight flatmates hasn't been as severe as I'd imagined.
Fourthly- I think Richard is getting bored. He even joined facebook, then closed it down three hours after agreeing to be my friend. I have taken the hint. I have a plan to egg and flour his car tomorrow.
Oh no, but he walks to school now. I'll just have to steal his shoes while his isn't looking. Maybe while he's teaching his least favourite Year 9 class.
And lastly-Regular visitors to this blog (I've always wanted to say that, although I suspect my regular readers may number 2) will remember that a while back I set out on the task of catching two feral cats and their four offspring who were all living around my place. Well, both cats were caught. I could be all nice about this and say they are in a nicer place. But I'm not. They are dead.
The kittens did not take too long to catch. They can't be too bright. I say this because they didn't seem to realise that the cage trap was slowly taking their family one by one and yet each kitten continued to fall for the trap. One kitten even escaped from the cardboard box I put it in, then happily entered the trap again the following day. Their fate is a lot better, they are cute after all and young enough to mold to our human ways.
If you go down to the SPCA in Newtown you might even see them there, waiting for a caring loving home to be stupid in.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Oh yes the irony.
Last night I sat down to read this week's edition of the Hutt News. What I found on the front cover was an article about the newly crowned Miss Hutt Valley. Now there have been a wide variety of events reported on throughout my eight month residency in Petone, but none had me deploring quite like this one.
The winner, Miss Hutt Valley 2009, was one 22 year old Mary Cooper, who obviously stuck out during the swim, designer and evening wear sections. She believed she'd won "because of her professional approach and the way she spoke". Yes, that's what I thought looking at her photo too.
Furthermore, young Mary stated that she had been annoyed by stereotypes of Hutt women as having no ambition, and one of her aims now was to become a positive role model. She was beginning this journey by stating that she now regretted getting a playboy bunny tattoo, and plans to have it removed. "Everyone makes mistakes when they are young". Yes dear, they do.
Still, I can't blame the poor lass. When you grow up (probably) spending your weekends at Queensgate, watching TV and reading Dolly magazine it would be hard not to think that success and popularity are predominantly based on looks.
Often the young women that I teach talk to me about their struggles with the idea they need to be 'perfect'. The thing they find the hardest is that they know that they are being force-fed false messages, but they so often bow to the pressure.
I hope Mary will one day realise this.
As for me, I can't help but keep my stereotypes of the Hutt for events like this and last night's shooting in Stokes Valley.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
On Thursday night I decided to watch the fireworks from the pedestrian over-bridge at Ava train station. There was a guy up there already when I arrived.
"It isn't as impressive as last year" he said, "but the kids love it". I looked around and couldn't see any kids so guessed that he meant kids in general, the city over.
A few minutes later a couple arrived with their boy who was about 5 years old.
"Look at the fireworks" his dad said.
The boy just stared. A couple of minutes later he spoke.
"When are the fireworks stopping?"
The father tried to get his son enthused about the explosive display, but he wasn't keen.
"When is the train coming?"
"I don't know" his father replied.
His mother, however, decided to have some fun.
"Maybe the train driver has stopped to look at the fireworks" she said
The reply was sharp and defiant, "they can't do that, it's not allowed, trains can't just stop, you're wrong"
Just as the fireworks finished a train pulled into the station and the boy suddenly felt that this had been a night worth coming out for.
Even though the fireworks were relatively small when seen from across the harbour, it appears that sometimes, explosive stuff just isn't as cool as the everyday stuff.
An update form the last post. The tomcat was caught on Friday night, about two minutes after I set the trap. I have been telling the kittens all weekend that Daddy eloped with a slapper from down the road. They seem ok with this.
Monday, November 2, 2009
A couple of months ago I realised that two ginger cats had taken up residence under my house and in the carport. A fortnight ago it came to my attention that they had four kittens. Very cute. But like me, they have to go. So I called the SPCA. The friendly man is going to drop a trap (with instructions) around in a couple of days. The kittens (if caught) can be raised and fostered out. The fate doesn't look so good for their parents. I will aim to keep you updated on the kitty catching.
Monday, October 26, 2009
At first I tried to make a good impression by answering deeply- pondering the meaning of life type thoughts- but then I thought that I should just be honest. So the next time I was asked I answered straight from my brain. I was thinking about which brand of shampoo I should buy when I next go to the supermarket.
I was quite shocked at the futility of my thoughts.
This weekend I have been pondering. Not on anything important you understand. No.
In three weeks I have to move out and throw away anything that I don't want stored. I have been pondering over which mugs to keep and which to throw away. What makes it worse is that I paid no more than $2 for each one.
It's deep, man.
Am I becoming the kind of woman who only thinks about beauty products and kitchen items?
Well, whilst pondering this pondering I find that I have been also pondering about Frank Sargeson whose stories I am reading, and about my mother and sister who have been staying, and about the strange occupation that is teaching. So one futile ponder is perfectly valid I think.
Ponder is such a daft word. Did you know that it's the collective noun for a group of philosophers. A ponder of philosophers.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
For the last seven months I have lived without a television. This experience comes with positives (more productive evenings, more books read, music listened to) and negatives (spend more money on DVDs, starting a blog, feeling like a social outcast when friends/students discuss things on TV). However, the honest truth is that I have rarely missed it. I don't miss the ads. I don't miss the news. I don't miss most of the programmes.
The only exception is Outrageous Fortune, which until two weeks ago screened every Tuesday night at 9:30pm. For this very reason I would avoid three of my colleagues every Wednesday morning as they always discussed and analysed the scandalous events of the previous night's episode. I didn't want to know. Now that season five has finished, I have ordered the DVD and await its arrival tomorrow. I'm a little excited.
In anticipation of this event I sat down on Sunday evening and re-watched the last two episodes of season four. This is worrying behaviour I know. They were good, especially the parts where Wolf must realise the love of his life no longer wants him.
But, while they are good, my favourite is Episode Ten, which is pure Shakespearean. It is the point at which, in great Lear style, a father realises he has spawned a child more evil than himself.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I've been blogging for over a month now and this is my sixth post. To be honest I've been struggling with it as I think about what topics to write about and how I'm going to present it. Unlike others, I don't have a topic to fall back on, like double basses, wine or beautiful vintage clothes. In all this anguish I turn to my blog guru. I notice he has posted 6 posts in the last week which included a copy of a forwarded email, two posts about the same gig, and a post that was 29 words long. Aha! I can post any old crap.
Watch this space as it descends further into blog awful-dom.
Seal video taken by author on Ngawi coast in August.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Age and experience are two things that are often thought to go together, along with wisdom. I have come to learn that they have little correlation in general, and I was further reminded of this last night when I saw Justin Townes Earle play at Bodega.
Being the child of someone famous has to be pretty tough, especially if your dad is Steve Earle, the rock-country singer-song writer known (according to Wikipedia) as the "the hardcore troubadour" for his drug and law troubles, and political viewpoints. Not only that, but you’re also named after Townes Van Zandt, a cult singer-songwriter who meet his demise at the hands on drugs and alcohol in the 1990s. Now Justin Townes Earle is making a name for himself as a musician and every damned interviewer seems to be concerned about the relationship with his father, but he copes with it well.
“There’s nothing about my relationship with my father that you can’t find out with Google… Our lives and our relationship are, have been, and always will be public, because people are always going to want to figure out the psychology between singer/songwriter father and son…You just let it happen.” Justin Townes Earle.
He even put it into a song- Mama’s Eyes, reminding us that it was actually his mother who raised him. “I am my father's son/we don't see eye to eye” and “I've got my mama's eyes/her long thin frame and her smile/and I still see wrong from right”
Not only that but Justin headed down a path of drug abuse (following in Steve’s footsteps) from before his 12th birthday. He was sent off to live with his dad at 14, who hardly felt up to the task: “I was a year clean when I got handed an out-of-control 14-year-old. I’ve been dealing with him ever since”. It seems he was quite a little shit. As a consequence he was booted out of his dad’s band and several others (one band had to fold because Justin kept selling all the instruments and equipment to fuel his habit). According to this extensive article, at the age of 21 he was hospitalised and nearly died, then sometime later he stopped the hard drugs. Realising that music was the only thing he felt he could do well, Justin began performing again and recording. Now he’s touring on the back of his third album Midnight At The Movies.
Putting aside his great music (which I won’t cover here) it was while he was playing onstage last night it occurred to me that he has this worldliness about him, which struck me more considering he’s only three months younger than myself. He’s experienced and wise and his lyrics- mostly on love, places and late nights- appear to me to reflect on a life lived very fast. You’d almost expect someone of 50 to be writing them. I don’t feel nearly as worldly. He embraced the stage with charisma, humour and comfort. He dealt with the drunken idiots and entertained us all.
While I like a lot of music, there are not as many musicians whom I haven’t met that gain my respect, but Justin Townes Earle definitely does.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
One part of this that always interested me is how athletes mentally prepare. Occasionally, I would see someone before a race to take on a different look. They appeared serious, but calm. It usually meant they were determined underneath, with a strong faith in themselves and their ability. For this reason I usually avoided looking at my competitors before a race, as I never possessed such a ‘look’ and was afraid of seeing it in others I was racing against.
On Saturday night I watched the boxing fight between David Tua and Shane Cameron on TV in a bar. This is not something I would normally do, but I went to primary school with Shane and I am currently staying with my sister, who is a fan. The night did not go well as we watched our former schoolmate savagely punched and pounded to a pulp in 188 seconds.
It was tough to see, but I had the feeling it might go that way. It was to do with the way they looked prior. Walking out to the ring David had the look like nothing could affect him, with eyes focused on something ahead. Shane on the other hand seemed not to have shielded himself off from the enthusiasms of the crowd, the hype, the moment. He smiled to the crowd, and then remembered he had to be serious and was, for a moment, until he looked up and smiled again. The match was decided from the outset.
Putting aside the my criticisms of the sport of boxing (there are many) and professional sport in general, that night just reminded me of the faith and determination needed to do something that the rest of us fear or think of as just being a plain stupid thing to do.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
On Friday it was my birthday. I turned 28. It was a busy day and offered little chance of reflection, but I’m just another year older. So there’s not much to be said about this (which is just as well because my Blog Guru tells me I need to keep things short).
There was nothing out of the ordinary about my birth. I arrived on my due date, at a leisurely hour (sometime after 2pm) in Gisborne Hospital. When my mother started having contractions my father drove her the hour’s drive from their farm into town. I was born, given four names, and went about crying, drinking, sleeping and so on.
A couple of years ago my mother told about this time in one of our rare honest conversations. She said that her and Dad had this feeling that here was something they had created, it was just theirs, and now they had the job of looking after it.
I have no idea what it is to be a parent, or if I ever will, but I loved and respected her just a bit more when she said that, because that thing was me.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
This post is so that the reader can be informed on the copious (two) ways in which NSB can be used. As you can see, like RBB, it can be used to hold a musical instrument. Unlike RBB (and this it what makes NSB superior) it can hold groceries in a convenient and easy to manage way.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I thought I might start a blog today. There are a lot of reasons why this is a stupid idea. However, Richard (my colleague) said that I should start a blog, like him. Both he and John-Paul (another colleague) blog frequently. They used to say all kinds of stuff, but now they write with a lot of wisdom and insight, therefore, I’m going on the theory that writing blogs makes you wise.
I have no idea where to start so perhaps a list of things I have experienced in the last week will do.
Last Sunday I wrote my reports. I had to write comments for my Year 11 form class. I found it hard, trying to sum up the connection I’ve had with them for three years, knowing I won’t see them through until they finish. A lot have matured, one has been thrown out of school and has worked hard to come back in, but it is a few others I feel despondent about. They had seemed so full of promise when they started high school; I’ve tried to help, and I’m finding it hard to let go.
On Monday I struggled through the day. I’m worn out from trying to be a good teacher but feeling like I’m failing dismally. I went home and fell asleep on the couch. Then I woke up and bought tickets on the internet to a Justin Townes Earl gig next month. He writes some interesting lyrics, I’m looking forward to hearing him play.
On Tuesday I got my two Year 9 classes to have a competition to see who had learnt the most from the Shakespeare Stories unit we had been doing all term. I realised that one of my classes is full of extroverts and one is full of introverts. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, they talked through a lot of it, some said it was boring (which I didn’t like as I’d put a bit of time into it), but one boy shone. He’s on daily report to the principal so I was able to write a good comment.
On Wednesday nights I swim with a Masters swimming club, afterwards we go to the pub. There are some interesting, and some not so interesting people in the club. One of the interesting people is a marine ecologist for DOC. She has a lot of great stories to tell. That night she told us about the Falkland Islands, where after the Falklands War every animal on the beach that weighed under 100kg thrived because they couldn’t set off the landmines or be eaten by predators over 100kg (who were blown to a thousand tiny bits). She also spends summers on the Auckland Islands studying sea lions and last summer a six-star cruise ship came down for a cruise and they hit rough seas. Unfortunately, she told us with glee, no one had thought to tighten down the furniture so the grand piano went straight through a window and out to sea.
On Thursday I took a whole bunch of teenage girls into the bush to build a bike track. The girls bitched about each other, to each other and about the tasks they were asked to do. The peer mentors were frustrated and ended the day not liking me. I had to talk to them all and swore to only enjoy nature with the cooperative in the future. That afternoon I stayed behind after school and spent six hours proof reading reports. I felt sorry for kids who had bad comments all-round, it wouldn’t be pleasant reading that about yourself, and I certainly don’t think it would incite a pupil into good behaviour. I suspect there are too many other factors involved.
On Friday night I went to a dead celebrity themed birthday potluck dinner. The host was Hunter S. Thompson, his partner was Katherine Hepburn, and the other guests included Kurt Cobain, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. I was Lucille Ball because that was the result of the internet ‘Which Dead Celebrity Are You?’ quiz I had found. Plus I happened to have a 1950’s dress. I was very tired, drank a bottle of wine, yawned a lot, and took myself off to bed in the spare room. It was not a nice thing to do to my hosts, but I didn’t have the energy to tell them about the week that had led me to this point.
On Saturday I went to a talk at Te Papa by Emory Douglas, the former Minister for Arts and Culture for the Black Panther Party who presented a slide show of his artwork. It was interesting in many ways. He said that there was this misconstrued perception that the Black Panthers all had guns, yet quite a few pieces of art had a guns in them. He described Richard Nixon as the 36th puppet of the United States. Like I said, it was interesting.
There we go, not much of a start, but if the theory is correct, I should only get wiser from here on in.