Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Conversations with Da.

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

Christmas Day

Christmas day in our family alternates each year between a Jackman family lunch (Dad's side) and a Dodgshun family lunch (Mum's side). This year it was a very quiet Dodgshun family lunch of seven (eight if you count my cousin Joe who popped in briefly).

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

Nicola's Supermarket Bag's Second Rule of Christmas.

However hard you try to start the Christmas drive 'home' early, you will always leave later and you will always forget something important.

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.

Nicola's Supermarket Bag's First Rule of Christmas.

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

Gisborne Girls' High School and me.

As I was driving to school today I realised a couple of things. Firstly that today is my last day of teaching classes at Wainuiomata High School (possibly for a while, possibly forever) and it has also been ten years since I left Gisborne Girls' High School. There seemed to be a lot of similarities, and some considerable differences between these two events. I also started pondering about what had happened in the intervening time. So, in the next wee while I thought I'd cover all three. This is not meant to copy John-Paul or Fflur's recent posts, although I like them very much.

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


A couple of students from 9AD, a Year 9 class that I teach, were in my room at lunchtime today. They decided that they would create 'stereotypes' of all their teachers. I'm not quite sure where they got this term 'stereotype' from, maybe their Social Studies teacher taught it to them. Anyway, the labels they came up with for all their teachers were as follows:

Fflur: university student
John-Paul: comedian
Richard: serial killer
Me: world domination

Perhaps, now we know what bass bags have been used for all this time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This post is merely to cover the fact I haven't posted in a while.

It is the end of another day, and looking back on it I can say that the part I enjoyed most happened at the beginning.

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

New treasures...

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.