Sunday, July 31, 2011

Honeymooning down by the Seine ( Fabs)

Day two of our Paris visit. Yesterday saw us walking around Notre Dame and the banks of the Seine (not sure if it was left or right bank). We went underground, beneath the area in front of Notre Dame for a great look at Roman ruins that have been preserved, amazingly enuf, for all these years.

We managed to avoid gypsy con artists, the worst urine soaked footpaths, and the many people selling old copies of JFK's assassination newspapers (why do the French have such a fascination for him?) as we wondered along the Seine.

Today was mainly about us looking around the Louvre and especially the Mona Lisa along with everyone else who visits the museum. My main highlight apart from that (it is special standing in front of the real deal) was setting off the alarms by standing too close to a Bruegal. There is so much detail in his paintings and there was no indication I was too close until the bells started ringing and the security arrived on the scene.

We have just returned from dinner and I have had too much red wine so this whole post will probably make no sense in the morning.

One more full day here tomorrow. We have tried to see things we missed last time - hence the cathedral and Louvre. Tomorrow? Dunno. It's another day innit.

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, July 29, 2011

In France (Frank Zappa)

That's about all I could quote from that Zappa song. He was not a fan shall we say.

We arrived safely in Paris today after a couple of days back in the Shire with Randy. Funny thing - as I tried to find our hotel after negotiating the bizarre Paris Metro system (give me the London underground any day) I stopped at a cafe for directions. The bloke was very obliging and I said "shukran" out of habit. He said, "Afwan", back to me. He spoke arabic!

Go figure. My first conversation in Paris and it's in Arabic!

More tomorrow, inshallah.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How's it back in London town...? (Laura Marling)

We are back in London after our clockwise northern excursion (London > Chester > Ramsbottom > Rishworth > Keswick > Edinburgh > York > London). Since my last posting we have visited Edinburgh and York.

Two highlights: 1 - lunch in Biggar on the way to Edinburgh was amazing. I love Biggar. I could live there and eat their cottage pies and yo-yos (called custard creams in Biggar) for the rest of my days. It is a terrific stop off before the hurley burley of Edinburgh, and never disappoints.

2 Castle Howard, just out of York, was also amazing but for different reasons (no cottage pie and yo-yos but a passable scone with raspberry jam and clotted cream) which were mainly about the walled garden and the grand rooms and artwork in the castle/house. It was used as a set for different editions of Brideshead Revisited (Irene please note as you watch your box set). Jacky had a dilemma - either a pricey teddy bear or some blue Wedgewood style stuff. She went with the blue Wedgewood style stuff.

Note the fact that Edinburgh is missing from the list. Overall all it is dirty and crowded and a sad reminder that the UK is in a period of austerity. Even Jacky who adores Edinburgh was shocked. London in comparison is clean, open and vibrant (still).

For me the sadness was increased by the closing down of major CD outlets like FOPP and Avalanche, with only an HMV holding the fort (the FOPP in Rose street has been taken over by HMV and is a pale shadow of its former glory). Even the Hard Rock Cafe was a let down this time - way too loud (at times I couldn't even make out the song it was so loud and muffled) and way too many people squeezed in. A shame!

Tomorrow we are off to Paris. My ipad won't do a global whanau email so check in over the next few days for progress and highlights.

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pictures come alive, now I' m dancing through my life (Irene Cara)

I'm adding this post from my iPad, on the run, as it were. I can't yet load my pictures but will do so when I get the technology to do that.

I kinda need to keep writing though, otherwise I'll forget things.

Yesterday was a magic day. We went from Chester to Ramsbottom, close to Bury, for Irene Purdy's 90th birthday celebrations; organized by Christine and David, her children. I had a fantastic time touching base with my UK relatives (pretty much the only relations too, except for Ross and Suzanne and her family).

Christine and David's families were there and it was my first chance to meet Jake and also Rowan's children. June Purdy looked as great as ever and her children were there as well.

Everyone looked fantastic. Especially Irene. She really reminds me of Biddy - feisty and youthful and fun of fun and enthusiasm. I hope she liked her birthday as much as I did. I had great fun watching her unwrap presents.

Well done to Christine, Alan, David for creating such a terrific day. Photos to come!

Today's adventures took in the Lake District and Wordsworth's Dove Cottage. Jacky and I fell in love with the Cumbria countryside. Dove Cottage was a real treat too.

Highlights of the last two days: Tom and Tom Junior's song for Irene, Jake's amazing music, Fran's poem, Tom's letter, Alan's cooking, Christine's photo montage, David's Irene book, the Stonegarth Guest House in Keswick (four poster bed no less), Irene's charleston, the Tom Tom stress reliever, the Thirlmere, the garden at Dove Cottage, the sunny weather, and Jacky loves seeing all the pets, dogs mainly, that she doesn't see in the desert.

Tomorrow we are off to Biggar and then Edinburgh.

Love and peace - Wozza
That's it fer now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Crazy Chester followed me, and he caught me in the fog (The Band)

Wayhey! Here we are back in old blighty.

We arrived about a week ago and have been staying with Pat and Randy in Ferntower mansions, in the shire (that's Highbury and Islington in London to you). We've shared the place with the delightful Mikaela and her daughter, Olivia, from Austria.

We are currently in Chester, at a lovely B and B. Tomorrow we head into Christine's greater Manchester area for Irene's 90th birthday celebrations. It's a meeting of the clans day that I've been looking forward to for ages!

Lots of photos will follow.

Highlights have been many so far: I adore the tube - the smell just hooks me every time; the Tate Modern has a new exhibition of surreal paintings and sculptures - the sunflower seeds
are fantastic; we did a river cruise on the Thames - twas a sunny day and the air was invigorating; we saw a West End show with Randy, Pat, Mikaela and Olivia - Thriller Live, and it was a riot of music, dance and waterfalls (a leak half way through caused some drama but the show went on); FOPP and HMV and Oxford St are always must visits.

Today we left the shire to head north as I said - the satnav came in really handy! Today is the final day of the school year in the UK so the roads will be even more manic for the rest of our visit. But tomorrow is another day.

The photos will come after I get back to the shire and before we head to Paris on the 29th. Until then we're off to find a pub for some mushy peas, cod and chips.

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, July 17, 2011

When your heart's on fire, you must realize, smoke gets in your eyes (the Platters)

I couldn't believe my eyes recently as I walked into The Virgin Megastore at the Burjaman Centre in Dubai. There in front of me was a box set of the 4th season of Mad Men! Gasp!

I grabbed one, fast, and held onto it tightly!

Like any convert I am especially devoted to this show. Although, initially I held out for ages when everyone was raving about it in all the magazines and newspaper reviews. I held out for one reason.

The constant ubiquitous smoking.

Something I need to tell you: I hate smoking. There is no sugar coating this. I hate everything about it - the smell, the look, the addiction.

I really don't understand the need, the willingness to addict yourself to something that is likely to kill you. I know a lot of you reading this are smokers. Maybe you can tell me why intelligent people would do this to themselves?

According to episode 1, season one of Mad Men one theory is it comes from a death wish syndrome. A psychological condition that was actually used to market cigarettes at one stage. Strange but true.

The thing about smoking, though, was that (nearly) everyone around me smoked - my paternal grandfather, my maternal grandmother, my mother and father, all of my aunts and uncles. The sole exception was my paternal grandmother. This is down to the culture of the times. The dangers associated with smoking were papered over by adverts featuring doctors!

So...given my loathing for smoking (I never had an urge to take a puff)...the fact I love watching Mad Men so much tells you an awful lot about the strength of plot, characterisation and attention to detail found in it.

Having bought season four I decided to rewatch the other seasons before launching into it. I've now rewatched season one and it only gets better! Will rewatch the rest after our holiday.

Speaking of which...we have now moved into Yellow Jimi and have got everything ship-shape. We are off this afternoon to Abu Dhabi where we fly to the UK for a few weeks and visit France before getting back to the UAE during Ramadan to start the new school year.

I will aim to blog while on our travels.

Love and peace - Wozza

Monday, July 11, 2011

Within these walls, I can feel you (Lene Marlin)

There are two significant birthdays to celebrate in July and they are inextricably linked; my great grandfather, William Nugent Purdy (17 July 1880), and later it is the turn of my dad, Graham Nugent Purdy (26 July 1928).

William's history is complicated. I don't know anything of his early life but he eventually married Emma in Rochdale and they had three sons (one of whom died in infancy). Out of somewhere they made a crucial decision when my grandfather was very young (8 or 9) to move to New Zealand from Rochdale in the early 1900s. Basically -the farthest point away from Rochdale. The other end of the earth. Not like moving to Scunthorpe or something.
During the long passage to NZ via Australia, or else when they reached Australia, something happened to cause him to leave Emma, my great grandmother, in Sydney and come to NZ with his two very young sons.No one knows what really happened. I've heard various stories but the bottom line is that finding out the truth is no longer a viable prospect.

WNP, GNP, Christina, WNP, Deedoo, DMP, Ross
on the steps of Reimers Ave house.
 Like his own father William was a builder/ plasterer and he eventually started a business in Auckland - Purdy and Sons Plasterers. The business ended when my grandad retired (you'll recall that his only son - my dad - became a pharmacist and only an amateur plasterer).

My memories of my great grandfather are exclusively of him in his house in Reimers Ave, Mt Eden, Auckland until his death in the mid 1960s when I was 9 and Ross was 7. I don't have any memories of him coming to our house in Royal Oak or of his meeting us anywhere. The photographs of him holding me as a baby confirm that the minimal contact was always at his house.

It was a house he shared with his son Harry (my grandad) and his daughter-in-law, Christina. I'm not sure why he allowed them to move in with him. Whatever the reason he had us as frequent visitors. Every Saturday morning, mum and dad would load us into the family sedan and we would drive the short distance from Korma Ave to Mt Eden. That's every Saturday morning until...well... just every Saturday morning. When my grandmother died we still visited the house until my grandad moved to the Masonic village. Then we visited him there until his death.
From second from left: GNP, Harry, WNP. Photo taken
around July 26, 1949 (dad's 21st birthday party).
WNP, Grandma and Harry (Deedoo)
Our visits were very stylised. Ross and I would play on the entrance way pergola trying to avoid the roses, we would collect our magazines/ comics from grandma (mine were usually football magazines that had taken an age to travel from the UK but I looked forward to them never-the-less - not sure what Ross was given). We would play underneath the house amongst all the tools or on rare occasions we would visit the outside office (that needed a key so we would attach ourselves to dad for that visit) or play in the sheds at the back entrance that held all the plasterers' stuff - long wooden planks, drums of weird liquids and such. We would play inside in the study on an old typewriter or we would sit and listen and wait. Lotta waiting went on and I can see a version of myself with his head in a book or magazine.

During none of these times did we encounter William that I can recall. He had a room at the front of the house (remember it was his house) and he must have stayed in there, or else he was out but he was pretty old by this time so I doubt that - did he even have a car? Not sure, but we didn't come across him at all and we never went into his room. Never ever. Not once.

Ross will have far more vivid memories but to me he was always a shadowy figure, just on the edge of my childhood consciousness. I certainly knew he was there but we kept out of his way (or he lept out of ours, not sure which).

Our dad we called 'dad', our grandfather we called 'Deedoo' (I can't remember why but it suited him exactly), but our great grandfather had no pet name. We obviously didn't call him William or great grandfather; so we didn't call him anything! As I say he was a shadowy presence.

So I didn't ever get close to forming a relationship with him. Looking at other photos of him it is obvious that he did get out - bowls for instance and he was by all accounts a pretty social guy (you can tell that from his photos on this post) and my dad (and mum) got on well with him so it's all a bit strange really.

So a guy I never really knew. But...I feel a real bond to him. We share the same initials, we look similar (strong Purdy genes and that old Apples thing again) and we share overlapping history.

And I love him dearly for his legacy. Symbolically I wear his gold wedding band on my right hand ring finger. I am staring at it as I type. It's plain and beautiful and comes from a solid north of England, Rochdale origin. It permanently connects me to my ancestral roots. It makes me feel that a little bit of Rochdale is with me.

That's important to me because Rochdale feels like home in ways that I can't articulate. I had a very very strong sense of belonging when I visited for the first time in 2003.

So when the 17th spins into focus next week, spare a thought for the life of my great grandfather and maybe reflect a bit on your paternal great grandparents.

Love and peace - WNP

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Show a little faith, there's magic in the night (Scooter)

Phew - we've finally come to the last week of the school year.

The students finished a week or so ago after their exams and only a few have returned for resists in the last week. They have to resit a paper if they achieved less than 50% of the overall total for the year in that subject (actually that's not as easy to do as it sounds!). If they still 'fail' to reach the 50% in the overall total after they've resat (the same exam they sat a week or so before) then they have to repeat the year - this results in quite a few repeaters as you can imagine and lots of anxious parents.

There is no such thing as social promotion in this neck of the woods.

Last week it was only the teachers at school (even then not all of them turned up for various reasons) and this week it will dwindle down further until the final day on Wednesday. The other good thing with this end of year situation is that Cognition allows us to work shorter hours - 8am until 1pm - so, for the last 5 weeks, I have been able to act as a tour guide for Brian and Jade from the early afternoon onwards.

This week we have to prepare for our change of apartment. We are heading across town to the Yellow Jimi apartments on Thursday so our focus will be on checking what we need to bring with us and what we don't. I don't mind this process at all. I enjoy shedding a skin every once and a while and it's always good to refocus on what is important.

For Jacky that means turfing out unwanted shoes and for me it's checking whether I really need Lady Gaga's new CD or not (I don't, it went!).

After this week we can start to get excited about our month long holiday - more on that next post.

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. The tag line on my profile photo says that I'm a sentimental old fluff. You'd know why if you could see me after I've said goodbye (for a while) to one of the kiddiwinks.

Jade returned to Nu Zild on Friday, safely, and I have that ever so familiar empty feeling in my stomach. It's horrible. I hate it. I know it won't last but it's painful when it's here.

Problem is when I get it, it links me back to all the other painful times I've felt the kids' absence - like leaving SMP in Wellington for her first year at Vic, seeing ALP and Jacky off at Heathrow for his return to NZ, or anytime I am left alone for an extended period!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops (Henry Adams) *

*An awesome quote by Henry Adams (the handsome dude pictured left when he was at Harvard) used in a book I've just finished reading - another of Mitch Albom's efforts called Tuesdays with Morrie.

I've been thinking about teachers a bit lately as you know from an earlier post (come on - pay attention in the back). 

I am a teacher. Lately I have been teaching the teachers - doing professional development work in Al Ain and before that, Doha.

It occurs to me that I'd like to get back to teaching students after this contract ends in July next year. Maybe not the full-time stuff of 5 or 6 classes, but definitely teaching students again.

The Morrie in the title was one of Mitch Albom's favourite teachers/mentors. The book's a celebration of Morrie's life and life itself. It's good. Emotional; it had me going a couple of times. Words hold great power when used skillfully.

Got me thinking about the mentors I've had in my life outside of my parents, who are an automatic inclusion.

Mentors? Who or what are they?

The burb on the back of the book says:

Maybe it was a grandparent, a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and impassioned, helped you to see the world as a more profound place, and gave you sound advice to guide your way through it.

I have been lucky enough to have had one in each category.

My mother's mother (Lucy Constance Adsett), called Ma by me and Ross, was my first mentor. Luckily I have some of her calm, common sense DNA about me. She was tough too - having to bring up her sons and daughter on her own, and she was independent. She lived on her own, in her own home until her death in 1974.

The second was a teacher at Mt Albert Grammar (Warwick Gibbs). I'm not sure what Warwick has as a teacher but whatever it is, it should be bottled and sold online. He has become a mentor to countless generations of boys.

And the third was a colleague - the Principal at my second school as a teacher (Colin Prentice). He is simply the most (maybe only) charismatic leader I've had the good fortune to work for/with. An inspiration in both his professional and private life.

The best influence they've had on me is the recurring thought, "What would (insert name) do in this situation?"

For the most part I've kept in touch with them (they are in the whanau list down the margin).

Wozza, Ma, her son Jack, Ross, her daughter Dulcie (our mum).

Colin taking a leaf out of his own book!

Warwick (right) at a MAGS sports award dinner.
 I'm lucky in that I've thanked them many times for their guidance and inspiration. What about you? Have you thanked those special mentors in your life?

Love and peace - Wozza
Maybe it was a grandparent, a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and impassioned, helped you to see the world as a more profound place, and gave you sound advice to guide your way through it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I want to ride, ride the tiger (Jefferson Airplane)

Jade's list of things to do while staying with us for two weeks in sand land included swimming with the sharks in the Dubai Mall (possible but in the end too expensive); riding a tiger (technically possible at the Al Ain zoo if you scale the wall and the tiger is in an obliging mood but in the end a tad too dangerous); riding a horse (check); riding a camel...

Giddy up!
This way, right?

Jacky brought up the rear.

Sand land.

Preparing for the dismount.

Jade bids farewell to her camel.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hate something bud dar dar, change something bud dar dar (Honda campaign song)

You've had a lot of pictures recently so this post contains an abundance of words to get your teeth into instead. You may want to boil the kettle.

Okay - good to have you back. First up is a nifty little advert to get us started on the change stuff.

MMMmmm, I know - it's trying to sell cars but this ad is also talking about our ability to change behaviour if we have the desire. I believe this is possible. But is it possible to change our core personality? Nope - not possible. Problem is they are kinda wrapped up together in some ways - hence a blurring and the room for argument.

This has come up before but it seems to be a theme of some recent discussions. My advisory team was spitballing the idea yesterday that good teachers are born (i.e. they have certain attributes that they cannot learn) and, at home, we (Jade Jacky and moi) were talking about whether people really can change or if we are born a certain way and whether we can ever escape our genes. I don't believe we can.

First the teaching thing - the advisors arrived at the belief that, while incremental improvements and additions can be made to core teacher skills and abilities, no fundamental change can be made to a bad teacher to make them good. I have yet to see a poor teacher miraculously become a good teacher via an intervention. Every teacher I have worked with on competency measures in the UK and Nu Zild has not been transformed by the process.

I have often thought it would be a better idea to do the military thing and rip off their epaulettes after saying, "You've given it a good try, but, sorry, this is not a job for you."

Teaching is a calling. Something deep inside a teacher has driven them in that direction (even if you made a mistake and headed down the wrong line at the recruiting agency).

I suspect this is true of a lot of vocations. I could not be a businessman, doctor, scientist, airline pilot, dentist, a pharmacist, a vet and on and on. These jobs are done by people with (I hope) A) a passion for that field and B) (I hope) distinctive skills that have grown because of A.

Talent alone cannot make a writer. There must be a man behind the book; a personality which, by birth and quality, is pledged to the doctrines there set forth, and which exists to see and state things so, and not otherwise.  Emerson (yes the Brazilian footballer again).

I know this is true for me. I was born to eventually become a teacher. This ends part one - you may want to refresh that cuppa.

Part 2

I look at those two semi-permanent photos of me on this page - one in the popular post section on the steps of my great grandfather's house in Auckland in the sixties, and the other of me at age 21 in the early eighties, used for my profile picture, and I realise I haven't changed.

Yes okay - I'm not delusional - I know I no longer look like those two earlier incarnations but I am, in essence, the same as that little boy and that naive young guy.

The core things are the same - my values and moral compass haven't changed. My naivety hasn't changed. A slight tendency towards obsessive compulsiveness is still with me. My desire for routines - check! Jade observed recently to Jacky that I appear to be more set in my ways these days. But I have always been set in my ways (and I always will be) because that is who I am.

Mostly, I have the DNA and examples of my parents to thank for this. I love the expression - apples never fall far from the tree! All of the above can be clearly traced back to one or both members of the dream parental team of Dulcie and Graham. They proved the raw material and gave me the basics. I grew from there.

Why on earth did they ever get together? On the surface they were such opposites! Easy - because they shared the same core values and attitudes that my brother and I are imbued with. They had just enough surface opposites to complement their personalities but not enough to force them to go in different directions. It was destiny that brought them together (and a twist of fate that broke them apart).

Jade asked me the same question recently about me and Jacky and I gave her the same answer - we share the same core things. Our attitudes, values, and perceptions are the same and our different interests are not enough to interfere with our lifestyle.

The superficial things haven't changed for me either - my interests have remained essentially the same as when I was 12 or even younger: I buy and listen to a lot of music; I have always read a lot of books; I love to write; I love to teach; I love words and I love the idea of solitude; something about the movie going experience hooks me every time; I am slavish about my passions (currently: in music John Mayer, Lene Marlin, movies by Antonioni or Krzysztof Kieslowski, TV shows like Mad Men, books by Murakami).

I've enjoyed writing this post - hope you've enjoyed sharing it. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome!

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Let me take you to the beach, la la la la la la la (Frank Zappa)

SWMBO's sister Mabelle says we should be starting up a tour biznis for friends and family coming to the UAE. I'm starting to do the Big Bus Tour in my dreams so she may have something.

Jade only had the one weekend to see the sights of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. As luck would have it a holiday was declared on Thursday last week to commemorate Prophet Mohammed's (peace be upon him) ascension from Mecca to the heavens in the year 621 where he met Allah and some of the earlier prophets, before returning to Mecca.

This meant we had a three day weekend. Yahoo!

We started Wednesday afternoon with a journey to Jabeel Hafeet. Unfortunately the visibility was not great and it was very windy. This was a bit of a recurring theme for the weekend with a lot of dust around - hey - it's a desert out there!

Thursday - we tanked up the purdmobile (where the camel in a basket shots were taken) and pottled onwards to Dubai. We stopped at the Wafi Mall, took in a gentle glide down the Dubai Creek via a river cruise on a traditional dhow, went on a Big Bus tour of the Burj and Deira areas of Dubai, stopped off at the Dubai Mall for its classy water features and vast network of shops.

Friday - we went on the second tour route that the Big Bus Tour does to the beach, the Atlantis resort and Lost Chamber exhibition, the Mall of the Emirates and Ski Dubai. Sadly the footage of me falling off a luge and sliding along on my elbows has been mislaid - dammit!

Saturday saw us on the move to Abu Dhabi for the Grand Mosque and, of course, shopping in the Hamdan Centre (me) and the Abu Dhabi Mall (SWMBO and Jade). I arrived at the mosque in shorts so I needed to don a kandoura.

And that was the extended weekend. I'm picking Jade and SWMBO will spend a large portion of today sleeping!

Love and peace - Abu Keegan