Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Get back Loretta, your mother's waiting for you (The Beatles)

Get Back (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 1, part 4)

Dulcie Mary Adsett, my mother, was partial to jazz music - she'd seen Louis Armstrong in concert in Auckland and she had been a fervent Sinatra fan (the copy of Swing Easy I have in my vinyl collection, belonged to her rather than my father).

Adolescent Dulcie grooves to the
latest 78s at Bond and Bond
Her love of music meant that she enjoyed her job at Lewis Eady's record shop, rising eventually to a position of responsibility. 

Since leaving Cornwall Park School she'd tried other jobs before joining Lewis Eady's in the early 1950's; usher at the Victory cinema in Greenlane and shop assistant at Bond and Bond, an appliance store in the 1940's.

Luckily for me and my brother, they hadn't amounted to much, so she now took the daily journey from One Tree Hill into Queen Street's Lewis Eady's, where one of her pesky customers, let's call him Graham, bought his records. He worked just down the street at Eccles' Pharmacy.

Dulcie was a pretty, seemingly simple, country girl from the King Country. Born in Taumaranui on April 21, 1930, to Lucy Constance Adsett (nee Morris) and Henry Adsett (always referred to as 'the old man' by Lucy and her children).

Dulcie with Mel, 12 years her senior
When Dulcie arrived, the couple already had three strapping boys to contend with: Albert Henry (Jack), aged 16; Melville (shortened to Mel but called Ike by Jack after Ike Carnegie) was 12; and Roy who was 9.

Now they had a kid sister but it didn't change the fact that life for the Adsetts was one of hard physical labour which revolved around their saw milling business, with no mechanisation to help them. Henry Adsett, my grandfather, was a tough disciplinarian on others, but he failed to practise what he preached and abandoned Lucy and the four children shortly after Dulcie was born.

Shamefully, when Dulcie was a baby, Henry's girlfriend also had his child a month or so later - a half-sister to Dulcie.

It probably goes without saying that I never met my grandfather and heard very little about him. Although it didn't take a rocket scientist to sense the deep feeling of betrayal that surrounded any conversations about him.

Lucy was a rock, the small in stature citadel of the family. Around her strength circulated the King Country Adsetts. Not only did she have to cope with a bastard of a husband and had to provide for her four children, she also had to cope, alone I suspect, with the death of her first daughter, Enid. 

News reports of the day, carefully clipped out, tell me that Enid died from burns sustained from a household accident - a shockingly common occurrence in those days.

Cornwall Park School, Class of '37. Dulcie Adsett bottom row, far left.
Class photos haven't changed much over the years, have they?
Similarities between the homes of my parents were vastly different. Graham was an only child, Dulcie felt the hubbub of a large family. Graham had both parents, albeit absentee ones at times as Harry and Christina had an active social and sporting life. Dulcie only had Lucy and was way down the pecking order, but Lucy was an ever present loving parent. The two developed the tightest of unbreakable mother/daughter bonds.

Graham was raised in a refined environment with piano lessons, quality clothes and a top education at Kowhai Primary and then Mount Albert Grammar. Dulcie finished her schooling when she left primary school.

Compared to Graham, Dulcie's life was one of material poverty but a richness of family love that Graham could never experience.

So, two vastly different people. No way they'd ever get together, right? Impossible!

Ha! Destiny pays no mind to such trifles.

Love and peace - WNP  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Get back Jo Jo, go home (Paul McCartney)

Get Back (You may say I'm a dreamer Chapter 1, part 3)

Harry (Deedoo), William, Edward (Uncle Eddie), Emma Purdy
Turned out, William Purdy was quite different to his father in his outlook. Not only did he marry twice (to Emma Mechan, then Florence Worthington), not only did he only have two children (a third, named James, died in infancy), but, courageously, he decided to leave Rochdale behind and embark on a new life for his family on the other side of the world, in New Zealand.

I am still largely in the dark about his motives. Life in Rochdale was grim and cousin Christine's mum, Irene Purdy, has told me how the family were suffering. Vague stories of Emma's behaviour, the death of their third child and lack of work seems to have contributed to his decision. But New Zealand? With two very young sons?

And then there's the enigma called Emma. Mystery still surrounds her and the relationship with William.

Presumably, the family left England together but something happened along the sea voyage to cause Emma to stay in Australia while William and her two young sons (Harry was 8 years old) continued on to Auckland, New Zealand.

Strangely, Harry's younger brother, Eddie, did not even know of Emma's existence until he was forty years old!!

It's clear that Emma still had affection for her sons - while in Australia, she sent Harry an exorbitant sum of money to buy a top of the line radio. My parents even visited her in Sydney when they were newly married and on their honeymoon (Auckland to Sydney to Norfolk Island). I'd hear stories of how miserly she was living as I grew up but I never met her. When she died her property was left to her sons.

Apart from that, little is known about her and nothing survives about her strained relationship with William.

Emma and my grandfather, Harry Purdy
The only photographs I have of her are on this blogpost. They show an intense young woman proudly holding her sons Harry (my grandfather who I named Deedoo when I was a toddler) and baby Edward. Taken in Rochdale, Harry would have been about 12 months old in one and about four in the other - all looks normal - a typical young family, with no hint of what was to come.

What I am left with is a load of questions that even my dad couldn't answer when I asked him in the 1990's: Why New Zealand? Why was she left in Sydney? What happened to James? Did she shame the family in some way (was she a thief?)? Why didn't Eddie know about her? And on it goes.

I guess this is the same for most families and why the BBC does those programmes exploring the roots of UK celebrities.

Secrets. They are extremely frustrating and leave me with an empty pit of the stomach feeling.

If little is known of Emma, the same is true of Florence. I have discovered a few photos that show that she and William looked happy enough but I can only imagine what the young Purdy's home life was like.

Eventually they grew up and were trained in the family art of plastering and joined William in the business.

Deedoo and Graham - my dad
Harry/Deedoo was a carefree, hard grafting man of considerable skill when it came to his trade. He seemed an unlikely match for Christina Amelia Curson, apparently a lady of a different social standing. Somehow they met, fell in love (I'm guessing - I never saw any overt signs of affection), and married. I have no idea about the details - I never thought to ask. I can't see my grandmother as anything other than Grandma (old in other words).

Anyway - a son was born, my father, the jazz fan, on 26th of July 1928. Harry was 25, Grandma was 28 years old. 

Love and peace - WNP

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Get back, back to where you once belonged (Paul McCartney)

Get Back (Chapter 1, part 2)

Four generations of similar hands: William (WNP), Graham, Christina, Wozza,
Harry (Deedoo), Dulcie, Dusty. Socks and sandals were cool in the 60's! 

1956 was a stellar year for Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Dulcie and Graham Purdy.

For Elvis and John, it was the year of Heartbreak Hotel.  

Thousands of light years away in Auckland New Zealand lived my parents - blissfully unaware of that white heat moment of popular culture. They were swing fans, more interested in Sinatra Brubeck, Ellington and Count Basie.

At the same time that the 16 year old Lennon was being introduced to George Harrison in 1956 by Paul McCartney, Dulcie and Graham began thinking about starting a family, or more exactly Graham Nugent Purdy's pestering wore down Dulcie's resistance.

Graham was the only son of Harry Purdy and Christina Amelia Curson (in bizarre colour above). Harry was a master plasterer, having followed in the family tradition. He'd come to NZ as a young boy from Rochdale in Lancashire with his brother Edward (we called him Uncle Eddie) and his father - William Nugent Purdy - himself a skilled plasterer painter and paperhanger as his own father, James Purdy, had been.

The Purdy three settled in Auckland and eventually began setting up their Purdy and Sons plastering business. Testaments to their skill can be seen all over Auckland, or, at least, they used to be - sadly, many iconic Auckland buildings have been replaced by steel and glass. 

Harry, an insulin dependent diabetic was nonetheless a robust chunky man. His passions were manly man ones - hunting, deep sea fishing, boxing. He was like I imagine my other forbears were back in Rochdale.

Every one of Harry's uncles were working class - plasterers and labourers - and they all shared the distinct features of his great great grandfather, Joseph and his father, Jacob, who had moved down from Scotland to settle in Rochdale.

Me and Deedoo, Grandma with newbie, Ross. Sailor suits were cool in the late 1950's!
The Purdys have spockily consistent facial features; just look again at me and Deedoo.

Jacob Purdy was born in 1804. He supported his wife, Mary, and their nine children by doing gardening and labouring jobs around Rochdale. His second son, Joseph, born 1825, became a plasterer by trade and so set the trend for all male Purdys down through the 1800's and half of the 1900's. Graham Purdy broke the mould (ha).

William Nugent Purdy
Joseph and his wife, Ann Turner, also had a large family - ten children evenly split between girls and boys. Not to be outdone by all this procreation, one of his sons, James, born in 1855, had eleven children by his (poor) wife, Mary Ellen Hayes. 

One of the eleven was my great grandfather - William Nugent Purdy (1855-1962). He's a big deal because by coming to New Zealand he became the reason my parents could meet and make me. 

I exist and am a Kiwi because of him, so, bless you William.

Love and peace - WNP (same initials you'll notice) 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I know I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before, I know I'll often stop and think about them (John Lennon) - You may say I'm a dreamer (Chapter 1, part 1)

Get Back (Chapter 1, part 1)

As Thai Airways TG 992 glided into its final flight path, Jacky Purdy in 49H nudged me to look out the window. My bookmark went into the middle of Bill Bryson's A Short History Of Nearly Everything and I peered nervously past her - she always takes the window seat.

Below me the 11th of June 2003 dusk was a perfect end to a sunny summer day. The farmers' carefully manicured fields in Kent and Essex were gleaming as we sped past. 

Instinctively, as the plane's flight path took us over Westminster and London Bridge I knew that I was finally where I belonged. Home.

Edinburgh July 2003 - Ron and
Alison Annan with Wozza
While the plane headed towards Heathrow my mind was thinking how one moment at Cambridge High School had completely altered the course of my life. The implications of which are still being felt today, thirteen years later.

The Assistant Principal, Marty Blackburn, and I were in the hall fine tuning arrangements for our 2002 end of year prize giving ceremony. I was now into my third year as Deputy Principal and, although we were chalk, cheese and cheeseboard, we worked well as a team - me, Marty and the Principal Alison Annan.

Alison came into the hall and wanted a word. Seems she was going on a sabbatical for Term 2, 2003 and I'd be Acting Principal while she was away. Wahoo, I thought - what a great challenge!

I refocused as she continued - at the end of her sabbatical in July 2003 she was going to a Worlds' Principals' Conference in Edinburgh. She offered me a deal: I could either take the higher duties allowance for the term OR the school would pay for me and Jacky to also attend the conference.

I distinctly remember thinking in that moment of blind panic, "OH SHIT!"

That means flying. Oh shit. I'll have to tell Jacky. Oh Shit. She'll want to go. Oh shit shit shit.

Somehow, through the daze, I made my way back to my office and called Jacky. 

While a teenager, I'd had a bad flight back from a family holiday to Sydney in 1973 and it had put me off flying big time. I remember looking at the plane before boarding and wondering how on Earth it stayed in the air. During the bumpy flight back to Auckland the turbulence knocked me out of my seat. Since then, a fear of flying had crept over me and apart from some hair raising flights within New Zealand (I especially hate flying into Wellington) I had not flown internationally for thirty years.

Jacky answered the Alpha Street phone. 

Fantastic, she said - we're going to Scotland, she said. But... I said. I'm terrified of flying, I said. Warren, it's Scotland, she said - we've got to go - you have to get over this, she said. But...I said.

Then she said the five words that changed everything: What. If. You. Love. It?

July 2003 - heatwave in London and looks like (shock horror probe) we'd been 
to the Arsenal shop in Finsbury Park!
What are the odds?

Love and peace - WNP

Thursday, May 12, 2016

You may say I'm a dreamer (John Lennon)

You May Say I'm A Dreamer is also the title of my autobiography.

I wrote it in 1992 when I was 34 years old. Jade wanted to read it again last weekend and because it leaves out a lot of her life (and mine) since then (she was born in 1991) I thought it was ripe for an update and inclusion on the blog (which was not available to me in 1992).

Hopefully it will be fun to write (and rewrite) and read!

The first page has a couple of quotes on it that I love:

Sounds of laughter, shades of Earth are ringing through my open views inciting and inviting me. Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns, it calls me on and on across the universe (John Lennon).

Well - I guess I'm  just a sentimental old fluff (Groucho Marx).

You can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need (Mick Jagger).

Jacob begat Joseph
Joseph begat James
James begat William
William begat Harry
Harry begat Graham
Graham begat Warren 

The prologue:


I started this whole autobiography thing in 1991 as part of a teaching unit. I always aim to model activities so I started writing...and couldn't stop!
Pretty soon I'd filled a pad with scribbled notes during class time. One thing led to another and what started out as aiming for two chapters turned into eight!

Some amazing things happened as I wrote. I had loads of blanks where details were missing. In 1991 I still had my dad around so I started asking him questions. This meant a new kind of dialogue with him. I'd write him letters and be really knocked out by his reminiscences.

Old memories were eventually dredged up: many painful. Some things were traumatic to write about, but I did.

As I developed my writing I became more and more interested in my forbears on both sides of the family. A Purdy genealogy was a great resource, but unfortunately I don't have one for the Adsett side.

Reasons for writing an autobiography changed as I got more involved. I was into my seventh year of marriage to Jacky and by then we'd had four children; I thought they may get a kick out of learning my history.

In 1993 I rewrote a lot of the text after a English Teachers' Conference in Whangarei. During it Hone Tuwhare looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "Stamp!"

He was meaning a variety of things - stamp yourself on the place, leave a mark, be brave (kia kaha). That revved me up!

Now it's 2016 and after Jade left last weekend I reread the last chapter, the one that ends with her birth.

Lots has happened to us all since. Time to find out what!

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Soon everything we've known will just get swept away (Bruce Springsteen)

Autumn at Rochdene is all about long shadows and leaves changing colour before dropping.

Unusually, it has also meant dry hot days for the last month!

Finally, this weekend it was colder, damper, mistier, cloudier.

The following views are of said Rochdene and from a walk SWMBO and I took across the road to the lake.

Love and autumn peace - Wozza

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

We seek to stay present, even as the ghosts attempt to draw us away (Patti Smith)

Dear Patti

My Jewels For The Thirsty blog recently concerned itself with the huge numbers of celebrity deaths so far in 2016.

I'm currently reading M Train - superb it is too. I need to slow myself down while reading it (the Raban book mentioned in a previous post was not to my taste - pompous and bloated prose is not my style).

But with M Train, every page is a little reward. It will soon be finding its own place on my bookshelf alongside Ha! Ha! Houdini!, Babel, The Coral Sea, The Night, Seventh Heaven, Witt, and Just Kids.

It's so good I even dug out an old copy of Giant Steps to accompany Mu and tried a black coffee in your honour (hmmm - that didn't go so well - thanks to my parents, I'm a tea drinker).

Anyway, while reading it and doing that Jewels post I reflected on celebrities I will be devastated to lose in the future.

Crosby, Paul, Joni, Ringo, Grace, Young and you.

All are still living vital lives on Planet Earth and knowing they are alive somewhere at the same time as I am sustains me. 

You head the list though. Not only for your music but your words, your intellect, your knowledge, your sensibilities and your consciousness make my presence on Earth a continual joy. I think we sometimes forget how lucky we are to have you with us, alive and well. So...thanks.

I can't imagine a world without you in it!

Love and peace Patti - WNP