Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something (The man in black from The Princess Bride)

You angel, you (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 2, part 1)

I've overcome the blow
I've learnt to take it well
only wish my words
could just convince myself
that it just wasn't real
but that's not the way it feels
(Operator - Jim Croce)

There have been a few fab fours in my life - there's my four children; John Paul George and Ringo; and the fab four who shaped me in my young years (and beyond).

That original fab four was my maternal grandmother, Lucy Adsett (Ma); her eldest son, my Uncle Jack; her daughter and my mum, Dulcie; and my paternal grandfather, Harry (Deedoo).

Dad with his boys on holiday (he and Ross were peas in a pod)
I guess when people write their life story they sentimentalise their past like crazy and maybe I've been guilty of that already. Maybe.

Certainly, there is nothing I could write or say about these four people that could do justice to their impact on my life or express the love I felt, and still feel, for them.

Although they are not physically present any more, they continue to force themselves upon me in my daily life.

To those four, I also need to add a fifth Beatle -in my case - my father, Graham. Perhaps it is his example that has had the deepest affect because he managed to outlive all of the others until he passed away in 2009 aged 82.

But during my childhood, he was more of the shadowy disciplinarian who flitted in and out of my life (mum was never afraid to trot out the, "wait till your father gets home", line when it suited).

Dressed in his crisp suit, he was off early from 18 Korma Ave to his work in Otahuhu, and he was often late home. By the early 1960's he'd become a manager at the large multinational pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome. I'm not sure why. He would later express the regret that he didn't own a chemist shop so becoming a manager and eventually the managing director seems a bit incongruous.

He had a cool office like the one Don Draper has in Mad Men, with loads of cool stationery that I'd grab whenever we called in, which was usually after hours when he had to pick up something on the weekend.

My memories of dad in those days were mainly as the driver of the family car on holidays. Both my parents smoked then, so when I think of those holidays, apart from him driving, it is the smell of burning tobacco that I remember most.

I hated that smell. But I loved the holidays.

Thinking about it now, maybe that's why we had so many trips away - both family holidays and coming along on his business conferences. That was a key way for him to spend time with us.

In England for a conference
Work seemed to be a major part of his life. 

He would sometimes host work dos at our house. Ross and I would score snacks and fancy hors d'ouvres before bedtime. 

His friendship group became work related (with Merv Hynes a constant as well). We would often hear stories about his boss and his co-workers like John Smith.

The big overseas trips he took were for weeks at a time. The largest took him away from us for months when he went to America, Rome, the UK, Canada and Australia. He hated being away from us but that was his job.

Quickly, we learned that we had to share dad's time with others.

He was always in heavy demand for his tech skill. Our first television came from a kitset he bought and assembled; neighbours and friends of friends would often call on him to fix various devices. I remember going with him a few times as he installed 8 tracks in cars, or set up stereos or repaired broken TVs. He was very skillful and knowledgeable and obviously loved doing it. Even at Maygrove where he retired to he was Mr Fixit.

Being a chemist meant that he also acted as a quasi doctor for friends and family. He was a wiz with potions and sometimes regretted not going to medical school.

Another holiday - we often went with him
on business trips. The Chateau Tongariro
was a popular venue.
As a family we had many rituals. My father LOVED routine! On Saturday mornings we travelled from 18 Korma Ave to his parents place in Mt Eden. For a start, I didn't mind that much - Grandma always had a magazine for me - Look and Learn or Goal! Saturday nights we always had a roast dinner. Both of these I came to dread as the years went by, without understanding their importance or how lucky we were.

Perhaps dad being an only child made it difficult for me to get close to him in those years. He'd been brought up without a close mother/son bond and I think that made it hard for him to communicate his feelings. That pretty much lasted all his life too. 

He wasn't a huggy guy!

That he loved and cared for us hugely was never in doubt though. I remember Ma saying, "You have to make allowances for Graham", meaning that growing up as an only child in his circumstances meant certain consequences. Ma, as always, spoke with sensitivity and common sense.

As the years passed our relationship changed: I became a teenage boy living in a fog for a while; a university student who really didn't share his stance on things; a new father who suddenly realised a lot of stuff that I'd taken for granted; an experienced and wiser person who sought to renew the relationship; to, finally, the one who was there by his side at the end.

Dad and Nita at his retirement from BW in 1988
On holiday with Nita, 1994

Graham's second wife Nita is on record as saying that Graham was hard to live with and I'd agree. Basically, as I've indicated already, my family always put it down to the fact that he was an only child and had a difficult relationship with his mother. It meant he couldn't easily show his feelings. Generally though he was about protecting me and Ross. So, if like Nita you wanted a close personal relationship, he didn't really know how to give it.

He only let his guard down with me twice.

When my mum died in 1983 I was in my mid twenties. He fell apart. I remember we were in the car, alone together, when he opened up about the depth of his loss. He really needed me to be strong for the family. And I was. The protective seal closed up again quickly afterwards though.

The only other time was during the few days before he passed away. After his stroke I drove up from Stratford to be with him on the weekends in hospital. On his last weekend, in front of Ross he remained the protecting father putting on a last show, but he was very different alone with me before Jacky flew up to be with us.

Strange really. Although Ross always had a tighter relationship with him (they were very similar in their ways and their interests) I don't believe Ross ever caught a glimpse of dad's vulnerability.

Looking back I know how lucky I am to be Graham Purdy's eldest son. As a father he set the bar high. Many of the values and virtues that I have, have their root in him and his example.

Mike Rutherford's Living Years song says some key things about father/son relationships, about missing opportunities in life, about regrets.

Luckily I have very few because, before he passed away, I was able to thank him for being my dad and he was able to thank me for being a good son.

Love and peace - Abu Keegan bin Graham.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Always, no sometimes, think it's me (John Lennon)

Get Back (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 1, part 9)

October the first, 1962, was huge! 

The Beatles signed a contract with Brian Epstein on that day in England and I started my education at Royal Oak Primary after a stint at Mrs Rogers Greenwoods Corner kindy. The year was also memorable in other ways - down in Dunedin, a few months earlier on April 14th Jacqueline Frances Smith was the first child born to Patricia and Brian Smith.

Like millions of people I can identify with John Lennon's lyric to Strawberry Fields Forever when he says, 'No one I think is in my tree'. From the start I knew I was different. I loved words and reading right from the start. Probably totally pretentious, but I'd love to try out new vocabulary on my parents, and peers at school. I was experimenting and I read A LOT!

Nose in a book - typical!
Grandma bought me Look and Learn magazines each week, I loved the reading boxes at school, I borrowed books from the library and I would have books bought for me to read. And there were always the adult books in the bookcase at home that I'd gaze at when bored. 

My imagination was stirred AND shaken. Look and Learn had some great comic strips, The Trigan Empire series and others. There were informative articles and my books were adventure oriented but not of the usual Enid Blyton kind.

The year 1962 was also tinged with sadness for my father and grandfather. William, my great grandfather, our solid link to Rochdale origins, passed away.

I can't say I ever really knew him, I was 5, but I definitely remember him. He was a kind of shadowy figure but he was a definite presence. The house called Roch-dene in Reimers Avenue, opposite Eden Park, belonged to him, not Deedoo as I always believed. My father and his parents lived with William rather than the other way around.

I feel a real connection to him, I share his initials, I proudly wear his gold wedding band and his roots in Rochdale feel deeply ingrained in me as well. Without William I wouldn't be here, so I owe him a great debt.

On the first day of school I arrived with my mum and immediately found a friend, or more accurately, he found me. I seem to have a knack for making strong relationships with people and Billy was the first. My first day of Primary and this little boy befriends me, a total stranger one second then we're mates! Just like that. Billy's open invitation to be a friend has stayed with me, long after the event.

Wherever you are, Billy, you did good to a funny little guy.

Royal Oak primary was a magic school and a wonderful start. I can still picture teachers and students and even individual lessons like they were part of my recent past: plays I performed in; getting cards from reading boxes; playing goalie and diving around like a maniac; being catcher for the softball team; playing four square; getting a kiss from Adrienne - my first love; drinking warm milk from cream sized glass bottles; being on school patrol at the Pah Road crossing; doing a speech about a family holiday to Australia; singing in Mrs Alexander's choir; protecting Ross from bullies; getting on the bus to the murder house (dentist traumas that linger still) and playing rugby at Te Papa Primary.

These things are all as vivid in my memory as if I'd read about them in a book. Yes - Royal Oak primary was magic, as was my childhood in the otherwise turbulent sixties.

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Our wings were flying in the sun (Dragon)

Get Back (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 1, part 8)

On holiday at Tutukaka, Northland, NZ.

Purdzilla's early years were all at 18 Korma Ave., Royal Oak. My stable paradise; we lived there from 1959 until 1974.

18 Korma Ave., Royal Oak, Auckland, NZ

Backyard pool at 18 Korma Ave - good times
If I close my eyes I can picture every room. I see floor coverings (the garish sixties swirls), the mantle piece around the fireplace with rimu bookcases either side with ornaments and books, the venetian blinded windows, the solid oak furniture. I can smell the under-house garage, the compost heap. I can feel my bedroom, the camellia and rose gardens, the brick white pointed letterbox, the trellis and the swimming pool, the shade house with mum's orchids. Everything.

It was a magical home. I loved it. It was where I grew up. It was full of love and a big dose of sibling rivalry as well at times.

Our section backed onto a large woodland area that belonged to a kind of monastery. This was a great bonus - an overgrown playground for climbing trees, running, laughing through wild flowers, playing war games and adventuring.

Ross and I had a changing group of friends that we grew up with and we'd happily play in this area for hours. 

In many ways, we were typical brothers - although our games of league, football, boxing, monopoly and so on would often end in frustration for Ross (as in he'd throw a tanty), we'd always make up pretty quickly and be ready for another go. I'd always win because I was older and bigger and more sporty. He would often tip the monopoly board over if he was losing and table tennis games would often end with him throwing the bat at me.

Although we are vastly different in so many ways, and began to grow apart as teenagers, we were 'the boys', and we went everywhere together in those young years. My overwhelming feeling of those years together is one of family unity and happiness. Oh sure, there were days I got into trouble somehow and was punished and howled and hated my parents but I can only think of a few. Once I could outrun the bamboo stick I was sweet!

Mostly life in the sixties was simple: smiling, reading, going to football at Seymour Park, playing on my bike, reading, going to Royal Oak Primary, reading, playing games with Ross, reading, being a son, being a big brother, being loved, and loving back.

Two branches of one tree and it was solid oak
As far as I knew the whole world was like this. At the time, I didn't know how lucky I was. My parents didn't argue or hate each other. Just the opposite - they actually seemed to like each other and support each other. Not that I ever thought about this because it was just normal life. It was the way we were.

Love and peace - Wozza

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

He's married, he works, go on sleeping/ On the other side of the world (Jack Kerouac)

Get Back (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 1, part 7)

John lennon and the Quarrymen were looking for gigs wherever they could find them, Jack Kerouac was labouring over On the Road, Sibelius and Toscanini were heading to their respective graves while Ricky Nelson/ Elvis/ The Everly brothers and Sam Cooke were having hits, nuclear tests were continuing amid protests from the Pope, and Dulcie Purdy was pregnant with her first child.

According to my mum, I was 'made in Pihia, born in Auckland'. Fairly appropriately, I arrived right on tea-time, 5.53pm.  I was a big baby, robust and bald.

Perhaps Christina, now Grandma, was momentarily disappointed not to have a grand-daughter (the doll stayed permanently in position at the top of her wardrobe), but I was pretty pleased to say hello to the world. 

My initial days on earth were not entirely auspicious ones. Being born in the shadow of One Tree Hill was symbolic enough, Maungakiekie is my mountain,  but space at this temporary hospital, a left over from the American forces building programme of the war years, was very limited. Therefore, I received my first visits from my new father while living in the service room where all the linen was kept. 

In our family stories, this became known as 'the broom closet'.

Most people's early memories are hazy and imprecise, if not unreliable. From the oak shaded hospital I decamped to 5 Oak St. - the flat, only a few houses away from Royal Oak Primary, that Dulcie and Graham let from Mrs Wells.

I kind of remember the house but I was only two when we left it. I can dimly picture the back of this house, made up of weatherboards and happiness.

Mum walked everywhere with me - around Royal Oak and Greenwood's Corner and One Tree Hill. I remember being frightened by a big pig dog on one walk, which has led to a lifelong suspicion of dogs.

Ma and mum show off the newbie - Ross Purdy
Two years and 18 days after I was born, I got a playmate - son number two: Ross Graham Purdy, or Dusty as our Uncle Jack called him.

Ross' emergence coincided with a move to a new house at 18 Korma Rd., Royal Oak. Our grandfather, now and forever called Deedoo by me, did all the plastering and white-pointed the bricks, as was the custom of the day. I helped out by bringing croncrete (sic) in my barrow, and painting 'the toadstool' - well it looked like a toadstool, in reality a much less romantic sewer air vent.

The family was as complete as it was ever going to be. We had Grandma and Deedoo; we had Ma (mum's mum, Lucy) and Uncle Jack: we had Uncles Roy and Mel and their families. 

But most importantly, for a long time to come, the four of us had become a strong and inseparable unit - DulcieGrahamandtheboys.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner (The Beatles)

Get Back (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 1, part 6)

And they're off...

April 18, 1953, at St Barnabas' Anglican Church in Mt Eden, and Graham Purdy was joined by his bride, Dulcie Mary Adsett, at the alter. She was being given away by one of her older brothers, Mel Adsett.

Also present - her mother, Lucy Adsett,the bridegroom's parents, Harry and Christina Purdy, their friends and officials. Nita Selman (nee Evans) was one of the bridesmaids and Bob Pegg, a pharmacist friend of Graham's, was best man.

The wedding album shows a confident and radiant bride in the bloom of youth and a dashing if somewhat nervous looking groom.

Appropriately, the wedding breakfast took place at Lewis Eady's store. 

After a honeymoon in Norfolk Island via Sydney, the future looked bright. 

Nita (left), and bride
Merv, Bob (best man), groom
Life together began at 5 Oak Street, Royal Oak, a quiet suburban street close to Mt Eden where the Purdy family lived, Mt Albert, where Graham had gone to school, and One Tree Hill, where the Adsetts lived.

New jobs for both of them were at a Royal Oak pharmacy, Walls and Roche: Dulcie as a shop assistant; Graham as a pharmacist.

The mid fifties were stable years in New Zealand (pronounced Nu Zild). the National government was in office and in firm control thanks to the Prime Minister, Keith Holyoake. 

In the arts it was a momentous time - Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov) was published, Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett) was performed, James Dean kicked it with Rebel Without a Cause, Bill Haley hit it with Rock Around the Clock, Marlon Brando was riding a wave On the Waterfront, and Bond, James Bond made a mark with Casino Royale.

Clearly, culturally, things were never going to be the same again. This was the nucleus of a new phenomenon - popular, or pop culture; something that would eventually become very dear to my heart.

And then 1956 rolled to its sleepy close and 1957 burst forth and Dulcie Purdy found out she was pregnant. 

The Purdy clan swung into preparations for the big day looming over the family. Christina had no doubt - it was going to be a girl, her grand-daughter. She immediately went out and bought the most expensive doll she could find and put it on the top of her wardrobe in Roch-dene, and waited as 1957 rolled on.

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, June 5, 2016

All the girls around her say she's got it coming (The Beatles)

Get Back (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 1, part 5)

Graham Purdy at MAGS - top left (I think I inherited his legs!)

After leaving Mount Albert Grammar, Graham trained as a pharmacist. Clever guy! Chemistry and science was his thing at school and his interest culminated in making it his career choice from school.

He passed his pharmacy professional examinations in March 1952 and then got himself a good job at Eccles' Pharmacy in Queen Street, Auckland.

Graham was nuts on swing - Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, the Dorsey brothers, Lionel Hampton, and Nat King Cole amongst others. With his buddies from school, Bruce Purser and Mervyn Hynes sometimes in tow he would come into Lewis Eady's music store, among other places, to try and find some of the latest jazz releases.

Funnily enough I would replicate this scenario twenty years later when I'd also make the journey into Queen Street with my best buddy from Mount Albert Grammar, Greg Knowles, to find my own records.

It was the late forties and the Labour governments trade restrictions after World War Two were still in place. It made records, in his words, 'scarce as hen's teeth'.

Graham's favourite haunts were Bond and Bond and Lewis Eady's. Especially Lewis Eady's.

Graham's 21st party (with his mum and dad and pre Dulcie date, Dawn from Cambridge)
At this time, Dulcie was in transit from Bond and Bond's Custom Street store to their K. Road store as manager. When she left that job she joined 'Miss Mac' in Lewis Eady's record department, which just happened to be opposite Eccles' pharmacy.

Teenage Dulcie
Graham would frequently get the tram at lunch time, spending the two pence fare to try his luck for a 78 rpm record that cost 4/6 (about 45 cents). In his carefully presented chemist smock and his 'thin and haughty air' (according to mum's flippant memory) he'd chance his luck with the cheeky, bubbly, shop assistant.

Graham kept up his charm offensive by swapping one dram bottles of Richard Hudnut Evening in Paris, which was rationed and highly sought after by young women, for his prized swing records.

Dulcie was not impressed. She thought this brash, lanky, persistent, young, chemist guy was a pest. He was, after all, out of her league, or so she thought.

She wasn't well educated by comparison but what she lacked in formal education she made up for in chutzpah and common sense. She sensed that she and the chemist guy were poles apart and yet...the bond grew.

The crazy gang Part 1- ripping it up at the Pursers (Graham far right with date Dulcie Adsett)

She entered his social sphere, playing card games  with Graham and his friends, the Pursers and Merv Hynes. 

The crazy gang part 2 with my godfather Meryn Hynes (4th from left), Bruce Purser (centre)
Dulcie Adsett (4th from left) with thin and haughty Graham Purdy (2nd from right)
They joined the Auckland Swing Club together (I wear the badge on my suit) and as Graham's persistence began to pay off...

...chemistry happened (pun intentional).

Love and peace - WNP