Saturday, July 30, 2016

Don't know much (Sam Cooke)

The footsteps of dawn (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 3, part 1)

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I do know that if you love me too
What a wonderful, wonderful world it would be
(Sam Cooke)

The gates to Royal Oak Primary are still there.

Royal Oak Primary, Manukau Intermediate, Mount Albert Grammar School. They all tried hard with Warren Purdy.

Front row, stripped shirt, 1963.

Inextricably, the Royal Oak area of Auckland and Royal Oak Primary are intertwined with my happy childhood memories. They were safe and warm places to grow up and they never let me down. 

When I was growing up, Royal Oak was pretty much my entire self contained universe. When I visited the Penny Lane roundabout in Liverpool I understood what Paul McCartney was on about in his famous song. 

Penny Lane contains Paul's memories of the banker, the barber, the firemen and so on. I get it (Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes. There beneath the blue suburban skies)

Royal Oak was my Penny Lane.

The shops at the Royal Oak roundabout included Walls and Roche (chemists), a butchers, a menswear, three stationers where I'd buy my comics, and a dairy (ice creams, lollies, cokes). I took tennis lessons at the Royal Oak grass courts and joined the Fernleigh Road tennis  club (off Pah Road). I'd return glass coke bottles to the Pah Road dairy. Close by was the cubs/scouts hall that Ross and I went to. Seymour Park was where I played football for Eden FC. Ross and I went to St John's Church for Sunday school. Our doctor and dentist (Nelson and Bridgeman) were in the area, too. 

Everything was in walking distance. When I got my bike in 1967 it was even closer!

In terms of schooling, everything was accessible from Oak Street or Korma Road: Mrs Rogers kindy; Royal Oak Primary and Manukau Intermediate.

Middle row, proudly wearing my patrol badge
(love of my young life Adrienne is middle row, second left)
After School Patrol duty, I'd walk home along Pah Road towards my happy home at 18 Korma Ave. The tins were full of good stuff. I could swim in summer or kick a football around our empty pool in winter. I could ride my bike and play games with Ross. We could go on holiday and I never wanted for anything. It was a sweet ride!

I loved primary school.

But then, after my last term in Standard Four (1968), a transition had to happen. I had to leave Royal Oak Primary and head to a new school. I had to trade in the scouts uniform and put on the intermediate one. 

Dib dib dib - me and Ross with cool uniforms, but not for long
Manukau Intermediate (now rebranded as Royal Oak Intermediate) was just down the road, in Trafalgar Street. I'd been there for choir performances (that will be a shock to my students and colleagues). At that time, I remember being slightly overwhelmed by its size.

Luckily, a lot of my friends also made the move. John Dawson and his brother walked me to school that first morning in January 1969. Interestingly, I am no longer in any kind of contact with anyone from primary or intermediate school. Funny how that happens.

I enjoyed a lot of things about Manukau, but Mrs Kay was not one of them. A chain-smoking, nicotine stained, obese woman was to be my teacher for both my form one and form two years. Yikes.

For the only time in my entire school career I felt the injustice of corporal punishment when she gave me the strap, on the hand, for talking during one of her abysmal French lessons. The shame and the injustice has stayed with me. 

It was such a shock.

One minute I'm sitting at my desk, next the two of us are called up in front of the class. I have to hold my hand out while she uses a large leather strap to whack my hand. It stings like hell and when I return to my seat I'm crying with embarrassment and pain.

It continues to sting!

On the plus side, I spent two years learning new things. Woodwork and metalwork were the only two practical subjects I ever took and I enjoyed them, even though I was an absolute clutz in them most of the time. 

Mr Lindsay with his team (I'm
second from left in the front row)
Intermediate was a valuable time in transitioning from childhood to teenager.
In 1970 I caught a glimpse of my future. An inspirational teacher took us for maths, Mr Lindsay. He was young, competent, and my soccer coach. Suddenly, these new thoughts about being a teacher seemed to make sense.

As a Manukau Intermediate pupil I was zoned for the local Onehunga High School, also within walking distance from Korma Ave. At the time though, the local word wasn't favourable about OHS.

Instead, mum and dad sought the more difficult option - to bus me over to Mount Albert Grammar, where dad had been a student. 

As I was out of zone, I had to attend an interview with the Headmaster, Maurice Hall.  It must have gone well, or else he was impressed by my stated desire to become a maths teacher, or else dad being an old boy swung the deal. 

Whatever - I was in! I was going to be a MAGS boy!

Love and peace - Wozza

Monday, July 25, 2016

Still, I'm going to miss you (The Rolling Stones)

You angel, you (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 2, pt 7)

Bad stuff started happening five years before November 1983. 

My second year at Auckland University years, 1978, and mum is diagnosed with breast cancer. Such a painful part of my history is a tough thing to write about and hard to read. I know.

While she was going through five years of operations, recuperation and a final slipping away, I was living at home for the most part and going to varsity. She was meeting every crisis with the same mix of outwardly philosophical stoicism and I didn't know what to do. No one was actually talking to Ross and me, so I made my own appointments with her doctors and, as much as they could, they explained things, and prepared me for the worst. 

It was a lonely time, for all of us.

How did she feel inside? How did dad feel inside? How did Ross feel inside? I have no idea - they never said. Me? I was a mess of sadness and impotent rage.

I moved out of Ramelton Road in 1982 to go to Secondary Teacher's College in Mt Eden. I moved into Deedoo's Windmill Road flat while he was in the Masonic Village. Then I was in New Plymouth.

Too soon it was November 4, 1983. Jacky and I were the last people in the family to see my mother alive, diminished and beaten by the cancer, in the Mater hospital. It was hard and I will never forget that last visit and breaking down as I walked down the flights of stairs after saying goodbye.

The responsibilities now fell to me. The funeral. Dad was Unable to cope, dad trusted me to take over. This kept me going through the loss. Being strong for my father and brother undoubtedly helped me in the short term but the store of grief is still with me.

It's never going to go away.

Growing up in our household meant being brought up by our mother. That meant being disciplined and having barriers and examples and values. Sometimes, luckily, they were beaten into us. Like any child I rebelled sometimes but I grew up to be grateful for the chastisements. The bamboo stick hurt but that was very temporary. The hugs when I did well are the things that remain.

In late 1975 I drove home from MAGS with good news: accreditation for University Entrance. I walked in the side door from the garage at Ramelton Road to find the person I most wanted to first share this news with but she found me at the same time. The joy of success (finally after so many failures) was never, ever, as sweet as that instant. as we embraced.

I'm the first to admit that I'm lucky, having these angels around me as I grew up. I was totally sheltered and protected from all the nasty things that can happen like divorces, cruelty, abuse and the like.

I am absolutely certain that without Uncle Jack, Ma, Deedoo, my mother and my father I would not have the same values, relationships, outlooks on life that I do now in 2016, aged 58.

The final words in this chapter belong to King Lear. In his poignant farewell to his dead daughter Cordelia before he, himself, dies:

No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more:
Never, never, never, never, never.

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Set adrift on memory bliss of you (PM Dawn)

You angel, you (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 2, pt 6)

I shared my mother's life for twenty-six years. I'm 58 right now. I've lived longer than she did.

That's nearly 33 years without her. I've felt pain for every one of those 33 years.

There are no days that I don't think of her and miss her terribly. The power within that little frame is a hard thing to do without.

Tragically John Lennon and Paul McCartney lost their mothers when they were very young too. John was about 15, Paul 14. They didn't recover either. That pain and the repression of those feelings helped bond them and lasted throughout John's life. I can identify.

1983 became a huge year. 

I was teaching at New Plymouth Boys' High School in 1983, my first year in my first teaching job. The year had been a good one in many ways. Serendipity had led me to New Plymouth, teaching at a school that was much like MAGS.

I had applied to teach all over NZ during my final teaching section at Keri Keri High School in late 1982. I sent applications off to state schools, private schools, single sex and co-ed schools, north and south island schools, town and country schools. Nothing!

When I headed back home to Ramelton Rd. to lick my wounds Tom Ryder from NPBHS rang me for an interview and gave me the job there and then. Weird how life works out. 

Prior to my first day, mum and I drove down from Auckland and stayed in a little motel at the base of the school in Coronation Rd. Some friends in my Teachers' College tutor group invited me to stay with them at their family's beach house at Oakura. While there I answered an ad for a flatmate at moved into a house in Spotswood with two girls (Moira and Anne).

Year zero NPBHS
A month after starting teaching, Moira had a birthday on February 26. To celebrate, we headed to a posh place on Devon Street and from there to a party that Anne had been invited to. I was dressed in a suit (as you do to eat out at a posh place), but it turned out the party, organised as a going away for someone, was a fancy dress. Aarrghhhh!

I felt like a complete plonker. I was introduced to a few of Anne's friends. One guy, clearly gay, called Patrick Cameron, had come as Batman. After we'd chatted I went to get a drink. Sitting down, people watching. Next thing I know, this gorgeous vision in an orange flamenco dress sat with me, and, was inviting me to dance!

And we did! And it was love at first sight.  

Sounds like I'm making it up! But I swear it's true, I was just about to say I love you, love you, but was...

...the next day. Moira, Anne and I were in a car driving around Hawera for some reason, we went by Ronald Hugh Morrison's house, and I asked who this vision in orange, that I'd fallen in love with, was.

Jacky Smith. And Anne knew her from theatre. And she worked as a shop assistant in a fashion store, Accessory House, on Devon St.

I screwed my courage to the sticking place, and went in. There she was. Still a vision, I hadn't dreamt it! I mumbled something and asked her to lunch at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery. OMG - she said yes!!

We started going out. I was in heaven and couldn't believe this woman (five years younger but so much more mature in all ways) was actually spending time with me.

By November 1983 I'd moved in to 33 Lorna Street with her (Patrick Cameron, her flatmate, had moved out). We went to Auckland during the year and I'd shown her off to mum and dad and Ross. 

Everyone approved.

Love and peace - Wozza

Saturday, July 16, 2016

I'm far, far away but the sound of home is loud, still as loud (Slade)

You angel, you (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 2, pt 5)

Reimers Ave, Mt Eden

At first glance, Harry Purdy (Deedoo) was an unlikely angel. But he was.

Our bond was immediate and reciprocal. His first grandson became a work buddy. And a buddy bond that would last the rest of his life.

I don't remember any playtime episodes with Deedoo but we worked well together. 

It started, age 2, helping with the concreting ('more croncrete Deedoo') at Korma Road and continued, in teenager-hood, mixing up the mortar for him at Ramelton Road.

For such a man of buttoned up emotion and straight talking, he could create such beauty with cement and mortar. He picked me up in his ocean blue Holden Premier (super low mileage) and we went to work at the Ramelton Road site, full of rough sawn timber and mud. A magic time, just him and me.

Me and Deedoo, Grandma with Ross
A cascade of memories come to mind when I think about Deedoo: visits to Reimers Avenue (a.k.a. Roch-dene); Eden Park (where he helped out in the canteen and gave me free entry plus a pie and coke for rugby or cricket matches); visits to the boxing gym where he helped out; his Mako shark trophy; the sheds at the back of Reimers Ave.; his old truck; the boxing gloves he gave us; his time, at the end, at the Masonic Village behind Korma Rd.

Again - it sounds idyllic and it was. Our relationship was different to the one I had with Ma. Maybe I sensed that he had had a hard life without ever coming to terms with it. He was a diabetic, always scared of what could happen, never outwardly emotional. Maybe I realised that I had to compensate for that. Maybe it was that his funeral seemed to follow on so soon after my mother's.

Whatever the reason, I totally fell apart at his death and my grief was overwhelming - I cried uncontrollably throughout the service. After a long illness, compounded by his diabetes, he died at the Masonic Village in 1983.

Love and peace - Warren

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I'm far, far away with my head up in the clouds (Slade)

You angel, you (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 2, pt 4)

Kawau Rd., One Tree Hill

After a traumatic event people tend to toughen up, build some outer layers of resistence. Not me.

Emotionally, after my Uncle Jack's death in 1967 (yes we're still in that stellar year), I transferred love to Ma.

Lucy Adsett had the uncanny ability to make you feel special. Outside of my parents, I've only come across a few with that knack. Jacky Smith, Colin Prentice, Margo/ Clay and Patrick Cameron have that genuine ability.

I'm pretty sure she didn't treat me any differently than she did her other grand children, but I felt she did.

Eleven Kawau Road, One Tree Hill, was a state advances home of peculiar design. A long path at the front led to the front door but we rarely entered there. Instead the big back stairs led up to the kitchen diner (where all the action took place), through into the bedrooms and the lounge.

Ma, Uncle Mel, Uncle Jack
It housed the Adsett family until two sons and a daughter were married and left home, leaving Ma and Jack to themselves. It had a big back section with a bird aviary attached to an outbuilding. The aviary, in particular, always fascinated me.

This is the house I would visit often during the sixties/ early seventies. I went there for special trout dinners - Ross was allergic to fish so we never had it at home, and I LOVED fish, especially trout, and especially the way Ma cooked it. 

Typically, mum would drop me off (it's a 10 minute drive from Korma Rd to Kawau Rd). I'd do some gardening, maybe mow the lawns, do some painting - whatever odd jobs Ma needed doing, and I'd be rewarded with a trout  lunch, cooked to perfection. I've had trout cooked for me since, but it never tastes like Ma's.

I would often stay overnight and have special treats like being allowed to stay up late to watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Then mum would pick me up the next day. Life was warm and safe and happy at 11 Kawau Rd.

I can't remember ever having an argument with Ma. She was small of stature, but a little dynamo of energy - still washing walls and beating carpets in her 80's. She had a wonderful combination of steel and compassion. She never tried to buy us with presents, as Grandma did. She bought us with love.

Her influence is incalculable. Looking back, I can trace many positive aspects of myself ultimately to her.

I knew something was wrong in 1974 when dad picked Ross and me up after school from Mt Albert Grammar. That had never happened before.

Ma had been unwell ( I was living in teenage boy fog at the time, so I'm not sure of the details) and it was decided that she move into our new Ramelton Road house with us. Specifically she was in mum's sewing room by the front door, and that's where she passed away.

I don't remember crying. I didn't need to. She had given me much more than I had any right to expect. She had lived a long, full, rewarding life and she was at peace, passing away with my mother by her side. She was back with Jack again.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I feel I could almost sing (Bob Dylan)

You angel, you (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 2, part 3)

Three months after my Uncle Jack died, I turned ten.  

Of all my birthdays, the tenth stands out. The step into double figures, from child to pre-teener is special. For me, October 1, 1967 came to symbolise a jump, a leap, a catapult into the rest of my life.

I'd been promised a proper bike, a two-wheeler. The agony of waiting those long months to pass during my ninth year was tempered with the thought of that pot of gold ahead.

At that time we lived in the quiet cul de sac that was Korma Road in suburban Auckland. The house was opposite a Mormon Temple which took up the other side of the street. It was an interesting series of buildings. Even the name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in large embossed letters, was impressive.

Ross and I would play there a lot: firing acorns from the huge oak trees which overhung the car parks; climbing the roof while we pretended  to be Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuriakyn from U.N.C.L.E. (of course I was the cool Kuriakyn); watching the crates of beer bottles being stacked at the back entrance; smelling the sweet banana palms; wondering about the secret goings on inside the temple.

Even though we were right opposite, hiding in plain sight, we were not spared visits from clean cut American men in white shirts and ties, riding their flash grown up two wheelers with saddle bags. They would lean their bikes on our brick fence for me to envy.

Our house was pretty cool, it even had an under house garage!

There was no internal access to it but it had a great space to crawl where a staircase could go in the future. There was room here for surplus wood, bricks, roof tiles and boxes that needed storing. The dank earth smell added to the clandestine pleasure of hiding and listening to my name being called just above my head.

The wooden garage doors were folding ones, painted white, with frosted glass windows. You couldn't see inside the garage from the front, but a high window on the side gave a clear view of the two cars, a company sedan for dad and mum's red mini. It was something of a delicate manoeuvre to get both cars in there but I never heard any complaints from dad.

On the back wall there were work benches constructed for dad's use. He was an electronics wiz kid so there were many small tins above the benches for transistors and valves and things. All were carefully labelled, arranged precisely, and placed deliberately.

The garage was usually clean. Whenever a build up of dust and leaves happened, dad would fill a watering can and dampen down the floor before sweeping it all up with a stiff broom. 

The walls were concrete and contained that lime fragrance that's both sweet and sickly. Cobwebs, attached to the wooden ceiling, the floor of the lounge above, added to the picture.

Around the time of my ninth birthday Grandma had given me a camera, a Kodak Instamatic with flash cubes. Armed with that and a book on photography a friend of dad's had given me, I started to shoot. Dad already knew a lot about photography, so I learnt the basics of developing and printing black and white photos from him.

From time to time, the laundry was transformed into a dark room; the enlarger that lived in the hall cupboard was brought out of its protective plastic sheath and the ringer washer was pushed to one side.

An elaborate ritual took place in the dark room. It was precise, it appeared to me to be quite convoluted, and it was magic. The different coloured plastic trays of water eventually produced the red tinged black and white photograph that I had taken only a few days ago with my Kodak Instamatic. The exclusive red darkness around the enlarger, the sweet smelling developer, the soothing lapping water - all somehow conspired to produce a photograph.

Eventually, October 1 rolled around. When you're a kid, birthdays are huge and a year takes FOREVER!

Ross and my birthdays had developed their own ritual: mum would take us to a movie of our choice as birthday treats. For my birthdays I always went for pulp westerns like Scalphunters, Villa Rides, or Bandolero. This time out it was El Dorado.

I loved westerns and the ride into town to the Civic was a treat in itself!

But, before the movie this time, there was a special gift waiting for me at home after school. 

All day during classes in Mr Haydon's standard three class at Royal Oak Primary I anticipated what my bicycle would look like. For months I'd walked past the bike racks at school, dreaming of owning the latest chopper bike with the long wide banana seat and raised handle bars. They were so cool. All the intermediate boys had them!

I walk the short distance home along Oak Street in my usual dazed state, careful to avoid the long driveway where that huge black dog lives. My heart is pounding. Thoughts concentrated on the bike, as if, just by imaging it, I could wish it true.

Down the slope of Pah Road, thoughts of what film we'd be seeing now overlapping with the bike. Past Seymour Park where, every Saturday, ever since four years old, I play soccer for Eden F.C. Cutting through the Mormon car park and thoughts of dinner (always Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert on my birthday). Past the dowdy flats opposite the Temple before getting to number 18.

Into our pathway, past the brick letterbox, between the rose bushes, up the ten concrete steps to our front door. The bike. Where is it?

Nowhere to be seen is where. Maybe they'd forgotten. Maybe it's coming when dad gets home from work. Nowhere.

I walk into the kitchen, trying hard not to let disappointment slide through to the outside. Mum's at the bench making my favourite dessert. Things are looking up. She looks at me and instantly knows my thoughts.

Then she says it, "Why don't you go and have a look in the...garage?" Could she ever read me good.

"I can't mum, the door's locked." She gives me the key. I scamper out of the kitchen,down the ten stairs taking two at a time, around the path, down more stairs to the white painted doors of the garage.

As I open that magic doorway to the garage and see my brand new, two wheel, blue and white Raleigh bicycle...I smile.

Even now, looking back at the photo I took of Ross on my bike with my Kodak Instamatic, I can still feel that smile, I didn't even notice that it isn't a chopper with banana seat and high handle bars!

We wheel it out, my mother and me. I get on.

My mother behind me, half holding the seat, I stretch to reach the pedals and take my first ride away from her as she lets go of her eldest son, age ten.

I fly off, around and around that Mormon Church car park, past the oaks, over the acorns scattered beneath my wheels, making that great leap forward, catapulting into the great unknown!

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, July 3, 2016

You angel you, you got me under your wing (Bob Dylan)

You angel, you (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 2, part 2)
Uncle Jack with his two nephews, his mum and kid sister

1967 was massive. 

It was the year of Sgt Pepper (music would never ever be the same); it was the year I turned 10 (my birthday in October was a special one); and it was the year the concept of death became real for me. 

From 1967 onwards - my life was never going to be the same.

Albert Henry Adsett (never called that, he was always 'Jack') was 16 when a baby sister arrived. She would prove to be of use in the years to come, as she supplied plenty of good eating. 

Dulc' would bake a sponge and see it devoured by her ravenous brothers in short order. She never appeared to mind. In fact it was a tale she'd often relate with obvious delight. She loved her brothers!

Jack was always and forever a bachelor. I have no idea if he ever had a girlfriend but somehow the question was completely unnecessary. Jack appeared complete within himself. 

During the time I knew him he only ever lived at 11 Kawau Rd., One Tree Hill, with Ma. To me he was clearly a white knight, a good guy, a protector. He was a big guy, a man's man - tough and strong, but quiet, at peace. He was seemingly invincible, a giant in our lives.

My beloved Uncle Jack.

He was a great playmate for a little boy. He always seemed satisfied with whatever he had or with whatever he was doing. Nobody's perfect, but he was as close as it comes.

We'd often visit him at his work at the Alexandra Park raceway. I'm not too sure what he did there but he enjoyed it, as he enjoyed his life. He'd often take us around the horse stalls - Cardigan Bay was a champion of the day and we saw him up close! 

Jack was a keen angler, with his brother Roy. About the only tangible legacy I have of him is an old calendar he owned, showing various fishing scenes from around New Zealand, including his favourite place - Rotorua.

The Adsett clan at my parents' wedding, Jack far left.

I would come to cherish the times we'd spend together, with Ma ever-present and all my memories of him are as a gentle giant who was kind, who loved me.

And then, on June 12 1967, he was gone. 

I awoke sharply, having heard the phone go in the darkness and sensing something was wrong. The light was on, there were voices.

By this time I had moved from sharing a bedroom with Ross to a back bedroom which backed onto my parents' room.

Suddenly my light was on and mum was explaining to me what had happened. I suppose it's around the age of eight or nine that children begin to be conscious of death and I had certainly already had conversations with my parents about this. But it was an abstract concept, so nothing would have prepared me for this devastating news. I cried and cried. Tears of confusion, tears of pain, tears of rage. Tears for my Uncle Jack and tears for myself - I wouldn't be able to play with him anymore.

Life is short and cruel and parting is so often, sweet sorrow.

Love and peace - Jack's nephew.