Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pushing the barriers, planting seeds (John Lennon)

The power and the glory (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 4, part 2)

Hair update - the fringe years were over, although
the George Harrison 1968 fetish was alive and well.

Master of Arts (1980-81)
First I had to do battle to stay the course. The teaching studentship people argued against me enrolling in the master's programme - they wanted me at Teachers' College in 1980.

Politely, I declined to acquiese to their request. They blinked first.

At the start of 1982 I was capped MA (Hons) in front of my family, my friends, my peers. Finally, the dream had come true.

Film festival tickets 1981: good
times, good times!
The previous two, utterly self indulgent, academically stimulating years, had been amazing. 

Retrace the route with me as I take the bus along Dominion Road or drive to the gully car park in my mini, go to the movies, go to lectures and tutorials, browse the record and book shops, work for hours on my own in the library, meet friends at the coffee shop or in Albert Park, see plays with friends, and all the while totally engross myself in my studies: 2oth century drama, 15th century drama, Chaucer, 2oth century poetry, the novel, and language papers. 

Student life was very heaven.

The result - second class, first part honours was beyond what I had hoped for ten years before.

MA students perform - Wozza left, Margo second right.
Relationships were becoming more intense as well. Up to this point, girl friends had been just that - friends who were girls.

Coralie Bines was my first date back at MAGS. Mike Budd played middle man and introduced me to her. We went to the school ball and she was still on the scene when I had my 21st dinner party at the White Heron Lodge (Purdy's are pretty classy). Coralie was (and, I bet, still is) lovely but we were just friends.

Phylis Omand was a friend of Greg's and we went out a few times (me and Phyllis that is, not Greg; he was busy with Wendy I suspect). Again though, we were just friends. Soon enough she'd moved on to Anthony Harris.

Friends from my courses, who were girls, went with me to movies, the theatre and lunches but nothing serious was ever on the agenda.

When 1980 rolled around, I meet fellow MA student, Dallas Smith. She was a thing apart, a different prospect, and certainly didn't fit the model of my previous female friends. Intense, moody, artistic, she was a crazy mixed up kid if ever there was one. Fair warning - she told me she was trouble and she was right.

Dallas collage 1981

Of course, it didn't last. She deceived me and I was crushed. So it goes.

Christine and Chris kirkham 1981
Another relationship, began at the same time, has definitely endured. I would have loved an older sister in my house growing up. Christine was away in England getting on with married life to Chris Kirkham, and email was a way off yet. I loved her letters, cards and cassette tapes but she wasn't as easily accessible as she is now.

Margo Buchanan-Oliver was also a fellow master's student, but in a different league to the rest of us! A curious mix of English refinement, social rebel, academic genius, tough business woman, tender and loving feminist - Margo is one dynamic package. 

She'd been married and had gap years in business before deciding on further study, with first the masters degree, then her PhD. Quickly, she became a big sister.

Clay, Margo with Mr and Mrs Purdy
But wait, there's more: Clay Bodvin was and is Margo's partner: an American Vietnam vet, artist, painter, gentleman, visionary, big brother substitute.

What a perfect twofer package! As friends they became a huge part of my life. When I got married, Clay was my best man, Margo - director of ceremony.

In 1980, I was 24 and yes, gasp, still pretty naive. Still living at home, but growing, incrementally, more independent. Academically I was definitely hitting my peak. Through their adoption of me (and kindred spirit, Chris Loud), Margo and Clay helped introduce new worlds - arcane worlds of possibilities and intellectual argument. They can cut through bullshit in a nano second and I love them dearly. 

Chris Loud
It was the most stimulating time of my life. The windows were thrown open, the doors of perception were hinging off their hinges.

I was immersed in great literature: The Romance of the Rose; Chaucer; Robert Bly: Robert Creeley; Moby Dick; Huckleberry Finn; Wordsworth; Coleridge; Shelley; Allen Ginsberg; Ferlinghetti; the Wakefield pageants; medieval lyrics; Pynchon; Titus Groan; Easy Rider; Star Wars; Ionesco; Beckett...

Great people influenced my thinking: Wystan Curnow; Stephanie Hollis; Roger Horrocks. They turned me inside out. As I progressed through those five years I kept an eye out for their courses. I was there!

Wystan and Roger formed a dynamic duo on poetry, film, Americana and art. Thanks to them I was turned on to artists like John Coltrane, Patti Smith, Charlie Parker, Dylan. A previously untapped world of poetry and film as art and expression. It's a debt I can never repay.

Peter Dane made Wordsworth's words, images, and experiences from The Prelude come alive and breathe for me. I can still hear his voice when I read from it.

Stephanie opened my eyes to Chaucer. After one lecture one night, I walked through Albert Park in a heightened state of mindfulness - I saw leaves on trees, bark, the filtered light - everything, it seemed to me, for the very first time. I felt transformed!

By becoming so immersed in what they taught, these people provided models that I could learn from; they provided priceless experiences to sustain me for the rest of my life. Is there any greater gift?

Sadly, as 1983 dawned, the five self indulgent years devoted to study and a search for self had to eventually come to an end. It was time to move on. 

It was time to learn a trade.

Love and peace - Wozza 

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