Saturday, August 13, 2016

Close to the edge, down by a river, not right away, not right away (Yes)

The footsteps of dawn (You may say I'm a dreamer - Chapter 3, part 4)

You can't always get what you want...but you might find you get what you need (Mick Jagger).

Great hairstyles of the seventies part 396 -
Wozza (top left) with the wonderfully coiffed
Greg Knowles, a.k.a. Grub, a.k.a. Gregarious
G-String (bottom right), in 1974

Clearly I needed to pause, settle my brain, grow as a person, and refocus.

So, in 1974, God sent me chicken pox, Warwick Gibbs, first XI football, Asquith Avenue, Greg Knowles, and a second year in the fifth form with Laurie Belsham. 

It became a watershed year. Without it? Who knows.

I was a failure. Nobody expected anything of me. And I wasn't alone. Looking at the 1973 and 74 Senior V photos is interesting - a few faces reoccur! Mates like Mike Budd, Vernon Kingstone, Stephen Sinclair and others kept me company.

I'm above the regal figure of Mr Herbert.
Back row - Stephen Sinclair and Peter Sarapu bookend the row
Third row - I'm next to Vernon Kingstone (4th from right)
Second row - Nicky Singh (4th from right), Greg Knowles (2nd from right)
Front row - Laurie (Lorry Driver) Belsham, Mike Budd (centre)
Yes, I was a failure, but I survived. Better than that - I came back from the brink of disaster after three solid years of failure.

Second time around I had a cruisy, much reduced programme - only having to do the three subjects I'd failed: French, maths and chemistry. Although I'd got the bare minimum in geography and English (both 50%) I didn't have to resit them. Wahoo!! 

During those classes I went to the art room: chilled out, listened to music, discussed music with friends (Beatles vs Stones was a hot topic still), screen printed T-shirts for the rowing teams and for myself. I had a ball in art class. Sheer bliss.

Asquith Avenue: We'd sold Korma Road, mainly because of a dickhead neighbour who had put oil in our swimming pool (we couldn't prove it but we knew he'd done it). We had also outgrown the place. That sounds weird because there was only the four of us. I think our parents wanted a bigger place for me and Ross, for dad's electronics, mum's floral display hobby and they wanted to get away from a really built up part of the suburbs. Korma Road was full of flats and they were looking dowdier and dowdier as time went on. 

I remember being at Brian Wood's house in Kerr Taylor Avenue (we'd bonded over music - Deep Purple In Rock to be specific that afternoon). When I phoned up mum to get me, she told me we'd bought a section in Ramelton Road, Mt Roskill South, at the end of the Dominion Road extension. Much further away from MAGS. I said, "Oh, okay".

My own children's awareness and need for information is light years beyond what mine was just then. They would have been part of the decision and interested in what was going on in terms of family decisions. I wasn't included in the decision making, ever. And I didn't mind.

I went with the flow.

While it was being built, dad rented an old house in Asquith Ave. Close to Peter Cahill's house, closer to Mike Budd's Grey Lynn place, really close to a railway crossing, really close to a dairy, and an easy walk to school. I loved it!

Before heading up to Whangarei, Mike was a constant friend during this time and a constant visitor to Asquith Avenue in his Morrie Thou. A very genuine, generous guy is Mike; I still have a copy of a Split Ends (sic) single that he scored for me while working at the Heard's sweet factory. He's a big guy and a big personality, and a talented goalkeeper. Not so hot in the outfield, though. He's too big! It was no surprise that he turned to rugby in North Auckland, playing at lock, and captaining the team. I was really proud of him.

At this temporary rental, I was given the small bedroom/porch by the back stairs and got on with it!

Cosy, warm, different, old, exciting: it was everything the new house couldn't be.

Chicken pox can be vicious if you're not a kid and I was 16 (turning 17 in October) when it hit early in 1974. I was laid up (pun intended) for weeks in that little porch area that was my bedroom. It was painful and embarrassing in extremis. I will spare you the details. 

While I read Lord of the Rings, mum nursed me through the illness. Every cloud has a silver lining. This one had quite a few. 

School work continued and I developed a new self-disciplined independent learning style in those weeks. Mr Gibbs set and marked French material for me and guided my learning. I loved the work I was doing for him and was amazed to find that it got easier to concentrate. Once I'd recuperated (pun intended - coups - work with me) I was a different person (but still in teenage boy fog).

Sports like tennis, softball, football (a.k.a. soccer in NZ), and badminton were the only things I was consistently really good at while I was growing up. Football especially.

I'd been an Auckland representative through the grades while playing for Eden. Adept with both feet, my position was at left back in the defence. Eventually, at MAGS, I made it through three years of age group teams to make the First XI team for the first time in 1974. Next year we would win the Auckland championship for what would be many years - until Kevin Fallon took over coaching the First XI in the late nineties, but we were pretty crap in 1974.

Warwick Gibbs was my French teacher again in 1974 and we bonded. He's an amazing teacher with an extraordinary gift. It must be a gift because somehow I won the Fifth form French prize that year. Many years later I framed the certificate and gave it to him - he deserved it more than I did!

W.O.H. Gibbs 
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops (Henry Adams). This is the title to the most popular post on this blog. It celebrates mentors, and Warwick Gibbs takes a starring role.

He has a great knack for making lasting connections with his students. His Facebook page bares testament to his continuing popularity at MAGS and influence. He was and is an amazing person.

While he was teaching me I wrote him a note saying that I would be back to MAGS some time in the future as Head of English. He showed it to me again when I left the teaching staff at MAGS to take up a position as Deputy Principal at Cambridge High School.

Inspirational people have been around me all my life, I am truly blessed.

Two young codgers - Buster and Gregarious

And then there was Greg Knowles, a.k.a. 'Grub'. Soon to become Gregarious G-String to my Buster Bloodvessel (we made tapes which cracked us up!). 

We were in the same class in 1974 because I'd failed and he'd caught up to me. Thank goodness! I can't imagine my life without Greg in it somehow. A third amigo, Kevin Simms, would join the party when we got to varsity.

All MAGS classrooms had tandem wooden desks with a seat that flipped back and an angled surface for writing. No plastic in sight in the seventies (or nineties - they were still there when I joined the staff!). Greg sat next to me during a chemistry exam at the end of 1974. I was struggling with stuff as usual and he was doing a paper in something else. Subsequently, he told me that he had looked at my answers, aghast at my stupidity! We became close friends.

Turns out we liked the same music, and had the same warped sense of humour. We have remained friends, mates for life, and our friendship hasn't changed!

When my second set of School certificate results came out, they showed that I'd passed maths and French but failed chemistry again. Dad must have been horrified but he never let on (Greg wasn't surprised). I was just not interested in sciences/ maths/ chemistry. At all!

I had experienced the humbling three years that I needed to experience. My maturity had caught up a tiny bit and I felt I was more or less back on track to fulfill my teaching ambition into my last years at MAGS.

The sixth form would be a challenge, but what the hell. I was finally done with School C.

Love and peace - Wozza


Dave Craig said...

Nice read Wozza, you were lucky to be in a school that recognized need and the fact that we all mature and hit our straps at different junctures and aspects of life. I thing NCEA has turned many schools into credit factories. Here's to banning the sausage factory and growing the individual.

Wozza said...

Yeah Davego - I was super lucky. I judge a school on how well it caters for all those fringe characters - the ones who don't fit. Maybe they don't want to fit. Maybe they take time to fit. I agree to a point about NCEA - it has become a credit factory and we have taken a lot of failure out of the system for good or for bad. Yeah right on brother to banning the sausage factory!!!

Greg. said...

Ah – memories, from the corners of my mind… Lots of familiar faces and terrible hair-dos!!
It was funny you noting the moniker, Grub. I’d forgotten about that, it was a name that was fairly short lived. In my earlier days at school I got called G-Whizz because, when something untoward happened, I’d mutter, “G-Whizz.”

The name Grub evolved in similar fashion. One time we were in class and a certain teacher sneezed sans hand/tissue/hanky, showering the front rows with all manner of bodily (as in oral) spray. I said rather loudly, “Grub.” Or, more precisely, “Grrrrruuuuuuubbbbbb.” I received a detention for it and for some time after, when in my presence and feeling the urge, my friends would say, “Grrrrruuuuuuubbbbbbb.”

You are correct in your assessment of Mike Budd. He wouldn’t remember me at all, but I recall him as a thoroughly decent bloke!

BTW – whenever I see a.k.a., I always think of Wozza P. You were the very first person I ever heard said that. I wondered what on earth aka meant and hurried home to look it up in a dictionary! Always the educator WNP!!

Signed, G-Whizz.

Greg. said...

Oh, and I didn't mention the tapes we used to make.
Man, we thought they were so funny!
Actually, some were. I still remember a few of the quotes from them, such as, "Say, this thing is dead, ain't it?"
We would never have been close to creative if not for The Monkees' Head album!!

Wozza said...

Yeah - nicknames are terrible things and students do it all the time. Girls at school call me Purcat or P Dizzle. In the past I've had Purdzilla and Pur-dog. They're fine but the names I was called at school were always focusing on my hooter and I hated them.

Those tapes were great and you're right about Head. Quiet isn't it?

Good times, good times!