Thursday, 2 March 2017

#52Stories, Week 9, What were your favourite hobbies and pastimes from childhood ? Are you still pursuing any of them ?

I'm swapping week 9 & 10 around while I do some research on what is now week 10's topic.

Pastimes and hobbies is the topic for week 9.

I collected stamps for a while, diligently soaking them off the envelopes and putting them in to a stamp album. There were lots of letters and bills arriving in people's letterboxes then. Not so much now, except at Christmas. So I imagine stamp collecting must be a fast disappearing hobby. Dad collected stamps too - there are suitcases of them waiting forlornly for someone to sort them or sell them, or just look at them without feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task.

I had piano lessons, belonged to a gymnastics club and a roller-skating club. I joined Brownies.I drew house plans on the spare plan paper Dad bought home from work. I knitted, sort of. 

Mum and Nana both knitted and were willing teachers, even when I dropped stitch after stitch for rows on end and sometimes made more stitches than required instead. I think the first garment I completed myself was a striped longline jumper with an oversized polo neck when I was about 14.

I wrote letters (it fed my stamp collection) and collected penfriends around the world and across New Zealand too. Mataura, Milton, Nelson and further afield Mauritius, Switzerland, France, Japan, Rhodesia (yes I am that old - Zimbabwe now), England, USA, Australia. Apart from friends and family I only correspond with one penfriend these days. Debby from Rhode Island; penfriends for over 40 years, and yet to meet.

I tried embroidery, because Nana did some and there were some incomplete attempts of Mums in the spare room at Nana's. I embroidered the bottom of my flares - it was the thing to do in the 70's - and some of my old school shirts.

I read as many books as I could lay my hands on. We went to the library every week, and I saved money to buy my own paperbacks, or was given novels at birthdays and Christmas.

We did jigsaws and crosswords as a family, learning new words and problem solving at the same time.

What do I still do ? 

Read - not as much, but I still love getting lost in the pages of a good book (not a kindle)

I try to write letters, mostly they are typed though, not longhand, and often only at Christmas. But I am going to change that and may the postal companies remember what they are supposed to be doing.

I knit, not as much as I would like, but I do. Mostly baby things.

Embroidery is the same, and cross stitch which I taught myself and did masses of in the early 90's. One day I will have time again.

I was a Brownie, Pippin and Adult leader with GirlGuiding New Zealand for 18 years - and some days I really miss the friendship and the activities and the girls.

I make cards, although most of my making stuff is packed away in boxes, so it doesn't happen so much right now. Except for Christmas.

I bake. If I have all the time in the world there is nothing I enjoy more than baking. Actually, it's been a while since I whipped up a batch of shortbread. Hmmm, there's a plan for my next free weekend.

#52Stories, Week 8, What have been the most important and valued friendships of your life ?

These two, these are them.

I've already told you how important and special Jo has been as a friend through my whole life.

My other bestie was Donna. We had a bunch of fun after we met in Sydney back in 1980 !

I had gone to Sydney in 1979 with another friend and ended up flatting with her sisters for 12 months. Things were good there, and we parted friends when they returned to New Zealand. I needed to find myself a new place to live with the minimal belongings I owned.

My initial thought was to find a place on my own, I'd done living with other people by then. But, that isn't what happened and it was probably the best thing ever as I ended up with a bunch of friends who came from all sorts of backgrounds, and from all around Australia.

I moved into a boarding house. I applied for a room in one in Homebush, which was a lovely old villa with wide verandahs. But ended up with a room in Campsie. The guy who owned the boarding houses - at least three in Sydney, staffed them with a housekeeper. In this case the housekeeper from Homebush was relocating to Campsie and she had picked which boarders should move with her.

Sue, the housekeeper did all the cooking and cleaning through the week and ensured there was food for us all to feed ourselves over the weekends. She and her husband and 3 kids lived onsite.

When I first moved in I shared a room with a girl named Liz. She was from near Newcastle (Red Head I think). She was only there a few weeks before moving back home. Our room could sleep three, and just before Liz left another girl moved in. Her boyfriend dropped her off with her things. 

It wasn't long before we were inseparable, as thick as thieves. We had so much fun, playing cards, drinking (just a bit), playing pool, weekends in Forster, weekends and late nights shopping or just hanging out. She was younger than me but that didn't matter. We moved to another boarding house in Hurstville and were roomies again there. 

We bought a car for $50 off one of our housemates, it had failed it's permit inspection thingie because it had a hole in the muffler. We fixed it by supergluing a 5 cent piece over the hole. Lots of fun times were had driving around in Bertha.

Swimming at Wanda beach in the middle of June. What ?! Were we crazy ?? I think maybe.

Later when I was living in Bexley she moved in too. Then when we were living in Queensland, so was she. There was never a dull moment with her around, and so many laughs.

I don't know how we managed to stay in touch with no cellphones. We both moved around a lot, but the mail always got through.

When we moved back from Adelaide to Sydney we stayed with her and her little family. Our truck full of furniture - and two cats - parked out the back until we moved into our own place.

She was always there for me, my only actual dinkum bestie the entire time I lived in Australia, and both times I moved back to New Zealand we kept our connection strong. Trips to the zoo with our babies, shopping, coffee or just sitting chatting and passing the time. ALWAYS catching up when I visited Sydney, staying sometimes and others just arriving at the door and saying "SURPRISE !!"

We went through a lot together, I don't know what I would have done without her when I was a brand new Mum, living far away from my family. We had differences, but never arguments. She made the BEST cheesecake. She did ironing to earn a bit of extra money - anyone who willingly does ironing deserves a medal in my book. 

Life takes such unexpected turns sometimes, and all of a sudden she was gone. Taken from her family and her friends too soon. She always had a smile, and her family were her world. I miss her so much.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

A Tree Church on a farm, in a garden

That's where I went today. 

It had been on the list for a wee while. While I am not sure I would go again and pay $15 to walk around a garden, it was a lovely setting. 

It would be great for a wedding, and indeed I think it is booked most Saturdays for that purpose. The sky visible through the leaves and branches above your head, and fantails flitting amongst said branches.

Today though we happened to be there when a bunch of middle-aged women had taken over the church and were sat chatting and chortling away. It sort of took away the serenity and tranquility of the place. As we left a busload of old age pensioners arrived and they filled the church. We never got to just sit and immerse ourselves in the peace and quiet, as one would in most churches.

It could do with a wee cafe in the seating area, under trees near the office and away from the special-ness of the church itself.

#52Stories, Week 7, Who was your first best friend ? Are you still in contact with each other ? What do you remember about the friendship.

I really am running behind schedule with this !! But I WILL complete the challenge,

Anyway, who was my first best friend ? 

I had friends at kindergarten and at school who I used to have play dates with after school and in the holidays, and there were the girls next door who I played with mostly at weekends.

But, best friends ?

I think it would be Jo. 

We were buds at Miropiko Kindergarten, she was Joanna then. We went to different primary schools, not miles apart - but far enough that we didn't bump into each other at all.

At Peachgrove Intermediate some seven years later we met up again. By this time she was Joey, she still is to my Dad.

We had lots of fun, in class, at lunch times, after school and at weekends. At Intermediate we got to take cooking and sewing class. Jo was a whizz at sewing ! I was extremely jealous as it seemed I had inherited my Mum's genes and sewing frustrated me. Like Mum I did a lot of "negative sewing". Later though, away from school I did manage to overcome some of the frustration, and these days, if needs must - I can sew with the best of them. (well maybe not THE best, but there isn't as much negativity going on).

When we moved to Wellington, Jo and I became pen pals. In the school holidays she once came and stayed with me, and another time I went and stayed with her. If we visited at other times, I always made sure to meet up with her. 

We continued to write letters all through college, and our early working life. Our first overseas holiday (without parents) was to Fiji for two weeks, just us.

When I moved to Australia we continued to write, I must have used up all the pages in the "D" part of her address book with all the moving around I did ! (Ashfield, Artarmon, Campsie, Hurstville, Werris Creek, Bexley, Oatley, Clontarf, Margate)

When I moved back to NZ briefly in the early eighties, we actually saw each other again. Both married, and Jo with two little girls. I think we still wrote when we were here - long distance phone calls were an extravagance back then, and it was at least a decade before cellphone (bricks) or the internet.

Then it was back across the ditch for me and the writing resumed. Swapping recipes and news from Adelaide and then Sydney again. Then I joined the Mum club and we had more to share and compare. When I visited NZ we caught up again and the girls met each other too.

And so it went on. When I moved back to Hamilton we saw each other more, and then I moved to Wellington. The writing continued, and phone calls too on the odd occasion. New Zealand Post must have LOVED us. Some school holidays I rented a car and we managed to visit.

The internet came along and letters were replaced a bit by emails, and phone calls became cheaper - then text messaging too.

Today, we email, text and facebook each other to keep in contact AND visit.

Jo is the only friend I have constantly kept in contact with for most of my life. Whenever we see each other, it is like we had only seen each other the day before. Nothing is ever awkward. We still laugh about the same things, our interests have changed a little, and our lives have taken different paths, but our friendship has been constant. 

I hope it stays that way.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

#52Stories, Week 6, Do you mingle with a large circle of friends, or do you forge deep relationships with just a couple of close friends at a time ?

So February’s topics all are about love, relationships and friends – yay. All things I am an expert on – not.

I thought I’d have a go at some of the friend topics.

Do I have a lot of friends ? Social media would suggest so.

Do I mingle with a large circle of friends ? (like run around town in a pack ?) No.

Do I forge deep relationships with just a couple of friends at a time ? I guess so.

I have been thinking a lot about all of the friend groups I have been a part of growing up. They have mostly been girl groups – maybe that’s why love and relationships remain a mystery to me. Anyway, I'm focusing on the girl groups for now.

My first friends and playmates were the children of my parent’s friends. One was born the same day as me so we had shared parties sometimes. As I got older friendship groups sprouted in various places - mostly there was no crossovers. People were in that group, or in another group.

There were:

Neighbours, kids in the same street, or family friends and cousins
Kindy friends
Brownie buddies
Skating friends
Gymnastics mates
Bike buddies

Mostly when I was at primary school these friend groups were all quite separate. I only saw the skating people on a skating night or at a competition, the same with most of the Brownies. Some of them were in my class at school, but maybe not in the same little cluster as me.

At intermediate things changed a little - suddenly there were Kindy friends back in my circle, some girls from Brownies materialised at my new school too. People who had been in my classmate group at primary school moved into other groups, and their places were taken by new people who had come from other primary schools.

Then at the end of 1972 some of my classmates became part of my growing penfriend group, as we moved to Wellington. I had to start again. Over time I had

Girls' friends - who attended Wellington Girls' with me
Train buddies
Soccer teamies
Netball teamies

Some of these friends came along with me after school when I entered the big wide working world, others vanished and became distant memories. Then I had a variety of workplace buds (over time)

Bank of New Zealand peeps
Medical Benefits Fund people who welcomed me in Sydney
Mutual Acceptance acquaintances
New Zealand Electricity Corporation mates (young and old)
Westpac buddies - the CBA and the Wales'
the Yellow family
the Corrections crew
the international bunch at Hawkins

intermingled with these and sometimes crossing over like venn diagrams are supposed to 

Parentline Hamilton,
Hamilton Day Care
Girlguiding Wellington; Pencarrow and New Zealand
Wellington Cruise Ambassadors

Plus there were the flatties in Sydney, the roomies and housemates, and just like my parents - things went full circle and sometimes the parents of friends of my daughter became my friends.

Donna M, Jo, Nini, Dot, Ann, Mary, Coralie, Jillian, Kay, Beverley, Cynthia, Maureen, Diane,Marie, Sheryl, Sadie, Faith, Jan, Denise, Lynette, Carey, Susie B, Susie B, Robyn H, Robyn W, Debra W, Debra W, Elva, Joy, Donna R, Julie K, Bernice, Donna J, Margaret, Linda T, Maree T, Linda R, Sue, Patsy, Nell, Juliana, Helen, Michelle, Barbara, Claire, Sigrun, Joanne, Jane, Beverley, Lynne, Debra B, Debra N, Debbie H, Deborah S, Vicky, Barbara, Christine, Ruth, Louise S, Selina, Sue H, Sue G, Josette, Heather S, Linda P, Sue C, Debbie F, Karen, Lynne, Sue, Tracey, Trish M, Cushla, Prue, Heather L, Fiona M, Megan, Michelle, Cathy, Cath, Debbie C, Astrid, Donna S, Jan, Angie, Louise, Sue, Yvonne, Jenny, Trish D, Debbie W, Paula, Lee, Sasulu, Jamina, Shelley, Ann M, Ann M, Linda K, Linda B, Kim J, Kim B, Rachael J, Cindy, Sheila, Kirsty, Jacinta, Jacqui, Ruth, Kate, Emma, Livvy, Belinda, Lizzie, Becs, Trish C, Michelle, Sarah M, Lianna, Carol, Julie B, Lynda T, Tanya, Grace, Fran, Coral, Cheryl, Margaret, Fiona, Rae, Shell, Penny, Julia, Monique, Glennie, Trish P, Louise, Louise, Anna, Nicki, Nicola, Diane, Sue B, Julie F, Jill, Carri, Leonie, Colleen, Nikki, Nicola, Cheryl, Margaret, Pam, Ann-Marie, Judy, Carolyn, Katy, Rhonda, Marianne, Pamela, Michelle, Sarah M, Sarah C, Miriam, Lara, Carol-ann, Yuan...and probably masses more I will remember as soon as I hit "publish".

Sunday, 29 January 2017

#52Stories, Week 5, Do I remember how my primary school smelled ? or where my desk was in primer 4 ?

It is funny what you remember from your childhood. Maybe not so much WHAT you remember but HOW you remember it.

I’ve been thinking about school memories. My first “school” was actually kindergarten – more of a preschool though as you went to afternoon "kindy" 3 days a week initially, and then morning kindy 5 days a week as you got closer to starting school and your fifth birthday.

I went to Miropiko Kindergarten on River Road in Hamilton. It is a small brick building with children sized everything, cubbyholes, coat racks, toilets and washbasins at 3-4 year old height. There was a big sandpit area outside in the front and a big tree stump and log to climb all over and jump off. I don’t remember swings or other playthings. We would have story time on the mat inside. It was set back off the road and down a drive or path, on the river side of River Road. I remember this driveway/path as being quite steep, and being warned against playing on it, riding pedal cars (or did I just imagine them) down the hill. They were fun times though; I still have a friend who was a kindy buddy from way back then.

I used to walk past with my daughter many years later. I attended the farewell for the teacher who was there when I was there in the late 1980’s – how is that for career stick-ability ? Something that we rarely see today. That big steep hill pathway ? Not steep at all ! I can’t remember if the log and tree stump were still there. I bet they aren’t now – it will have been deemed a health & safety hazard for sure.

After, kindy I attended Fifth Avenue Primary School, located in Fifth Avenue as you would expect. There were no other avenues nearby though; 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th not even 6th. I guess it was just named as it terminated at Five Cross Roads and they needed a name for the 5th road ! It was just about 5-10 minutes walk from home. On my first day, I walked with Mum and my little brother and I think one of the girls who lived next door. I remember it was a misty foggy morning – or I think I remember that. I also think I wore a dress which had a border print of kittens chasing a ball of wool. I had my little brown case with my lunch in it – and that is all. What else did you need ? At school we had milk delivered to the classroom to drink straight from the bottle at morning tea time until they stopped that a couple of years after I started. I was buddy-ed up with someone to show me around the classroom, and I remember being mildly devastated to turn around and discover that my mother had just left me there ! Still, I enjoyed learning, and it wasn’t so bad. In the summer the whole classroom had afternoon naps outside on the concrete play area. 

This was the school where I learnt to swim (in the school pool), began doing gymnastics, where I would go across the road at lunchtime to have a piano lesson, where I broke my front tooth, wrote to my first penpal, learnt to cross the road and look after my bike. Back then the Ministry of Transport had their own traffic police and educators who would visit schools to teach kids these basic skills. Now, they’ve been absorbed into the actual Police force and schools probably never see them. I remember where my desk was in most years and thanks to painstakingly named class photos (thanks Dad), I can remember the names of people from my classes. Mum and Dad were on the PTA and the School Committee, we were really involved in the school community and I enjoyed my five years there progressing through Primers and then Standards 1-4, before moving on to Intermediate School.

My next school was Peachgrove Intermediate, for just two years, Form 1 & 2, (Years 7 & 8 in today's lingo) it was supposed to prepare us for high school or college. Kids came from many contributing schools, some by bus from the country. Some walked and many, like me, rode our bikes using all those skills we had learnt about road safety from the traffic cops. We wore a uniform as well. I got mine from my cousin I think who had just left and started at high school. Were there gloves ? I know there was a beret for winter and a panama hat for summer – these were abolished in the year I began so I didn’t need to get hat hair riding to and from school. I made lots of new friends here, some came with me from primary school as well – and I got reacquainted with my buddy from kindy. We had new classes like sewing and cooking – the boys did metalwork and woodwork. You could join the choir or play in the orchestra, art was a whole different subject with a teacher who just taught art.

At the end of Form 2, we moved to Wellington. Just a bit of culture shock. No riding bikes to school for me now – those hills were killer. Suddenly I was at an all girls school, catching the train there and back. There was a co-ed college closer to home, and I had been going to attend a co-ed college if we had stayed in Hamilton, but not now. There were many more parts to the uniform - but no hats or gloves. Sensibly, given Wellington’s windy reputation, hats had been abandoned prior to my arrival. My first day was very scary. I don’t remember if I had caught the train independently beforehand or not. It was arranged that I would go with the girl next door who was a year ahead of me. One of her friends had a little sister starting too. Wellington Girls' College is a BIG school, over 1000 pupils, probably closer to 1200 then, I think. There were so many buildings to find your way around.

I knew no-one. Other girls in my form class knew girls from their old schools, or had sisters already there. The little sister of my neighbours' friend had her own friends from Intermediate. I think we only spoke a few times in the 5 years I was there. It felt like a pretty lonely year.

Over time I did make some friends. Many of them were other girls who like me - knew no-one. I didn't really start to find my feet until 4th Form. We mostly had all our classes together during the first two years – but we had to cross the school to go to Latin in Brook Building, French and Science in Tower Block, English back in the prefab classroom which was also our Form room. Where was Maths ? maybe in another prefab. 

Teachers wore black gowns and strode like dementors down the corridors. At assembly Miss Fraser told us firmly what was expected of us. For example we were not to wear our sleeves rolled up looking like "washer women". "Girls" was always said in a tone that you knew you had better stop and listen - and do as you were bid. There were sometimes reports of misbehaviour on the trains or the buses - most often the girls on the Karori Park Special or Mornington bus were "requested" to stay behind after assembly. There was no eating in uniform outside of school grounds and there was definitely no chance of going off school grounds at lunchtime. Even in 7th Form when we could wear mufti and were less conspicuous, getting off school grounds during school hours was an art.

When I look back though, it was okay. I might have been lonely, but I do have some friends who I have stayed in contact with over the years since school.

It was fun going back for the 125 year celebration in 2008 walking the halls and chatting to people I hadn't seen in 30 years. 

I had been back before. Some of my stories must have left an impression as my daughter chose to go to there too. The scariest part of that was the teachers (there were two) who had taught me. One in particular made me feel like she was telling ME off in a parent/teacher interview. Some things never change.

Lumen Accipe et Imperti - Take the light and pass it on. Words that bind students past and present together still at Wellington Girl's College and Wellington College.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

UPDATE - One brick at a time

A short update to my earlier post about breaking down a brick wall.

It occurred to me after I had posted the discovery that I now had an alternate (correct) spelling for Mary's surname - Gerrard - and that I hadn't searched the GRO for that combination.

So I went back and looked again and lo and behold there WERE two more children born to Mary and Robert before they emigrated to Australia.

Two baby girls - one who had included in her name, a surname linking her to a previous generation, just so that I could be doubly confident. They lived only briefly though, Ellen 9 months and Lilian for 15 months.

I do have a copy of a photo of one of them....if I could only find the right box, I could include it here, or at least make a better guess about whether it was Ellen (Nellie) or Lilian (Lily). Or maybe it isn't either of them ? Perhaps it is a younger brother ? There are only two children in the photo and at the time both of these babies were born, eldest child Margaret was still alive.So if the baby is either Ellen or Lilian then there should have been three children in the photo. 

Oh well, another day.