Marianne and her two daughters relocated from Cape Town to Auckland in 1999. After an international career in the Not-for-Profit sector Marianne is now semi- retired enjoying the slow, simple life, seeking to develop her creativity through writing and photography.
My dress was blue, my shoes patent leather shiny red — I was fifteen and ready for my first dancing lesson. The going was tough. I could barely keep my balance on my high heels, but soon the music transported me into a world of swaying, courting, touching .... Whoops! He’d better not come too close and bump against my chest. He might feel the socks in my bra!
Liz Marks lives in Auckland and is interested in writing stories from her past and those of her ancestors. A friend once told her she should start writing and she thought but what will I write? On this course she has discovered the way.
I am lying on my back, on a diagonal, at my mother’s feet, on her bed, with my legs criss crossing the air energetically. I like the rhythm and the movement. It is a cold, wet, dull winter’s afternoon in Christchurch. The house is quiet. My brother and sisters are out. My mother is resting propped up against two large pillows. I can feel the texture of the yellow candlewick bedspread under my hands. I pull at its thick soft tufts. Draped across the end of her bed is my mother’s puffy eiderdown, beige with a paisley pattern of navy, red and green that swirls and twists. I can see out the window a row of large walnut trees, their leaves drooping and dripping, wet, along the boundary fence beyond the garden shed.
When Glenda left high school at the age of sixteen she thought she would never study or write again. Now, with two Masters degrees under her belt and a book on the way, she is smiling. Life has turned out well. Learning to craft her writing with more style is now her primary focus.
My mother was seven months pregnant when, on examination, a medical student heard two heartbeats. This is how she discovered she was having twins. Now she would have to get two of everything. From that day onwards she had to visit the hospital frequently and finally in the last six weeks she was on complete bed rest. Not an easy task with two other young children at home.
An accumulation of paperwork over forty-five years led Shona to enrol in a Life Writing course with Deborah. Diaries, travel journals, calendars, letters, postcards, lecture notes, programmes and quotes written on random pieces of paper, all have to be sifted to distill the essence of her past, recording the relevant and letting go everything else.
At the secure age of four, my family was uplifted to Fiji in an Air Force Flying Boat. It was enormous and noisy. Exciting. My father had been appointed Aide-de-Comp to Liz-The-Second for her Coronation tour of the colonies so for the next three years we lived among coconut palms and coral reefs.
Nitin Sahare was born in India where he trained as a civil engineer. He came to New Zealand in 2009 to study for a Masters of Construction Management at Auckland University of Technology. He works fulltime as a project engineer and now he wants to indulge in life writing to tell his story.
It was early in the morning, between 9 and 10am on 29 November, 2000, when I had a phone call which shattered me. I still feel to this day that being so far away I missed something. I was in my final year of a bachelor degree in civil engineering and was living in a university hostel in Amravati, a city that was 150 miles away from my home in Nagpur, in the state of Maharashtra, in central India.
As I stood there trying to absorb the caller’s words a series of memories flooded in. I remembered how my father would wake me at 6am and take me jogging with him and how my mother would promise me a sweet dish — kher made with rice and milk, sugar and walnuts and cashews — on my return. I remembered how my demands for a badminton set, a chessboard and a football were fulfilled even though we were struggling financially. I remember those days when we all, my brother, my sister and my mother, would go out for ice-cream when my father returned home from work.
I don’t know when everything changed, when the nasty fighting between my parents began, blaming each other for things I couldn’t understand. Soon my father began arriving home late at night drunk, not even knowing how he got home. The arguing was repeated each day, and the day after, and the day after that and I couldn’t figure out why and when it started. I just knew I wanted to travel back in time and bring back the days when we were waiting for my father to come home so we could go for a picnic in the park. I couldn't do that then and I can’t do that even now.
These were the thoughts that tumbled about in my mind as I listened to the caller. I heard a voice asking ‘Is that Nitin? Is that Nitin?’ When finally he heard my answer he told me, ‘Your father has died. Come home.’
Robyn is retired and currently lives alone, filling her life with activities involving grandchildren and friends, languages and travel. She keeps fit at the gym and by doing yoga. Life writing is a new endeavour that will enable her to record the stories she wants to tell.
1952, a Sunday afternoon in Mt Albert, Auckland. Usually on Sunday afternoons we went for a drive, or my mother entertained. This Sunday my Mum’s family, my Nanny and several aunties had been invited. Mum had been busy on Saturday smudging the Edmond’s Cook Book with floury fingers, as she baked and prepared the cakes and biscuits for our visitors.
I was five years old and my sister was still a toddler. We were dressed in our Sunday best — green and blue frilly nylon dresses, hair fastened into pigtails and tied with white ribbons — to be shown off to the relatives. We knew that on these days we had to be ‘seen but not heard.’
I remember laughter and noisy chatter and a beautifully laid out dining table piled with Anzac biscuits, ginger crunch, chocolate cake and pikelets covered with jam and cream. Mum was showing off her best china, glossy black cups and saucers each with a different rainbow colour inside the cup. They were neatly laid out on the servery.
I was playing with my doll, being good. My sister, being so much younger and not quite so disciplined, toddled up to the servery as my mother was pouring tea. A chubby little hand went up. Next moment, a splash, a crash, a scream. The hot contents of a cup of tea spilt down her chest.
Amid the confusion. the loud voices and people rushing, I fled the room and hid in the hallway, clutching my dolly for comfort. She was my Christmas present and now my treasured companion. When I saw her underneath the tree I was entranced by her pretty little face, her confection of blond curls and her dress with the blue tulle flounces.
Suddenly Aunty Marjorie appeared and asked me to give my doll to my little sister. To this day I still remember the pain I felt at the unfairness of the doll being taken from me when I needed her. I struggled with this for a long time.
Bren is a Registered Nurse, born and brought up in Cornwall, England and trained in London, who moved to New Zealand fifteen years ago with her two young children. She has a love of poetry, English literature, creative writing including travel writing and Anam cara ‘soul friend’ journal writing.
As I begin to write about my childhood experience, growing up in the county of Cornwall, I feel a mass of coiled emotions rising. Returning to my past I have to face the reality of what happened. I have to remember the things that eroded my youth, the torment, the shame and the loneliness that stalked me.
My mother was going down the slippery slope and one day decided to end her life. She was serious this time. The bottle of poison lay empty on the floor, where my brother found her. I was eleven years old when my mother disappeared. When she was eventually released from the institution, she was a shadow of her former self. Although she was present in physical form her personality, her spirit, everything that defined who she was as a person had been erased. I did not know this woman anymore. My father who was ex-army, a disciplinarian and not emotionally warm— he never said he loved me — tried in vain to hold our family together.
My mother's GP was a stout, middle-aged man, who wore a tweed jacket. His face, with the insincere smile underneath the dark moustache, was always the same. He reminded me of Groucho Marx. I remember looking at him and wanting to pour my mother’s pills down his throat, to make him experience the consequences and the pain of his actions. He had let us down. To this day I do not recall him ever paying a visit to our family to show his concern, or apologise.
Later in my teens I decided to follow my older sister into nursing. It seems a strange choice because I disliked science and now I question a medical model that relied too much on pharmaceutical drugs, treating the symptoms but not looking for the causes. I guess I'm still learning here but I know that when my mother died years later, her fractured life was not in vain. Her experience taught me to stand strong and firm and to follow my intuition. If something doesn’t feel right I know I must listen to the voice within and follow her authority.
Liz is retired and lives in Auckland with her husband. After many busy years travelling between New Zealand and France, she now enjoys having more time to involve herself in various activities: reading, listening to music and occasionally attending writing courses.
It was cold the winter I was sent to Bluff. Bluff! Even the word sounded cold to me. I must have been around seven years old when my mother became ill, some sort of kidney problem that would be cured with an operation, so I was told.
I remember my mother’s pale face at the airport window in Christchurch as I waved good-bye. I was being sent to Bluff to stay with my aunty and uncle. I didn’t mind too much because it was an adventure flying on a DC3 with the airhostesses making a great fuss of me.
I was met at Invercargill airport by my aunty and uncle. I must have met them before but on this day they were strangers to me. My aunty was timid, but my uncle Bob was stern, as only those brought up in the north of England could be. They had a daughter, my cousin Lorraine, and, unlike me, she was extremely well behaved. My parents had always had a rather liberal approach to rearing children and we were often left to our own devices so compared with Lorraine I must have been like a wild animal. Still, we got on well enough as kids often do.
But their home was intimidating, a forbidding old villa with a very long corridor up to my room at the front of the house. The room was enormous and spartan with only a bed, a cabinet and a potty for company.
I was only there for three months but at seven it seemed like an eternity. The climate was stern, Uncle Bob was stern, the nuns at school were stern… When I was finally sent back to Christchurch I never wanted to go anywhere again.
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