For most of his life Brian has worked for development agencies and in developing countries. After graduating from Lincoln in 1959 and gaining an MA 38 years later Brian is still learning how best to apply himself but has reached a point where it seems important to reflect on what has happened so far.
Is there ever a point, when we are young, when we know what we want to do in life? Do we choose jobs or do jobs choose us? Do we just morph from one thing into another? Do we just hope to be somewhere else in the future to where we are now? Is there a pivot point out there somewhere when we suddenly realise that this is the path we want to be on?
I’m not sure what the pivotal moment was for me, or when it happened. All I know is that it did happen — because I have ended up doing what interests and satisfies me most.
Maybe it was my geography teacher at school, a very good communicator, a returned serviceman from WW II who made the subject interesting. Amongst other things we learnt about significant river basins of the World - the Yangtse, the Mississippi, the Danube and the Po River valley in Italy. Maybe he had been to some of those places and could make them seem real. I know I decided I wanted to see those distant and interesting places. Maybe that was the first step onto my path.
Or maybe it was a chance meeting on a bus once when I sat alongside a stranger who turned out to be Charles Wright, a New Zealand soil scientist, who was living and working in Chile. He told me about his life there and how his work helped the Chileans achieve what they wanted to do. I wanted to go there and do the same sort of thing.
I had trained to become a farm adviser for the Department of Agriculture; was stationed in Dargaville, and maybe it was there I realised that it wasn’t the farming technology and business management skills I had learned at Lincoln, as such, that excited me, but it was the way these were just instruments to help bring about social and economic change in the lives of farmers, their families and their communities. To help them achieve what they wanted — that was the nub of it all.
I was lucky enough to be sent to the UK to study their advisory service to see how we in New Zealand could benefit from their experience, and on the way back to NZ was diverted by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate some requests for development assistance in Uganda and Zambia. Maybe it was then that I became interested in other cultures and the sort of help that could be offered. Maybe it was standing at the source of the Nile in Uganda contemplating what could become a viable “New Zealand project”, and the challenges I would face personally if I were to become involved that convinced me.
Maybe it was……………….?
All I know is that I have had forty years of living and working within societies and alongside interesting people in situations as diverse as the Peruvian altiplano, the mountains and lakes of Chile, Pacific island atolls such as Kiribati, The Philippines, the steppes of Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, the savannah lands of Tanzania and in Nepal, Lesotho, Indonesia, and Vietnam. I have been challenged to the edges of my professional and personal capacities in ways I would never have thought possible at home. It has been exciting, all absorbing and completely satisfying. It’s disappointing that age brings an end to such things.
I would urge others to search for their pivotal moments, and I wish them well.
Lynley is an Aucklander who has been a librarian, tertiary educator and consultant. She has always had several creative endeavours on the go, and is mildly obsessive about exploring her family heritage through her writing and research.
Dr Dunn, good catholic that he was, told my godless father “I might not be able to save them both – if it comes down to it, I’ll save the baby.” My father, not at all impressed by this logic, contemplated taking up smoking again (having given up roughly a year before) and, instead, paced.
At 2.30pm on a sunny Auckland January Wednesday, my mother thoroughly anaesthetised, I was delivered. 48 years later, the next time she was hospitalized at the age of 89, young nurses marveled at her vertical caesarian scar – the opposite direction to modern practice. We both survived.
Mum had been in hospital, confined to bed and boredom, for two months in the lead-up to my arrival. The doctor had rushed home from his family summer beach holiday to deliver me. After I was born, she wasn’t allowed out of bed for a further several weeks. Dad spent the two hours a day he was allotted beside the incubator, as my premature self developed strength and lung capacity. “You were just five pounds – five pounds of butter” he would often tell me, holding his hands out as if clasping five blocks of yellow goodness, wrapped in greaseproof paper.
Mum finally got fed up and checked us out early. The sister tut-tutted and told my parents they must hire 24 hour nursing help. “My mother will help me during the day and Pete is there at night” was Mum’s retort. And so it was. I had three doting care-givers, and life was good.
Graham’s curiosity has led him through a tapestry of diverse occupations and experiences. It is time now to stand back and let patterns and themes emerge from the individual threads.
“They’re the ones you’ve got to watch out for,” my mates would tell the girls, while glancing my way, and giving me a wink; “the quiet ones”.
I made some effort with accordion, guitar, pottery, sailing and rugby, but sparked my father’s other life, previous to children, as a racing driver, my passion for cars dominated my teenage years.
At sleep time in my childhood, the racing heroes of the time hopped down from the gallery on my wall and , accompanied by much “brmmming” from me, raced toy cars around my tartan bedcover until the inevitable bang on the wall; “Go to sleep ! Graham”.
In my teenage years my imaginings became real: At fourteen I bought my first car, much of it in dusty cardboard boxes, and had the little Ford running six months later. Next was an MG sports car that caught fire when I looked at it. A sure sign that I should own it. By fifteen I was competing in a proper racing car and by nineteen a diverse and interesting range of more than twenty cars had passed through my hands.
Hardly a “quiet one” you may be thinking, but the other significant influence on my teenage passage was the absence of the expected boost of testosterone.
My voice refused to break, and the preparatory purchase of shaving cream and blade, was money wasted.
Surprisingly, this hormonal shortage didn’t mean an absence of girls, who soon figured that I was ‘safe ground’; a good listener and comfortable around girls having grown up with three sisters, a male they could talk with and ask questions about the boys they were keen on. I became a ‘pal’ to share their thoughts and troubles with.
The lads, noticing the sports cars I drove to school, came to me for advice about fixing or modifying their cars, and, being unaware of any alternative motive for lengthy and intimate conversation with a female, assumed I was quietly seducing the girls.
I refrained from enlightening them.
Evan is nearing retirement from a career as a consultant civil engineer in New Zealand and overseas. His career as a rural aid development advisor and project manager has taken him to projects in South and South East Asia, Africa, Melanesia and the Pacific. He is writing about his life for his family, present and in the future.
My father was a primary school teacher on country service for most of my childhood. My memories are about the experiences, places, sights and smells of rural New Zealand in the ‘50s and ‘60s in the Whanganui districts of Ngaturi and Whangaehu and the Southern Hawkes Bay district of Rua Roa.
I remember the delights of swimming on hot summer days in small country streams and the distinctive smell and colour of the water, the soft warm feel of it on my skin.
I remember climbing the hills near the school-house to fly our homemade kites, or to sledge down in ruts we’d made in the slope and using water from a small spring, that bubbled out of the earth near the top of the hill, to create a muddy slide.
Lying among the uncut grass beside a stream with Bruce, my best friend, fishing for eels on long summery afternoons after school.
The smell of long grass and hay in summer.
The smell of cowsheds and shearing sheds.
The distinctive scent inside macrocarpa hedges and the thrill of sliding off the boughs to the ground below.
Golden poplar trees in autumn marching beside dusty country roads.
The winter feel of frosty grass and mud on bare feet during the rugby season.
Alan has worked principally in communications and marketing and wishes to tell the family stories about his past life with, as much of the colour that was present during those times, as possible.
Through a gate in our back yard in Mornington, Dunedin lay a huge, rich green grassy paddock which was a haven for active small boys to run around in and invent numerous games. Sloping upwards from the gate, towards the northern side the paddock to the left tipped down to the south into a gully bordered by tall pines. We boys aged four to seven would do roly polys down the grassy bank into the gully for hours. Often it would become all-in ‘scrag’ with much giggling and yelling.
The only ears likely to be listening to our racket belonged to cows. In fact it was a cow paddock and we were the invaders. I don’t recall ever feeling threatened by them. It seemed they understood we meant them no harm. If we entered their territory they would quietly munch off in another direction.
Our greatest game above all was sledding. We had collectively, with the aid of a father, built a sled that seated two of us at a time. We would grease the runners with old lard then haul our sled to the top of the slope. We’d set off, gathering speed, into the gully. At the lowest point when we were doing our fastest speed we had to do a smart right curve to steer between two very solid pine trees. Timing was everything and somehow we avoided splattering ourselves into the pines. Thrilling stuff! Then we would drag the sled back up and repeat over and over. Sheer bliss.
Cathie worked as a library manager and consultant, and now enjoys a good life with time to explore her creative self. She has recently returned to piano playing which extends her life-long love of music. Learning to write better will add to this development of her creativity. The love of literature and reading is a good background but not enough in itself.
I am twelve and my big sister, Nell, is trying on her going-away clothes for her wedding next month. The first wedding in our family. “You look like a married woman already,” I tell her, “in that outfit”. Very amusing to the adults.
Roll on a year. I am sent to Auckland in my summer holidays to help Nell with the new baby. I am totally mystified, puzzled, and yet pleased about this tiny new niece. I help care for her.
One day when my sister is out and my niece is safely sleeping, I search the bookshelves in the lounge for something interesting to read. There is a slim pamphlet, addressed to young parents, about how to explain the facts of life to a very small child. In plain, startlingly simple language, there it is. What Daddy does with his “thingy” to Mummy. How to make a baby.
Shock, flushing face, shame… I shouldn’t know this, should I? Is it a sin to have read this? It certainly seems wise to carefully replace the booklet in its original place on the bookshelf.
Earlier attempts to get this information from my Mum were fruitless: “How did that calf get there in the paddock? It wasn’t there yesterday”. The answer from a mother unable to parry this question with facts was, “Well, God played a part in getting it there…”
In 1952 Judy was happily living in Adelaide, South Australia, when at the age of fourteen, her father, because of his job, relocated the family to another country. She writes about the anxieties of leaving friends in one country and making new ones in another. Now, at the age of eighty three, she still corresponds, visits, but more importantly, keeps in touch with the many friends she has made throughout her life.
I was thirteen when I got my first period. I remember feeling that I had joined some sort of society and freely talking about it with some of my girlfriends. I’d known that it would come one day so it was not a surprise. I was in the third form at a girls only school in Adelaide and although I can’t remember talking about it with my mother, she supplied me with a bunch of soft material to wear ‘when I had my period’.
My special friends were Barbara, Jill and Elayne. We had fun together, going to the pictures Lassie Come Home and Bambi, lining up to get tickets to the Gilbert & Sullivan and ballet productions and going to parties.
I was just an average student. I hated maths, loved English, History, Art and even French. I fell in love with the music teacher from Wellington, recently married and very beautiful — a school girl crush, I suppose. She and my mother, who played the piano, instilled in me a love of classical music which I still enjoy.
However, in 1953, my father an insurance manager was transferred from Adelaide to Dunedin. Shock, horror, dismay. I had to leave my lovely friends. Overnight I turned from a rather quiet, obedient daughter, to a nasty, rebellious teenager.
At fourteen, I found myself in the fourth form at St. Hilda’s Collegiate School ‘For the Daughters of Gentlemen’ (I don’t think I made that up). It was a rundown looking place. I had a new uniform: a boring grey dress which had to be one inch above the knee kneeling; three pleats; white blouse; black lace up shoes a white panama hat and gloves. It was cold to me, those first few days in February at St. Hilda’s. I remember sitting alone eating my lunch in a warm jersey, the only girl wearing one. I hated it. I hated my parents for leaving Australia and cried myself to sleep for at least a week.
Of course this feeling didn’t last long. I made friends, one of them was a border at school. Sometimes she spent the weekend with us and I stayed at her family home in Roxburgh, Central Otago. They owned an orchard and grew peaches, apricots, nectarines. I remember her mother making a huge sponge cake with cream and kiwi fruit on top. It was magnificent (my mother was not a good cook. I fell violently ill, however and blamed it on the kiwi fruit. I hated kiwi fruit for many years after.
Looking back on my schooldays they were mostly enjoyable and fun. Firm friendships were formed that have continued to this day. I thank my parents for ensuring I had a good education, despite the fact that I didn’t appreciate it some of the time!
Alison is interested in genealogy and finds that whilst it is possible to know broadly what her forebears did she wishes there were diaries and letters that would give her direct access to their thoughts and motivations. In her own writing she would like to provide some insights into the events of her life.
My first two years of secondary education were spent at Bayfield High School in Dunedin. This was a new co-educational school without the tradition of other high schools. Since I lived on the edge of the catchment only one of my friends from intermediate school enrolled, so there was a lot that was new. The dynamic, excellent teachers extended my love of art and developed my interest in science, languages and literature resulting in a prize for general excellence.
At that school I became aware of the difference and distance between my strong church oriented upbringing and that of my peers. I attended Girls Brigade (church sponsored), where we spent a lot of time making hats and flower arranging, they attended Girl Guides (secular) where they went camping and did orienteering and basic survival badges. Apart from church, bible class and a few church youth socials I saw only occasional movies and spent a lot of time aspiring to wear mini-skirts and white boots which were all the rage! When the Beatles came to Dunedin I was not allowed to go but I kicked up such a fuss that when Tom Jones and Herman’s Hermits came a year later my parents relented and let my older brother accompany me to the show. Up until then I had been the most compliant person on the planet. As a daughter I did exactly what I was told and did not rock the boat but this was changing.
The subsequent move to Christchurch and Burnside High School when I was almost fifteen was disruptive to my studies but also transforming in terms of gaining some independence. At that time in New Zealand third year high school students sat examinations for School Certificate. At Burnside High School I was so far ahead of the class in Latin I was expected to self-teach but without direction or motivation I slipped behind. Furthermore, I was being forced to take six subjects, including history but I knew from my teachers in Dunedin that only four subjects were necessary for a pass. I couldn't see the point in studying the British corn laws and rote learning the endless dates. The sense of injustice lit a fuse of anger and I rebelled. I refused to take history and was eventually permitted to drop the subject and sit only five subjects.
Academically the year was tenuous but not disastrous, psychologically the move was empowering.
Cynthia lives and works amidst the beautiful trees and majestic west coast beaches of the Waitakere Ranges. She has come to learn that art and the written word are injected with an energy which speaks to others. She is searching for ways of using both to start conversations which inspire others to protect and sustain our natural world.
The grandfather of ‘the economic man’ was born in Scotland. He wrote about all the monetary contracts that were involved in the making of a meal he was consuming.
He waxed lyrical (as far as an economist is able) on the potter who made his plate; the butcher who brought meat to that plate; the man who forged the tines of his fork, and described the economics of all those exchanges.
Never once did Adam Smith mention his mother.
She cooked the meat, plated his food and set the table, all in order to provide his meal, his nourishment. And all for love, for no return, no exchange.
This weekend I have been sharing a nature writing experience beside six amazing, warm, generous, talented women, and it is in women such as these that I find hope.
We are not just aware of nature we are part of it. We know it, we can read it; it runs through us with every breath. We didn’t have to go outside the door to experience it; it was there every time we looked in each other’s eyes and laughed.
Here is where the answer lies. Raise the voices of women such as ourselves, stop giving credence and precedence to logic, to individual profit, to ‘the economic man’, and talk together as women. We have a power we are only just starting to realise, as the frailties of the practices of before are being so cruelly exposed.
Nature Writing Workshop
Meg grew up in Australia, reading Enid Blyton books, and the love of literature has never left her. Working as a teacher librarian made her wonder how she could have so much fun and actually be paid for the privilege.
My mother. Nature. The words are inextricably mixed. You’ve asked about my earliest memories of engaging with nature and its majestic power. Memories are tumbling and jostling. Violets, peach blossoms, lilacs, roses, weeds!
My mother loved her garden and I grew up watching her planting, weeding and harvesting. She taught me the plant names as she worked. And woven in amongst those gardening forays, she taught me “life”. Where did my resilience and fearlessness come from? Elsie. She brought down huntsman spiders from our bedroom walls. One sweep of the broom and out the window. Gone. No big deal. She demolished the snake with a few hefty blows of the hoe. (Yes, I know. Not so correct in current thinking, but her children’s safety came first, after all.)
We harvested small pieces of coal from the train tracks, we picked wild boronia from the forests and I lovingly took to school a bunch of colourful leaves from the rhus tree. Thanks, mum. My face blew up like a balloon.
Please submit your story via the Contact page and it will receive a gentle edit from Deborah.