Jackie belongs to a writing group formed after Deborah’s Life Writing course in 2015 and has just completed her Master Class at the Michael King Writers’ centre. This course has enabled her to extend her skills, identify themes and set her on a path to completing her memoir. It has also shown that there is still so much to write about and that the story of her life is more complex than first imagined.
A few months ago, as I was looking through an old biscuit tin of photos, I found a tiny yellowed photograph of my mother taken in about 1921. I’d never seen it before. My mother looks to be about one year old and is sitting on her Great Grandmother, Granny Wolfe’s knee. There are four people in this photo. Nana Westrupp, my mother’s grandmother is beside Great Granny Wolfe. My mother’s Mum, Nana Reed is sitting in front.
Jackie wrote her first novel at twelve. She hasn’t written much since, except essays, diaries and blogs. And a thesis. That was a mission. Now, with lots of gorgeous grandsons, she is venturing into the realm of memoir.
The farm. My Grandmother came here from Devon in 1897 as a sixteen year old. Her two brothers were here already, clearing the land, living in raupo huts. She came with her elder sister Florence, to be their cook.
Waikato land. Dairy farming now. Rich in both senses of the word. Many a school holiday was spent there. The old implement sheds still stand. The dark red paint weathered. The blacksmith’s forge with central fireplace, bellows and anvil. Rusty tools line the walls. The garage on a slight lean, the old Bedford truck long gone. Chook houses, wirenetting sagging, overgrown with weeds. Rusting farm equipment; hayrakers, seed planters, the original John Deere tractor, still stand plaintively under cover, waiting in vain to be used.
A split door leads into the wool shed. Top half. Bottom half, so you can look in and not let the sheep out. The single set of electric shears hangs limp and forlorn, long since passed its use-by date. The smell of greasy sheep and lanolin pervades the building. Noisy machinery comes back to me, the sheep baaing as they were turned on their backs to be shorn. The workers at the bench picking through the fleece, ready for the baler. How could this huge pile of wool be compressed into the size of a regular bale? Surely it will burst at the seams.
Uncle Jim’s workshop. More tools lined up neat and tidy, the smell of oil, tins of nuts and bolts. The door was always locked so it was a treat to be able to peek inside, to photograph it for posterity. Uncle Jim looked on with quiet amusement. Nearly as old as the equipment.
The farm’s been sold now.
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