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Friday, May 03, 2013

Room  22 exp 3.3                              

              My First Day at School       


                                    ‘Mein Kampf’ Part 0ne.

            There has been a delay in my postings. Several things have occurred although nothing awful or really problematic. Life seems good enough considering I am now 65.
At such an age one tends (or at least I do) to continually recall events at quite distinct times in one’s life. I am just now in the middle of a project to paint my house and in discussing it or thinking about it I recall that it was a state house (I remember painters coming her circa 1952 or so and my mother giving them tea). Then I recall my father working on what is now the area where I have a dining table. I used to watch him hammering away and mixing concrete etc. I was fascinated by the way he mixed concrete and indeed mixing and laying concrete and the theory of concrete later became something of quite some interest.
  But as a young man I was never much “good with my hands”. Partly this was an inherent confidence thing and the other part was that, although we lived in a (mainly white European) state housing area, my father had a very well paid job as an architect-engineer. So, unlike many in the area (Panmure) in the 50s I didn’t have to do anything. We were never asked to contribute to chores or anything. I was in fact, myself, quite “coddled”, and what other boys would have called a “Mummy’s boy… We children were never “poor” (but not hugely rich as there were four of us including two older sister and one younger brother). My father bought the house from the Holyoake Government (he was always a strong National Party supporter) I moved back into in 1990 (I lived here from about 1948 to 1969 or so). 
  So we children were not required to do anything. (None of this affected my brother who was very bright, and flew through most of these difficulties I experienced. But I think he was also affected by the rather overprotective way of our parents, and the strangeness of my father, which more anon.) Our parents washed the dishes and my father, while he was a very concerned and good man, erred in perhaps an anxiety in keeping me largely from practical things. I recall once I wanted to help paint the shed and he gave me a brush, but after a few seconds he took it off me, saying, “you are just not practical”.  I later incorporated those very words into a poem I read at Poetry Live. There were many other instances of that. I was quite mothered. I was a nervous child and had to have nerve tablets as old as 8 or so. Later I had a severe nervous breakdown in 1967.
  I had a deep lack of confidence. But I can’t blame all that on my parents. (There was a genotypical aspect as at about the age of 8 I had to have nerve pills, as did my son when he was that age. And my father was very very “nervy”.)  By and large I had a very happy childhood. Possibly my happiest years were from the age of 7 to 11 or so, although memory tends to select out the bad memories.
  The mind (at 65 as I experience it) indeed tends to jump from time to time. From my childhood in the 50s, to my life at school, to my life as a worker, my sudden deep interest in “protest politics” and Marxism etc, and later my marriage and work as a Lineman for the C&M Branch of the New Zealand Post Office.
  I joined there in 1973 and did an apprenticeship (analogous to becoming an electrician). I started in the Newmarket Depot, moved to Victoria Street (I was living in Dickens street Ponsonby and sued to bicycle to Newmarket everyday until I moved to the Vic Street Depot).  The C&M means Construction and Maintenance and basically it meant all work associated with telecommunications outside of the Telephone exchanges and also aside from the Radio section. We were Lineman and did basically what Chorus “technicians” now do. Technicians in those days however worked on relays etc or they were “Transmission techs”. But the work interconnected.
   Recently to remind me more of these things I have had a series of reunions. Tamaki College, Tamaki Intermediate and the C&M Branch reunion on the 30th of March this year.

   I haven’t been to a Tamaki Primary reunion but last year I caught up with my friend Peter Hunter who was with me at that school and who lived down the road. He became an engineer and is now a biomedical engineer. We used to play as kids and had great times. We re-enacted the war “Westerns” and had a “club”. The Hunters took me to the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (which I still recall vividly as wonderful indeed), and to Fantasia. 

  I also recall my first day at primary school.

The very steps I "hodged" to and down about 58 years ago.

Near the Principal's Office of Tamaki Primary today. It is much the same.But the demographic has changed.

  I had been looking forward to this (although I forget if I knew what it meant to be going to school) and my mother took me. When we arrived I was enrolled and saw a rather large, and to me then, formidable woman, smacking a girl child who was crying quite vigorously. This was quite frightening. Then my mother said good-bye.

 I was astounded! Where was she going? Surely I wasn’t to be left here alone? I cried and created a fuss, but my mother left (she was never “hard hearted” but she perhaps was rather looking forward to a break!

 Then I was placed in the very end class. That is picture of me outside the very class (much older now ca 2011. I began school ca 1954.  

A few more shots of the school as it is today:

Children playing much as we did in the 50s.

The class at the extreme LHS is the one I "escaped" from.

The Principal's Office

I will digress here again. When I went to the Tamaki College and the Tamaki Intermediate reunion what I wanted was not to see how it is now or to see photographs of sports events etc but to see photographs and hopefully at Tamaki Intermediate to meet Mrs. Marshall or Mr. Newman or Mrs. Rae. Other men looked longingly at the sports teams (I was never in any, I hated sports). Others were interested in old girlfriends and friends (I had almost none, I had some friends, but it wasn’t till I left school that I had a girlfriend. I was attracted to girls but deeply shy. I was in those days almost pathologically introverted.

There really had been a vast and powerful Roman Empire ruled by sane, or sapient, rulers [Hadrian (read the novel about him by Marguerite Yourcenar), Marcus Aurelius (one of the few philosopher-emperors) and the gloriously depraved such as Nero and Caligula (and we all remember Prokofiev's awesome music from his Romeo and Juliet as the killing wheels decapitate the Emperor's enemies buried up to their heads in that film). 

  But I was interested in learning. I was not fast, but I was always interested. I was interested in everything taught us and I came to very much enjoy studying. I would study (at high school) Latin, Biology and Chemistry of read Shakespeare etc for hours.
At primary school I recall the magic of learning to read and write and how to multiply numbers. I was not good at maths really, but adding a 3 thing to a 2 to make 5 seemed quite beautiful. Later I had an electricity set and learnt about magnetism, voltage, current, “make and break switches”, and transformers etc So I was the person in charge of that in Form 1.

  But my great memory was when Mrs. Marshall (who was an attractive but seemed to me a rather frighteningly “efficient” woman), was when she demonstrated the existence of air pressure. Air has pressure. How? How can something we cannot see have pressure? It seemed impossible. Mrs. Marshall proceeded to demonstrate it:

  She had a small electric cooker. On this she placed a 1gallon (we worked in gallons, Pounds shillings and pence, and lbs per square inch etc) can with some water in it and heated it. When it was boiling she placed the lid on and then, this was her coup, she poured cold water on the can. The was a tremendous “Crack!” as the can imploded with the force of, and I will never forget it so dramatic and exciting was this, 14 lbs per square inch. Bang! The Universe was indeed a place of mystery. Later I would think about space, and atoms and much else.

 A dramatic and fascinating experiment showing that, external to us and matter, there exists an (more or less invisible) physical pressure of great force.  This was shown us at Tamaki Intermediate school by Mrs. Marshall in 1961.

A kerosene can is partly filled with water. It sits on a small electric cooker. The water is heated to boiling pont (100 deg)

With the can full of water vapour (not steam) it drives out air and is at a high enough pressure as it is hot. Cold water suddenly reduced the pressure as the water vapour contracts - in the process "trying" to create vacuum. As Pascal knew "Nature abhors a vacuum" so the ~ 325 kPas (14 lbs /sq inch) crushes the can instantly with a massive bang! It is an unforgettable demonstration and in fact the large 44 gallon drums can be made to "explode" in wards (or implode) in the same way. 


Another example of this on video at this link:

  But back to my first day. We were all seated on the floor. Possibly listening to a story, but somehow I just wanted to get home to my mother. I recall in the coming weeks a deep feeling that it was wrong that I had been forced to go to school, that it was the law.
  As the teacher talked, somehow (I was 6 as I had been held back a year by a severe illness, I am not sure what it was), I thought that if I edged myself very very slowly towards the school door, I was then heading for freedom and my mother. I had a kind of cunning. I did this imperceptibly until I was about two steps down, still unnoticed.  The same red brick steps are there today (and the school is, externally at least, much as it was in 1954).

  Once there I suddenly ran. I can’t recall running home but I went like the wind!

  My sisters were sent to find me.  They were frantic but probably proud to be in charge of such an important mission!

 From that day for (it seems now to have been weeks but it was probably only days): I would depart for school with school bag, but stop on the porch. My mother would remonstrate with me and I would cry and rant. The more she said the police would intervene or I had to go to school the more I dug in.

 Eventually I got through school and got my University Entrance in 1965. 

  School proved to be of great value to me.

 At Tamaki College a man from the days of the early 60s, said he hated classroom learning but liked sports, meeting people and especially girls.

 I hated sports, mostly avoided people and loved studying Latin, Biology, Chemistry and English Literature.

 It was because of the fascinating lessons in English literature by Mr. Newman, and Mrs. Rae (both of whom I realize must be now dead, or very old) that meant it was THEM I wanted to see and even speak to. (I also loved studying Biology, in which I was once dux of the school - ironically getting a copy of Stevenson's  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde  as a prize.) Nor did I want the NOW. In a special space my memory tantalizingly half held but to which I could (terribly?) never return, was where I deeply wanted to be. I wanted to reach across time to them and Mr. Watson my Latin teacher and Mrs. Rae who (mistakenly but flatteringly) called me a “self-taught genius…and teased us boys when in The Merchant of Venice there is reference to “the Jewess’s eyes” and then took us through that whole play. (And Lear, and Romeo and Juliet…or was that Newman?) It was he, as we came across: “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Juliet on the Capulets and the Montagues.) And we discussed the name of ‘Hitler’. Had he not been the ferocious leader of Germany, looking at him, even with that name, he would appear like any other English (German) idiot! (We laughed.)  It was Mr. Newman who talked of the inappropriateness of certain language. “A farmer meeting another would be unlikely to say: ‘It’s very inclement weather today.’”! We laughed then also. (Exultate! iuvenes dum sumus.) Mr. Caldwell urged us to read as much as we could, as life was like moving down a corridor, with side rooms or side passages leading off it – these were the “worlds” of novels and poems and much else. 
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The Mystery of Molecules, Life and the Power of the Roman Empire
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  Then there were Lamb, Hazlitt, and Huxley’s essays. Biology was protoplasm and mystery and the new knowledge of cellular genetics. Chemistry (erotic and arousing for me as the girls practiced “Phys Ed.” not far from the window where we were…) was the strangeness, the beautiful fearfulness, of atoms and processes. Latin had a pleasing certainty. The complex of language, the constructions. The safeness of constructing and remaking. The Romans, the origins or words, Julius Caesars’ writings about the barbaric Germanic and Brittanic tribes (they made “twigs of men” and burnt them alive I put many years later into a poem.) who used their memory not books (the Druids).  The long long roads, the tortoise of shields as they once more attacked the Welsh. Hannibal and his elephants charging toward Rome. Sextus going from his domus to the magister to learn. The columns, ‘O tempores, O mores!’ ‘Quid novi’ What news?

  There really had been a vast and distant Roman Empire.


Richard said...

Wonderful! RT 321890 said...

Good read, ha

Richard said...

Thank you