Last weekend, we had a family celebration for Nana Di’s birthday. You excelled yourself, particularly in the birthday cake department and have grown increasingly adept at being the centre of attention.
I was telling your Auntie Susie that much of what I’ve written on my blog (as distinct from my letters to you) particularly the political material, would probably not be of much interest to you.
Aunty Susie with her mum, Pat
Her response was interesting because she is reading the newspaper cuttings that her journalist grandfather, an international correspondent, had written some 50 years ago. Its part of her family history.
It made me reflect on the writing that I’m doing for you which, I must add, has turned out to be a far more complex process than I had imagined.
The first complexity is that I don’t know who I am writing for, I know who I’m writing about, but that is quite different a different matter. It may be that you will be reading this when you are quite young but then again, you could be reading it when you are my age and have your own grandchildren.
So in part, I am guided by the principle that I’m going to write what I now would’ve liked written for me.
When I was doing my Masters degree in English at Auckland University, I was writing an essay on the social conditions when Shakespeare was writing particularly in relation to the Puritans’ attitude toward the theatres.
What struck me was that history is ultimately made up of the records that individuals leave behind, letters, shopping lists, instructions to servants, entries in the parish register and diaries, particularly diaries. It is the minutiae of life that we so often overlook that becomes part of our personal and cultural history.
You are now nearly 20 months old and not yet at a point where you will remember your life up till now, not consciously anyway, so I am hoping to give you a sense of what you were like.
Here are two photographs of me from a time before when I could remember anything at the first house we lived in. The first is with my grandmother, your great, great grandmother Edith and the second is with my mum, your great-grandmother Kay.
These photos were taken at the back of 57 Waipara Rd, Hataitai, in Wellington. This is me and mum outside when I was 10 months old. I tried to find the house on Google maps but it appears to have been rebuilt.
You can tell from this photo what the house next door looked like.
And I think this is what it looks like today. Number 57 is on the left.
Here is another house in the street to give you a sense of what it was/is like.
I’m not certain how long we lived here but it was probably about a year. Unfortunately, all the people who could tell me about it are now gone. So small chapter of family history has closed forever, only the photographs remain.
So here’s my favourite photograph of you when you were about that age. I love this one because it looks as if you are laughing at one of my jokes.
This is a shot of the Old Barbershop in Church St. where the photo was taken.
When we lived at 164 Highett Street, we would meet you and your mum for coffee on most days. We would often sit at the table that is pictured on the right where Nana Di and I would take turns giving you cuddles. Often, when it was fine we would sit outside. The photograph of me holding is taken when I was sitting about with the man in the white shirt is sitting.
Your dad was born in Armidale in New South Wales, Where we lived for two years while I studied for a Masters degree in Educational Administration at the University of New England. This is the house where we lived in Lawrence Avenue for our first year. The car that is parked outside is the 1967 Ford Falcon sedan, our first car in Australia.
This is a photograph of your dad when we were living there.
Later we moved to a house at The Armidale School where I was a housemaster and taught for the second year of our stay in Armidale.
This is a photograph of your dad playing outside in the front yard
It wasn’t much of a house to live in. On the day we were preparing to move in, we visited the house and was alive with fleas. The headmaster only begrudgingly agreed to have the place fumigated.
The only heating was a small stove in the living room so the room that your dad slept in came close to freezing over every night. We had to wrap him in multiple layers of pyjamas and sleeping bags to keep him from freezing to death.
Still, it was only for year and at the beginning of 1975, we moved to Frankston in Victoria.