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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Caravan of Selves 4: 22-28 years 1966-1973


After my PA year I continued to teach at Henderson Intermediate for two more years 1967-1968. This time I had Form 2 classes of mixed ability - 43 students in each class! That was normal, it seems. They were often challenging children but I loved them and loved teaching so I was happy. I do remember coming home some afternoons feeling totally exhausted and sure I couldn't do another day - but of course I always did. Every year I read CS Lewis's Narnia books to the children at the end of most days. I enjoyed that as much as they did!
Form 2 1967


In 1969 I taught a standard 4 class at Ranui Primary school. With these younger children I could branch out a bit more into some of the creative approaches to teaching that my final year at TColl had allowed me to explore. Very satisfying! One memory is of making the children's creative writing into a book - laboriously copied on the Banda machine and stapled together.

Standard 4 1969


One Easter during these years Dad was speaking at an Easter Camp at Ngaruawahia. In his love of walking he went out exploring one afternoon and got lost in the bush. When he did not return for the next meeting search parties went looking for him. The police were called in when he was not found by nightfall. He was out for two nights and the police warned the searchers they may no longer be looking for a live person. But amazingly he walked out - on the other side of the ridge he had climbed. A farmer noticed him and alerted the rescuers. They said his hand knitted thick wool jersey helped him to survive the cold winter nights.
Family celebrating Dad's return. He is wearing the jersey Mum had knitted!

During 1969 I started thinking about doing theological training. Bible College of NZ was the obvious choice as Dad was a lecturer there. I think in my family preparing for some form of "Christian service" was a given. Not that it was in any way expected - it just seemed natural.
So I applied and was accepted for the following year.

Over the next two years I completed a Dip Theol and a Dip RE (religious education). No degrees were available at that time - which became significant later. I enjoyed the study and made many good friends.
Student leadership team
As women's president I had a larger room with a telephone - note its antiquity!

Obviously it was not all hard work!

One of the things I was most concerned about was that God would call me to be a missionary! I couldn't imagine how hard it would be to "go to darkest Africa" (or anywhere else) as a single woman. I prayed a lot - telling God I was willing to serve him anywhere in NZ but please don't send me overseas. But... in a series of ways that are too long to elaborate here, I knew that "going to darkest Africa" was indeed what God had in mind for  me. Now I can see that facing my greatest fear was the very best thing to free me for many other challenges in the years to come. But at the time it just felt terrifying.

I applied to SIM hoping to be placed in a school for missionaries children in Nigeria. However, the need was greater in the Education Department to work on curricula and other educational resources. So that was where I was expecting to work. Shortly before I was to leave a NZ teacher  (Anne Power) in the mission school had to resign as she gave birth to twins, one of whom died. That very sad occurrence meant that in the end it was to a school for missionaries children that I went! I can't remember who said "God's guidance is usually easier to see in hindsight"!

Before my farewell in Glen Eden Baptist Church I had jokingly said, "They'd better not sing that awful hymn: 'So send I you, to labour unrewarded...'" But you guessed it - there it was on the
programme. It really is a terrible hymn!! Here's the first verse and there are four more equally dire verses! Click here if you can bear to read them!

So send I you to labour unrewarded
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing
So send I you to toil for Me alone


So in 1972 I set off in much fear and trepidation. I was warmly welcomed by fellow NZers Helen and Gordon Stanley who were based in Jos where I was to live. Here is my first accommodation - a flat in the Guest House. I lived there for some months until an apartment was available.
My first home in Jos, Nigeria
I remember huge cockroaches and trying to work out how to use the bucket shower and the small gas stove. But I was kindly looked after during the early months of culture shock.




Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Caravan of Selves 3: 15-21 years 1959-1966


I am realising that every seven year period covers so many major events! Not surprising of course, but a salutary reminder to make the most of every year... every day.

The wedding that nearly wasn't!
1962 was a particularly momentous year. In April my sister Merrie got married - just! She developed viral meningitis the day before her wedding! She was able to get out of bed, put on her wedding dress and she and Marty Heaslip said their vows in our lounge with close family present before she went back to bed. Marty bravely went to the reception on his own. There was no time to cancel anything.
Merrie and Marty walking into our lounge. Bridesmaid Miriam behind.
Bridal party and close family. I am middle bridesmaid. Andrew with folded arms on right!

Adventure or Nightmare?
A week later Mum, Dad, Andrew (12) and I (16) set off for what was to be a wonderful world trip to accompany Dad as he spoke at various mission events in India and Africa. Then on to England and Wales to visit family. A whole book could be written about this trip - but not for the expected reasons. I endured agonising pain in my ears on the first two legs of the journey and ended up with a hospital appointment in Singapore where a specialist decreed that I shouldn't travel by air because my ear drums may rupture. (Hadn't they invented grommets by then???) Apparently I have extremely narrow eustachian tubes.

My poor Dad and Mum!

The whole trip upended and hard decisions to be made. I'm including their photos as a tribute to the wonderful parents they were. Sadly I have no photos at all of the trip itself.



Dad continued the trip as planned as he had important speaking engagements. Mum, Andrew and I stayed in Singapore (mostly accommodated with missionaries I think) until a cargo ship was available to take a few passengers to England. The boat obviously wasn't designed for the entertainment of passengers - only twelve of us on board. But it was adequate. The very first night en route the ship collided with another cargo ship and had to return to Singapore for major repairs! We were accommodated in the Railway Hotel (pretty basic) and given a set amount of money for each day's food. My wonderful mother made it a game to see if we could eat for less than that amount and save some for doing other things. We didn't know how long it would take for repairs to the ship to be completed. It ended up being close to a month!
Finally we were back on board and on our way. We were told there would be no stops until Hamburg where cargo was to be unloaded. I can't remember how long that took but we were glad to have a day to go ashore and wander round. However, it was a cold wet day! When we got back to the wharf where a taxi boat would take us to the cargo ship we looked across and saw smoke billowing out of the boat!! Yes, our boat was on fire! Apparently some of the cargo had caught fire (crew smoking in the hold?) We had to stay at the wharf for some time until we were told the cabins were not affected and it was safe to go back on board to pack up and retrieve our belongings. They assured us the company would fly us to England!

Another very hard decision for Mum. She tried to get us on a ferry but it was school holidays and no immediate spaces were available. In the end we had to fly and with great prayer and nervousness I agreed to get on a plane and hope I survived the pain. Thankfully I did - and my ear drums stayed intact. In all of this I don't remember ever being made to feel it was "all my fault". Of course technically it wasn't - but looking back I'm so grateful I didn't carry the weight of it all.

Strangely I have very little memory of our time in England and Wales. I know we visited Dad's parents and Mum's Dad and Aunty Freda who lived with him and looked after him.

We got back to NZ in time for my older brother, Peter's wedding to Gwenyth Conway in December. That wedding went as planned!
Peter and Gwenyth 15th Dec 1962

In 1963 I went back to Epsom Girls for my 6th form year. It was a bit strange being with a class of people I had not gone through school with but it was fine and to my surprise I was made a prefect.
Prefects EGGS 1963. Me centre back.
Beginning My Teaching Career
1963-1964 I was at Auckland Teachers' Training College. I had always wanted to be a teacher. No other job had ever appealed to me. So those years were wonderful. In the second year about a dozen of us were offered the opportunity to be in an experimental group with one lecturer (Mr Slane) to oversee our chosen study. It was quite adventurous for the college to do this, I think. We could each choose which lectures to go to, what special areas we would research and how many "sections" (weeks out in a school classroom) we would do.

I've never been a "hoarder" so I have no record now of the research projects I did although I know they were around the philosophy of a creative/alternative way of teaching. AN Whitehead and Carl Rogers writings were significant. I was awarded a cup at the end of my TColl years - I honestly don't remember why! I know the big cup had to be returned after a year and I was given a small "tinny" looking replica - which eventually got thrown away - so I can't even look to see what it was for.  I was obviously not interested in fame!

1965: My P.A. (first) year teaching was at Henderson Intermediate. Here are my lovely children! I relished every bit of that first year. No doubt the children were chosen as well behaved and co-operative - which they were.
Form 1 at Henderson Intermediate 1966


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Caravan of Selves 2: 8-14 years 1952-1959

A lot happens in seven years! As I reflect on this chapter some things stand out: changing from Primary School to Intermediate School to High School. That's a lot of transitions. I was fortunate that I enjoyed school and seemed to always have friends.
Ten years old. Front row 3rd from left.
This photo shows I had two boys and one girl I "didn't like" (crosses drawn on faces)!! I also notice I wasn't wearing glasses yet.
Twelve years old. Middle row third from left.
We had a very nice teacher (whose name I forget) for both Form 1 and 2. I loved Intermediate school except that my parents didn't allow me to learn dancing (!) so I had to sit and watch as the others learned ballroom dancing in readiness for the Form 2 ball.

I was baptised by Dad at the Baptist Tabernacle the day after my 13th birthday. I still have the Daily Light my sister Merry gave me on that occasion.

During these childhood/adolescent years a major highlight was our annual holidays on Ponui Island where Dad was chaplain at the Crusader Camps. Mum and Andrew and I (and sometimes Merry and Peter) camped out in the wool shed. The wool shed was in a paddock that often had a bull in it!! I'm very sad I don't have more photos of Ponui as it was a pivotal place in my life. Ponui is privately owned by the Chamberlain family. There are no roads, no cars, no shops and no "stranger danger" so I was free to wander in solitude without fear and soak up the incredible beauty of bush and beach. It nurtured the inherent contemplative part of me - long before I knew the word!
Getting from the launch to shore. Me in prow hanging on to a friend.
Colleen and me.



Me on left, Andrew the smallest boy. 


I'm pretty sure this was taken at Ponui. Peter, Dad, Merry, Mum, me, Andrew.
The next two photos (from Google) are well remembered aspects of the island.

Free roaming donkeys - a real feature of Ponui!

The peaceful mix of farm and beach


And then to High School - Epsom Girls Grammar School - EGGS for short. At first I rode my bike to school but when we moved to Glen Eden I caught the train every day. We "train girls" were allowed to pack our school bags and put on our hats and gloves just before the bell rang so we could run to the station and catch the train!
I turned 14 in my third form year. Second row from back second in from left.
I was in Form 3AL - L for Latin A for top stream. I don't remember anything much about Latin now!









Friday, June 21, 2019

Caravan of Selves 1: 0-7 years 1945-1952

Baby - born 1945 in England
Grateful for a happy secure childhood in a loving family. Born at the end of the war I escaped the traumas of air-raid drills, gas masks and being being evacuated.

About 5 years old
From 2 years old (after I had whooping cough) I remember constant attacks of bronchitis. Mum taught me to knit. I'm proud of this jumper which I knitted (with some help) - red with white fairisle pattern!

I started school in England but don't really remember anything about it. This photo shows my school blazer - Leighcliff School.
Andrew and Sheila Christmas before leaving England

35 Leighcliff Rd where we lived before coming to NZ. (Photo taken on a trip back to England.)
I remember open fires - roasting chestnuts on the fire at Christmas, -being in bed a lot with bronchitis and Mum or Dad staying with me during the night as I was afraid I couldn't breathe if I went to sleep.


1952 On board the P&O Strathaird to set off for NZ.
L-R Grandad, Grandma, Merrie, Peter, me with ? behind me, Dad with Andrew, Mum
I appreciate now, more than ever, the courage of my Mum bringing four children aged 16, 14, 6 and 2 across the world away from all family, friends and contacts. Dad too, of course, but for him it was an exciting call to a new ministry.

The family photo for welcome to Auckland Baptist Tabernacle
Sheila, Mum (Kate), Meriel, Andrew, Dad (John), Peter.
The years at the Tab were happy for me. We lived in the Manse at 15 Henley Rd, Mt Eden.
This is the only (very poor) photo I have of it.
15 Henley Rd, Mt Eden (Andrew outside)

Still lots of bronchitis and time away from school but I read books constantly and my schooling didn't seem to suffer.


1953 Mt Eden Normal Primary.
I'm second row from back, fifth in from left.
Seven years old and in Mr Martin's class. He was my favourite teacher and is still someone I remember with warmth.




Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Caravan of Selves: Introduction



Who would deduce the dragonfly from the lava, 
the iris from the bud,
the lawyer from the infant? 
... We are all shape-shifters and magical re-inventors.
Life is really a plural noun, a caravan of selves.
- Diane Ackerman


I came across this quote recently and it was yet another nudge to do something I've been thinking of doing for quite a while - creating a kind of "photo-biography" of my life to date. 'A caravan of selves' is an interesting image; each evolving and connected stage essential for the whole journey.

In the book From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older. by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shaolmi and Ronald S Miller it is suggested that our age and aging process can be divided into seven year segments with each segment being like a month in the year of life.

In The Grace in Living, Kathleen Dowling Singh suggests that our life journey can be seen in “Quarters” with the following themes:
The First Quarter: From Tasting to Hunger
The Second Quarter: From Seeking to the End of Seeking
The Third Quarter: Healing into Maturity
The Fourth Quarter: Ripening


I think these two paradigms interlock quite easily:

January    Birth -7rs        1945-1952
February       8-14           1952-1959

March         15-21           1959-1966
--------------------------
April          22-28             1966-1973

May           29-35             1973-1980
June           36-42             1980-1987
---------------------------
July            43-49             1987-1994
August       50-56             1994-2001

September  57-63            2001-2008
---------------------------
October      64-70             2008-2015
November  71-77             2015-2022
December  78-84             2022-2079

I like the idea of using seven year periods to give a framework for my 'caravan of selves' so here goes! Although I'm doing this primarily for myself, I'm posting it on my Blog to give myself a bit of accountability. Even though I don't allow comments on the Blog itself I know some regular readers will expect the next chapter to show up! So if you are one of those readers who has my email or messenger contact, feel free to give me a nudge if you think I need it! (But be patient too - I'm not pressuring myself to a set schedule. There are a lot of years to cover!)


Monday, June 17, 2019

The Art of Stillness

I've just finished a six week contemplative photography course mentioned in my last post.
In a nice synchronicity I have also just finished reading a small book -

- which includes wonderful photos by an Icelandic/Canadian photographer Eydis S. Luna Einarsdottir. (Glad I don't have to pronounce her name!) In her Artist's statement at the end of the book she writes:
"As soon as I take out my camera I find that stillness within, that deep sense of peace that I crave every day. I get lost in such a beautiful way that it's hard to describe; it's as though I find a piece of me that I had lost without really knowing that I had lost it. As I sit quietly looking through the viewfinder, my senses become heightened. The smell of the earth makes me feel grounded; the sound of the waves crashing or grass rustling in the wind or the bleating of a lone sheep in the distance makes me feel so alive; and the vastness of what I see makes me feel expansive. This is what it is like to be in the Now, which is really just to be still in mind and body. My photographs come from a place of emotion. They are not an attempt to capture the perfect image, but to capture the feeling I experience as I witness the things in front of me."

Pico Iyer has a TED talk and has written books about his travels but in this book he explores the very different benefits of going nowhere! I recommend him as a person worth listening to. This is a deceptively small and simple book and the photos match that. I'm really Blogging about it primarily because of that wonderful quoted piece from the photographer. She certainly expresses what Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart is about.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The beauty of brown

I'm doing an online contemplative photography course at the moment. It is based on this book:

An interesting exercise recently was to choose a colour and follow it through the week, seeing where it showed up and what it revealed. I instinctively thought "brown" but then dismissed that as "boring". However, as I went for my contemplative walk brown kept showing up! I saw it everywhere. I tried to imagine what the environment would look like without brown. It was very difficult to do! All week I saw more and more of the beauty and essential place of brown. Here are a couple of collages:

Towards the end of the week we were invited to write words that expressed this colour. I wrote:
Brown is an unobtrusive colour 
quietly holding its place
to nurture growth
protect the vulnerable
support the weary
build strong boundaries
and be its beautiful many-hued self!

Monday, May 13, 2019

What would we do without bridges?

I've got a 'thing' about bridges at the moment! Maybe it's triggered by the photo for this month on the calendar I make each year from my own photos:
Lake Tekapo

But I think bridges are even more in my awareness because of the number of bridges I walk or drive over almost every day. The following photos were taken over the last couple of days on walks no longer than half an hour from home .










Without these bridges my life would be much more limited. Some places would be hard to get to; some of my walks would be curtailed; some beautiful locations could only be seen from "the other side of the river" ...

So I've been thinking, how might I be a bridge? Or perhaps sometimes I am without even knowing it. Maybe you are too. For example: A bridge between two sides of an argument, a bridge to connect two people who  haven't met, a bridge from one point of view to a broader perspective, a bridge that will hold someone as they cross an emotional chasm, a bridge to make a long journey shorter and easier...

I appreciate people who have been 'bridges' for me over the years and I hope that I have been, and will continue to be, a bridge for others.