I got a card today.

This morning started like many others, with my reluctance to be conscious and a sense of dread as I faced yet another day of wondering if I will ever be able to move forward.

The reason I find myself in this familiar dark place and the precursor to my ennui is that I withdrew from the Secondary Teacher training course in May.

So what happened? Why did something that I wanted so much become unattainable?

I was pretty nervous to be going back to uni after so long away but I soon found that I hadn’t lost my ability to learn and remember. I quickly felt accepted into the fabric of the class and was reassured that I had a worthwhile and unique contribution to share.  The lectures were great and the discussions were stimulating and thought provoking. I loved being in a class of such varied and interesting people and found that our diverse life experiences and opinions were the perfect foundation for truly deep and meaningful learning to occur between us. As classes progressed I became heartened by the forward reaching philosophy that underpinned our learning. Teaching was being presented as our opportunity to help individual students achieve to the best of their unique abilities and also as a place where inequality could be addressed and challenged.  I was excited that the rigid structure that had marked my own high school years seemed to be something that was in the past and that student centred learning now seemed to be the dominant philosophy.

Then we went on practicum.

We were sent off to schools to observe experienced teachers teaching. Some schools took a group of students, some only one and the school I went to took two of us. I arrived full of expectation and anxiety, trusting that the school I had been assigned to and the associate teacher/s who were assigned to me would be supportive in my learning. We were introduced to the staff first thing in the morning and during the day we were given a tour and went through all the health and safety stuff and met our department staff. I was a bit surprised how often ‘stress’ was mentioned. Then when I got on my homeward bound bus I failed to notice a very low ceiling and cracked my head. I had a mild concussion.

Over the next three weeks I observed many art classes and started to contribute with some teaching. I also watched as students were pushed, cajoled and bullied to finish assessments. I observed stressed teachers who were under pressure to get equally stressed students to complete tasks for assessment. I also watched as students were given briefs to complete that were so prescriptive that there was very little room for originality and where there was absolutely no room for abstract expression and I listened as the same old sexist subject matter was presented in art history.

These students were painters, sculptors and printmakers and they were being ‘assessed’ until every last vestige of joy was squeezed from their art, all the while absorbing the message that as girls they could never be ‘great masters’.

I saw a 17 year old weep when she got her assessment grade back!

How did this happen?

In the late 1970’s my secondary school was streamed, boys and girls were segregated everywhere except in the classroom, uniforms were strictly monitored and rules abounded, we were all destined to participate in an exam system that routinely failed 50% of all students. The system was clearly broken. However we were not constantly stressed by continuous and unrelenting assessment and the art room was a place of relative freedom and, for me, joy.

At the end of the 3 weeks of practicum we returned to Uni for a week of lectures (that seemed like a rest) and 2 weeks study break. During that time I was constantly bothered by what I had seen happening to the students I had contact with. I found myself becoming immersed in long internal dialogues that took me around and around the disquiet and disappointment I was feeling. I was loving learning and being with other learners but facing the very real possibility that if I graduated and got a job I would be expected to participate in a system that would stress my students and suck all the joy out of art.

I couldn’t sleep and the headaches were getting more frequent and painful. My cat died and my Dad got pneumonia.

Everything imploded and I woke up one morning at 3.30am in tears and having a serious anxiety attack and we decided I couldn’t go on.

So now here I am again, feeling useless and so regretful and really foolish.

I miss my co-students very much and seriously regret withdrawing from the course, while at the same time acknowledge that had I continued I would have gotten seriously ill.

I have been depressed and floundering here in my failure. I know what to do to get better and have been cleaning my studio and trying to organise an exhibition. I haven’t been able to create anything so I’ve been doing prep work for future paintings and prints. I am truly stuck.

I got a card today, it had warm and kind messages from a bunch of people who are going to be truly great teachers in the near future. Thank you.

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“Am I your mother?”

Over that last 10 years or more we have watched as Mum started to have problems with her memory until a little under 4 years ago we realised that she had a serious problem and she had to go into care. Mum had lost the ability to remember most of the things that we need to recall to be safe in the world so Dad and she could no longer take care of each other. Mum went into a home and Dad came to live with us.

When Mum first went into the home she was pretty angry as she didn’t understand what was happening to her but she did understand that she was no longer free to make her daily choices. She was adamant that she could go back to Kerikeri and take care of herself and Dad and drive her car despite not being able to remember how or where Kerikeri actually was. She still had her fighting spirit and pushed back at every opportunity, it was frustrating for her and sad for me to see her like that. During those first few months she broke windows, hit people with her walking stick and generally made it very clear she was not going to go down without a fight. Eventually, inevitably Mum accepted where she was and she started to be more at peace with her circumstances.

I remember vividly about 6 months after she had gone into the home the lights seemed to come on in her eyes and she held both my hands and fixed me with her steely gaze and begged me urgently “Don’t let me forget you” I reassured her that she could never do that, all the while secretly hoping I was right.

For most of the first 2 years in the home Mum retained a lot of memories and she was able to talk about them and reminisce about her family, pets, hobbies and places she had lived and she took an interest in our lives and would ask after other members of the family. She still had a good sense of ‘self’, she was protective of her room and her belongings and she looked forward to visits and was sad when I would leave.

In the last year Mum has lost so much.

She no longer remembers any of her homes or even what country she lives in. She no longer asks after her sister and brother or cousin and certainly doesn’t know that she’s the only one left. Gone are the memories of her pets, even Sandy is no longer remembered. She has little or no recall of her grandchildren or great grandchildren and many of the faces in the pictures on her bedroom wall are now strangers to her. She can’t remember that she just drank that cup of tea or that the clothes in her closet are her own and she doesn’t remember us less than five minutes after we leave. She has stopped feeling sad when we go and doesn’t anticipate our visits anymore.

This is everything that Mum didn’t want. Mum had always maintained that she wouldn’t allow herself to get Alzheimer’s and that she would end it all before that happened, she never wanted to live in a rest home and she never wanted to end up (in her words) ‘a vegetable’. She had even gone so far as to stockpile a bunch of drugs that she was going to use to end her life when the time came. I found the drugs when I cleared out the house and she had been collecting them for a long time. Mum was a strong woman who knew her own mind and I think it is natures greatest betrayal that this disease snuck up on her and she couldn’t make that decision until it was too late.

When will humans be able to make that final decision with dignity?

…..and now this,

I was so wrong,

today she looked at me with a puzzled expression and asked “Am I your mother?’ and my heart broke just a little bit more.

 

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One full week in and counting….

So I did it, I enrolled, got accepted and started the Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching at AUT.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered the alarm feature of my iphone and I set it for 7am and practiced getting up before 9, then after a few days I moved it back to 6.30am and continued my early rising practice with mixed results. I have been tired and a bit grumpy but seem to be getting the hang of this early bird stuff and I knew that if I tried to get up at 6.30am for the first time on the first day of the course I’d be a zombie for weeks. By the way the doggies love breakfast at 6.30am who knew?

Finally the first day arrived last Thursday and I got up with a fine case of nerves after a sleepless night of tossing and turning. It’s okay, I know this is what happens and I accept this is how it will be until I get fully comfortable with the classes and in particular all the other students. I was at the bus stop by 8.30 and had my first unaccompanied ride by public transport since I was a teenager, I say ‘unaccompanied’ because Ron (bless his heart) made the same trip with me earlier in the week so that I would be familiar with it when I had to go on my own, he knows me so well. I was ready way too early as we had a 10am start for the first day so that we could get ‘oriented’ and introduced to the staff. After that session one of the lecturers showed us around the campus to the bits that were relevant to us and we ended up at the student cafe in time for lunch. I was looking around nervously for an empty table when I spotted one of my classmates doing the same and I screwed up my courage and asked her if she’d like to eat lunch with me, she lit up and grabbed my arm and said yes where shall we go. Wow! Mum would be proud of me, I made a friend on my first day. Things were looking up. I probably talked way too much all through lunch but I did remember to ask her stuff too and we got to know each other. I think she was as glad as me to have company.

In the afternoon we were guided through the library system for an hour or so and then went home. I was still a bit nervous about the whole bus catching scenario so I cleverly caught the wrong bus and Ron had to come and rescue me as I didn’t have enough money left on my bus card to catch another one! Oh well, baby steps.

On Friday we started our real classes starting with Philosophy of Teaching and Learning in the morning and then The Emerging Professional in the afternoon. I spent a lot of the time in class trying to log into the AUT learning site ‘Blackboard’ on my ipad and eventually gave up and just listened and took a few notes. After the last class finished I went over to the library and spoke to IT and got my password reset as I had (surprisingly) forgotten my password from 2002 and then I went home on the right bus.

I planned to spend the weekend catching up on my reading and sleeping but stuff happened and due to that I returned to AUT on Monday morning exhausted from lack of sleep and feeling like I was starting to drown in work, so now I had my eye on Wednesday as my next catch-up day. Tuesday piled on more unread readings and my attention started to really drift in class as I got more tired and stressed.

Wednesday morning arrived really early as I woke before the alarm from yet another bad night tossing and turning, however after coffee I logged into Blackboard and decided to get organised. First I decided to download and read the subject handbooks but after the first 3 I decided this was too much paper so I turned my attention to finding the assignments and putting them into my diary and on the wall planer, the first one was due in 10 days and that gave me a fright. After panicking for a spell I had another coffee and by that time it was 3.30 and I needed to leave home and go to my art tutorial.

We artsy students all arrived a bit early and during conversation I mentioned our upcoming assignment and was slightly gratified to find that none of them had found that yet, okay so I’m not too far behind on my reading.

Thursday I was a sleepwalker and had to fight nodding off in class.

….and then I finally slept.

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Finally last Friday I felt like my old student self, excited, awake and ready to learn.

I might just be able to do this.

RSumnerGrandmotherI join my mark

As twilight deepens.

On this day that celebrates love I find myself reflecting on my parents marriage as I have observed it through the last 60 years.

Dad confided to me once when he was at a particularly low ebb in his life that his and my Mother’s marriage had only been happy for the first few months before disillusionment set in for him. The details are unimportant but it must be said that Dad described feeling like he had made a huge mistake in marrying Mum just a few months into their marriage, he didn’t believe in divorce and so even though he felt trapped Dad set about making the best of it. As it transpired this meant he would spend the next 60 years bending to Mum’s will in everything and never having a voice within our family. From my earliest memory of them as a couple, Mum was in charge and Dad pretty much did as he was told. They didn’t fight very much but when they did it invariably ended with Dad in the wrong and Mum triumphant.  I recall 20 years or so of Dad going to bed early and of Mum staying up late every night and sleeping on the sofa. They were not openly hostile towards each other but there was an insurmountable distance between them for as long as I can remember.

Through the years we have all speculated on why Dad didn’t just ‘put his foot down’ or  leave and find a new happier life for himself, it just seemed tragic to me that they continued on in this habitual form of enslavement to each other. At one point in the 1980’s when Dad was setting off to visit his family in England, he told me that he may not return, there was someone from his past who was now a widow and still held feelings for him. I was surprised but also felt relieved for him, finally he might find some happiness. I reassured him that we would take care of Mum and she would be fine and off he went.

Dad returned home to New Zealand earlier than expected, he had missed Mum.

Who can tell what goes on in another persons heart and soul.

Mum and Dad carried on as before, she calling all the shots and he doing as he was told and constantly being told that he fell short of expectation by Mum. Mum’s constant badgering of Dad was difficult to see and when I challenged her she always had some very good reason why he needed to be bullied.

2014 came around and Mum and Dad’s 60th wedding anniversary was looming large on the calendar, Mum was getting very excited and looking forward to the great event with much anticipation. I did the daughterly thing and informed the government so that on the great day they would receive cards from the Governor General, our own Prime minister and of course the highly anticipated card from The Queen. As the date approached Dad quietly informed me that he didn’t want any fuss as he had nothing to celebrate. In the light of this I cancelled the family outing I was organising and I told Mum that we would be coming up to their home in Kerikeri to celebrate with them on the day.

All through that year I noticed Mum’s memory getting worse and by October of that year she would ring me upwards of 6-7 times a day with the same question or bit of news. She was increasingly distracted but she was able to keep her focus on the upcoming 60th wedding anniversary celebration in December. We spoke every day and finally the anniversary arrived and we all piled in our cars with cake and food and made the trip up North to celebrate with Mum.

She was surprised to see us all, she didn’t know it was their anniversary!

After that everything imploded for Mum and she ended up in a home here in Orewa and Dad came to live with us. He was very angry with her in those early months with us and often talked about his “wasted life”. Mum meanwhile went from demented to violent and self destructive and a perceptive social worker finally took a proper history and really listened to Dad and I describing how life had been with Mum for all those years. The result was that at the age of 84 Mum was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was started on medication.

Over the 3 years that Mum has been medicated she has made amends in the only way she can and I for one am very grateful that I have come to know this warm, calm and loving Mother who through no fault of her own had been emotionally absent from my life for all those long years. Dad has had time to heal and now understands that Mum was very sick and couldn’t help how she was during their long and painful marriage. I have been witness to a growing peacefulness between them and have had the absolute joy to hear my Dad whispering in Mum’s ear “you know I have always loved you”.

So on this day I am grateful that Dad didn’t stay in England and that he came back here to endure the unendurable. I don’t think his was a wasted life and I’m happy that these two previously tormented souls are approaching that slip into the next great adventure together, hand in hand and in love.

The late blooming Rose.

IMG_2126I am, what was once described by an Auntie a ‘late bloomer’, at the time I think she was trying to get Mum to have some patience with me as I yet again failed to achieve some secret standard of me-ness. I was a short be-speckled child who wore clothes and shoes that always seemed to be too big or too small depending on which sale they had been bought in and whether I had still not grown into them or was getting the last little bit of wear out of them before they fell apart.

My early childhood years were marked by my inability to ‘tune in’ to what was expected of me at school and I remember being in a sort of daze a lot of the time, I wouldn’t hear teachers instructions or admonitions and always seemed to be in some sort of trouble for ‘not listening’ and was often punished by strapping for inattention. This lack of attention finally culminated in me being put into the ‘special’ class when I was 8 where a really observant special needs teacher decided to have my hearing and sight tested and it was discovered I was living in a world of my own because I could barely see or hear the real world.

As time passed I didn’t develop the same social skills as other kids and I am the only person I have ever heard of who had to stay in form 1 for a second year so that I could have more time to make friends and catch up socially. Physically I remained a child much longer than any of my peers and must have looked pretty funny in my (much too big) college school uniform with those long plaits I wore well into my late teens, braces on my teeth and glasses that were always halfway down my nose and crooked. I guess I was the classic personification of a girl geek without the attending good academic performance. I continued to underachieve at College with the only difference being that instead of thinking I had a learning and developmental disadvantage I was now labelled lazy. I think the change in labelling came in the 2nd form when we were all given an IQ test to stream us at college and it was discovered that contrary to popular opinion I was actually quite bright.

I continued to cruise at school, just scraping by and resenting any time spent outside the art room until the end of the 6th form year when I failed to be accredited with UE. Mum had had enough of supporting me and pointed out that my sisters had left school in the 4th form to work in a factory and so she found me a job.

I didn’t like office work! It was repetitive and so boring and it didn’t look like anybody else working in that office was any happier about their work than I was. I was stuck but something inside me lit a spark and I decided that I might need a bit more education. So I enrolled in night school at my former college and would go off to lessons after work three nights a week. Halfway through the year the principal was making up lists for the final exams and noticed my name on the night school roll, he called me down to his office and demanded an explanation as to why I wasn’t at day school and more to the point why didn’t I sit the formal exams for university entrance at the end of the last year. I explained that as they were over at MIT, a bus ride away I was unable to go as Mum wouldn’t cough up the bus fare. He was astounded, I had been one of their reserve 5% students who they knew could pass the outside exam so that the college retained it’s status as being able to accredit students! That was a revelation as I had never considered that I was bright enough to pass any exam.

The principal invited me back to day school, to start the following Monday morning (this was mid-year) and assured me he would talk to Mum about it. She was not amused but agreed I could go if I paid board to her at the same rate as I had been while working. I had savings, I paid.

In the 6 months to the end of the year I worked my geeky little bum off and was accredited with UE. I was so happy I had discovered that I really loved learning and could get really good results with a bit of work. I wanted to go to Elam and knew that I needed a good bursary year to get in however that wasn’t to be and Mum kicked all three of us out of home over the Summer break between my 6th and 7th form year, I tried going back to school but I was an emotional mess and in the end I gave up at Easter and found some work.

In the following years I had several desk jobs that I hated and then married and had children. I was pretty happy for the first couple of years but I got bored and frustrated very quickly and recognised I needed more.

We were living in Wellington at the time and the Evening Post ran a tiny little puzzle on the back page with the caption that if you could solve it you might be eligible to join MENSA. I was curious and had seen the solution at first glance so I rang the number provided and booked in to do a full IQ test at Victoria University. The big day arrived and my husband drove me and my daughter and baby son in to the exam location. We parked in the uni carpark right outside the exam room and I told him it would take one hour and please could he take the kids to the park and pick me up later, he agreed. I went in and 10 minutes after the exam had started I could hear my baby boy crying outside, I was very distressed. I wont say he deliberately sabotaged my performance but my husband wasn’t at all happy with the thought that I might be brighter than him. I finished the test very quickly and passed it hurriedly over to the supervisors with 15 minutes to spare, they asked me if I’d like to take some more time but I just needed to get out of there and comfort my baby.  Imagine my surprise when I got an acceptance letter!

I was over the moon and it was just the boost that I needed to give me the confidence to apply to go to University. My husband was not so happy and it was the catalyst that finished off our marriage.

I moved back to Auckland with the kids and enrolled at Auckland Uni and so started my (very) long affair with higher education. I was 28 and the world was looking very exciting and full of possibility. Over the years I have had two fulfilling careers first as a rape and sexual abuse counsellor, then as an art teacher at MIT. I’ve completed a diploma, 2 undergrad degrees, a Masters, a Tertiary teaching certificate and have enjoyed several random papers in subjects as diverse as Landscape design and Russian.
So now we come to the present day and after a 10 year spell of being home after an unwanted redundancy from teaching visual art at MIT, working in our own business and then looking after my sick husband, dealing with the effects of cataracts in both eyes and being unable to exhibit my art. Not to mention moving Mum and Dad from Kerikeri to Orewa and clearing out their house and organising their lives in general, I finally have time for myself again.

I loved teaching adults at uni and I have some experience as a relief teacher at college level so I’ve decided to risk it all and apply for training for my third career as a secondary school art teacher. It will involve 1 year intensive training.

I sent off my application with some trepidation wondering all the time whether they would take it seriously or turn me down outright or if in fact they might still be rolling around the ground laughing. Anyway I did it and this morning I got an appointment for an interview.

I wonder if I’m the oldest applicant they have ever had, I wonder how I will convince them that I’m a good risk! I can always point to the 92 year old in the next room as a good indicator of longevity in my genetic make-up.

Oh and the ‘Rose’ in the title, people rarely get my name wrong but when they do it’s always Rose and it’s always seemed to fit.

A visit, a reunion and a funeral.

Today we made a pilgrimage up to Maunu to attend the internment of  a member of Ron’s extended family who died over Christmas at the tender age of 63 years. We prepared carefully for the trip, took water for ourselves and the dogs, spare eggs and veg to distribute to family and most importantly we made sure that Dad knew we’d be out all day and we checked he didn’t need anything before we went and that he had his emergency call bracelet on. Checking that Dad’s okay not only involves seeing he has enough supplies of tea bags and lunch fixing but it also involves careful questioning about how he feels in himself as on an earlier trip when we were away from home he had called for an ambulance and we had rushed home in a panic to find that he had a ‘sore neck’.

All was well so we left nice and early and got to Whangarei in time to catch up with a dear brother -in-law and then went on to have a truly wonderful lunch and catch up with old friends until it was time to go to the internment.

Just as we pulled into the cemetery carpark my phone rang and distressingly it was the security company who monitor Dad’s alarm to say he had pushed the emergency button and, as they couldn’t get hold of him, they had dispatched an ambulance! We were two hours away from home and my heart sank, I rang Kathleen but couldn’t get hold of her, then rang Megan but she also wasn’t answering and finally rang Reuben, at work who said he would leave immediately to go and check on Grandad for me. Meanwhile Ron had the bright idea of texting our tenant who lives in the cottage next door to us to go and see if it was a real emergency. Adeline is a great tenant and Ron soon got a text back to say Dad told her that he had been sitting up the drive and wondered if the alarm worked that far from his room so he pushed it to see.

I then had to ring Reuben and tell him it was okay Grandad was fine and he could turn his car around and go back to work.

When we finally got home about 6.30 I asked Dad what sort of a day he had “Oh okay” so I asked him why he had pushed his call button and he gave me some story about pressing it by accident when he was turning his watch around, who knows what the truth is. I said we needed to talk about what an emergency actually was as calling an ambulance out was a serious thing and he looked at me blankly and said “What ambulance” By this stage I was getting a bit irritable and told him that an ambulance had been sent and he airily told me “Oh him, he says it happens all the time” Conversation over, he turned back to his TV.

Seriously.

So our trip to Maunu was eclipsed by my panic at hearing the operator telling me an ambulance was speeding to my Dad and the internment service was in part drowned out by my internal dialogue as I yet again questioned whether Dad should be in a care home.

I feel frustrated and annoyed with myself as I wasn’t truly ‘there’ as the last farewell was said for this departing soul. I had only met him twice but I liked him and he was obviously a good man who was loved by many, I feel sad that I couldn’t give him the attention he deserved.

This last year has been one of true introspection for me as I have lost three good friends and one who I didn’t know so well but admired very much.

 

As often happens when travelling to a funeral we were talking about the person who had died and about how his life was connected to places that we were passing on the trip up North and at some point we were talking about Kai Iwi lakes and I was remembering going there as a parent helper on one of Kathleen’s school camp trips. I was laughing about how much I had enjoyed learning how to sail and doing the other cool activities and how Kathleen spent a lot of the time with her head in a book while I did all the student stuff in her place. Then as often happens that memory triggered off my memory of Auntie Elaine.

So I’m finally getting to the point. I never went on a school camp, Mum always said we couldn’t afford it but I now know it was more about her unwillingness to spend money or allow us to be out of her control. Usually during class trips or school camps we would just have to stay home for the day or week or however long the class was away. Then one year, I’m not sure when but I think I was about 12, Auntie Elaine stepped into the breach and asked Mum if I could go and stay with them for the week, she said I would be a help with my cousins and Mum reluctantly agreed. It was the nicest holiday I had ever had up to that point and I am still grateful to this day that Auntie Elaine cared enough about me to take me under her wing.

The whole week was a bit surreal for me, Auntie Elaine used to get up super early every morning and we would be roused to the sounds of her making breakfast and shouting at us all to hurry, she would already have the washing machine going and was ironing or mopping floors and lunches were waiting to be picked up. Then the boys would be hurried into their school clothes and the toddler would be tucked into her push chair and we’d be off. We’d walk at a cracking pace to drop the boys to school and then on to do something else like shopping or deliveries. In the evening it was no less surreal, we all had baths or showers early and ate our dinner in pyjamas and went to bed early. I would lie awake listening to Auntie Elaine cleaning and clattering for what seemed like hours, wondering at how different she was to Mum. I was pretty much in a daze all week and I’m sure I was no help at all but Auntie Elaine was kind and caring and even though I was a bit homesick because it was all so different, I felt safe and cared for.

So on this day filled with funereal memories and some small frustration at a very old man, I wanted to just remember and retell a very happy memory of someone who has passed into the next big adventure,  who made a big impact on my life and who’s memory I will forever hold dear. Never forgotten Auntie Elaine.

 

Summer

The sun is baking my garden and turning the soil to concrete, insects are singing, the dogs are splayed outstretched in the shade, the cats are hiding or hunting in the cool of the bush, the chooks are hiding under trees, a lazy fly is buzzing around the ceiling and my skin feels like my 10 minute walk around the garden this morning was too long and I may have started to burn!

I feel like I may not go near my garden again during actual daylight hours until next April and have started to weed and water after 8pm in the evenings. I can’t understand how the plants don’t just all shrivel up and die in the heat but they don’t, some are thriving and yet others are bolting to seed as if they ‘know’ that Summer is going to go on and on and on this year.

It feels like the summer of 1976 (except for the burning skin).

I keep flashing back to the long hot summers of my teens and in particular when I was 16, feeling too hot and too tired to move and constantly drinking water in an attempt to cool down. Those days when my eyes were tired from squinting against the light and I was so brown it felt like I would never see winter’s pallor again. When school days were unending in the heat and half the class dozed the afternoon away until the final bell each afternoon.

Then it was the weekend and Sunday afternoon we would all pile into the boys cars, I remember an Austin A35, Ford Escort and a Morris Minor and head out to Eastern beach, Maraitai or if we all chipped in for petrol, over the harbour bridge to Long Bay. We girls would don bikinis and wrap towels around them and surreptitiously check out each others bodies, so much had changed from a couple of years ago and we all seemed to feel some anxiety at uncovering so much flesh, then gradually we’d all relax, drop the towels and chatter away quite happily forgetting our previous anxieties. We spent what seemed like hours swimming and kicking a ball around, walking up and down the shore line collecting bits of driftwood and shells, until hunger drove us to build a fire and cook the pipis and tuatua we had gathered. Then as it got dark we’d all pile back into the cars and, music blaring, head of to Uncle’s for burgers and chips before reluctantly heading home.

I recall the dread as Monday mornings drew near and the joy as December promised 6 weeks of freedom from Mondays.

The Summer holidays were a mixed bag, I always had to work in a clothing factory sewing but that gave me some money to spend and the evenings were long and hot and I was sometimes allowed to go off to the beach for tea. Then the factory closed down over the Christmas holidays and the days would drag, I read a lot of books in the shade. It always surprised me that the longed for break from school was not as idyllic as anticipated. Suddenly January would be over and we would all troop back to school in the hottest month of the year.

We still had Sunday afternoons though.