My Early Life
Childhood memories can seem quaint as perspective changes. The
places and spaces which seemed enormous revisited in later life have
lost their dramatic scale, like my sense of the wards in Greenlane
Hospital where I spent several weeks sorting out a twisted bowel,
remembering the embarrassment of asking for a bottle to pee, the
laughs of the nurses, the cold of the x-ray table and the taste of
the barium meal. Mum came by tram to visit. It seemed more adventure
on the side of One Tree Hill opposite the Show Grounds than it
presented fear of loss of life or of mother. Bill was already not
there. I think I was four.
More threatening images were the chimney on fire in our house in Morrinsville, arguments I did not understand, the distance to the ground when planted on top of a horse by my grandfather at the farm, and his unexplained absence when he died in 1950 and somehow I wasn't told.
Whakahongi Road was a metal country road from Tatuanui where my mother had gone to school on horse-back. It ran past the Matthew's farm and farms of some other relatives and of friends who shared in haymaking leading on to Ngarua and Matamata. It is now SH26. Just along from Cornwalls, opposite Yarrells and before the Hardings was the stand where the milk and cream cans were left for collection.
Was I six or eight when my tonsils were removed in Morrinsville Hospital and I was rewarded with a pair of rollers skates? Like my grandmother my respiratory problems loomed large and I was frequently off school at Lincoln Road Primary where Mum taught just a block behind our house in Park Street. I broke my arm running round a clothes line. I had the measles and was visited at home by Dr Armitage who said I would never get good health while we lived in the Waikato. I later heard he could be playing golf when his wife thought he was at the surgery. There was the coronation. I learnt to swim in the pool at the bottom of Park street just past the place where I was told I had been born. I was not allowed to see too many films at the Regent Theatre opposite where people still stood for the national anthem, Tarzan and Jane romped in the jungle and the manager occasionally appeared on the state to appeal for order. Often we were short of money and Mum sold newspapers at 2 pence a pound. Yet there never seemed to be a shortage of books, the hen-house at the back of the garden produced eggs and I became aware that my mother knew how to grow things in the garden where I was allowed to dig a large hole for a hut. Getting dirty was OK.
Doug and my grandmother helped get us through and Doug renovated the old family car - a 1939 Morris. I learnt every bend and dip in the four-mile trip back to Tatuanui. Before that Mum rode a bike and I eventually managed to wobble around the front lawn, but the alternative to a bike of my own was the promise of a trip by sea to England, but that is a later story.
My years at school were mixed experiences. In the primers I liked drawing daffodils and the appeal of an afternoon nap remains with me. I felt cheated that new facilities like a jungle-gymn appeared only after I was too old to find them really exciting. Reading Janet and John seemed a little easy and at home I devoured Enid Blyton and later Biggles. Sick in bed I even got through Thor Hyerdale's Kontiki and plotted how to make a replica. Earlier at the age of about seven, I was sent to the Bryant Home Health Camp in Raglan where I had some hugely happy experiences and found for once I could cope with being part of a group. Manuka bushes still take me back to the sense of being close to a part of New Zealand as it once was.
The distance down to the class room at the back of Lincoln Road School where I was in Standard One taught by Mum's cousin Terry Robertson seemed a long way away, but beside it was a patch of native trees where cicadas sang loudly. In my years at Lincoln Road I liked my teachers but could not cope with other children well. Social skills would long elude me but the world of my imagination grew.
I began to realise not everything was at it seemed. Points for good behaviour in class inflated wildly during the course of the year. The Mickey Mouse of the comics I was discouraged from reading and in the Disney films we sometimes saw were inexplicably different personalities. Girls were strange creatures and it was assumed I understood more than I really did. It would be fair to say Mum and I did not do well co-ordinating our interest in talking about the facts of life, but when I was a teenager she did manage to get across some helpful advice about drugs.
Sport was another puzzle. Radio commentary on a rugby game with the legendary Morrinsville All Black Don Clark playing caused me to break one of Mum's knitting needles in the excitement, but I did not know what to do when given a football. Whatever skills I had had little to do with sport and when people picked their own teams at school I was usually, with good reason, the last to be selected.
Morrinsville was a railway junction which gave it an importance in the middle of the peat lands of the Hauraki Plains that I never quite understood. One of the tracks went to the mysterious end of the line at Taneatua. In the other direction they went across the Waikato River across the main street and through Hamilton to the junction with the main trunk line at Frankton. The rails at the station were shiny and well used and on a still day the sounds carried across town.
Having the Morris 12 meant we could travel in the evenings to Anne and Robbie's at Mangateparu. As well as their hospitality, wisdom, and patience I remember the smell of weeds burning in the garden, the treat of films that Robbie as local headmaster could show on a Bell and Howell projector at the school next door to the school house where they lived, and the wonders of a typewriter I coveted from the moment I saw it.
I remember earlier being puzzled by my mother's anger when I turned off the kitchen light with a plastic trumpet that was wet - she feared the electricity. But etched in my mind is the day she bought me some books on science which pointed to an exciting world I had to explore. An electrician across the road provided old switch gear for me to dismantle. My grandmother could be persuaded to buy me rails for my model train. Mr Ogram in the house behind built boats and told me my childhood would be the best days of my life. Mr Dickinson another neighbour gave me a fishing line for Christmas and taught me that "A drop of oil in the right place is worth a gallon in the wrong." Among the Dickinson treasures was an Edison phonograph and a set of mah-jong. Doug's workshop at the farm was a source of endless mechanical mysteries and I wished we could afford a motor mower instead of the hand one I did not have the strength to push through the paspalum. Somehow I set up chemistry experiments in the front room and did dramatic things with bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, potassium permanganate and copper sulphate. Not for the last time I had no idea what I was doing.
Holidays with my mother were always somewhat unpredictable as planning would have taken away the excitement of not knowing exactly where you might wind up. She was good at conversation as we drove, though her oft-repeated intention to leave money in her will to remove possums run over by cars seemed alarmingly plausible.
We visited Rotorua and frequently to Auckland with Cathie Sale and Betty Mansell, Mum's friends from their teenage years. Ian Mansell and Catherine and Ritchie Sale and I were of a similar age and a natural fit for the hazards of childhood adventures at the beach at St Heliers and at their family bach at Manly north across the ferry by harbour to Devonport or Birkenhead.
A year in England
Sometime in 1956 Mum indicated that we might be going on a ship to England as she had applied to be an overseas exchange teacher. The Presbyterian minister Lloyd Wilkerson gave me a Book of Common Prayer because church would be different in England. The Rangitata left from Wellington and we travelled down on the overnight train from Frankton with luggage cases, some labelled "not wanted on voyage." The first ten days were a blur of sea-sickness and dry crackers but music played as Pitcairn Island came into view in the middle of the Pacific. After stopping alongside and buying a wooden flying fish, and some nights when the boat made little progress but strange bangs could be heard coming from the engine room, we made our way to Panama and its fascinating locks. The weather grew warm. Someone ran a Sunday school. Films were shown and again the noise and mechanism of the celluloid in the sprockets fascinated me.
Curacao was a brief port of call and then days crossing the Atlantic and a stormy Christmas Eve singing Silent Night as the furniture slid back and forth and we crossed the Bay of Biscay into the fog of the English Channel and berthed in Southampton. It was emotional leaving the ship, collecting our luggage and catching the train for London.
We were headed for Haywards Heath in the centre of Sussex on the line where green squat trains ran from Victoria Station south to Brighton. Mum was at St Wilfred's I was sent with my strange New Zealand accent to face questions about what language they really spoke in New Zealand to attend the Secondary Modern School. I struggled with Latin and French, with making progress at woodwork, and in connecting with others of my age. A school trip to Ghent in Belgium was a highlight, and Mum somehow got me to a scout group and to a Jamboree where I saw Lady Baden-Powell went to a Gang Show and was taken to a church service where the story of the widow's mite made a deep impression. Cathie Sale and her mother visited from New Zealand and I was entrusted with travelling up to Victoria by myself to meet them.
Somehow there was time to get away at weekends, to stay in London in a hotel in Russell Street when the coal smog was still strong in the mornings, feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, visit New Zealand House in the Strand and go on memorable excursions to Stoke Poges, Christ's College, Milton's House, and Oxford where we stayed in New College and I climbed Tom Tower and took a photo I was inordinately proud of. She even took me to an air show. We went to at least one play in London. I frightened Mum by my fascination with escalators and tube trains, and bought army surplus telephone gear from magical shops in Tottenham Court Road.
Other trips together further afield took us to Amsterdam to see the tulips, dykes, cheeses, art, windmills and bicycles and also several times to stay with Aunt Eliza in Plymouth where bombed out ends of buildings provided stark evidence of the war and stories were told of Drake and Plymouth Hoe. Mum's father had migrated at age 16 from Bere Feeres not far inland. It was at nearby Dartmoor among the wild ponies that relatives camped overnight as the bombs fell in World War II.
When we arrived Aunt Eliza was still mowing her own lawns at 39 Beaconsfield Road at age 82. I stayed with her over the summer while Mum and Cathie and Mrs Jackson went on a tour of Europe. The train ride from London to Devon and Cornwall through Salisbury Plain and the view of the White Horse on the chalk hills stays with me. Our longest trip was north to Edinburgh and Aberdeen for a weekend with people who had been on the boat. Nearly 20 years later I would unexpectedly return and recognize from the steps going up from the station that I had been there before.
Our trip back to New Zealand was on the Orsova from Tilbury. I had acquired an electric train. A mail order collection of the parts for a multi-meter met me on board and we sailed uneventfully for Australia through the Mediterranean, Naples to visit Pompeii, Suez newly opened after the crisis, Yemen where sheep and goats and poverty seemed unchanged for centres, Colombo where people washed clothes in a river and when you touched the leaves of a plant they folded shut, Freemantle, Adelaide and Sydney. After a few days in Wollongong we crossed the Tasman and stayed at Vale Road with Cathie and Darwin, Ritchie and Catherine and met up again with Laurie and Betty and Ian. I was taken, crying in my confusion, to board at St Kentigern College. Ian Mansell would be in the same class as a day boy, but though enriched more than I then realised by all the experiences of travelling round the world, I felt dreadfully alone and again my accent would be strange.
St Kentigern College
St Kentigern College under the leadership of Adam MacFarlan has deservedly become the stuff of legend. Adolescence is seldom a straightforward era in life and I was no exception, but there was plenty of humour and adventure and not a little irony. Mum realised that whatever the cost - I still don' t know how she managed to pay the fees in the days before equal pay for women - going to St Kentigern's was going to be important for my survival in life. It fitted her commitment to education, her interest in the Scottish and Presbyterian parts of her heritage, and her willingness to do what she believed to be right. As in effect a solo mother with an only son she had gone out of her way to ensure I was part of other families, was connected to good role models, and somehow prepared for a tough world. I did better in some respects than others.
Bruce House at St Kentigerns is still situated on a magnificent site overlooking the College in Pakuranga on the Howick Road and across the Tamiki Estuary to Mt Wellington and Rangitoto dimly in the distant. The food was good and my fitness improved though I remained a dunce at gymn, running and sports. I enjoyed swimming though had neither the physique or the speed that most boys, many of them farmers sons had - all of whom seemed more informed about life than I.
There were a few shocks to the system. In the dining room we were served by the table head, and my first experience was of a senior boy with the motto "Those who ask don't get and those who don't ask obviously don't want so they don't get either." We were accommodated 12 to a dorm, taught what drawers to use for socks and underwear and how to do "hospital corners" making our beds - quite comfortable firm rubber mattresses on a diminishing number of slats - casualties of boisterous activity.
Evenings were homework in the dining room, prayers often led by Adam MacFarlan, supper and an early lights out followed by the entertainment of who was getting caned for sundry misdemeanours. We woke to bagpipes in the middle of the quad calling us to get out of bed and walk around the quad in whatever state and head for the communal showers which were only occasionally cold. It was indeed educational.
Mum would have loved me to have learnt the bagpipes, but however much I too could be stirred by them I remained a disappointment to her in refusing to engage with that side of Scottish culture. There were other missed opportunities. I regret not learning to sail a P class yacht, though there was ample opportunity and Darwin Sale had been keen to encourage me. If I had got the hang of what was involved in training for sport I might have been less worse than I was, but my world became the lights and sound of the stage in the newly-built Elliot Hall after a time as a lab monitor when I got dramatically dismissed for using a flame for testing for a gas leak on the lpg bottle. It was possible to be pretty stupid.
The layout of the road leading into Bruce House lent itself to go-cart racing but the first time I tried it I froze and was pushed into a hedge. There was a workshop at Bruce House where I endlessly made things, collecting screws and bits an pieces in an old school lunch tin which I kept for nearly 50 years. I still have some of the contents. I worked on building radio gear and sometimes succeeded. Gradually I learnt how to fix things, but some of my adventures with electricity were on the dangerous side and I got a few shocks along the way. I greatly under-estimated the time and effort needed for doing things properly.
Often at weekends Mum drove up from Hamilton where she was flatting while she taught at Fairfield near where Anne and Robbie were now living and like other boarders I could go on weekend leave. The hospitality of Cathie and Darwin was extraordinary. They drove out from St Heliers through Panmure to pick me up in their A40 weekend after weekend. We went on drives to West Coast beaches and to movies at the Civic or more often at Mission Bay. Darwin went to the races at Avondale and Ellerslie, and the excitement of the race course, the hooves on the turf, the pace of the commentary and the echo of Tannoy speakers, is something I never forgot.
Some of these memories were of Te Aroha where Cathie Sale's cousin lived on the side of the mountain and threw nothing away. I later learnt that Cathy, Darwin, and my mother had won the double in the early 1950s. On the side of the range running north from Mt Te Aroha we went blackberry picking and looking for gold. It is still an ambition to one day climb the mountain.
Holidays took me to stay with Mum in Hamilton at times, but there were also long periods back at the farm staying with Nanny and Doug. I had odd jobs like painting the garage roof and myself. Getting Doug's help making a go cart on less than sound engineering principles, perhaps taught me something as did reading his endless supply of war stories, listening to loud pop music in his rather smart new Zephyr 6. and keeping away from the cows.
I did not completely stay out of trouble. For years I was convinced I was innocent of turning on the pump to the pressure hose using for mucking out after it had tripped off causing Doug to be soaked, but I must have done it - a trip switch cannot come back on by itself. I was also holding an oxy-acetylene torch when it burnt the back of farm worker Doug Hosking's hand. Nothing was said, but it is now hard to see that that was not the result of my carelessness.
I was allowed to drive the David Brown tractor during haymaking, but had difficulty with the sudden take-up of the clutch losing a trailer-load of hay bales off the trailer as I jerked forward. I should not have been surprised Mum did not believe it wasn't my fault when a fitting broke on Jim Cornwall's tractor while I was turning a field for him on the farm next door. Jim was more understanding.
Academically at St Kentigern I was erratic, oscillating between the bottom of the A stream and somewhere in the B. My reports are painful to look back on with comments about frittering away my time as the fifth form and school certificate loomed. I marginally passed over-all which not everybody did. There seemed to be a lesson that I was smarter than some, but a bit all over the place. Many less able academically appeared more together about life. Some teachers, particularly Phil Barrowclough, encouraged my electrical interests.
Weekends when we were not away there were films and I learnt to use the projector and cope with the goans and howls when the film broke - seemingly always at the most tense part of the movie. On Sundays we were bused through what was still farmland to the old Presbyterian Church in Howick where boarders filled the pews, Adam preached on the prodigal son who went from being sick of home to being home sick and we were encouraged to put 6d of our weekly allowance in the plate. One boarder on home leave was killed in a tractor accident and a card from his parents on the notice board in the quad carried the text from Job "The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."
Sometime while I was at St Kentigern Doug bought out Mum's share of the farm and she purchased a house in Dinsdale on the West of Hamilton (she still had Park Street but it was tenanted). It was a flat section on a concrete pad with a garden, a smaller chook house than we had had in Morrinsville, and a view on a fine day of Mt Ngauruhoe and the snow of National Park in the distance. The nearer mountain was Pirongia and not far along the road was the Mormon Temple. Mum expected me to be able to chop the head of a chook without training and I let it go to see it fly headless around the garden. We at last had a motor mower for the lawns.
I am not sure I was ever forgiven for filling the wheelbarrow with Mum's piles of old magazines and newspapers and taking them down the drive for the rubbish. The attempted clean-out failed. I don't think it was until her eighties that Mum came to terms with throwing out newspapers in case they had recipes and some of her cuttings are still in boxes in our ceiling. Highlights of these years were Christmas dinners where Mum's ham and other cooking fed Anne and Robbie and their extended family. Here too she had talent.
Like many secondary schools in the early 1960s St Kentigern embarked on an annual series of Gilbert and Sullivan productions, the Pirates of Penzance staring boy sopranos fitted out without embarrassment with bras and tennis balls. I grew adept at climbing into the flys above the stage and into the ceiling to adjust lighting and sort out special effects, making use of the basic Strand dimmers which were all the school could afford. I had my first experience of Chinese opera and real Chinese food by accompanying the loan of some of our gear to the Chinese community in Auckland. My Fair Lady came to Auckland and I discovered the magic of His Majesty's Theatre off Queen Street.
My last years at St Kents had their challenges, but also some happy memories. We were allowed greater freedom to go into town on the Howick buses, though missing the last one back from lower Queen Street meant walking 10 miles back to school in the middle of a clear night. Another time with someone else we got a taxi but did not have enough money for the distance. The Maori driver took us home to Bruce House anyway with the comment "A Maori will never let you down." It was perhaps especially good his taking us well on the way to Howick where we were told no Maori would live because of its origins as a military garrison during the land wars.
On a couple of school holidays I worked with the Forestry at Maramarua, but it was my friend Hamish not me who took up a career in silviculture. Interestingly he also did further study at Aberdeen and developed his French as a hobby as I was later to do.
A careers exhibition introduced the possibility of engineering as a career. It seemed a logical choice and the New Zealand Post Office offered generous scholarships. I was so excited at getting one I did not know what to do with myself and went to the pictures only to come out half way through to try and process it all. Some dreams were coming true.
Engineering Intermediate was four papers, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Additional Maths. Add Maths was in the afternoons when in the back rows of lecture theatres in Princes Street it was impossible to stay awake and I was lucky to pass. I had done abysmally at chemistry in my last year at school and the teacher said I should not do more than 2 subjects. Inspired by brilliant lecturers who competed with their dramatic experiments it became my best subject and I managed to pass all four.
I boarded in Mt Eden and later in the year had the use of Mum's car after she went on a Fulbright teachers exchange in New York. I got to St David's Khyber Pass on Sunday evenings occasionally - having been baptised and confirmed at school by Adam MacFarlan, but it was only at the end of the year that I met anyone. I had been intrigued by Student Christian Movement publicity at the start of the year but it was enough to try and get through the papers. I enjoyed the capping show but student life seemed to be for people who knew what was going on in a way that escaped me.
In the summer the Post Office allocated its bursars to practical experience and a number of us were sent to the Naval Workshops in Devonport where our bags were searched coming and going from the Blue Boats across the harbour and my camera was never discovered. When the dry dock was pumped out people had free fish. In the Machine Shop was a range of machines we were expected to know how to use without instruction, but often enough there was nothing to do and we could borrow a bicycle and tour the dockyards freely - so long as we looked busy. It was said that if you had a clip-board in your hand you could go anywhere.
School of Engineering Ardmore
Ardmore was also the stuff of legend and I could not wait. After the war the Engineering School had been located in old Air Force buildings on the side of Ardmore Aerodrome a few miles from the Papakura Army Camp south of Auckland. Somewhere in the blocks of land between there and Howick was the farm where Mum and I had once visited Bill's brother Harry.
Next door to the old war-time huts that formed the accommodation blocks, library and offices was the much larger Teacher's College where Mum's cousin Terry Robertson had once trained and was reputed to have constructed the small golf course. Our lecture theatres and labs were in decrepit aircraft hangars. There were bits of old aircraft wings and parts lying around and unused engines in crates among the hay on the surrounding farm land. A top-dressing DC3 took off most mornings not unlike the bagpipes at St Kentigerns. Small planes came and went at all hours. There was part of a race track which those with cars could use freely. Eventually I bought an old Austin 7. It sported a shower curtain for a roof and a sign below the rear window: "Keep Death Off the Roads: Drive on the Footpaths."
The several hundred young men created a sense of community whose influence is still felt including through the Faculty of Engineering now relocated back in the town campus. It was pretty rough - skittles with beer bottles covered the corridors with glass at night. Popular TV programmes and annual talks on sex filled the lounge to capacity. A droll humour prevailed. Every year the annual meeting revisited an incident from before my time and revised the official account of whether someone was pushed out a window during the course of the meeting or whether they fell.
Every year plans were made for elaborate April Fools pranks which succeeded in tying up chunks of Auckland Roads. An army of engineering students with a mind to do anything was a wonder to behold. We were the inventors of the Nippon Clippon extensions to the Auckland Harbour Bridge which was assembled out of bamboo and installed on the night of the 31st March one year. Another year we diverted Remuera traffic into the back garden of Councillor Passmore. Someone reported to the paper that they realised we were not city council workmen when he saw us taking Councillor Passmore's gate of its hinges. One year Anne Robertson reported to Mum that her boy had been naughty again.
One did not have to be part of the group that spent Wednesday afternoons at the Clevedon pub and usually managed to drive home, or those who competed on unfair terms for the affections of Teacher's College Students who were several years younger, to benefit from the extraordinary cohension of the community life. There was ability, leadership and the tools at hand to do anything. It was a heady and perhaps dangerous sense that engineers could make or do practically anything they wanted. This included busing into Princes Street and disrupting Student AGMs. Unwelcome and sometimes even welcome visitors to Ardmore could easily find their car lifted up on 44 gallon drums with little effort other than a collective will to make things happen.
Some of the tools at hands were dangerous to say the least. Lamb House where we stayed was named after the post-War professor who once livened up the 5 November with real explosives. The tradition lingered. Cordite was used to mark out the sports field in record time. Random bangs and broken windows cost people serious fines, but when the engineers tapped into the Teacher's College PA system to play music in the middle of the night and the only way the TC administration could deal with it was to go round and cut all the wires it seemed worth the complaints that came our way.
When the Governor General Bernard Ferguson came to visit College we attempted to capture him, even following his car out from Government House in a plane. That failed, but the certificate of honorary membership in the Engineers Society whose motto was "Lager Lust and LSD" - in the pre-decimal days when LSD meant pounds shillings and pence - fell into my hands. I joined the queue of officials saying farewell as Sir Bernard Ferguson left the Teachers College and handed him the certificate as he got into his car and drove away. It was in 1977 that I saw him again at close quarters during a Church of Scotland General Assembly in Edinburgh. I thought better of telling him about a previous time we had met, but the thought crossed my mind.
My first year at Ardmore was not an academic success and I failed several papers. Othewise it was a good year, including getting involved with the Christian group, the Engineers Christian Fellowship and joining those who took the church bus on Sunday to First Church Papakura where Graham Miller was at his peak of teaching ministry. As he worked through the book of Romans, things changed. Whatever had been laid down in Sunday School in Morrinsville, at that service at the Scout Jamboree in England, and through Adam MacFarlan's preaching and confirmation, now became real in a way that took me by surprise. Like many converts I saw only the impact of the message of the present and undervalued earlier influences and the importance of other Christian traditions. It was a time of joy if one still with its own confusions. I was helped by fellow students to whom I owe an enormous debt. If I became enthusastically committed and devoured literature and was for a time taken in confident argument, I also came to realise the dangers of polemics and better appreciate the diversity of Christian ideas.
Failing the exams in my first year was difficult, and it meant two years of part-time study while I worked at the Papakura Engineers Office of the Post Office where one of the leaders at First Church was on the staff. I rolled Mum's car on a car rally that neither she or the insurance company ever heard about and that was not good either. It was still drivable but it was off the road for months getting repaired and I made good use of an old bicycle. In the holidays I got to know Columbo Plan students from Sabah who shared their cooking and their despair at what New Zealanders did to rice. The flavour of how it ought to be done connected with the experience with the Chinese Opera and looked forward to other experiences to come.
The ECF became a big part of my life and introduced me to a range of Christian experience and expression I had not imagined. I began to realise some of my judgements on what had gone before had been hasty, but impulsive thinking was not easy to grow out of. Although Evangelical and linked to the Evangelical Union in at the main campus the Engineers Christian Fellowship was broader, and certainly more intellectual, than the group I could easily have fallen in with as I got my bearings. Weekend housepartys at campsites around Auckland and then annual IVF conferences became hugely important. I did one summer get to a Keswick Convention at Rotorua where Graham Miller was speaking and it was the occasion of a fresh commitment, but it was Inter Varsity Fellowship that more fully set the direction of engagement with the questions of life and faith that I wanted to follow. It also came to provide me with my early experiences of working in groups and finding myself in a secretarial role. Buying a typewriter had been an early objective when I started university. It was hardly needed for student assignments, but getting the hang of touch typing was one skill I succeeded in eventually mastering and putting to some use.
I think it was in 1966 that at one weekend at Hunua, not that far from Ardmore, that I set eyes on one of two sisters in the Auckland Evangelical Union. The French refer to a coup de foudre, but after some initial mutual interest it seemed as if it was not a relationship which was going to develop afterall. I still remember the day at Ardmore sitting on the steps in the sun when I accepted the situation yet had an unexpected sense of peace about letting it go.
In 1967 I got through my final exams including a week long paper designing a large electrical transformer. In my final year I also designed and built a Fourier Sine Series Synthesiser using some of the first integrated circuits, the predecessors of modern computer chips. I like others benefitted from the broad engineering curriculum which included structural and mechanical engineering and fluids as well as my own area of light current electrical. Some people learnt Fortran and punched cards for the University IBM computer, but computing was beyond my reach. Many students worked on their own cars and I stripped and rebuilt the engine of the Austin Seven, failing only to tighten one gudgen pin. This set the engine on a journey of slow destruction following an ominous bang somewhere near Te Kauwhata coming back from Hamilton. The car got me back to Ardmore that one last time but I was car-less again. I passed my exams and the Post Office sent me down to Dunedin where Mum was now living and I found myself trying to adjust to being home again after the years of independence.