Monthly Archives: March 2008

To continue:

We lived in Auckland for another twenty-one years after we got married. We lived with Ruth’s Mother for a little while, and later got a state house in Otara. We were there for two years then had a succession of rented homes, firstly in Ponsonby, then in Mount Eden. We purchased our first home in 1970 [I think] in Arthur Street in Onehunga and we lived there for fifteen years. I worked for Goodyear Tyres in Newmarket, then General Tyre Service in Onehunga and later for Arthur Yates and Co in Te Papapa.

In 1986 Ruth and I decided that we should move, so, quitting our jobs we sold the house and most of our stuff and moved to Christchurch. That was the hardest thing that I have ever done, becaue it broke our little family up for ever. Cathryn by this time was living in Wellington, and Louise, who was starting at Auckland University, went to live with Ruth’s Mother in Epsom. We drove down to Christchurch and bought a little cottage in Barbadoes Street and we are still here after more that twenty-one years. I work for the City Council at Town Crier, in which position I have been employed since 1989, and Ruth works in an office just off Cathedral Square. We can both walk into work in about ten minutes. Both our daughters now live in England an both of them seem to be digging their way deeper and deeper into the social fabric. They may return to New Zealand, but each passing year makes it less likely.

My parents and my sister Judith all died years ago, as did Ruth’s parents and her brother, and junior members of the family have dispersed across the face of the planet. I have a nephew and three great-nephews in Nelson, a cousin in Blenheim and another one in Cambridge in the North Island. I am not close to any of them, so essentially it is just Ruth and I and Molly the Cat.

 And that is my life to date, sixty years encapsulated in a few hundred words. It does not really do it justice, but that is all for now. I may add a bit more at some other time, or I may not. After all, this blog is not really about me, but the Calion Islands.

How rude of me.

I am sorry. Here have I been rattling on about my book and the world from whence it came, and I have not even introduced myself. My name is Stephen Victor Symons, and I was born in 1948 in Chase Side, Enfield, in the County of Middlesex. It is now part of Greater London. My Father, Victor, was a Fireman, and my Mother, Beryl, was a Chiropodist. When I was three my Father left the Fire Brigade to work for Whitbread’s Brewery in London, so we had to move because we had been living in a Fire Brigade house.

We moved to Waltham Cross, and in 1956 we emigrated to New Zealand. It was my Mother’s idea to move. She could not cope with being just another member of the family, so she got us all away from the rest of the family permanently. By ‘us’ I mean myself, my parents and my older sister Judith. We sailed from Liverpool on the SS Mataroa, one of the last of the purpose-built immigrant ships, and arrived in Auckland in the September.

We were immediately sent to Golden Downs State Forest in the back blocks of Nelson in the South Island. We had come on assisted passage – the ten-pound-poms as we were called much later – which meant that my Father was indentured to the Government for two years. As a tradesman motor mechanic his skills were much in demand, and he worked in the Forestry Service garage. Judith and I went to Tapawera District High School. As soon as the two years were up, we moved to Murupara, near Rotorua in the North Island. Dad had found a job with the Kaiangaroa Logging Company, a private forestry company, doing much the same as he had done for the Government at Golden Downs but with a famcier title and about four times the pay. We were there for a year and while there I attended Rangitahi College.

We then moved to Auckland where Dad got a job as Transport Manager with New Zealand Breweries and I attended Mount Albert Grammar School. By this time I was twelve.

I attended MAGS for five years and hated every minute of it. I do not take easily to regimentation – although I thought I did at the time – and I got thoroughly fed up with the petty regulations, the silly uniforms, and the boring schoolmasters who tended to drone. I always did well at English, French, Latin and sometimes other subjects such as History and Geography, but little else. Arithmetic I did well, but algebra was complex nonsense and trigonometry a complete mystery. Biology was fascinating, but chemistry, physics and the rest of it left me cold. I hated school.

I left school with a very good liberal education, and a wide general knowledge, but not the slightest notion of what I might do in the real world nor any of the skills needed to do it. On my Mother’s insistence I decided to go to, of all places, Auckland Teachers’ Training College. That lasted two years and was a social success, but a vocational disaster. I left at the end of my second year and never returned.

While in my sixth form year at MAGS I met Ruth Gardner, who attended Epsom Girls’ Grammar School, our sister Institution. We got married in something of a rush the following year, on 9th October 1965. A lot of people said quietly that it would never last. Almost forty-five years down the track we have proved them all wrong. We had two daughters, Cathryn and Louise, the former in 1966, the latter nearly three years later.


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