Tag Archives: youth

1700. The hand we’re dealt

Look at that! 1700 is a round number if ever there was one! Usually for such a significant number I deviate into some true narrative or other. This time I’ve hit a complete blank. I don’t believe in “writer’s block” but I must admit that these last ten or so postings have been like trying to get blood out of a stone. I wanted to get to Story 1700 before Christmas and then have some time off until sometime in the New Year. And so I’ve drawn a blank. Let me think…

Well I’ve thought of something… but I don’t know if I should chat about it or not. Counting up it happened 33 years ago!

The photo incidentally is not of what I am going to talk about – it’s of another group unknown to me, but it gives the general drift.

I dare say those involved have long since moved on. I was teaching Music and English at St John’s High School in Hastings, New Zealand. Hastings had a pretty “varied” population. St John’s High School was a boys-only school and the only High School in the city that would accept students who had been expelled from other schools and couldn’t find another school to attend. That’s how I ended up teaching a class of 24, 14 of whom had a “history”. They were all aged 14. Montzie, for example, had a criminal record since the age of six.

The school didn’t have a great number of resources. My classroom was an old shed set apart from all other classrooms and in the middle of a field. We called the shed “The Shack”. The record player and all the stuff for music were in The Shack. The trouble was: The Shack couldn’t be locked. I told the class that if anything was ever stolen from this shack I’d “have their guts for garters”. (I also had to explain what garters were).

“Don’t worry,” they said, “we’d never steal from you.” We were the only school Music Department in the whole city that hadn’t had all its electronic equipment go missing. And then it happened. One night, the classroom was stripped. The policeman was very nice about it. He took notes and said he’d keep an eye out. That wasn’t good enough for Montzie and friends. Did not the policeman want to know the names of those who took the stuff? Did not the policeman want to know the place in the city where these thieves stored their stolen goods? The policeman was kind of stunned!

With such information it still took six months for the police to act. In the meantime insurance paid for new equipment and when our goods were returned we had two of everything. And Reuben, a master of the “five-finger discount”, would most days bring five or six long-playing records that he’d “got from the shops during lunch break” to replace the records stolen. I explained it was wrong. It was above his comprehension. He was helping out. (And I might add that not even the shops wanted to know because the packaging had been removed).

Many other things happened during the year which can wait another time, except to say I am a master pickpocketer; for they passed on skills you wouldn’t believe. I was never party to their activity, but they were surviving in the only world they knew.

The highlight came when I was selected (because I was pretty good at it) to represent New Zealand at an International Youth Theatre Festival – with theatre performances from Germany, England, India, South Korea, Australia, United States and New Zealand. It was inordinately expensive to get a theatre team to the festival and to survive a week. That is when I started to write little musicals for elementary schools and market them. Within two easy weeks, we had enough money to travel. I suggested we do a performance about New Zealand’s many endangered species. And would you believe? The class wanted to dance it, and from all the five-finger discount stolen records to dance to they chose extracts from Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé”. At least I’d taught them something!

It was street-dancing. They did the choreography themselves. It was an outstanding hit! The boys were so well behaved and more charming than I could believe. At the end of the performance the audience didn’t clap; they stood and sang a song they all knew. It was very moving. The newspaper reviews were stunning.

I dare say these kids would be heading for their mid-forties now. Those who aren’t dead are possibly in prison. I know a couple have done murders and some are destroyed by drugs. A teacher can’t keep in touch with everyone.

But they were one of the nicest and most talented group of kids I’ve ever taught. A pity they weren’t dealt much of a hand.

(A Happy Christmas and New Year to all! See you some time in 2020!)

1686. A rose in name

What a delightful person Rose was. She would brighten any room; any company. Her laughter tinkled like crystal bells that caught and reflected sunlight. Her smile was wonderful but her lips merely reflected the gaiety in her eyes. Her hair hung down in natural ringlets. No need to flat wrap her hair with a curling iron; Nature did it for her.

People said it was all in the name; Rose in name, Rose in nature.

All that was years ago. These days she has thin lips and a slightly pointy nose. Her laughter is like the cackling of a witch. As Ms Angelina Bright from down the road declared, “Her straight grey hair is best covered by a pointy hat.”

People said it was all in the name; Rose in name, prickly in nature.

1588. Saplings

Let me tell you how proud I am of my son. Now that I’m older and he’s independent I couldn’t be happier knowing that he was brought up right. Micky is his name. When he was younger there was nothing I taught him that he didn’t pick up straight away like he was a natural. And he was obedient. I only had to say once “Do this” and he’d do it. I rarely had to belt him for not doing things right. Spare the rod, spoil the child, as the saying goes.

You get a kid when he’s young enough and they’re flexible. It’s like a sapling tree. It bends and you can train it to grow in any direction. But once the tree is older there’s no bending it. It’s fixed in its ways.

Well I’m happy to say my son is now old enough for the habits instilled in him earlier to become permanent. And that’s why I tell you that I am proud of him. Sometimes you get things right. These days I don’t need to tell him what house to burgle or how to go about breaking in. He’s a natural. Train a kid early enough and they’ll look after you come what may.

1455. The song of the skylarks

Mrs Drogmire (everyone knew her as Dear Mrs Drogmire for no one knew her first name) lived alone in a cottage somewhere in the country. She had lived there since her husband died almost fifty years ago. For the last twenty years she had retired from her work with the Manufacturing Association where she developed flame resistant fabric for furniture and vehicles.

These days she read, gardened and knitted. Her husband had passed on before they had even thought of starting a family. But who needs grandchildren to fill in a busy day?

The country thing that Dear Mrs Drogmire loved the most was the skylarks. Their singing, high in the sky, brought a great deal of joy to her summers. These days, with her slightly fading eyesight, she could rarely pick them out in the bright sky, but her hearing was still acute, and their singing was as if made for heaven. She would sit in a chair outside with a good book and a cup of tea, and the skylarks turned life to bliss.

And then two youths came by with their slug guns and started firing at the singing skylarks.

“What are you doing?” asked Dear Mrs Drogmire.

“We’re practising,” they said. “These skylarks are good target.”

“Don’t shoot my skylarks,” said Dear Mrs Drogmire.

“Why don’t you go drown yourself, old lady?” said the youths getting in their old truck and driving off.

They came back the following week. Leaving their truck the youths walked up the road and into a field. They started shooting the skylarks again. Suddenly their truck burst into flame. It was a gigantic explosion. Bits of truck flew into the air all over the place.

“What happened? What happened?” exclaimed Dear Mrs Drogmire dashing out of her house. “Thank goodness you weren’t in the vehicle when it overheated.”

“The cause of the explosion is unknown to us,” said the visiting policeman. “Not even the sweet little old lady who lives nearby saw a thing.”

1432. Rampant teens

Percy Ellis and Gilbert Eichstaedt were two sixteen year olds who had let their hormones go rampant. In the area was a tower that enabled cell phone coverage for the forty or so houses in the rural valley that couldn’t connect to the phone satellite. The tower relayed a connection. The locals relied on the tower for communication with the outside world both for internet and phone.

Percy and Gilbert got in a jeep, and driving up a bumpy farm track reached the tower. They were messing around and then Percy cut some wires on the tower “because they were there” and the forty or so houses were plunged into no coverage.

Mr Eddie Edwards lived in a farm house near the tower. It was a good thirty minute stroll to the tower. He set out on foot, for it was a lovely day, to see why there was no coverage. When he reached the tower he saw the cut wires. Then he heard voices calling for help.

Percy and Gilbert had driven their jeep over a bank and the vehicle was perched precariously on the edge of a cliff, rocking, with the two inside.

“Help! Help! Phone for help!” they cried when they saw Mr Eddie Edwards looking down from the top of the bank.

Mr Eddie Edwards strolled the thirty minute walk back to his house. He put on the kettle to make a nice cup of tea.

1402. A disappointment

My daughter wants to become a nun. A bloody nun. I said to her why don’t you go get yourself pregnant like other girls your age and give me some grandkids. Mess around a bit, I said. Live it up a bit. I thought once she got into the business of playing around with the guys in the pub she’d change her mind. But she said she wants to become a nun.

I don’t know what’s got into the modern generation. Kids these days are so disappointing.

Poem 74: From the top of the hill on Good Friday

(This poem continues my decision this month to post poems I wrote fifty plus years ago – this week’s poem was written around about when I was 17.)

The hills cringed green, blood-green.
They were thorn-throbbed, twisted; silent down a
Crumpled valley, torn green to the sea
Where two ships lay silvered and
Waiting for another. And on,
On where the ocean turned with the sky
Clouds jarred to royal purple with the mountains.
The air too choked thin and weak as the
Sun sank crippled at three o’clock.

Is there something here which does not pass?
Answer!
Is there something here which does not pass?
Is there nothing still?

I went down the hill and
Wrote what past I had before it fled.

Poem 73: Aunty Rene

(This poem continues my decision this month to post poems I wrote fifty plus years ago – this week’s poem was written around about when I was 15!)

My aunty died about thirteen years ago.
For thirteen years she has not known the
warm sun and pale breeze I now feel.
She has not known the thirteen
evenings, the afternoons, the blackbird peace and
childhood memories that swing around every spring.
As a spinster, she has no one to love her after death,
no one to be remembered by, and
not much to be remembered for.
She was just an ordinary aunty.

And I thought of all the ordinary people
who mean nothing;
whose names do not lie hidden
even in buried archives.
I thought of all these people,
once so wonderful, so friendly,
and now indifferently forgotten…

Oh what is life? and what is life? and life?…
My aunty never died,
she has only been forgotten.

Feel the warm sun and pale breeze,
Sing to the universe,
Tomorrow you may feel no more.
Tomorrow –
Tomorrow you may feel no more.

If the above link doesn’t play, then try clicking HERE!

Poem 72: I’m on fringe of stupidity

(For the weekly poems in this month of April, I thought I would “dredge up” some poems from my youth and foist them on an unsuspecting audience… knowing they don’t have to read if they so wish. Today’s poem was written when I was fourteen – so that’s 54 years ago! I post these poems, not to show how clever I once thought myself to be, but simply to get a break these days from trying to write a poem each week. In my teens I wrote a lot of poems and once showed one to a “famous” poet who suggested I was wasting my time – so I stopped writing poems for fifty years!)

I’m on fringe of stupidity –
Who care? I don’t.
I see silly scarecrow
bending, scrounging in rubbish tin.
Who care? I don’t –
I’m on fringe of stupidity.

I do silly dance,
shout at someone, attract attention,
then feel silly, wish I hadn’t done it.
Who care? I don’t –
I’m on fringe of stupidity.

Jump, Jump, Jump.
I done that.
Gotta do somethin’,
anythin’ – that good as anythin’,
I’m good as anythin’
dung good as anythin’
god good as anythin’.
Who care? What anythin’?
Who care?
I don’t
dung don’t
god don’t
nothing care if
I’m on fringe of stupidity.

Jump, Jump, Jump.
Who care?
Who care anythin’?
Who care anythin’ anyway?
Who care?
Who care?
Who care?

1086. Justice is served

It wasn’t just depressing; it was downright infuriating. Nick had been stopped for speeding, and THE COP WAS YOUNGER THAN HE WAS.

You know you’re getting old when the cop who stops you for speeding is younger than you are. There was a time when Nick was always younger than the cop. He would always say, sorry officer, it must be youthful enthusiasm; I won’t do it again. The old cop would let him off with a warning. But now THE COP WAS YOUNGER THAN HE WAS. These days he was never let off with a warning.

Nick took the cop to court. Nick was a top class lawyer. He knew the law and how to manipulate it. He made sure that the upstart wasn’t going to be stopping him again. The cop’s looking for another job if you’ve got a vacancy.