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In which I invoke vicarious bragging rights. You totally would too. - Tactical Ninja

Jan. 22nd, 2013

09:32 am - In which I invoke vicarious bragging rights. You totally would too.

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Pretzel Class last night was completely different from the first one I went to, in that this one was focused mainly on making our hips flexible. My hips, apparently, are not very flexible. Owieowieowie! I can do quite a lot of pressups though, so it seems - so that's something.


Well, actually, 4 pictures of my Dad doing things other people's Dads probably don't do, and this one:



Proof that trying to pose staunchly for photographs is not a new phenomenon. This was taken at the North of England spearfishing contest in 1963, which according to the caption on the back, was held in Cornwall. Cornwall? That's um.. nowhere near the north of England. In fact, if you know your English geography, you'll know that you can't go much further south than Cornwall. I can only assume that there are no fish off the North East coast - or that going in the water there would kill you or something.

Anyway, I reckon that if they weren't wearing wetsuits and holding spears, that's make a pretty good indie band album cover. Maybe even with the wetsuits... anyway, Dad's on the right. He was 40 in that picture.

Skip forward 10 years and now we're in New Zealand. This is Dad at 50, releasing an albatross at Mt Maunganui, where he was head trainer at the Marineland:



This was a young albatross. Little known fact - even though albatrosses are capable of intercontinental flight, they do get tired, and more so when they are just starting out like this one was. It was sitting exhausted in the water off Tauranga, unable to take off. It was picked up by a fishing boat and brought to Dad, who basically fed it and gave it rest until it recovered, then let it go again. It was imaginatively named Alby, and we weren't allowed to do anything except watch Dad feed it because it was a wild animal and terrified of us.

We were allowed to give these ones fish - though not using this method:




This is a common fur seal like the ones you see all over the place on the coast round here. Dad worked with them and they'd put on a daily show where they'd balance balls on their noses, clap, do all the cliched seal things, and he'd feed them like this. Normal feeding involved a bucket of fish, which we would throw one by one into their enclosure and they'd do acrobatics catching them. I'm pretty sure my 4 year old throwing made them more agile than they would normally be, eh?

Dad liked getting things to jump out of the water:



This is Simon, a common dolphin. Marineland only had one dolphin, which is not how dolphins are supposed to live. Dad tried to make up for it by playing with Simon a lot and keeping him as entertained as possible, and of course there was the inevitable daily show of acrobatics.

Then there was this character:



Nelson was a leopard seal and we weren't allowed anywhere near him. You know how if you keep a bull or a ram on its own, it gets crankier as it gets older? Same with leopard seals, apparently. Dad could manage him but nobody else had anything to do with him, and as you can see, even Dad wasn't putting his face anywhere near that mouth. The writing on the back of the photo says "1/3 still in water." Um, yeah, Nelson was big.

[edit] I just recalled, Nelson came to Marineland through having been hit by a boat propellor. If you look closely you can see a white scar running down his jaw, and he'd also lost an eye - which is why he was called Nelson.

There was also a chimpanzee called Snoopy, who was Dad's favourite. If I can find some photos of him, I'll post them too. We weren't exactly allowed to play with Snoopy, but he was like a little person so was often out of his cage and wandering around with Dad, so we got to interact with him some. He had a show that involved the sort of things that you'd call exploitation these days - dressing himself, balancing on the handrail round the dolphin pool while Dad held his hand (chimps hate water btw), pretending to play cards, smoking. Yes, smoking. Remember, back then folks didn't really know how bad it is for you. It was for show too, it wasn't as if Snoopy was fagging it up out the back every five minutes.

This was all towards the end of Dad's career with animals. Shortly after these pictures were taken, Marineland came under new management, and the new manager was all about cost cutting. Unfortunately for the animals, this meant things like nutrition supplements (animals in captivity don't get the same varied diet that they do in the wild) and worm pills. Yes, sea mammals get internal parasites too. Simon died of them. I know this because when Dad autopsied him, I helped. Then Snoopy died because they stopped heating his cage in winter and he got pneumonia. Dad had some kind of altercation with the manager, and the next thing we knew he was working in a plywood factory down the road. At five I had no idea of the details, but later on we found out that Dad had basically gone head-to-head with the guy over the welfare of the animals, and refused to train or put on shows with them until their needs were met. The guy had refused, and Dad was given the choice to enable the neglect of the animals or to take a hike. He took the hike.


Marineland stumbled on for another three years until the Marine Mammal Protection Act caused it to peter out. It was replaced by Leisure Island, a water-based theme park. Dad's heart had gone out of the work, and he never worked with animals professionally again. He didn't ever stop training things to do tricks though, much to the frustration of the ladies at the pony club when my pony got bored standing around .... *ahem*

So when Dad wrote 'dolphin trainer' in his passport, he wasn't kidding. Somewhere, we have a home movie of him brushing the teeth of an orca. This is in England, before our move to NZ. Mum and Dad had all the old movies put on DVD in the 90s. If I can find them, I'll dig them out and put them up.

In other news, only 2 days to go before our trip to Australia! I am excited.

Comments:

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From:nick_101
Date:January 21st, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
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That sounds cool what your dad once did. It's too bad Marineland went the wrong direction with new management and stuff.

Australia sounds so exciting.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 21st, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
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Wow. Your Dad's superpower appears to be graffiti prevention. Also, that is a very sturdy looking bridge. Look at those straight lines and, um.. concrete.

Someone should climb up there and paint a dolphin on it.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 21st, 2013 11:23 pm (UTC)
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I do like that spiral footpath!

Also, my Dad set the bar for 'interesting' pretty high. I have yet to encounter a Dad that was more interesting than he was, tbh - if you're measuring 'interesting' by the sheer variety of "OMG I didn't know anyone actually did that" type activities they partook in, anyway.
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From:Will Marshall
Date:January 22nd, 2013 12:25 am (UTC)
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My dad is a SCIENTIST who goes to ANTARCTICA to EXPLORE and DO RESEARCH.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 22nd, 2013 12:48 am (UTC)
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Your Dad is also still alive!

However, MINE was a GLOBAL CETACEAN EXPERT who went to the ARCTIC CIRCLE to CATCH WHALES ALIVE and DO RESEARCH.

(actually your dad and mine are more or less the same person i think, only yours had a university education and mine ran off with a travelling choir at age 14)
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From:Will Marshall
Date:January 22nd, 2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
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My dad was less emotionally distant, I suspect.

My father used to wax lyrical about the time he spent as a youth doing menial labour. I do not understand him.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 22nd, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC)
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Menial labour is good for the soul. Not in the protestant work ethic kind of way, but in the way where your body is occupied and producing endorphins while your mind is completely free to churn through the clock paradox or whether antifreeze-bearing plants would have a use in keeping ice cream soft, or in my case, making up lengthy poems which I would then recite to their subjects during tea breaks. I'm sure they appreciated it.

Oddly enough, my Dad was more similar to you in the aversion to menial labour. If it wasn't to have adventures, he saw no point in 'stirring his stumps'.
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From:pixiebelle
Date:January 21st, 2013 09:32 pm (UTC)
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I would love to take classes to become more flexible. Pretzel class always sounds so interesting. I'm not very flexible now, but there's still hope? :)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 21st, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC)
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Well, I'm older than you and have spent a lot of time doing things that specifically make me not-flexible, so if I can get more flexible I reckon there's definitely hope for you. ;-)
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From:pixiebelle
Date:January 21st, 2013 10:39 pm (UTC)
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Any tips or suggestions? :)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 21st, 2013 10:54 pm (UTC)
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Well, last night Greer said that every time you do any kind of exercise, you should do these three stretches:

1.

2.

3.

I find that last one impossible, and my feet float up in the air somwhere. I'm told the deal is to pull your knees towards your head, keep your soles together and relax, and if you do it "like religion, or like you eat breakfast" then eventually your hips will get flexible.

There's loads of stuff on the internet about stretching too, but I reckon the most important thing is to be warmed up before you start.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:January 22nd, 2013 12:15 pm (UTC)
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Your feet go up in the third one? Ok, I need to try that. I think I can do the last two pretty well. That was why last year I told my doc I had a problem. I could do what Lady 2 is doing about as well, but going down further hurt in the hips. I mean, really bad. And the doc kept saying "you are really flexible - there's no need to worry" and I was like, yeah, but I could go a lot further and it just *HURTS* and that's not right". Lather, rinse, repeat.

I need to try 3. Really. Now. Where is a room where I can try that.... hmmmmm.
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From:morbid_curious
Date:January 21st, 2013 10:58 pm (UTC)
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This got me looking up my father online to see what, if anything, of his career had been recorded. Mostly it seems to be commenting on police matters:

Sergeant Brendon Thompson said the officer had spotted "some nasty people" in a stolen car in the area and given chase.
"Unfortunately he had to drive on the right side of the road - they weren't bothering," he said.
"We don't know what speed the stolen car was going at but they were going like stink. There was a car parked in the no-stopping zone and the patrol car had to go around it but came unstuck."
The stolen Subaru was almost involved in another accident while being driven at more than 100kmh along Ferry Road soon afterwards and was later found dumped at Eastgate Mall.


Some police officers are overly formal when dealing with the media or the courts. As you can see, Dad wasn't quite so encumbered :-) As much as Mum is the English teacher in the family, Dad's a good communicator in his own right, too.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 21st, 2013 11:10 pm (UTC)
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Hahaha "Going like stink" - I haven't heard that since I left Dargaville. ;-) And yeah, I thought the police were obliged to talk like that so their comments can't be misconstrued or something.

There's not a lot online about Dad, mostly because he was well retired by the time the internet became publicly available, but I did find this scan from 1965 which was about four beluga whales he was relocating to Quebec.

I have the documentation he kept for that and it's interesting reading because alongside the vet/science type records, he also kept records of the animals' psychological state and how he felt about the way they were doing things.
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From:morbid_curious
Date:January 22nd, 2013 10:52 am (UTC)
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Sweet! :-)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 22nd, 2013 12:48 am (UTC)
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<3 He was pretty awesome as Dads go!
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From:richaarde
Date:January 22nd, 2013 05:09 am (UTC)
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Interesting read, very cool.

I grew up with a dad who was perpetually fixing, rebuilding, and creating some sort of machinery or other in his garage. All sorts of yard work equipment, generators, etc. He has managed to amass quite the machine shop over the years, with a lathe, a drill press, a milling machine... Maybe not as exciting as sea creatures, but it was definitely more interesting than having a couch-potato dad that drank beer and watched football every day.

Edited at 2013-01-22 05:10 am (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 22nd, 2013 07:01 am (UTC)
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I reckon growing up with that kind of access to gadgetry and tools would be pretty awesome, eh?

This is turning into a bit of a Dad appreciation thread. I like that.
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From:tieke
Date:January 22nd, 2013 05:36 am (UTC)
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My Dad got to investigate UFO sightings.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 22nd, 2013 07:00 am (UTC)
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Your Dad was one of the Dads that popped into my head when I started thinking about other interesting Dads I knew. Gadget's Dad is pretty cool too. ;-)
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From:tieke
Date:January 22nd, 2013 09:13 am (UTC)
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The problem with investigating UFO sightings is that it doesn't matter what your findings, or how good the evidence is - the conspiracy theorists always win.
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From:meathiel
Date:January 22nd, 2013 08:02 am (UTC)
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Wow ... I wish my Dad had a job that interesting ... ;-)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 22nd, 2013 07:32 pm (UTC)
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After that job he worked in a plywood factory, and then he sold kitset furniture till he retired. So he kind of went from one extreme to the other. I always wondered where he would have ended up if he hadn't made that choice back in Mt Maunganui.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:January 22nd, 2013 12:11 pm (UTC)
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Oh my, I'm jealous! Working with animals has always been my dream job. Although, when I read how your father quit then, I can see what the hard side of it would be. I'd so get in trouble if the animals weren't treated well. What an asshole manager to kill animals that way. And what an idiot too - they were his capital, that's why people came and paid entrance fees. To let them die was so stupid from a financial viewpoint, even if he didn't care for the creatures.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 22nd, 2013 07:35 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, it just makes no sense. I watched our Marineland home movies last night, and there's a short bit in there where the manager is doing a show with Snoopy the chimp, and he's going around on a scooter. He's not going fast enough, apparently, so the guy kicks Snoopy in the backside.

Based on what I can see on the film, the animals performed better for Dad than for this other guy, and I suspect the bad blood between the two men went quite deep. I remember Dad expressing his disgust at the way the other man handled the animals - he made no bones about saying what he thought - and I can imagine that didn't go down well.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:January 23rd, 2013 09:03 am (UTC)
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People who don't *like* animals shouldn't *work* with animals! I don't get why he would do that. *sigh* Glad to hear the whole thing got shut down.
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From:adam_0oo
Date:January 22nd, 2013 02:54 pm (UTC)
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Pretty awesome. That first picture makes him look like Steve Zissou. Or, you know, Jaque Cousteau.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 22nd, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC)
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I'm pretty sure Cousteau was the look he was going for, eh? ;-)
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From:neverminetohold
Date:January 22nd, 2013 07:22 pm (UTC)
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Wow, your dad was really absolutely awesome! Mine is so lame XD
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From:tatjna
Date:January 22nd, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
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He was also opinionated, cranky, emotionally distant, old enough to be my Grandad, and prone to uprooting us all and taking off after dreams. We grew up poor (I mean, eating possums and rabbits poor) because of this. But you know, I wouldn't swap it for anything. ;-)
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From:neverminetohold
Date:January 22nd, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
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I had this weird feeling that your last sentence would follow ;)
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From:Will Marshall
Date:January 23rd, 2013 09:09 am (UTC)
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My family is wealthy and we still ate rabbit...
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From:brynhilda
Date:January 23rd, 2013 04:28 pm (UTC)
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Your dad did some awesome stuff!! Weee...I'm green with envy:)....and that says me who isn't a huge fan of keeping dolphins and whales in captivity...still I would love to work or at least touch one of them one day:).
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