Moving pictures OMG - Tactical Ninja
Jan. 23rd, 2013
10:46 am - Moving pictures OMG
Yesterday's post about my Dad's various animal training adventures turned into something of a Dad-appreciation thread, which IMO is kind of cool. My Dad might have been right out on the interesting end of the spectrum, but what I found cool was how many other people chipped in with interesting things about their own Dads. And, having been married to a fencer, I can totally appreciate the value in being able to drive under a motorway bridge and think "My Dad designed that 40 years ago and look it's still there."
So I went home last night and dug out the DVD that some kind friend-of-the-folks made from all our home movies back in the 90s, and watched it.
Dad must have bought a hand held cine camera about the same time I was born, because the first frames are shots of grist as a toddler and me as a squidlet blobbing around in a cot. I remember the camera actually, it looked kind of like this:
And used Super8 film - or, as far as I knew back then, the only kind of film there was. Anyway, Dad, having been a lifelong photographer, leaped at the opportunity to make home movies and immediately started recording his life. Yes, he was one of the original lifeloggers. Charlie Stross would be proud.
There's a total of two hours of footage and it incorporates the period from just after I was born through to when I was about 14. I won't bore you with all the details, but for me it was really interesting - I haven't seen these images for at least 20 years. It's amazing how many of them were familiar, and I wonder how much of my childhood is remembered through these movies. The image of Dad teaching me to walk (in the same way he taught Snoopy to walk later haha) made me cry.
Why? Because Dad was an emotionally distant man, as mentioned in a comment yesterday. When I was 12 he admitted to me that he'd never wanted children, but that he'd agreed to two because Mum wanted children so much. Having made this decision he did his duty as a father and I reckon he did it brilliantly - we certainly didn't lack for learning, stimulation and adventure. But he wasn't demonstrative at all and was uncomfortable with physical contact - I don't remember getting a lot of hugs and emotional support from him. What he gave us that had value was his time - hours spent showing us how to do things, helping us explore the world, encouraging our interests. But his affection was for Mum, and we were an interesting project. I may be being a little harsh here, but that's how I remember it. The more interactive we became, the more interesting we were, the more of his attention we got.
Ha, I wonder what psychologists would have to say about that in the context of my level of drive. *coffcoff*
Anyway, most of the footage is of Mum and grist and me - you could be forgiven for assuming that the person behind the camera was a disinterested observer recording "English family explores New Zealand in the 1970s." And at some points I found the level of detachment a bit disturbing. So the bits that do have Dad in them, that Mum filmed, are all the more poignant to me.
There's also about 25 minutes of Marineland footage, showing Dad working with all sorts of animals, including otters, seals and Snoopy. There's some footage from England showing the trainer Dad learned from over there doing a training session with three dolphins, and later, an orca. Right at the end of this session, there's a short clip of Dad playing ball with the orca. One of the things that strikes me about this stuff is how easy he was with animals that could easily take his hand off, you know?
The other thing that struck me watching all this stuff was a strange contrast between the lifestyle we lived and the amount of money we had. I know that Mum was a budgeting superpower, but it's really quite stark. After Dad finished at Marineland, he worked in a factory. Then we moved to Auckland and he sold kitset furniture. This was well before the rise of companies like Ikea and it wasn't very popular. The business never really took off and we eventually moved to Northland and lived in the boonies in a cheap rental house. By this time Dad was 61 and that was the official retirement age, so he never worked again.
We were poor. I mean, poor enough so that we went hunting and ate possums and rabbits and when a dairy cow had an accident and bled to death on the neighbours' farm, they called us and asked us if we wanted the meat. We did, and spent a morning making all the mistakes you make when learning about butchery. We ate mince and stew for months. We had a crappy old car that was approaching 20 years old and I remember Dad rebuilding the motor at least 3 times, and making head gaskets out of leather, and that sort of thing to keep it going. I remember us stopping to cut the tails off roadkill for the bounty, and selling possum skins for money - not for kids' pocket money but to help the household. We never went hungry but our clothes were homemade and patchy and we didn't go on many school trips and we ate possums and everyone knew we were poor.
However, I had a pony. I got him through pure blind luck in that someone gave me an unbroken horse which I sold, and that gave me money to buy one. Mum had somehow saved enough money ($100) to buy me a saddle by making and selling cane and leather knicknacks. Now, in most countries, only rich people get to ride. Only rich people had cine cameras. Only rich people had the time and money to dedicate to the pursuit of their kids' hobbies/education/interests. And yet, my parents did all this. Sure, we ate possums, but I had a pony and my brother got a ZX81 to play with. It's a weird contrast.
All I can think is that my folks prioritised things differently from other people. I know a lot of the things we did were just extensions of the things Mum and Dad did to save money, but it really did seem that as long as we had food and clothes and shelter, the next most important thing was to cram as much experience into our lives as possible, and you could get more experience if you killed/grew your own food instead of buying it, and patched those jeans till they were more patches than pants, and grubbed thistles to pay your rent. And if you can make the car keep going for another year by making a gasket out of leather, then who needs to buy a fancy new one, right? Let's build a greenhouse and try our hand at hydroponic tomato growing instead.
And as I said in the comment, Dad was cranky, opinionated, emotionally distant, old enough to be my Grandad, and willing to uproot us all regularly to go chase dreams. We were dirt poor, money wise. Dad and I fought like cats and dogs as I got older, and it took me a very long time to reconcile his admission that he never wanted us. But you know? I wouldn't swap it for the world.
Meanwhile, I am wondering how much of this footage would be of interest to the National Archives. I would like to put some of the animal stuff online, but there are other things in there - I mean, it's a comprehensive picture of life for an expat family in NZ in the 1970s, and Dad was a documenter so there are shots of specific iconic things, streets, signs, historic events, places and the like all through it. And this beautiful woman with the two kids wanders through them all looking vaguely amused and occasionally lonely.
Also, we were nudists. So there's a bit of that that I'd have to edit out - but even then, he recorded the demolition of the old clubhouse at Auckland Sun Club and the building of the new one. Lots of naked men in toolbelts.... *blink* I imagine if the club's still going, they'd be interested in that footage too.
It'd definitely be a shame for it to just sit under my bed for another 20 years.. hmm.
I will get over this nostalgia trip soon, don't worry. In fact, probably tomorrow, since I'll be off to Rainbow Serpent for a few days. Gear change upcoming in 3, 2, 1...