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Moving pictures OMG - Tactical Ninja

Jan. 23rd, 2013

10:46 am - Moving pictures OMG

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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...

Comments:

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From:pombagira
Date:January 23rd, 2013 01:09 am (UTC)
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yes national archives would be most interested in your stuff.. also national film archive may also be interested in the movies...

so i reccon get in contact with Amy, as she works for National archives.. or maybe have a fossic about on their website, cause i know that there is a place where you can leave a family lot of stuff so to speak.. and my guess is speaking with an archivist would to ask questions and get instructions on how to lodge a bunch of stuff.. *nods*

*beams*

also have fun storming the rainbows.. i hope it is more fun that were i went last weekend.. *coughs*.. do be do

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From:tatjna
Date:January 23rd, 2013 01:10 am (UTC)
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That is a loaded statement if ever I saw one. I think you should email me stat.
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:January 23rd, 2013 01:44 am (UTC)
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how lovely! such an interesting life... poverty doesn't sound too bad from your description, but what the hell do i know. it sounds to me like your minds and bodies were nurtured well and that's what counts.

the one similarity between our dads is the emotional distance. i also remember few snuggles and whatnot. i mean, dad insists they were there but i don't recall it so much. it's especially contrasted with my husband's family who are all out super affectionate and make our family look terribly distant. it's quite a thing when my husband sees pictures of young me and squees at how cute i was and says that my parents must have snuggled me all the time and i have to say no... and feel terrible that my family was so broken that way.

the other similarity between our families, oddly, is nudist culture - husband's family spent their summers at a nudist beach on the baltic, they were part of the fkk! and i just like not wearing clothes. :-P if it's warm enough for it, anyway.

thank you for sharing. as always, you make me think and wonder and i love that. :-D

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From:tatjna
Date:January 23rd, 2013 01:54 am (UTC)
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;-)

I don't think kids really notice poverty, because they aren't the ones that have to worry about losing their home to the vagaries of landlords, or making sure everyone has enough clothes and whatnot. Possum hunting was a fun game for us, and it was only later on, when I started the process of becoming an adult and being responsible for more of my owns stuff, that I understood how poor we were compared to most of my friends.

The other thing that shone through in the movies is how close we were as a family - I'd go so far as to say insular. There are a few scenes of parties and social gatherings, but not many. I do remember my folks going out without us, but not often. And often in the films, it's just us, even when we're in a crowd. This may just be an artifact of what Dad chose to record, but it does make us seem isolated and this matches my recollection. We relied on each other a lot, and I'm sure once we moved to the sticks our neighbours all thought we were weird hippies..

I'm glad you like these posts. Sometimes I feel as if I'm being self-indulgent by rambling on about my family, but since they're my only family and there's only the three of us left, I'm trying very hard to keep something of them around to share with the world.
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From:rivet
Date:January 23rd, 2013 02:06 am (UTC)
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I don't remember noticing poverty that much until kids started teasing me heavily about my clothes. I remember being allowed to stay home from school one day around 2nd grade because there were no shoes at the charity shop in my size, so I had nothing to wear. (I can't remember what had happened to mine, perhaps I lost them, or it was the beginning of autumn and I only had something open?)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 23rd, 2013 02:19 am (UTC)
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In Auckland when I was in primary school, shoes were optional. Even in winter. ;-)
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From:rivet
Date:January 23rd, 2013 02:20 am (UTC)
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NZ is a bit special that way...
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From:rivet
Date:January 23rd, 2013 01:59 am (UTC)
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I enjoyed this post, thank you <3
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From:rivet
Date:January 23rd, 2013 02:10 am (UTC)
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"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"

A pretty good life philosophy, really. I like to top it up with a *bit* more comfort, but basically agree.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 23rd, 2013 02:18 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I don't think Mum and Dad were intentionally poor and I know they would have wanted a bit more comfort too. I think I told you the story of how they dug themselves out of it through a combination of Mum's Leet Budgeting Skills and taking advantage of the home loans available to folks with dependents.

How they got into it was through Dad's altercation with the Marineland boss - when he quit that job he was in his fifties and getting a job in the stagflation period of the 70s when you're approaching retirement age (60 at the time) was near impossible. Prior to that we lived a pretty ordinary life, but after that it became an increasing struggle until I left home, and after that things improved for them again, until by the time Mum died she was able to bequeath us the means to improve our own lives back to the middle class existence they'd left behind in England.

But I doubt things would have been all that different if they had more money at the time. More school trips, nicer clothes maybe? I still wouldn't swap it. My folks were awesome.

I do wonder if Dad would have quit his job on principle if he'd known what would follow. I'd like to think he would have.
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From:danjite
Date:January 23rd, 2013 04:40 am (UTC)
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Thanks.

I do enjoy your posts, but this was extra points for special.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 23rd, 2013 05:02 am (UTC)
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Aww.. <3 Thank you.
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From:meathiel
Date:January 23rd, 2013 06:35 am (UTC)
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I really love to read all this - you seem to have had such an interesting childhood. You probably didn't enjoy it as a kid but it sure makes for good stories now! ;-)
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From:neverminetohold
Date:January 23rd, 2013 11:41 am (UTC)
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My father is emotionally distant too and we more or less life our lives separately, as parallels, even though we share a flat. I cannot remember hugs, a 'well done' was always the hight of praise, and only given for good marks in school. He's pretty demanding and a perfectionist - mum and I, we like to call him the 'house tyrant' ^_^"

Despite the poverty being a drop of bitterness, I think you led an amazing childhood, especially with all those experiences you have to cherish and draw from now.
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