Thursday, 21 May 2009

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be...

Masterton gets bypassed by most tourists, but that'll change when the plaques to commemorate my home and school go up. If I ever do anything worth remembering - suggestions please. Not that the conservation authorities are showing much respect in the meantime - the house (see photo) has acquired an extension to the back porch and a lot of decking, and part of the school burned down. But pretty much as I remember really, very strange to see them again 29 years on. Other things on the pilgrim trail have fared worse. The library has moved, the open air swimming pool is now mostly under cover (clearly Kiwis aren't as tough as they were) and the Golden Shears motel where we stayed on arrival in Masterton is now an Old Folks home. But my holy grail, Hedley's bookshop, is still a mainstay of the high street and has doubled in size, definitely a good sign. There's lots of good independent bookshops in small NZ towns, much better in this respect than their Scottish equivalents.

I caught up on some of what I'd missed while out with a friend from my Wairarapa College (i.e high school) year. We'd exchanged xmas cards up to about 7 years ago, but lost touch after that and I only decided to search for him in the phone book the day before I went to Palmerston North, where he lives now. He's a reminder of how straightforward my life has been. His wife of 20 years has had constant health problems, his kids are 'high-maintenance' for various reasons, and he's at least partly estranged from his parents and his 5 brothers. Though successful professionally his life sounds a real struggle, and he seemed glad of the chance to unload it all. And the stories he told of the few classmates and even teachers we both recall all involved underachievement and missteps. In particular, one guy I recall as being bright, the best sportsman in the year, and an extremely nice guy (he was very good to me as the uncertain foreign kid - I didn't have the confidence to make a real effort to win him as a close friend, though I would have liked to), apparently got into drugs in a big way at University and was last heard of in a psychiatric institution. There's an awful lot of ways to mess up a life, glad I've avoided most of them.

This sounds a bit downbeat! Glad I went back, wish I'd time to see more of the local sites and do the walks I resisted like mad when our parents tried to drag us up them the first time round. Many thanks to Peter Donaldson and family for their hospitality, including the kids party we went to, featuring very complex tug of war - about 20 kids and they all kept changing sides. Though even by my standards, watching 4 rugby games (3 Super 14 plus a local match), plus going to see Pete coach his son and other kids on the Saturday morning, in the space of 26 hours, is a bit excessive!

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