Wednesday, January 25, 2012


In 2008 Gran published a book which covered her long, interesting and varied life, concentrating mainly on her childhood which was spent in Wales. She wrote very well I must say, even if the motivation to write eluded her at times. I took my copy of the book up to Auckland with me – I thought some of my friends might find it interesting, especially the photos.

My grandfather was a Squadron Leader in the RAF. In the sixties they were based in Naples, which sounds like a crazy but beautiful place, if that makes any sense. My grandma liked to be known as Nonna, the Italian word for grandmother; that’s what we called her most of the time. I was taken by surprise, therefore, when I saw this shop a couple of minutes’ walk from the motel I stayed in:

What, if anything, the shop is selling I really haven’t a clue, but it’s full of old guitars, amps and Radiohead memorabilia. Not a granny to be seen. The umlaut is a bit of a mystery too.

I’d planned to make a (bad) joke about her becoming a Nonna-genarian at her next birthday but alas she died four months too soon. I’ll miss her a lot. She was very good to me as a boy: she (embarrassingly) favoured me over her other two grandsons.

In 2000 I flew with her to Cairns to visit my parents (Mum did a year’s teaching exchange over there). We spent a week in Penang on the way over there. Later that year she visited me in Lyon and almost died on the flight. Her heart had stopped beating for an extended period although she didn’t know that at the time. I vividly remember her being wheeled out, well after all the other passengers had gone through, looking almost unrecognisable from the Nonna I knew. She seemed to perk up though, so I took her around Lyon’s attractions, oblivious to how ill she was. In the summer of 2001, when she realised what was up (after one or two more episodes), she got a pacemaker fitted. The four-hour-plus operation was not without a hitch – afterwards she said it would have been nice to have “sailed away” then, as she put it, but she still had six or seven good years left in her. She visited New Zealand for the third time in 2005, having come here in ’89 (with my grandfather, while we lived out here) and ’98 (with Dad). In ’06 I made a trip to the UK; she and I spent a week in Paris. In ’08 I made another trip to England and went on a short holiday to Italy with a university friend; in those four days Nonna had slipped a lot – she must have had a stroke while I was away. A week earlier she was hooning around town in her Nissan Micra (well, not exactly: she went at about the same speed as farmers go in their tractors, but at least she was driving) and now she was trying to make phone calls using a TV remote or a calculator. Knowing the importance of one’s independence I tried to convince her to get back in the driving seat – she went 100 metres down the road and that was the last time she ever drove. She did bounce back but was never quite the same. I’m so glad I managed to see her in 2010 – although she’d slipped a long way, she was still her at that stage.

I’ve been staying at a hotel on Great South Road, close to Remuera train station and only a few doors down from the offices of Lifeline, which I unfortunately pulled the plug on half-way through the training programme.

Richard and I met up in Newmarket on Saturday before attending the Asperger’s group at their first meeting at the new location. Unlike the old place it doesn’t have an outdoor area, which is a shame, but its acoustics are much more suitable. About 25 turned up – I’d almost forgotten how positive an experience those monthly meetings were for me. It was really good to see Chris in a more positive frame of mind – 2011 was something of an annus horribilis for him I think. I felt a certain sense of shame as I made less than positive noises about my work when others in the room would have given their right arm for any kind of job.

On Sunday I took the train to Papakura to see Bazza. He’d obviously been busy cleaning – his flat had a strong smell of disinfectant. He hasn’t done a bad job with his place really and for somebody who doesn’t drive he’s got everything close at hand. He doesn’t have a lot of mod cons but he’s got Sky, so we watched some of the Aussie Open which, unlike in past years, I haven’t been following closely. He has a habit of talking incessantly during the game, and calling balls out that are in (which he also did in matches involving him!). His pronunciations of players’ names and nationalities can be amusing at times. For instance I never knew that Djokovic came from Suburbia. I’m glad I caught the match between Na Li and Kim Clijsters – a repeat of last year’s final – in which Clijsters dodged four bullets to come from 6-2 down in the second-set tie-break, sneaking through in the end as the Chinese launched a fightback of her own in the deciding set.

On Monday I met Mandy, my old work colleague, in Takapuna. Unlike me she’s making big positive strides in her job and is even dating one of her high-flying workmates. We had pizza at Mac’s bar – or whatever it’s called – on the main drag.

Today I’ve been catching up with Richard, who showed me his wonderful drawing of Emma, and I’m now sitting peacefully in Cornwall Park – one of the best bits of Auckland I think – writing this on my laptop. My flight goes at seven. It’s back to work tomorrow and who knows what’s in store for me there.

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