This is more of a personal post than my previous ones, but as writing helps me get my head in order – and at present my head is sorely lacking in order – I’m exploiting this space for my own benefit. You have been warned. I am coming to the end of a chapter. Finishing the sentence. Seeing the blank space at the end of the last paragraph. Turning the page. And then, let’s hope, beginning the next little chapter of my life.
I love stories, and dreaming, and imagination, and making sense of ideas and thoughts using allegory and metaphor. As a child this meant that I loved books and reading, and was lucky enough to have access to plenty of them. There are some stories which have remained as just-a-nice-story-stories, but looking back I can see that others have triggered my own dreams and ambitions. The library of my life. So far.
I began learning to drive when I was 15 years old, but managed to get a degree in mechanical engineering and make a solid start on a PhD before getting the other bits of my licence. I knew how to build a car before I could drive one. One of my big dreams at this time was to build or at least restore an old car. I loved the MG T class of cars, and the release of the kit versions of the TF in particular made it really exciting to dream about. Where did that dream come from? My uncle gave me a copy of the wonderful Katy’s Kit Car by Robin Lawrie when I was a child. I love the idea of understanding how everything works. Of laying out the electric cables on the driveway and plugging them all in to where they should go. Of deciding on colours (red, or blue, or British Racing Green, or …) and pulling it all together.
Five years pass. I finished the PhD, moved to London, Ontario for my first post-doc, and then to Oxford, UK for my second. At the end of my first year there I was on the lookout for a new flat, but accommodation is really expensive so I turned to something a bit different.
The Maggie B by Irene Haas is a beautiful story about a girl who wakes up on her own boat. She and her brother pick fruit from their own tree for breakfast, and there are chickens on the (ahem) poop deck. A dream and a dream and a dream. So of course I looked at several canal boats in Oxford as an alternative to renting, but in the end stayed a landlubber. I built a chicken run in the back yard of an earlier flat in Auckland, and lived out of my car for about 6 months when I returned to NZ – kitted out with curtains, a few herb plants and a bed. Close enough. The home in Glen Innes I bought because of the wonderful mature fruit trees where we could pick mandarins, plums, pears, feijoa, and apples for breakfast (and of course the shed where I could build cool stuff too), and I loved renovating the house and building all kinds of things because of Lucy’s Big Plan by Christine Harris.
I really enjoy teaching and learning and the transformation which comes with true education, and have always felt the tension between engineering and making stuff, medicine and fixing stuff, and teaching. I read The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier and found plenty of life-hooks in there. The eldest of three children, Ruth starts a school and eventually takes her family to Switzerland. Ruth is my middle name, and though was given Keri the Wonderful Kiwi who Flew at birth, there really are not many characters out there with my first name. I take what I can get. And I now live in Switzerland.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Here comes the page turn, the chapter end, the blank space. After a decade teaching and being immersed in the educational world at the University of Auckland, and a decade before that as a researcher all over the world, I’m going into a new decade now. There’s a new set of well-beloved stories. And a lot of empty lines at the end of the paragraph. (I will cheat here and include a TV show, but there’s are books as well so I still feel I haven’t entirely misled you). I don’t know how it will work out and I don’t want to jinx anything by saying too much, but to Alf Wight, Bob Larbey and John Esmonde, my thanks for your past inspiration.