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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 39 - Frightening Love

Gayle Woodward enjoyed listening to the stories that her husband Wood brought home. “Another day he was working in the tuck shop at Epsom Girls Grammar. As he worked he was surreptitiously eating handfuls of roasted peanuts from a bin under the counter. When the Tuck Shop Ladies came in to work, one said to the other, “These peanuts are filled with weevils, shall we throw them out?” They turned to show Woody. I giggled when he told me at home but he did not think it was at all funny.’’

Gayle continues her engaging account of domestic life in New Zealand.

In April, my Dad had a strange turn at work and was found to have suffered a heart attack. I was most distressed that I was not told until after the event when he had recovered. I was breastfeeding and it was thought that the bad news might upset me. Well it did, but it was the fact that Mum and Mary had kept anything from me and not had the confidence in me to be able cope with bad tidings that upset me, not Dad’s illness. Even so I was shocked to think of Dad’s mortality and really hated to think of such a thing. I had a little time to myself in the afternoons and wrote:

Woody had gone back to the ‘tools’ and was working as an electrician for a small company in Mt Roskill. He was not too happy in this work and often came home covered in cobwebs from working in ceilings and talked of having to crawl under houses in small cramped and dirty spaces. One day he was in a house to install a power point for a tropical fish tank in an old, bedridden, man’s bedroom. To gain access to the wall behind the tank, he tried to push the tank slightly out of the way. But disaster struck. The glass cracked and water gushed out into the bedroom, tiny fish flopping onto the carpet. Pandemonium ensued, as a bath was filled for the fish which had to be collected as quickly as possible.

I enjoyed listening to the stories he brought home. Another day he was working in the tuck shop at Epsom Girls Grammar. As he worked he was surreptitiously eating handfuls of roasted peanuts from a bin under the counter. When the Tuck Shop Ladies came in to work, one said to the other, “These peanuts are filled with weevils, shall we throw them out?” They turned to show Woody. I giggled when he told me at home but he did not think it was at all funny.

He saw, in the employment section of the Herald newspaper, a position as a Sales Representative for Thorn Electrical Industries. We now had a van to use after hours and we liked the idea of the car which would come with a rep’s job. Woody had enjoyed working with the lighting at the Trotting Club during his apprenticeship and decided to apply for this job selling light fittings and lamps. He had no idea of writing a business letter and I offered to draft one for him. I even wrote the good copy of the letter, with him just adding his signature at the end. He was granted an interview and we hurried to buy him some business clothes. A brown, crimplene, wide lapelled suit, the height of fashion for a young man about town in 1973 was purchased. He bought some business shirts and borrowed ties from his father. The interview was successful and so began what would prove to be a long and successful career in sales with Thorn, an international company with a prestigious reputation in lighting, who’s Head Office, was in London.

We were a very happy little family living in a very small flat. The clinker-brick and tile three bedroom house at Glenfield was now ready for us to move into. We had no carpet and bare wooden floors. The house was only partly wallpapered but Woody’s Mum sewed us curtains for all the rooms. She was a curtain machinist at that time and used off cuts and samples to sew the drapes for us. Our kitchen had blue painted wooden joinery. The boys’ rooms were finished but the living areas looked rather bleak. We decided to use a door that was not needed at present as a coffee table to hold our TV and used left over concrete blocks as legs for the table. Our ranch sliders had to be kept locked because the terrace, which they would one day open out onto, was not yet in place. Jeff loved the new house. There was an empty section next door and it proved a good play area. Baby Mark was installed in his new bedroom with a changing table, his cot and a round cane chair for me to use for those night feeds which were becoming less frequent.

We got to know our neighbours. Next door were an older couple from the West Indies. Joania and Bill had two teenage boys who kept us amused with their antics in front of the bathroom mirror. They were unaware that we could see into their bathroom, and they would preen, play air guitars and practice body building poses.

Down the back were an English couple with a boy about Jeff’s age. We decided to enrol Jeff in the local kindergarten. He started at afternoon classes and I did not have a car or indeed know how to drive so I would walk him there and back, pushing Mark in his pushchair. It was a forty minute walk, up hills and down and I have never been as fit in my life as I was during those months. I stopped breast feeding Mark after five months when his first teeth began to emerge. He eagerly took to pureed food and bottles. Woody would take us all to the supermarket on a late night so that he could carry all the bags in from the car. Money was tight but I was a good budgeter. I cooked cheap cuts of meat and baked biscuits rather than buying snacks. I sewed the boys’ pyjamas and Mark’s dungarees and knitted jerseys for them both.

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