General views

Chapter Eleven. Changes.

Chapter 11

While Guy was away at school, his home got sold again. The farm owner had decided to sell the farm and the guy who was buying it was going to farm it himself, so that meant Guy’s dad was going to be unemployed, again. All this upheaval was taking place while Guy was enduring his days at the boarding school. Guy knew nothing about any of it, Guy’s father wasn’t a talker or a sharer. He just worked; he worked all day every day. He was actually a bit of a legend in the local community for his work ethic. He worked harder than anyone for miles around. He helped out other farmers as well, stuff like making hay, shearing. Guy’s dad would bust a gut on the place he managed. Fencing, cutting tracks, mustering, doing tough physical jobs for the betterment of the farm he proudly worked on. Then he would often get called to lend a hand getting someone’s hay in before the rain turned up. He’d help the neighbour shear his sheep. There was nothing he wouldn’t lend his hand to. Guy’s dad had left school at 14 and worked hard all his life. He didn’t know any other way. In his mind, a man’s measure was his capacity for work. 

Guy wasn’t much of a physical worker; he was a bit lazy. That was about the worst character trait anyone could have in his dad’s eyes. So, you could say that Guy definitely wasn’t his dad’s favourite son. Richard worked hard, but he had no common sense. Guy’s dad couldn’t comprehend how someone could have no common sense. Richard worked hard though, which was fortunate for him. Guy’s dad had a terrible relationship with his own father. He didn’t shed a tear when his father died. Apparently, they used to have fist fights. That side of the family was really tough.

Now the farm was sold, and Guy’s family had to find a new job and a new home. The decision was made to take the leap and buy their own farm. Guy’s dad’s dream was to have his own place, his own farm. That’s part of why he worked every hour God gave, to get the money together to buy his own place. Now that decision had been brought forward by a few years. A temporary place was secured, a rundown house they could rent nearer to Dannevirke. Not much nearer, but on the tar seal. They didn’t have quite enough money. So, Guy’s dad took a night shift in the wool spinning mill in town and went fencing during the day. Basically, he was working almost 24 hours a day, getting a short nap in the early evening before heading to the mill. He did this for the next six months.

Guy got a rare trip home for a weekend. They’d already moved, he was in a crappy room in a crappy house. His room was small, the windows didn’t open properly, there was old peeling wallpaper on the walls. Everything was really old-fashioned, and it smelled damp. The house was due to be demolished and probably should have been years ago. The roof leaked whenever it rained. They had to put pots on the floor all over the place. The electric stuff was all ancient, old switches and plugs. Worn threadbare carpets, cracked lino. So many things needed fixing. He didn’t go and see Hemi because he was miles away now. His mum had got a job as a bookkeeper in the Accountants office in town too, to help pay the bills. Everything was different. Guy’s mum told him off for not doing well at school. 

‘Why can’t you be more like your brother? If you don’t knuckle down and stop wasting our money and time, we’ll take you out of College House and send you to Dannevirke High’.

Guy decided that was supposed to be a threat. To him it was like having a reward promised if he continued to misbehave at Palmy Boys. A way out. He couldn’t tell his mum he hated it anyway. She would see that as being ungrateful for the great education for which they were sacrificing so much. That sort of lack of gratitude would also earn him a sure-fire slippering from his dad. Guy’s dad was quick to resort to violence as his preferred punishment for any misdeed, because he wasn’t a talker. Guy had been hit with all sorts of things since he was a little kid. Belts, slippers, alkathene pipe, even simply a big, rough, hard hand delivered with undue force against a small boy. Guy didn’t fancy being ungrateful.

A few months later, the small farm was secured at Ormondville. The family had their own place, 300 acres, 900 ewes. A stepping-stone block was what it was known as, a start in farming your own land. Guy then got the best news of his life so far, during the school holidays, delivered soberly by his mother as though it was in fact bad news. Now that they had their own place, they could no longer afford for both him and Richard to go to boarding school, and as Richard was doing well and now in School Certificate year, he’d carry on there. Guy would have to attend the Dannevirke High School and take the bus, which was only a ride of about half an hour from where they lived now. Guy knew better than to lookthrilled, so he just nodded his head, grimaced and agreed that was understandable and he’d make the best of it. He went to his room, shut the door and did a quiet dance, clenched his fists and silently shouted, ‘YESSSSSSS!’

At the start of the next term, Guy’s mum took him back to the boarding school to collect his things. Thankfully all the boys were in class. He said goodbye to the matron, gathered up his stuff and chucked it in the boot. Guy had tears on his cheeks. His mum thought he was sad so put her arm around his shoulder, he leaned into her. They were tears of joy and relief; his torment was over. He imagined this is what it would be like to get out of prison. They drove home largely in silence, just the car radio for company.

Guy didn’t know much about the Dannevirke High, only that it was co-ed and not particularly well respected. He knew a few local kids who went there, so at least he wouldn’t be walking into an alien environment where he had to start from scratch getting to know people. A remarkably small number of the kids from his primary school went there though. Almost all of them had gone to other boarding schools around the country; Wellington, New Plymouth, Napier, Hastings, Masterton, Havelock North, Whanganui, all over the place.Guy was going to have the same bus dilemma as Hemi, except he was on a different bus. About half a dozen different buses came into the school from different directions around the local area. Guy’s bus actually started from the little village of Ormondville where their farm was. 

Ormondville was one of many nondescript rural villages dotted round New Zealand back then. A small shop, school, post office, a couple of churches, one for Catholics and one for Protestants. A trucking company, volunteer fire brigade, a sawmill, pub and a railway station. Population of about 180. The farm was on the edge of the village. 

Back to the bus dilemma though. Guy was more fortunate than Hemi on his first high school bus ride. The local kids, about five or six depending on the day, waited outside the shop for the empty bus to turn up. Even though Guy lived locally, on the edge of a small village, he only knew the other kids by sight. He’d never actually spoken to them. He said g’day to the small gathering. There were the local shearers’ kids, some girl who delivered the papers on her bike, and an older boy, the son of the publican. Guy decided the best place to sit was one seat back from the front, so he could suss people out as they got on. He asked the older boy if anyone usually sat there? The boy shrugged, said it depends, nobody was too bothered about where people sat, except the back of course, as he headed for the back, but sat one seat ahead of the back seat. Guy settled into his seat, wondering what the day would bring. He was happy to be away from College House; he was confident nothing could be as bad.

At the next stop in Makotuku, a few kilometres down the road, the bus stopped again. A noisy group of five girls got on and headed straight for the back seat. He knew one of them. Her dad played in the local social cricket team; she went to a different primary school, but he liked this girl. She was quite pretty, short in stature with matching short brown hair, big brown eyes. She was very athletic looking, like a gymnast. He recalled she was a really fast sprinter at the inter-primary school athletics competitions. She stopped and said hi to him as she went past.

‘Hi Guy, long time no see, you coming to school here now? 

‘Yeah, we moved’.

‘Oh Cool’.

She was pushed down the aisle by a rough looking girl who was part of the group.

‘Stop chatting up boys, Brenda’.

Brenda blushed; Guy noticed. Yeah, this would be better.

Guy’s mum had enrolled him and told him to check in with the office when he got to school. So, Guy got off the bus, made his way through the noisy throng of students to the administration building and introduced himself to a lady at the counter. She was older than his mum, and quite tall, she seemed to have an oddly long back. Most of her height was above the waist, rather out of proportion. She also had a strangely long neck. The school office was a lot less formal than at the boarding school. A bunch of ladies who looked the same as his mum worked there. The lady with the long neck who greeted him smelled of too much perfume and a recently finished cigarette. He decided she must wear too much perfume to try to hide the stink of her smokes, the combination was actually pretty gross. He screwed up his nose then quickly rubbed it as though he had an itch. He didn’t want her to think he was screwing up his nose at the stink of her. She had glasses hanging round her long neck on a cord to save her having to put them down and lose them, he decided, like his mum does all the time with her reading glasses. He wondered why his mum didn’t have a cord on her glasses.

‘Can I help you?’ 

Guy explained he was new and starting today. 

‘Excellent!’

As though the best news she’d had so far today. It was early in the school day, so she probably hadn’t had much news yet. The lady went to a filing cabinet and pulled out a folder. 

‘Here you are! You’re in Mr Clements’ tutor group. Oh! You’re in the top stream, 4R’.

She explained the R was the first letter of the name of a local mountain range. The ‘Ruahine’s. It seemed the school had a streaming system less complicated than the boarding school. No difference based upon language choices or manual work. This was simply 7 classes of kids in his year. The best, brightest kids were in 4R then there was 4U, 4A, 4H, 4I, 4N, 4E. Ruahine. The lady said she would take him to his tutor group. The school was a large rectangular complex of classrooms around a central quadrangle, with a few other buildings dotted around the grounds: woodwork, gym, pool, classroom annexes, theatre, common rooms for the seniors, office and tuckshop. Turns out the school also had a boarding hostel. Guy wondered who would send their kids to board here, rather than to a ‘good school?’ Guy was led down a long corridor and into a classroom full of about 20 kids of all years. A mix of boys and girls. They all looked at him, he lookedback and gave the silent kiwi acknowledgement. 

Mr Clements was a tall skinny bloke with glasses and wiry hair, wearing a tweed jacket with corduroy trousers which were too short for him. He introduced Guy to the room as the new boy from Palmy Boys. Guy gave a second silent kiwi acknowledgment, with a bit of a wave. Nobody likes standing in front of a room of strangers. Guy was directed to a table rather than a desk. He noticed all the kids were sitting at long tables, three to each table. This must be a science lab, he decided. He sat next to two girls, both the year ahead of him, he’d find out later. There were a handful of seniors in the tutor group as well. Seniors got to wear mufti. 

Mr Clements called the roll, read out some notices. Then there were a few minutes of general chatter while people waited for the bell. Guy learned the girls next to him were Danielle and Antoinette. Both were quite pretty, both had dark hair, but Antoinette’s was curly, and Danielle’s was straight. Antoinette was really small and very skinny while Danielle was sporty looking, more solid, but in a good way, she was very well-proportioned, Guy noted. He liked the look of her. The girls clearly knew each other well. They were nice and polite to him but obviously had more pressing gossip to be discussed. Guy gazed out the window to the sports fields. He wondered how dumb must kids in 4E be, if he was in 4R. He was happy though; everyone so far was normal, nice even. He’ll be okay here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s