Rite of Passage Thirteen –An almost whole new way of living–
1958. I am 24 years old
Q: Have you ever been regarded as a “foreigner”…a person who had a lot to prove before being accepted in a strange land?
Apart from brief visits to France I had spent all my twenty-four years in or near the south coast of Britain and three of those as a husband and father.
Of all the nations on earth to select as our new home…perhaps New Zealand was amongst the very best.
New Zealand had a small population –many had come from the British Commonwealth to settle amid its temperate climate so well suited to agriculture.
It was almost like home but without an ancient history and the cultural ‘layering’ that comes with such things as the ‘Lauded Gentry’ (think Downton Abby) with whom I had been quite familiar.
My home away from home was an army officer’s mess with several young unmarried officers where the food was completely beyond my control. Since I was the Chief Catering Advisor to the Air Force it was, to say the least, unwise of me to make the slightest suggestion on how the large portions of meat and potatoes could be better…cooked?
So (for six months) I ate without alcohol; I purchased only one coke a week and for entertainment, one movie with an ice cream. Every other penny I earned was saved so I could buy minimal furniture for a small apartment, down by the Wellington harbor docks.
Over that six months I gained 20lbs and every stitch of clothing I owned closed in to provide a near chokehold on my appearance.
In the midst of this ‘newness’ I began to find my professional feet and sought to justify my rank, responsibility and reputation as best as I knew how.
So…what about now?
How does one set about being ‘measured’ by citizens who wonder if this ‘foreigner’ has what it takes…in their country?
My arrival in New Zealand was at a time (1958) that there was only one restaurant with a wine license –The Gourmet, in Auckland.
There was a fledgling wine and food society whose founder president international was my early mentor André Simon (if you are reading the book see Rite of Passage Five). I attended, in order to somehow add some ‘status’ to my background. Before long I found myself as its vice president and starting a series of ‘one dish with wine’ suppers at which I demonstrated the dish that was made in quantity for those attending by one of my Air Force cooks.
This got the attention of Shirley Maddock, one of New Zealand’s leading ladies of the media. She introduced me to Elise Lloyd, the head of Women’s Broadcasting and within several months I was launched on radio with a series called ‘Cooks Tour’ that began in 1959.
This pretty slow moving ‘advance’ appeared to settle the issue of my having some degree of competence that was of some use to the nation.
All of this public activity eventually led to my going on television as a public relations stunt by the Air Force that simply ran away with itself.
It was during my initial six-month ‘acclimation’ period that all this effort was being made to make myself acceptable to the ‘locals’. When I added my new job this gradually took over all my attention and the most important people in my life were put on the back burner where Treena was left, without news, wondering what on earth was happening!
Have you ever been so preoccupied with a ‘new job’ that you have little thought to those who waited for you to…come home?
Well, that’s precisely what I did!
P.S This week I read Treena’s poem The Man Of Sorrow