A Word from Doug White, retired Clyde School principal

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Easier to connect, despite lockdowns

Through the eyes of little Herbie O’Toole, our new grandson, born in Auckland in August, my wife and I are animated, jabbering barely 3cm-tall moving faces on an iPhone screen.

It was during one of my high alert level lockdown tidying sprees that I came across some scrunched up notes among the boxes of childhood memorabilia left behind when my children departed the nest and finally left home.

It seems as if it is a common parental experience that we are regarded by our children as custodians of even the most insignificant of childhood mementoes.

The notes were written for my son, Hamish, by my mother when he was required for a school assignment to interview a grandparent about their childhood memories.

I was easily distracted and abandoned my clean-up task to read mum’s childhood reflections.

Mum had spent her childhood in Devonport, Auckland.

When she was 5 years old, her father sold his transport business and joined the army’s Second Echelon at the beginning of World War 2.

Mum recalled her school years during wartime next to the naval base with air raid shelters in the playground and a little bag around her neck with a piece of rubber to put between her teeth and earplugs, to be used in case of a Japanese air raid.

They had already bombed Darwin at that point, and invasion seemed then to be a real possibility.

Blackouts were strictly enforced by wardens and there was rationing of essential items.

Everyone listened to the 9 o’clock news on BBC, straight after the chimes of Big Ben.

It was followed by a sombre list of the dead and missing.

Five years later, hostilities ended and my grandfather returned from serving in North Africa and Italy.

He got off the troop ship in Auckland and could not recognise mum and her brother among the crowd there to greet the returning soldiers.

To my 10-year-old mother he was a complete stranger as his letters had been sporadic, censored, and the only communication possible back then, 80 years ago.

In 2021, we have a new war to contend with.

Families are again separated by travel restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of Covid 19. Communication technology has moved on since World War 2 and we can now have daily connections with the ones we love via Facetime, Messenger or Zoom.

Through the eyes of little Herbie O’Toole, our new grandson, born in Auckland in August, my wife and I are animated, jabbering barely 3cm-tall moving faces on an iPhone screen.

Who knows what he will think of us when he eventually meets us in the flesh?