Mary is 85, originally from Ireland. I chat with Mary every time we meet on my daily walks around Castor Bay. She was born in 1936 to a Catholic family of eight children (Mary was number five after four boys). Mary’s mom had to find a job when her father died and she taught orphans in a monastery. She wanted to be a teacher, but eventually found a job in a large department store in Belfast where she met Mary’s dad. Mary’s dad was an active member of the IRA (as you would) and when the conflict with the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 monarchy (God Save the Queen) ended, he became a policeman.👮♂️ “Those days women lost their jobs when they got married”. Mary wanted to become a nurse 👩⚕️ so went to England to study “it was free because the English government wanted the Irish girls to become nurses”. After getting married, Mary and her husband immigrated to New Zealand when she was 22. Knowing how to use a typewriter, Mary found a an office job when arriving to New Zealand. Five years later she had three kids who all live here. “Life was simpler then”, she says. “You would grow your own veggies in the backyard”. People need to move to the countryside. She apologised for holding the ☔ umbrella to protect from the rain.
I had a beautiful golden childhood full of love, warmth and happiness. My mother got sick when I was eight with an autoimmune disease, she couldn’t walk. She was so unwell and needed around the clock care from my dad. Six months later my dad died. He was out tramping for the day with his friends, a young fit and healthy man. He had a heart attack and dropped dead. My world as I knew it exploded. My mum packed up and moved us to the West Coast of the South Island, to escape all the memories of dad. I was in a completely new town, no friends, no family and stuck with my bed ridden mother. By the age of nine I could cook a three course meal. Mum was too sick to feed me. I was in complete survival mode. Whenever mum would get up I would just want to hide, she was on over 15 different medications a day, she had road rage and would take it out on me. I solely bore the brunt of her pain. This was my reality all the way into my teenage years. When I was 13 our house burnt down and we lost nearly everything.
Again another massive loss and hurdle to conquer. When I was 16 I got extremely sick with meningococcal disease, it took months to be able to walk and move around properly again. It damaged my eyes and I needed glasses. I moved out of home at 16. I went back to Nelson to work for the summer and ended up staying. I would go to school during the week and work all of my weekends to be able to pay rent and afford food for the week. This was my reality for the remainder of high school. I had a lot of questions about religion, so after school I studied and got a diploma in biblical studies. But my true passion was to join the navy. My dad and brother were in the navy and from the age of 12 it was my dream. I joined at the age of 21 and haven’t looked back. I’ve now been in the navy for two years, pursuing the career of my dreams. I’ve met the man of my dreams and am so in love. For the first time in a long time I am happy, loved and appreciated. I don’t regret anything from my past, I wouldn’t change a thing. It has made me who I am today, a strong young woman.
“The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a tin soldier’s love for a paper ballerina. The tale was first published in October 1838 in the first booklet of Fairy Tales Told for Children. It has since been adapted to various media including ballet and animated film.
On his birthday, a boy receives a set of 25 toy soldiers all cast from one old tin spoon and arrays them on a table top. One soldier stands on a single leg because, as he was the last one cast, there was not enough metal to make him whole. Nearby, the soldier spies a pretty paper ballerina with a spangle on her sash. She, too, is standing on one leg, and the soldier falls in love. That night, a goblin among the toys in the form of a jack-in-the-box, who also loves the ballerina, angrily warns the soldier to take his eyes off her, but the soldier ignores him.
The next day, the soldier falls from a windowsill (presumably the work of the goblin) and lands in the street. Two boys find the soldier, place him in a paper boat, and set him sailing in the gutter. The boat and its passenger wash into a storm drain, where a rat demands the soldier pay a toll.
Sailing on, the boat is washed into a canal, where the tin soldier is swallowed by a fish. When this fish is caught and cut open, the tin soldier finds himself once again on the table top before the ballerina. Inexplicably, the boy throws the tin soldier into the fire, which is most likely the work of the jack-in-the-box goblin. A wind blows the ballerina into the fire with him; she is consumed by it. The maid cleans the fireplace in the morning and finds that the soldier has melted into a little tin heart, along with the ballerina’s spangle, which is now burned black as coal.