Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy campers


—headline, Dominion Post, 17.10.08

Time is a choice. We choose time: the pace, feel, shape,
length and location of it. It could be a room, a road, a
stage, a step, a presence, made from what we remember
of the past and what we imagine of the future. Time is
memory and imagination; there is, literally, no time like
the present.

"To be conscious is not to be in time."—Eliot

Yet I am haunted by the impression that time is passing...
I shape my day, each day, to satisfy this ghost.

You could say for instance that 53 years have passed
since, at the age of eight, I was sent to the Otaki health
camp for three months—because apparently I was too
small for my age and needed building up. Certainly I was
something of a runt, nearly always the smallest boy in
the class till my mid-teens. The ethos then was that
children needed lots of fresh air and sunshine and dairy
products and as little as possible skulking around inside
reading books and stuff. Having thoughts. I remember
faintly the dining-hall and dormitory at Otaki, and some
incident in the classroom in which we were taught
(normal school lessons continued). It was winter; we used
to be taken for walks down through the pines to the beach,
but I can't recall whether or not we swam. I do recall
lashings of tripe and cod liver oil, administered daily.
Ironically, shortly after coming home, having put on weight
if not height, I was assailed by a wave of headaches so
excruciating that I had to go into hospital for observation.
These have not recurred since.

“Life is a busy, happy business at a Health Camp.”
—advertisement, Listener, 24.9.54

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