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19 October 2015

We were the lucky generation. I grew up in the 50s and early 60s and when I started work in 1961 at fifteen there were a host of employment possibilities. Several years later I had a two year period when I lived in Wellington, our capital. I would take a job for just as long as it interested me or until I learned how to do it well and it then became boring.I’d quit on Friday, and as soon as I got my pay, I would hurry up Willis Street to the newspaper office, buy a paper, and with a pocket full of pennies trot across the road to the phone box where I would phone half a dozen of the jobs advertised. I’d set up interviews for Monday, select which offer I’d accept (usually all 6) and start the new job Tuesday.In that 2 years I had 39 jobs. I leaned how to serve or be a stock clerk in a number of shop chains, how to make electric blankets, how to teach horse-riding, how to be an usher in a movie theatre (and a cashier there too,) How to make a wide variety of sweets, and how to work in a bank.
In the 1970s I worked for a temp agency where I’d be sent to a clerical job for any time from several days to 2-3 months. usually because a regular clerk was out on sick/maternity/long service leave. I neeeded to learn that job in the first couple of hours and be able to do it correctly after that. For one job I worked on the accounts ledgers for the BP/Europa chain’s amalgamation. Five days a week on twelve hour days cross-balancing huge handwritten ledgers page by page. Any discovered errors had to be carried forward to each page thereafter. There was a deadline, and for four hours overtime I got double-pay, so in each week I earned two weeks pay – for almost three months.Yes, I made deadline, and yes they were grateful and commended me to my agency employers.
And while I was doing all that, friends went to University – free. No costs. You could get a degree in three years and not be in debt. In those days too you could get a certificate as a ‘community nurse’ in 18 months. You could then do a number of 6 month specialty courses, A friend of that time did her community nurse certificate, did three of the 6 month courses, and then went to America qualified in General Nursing, orthopedics, maternity and geriatrics. She became a private nurse, living in, with some terrific perks, and on top of that, a wage twice what she’d have received here in NZ (in American dollars then worth twice ours.) She worked for ten years there, saved around two thirds of her wage and came home, quite literally, as a rich lady.
Yes, we were the lucky generation and I know it. Not that I haven’t been lucky in the middle of these current times, when in 1989 I decided I wanted to to be a writer – with little effective education after I was nine. With an inability to spell or punctuate, without any idea of how one went about it, and only the knowledge that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It’s now been an interesting and passionately involving journey for more than 25 years, during which time I’ve had almost 300 stories published, and heading up towards 40 books – across 9 countries, in 4 languages. (Yes, really – Polish, Russian, English, and Catalan Spanish.) I’ve made good friends, met great editors and publishers, and had a whale of a time. Oh, yeah, one of the lucky generation and I remember that every time I sell another book or story…

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