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I’m a farm boy from New Zealand, Part One

Monday, 18 August 2014 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Gay Men, International , Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Population Specific , Revolving Door, Guest Authors

Guesting poz guy Adam Love with the journey of a farm boy from New Zealand with family violence, HIV, cancer, and depression thrown in

I’m a farm boy from New Zealand, Part One

I was born in 1969 just in time to catch the first moon landing.

I grew up between two places - Dargaville a small New Zealand town famous for growing kumeras and the family sheep farm where my father’s mother lived with my father’s brother. I was surrounded by farms for most of my early childhood. It was a great place to grow up; at least it would have been except for my father, who was a violent man. Not a drunk, just an angry man who not only used his fists but a piece of 4x2 around the legs or on the back. My mother and I bore all the brunt of his anger.

Dad worked for what was known then as the Post Office which not only sold stamps but he ran the telephone exchanges, Dad built and ran the Dargaville telephone exchange, or at least the equipment within. When it was close to time for Dad to arrive home from work, I would feel physically ill to my stomach. The fear set in and sometimes I would sit in the back yard under a peach tree and cry my eyes out.

It was not all bad. School holidays and long weekends were spent with my grandmother on the sheep farm. Luckily, my parents and sister rarely made it to the farm, so this was very much my respite time - no angry father to be afraid of, at least for a short time. I spent my time there riding Tommy the horse, exploring the farm, rounding up cattle, feeding the chickens, collecting their eggs and milking Daisy the cow every morning at sunrise. I couldn't wait to get my hands on Daisy's teats to warm up my hands on those cold mornings, then I would carry this heavy massive steel pail back to the house and have breakfast.

My grandmother, 'Granny' as I called her, was and still is the most amazing woman I ever met. She was put to work pretty much as soon as she could walk, never went to school but was so knowledgeable about the environment around her. Granny knew the name of every tree and plant and passed this knowledge onto me. Her husband, my grandfather died just before I was born when a tractor rolled over on him. Granny almost single handily cleared the entire farm of gorse and cleared the land for farming. She was a very kind woman, full of community spirit who to the day she died helped anyone she could. For some reason she hated my mother and resented my sister, I still to this day don't really understand that.

I remember her telling me more than once how lucky I was that I had the chance to go to school, to learn, and interact with others my own age, something she never got the chance to do. Unfortunately my early years at school in Dargaville were not joyous learning years for me at all. I was the tall, lanky kid who was picked on a lot. Four school bullies one year ahead of me made those early school years a misery; I was tormented by them during the day, and in the evening and weekends by my father. Decades later my mother told me that she had an affair during those Dargaville years, perhaps that caused some of the violence Dad inflicted upon us. She also told me that my Dad's father used to beat the crap out of him when he was young.

Statistics show that many children who are beaten go on to beat their own children. I really don't understand this and still resent my father for not being the grown-up who ended the cycle of violence.

My uncle lived on the farm with Granny, during that time building a 46-foot long yacht in a barn that was named Aphrodite after the Greek goddess of Love, Love being our family's surname. The interior was made of beautiful Kauri timber, from the remains of the log that was used to build the farm house we lived in. After eight years of construction Aphrodite was launched and we spent many years sailing around the Upper North Island of New Zealand and the beautiful Bay of Islands. Sounds great, I know, but unfortunately being trapped on an even smaller space with my father did not make for pleasant sailing.

During the Dargaville years Mum ran a day care for other children from our home, and worked in the Kumera fields.

During my early school years at Dargaville I struggled with reading, writing and spelling, putting me years behind other students. Luckily for me one of my teachers had heard about dyslexia, I was sent to be tested and diagnosed with this learning disability. A teacher who lived on our street took it upon herself to teach me to read, and with her perseverance I finally could read books which I believe to be my saving grace as a child as I would immerse myself in books and stories as a form of escape from the harsh realities of a violent life. To this day I often think of Mrs.. Powell the wonderful teacher who spent hours after school with me teaching me to read.

My father took it upon himself to try to teach me to spell, making me fill a note book of words to learn. I can read fine but alas to this day I still struggle with spelling, I just can't sound out words, this is how dyslexia still affects my life. Thank goodness for the invention of computers and spell-checker. Dad would take the note book every evening and test me on the words within, getting frustrated and angry with me as I struggled to improve, often ending in violent unpleasantness or at the very least mental anguish.

The time came when Granny became too old to work the farm, and as my uncle and aunts were not interested in taking over, the farm was tearfully sold. I remember that day vividly with Granny as we left the farm for the last time together. She moved to nearby Whangarei where I had been born. Sadly the days of escaping to the farm had come to an end for me. I did visit her at her new smaller Whangarei flat, but not as often as in the past. A very fond memory I have of her was a saying she taught me that I have used many times to deal with obstacles in my life and I pass it onto others when necessary. "Adam" she would say "There is no such thing as can't". If I ever said to her I can't do that, her reply was always the same.

Granny taught me to play the piano at the farm. I begged my parents to let me take the piano back to Dargaville when the farm was sold. Unfortunately another trait of my father was to deny anything I wanted and force me to do activities he enjoyed, such as running. I was forced to learn to play the guitar which I hated with a passion instead of the piano which I really enjoyed

When I turned thirteen, my family left Dargaville and moved to New Zealand's big smoke, Auckland. A couple of years later my parents divorced. My sister moved with my Mother into her Mum’s garage where they lived for a couple of years as Dad dragged out the divorce until eventually Mum had to give in and take a huge loss in the splitting of assets. Another reason as a young man to resent my father.

I was stuck with my father. It was only the two of us as I entered the final years of  schooling. For me the nightmare continued till I could finally take no more, and attempted suicide for the first time. I was taken to hospital by ambulance; social workers became involved, and I moved into the garage of my mother's one bedroom apartment, keeping up the history of family garage living.

I didn't speak to or see my father again for almost twenty years.

At age 16,  I began a job in a bookshop which was the beginning of a 25-year career in the book industry. I consider myself extremely lucky to have found this vocation, which opened up many doors for me and certainly contributed to my maturing into a young adult, and growing in confidence and self esteem which was previously completely lacking.

It took me decades to get over the mental issues I went through in my early years. My sister also suffered from these years and later in life got herself into all sorts of trouble, including prostitution. It took my sister longer than myself to get back on the right track, and it took me some time to understand that  even though in some ways she didn't bare the worst of the violence or the mental anguish, my sister was still there through it all and was affected by it in her own way. Both my father and mother were guilty of turning my sister and I against each other; our relationship when young went from supporting each other to tormenting each other. Then we had a few years of no contact and now are very close, or as close as two siblings can be who live on opposite sides of the Tasman - Australia and New Zealand.

As I began my journey into the book industry I also began dealing with my homosexuality, finding myself, working out that I was gay.

I worked for two years at Victoria Bookshops, a chain of eight, I took to this profession like a duck to water. Within my first month I was managing one store, by the time I left two years later I was managing two stores at once. Working seven days a week I had no social life, no friends to speak of. I immersed myself in my work, and saved almost every cent I earned, only spending money on rent, food, movies, and rock concerts.

In 1987 I took my first overseas trip; getting on a plane for the first time I took a week’s holiday to Sydney, Australia. I immediately fell in love with Sydney; it was like entering an entirely new and unknown world. So many people, tall buildings, shops galore, huge bookshops. For a country boy the big city was like a beacon, a light attracting a moth, and perhaps subconsciously the gay in me spotted the chance to blossom.

I returned to New Zealand after my one week holiday, handed in my notice, and one month later with $20,000 in my pocket that I had saved working in my first bookstores, I migrated to Sydney to begin my new life. No more family ties. Freedom at last.

I got a job in a bookstore specializing in all things Architecture and Building, I worked there for almost twenty years, travelling the world, visiting book fairs annually in Frankfurt, New York or Los Angeles.

To be continued.

About the author: My name is Adam Love. I am 43. Growing up between a sheep farm and a small New Zealand town before moving to Auckland. I moved to  Sydney Australia when I was 18 where I continued my career path in the book industry. From Sydney I travelled to 39 Countries over a twenty year period. I moved back to Auckland 2008 when I found out I had contracted HIV and was very ill at the time. Since then I have had tongue cancer, and continue to struggle with eating, depression and a compromised immune system due to HIV.