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November 6, 2011

In Memoriam

Elwin Robert Jamison
14 April 1941 - 6 November 2010
adapted from an obituary published in the
NZ Morris Sphere

 Dear Elwin,
You used to say that you were a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none but it seems to me that you mastered everything that you set your mind to. Whether you were blowing up your mother’s new table top, or crafting a harp; improving effluent treatment systems or restoring a boardroom table and chairs; teaching yourself to play your father’s button accordion or baking a chocolate cake.  You even mastered the difficult  keying 
of Jenny Lind on your melodeon a few days before you died. You’ve shown me your grandparents’ house in Bridge St, Buckingham, where you  were born, while your father was serving with the Fleet Air Arm in the Middle East.  You didn’t meet one another until you were three years old.  After a few years in Felixstow, your growing family moved closer to aunts and uncles in Oxford and bought a house in Crotch Crescent. Your father worked
as a panel
beater on the production line at the Morris Motor Co. in Cowley, and you grew up with three sisters. I read your eight-year-old school report from Copse Lane Primary School while preparing for your funeral, and was surprised to see that you were not very good at maths. You wanted
 me to see the beauty in
mathematics and showed me
how to solve real life problems with algebra.  You’ve told me about the art prize you won for a drawing of a lightning-blasted tree, but by the time you entered secondary school, Art had been knocked out of you by a teacher who wouldn’t accept your detailed depiction of every brick in the wall.  Thankfully Music didn't suffer the same fate and you began collecting instruments and teaching yourself to play them; never reading music enough to spoil your playing, as you often joked. Your years at The City of Oxford High School sound like arbitrary exposure to some exceptional teachers as well as some drunken duffers, and a good measure of intimidation.  Undaunted, you discovered your strengths in Physics, 
Chemistry and Maths and went straight from school to work – in 1958 - with the
 UK Atomic Energy Authority. “Top Secret” was what you said when you first wanted to impress me, but years later (and it wasn’t even pillow talk) you mentioned researching radiation-strengthened wood for the heels of women’s shoes. At about this time you survived a horrific motorcycle accident, which damaged your eye socket, but not your eyesight. You went on to gain a B.Sc (Hons) in Chemistry at the University of London, and managed this while working and raising Tina and Lara with Barbara - your first wife, between 1962 and 1968.
 Jobs during this time, in research
and development and technical services at Associated Lead Manufacturers and Wiggins Teape
Paper Manufacturers laid down an understanding of textiles, paint production, printing, and paper qualities that has continued to inform our family’s daily lives.  In 1969 you emigrated to South Africa with your first family, to work for Shatterpruf Safety Glass Co, but this job did not last long, quite possibly because you were about to expose the theft of gold washed out in a processing operation. How you excelled at industrial washing – wet processing – the pumps and the plumbing, the efficacy and extraction of waste.  It was a surprise to me to discover after your death, that Esso recognised your design for a mini-bowl scouring system with an industrial award while you were working for the South African Wool Technical Research Institute in Port Elizabeth.  As liberal English, folk- music playing residents, you and Barbara began to feel unsafe under South Africa’s apartheid system
 and in 1973 returned to England: to a nation on strike; to the three-day week; to unemployment and despair. Meanwhile, Wool Research New Zealand had heard about your mini-bowl design – and since SAWTRI had 
not developed it, WRONZ saw a golden opportunity. So you were head-hunted! And in 1974 emigrated again, to New Zealand to work at Lincoln, and to live in Christchurch.  Your mini-bowl wool scouring system, using less water for a cleaner wash, took off; took you around the world to market it in fact, and featured in 1983 on a NZ stamp. You also joined Bob Crowder's revival Morris dancing side, Erewhon Morris.
When your first marriage ended, you optimistically joined a women’s morris dancing side, and in 1986 we both got lucky in love !  But in spite of your success in wool research, you had reached the pinnacle of your career and could see the writing on the wall for research and development in NZ.  We were both ready for a big OE.  Family-back-Home-in-England, challenge,
adventure, Narrowboat Ben, marriage… morris dancing, music. Four years of gadding about, but we wanted to make a baby, and you didn’t want to bring a child up in England, so we booked one last adventure  and travelled by truck across Europe and into Arabian Nights territory: Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Pakistan India, Nepal. The stench of sewerage, the perfumed garden, the savagery and the generosity of unworldly tribespeople, the thrill of ancient places, and appropriate technology. All these things we shared as well as debilitating sickness.  And then we were home in New Zealand; back to reality, a house of our own and time to think about work.  You had become
more and more interested in alternative technologies, and in healing, particularly the healing power of the mind. While you worked as an odd-job man for a year, we talked around possibilities: return to Britain to work at Machynlleth, The Centre for Alternative Technology, or return to university to study the Placebo effect. Naturopathy won the day and you began studying towards a Diploma in Naturopathy at the Canterbury College of Natural Medicine two weeks before Bryony was born. I remember then how much you wanted to become a midwife.  Once again you were studying and supporting a young family, and how well you did it too.  You were always meticulous in your research and presentation, and excelled at therapeutic massage. I know that if you had chosen to continue along the metaphysical path, you the grandson of a wart-charmer,
 would have made a superb Reiki
 practitioner.  I know this, because you were my Healer. You also had a talent for insightful counselling both in your professional practice and personally amongst family and friends.  Since your death, I have been surprised by the number of Rangiora people, who have come to me with their
stories of visits to your clinic. After all you were an outsider come into my world here in North Canterbury, but you certainly earned the respect and admiration of many local people during the seven years that you practiced as Elwin Jamison, Naturopath,in the Rangiora High Street. In 2004 your unusual combination of BSc and Dip Nat earned you a job with the Ministry of Health as Natural Medicines Advisor, and with Kitty and Bryony we moved to Wellington for two years. You were so excited about the possibilities of bringing complementary medicine into mainstream use, but the change of government and collapse of the Trans Tasman accord diminished your role, and in your latter days your work
 included the banality of advising
on sticking plaster and Viagra. Still your rigorous research standards were highly regarded and gave weight to Ministry dialogues when dealing with sceptical international authorities.You passed retirement age but never retired and in the last few months
of your life you did so much. 
After a year of preparation, we travelled
together as a family with Unlimited School's Project Iva to deliver supplies to Iva School in Samoa, where you formed a special raport with the village matriarch. 
You also completed the first module of  a new Steam Certificate course and came home enraptured after hands-on experience with Shantytown's working steam engine. And you never stopped making music. From Skiffle through Jazz and Folk: you played guitar, mandolin, banjo, but especially bass with various Canterbury bush bands, as well as button melodeon for the Morris. 
You were enjoying frequent touring with Bantam of the Opera English Country Dance Band, with bookings entered in your hand well into this year's diary.  How much I took you for granted, my very own Morris musician. How much I miss you now
 - laptop music doesn't measure up. 
You played one last Shepherd's Hey for me to dance my jig to, when the Tussock Jumpers visited Telegraph Rd, to have a look at the three metre Earthquake kink running across it. We drove home that sunny Halloween evening last year planning our next Honeymoon... 25 years this March - it was time for another wedding.
 You leave me with so many memories, some of them difficult, many of them happy, you who knew how to say sorry when it really mattered, you who loved dressing in drag… or less, you who could pull my leg and nearly get away with it, and whose fascination with how things worked was matched with the ability to make things work, you who adapted to raising two more daughters after a generation of change in child-raising attitudes, you who told me the day before you died how lucky you were to have me as your wife: You showed me our future and made dreams come true.
                With Love and Gratitude from Jeneane


Owen said...

. .

Between the two dots was a moment of silence.

Jeneane said...

Oh, thank you Owen. That's very sweet of you. I think you deserve to hear Elwin's French tale... He accepted a bet - student daredevil - to go to Paris and back to London in 24 hours. There was a companion and there was hitching. Having reached Paris they didn't even stop overnight, but turned right around and made for home. The companion was female and Elwin was a gentleman, so when they lay down for a sleep in a roadside gravel heap, they both froze the night-hours away till the next ride, rather than do the sensible thing and cuddle! Oh... they won their bet :-)

fiona said...

Beautiful - love to you all today....

Jeneane said...

Ah Fiona, thanks so much. You managed to get through the signing in business. Well done :-)

the cuby poet said...

Wow what a fabulous and interesting man he was.This post is to e celebration of a multi faceted man which has enriched your life but not for long enough. Love coming across the airwaves right now. x :)

Anonymous said...

So much stuff I didn't know about Daddy. There's always another story when I thought I've heard them all. Then I pride myself in telling those stories to my friends and they laugh at him blowing up his mothers table and spray painting his entire face black by accident. I remember all the times he took me Christmas shopping and wondering why the other children always stared and whispered as we walked by. One day I over heard a kid say "Look mum, Father Christmas shops here too". The best father a child could have in my opinion.

Jeneane said...

The Cuby Poet: Thank you too dear blog-friend. Of course he was as flawed as any other human being, but he wasn't the only one who thought he was lucky :-) And I shall tell you - Cornish Maid - that because we didn't know whether we could actually have children, we gobbled up fertility rites and sites in Britain. Elwin crawled backwards through Men-an-tol, I got as close as I could to a Padstow Hobby Hoss, and so we used to call our first born a faerie child...

LittleLadyMondegreen: Hello darling. Well I am having a good chuckle over Father Christmas shopping. You never mentioned that before - a new story for me.

John Gray said...

done with style
this is the power of good blogs

The Sagittarian said...

Fantastic tribute, I am sorry I didn't know him! (Actually, his surname is VERY close to a family name of ours too....)

Jeneane said...

Dear John, you often say such inspirational things. This letter to Elwin has definitely been part of a moving-forward process. Thankyou. I have to say that it was your sister's post with your childhood photos that reminded me to dig out Elwin's. Our blogs really do ripple around the World.
By the way: I don't mind if you laugh at Crotch Crescent. He did. In that game of "What's your pornstar name?" Elwin would surely have been a B-grade star. I am certain he told me that his first pet was called Fluffy!

Jeneane said...

Gee thanks Saj. Let me guess, your similar family name has an 'e' in it? Elwin pronounced his surname as Jam-i-son, but endured people constantly correcting him to Jame-ison. Where his father came from in Northern Ireland,they pronounce it Jemison. You can't win, which I guess is the natural process of change that happens with language anyway.

Being Me said...

Thank you so much. I feel fuller somehow - I don't know quite how! - having taken the time to read this amazing memoriam tribute. What a guy. Truly. I think it's quite poignant that, not knowing the time when I came across to your blog to catch up today, someone in my leafy-hills suburb began playing the Last Post at the 11th hour on this 11th day of the 11th month. I sprang a bit of a stinging tear then xx

Jeneane said...

Oh golly Being Me, you've got me going too. You with your strong sense of personal loss and the business of Remembrance. Yes it's strange - tho' not really - how these little poignancies slide across each other and become meaningful. Although Elwin's funeral was on Nov 12, today being Friday and the same public holiday (nothing to do with Armistice Day) that we celebrated his life on last year, there is a strong anniversary feel to this sunny, sighing day. Thankyou for the Last Post sounding somewhere in Melbourne.

The Sagittarian said...

Yes an 'e' but no 'i'....

Steve said...

What a lovely, dear, wonderful man. The kind we all wish we had in our lives in some capacity. You were so lucky to have him... but he was also lucky in you. Such happiness shines out of all your photos.

Jeneane said...

Saj: Jameson, that's not a common spelling either, but I bet your girls are related to my girls somewhere back amongst the Highland Clearances.

Jeneane said...

Steve: You are lovely in spite of what you'd have us think over at Bloggertropolis ;-) I know that Elwin would have enjoyed your sharp wit and black humour. What a nice thing to say about the photos too. We certainly had some good times together.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Amazing stuff, will be back. Have similar work to do and you quite inspire me!

Jeneane said...

You do Ken, it's a very healing thing to do for yourself if not others. But I know that you will find others grateful for your efforts to honour Francoise and any others that you remember with love. Hope you and Paulette are managing okay. Hugs across the miles :-)