Gladwin Road

I met Vanya Lowry some time in 1961. She had been to Epsom Girls Grammar School with Frances Mullinder who was going out with my friend Malcolm Fraser. Vanya’s father was printer and typographer Bob Lowry who, together with her mother, Irene, was embedded in the Auckland literati – a brave new world for me. I realised that the intellectual freedom I had begun to experience among my friends was not just youthful disaffection and rebellion but was shared by a whole stratum of adult society, albeit one that felt embattled and disaffected in its own right.

The Lowrys lived at the end of Gladwin Road on the edge of Cornwall Park. The house was overgrown with bush on two sides so that the front path from the road felt like the approach to some wild and unruly place. Out the back was a well-tended vegetable garden. The life of the house seemed to centre round the big dining area off the kitchen. People sat at a long wooden table and talked and drank – red wine, as I recall, or maybe it was beer in a flagon in good Kiwi fashion.

Next to the dining area, down a couple of steps was a big, square livingroom, where the furniture was always along the walls as if to leave the centre of floor clear for spontaneous dancing. Now and again there were parties, loud affairs that crammed this space and the kitchen, too. I still lived at home, as did all my friends and the party culture was something new and strange – packed rooms seething with talk and, lubricated with alcohol, an undercurrent of licentiousness. I didn’t understand this ambience until I found myself being chatted up by women the same age as my mother. I was bemused and intrigued and terrified in equal measure.

I remember one occasion I was visiting Vanya when the poet Michael Jackson arrived with a woman, who it seemed had just run away from her husband. They danced around the living room with exuberant elegance (maybe the elegance was mostly on her part) and ignored us completely. Vanya told me later that she was Fleur Adcock, whose name was one I was already bandying about although I had never read her poetry. The husband she was running away from was Barry Crump.

Connections like this began to change my attitude to my own writing. Maybe it didn’t just belong in my private world. Maybe there was a place for it out in public, too. Eventually, I overcame my diffidence, bundled up a bunch of poems and sent them off to Charles Brasch at Landfall. He answered with a nice note saying that he found the work interesting and that although he didn’t want to publish these he would like to see anything else I wrote. I was too naive to take this  encouragement at face value (I know now that no editor asks to see more work unless they really mean it). I just thought he hated me. Oddly, though, I wasn’t discouraged either. If Brasch didn’t like what I was writing, then so much the worse for Brasch. It wasn’t that I had an especially high opinion of myself – I was riddled with self-doubt about my writing and much else in my life. I guess I just felt that, in some way, I had to do what I had to do. Whatever journey I was on should not or perhaps even could not be deflected by other people. Part of me still feels that way, although another part looks back and winces at my youthful arrogance.

One Response to “Gladwin Road”

  1. Attila the Humdrum Says:

    good one, Lloyd … banish any thoughts of absurdity or suicide …

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