Jim Williamson left, taken when he was a sailing instructor in Spain.
I will never forget one night after the New Zealand junior athletic championships in Dunedin. I had set a new Otago 880 yards junior record and Jim had won the open event over the same distance. Later that night, bored with the party and feeling extremely pleased with ourselves, we decided to drive out to St. Kilda beach and, in our underwear, competed against each other in a beach decathlon. We used driftwood for the high jump, rocks for the shot put, a tree branch for a javelin, drew lines in the sand for the long jump and triple jump take off and sprinted and ran against each other for hours. Simple fun on a beach. Jim was 19 and I, 16 going 17 then. We swam naked in the surf and laughed like children. It was one of those defining moments that don’t seem to have special significance at the time, but that in retrospect are seen encapsulate something of the essence of being. We were similar souls but I felt we would never be travellers on the same path. We were strong-headed people who would take different roads into the unknown but inviting future.
I don't want to give the impression that we were earnest, priggish individuals interested only in athletics and carving out a career. Quite the opposite: it would be some years before we started to take vocational questions seriously, and like all young males in our society we spent more time trying to "make it" with girls than anything else. Jim seemed to have a little more charm than I.
We participated in an athletic training camp at Karitane in 1965 where we got close to Warrington Taylor, whose son Brian was running the camp, as indicated in a separate blog article. Warrington Taylor's photo below:
I remember sharing a quote I found with him , “ If you are young and able, smuggle your talents away and hawk them on livelier markets.
At 19 I left for South America, and when I got back Jim had left for Australia, South-East Asia and finally Europe.
Left: My first passport with a photo taken at 19 years of age when I set of to try to scale 13 unclimbed Peruvian mountains with a group of young NZ mountaineers.
Two days ago I got an e-mail from Jim in response to a story on nuclear disarmament I shared with him. He has had a chequered career as a university teacher, antique restorer, owner of a bar in Spain, owner of a successful English academy, sailing instructor and now translator specialising in the field of green energy generation. He is also a member of Translators without Borders. His reply is brilliant and thought-provoking.
Great to hear from you, even through LinkedIn. In this case the medium is most definitely not the message. Thanks for the photos. You're still one of the ugliest buggers I've come across.
Nice article about Warrington Taylor. Funny thing about nuclear weapons is that - horrifying as their existence is - they are no longer perceived as a serious threat by most people today. What seems to have happened is that once the cold war was defused the associated paranoia disappeared, and the prospect that the US and USSR would get involved in a nuclear holocaust bringing what we (with increasing irony) call the civilised world to an end was packed away into the souvenir box of history to be studied by uncomprehending school kids. Warrington would possibly have thought that that is where it belongs. The bombs are still there, but don’t seem to do much harm. There are other, cheaper ways of continuing the great tradition of Man’s inhumanity to Man (and to all other creatures if you think about it... as Humans, we are a decided failure. As Sapiens, I’d go even further and say we really never got started)
Since the 60’s we have seen so many non-nuclear horrors committed by men against their fellow creatures, from Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia, the Congo, Liberia, Rianda, Bosnia-Serbia-Kosovo, Chechnya, Sudan... you know more about them than I do, many of them at first hand. The depressing thing is not that we can invent nuclear arms and the means to deliver them worldwide (a multi-billion dollar enterprise), but that all we need is a Kalashnikov and a few anti-personnel mines costing a few rupees on the black market to perpetrate the most horrific and wilful mass cruelty. So strong is the beast that lurks beneath the thin veneer of the rule of law that the presence of nuclear stockpiles fades into insignificance beside the prospect of half a million Hutus armed with home-made machetes. The space-arms race was a kind of temporary madness cured as soon as the soviets blinked. It’s no accident that the only manned mission to our satellite was in 1969 and has never been emulated. Today Dr Strangelove is just a funny man with a silly arm, incomprehensible to anyone under 30. However, the world sees daily media exposure of deliberate famine, rape, torture, genocide and the most horrifying array of hands-on face-to-face spit-on-your grave violence that it’s no wonder the bomb is the forgotten ghost in the attic of the 21st century consciousness.