Mindin’ o’ Ra Man – Chesayin’, pal?

General Introduction (It’s in the “Unexpurgated” version of this)

Claire’s mum’s funeral in Nelson, Oct. 22, 2012   It was a fine celebration of Pat’s life, including remembrances by Claire’s father Jim, Claire’s husband, also name of Jim, and by Claire herself, including singing a Scots song, and James (nay wunner ah didnae call him Jim, too many Jims!) also made a touching remembrance speech. After the service James said to me outside, 

“That was guid! There was fung one thing missing though. 

I said, “Fung pray tell.” 

“Aye, Pat wasnae there tae enjoy it.”  

That gied me the idea for a hoor o’ lot o’ writing aboot “A Living Funeral” whereby the daftie celebrates his ain life, plannin’ the service afore he karks it, able tae participate in ra proceedin’s and mak share a’thin’ is as he wid like it, specially ra music an’ maybe what some o’ the daft speakers would say aboot him. Great idea, thanks James! Much creativity ensued – I’ll include some of “Living Funeral” in this memoir. So furranoo, apart from him being a braw freen’, I’m grateful for twa gre’ gifts frae him – the pre-funeral idea and his jist afore-death cause of my creativity, helpin’ me with a’ this writing now. Thanks, mun! 

Mid-1970s, Masterton/Wellington:  James got along well with mutual friends, esp. my girlfriend Sarah and her flatmate, Warren. Actually, years later, James and I met Warren (about our age) again in Christchurch in 2017 when he, Warren told us about his “tap on the shoulder”, surviving some cancer, maybe prostate. 

1978, 1979 in Wellington I would visit James and Claire several evenings a week in their wee flat under a house belonging to a colleague of ours at Polytech. It was always after dinner around 8.00, and James would be asleep on the couch, tired after a day in Wellington hospital, work he didn’t enjoy. Claire and I would have a chat until he woke and we’d open a bottle of wine. Those visits were very enjoyable certainly for me, I hope also for all. One time though I managed to have an accident en route, can’t recall the details now but a bit of damage to my car. Luckily the bottle of whisky in the glovebox was OK.

Gravedigging, Summers, 1968-71:  There was an old guy, Tam I think,, who lived in an old wooden caravan at the council offices.  He swore by “Porridge, matties and whisky” … for breakfast!  James and I had many a laugh telling people that.  

James and I liked to bet on the horses, or rather he joined in on my suggestions with relish.  There was a wonder horse called Nijinsky back in the late 1960s winning everything. James said let’s put 50 pounds on its next race, no idea where the money would come from to place the bet, it being over 1000 dollars in today’s money … of course, Nijinsky won again at three to one, so we would have been rich in student terms. James and I spent quite a few hours in Sandy Bell’s wishing we had been bolder … or rich enough to bet on Nijinsky.

Something similar happened again in New Zealand in the mid-70s when Lester Piggott, the great English jockey visited NZ and had five or maybe six rides at Ellerslie … James said let’s put a big bet to win on every ride. Of course, we didn’t. Piggott rode five winners and a third!  Again we would have been rich … well, rich enough to buy better wine!

Wellington, 1977 or so.  I directed a short play called “A Separate Peace” by Tom Stoppard for the “Little Theatre” on Cuba St. It was for a competition, Wellington Plays, or some such. James played the lead, a doctor, having to wear a fine white coat. There were quite a few problems with lines during rehearsals. Right up to putting the play on 

stage in the competition, I had serious doubts about James doing all right. I need not have worried, of course, he must have applied his great memorising ability at the last minute, so he performed perfectly. I praised him too much afterwards, causing him to say, “Will ye no’ haud yer wheesht, mun!” 

Good ideas  James was often fu’ … er, of ideas and tips, especially regarding clothes, and he’d tell me what to buy. One of the best was Ben Sherman black&white check shirts. Another of course was anything by Levi’s. But I’ll never forget him commenting on my wedding suit, specially made in Singapore on our way home from Tokyo. He said I needed to buy my clothes at “Cuntry” Road shop in Christchurch.  He had a good palate for a reasonable wine and told me about W5 Sauve Blanc, and indeed it was a’richt at under 12.00 dollars.

Back in the late 1970s, I often went out with James and Claire for drinks and dinner, had a lot to do with their son, our godson Robbie at that time. I once took Robbie to Trentham races, neither of us winning anything except maybe being together and having fun. I also took him to Masterton for a weekend, and he came and stayed at Beth’s parents’ bach at Paraparaumu one Christmas in the early 1980s, on our usual annual visit from Tokyo.

Ae time, maybe in the 2000s, ah tellt James ahd broken many bones in mah life like ankle, leg, hip, clavicle and cheekbone, also a haematoma in a thigh. He said he hudnae broken a’thing – I said apar’ frae a few herts, a few mair glesses an’ yin o’ wur best chairs!

Zooming his Pals:  James was a great Zoomer, and we had some guid yins, grand to be able to joke and lauch as if with the freen hissel’ ‘ere present in ra room, and sometimes he’d hit the Zoom jackpot and a’ three o’ us freenz would jine in. However, he treated sending links like makin’ a fung phone call except he’d often send oot late at nicht, weel efter mah bedtime and ahd only get wurrd o’ the “Upfurra Zoom, man?”  ra next mornin’. Or if it was earlier enough tae catch me, ah wad reply but there’d be naybuddy there – this happened half a dozen times,  an’ a coupla times ah could see him an’ wiffy awa’ in the kitchen, an’ ahd sign aff oot o’ feelin’s furr ‘er privacy.  Ah think Ewen also reported this happened to him, tae. Ah tried to get James to agree on a Zoom time to mak mair share o’ us gettin’ thegither but he couldnae dae it. The ithers ah think had mair Zoom time wi’ The Man coz their UK and Australia times were mair suited.  Onnywye, must say ah miss the Zooms, miss the daftness, miss him being there tae share the past wi’, tae mind o’ heaps.

Serious Stuff:  James and I didnae hae ower munny serious conversations coz either one of us was aye ready with a wee bit humour. However, ain topic ah mind gettin’ his sober views on munny years syne, maybe in ra 1970s, was alcoholism. I guess I was a tad worrit aboot hoo it happened, if havin’ a fair few glesses and gettin’ a wee bit fu’ was a slippery road.  He said the illness is so complex it’s nae possible to say onnythin’ muckle for onny yin buddy – some folks are alcoholics even not quaffing much, others are fine and functionin’ havin’ a fair skinfu’.

Here’s mah advice tae yin an’ a’ … it’s jes’tae keep yer fung bile tae yersels yacunches!  Especially when it comes tae clypin’. OK, thaz fung nuff frae me. Ahm in awfu’ dire need o’ anither large gin and wine, chased down by a big glass of Cointreau. Can’t wait to get to the Scotch. Cheers! Pissed off be upon you! It’s better than being pissed on!