Mindin’ o’ James – Interduction

Hataitai, Wellington, roon’ aboo’ 1977

Ah wanna thank a’ the contributers here, whether happily recallin’ an’ writin’ aboot wur aul’ freen’ or simply mentioned in ither writin’s as freenz, cronies and co-conspirators in The Man’s unique kin’na daftness. Special thanks tae Alan (Auln) McDonald, a fellow medic wi’ Jay Bo, producing huners o’ gran’ memories frae lang syne, clearly keenly experienced back then and sharply recalled with pleasure. Ewen Fraser gied us some barry fotties, especially o’ his visit tae Christchurch in 2010. Ahm weel aware tha’ writin’ a wee memory or twa isnae a’buddy’s bag, and ahm specially sorry ah cannae hae much on The Man’s life in Christchurch and Wanaka, there no’ bein’ muckle suppport fur it, as if huners o’ people wid un’erstaun’ it, far less wannae read it! Ah weel ken tho’ tha’ gawn tae Christchurch gied him a gran’ life fu’ o’ fun, creativity, outdoor activities an’ kindness … an’ tha’ last ain in cups! Awthin’ weel enjoyed on wur many visits, specially the great spanakopita. So this glowing tribute wi’ loads o’ Sco’ish fur some tae read easy (specially like if the Scots leid is yer first language!), an’ fur ithers tae think aboo’ if they’re able tae get past the first sentence … this droll and brill trib is mainly mindin’ o’ ra gran’ decades o’rra Sixties and Seventies.

I’d like tae say here tha’ maist o’ this tribute is forged frae awfy personal memories, so they’ll be un’erstood richt weel by only those who knew The Man unco weel , prolly only folks who can get their heids aroon’ broad Scots. The Man was kent tae be private, no’ muckle carin’ tae bleeze abroad his ain stuff.  Erra tale here o’ hoo he cam by ain o’ his munny monikers, this yin ca’ed “C. Hook”. Ra memories are maistly weel recalled, a few actions an’ incidents nae supported a’rrat weel tho’, coz o’ wee omissions in mah notes an’ ra diaries ah’ve kept a’ my life. Ah div hope tha’ mah memory hasnae been imposed upon by my imagination working ower much in retrospect, creatin’ whit I’d like ra past tae be rarrer than whit actually happened – prolly why I asked a num’er o’ mutual mates an’ also The Man’s  widdae fur some info an’ corrections but nae muckle support ‘ere – a big shame coz ahm sure JayBo wouldah felt blest wi’ her blessin’, an’ me too, leastways creatin’ a tidier tribute. Some folks ah think imagine huners o’ readers, apar’ frae the fact tha’ they wouldnae understawn’ it! Onnywye, we ken fine the deid are indifferent tae whit’s said efter, an’ there’s a fair dollop o’ reticence here, sharely ticht control ower whae gets tae read this wunnerfu’ . Added tae whilk, there’s a section thaz nae expurgated, entitled “Raw, nae sae Braw”. Freenz and family left ahint need tae be respected, so thaz why the unexpurgated  section is on application only – aye, thaz richt, fur me tae decide!

This is an unco personal account o’ times wi’ JayBo here, takkin’ it as primary the personal relationship ah hud wi’ him, mah ain conception o’ him, his style, wur memories, the daft stuff we goat uptae thegither frae schoolday pranks tae university drinkin’ and a’ tha’ stuff, then the summer gravediggin’ an’ travels tae France an’ Greece. An’ at the hinter end, New Zealand life thegither, possibly his movin’ tae Kiwiland coz o’ mah singin’ its praises – akshoolly mair like he didnae care fur his job in Embrey.

Ah sharely wish ahd compiled this lang afore so tha’ James couldah enjoyed it an’ p’raps done a bit o’ vettin’, doctorin’ an’ fixin’, prolly pittin’ in a few mair “fungs” an’ ither choice swear wurrds oft-used.  In connection, this comes tae mind: we baith attended Claire’s mither’s funeral in October, 2012 in Nelson efter which James, aye on the ba’, said, “Great service, yin thing missin’ tho’, Pat wasnae rer – she wouldah enjoyed it.” (Ere’s mair on this in “Chesayin’, Pal?”)  Ah’m convinced The Man wouldah helped me wi’ mair tales and accuracy, specially like where my gettin’-oan-in-years memory misgaes and mah penchant for a wee pickle o’ transmogrification an’ gildin’ taks ower. However, ah cun assure ye this tribute is a’ based on truth, like it a’ happened – jist’at some colour has been added an’ a fair dod o’ speech Scottified for mair authenticism … fur a’ ra freenz frae Jockland! An’ a few ithers if they cun be scunnert decipherin’ it. 

Mentioning a pickle embroidering ‘ere, I’m sure ye a’ weel ken tha’ yin o’ James’s delights in life was using some colourful lingo, and I don’t mean of the poetical kind … although there was often a certain lyrical quality in the way he used the likes of “fung”, “bawz”, “yererse”, “prick” and “kunche”. As an additional tribute to James who loved to spik Sco’ish, baith o’ us actually lovin’ tae exaggerate the accent and the wurrds. Ere’s a fair wee bit o’ Scots lingo used in this remembrance, so I hope you ken weel or can mak educated guesses. An’ ah ken fine that’s the third time ahve menshed it, jist in case ye missed it the first twa times! 

Onnywye, I dug oot some auld travel notes to find a few incidents that I’d forgotten, stuff we did thegither, also some things we said, muckle o’ it on the edgy side, probably in our cups, yarning about life, work, guid mutual friends, guid things tae dae … a fair dollop o’ it is simply for a herty laugh! I think the worst were great words like bampot, choob, teuchter and dafty. If you wish to read anything I have deemed not for general consumption it’s in the unexpurgated section – “Raw – Nae Sae Braw”  which I can prolly send ye if ye ask kinnah polite like, ye ken.  Ah wuz asked no’ tae mention onnythin’ aboot Christchurch years but ah decided it widdah been too awfu’ an omission here fur me and mah wife, Beth – near twa dozen visits tae Christchurch ower 40 years to see him and family. They were wonderful visits, full of good food, wine and laughs, meeting on occasion there Rod & Marie-France, Ewen & Liz on holiday, also Lynda. There was a very fine 21st for James’s second son, too with interesting people at it. Unfortunately for my trib here, the family wanted to protect James’s magnificent legacy, prolly feeling that my kind of memories and writing would be detracting and detrimental.  

James’s official remembrance service in February, 2023, tried “to capture his essence”– the expression used by the celebrant, not the Plato quote, “The measure of a man”. The MC did a braw job o’ describing the relationships, family, friends, medical career, teaching, love o’ life, a good lauch an’ a gless or three. Mah trib here simply comprises wee stories from long ago, mostly off-the-wall daft and humorous – ah hope they gie an insight into our eccentric friend who never lost his appreciation of the absurd and quirky, and was aye up for a bit o’ fun an’ a guid body-shoogling guffaw an’ keckle.

Ahm holier than thou an’ ithers, of course. A psychology report shows tha’ ah wud handle mah death sentence weel. James an’ ah kent people who were fine willin’ tae share their hard times, tak onny help on offer; of course there were ithers we wouldnae hear much frae so nae idea whit they’re up tae, freen’ship a’ ower.  I’ts odd tae me when folks seem tae hae nae need fur tae share their stuff, as if their illnesses are perceived as weaknesses, or perhaps ‘ere’s nae trust that freenz can help … but maybe it’s mair like re’re bein’ kinnah saint-like, nae wannin’ tae be a buther tae onnywan.

They say on the News, when there’s summat from a warzone or about a disaster, “Warning, contains confronting scenes”. In similar vein, please read this only if ye appreciate totally daft! Keep away if you dinnae wan’ tae burst out laughing, tae have a wee bit o’ a think, tae be surprised or possibly even get a wee bitty shocked. Ah cun say only tha’ the followin’ is fair hoatchin’ wi’ grand memories and wee tales o’ James. Kennen fine that freenz love tae say awfy things aboot their freenz, ah huv tae thank auld guid mutual mate Tom for spikkin’ oot and clypin’ The Man’s unkind pertin’ thochts aboo’ me causin’ a fair bit o’ wabbitness, but also gi’en me a guid pokin’ tae create sae muckle o’ a’ the lyrical memories here. Oh, did I mensh that loads o’ it is in ra vurnac’lar? Aye, OK, we’ll a’ ge’ fungin’ oan wi’ i’ then! Chesayin’ yacunches!