Archive | January, 2013

Twelve Vignettes

18 Jan

I have had a lot of stuff boiling under the surface for a while. Most of it revolving around some true stories from family lore, so I thought I should just get it out of my system as quick and succinctly as possible.

I therefore now present to you:

Twelve Vignettes


2013: Driving down Mason Street. 10pm Thursday night. Dad’s driving me home. There’s a bicycle lane. The light’s aren’t working properly (truth be told – They shoot half a mile up in the air). Little brother’s excited about getting his first car. He’s 15. Will start learning to drive in the next few months.

Shit! What’s that? Dad, almost ran him over; slows the car down. Dad winds down the window.

“You should be on the footpath you idiot!” He shouts. Keeps on driving.

Little brother and I piss ourselves laughing.

“What?” dad says.

“You just road-raged at Stephen Hawking” one of us says as we catch our breaths between laughs.

Dad had just slowed down to tell off a disabled bloke in a motorized wheelchair for driving in the bike lane at night without reflectors or lights. He was dressed in a pinstripe suit and bowtie.

The wheel-chair guy was – not Dad.


c. 1930: Great Grandad’s friend dies on the ship. The crew don’t know what to do. Great Grandad suggests using a coffin they’re transporting in the hold to keep his body in until they dock. All agree. Great Grandad helps them take the body down to the hold and place him in the coffin. The body is too long. Shit!

Great Grandad suggests cutting the legs and slipping them up inside the pant-legs to fit him in.

No-one can agree. Great Grandad say’s “Give it here!”

Takes the saw and cuts the legs of his late friend and slips them up inside the pant legs.

Shock gives way to sailor humour and laughs.

The next day Great Grandad inexplicably starts walking with a limp. It accompanies him to his grave.


c. 2005: My sister buys me a tight pink shirt. “ It’s all the rage” she says. “It’ll look good on you”.

I wear it home from a night out, also wearing an ironic handle-bar moustache. I keep getting stopped by bunches of cunts.

“Where are you going you homo?” they all ask.

“Home. What the fuck’s your problem?”

–       Laughs –

Curious at the number of dickheads out tonight. Mention the fact to my flatmates in the morning. “Never been hassled so much in my life!”

Later that week I interview Georgina Beyer [Trans-sexual MP] on her equality for gay employees bill, on the radio. Draw a parallel on discrimination. It’s not a parallel.

Penny drops.


c. 1944.  Grandad lands at Auckland with (Grand) Uncle Conrad. Arrested on landing. No passports.

“What nationality are you?” the officer asks.

“German” answers Grandad.

“Tongan” answers Conrad.

The Customs/Police officer lays into Conrad. Beats him bloody. “You’re a fuckin’ liar! At least tell the truth about who you are you coward!”.

Conrad spends his night in a cell.

Grandad is waved on through.


c.1880: There’s a storm at sea. The sails must be cut or the whole ship will be lost. Great-Great Grandad runs up the mast and cuts the ropes that are holding the sails in the tempest.

As soon as the last rope is cut the ship violently rights itself. He falls, smashes the left side of his face against the railing of the ship. Lands in the water, unconscious.

Protocol says if a man is overboard in a storm, you leave him.

Captain orders the ship be turned around. Great-Great Grandad is hauled aboard.


c.1983: Dad scores the last try for the Prems in a league game. They win. The whistle blows. There’s cheers. As they’re walking off the field someone shouts “Behind you!”.

Dad turns around quickly. Someone bites into his face. Horror! Assailant spits out his left eye-ball. Nerve still attached.

Run to hospital. Tube installed. Bionic dad created.

Photo of me and Dad in the paper. I’m touching his face ( I’m only a few months old). Dad not happy. Not because of the wound, but because of the slander.


c.2004: I’m driving home from a gig on campus. Shit night. Band broke up.

I sneak my car between the bollards next to the library. Some arsehole’s in the way; standing in the middle of the drive. I beep. No movement.

I roll toward him slowly. He stares me down. I keep rolling (foot off break in an auto – no accelarator). He jumps on the bonnet of my car, grabs onto the rim above my windshield.

Was being nice; Now I’m angry. Foot on gas, sharply brake! He’s still holding on.

Don’t want to kill him by doing it faster. I get out. Drag him off. We scrap. He’s on the ground. I’m grabbing his throat, starting to rip! Hear footsteps. Someone’s coming. I turn around. A friend of his was hiding!

SMACK! Left eye waters. We scrap.

“I’ve had a shit night already!” I say.

“Leave him alone. I know he’s a dick. He’s an idiot but he doesn’t know what he’s doing!” my opponent says.

“Fuck you both!” I say as I jump back in the car. Can only see from one eye. Drive home.

Get there. Start blacking out. Call an ambulance. Need an operation. Eyepatch.

Part of my jaw is now my eye floor.


c. 1957: Grandad is playing in a bar. Gig is a success. Ladies flock to him. He’s married, but doesn’t shun the attention.

Jealous husband smashes a bottle. Throttles Grandad in the left eye. Operation. Stitches. Eyepatch. Suspicious wife.


c. 1947: Grandad’s little brother Moses rides a horse as a child in Tonga. Gets thrown. No worries.

Notices horse is missing a rear shoe. Approaches from behind. Gets kicked in the left side of the face. Moses’ Mother sits by his bedside for two weeks. He’s in a coma.

Comes to. The left side of his face is shattered. Never the same.


c. 1915: Officer from British Consulate sent to Tonga tells Great-Grandad (a Methodist Minister) that the he is being stripped of his assets. Geat Grandad’s main assets = his family home, a bakery and a church hall.

Great-Grandad is Furious. Does not physically assault the British officer but physically strips the officer of all his clothes. Sends him back to his superiors.

Bakery and church expropriated.

Great Grandad breaks into bakery and continues to deliver sermons from within it. Crown does nothing until….


1941: Grandad’s 21st Birthday. Watches his father herded onto a ship bound for a NZ internment camp from Tonga. Great-Grandad tells him to look after his mother and his siblings (one unborn). He swears he will (he does). Grandad’s still happy. His Dad will be back. Surely?

He isn’t.

Never said goodbye.