The mere act of placing poetry in public spaces makes me feel mighty fine and helps me to ignore the drones of this life. I often place these posters right out in the Wop-Wops and as far away from humanity as I can get. Humanity, why would they call it that?
It would have been my mother’s birthday today. Then, in about six or seven day’s time, it is the anniversary of the death of one of my sisters (in 1989). One of my other sisters had passed away about four weeks beforehand during that same year. Further to this, one of these beautiful (in every way) women chose to die ten years to the day after my father’s death. And you tell me that Sigmund Freud was wrong?
My mother was a good woman. She was very gregarious, passionate and shy and often all during the same moment. She lived at a time and place in New Zealand where women typically held back their inner drives and stood firmly behind their men and the family. They tried hard to never rock the boat and to keep all their passions and dreams firmly hidden firstly from themselves and then from the world at large. Consequently, I never really knew my mum and I miss her so. People tell me that I can’t miss what I never had and I tell them that this isn’t the case. Folk feel compelled to say a lot of weird shit in this life and if you ask them what they think they will tell you. They can be quite destructive in this respect.
My dad (and men in general) didn’t have it much better back then either. His lot was to carry the ‘burden’ of our family and to work twelve hours a day and also to never say a word.
New Zealand was a very repressed country during this point in time and Dunedin seemed to have caught a double dose of it. On Sundays you may have been allowed a mutton pie, but never much more. Then you could never show the world that you enjoyed that mutton pie because the universe might all come tumbling down on you. It was all a bit like living without Facebook.
Because of all of this, and paradoxically, I have always thought that the best music available came out of Dunedin. It is still often rebellious and then joyful because of what I describe the landscape to be. The best writing comes out of the same area and a town seventy miles North called Oamaru. When there is no fun there may well be joy.
I think I remember Philip Roth saying something that meant everything in America was allowed and meant nothing but that nothing in Russia was allowed and that meant a lot. If he didn’t say it then I just did. Less was allowed, in many respects, in New Zealand and you just didn’t know which way to turn.
My mother always stood behind me and beside me during my whole life. When I was a kid, sick and in hospital a lot, she never gave up on me. When I was a junkie, she hid my fits for me when I came to visit (they were in Dunedin, I was living in Christchurch by then). When I overdosed, accidentally of course, she called the ambulance and when the police came and asked if I’d been in town because a chemist shop had ‘gone off’ the night before she always said “No, I’ve never seen him, what’s his name again?”
When I began to send bands on tour they often slept on my mum’s floor and she cooked them bacon and eggs and did their washing for them because it is well known that no band in the whole wide world can take care of themselves in any purposeful way. My mum came in handy.
We are going to Burma tomorrow for all the usual reasons (George Orwell, the struggle for democracy, Khun Sa etc.) but primarily because a mate of mine’s dad, a Cockney, was in the ‘Forgotten Army’ in WW2. I’m not sure when they dropped that army into Burma (1942?) but I do know they had a terrible time getting supplies in and life was desperately hard for this fighting force. The way I’ve always heard it is that this ‘army’ made what fun they could out of a very bad situation. When my mate’s dad got out of the jungle in 1945, he said he’d never work again. This mate and me used to steal doctors’ bags together in Christchurch in 1973/4 or so and we’d go out any given night and come back with two or three of them. Then we’d get stoned and laugh and laugh as he regaled me with stories of his dad in the jungle. We were in our own jungle of course and I don’t think he ever made it out.
My mother died fifteen years ago and I miss her so.
A Tinker’s Cuss started life on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page – it’s a new feature here at Off The Tracks and we’re repeating the earliest posts before carrying on with new words from Jim Wilson.