1984 and Michelle was pregnant – we moved into the top floor of this huge old warehouse space on Wakefield Street that was impossible to heat.
They were strange days – the Spines was on hold while Wendy and Ross went off to other bands for a time and I recorded Act Your Age almost like a solo album and wrote the first draft of Manslaughter. I was working as a postman in Karori and rehearsing for a musical at Downstage.
I had never in my wildest dreams considered becoming a parent and I was totally out of my depth but we went to all those antenatal classes and that had me even more worried – would I become one of these people? I’d always been so self/girlfriend/music/art-focused – would I still be able to create after becoming a father?
On the evening of the tenth of May Michelle went into labour and it was difficult. The mid-wife was really good but it just went on and on in that big cold warehouse and the next day we wound up having to go to the hospital. Dr Carol Shand took over and I just tagged along really and tried to be there for Michelle and her pain.
At one point they sent me off for half an hour while something called an epidural was administered and I wandered into a second hand bookshop in Newtown. I picked up a book by an Italian author I was fond of and opened it to see that it had been translated by someone named Angus MacKinnon. I went back to the hospital with that name ringing in my head.
When he finally came out, in that instant my life changed forever and it was nothing like I expected.
Here was this new being, this unique soul – not some little Jon McLeary. Here was Angus.
I held him and cut the cord and I knew deep in my heart that finally in my life I had done something of real worth almost by default. I’d been proud of stuff before like Nambassa or Radio with Pictures but this was in a whole new league – he was perfect.
Michelle had this thing where I was to bury the afterbirth in a special place and I knew a spot by a tree in Mt Victoria. I also had to get back to Downstage to shout a wonderfully talented bunch of actors over Angus’s birth and to rehearse this ridiculous musical we were about to open there called Boy’s Own McBeth. Her hippie friend gave me a lift back to town in a funny little car with no warrant of fitness.
We were pulled over by a cop – I told him my story and showed him the bag of placenta I was clutching and he waved us on and said don’t do it again.
My daughter was born three months later and I wasn’t at her birth but I love her just the same.
The Ghost of Electricity – War Stories by Jon McLeary is a new initiative at Off The Tracks, a series of stories and reflections from painter, writer and musician Jon McLeary