Old George, who lived a few houses down and whose father had famously lived well past a hundred, told me that Winston McCarthy had grown up in our house and it had also been a shop at one stage.
Angus was about to start his schooling at Te Aro school and we wound up buying that house somehow. There was a body called the Housing Corporation in those days and we got a dirt-cheap loan because we were poor. We had to scrape up a deposit but we managed it.
It certainly changed how I felt about doing improvements around the place. I retained and landscaped the small back yard and Michelle grew a garden. The winters were hard there but I eventually ripped out the old useless fireplace that took up half the house and put a metal wood burner in the corner.
My dad came down and helped me re-pile the floor and straighten out the walls. Then I painted it in eleven colours I had left over from painting other people’s houses.
We knew all our neighbours and it was a great community. Ang had two mates his own age living either side of us and when my daughter Jess came to stay in the holidays they would build huts that took over the lounge and help me get pinecones for the fire from up in the hills, behind the house the blackberries in the summer.
At the end of the 80s the Spines I’d had had moved on to greener pastures and I had a couple of years without an actual band but Holloway Road was a creative place and we produced our arts magazine the Brain from there. I wrote a power of my best songs there too and taught myself how to play lead guitar. It was from there Neill, Andy and I relaunched the 1990s version of the band.
After school most days Ang, Cos, Jess and I would go down to Polhill Gully and play cricket and there was an old tennis court up above – they were magic days.
It was one day. Cos and Ang were playing down at the start of the street in the little playground. There was a guy that turned up and asked for directions to the tennis courts up above. Ang said he’d show him the way and luckily Cos freaked out and went running home to Jane his mum.
They got up there just in time.
This known sex offender with my son.
Jane screamed and he fled.
The cops got the dogs out and they knew who he was.
I’d been at work that day and unavailable for the cricket game.
There was counselling but it didn’t do much.
We lived in that house about seven years and Ang went through his primary schooling there.
It got too cold for Michelle and we moved into town.
We bought a place in Wigan Street…
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