In 1979, after Negative Theatre played at the big Nambassa , Louise and I were invited to play at the Nile River festival on the West Coast of the South Island. We hitchhiked down from Hamilton with our guitars. It was a wonderful down home sort of hippy affair and it rained a lot of the time. Our gig went down well and we met some Wellington musicians that would become friends over the next few years.
There was one guy I remember clearly from that weekend – he was flipping burgers with a spade on a huge old saw blade over a fire. He had long hair and a beard and these piercing blue eyes and he fed Louise and me for free because he’d enjoyed our show. There always seemed to be a big group of women around him.
Ten years later I’m living in Holloway Road and Sva moves in with a friend just up the street and we strike up a pretty strong friendship. He worked in theatre in those days – building sets and he played a mean piano.
When Bodega first started up Sva did a lot of the refurbishing. He was part of the woodwork of that place from day one – always there for everybody. At that time I wasn’t really a drinker but I’d go there to play gigs or just to see Sva and to talk to him. He had a perfectly broad vision and appreciation of all the arts and was canny and very well read.
Early this century, when I was trying to write up the final draft of my novel Manslaughter and living in Wigan Street, I would take finished chapters in to Sva at the bar to proof read and critique. He loved the characters and was part of the process of getting me through writing it. I know he was proud of that book.
Then, around the same time, we both had to drop everything and be there for our children – in my case Ang’s broken neck in Dunedin and Sva’s daughter was in a coma in Scotland.
When the time came to march the old bar down to its new lodgings, I was right next to him.
Sva was a great bloke and you could talk to him on any level – about a tricky chord sequence or turn of phrase, about your love life or your dire circumstances, about a little moment in life that he had the wit to pick up on.
We both had Capricorn birthdays and one year I gave him Little White Paul, one of the Strange Angels – he put it on top of his piano.
Everyone will have their own stories about him – he meant so much to so many people. He was part of the fabric of an iconic part of Wellington’s music culture, even though he didn’t care for a lot of the music.
The other night we held a wake for him at Bodega and it was just as if he was still there.