We all knew of Poti Mita and how important Pukehina was to Dad. He wanted to marry Poti but his domineering mother was horrified and wouldn’t allow it.
My first visit to Pukehina about 20 years ago I learnt that Poti “was already spoken for”. The intended was a fellow from down the line at Matata. More details weren’t forthcoming as a tangi was in progress and I already felt like a gatecrasher. The hearse was about to arrive from Maketu bearing a Mita.
There has been speculation over Dad’s use of the word “exile” from Pukehina. I believe that it was simply his poetic way of saying he was about to marry Mum, and Poti was to marry her intended.
Poached eggs cooked on the coal range for breakfast, squelching through the mudflats to cast a net into the channel and catching sprats…Home was a two-bedroom bach above the beach at Weymouth on the Manukau.
Some high tides covered the mudflats and rocks enough for a swim; if you were quick. The summer season saw the baches, vacant for most of the year, occupied before Christmas until the end of January. The Weymouth Hall hosted a pre-Christmas party and a regatta was held on New Year’s Day down at the wharf, tides permitting. Some evenings I tagged behind older siblings and neighbours, wandering far along the beach. From the house we watched flounderers floundering in the shallows, their carbide lamps twinkling “Just like Queen Street”, according to Mum.
There were six of us. It was Mum who intervened when Mary tried to crack a chair over Jan’s head. And it was Mum who sent Denis to stand, barefoot, in the frost after catching him about to brand me with a hot poker as we sat before an open fire. Childish scuffles aside, Dad excelled at being a liberal father during my teens. In 1964 he defused a furious Sister Margaret Mary when I faced expulsion for hanging outside the Royal International Hotel in Victoria Street, with two friends, waiting for the Beatles to emerge. We were in McAuley High uniform and “a disgrace to the school”.
Our worlds were starting to merge in 1966 when his friends and mine turned out in numbers to protest against President Lyndon Johnson who was visiting New Zealand to drum up support for the Vietnam War.
Denis recently thought, “Dad must have been disappointed in all of us. Even you, Kate.” I don’t think so. Expectations weren’t high, if even considered. This was confirmed by Mum in her dotage when she came out with, “At least none of you were before the court for murder”. Murder! I turned to Dad who plucked nervously at some crumbs on the table.
Mum wrote after his death that she never really knew him because he was intensely private. Dad never spoke of affairs of the heart – he wrote of them instead.
In part one of our series, Bill Pearson wrote a biographical sketch of Finlayson. A newly published collection of stories and essays, A Roderick Finlayson Reader edited by Roger Hickin (Cold Hub Press, $42.40), is available in bookstores nationwide or direct from the publisher.