Phantom Blog

Phantom Blog

Flora for the concrete jungle

The Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader Vol 10 – Out and About

Ashley at Red Rock Cafe and Bar, Queenstown

Ashley at Red Rock Cafe and Bar in Queenstown


Okra Espresso Lounge, Auckland

Okra Cafe AKL


Havana Bar, Wellington

Havana Bar, WLG


Southern Cross, Wellington



Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, Wellington

Sweet Mothers Kitchen


University Bookshop, Dunedin

University Bookshop (2)_800x600


Morning Magpie, Dunedin

Morning Magpie_800x600


Gavin Shaw, DIVO – Dunedin’s Needle Exchange
Gavin was a contributor for Cafe Reader Vol 9 and has been very active in the literary and music circles in Dunedin. He plays bass in the band Psychic Maps.

Gavin reader (2)_800x600


Tenzin Mullins, Dunedin
Tenzin is a musician and academic who plays bass in the bands MARINEVILLE and The David Lynch Mob. He is also a member of HEKA with Stephen Kilory and ex-SUKA bandmate, Heath Te Au.

Tenzin Mullins_800x600

Where You’ll Find the Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader Vol 10 in NZ

The Phantom Billstickers VanGo Flying Squad hit a whole bunch of spots around the country so you could get the latest fix of the Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader. See below for a list of spots for Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. More and more spots will be added and copies topped up, but if we’re all out in your local cafe, store or other favourite spot, let us know by emailing


Albany Village BakeryAlbany
Koffee BarAlbany
The Coffee ClubAlbany
Natural New ZealandAlbany
Wendy’s IcecreamAlbany
Hara JapaneseAlbany
Federal & WolfeAlbert Street, CBD
Greco CafeAlbert Street, CBD
Heaven ScentAlbert Street, CBD
Baroness BarbersBlockhouse Bay
The Bay CafeBlockhouse Bay
iCoco CafeBlockhouse Bay
The Bay CafeBlockhouse Bay
LickBlockhouse Bay
Shakey IslesBritomart
White FlowerBrowns Bay
Golden Sands CafeBrowns Bay
WarawaraBrowns Bay
LibraryBrowns Bay
Sal’s PizzaBrowns Bay
Sushi Ya SushiBrowns Bay
Sushi DayBrowns Bay
Browns Bay RoastsBrowns Bay
Noodle CanteenBrowns Bay
Books @ DevonportDevonport
Naber KoffeeDevonport
Java HouseDevonport
Paradox BooksDevonport
Alert BarbersDominion Road, Mt Eden
L’Espresso CafeDominion Road, Mt Eden
Ralph’s Bar and EateryDominion Road, Mt Eden
E- MartDominion Road, Mt Eden
GlengarryDominion Road, Mt Eden
Murder burgerDominion Road, Mt Eden
Big BeatDominion Road, Mt Eden
Ronnie’s BakeryDowntown, CBD
Maxwell’s DrycleanersDowntown, CBD
Food AlleyDowntown, CBD
Sumo SushiDowntown, CBD
Spill EspressoElliot Street, CBD
Elliot StablesElliot Street, CBD
Alfie’s Juice BarElliot Street, CBD
Mad TravelFort Street, CBD
Camel BacpackersFort Street, CBD
SierraFort Street, CBD
Velvet BurgerFort Street, CBD
Freemans Bays LaundromatFreeman’s Bay
Domain DeliGrafton
Dear ReaderGrey Lynn
OccamGrey Lynn
Arch Hill EspressoGrey Lynn
Mamata BakehouseGrey Lynn
Savour & Devour CafeGrey Lynn
Charlie BoysGrey Lynn
Tom’s RoastGrey Lynn
Hana SushiGrey Lynn
Seafood MarketGrey Lynn
NovelHerne Bay
Five LoavesHerne Bay
DellowsHerne Bay
La BoulangeHerne Bay
Icing on the CakeHerne Bay
FishsmithHerne Bay
Hollywood BakeryHigh Street, CBD
Unity BooksHigh Street, CBD
Raw PowerHigh Street, CBD
PitaliciousHigh Street, CBD
Espresso On QueenHigh Street, CBD
Grind on HighHigh Street, CBD
Cafe MelbaHigh Street, CBD
Plus MartHigh Street, CBD
CosmicHigh Street, CBD
RevelKarangahape Road, CBD
SculleryKarangahape Road, CBD
FoodinisKarangahape Road, CBD
VeronaKarangahape Road, CBD
Lim Chouur FoodcourtKarangahape Road, CBD
Liquor CenterKarangahape Road, CBD
Rebel Soul RecordsKarangahape Road, CBD
Donair KebabsKarangahape Road, CBD
Paperbag PrincessKarangahape Road, CBD
CosmicKarangahape Road, CBD
SharkiesKarangahape Road, CBD
The Hemp StoreKarangahape Road, CBD
Fushion SushiKarangahape Road, CBD
Neighbourhood BarKingsland
The KingslanderKingsland
King FadezKingsland
Roasted AddiqtionKingsland
The FridgeKingsland
Shaky IslesKingsland
Gyroz KebabsKingsland
Handmade BurgersKingsland
The Butlers BanquetKohimaramara
Sauce CafeKohimaramara
Gloria JeansLorne Street, CBD
SierraLorne Street, CBD
SheinkinLorne Street, CBD
EsquiresLorne Street, CBD
Esquires (Library)Lorne Street, CBD
Lorne Street CafeLorne Street, CBD
LibraryLorne Street, CBD
Rhythm CafeMairangi Bay
Hiroba SushiMairangi Bay
Mairangi Bay FisheriesMairangi Bay
Sun IslandMairangi Bay
The BookloverMilford
Cafe BloomMilford
Little KingMilford
Mission Bay CafeMission Bay
Peel to PipMorningside
Paris BakeryMt Eden
Time Out BooksMt Eden
FrasersMt Eden
Casa Del GelatoMt Eden
Coen SushiMt Eden
Sushi TimeMt Eden
Aqua CafeNewmarket
Little Nuffield CafeNewmarket
Shakey IslesNewmarket
Gateau HouseNewmarket
Hard To Find BookstoreOnehunga
Lucious CafeOnehunga
Venus RoastOnehunga
Lava CafeParnell
Strawberry AlarmclockParnell
La PorchettaParnell
Chevalier Point CafePoint Chevalier
Mud Pie DeliPoint Chevalier
Chev GardensPoint Chevalier
Pita PitPoint Chevalier
LaundromatPoint Chevalier
Bon SushiPoint Chevalier
Womens Book StorePonsonby
The Food RoomPonsonby
Cafe ThirtyninePonsonby
International FoodcourtPonsonby
Leys Institute LibraryPonsonby
Ponsonby Pool HallPonsonby
Bird On A WirePonsonby
Choice BackpackersQueen Street, CBD
Scenic HotelsQueen Street, CBD
Real GroovyQueen Street, CBD
Jb Hi FiQueen Street, CBD
Recycle BoutiqueQueen Street, CBD
Q TheatreQueen Street, CBD
Upland CafeRemuera
Tree CafeRemuera
Picollo CafeRemuera
Buffalo CafeRemuera
Maxwell’s DrycleanersRemuera
Photo RemueraRemuera
Sushi + SushiRemuera
Armadillo CafeRothesay Bay
Wesley CentreSandringham
Blue RoseSandringham
Take NoteSt Heliers
Cypress CafeSt Heliers
Community HallSt Heliers
LibrarySt Heliers
Cecil SushiSt Heliers
ArcadiaSymonds Street, CBD
Bian SushiSymonds Street, CBD
Bonzai SushiSymonds Street, CBD
Betsia KebabSymonds Street, CBD
Ruang ThongSymonds Street, CBD
Dutchess Home BakerySymonds Street, CBD
Bian SushiTakapuna
Quad CafeUniversity of Auckland
bFM OfficesUniversity of Auckland
Munchie MartUniversity of Auckland
Student CommonsUniversity of Auckland
Womens SpaceUniversity of Auckland
Natural CafeViaduct
Jones The GrocerViaduct
TAPACWestern Springs
Garnet Road FoodstoreWestmere
Happy TakeawayWestmere
Westhaven CafeWynyward Quarter
TankWynyward Quarter


Toi PonekeAbel Smith Street, Te Aro
Southern Cross ApartmentsAbel Smith Street, Te Aro
Southern Cross Bar and CafeAbel Smith Street, Te Aro
Loki LoungeAbel Smith Street, Te Aro
Raglan RoastAbel Smith Street, Te Aro
Aro CoffeeAro Valley
Aro BakeAro Valley
Liquid LaundromatBerhampore
Adelaide Trading CoBerhampore
Hair by AngeBerhampore
Fork and BrewerBond Street, CBD
The CanteenBond Street, CBD
Wishbone on BondBond Street, CBD
Swan Barbers on BondBond Street, CBD
Ape EspressoBoulcott Street, CBD
Jo’s PiesBrooklyn
Cafe CaribeBrooklyn
Brooklyn Fish SupplyBrooklyn
Penthouse CinemaBrooklyn
Vic Railway CampusBunny Street, Pipitea
Wellington StationBunny Street, Pipitea
Circa TheatreCable Street, Te Aro
xBaseCambridge Terrace
PuddlesCambridge Terrace
Art for Arts SakeCambridge Terrace
Cambridge HotelCambridge Terrace
Kakapo InkCambridge Terrace
Gotham CafeChews Lane
Habitual FixChews Lane
Midland SushiChews Lane
Cafe LaffareCollege Street, Te Aro
Sweet Mother’s KitchenCourtenay Place
Courtenay BarbersCourtenay Place
Courtenay Place BakeryCourtenay Place
OraCourtenay Place
ZumoCourtenay Place
PoquitoCourtenay Place
VinylCourtenay Place
EnigmaCourtenay Place
Kaffee Eis on CourtenayCourtenay Place
Joe’s GarageCourtenay Place
Fix on CourtenayCourtenay Place
The Grand HotelCourtenay Place
St James TheatreCourtenay Place
The Powder RoomCuba Street
Arthur’s CafeCuba Street
Soap OperaCuba Street
Swan BarbersCuba Street
EmporioCuba Street
Fidel’s CafeCuba Street
ThirteenCuba Street
Midnight EspressoCuba Street
OliveCuba Street
Cuba BarbersCuba Street
Kaffie Eis on Cuba StreetCuba Street
ZiggaratCuba Street
EspressoholicCuba Street
The RockshopCuba Street
Mr Bun on CubaCuba Street
Soho Brown on CubaCuba Street
Kapai on CubaCuba Street
PalominoCuba Street
Cuba St ClinicCuba Street
Vanishing Point RecordsCuba Street
CQ HotelCuba Street
Paperbag PrincessCuba Street
Slowboat RecordsCuba Street
Babylon KebabCuba Street
St Pierre SushiCuba Street
Cosmic CornerCuba Street
Ferret BooksCuba Street
RPMCuba Street
Aunty Mena’sCuba Street
Fix on CubaCuba Street
Tulsi on CubaCuba Street
Hotel BristolCuba Street
JJ MurphiesCuba Street
N&Y Nail SalonCuba Street
Plum CafeCuba Street
Aroy Thai CubaCuba Street
Amsterdam Coffee ShopCuba Street
Fusion Surk and SkateCuba Street
OrigamiCuba Street
Trade KitchenCustomhouse Quay
Espresso 7Customhouse Quay
Waterloo HotelCustomhouse Quay
Dixon St DeliDixon Street, Te Aro
Umi HouseDixon Street, Te Aro
Little PengangDixon Street, Te Aro
Memphis BelleDixon Street, Te Aro
Six Barrel SodaDixon Street, Te Aro
Arty Bees BooksDixon Street, Te Aro
PortlanderFeatherston Street, CBD
RydgesFeatherston Street, CBD
Jacques Hair DesignFeatherston Street, CBD
Prince BarberFeatherston Street, CBD
Bay AudiologyFeatherston Street, CBD
Mojo AsteronFeatherston Street, CBD
BruhausFeatherston Street, CBD
Photo EspressoFeatherston Street, CBD
Pita Pitt Featherston StFeatherston Street, CBD
ThunderbirdFeatherston Street, CBD
VivaceFeatherston Street, CBD
Customs CofeeGhuznee Street, Te Aro
Precint 35Ghuznee Street, Te Aro
MilkcrateGhuznee Street, Te Aro
MusicworksGhuznee Street, Te Aro
Hataitai Hot Bread ShopHataitai
Great Wall TakeawaysHataitai
Hataitai Kebab StoreHataitai
Golden SunHataitai
Island Bay BakeryIsland Bay
Island Bay BarbersIsland Bay
Blue Belle CafeIsland Bay
Floyd’s CafeIsland Bay
Chopsticks TakeawaysIsland Bay
Empire CinemaIsland Bay
Quest on JohnstonJohnston Street, CBD
MagnetixJohnston Street, CBD
Cafe ModeKelburn
Brezelmania KelburnKelburn
Paradise SeafoodKelburn
Kelburn Village PubKelburn
Deluxe CafeKent Terrace, Mt Victoria
Embassy TheatreKent Terrace, Mt Victoria
Skipping Stone CafeKilbirnie
Brezelmania KilbirnieKilbirnie
Hey George CafeKilbirnie
Tong’s TakeoutKilbirnie
CC EateryKilbirnie
PLaza PizzeriaKilbirnie
Cafe VerveLambton Quay
The AnnexeLambton Quay
AstoriaLambton Quay
Chumeez CafeLambton Quay
The Old BaileyLambton Quay
Pegasus BooksLeft Bank
Lo MeinLeft Bank
California SushiLeft Bank
Carve BarbersLeft Bank
Mint Nails and BeautyLeft Bank
Lyall Bay ChineseLyall Bay
MaranuiLyall Bay
ElementsLyall Bay
Two TeaspoonsManners Street
Hurricane JeansManners Street
Alamir BakeryMiramar
Metro Miramar SeafoodMiramar
Miramar Fish and ChipsMiramar
Supreme BakeryMiramar
Roxy CinemaMiramar
Joe’s CookMiramar
Mercato FreshMiramar
Bicycle JunctionNewtown
Black CoffeeNewtown
Newtown BarbersNewtown
Frenmch PatisserieNewtown
Newtown Bakery CFCNewtown
Peoples CoffeeNewtown
Rubia ExpressNewtown
Newtown Community CentreNewtown
Red Sea CafeNewtown
Kopi-tiam CafeNewtown
The Ramen ShopNewtown
Newtown LibraryNewtown
Fish FinnsNewtown
Toi WhakaariNewtown
Trek GlobalO’Reilly Avenue
Raglan Roast Oriental ParadeOriental Parade
Coene’sOriental Parade
Freyburg PoolOriental Parade
VistaOriental Parade
ShineOriental Parade
Copthorne HotelOriental Parade
OhtelOriental Parade
BaristaPanama Street
Law School VicPipitea
Vic Business SchoolPipitea
Gates CafePipitea
AB CafePlimmer Steps
MargiesPost Office Square
Charley NoblesPost Office Square
French Kiss CafePost Office Square
GelissimoQueens Wharf
Mac’s BrewbarQueens Wharf
St Johns BarQueens Wharf
Tua TuaQueens Wharf
Dockside BarQueens Wharf
Bin 44Queens Wharf
Wellington MuseumQueens Wharf
Academy GalleriesQueens Wharf
CuckooQueens Wharf
One Red DogQueens Wharf
Portrait GalleryQueens Wharf
Mojo WaterfrontQueens Wharf
Gypsy Kitchen CafeStrathmore
Strathmore Bakery and CafeStrathmore
Acropolis SouvlakiStrathmore
Strathmore LocalStrathmore
Go RentalsStrathmore
Sixes and SevensTaranaki Street, Te Aro
Cafe Panama StreetTaranaki Street, Te Aro
Fuwa CafeThe Terrace
Quest on TerraceThe Terrace
Yellowbird CafeThe Terrace
GasolineThe Terrace
Blowfish SushiThe Terrace
Colonial CafeThe Terrace
Raglan RoastTory Street
Pavement CafeTory Street
Wild Zebra BackpackersTory Street
Stories CoffeeVictoria Street, Te Aro
The LidoVictoria Street, Te Aro
LamasonVictoria Street, Te Aro
Mojo on VictoriaVictoria Street, Te Aro
Victoria St CafeVictoria Street, Te Aro
The Caffienated GamerVictoria Street, Te Aro
Cafe Roti ChanaiVictoria Street, Te Aro
Central LibraryVictoria Street, Te Aro
Clark’s CafeVictoria Street, Te Aro
Victoria School of DesignVivian Street, Te Aro
Me Kong CafeVivian Street, Te Aro
FelixWakefield Street, Te Aro
YHAWakefield Street, Te Aro
Pandoro PanetteriaWakefield Street, Te Aro
RahzooWaring Taylor Street, CBD
Mr Bun on Waring TAylorWaring Taylor Street, CBD
AlaturkaWaring Taylor Street, CBD
PreservatoriumWebb Street, Te Aro
Light House CinemaWigan School
Mulberry GardenWillis Street, Te Aro
Jime Juice BarWillis Street, Te Aro
Willis St Lunch BarWillis Street, Te Aro
Trinity HotelWillis Street, Te Aro
The AboristWillis Street, Te Aro
Cafe FormulaWillis Street, Te Aro
The Amore CosmeticsWillis Street, Te Aro
MiyabiWillis Street, Te Aro
Sweet Release CakesWillis Street, Te Aro
Cafe NeoWillis Street, Te Aro
The GeorgeWillis Street, Te Aro
The General PractionerWillis Street, Te Aro
Unity BooksWillis Street, Te Aro
Caffe VivaWillis Street, Te Aro
Puro ChileWillis Street, Te Aro
Hair StylistWillis Street, Te Aro
Cafe LavaWillis Street, Te Aro



Cafe PragueAddington
Bean SceneAddington
NY DeliAddington
Little MerchantsAddington
Addington Coffee Co-opAddington
Pedal PusherAddington
Stolen BagelAddington
Crafted Coffee CoAddington
Dose CafeAddington
Cafe CudosAddington
Ocean FreshBishopdale
Sleek HairBishopdale
Blue DolphinBishopdale
Savoire CafeBishopdale
Hell PizzaBishopdale
Taste @ 20Cashmere
The CupCashmere
Emperor’s New ClothesCashmere
Underground HQCBD
Music WorksCBD
Smash PalaceCBD
Dux CentralCBD
Beat StCBD
ARA InsituteCBD
Black BettyCBD
Perry’s CafeCBD
Food containerCBD
Black and WhiteCBD
Hunters and CollectorsCBD
Cosmic CornerCBD
Physics RoomCBD
Sushi AttackEdgeware
Crisp CafeFendalton
In SituHillsborough
Castle Rock CafeHillsborough
Una BakeryHunstbury
Sushi YaIlam
Ilam Bakery FoodbarIlam
Ilam HairdressingIlam
LB and CoIlam
Pepe’s MexicanIlam
Stanmore Fish and ChipsLinwood
Penny LaneLinwood
Under The Red VerandahLinwood
Shroom RoomLyttelton
Civil and NavelLyttelton
Cafe MetroMerivale
Brewer’s ArmsMerivale
Moore’s DrycleaningMerivale
Totto BeneMerivale
Man UpMerivale
$10 CutsNew Brighton
The LaundryNew Brighton
Cafe CalypsoNew Brighton
Point Break CafeNew Brighton
Honey CafeNew Brighton
Cafe CremaNew Brighton
Salt on the PierNew Brighton
Yu Wah Fish and ChipsPapanui
Rose CafePapanui
$15 CutsPapanui
Station 1 CafePapanui
Il MagroPapanui
Burgers and BeersRedwood
Ed HopperRiccarton
Theo’s FisheryRiccarton
Hell PizzaRiccarton
Scorpio BooksRiccarton
Velvet BurgerRiccarton
Music PlanetRiccarton
City of InkRiccarton
Columbus CoffeeRiccarton
Coffee ClubRiccarton
Noodle UnionShirley
Sasuke SushiShirley
Kidd’s BakerySt Albans
Cafe MetroSt Albans
Wal’s LaundretteSt Albans
Ris’ TrettoSt Albans
ObcessSt Martins
Joe’s GarageSumner
Hollywood CinemasSumner
Sumner Bakery and CafeSumner
Underground SumnerSumner
Hello SundaySydenham
The ColomboSydenham
Academy Gold CinemaSydenham
The Beer LibrarySydenham
Burgers and BeersSydenham
Wholly BagelUniversity of Canterbury
The Shilling ClubUniversity of Canterbury
Reboot CafeUniversity of Canterbury
Cafe 1894University of Canterbury
UC LibraryUniversity of Canterbury
Van Dam’sUpper Riccarton
Joe’s GarageUpper Riccarton
The TanneryWoolston
The BreweryWoolston
Blue SmokeWoolston
Woolston MarketWoolston
Deluxe CinemaWoolston



Al Bar
Albion Lane Café
Beam Me Up Bagels
Bite Gourmet
Black Dog Café
Book Exchange
Café Aroma
Café Mocha
Cannabis Museum
City Scenic Hotel
Civic Centre Café
Coffee on Prince Albert
Cosmic Corner
Crusty Corner
Dead Souls Bookshop
Disc Den
Dispensary Café
Dog W/ Two Tails
Dost Kebabs
Dunedin College of Education
Dunedin Public Hospital / Whanau Room
Dunedin Public Library
Edgar Centre
Esplanade Café
Everyday Gourmet
Fix Café
Flax Café Caversham
Fluid Café
Flying Squid
Forget Me Nots
Fortune Theatre
Galaxy Books
Good Oil
Governors Café
Great King Café
Hard to find Bookstore
Inch Bar
Kiki Beware
Kitchen Table
Laneway Café
Maki Mono
Mou Very
Mourning Magpie
Music Planet
Noodle Hut
Otago Access Radio
OUSA Clubs & Societies
Perc Café
Pita Pit
Purple Rain
Quicker Liquor
Radio One
RdC Café
Relics Records
Roast Office
Salt Cafe
Scribes Bookstore
St Clair Salt Water Pool Cafe
St David St Café
Standard Kitchen
Starfish Café
Strawberry Sound
Strictly Coffee
Subway X 3
Sugar Café
Thrive Café
Tokyo House
University Bookshop
University of Otago Main Common Room
Velvet Burger x 2
Vogel St Kitchen

Cafe Reader Vol 10 – Winter 2016

Short stories, poems and editorial by:
Roger Shepherd, Garth Cartwright, Buster Stiggs, Sam Hunt, Jess Sloan, Rebekah Emmerson, Ty TuRupe, Brigid Kelly, Douglas Piccinnini, David Kilgour, Richard Langston, Katy Soljak, Jim Wilson, Patricia Greig, Magali, Tusiata Avia, Jay Clarkson.

Available for digital download on Kindle and iPad for a small fee on soon.

Cover by Stuart Page.

Cafe_Reader10-Cover V1

A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 11/04/16

Jim Wilson’s Blog, 11 April 2016.


My dad never went to WW2. He was a tractor driver on a farm up the Pig Root in Otago and he was either excluded because we in New Zealand needed to keep the farms going or his broken lungs stopped him. My dad was an asthmatic and he gasped for breath his whole life through and more so when he felt lonely or misunderstood.

I remember being vaguely embarrassed about my dad not going to war when I was a kid in Dunedin in the 1950s.

My uncle went. He was with the 23rd Battalion. His records show that he went to Scotland in 1940 and then in early March 1941 he arrived in Egypt. Egypt was quite a curly place at the time and my uncle served 14 days field punishment in late April that year for drunkenness. I am quite proud of this because if there’s one thing you want to do when you are young it’s that you want to flare up with your mates.

My uncle came home in 1943 after being medically discharged and he could never put a sentence together again for his whole life. His discharge address was the Clarendon Hotel in McLaggan Street, Dunedin.  I’d say that’s mighty staunch.

My family moved into Dunedin from the country in around 1950, a year or two before I was born. My Uncle Les loaned my parents the money to put a deposit on a house in Russell Street. My uncle’s records show that he was given a gratuity of 144 pounds, 16 shillings and sixpence. I think this is how much El Alamein was worth. That’s a hell of a way to earn money.

My parents moved into town because by the early 1950s there were three kids at high school and this was getting expensive on a farm labourer’s wage. My mum cooked for the single men who worked on Shag Valley Station and that didn’t pay much either.

I was the late-comer to the family. I was born in Dunedin and I will always be born in Dunedin.

My closest sister was twelve years old when I was born and now she is dying.

I was ‘Sweet Baby James’ and my two oldest sisters who were 16 and 17 years old when I was born loved me to bits. My brother who was fourteen when I was born was the best mate I ever had. He showed me how to love people and he once stood up on a table at a pub in South Dunedin and lead the whole bar in ‘We Shall Overcome’. This was in about 1963 or 1964 and during the American ‘Civil Rights’ era.

When I was a kid, my mother would sometimes say that I was a ‘mistake’ and my father would sometimes say that I was ‘nobody’s bastard’. This was because they were unhappy. People are sometimes cruel to other people when they are unhappy. I’ve never seen a happy person be cruel to anyone else in my whole life.

My brother died in a tractor accident in a road gang out near Ravensbourne when I was fourteen. My two eldest sisters died of cancer within a month of each other in 1989. In 1990, I sweated out the methadone working on a farm about seventy miles out of Nashville, Tennessee. I cried every day for my sisters and I gradually got back on my feet.

My old man worked in the store at Fletcher Steel in Dunedin when I was a kid and every single day of his life he got up and went to work. We moved to Christchurch when I was fourteen and my dad was working for Stainless Castings by then and they took him north. There were a lot of flies in Christchurch and it was really hot.

I love my mum and my dad.

My Uncle Bertie owned a milk bar in Palmerston in Otago and my Uncle Jim clicked tickets on the trains for the New Zealand Railway Service. I am dead proud of my family and they could never do a single thing to set me against them, not then and not now.

Even though my parents always voted for the Labour Party I think my dad knew that no political party could ever save him from his own propensity for depression. My mother was a passionate, fiery, tempestuous and very mischievous woman and there are just not enough adjectives in this life to describe her. But she couldn’t be like this in front of my dad and so she learned to hold herself back in almost all her expressions. I know she loved me when I did bad stuff and she loved me more when I eventually got to jail. I enjoyed jail and I made some of the best mates of my life in there. I also created a lot of mischief. One day I saw a homemade Molotov Cocktail (model airplane glue, glass milk bottle, somebody’s shitty underpants stuck in the neck of the bottle, add fire) explode on a wall about three feet away from a screw’s head. Trust me, it’s amazing what you can get to enjoy if you try.

My sister who is dying now is probably the one who I loved the most. She didn’t like me when I came along because she was twelve and I got all the limelight. She gave me ‘War & Peace’ to read when I was six and she used to play piano in our lounge. When Dunedin got its first big mainframe computer sometime in the early 1960s she was working at the Dunedin City Council and she aced an intelligence test and got to work on it doing data input, I guess. She got her photo on the front page of the Otago Daily Times.

My dad never went to high school but he quoted Shakespeare all the time. He’d say, over and over, that the quality of mercy is not strained. I think he basically missed working on the farm by himself and to this day, I still feel like I’m a country boy myself. I love Nashville like you can’t believe. I miss Nashville and specifically the Nashville piano sound every single day of my life but I can never tell what I’m yearning for, whether it is Nashville itself or my mum and my dad or my brother or my sister who is currently dying.

Even though I’ve had a wild and tempestuous life myself I was always really just some kind of hippie. I think the difference was that I never really cut my hair. My mum used to tell me to stick to my guns and so I have. You can hurl a sidewinder missile at me but it’s really my choice as to whether or not I hate you back. Sometimes I think the internet was invented because people had a real need to spit at each other.

I put up posters against the Vietnam war in the 1970s and I am sometimes upset about this now because I have met a lot of American servicemen who were badly hurt in that war, but I’ve also been to Vietnam and I’ve seen the immense damage there as well. I think the damage is called ‘Capitalism’.

I also put up hundreds if not thousands of posters against the Springboks tour of NZ in the early 1980s. I once pasted up posters on the side of a bus in Cathedral Square in Christchurch with my great mate Harry Sparkle.

I am going to miss my sister. She’s a fiery one and I have always been attracted to women like that. You could never depend on my sister to say the right thing in any circumstance. She’d only ever really tell the truth. We are a thousand million miles apart and yet emotionally I can hear her heart beat. This is what has been getting me down lately. You see I want to go home to Russell Street and start the whole goddamn thing over again and have us all sing a Hank Williams song and for my dad to look at me and smile and for my sister to hit them keys Nashville style. I want my sister and my mum to calm down and I want a mother’s love strong and secure. That’s all a little boy needs to get through this man’s life.

But I’ve learned that life is a long hard song and most things are a long way easier than being in the front line at El Alamein.

It’s ANZAC Day on April 25th. Buy a poppy because… Well just because the quality of mercy is not strained. Whatever you are going through in your poor forsaken life someone else is going through worse or the same. The exact worse or the same.

Them Nashville cats, been playin’, since they’s babies.


Jim and Sister