Left: Wearing the medals Dad never wore.
Right and below: Dad, 91, after laying the wreath at a BNZ ANZAC Ceremony, 2011.
How’s things up there? It’s been eighteen months now. We all miss your warmth and your humour, and will always treasure the example you set us of utter integrity. No doubt you’re having a ball with your old mates. Say hi to Nana and Uncle Bill and Auntie Minna.
And Steve Jobs. Have you persuaded him to be your personal computer tutor, as I predicted at your funeral?
This is just to say that, after 68 years, your medals have finally been to a Dawn Parade.
You never wore them, did you? Not even when your beloved BNZ asked you to lay the wreath at that ANZAC service in 2011.
I was so proud to be there with you that day. Your interview for the Archives has become a family heirloom. I’ve even put it on You Tube.
(Don’t ask. Just know that someone from Qatar has just been watching you talk about Guadalcanal.)
I wasn’t so sure. Had to admit I’d never been to one. You know I’m not a morning person, Dad.
But then I thought of you.
I thought about how you once volunteered for something even more traumatic than getting up at five.
World War Two.
That must have been a tad daunting, given your position as the world’s least violent man. How could you possibly have killed anyone?
(Yes I know — you’d have used your legendary persuasive skills to politely convince your Japanese opponent to fall on his sword.)
Then I thought about how, in 1919, Nana named you Vivian after her brother John Vivian Telfer, who hadn’t made it back from Gallipoli four years earlier.
(The vicar at the service told us that one in seventeen New Zealanders died in that war. That’s one in eight men. Maybe one in four young men. Then Spanish flu followed them home and decimated the survivors.)
I thought about young J.V. being ordered to go over the top at daybreak, and the odds against him replying: “Honestly I’d love to, Sarge, but if it’s all the same to you — what with all the noise and the flies and the body parts flying everywhere — I haven’t been sleeping well lately and I could really do with another couple of hours’ kip.”
Either way he was done for.
How much my boys’ and my generation take for granted, thanks to him — and you.
John Vivian Telfer, my great-uncle.
Killed at Gallipoli, 1915.
And so, since I’m a John and you’re Vivian, I thought I’d honour that young man — as well as my favourite old one.
Well before sunrise, I lifted your medals out of that old Pitcairn Island book box to which you unceremoniously consigned them after the war.
I took care to pin them on the right side of my jacket — to make it clear that they’d been earned by someone else, not me.
(No, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to wear the bar as well!)
Thought I’d better wear a suit, in case you were watching. John wore shorts. Most wore jeans. But all the old guys wore jackets, and I was representing one of their finest.
It was a moving occasion, as dozens if not hundreds of Martinborough locals fell sombrely in behind the town’s tiny and dwindling band of old soldiers, their numbers swelled by firemen and servicemen and schoolchildren.
The bugling was stirring, the singing atrocious — a typically Kiwi monotonous mass mumble — especially the first verse of the national anthem.
As the vicar’s soothing words trailed away in the dawn’s early light, we trooped off to the Town Hall for refreshments, where the woman from the church who served me coffee was one Deborah Coddington.
(We greeted each other politely. What Deborah didn’t know was that I’d been thinking of challenging her to a Treaty debate in that very venue. But ANZAC Day didn’t feel like the time.)
Deborah — ACT MP turned Constitutional Advisory Panellist and wife of iwi lawyer Colin Carruthers — reminded me of the other reason I was there.
It was to remind myself that you and all your mates, Dad, did not help God defend New Zealand just so a bunch of gutless appeasers — a chamber of Chamberlains — could one day give away the country you fought for to a bunch of conniving fractional-descendants of the tribesmen who wanted to wipe out your great-grandmother.
(Where else in the world do the descendants of the winners of a war of rebellion pay reparations to the descendants of the losers?!)
I remember you telling me how you kids in the 1920s hated having to kiss great-grandma’s furry face at family picnics. So I looked her up…
Alice Telfer. Born: Auckland, 1845. Died: Auckland, 1946. What a life — from Heke’s War to Hiroshima!
But here’s the sobering fact they don’t teach in our state indoctrination facilities…
If Governor Grey hadn’t made the Kingites think again after they’d threatened to massacre every man, woman and child in Auckland, Alice Telfer would have been dead — shot, if she was lucky, tomahawked if not — at fifteen.
Sergeant Viv Ansell, bottom left, between puffs.
The tribal tripe is getting worse by the month, Dad.
Just last week some loony judge fined a chopper pilot $3750 for offending our highest mountain — now officially, would you believe, a Ngai Tahu ancestor.
The Taupo troughers are not only stinging triathletes like jellyfish for swimming in our largest lake, they reckon they can get away with charging millions a year to power generators for storing their water in it.
Water that has very conveniently fallen out of the sky!
(A sky which they do not yet own, but undoubtedly will the next time the Maori Party hold the balance of power — which, after the Maori roll campaign, according to Colin James, is going to be more often than not.)
Come to think of it, with foxes like Finlayson in charge of the Treaty henhouse, they probably won’t have to wait that long.
Anyone with a nanodroplet of brown blood, an ounce of creativity, and an ability to keep a straight face while emotionally blackmailing Tangata Whinlayson (not easy, admittedly) is quids in.
Dad (left) and an army mate with a Fijian chief.
Sorry my generation’s been such a disappointment, Dad. Sorry we’re letting the country you fought for break in two.
(Your church, by the way, has broken in three — the ‘Anglican church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia’.)
Your old colleagues still talk about you as the BNZ’s change agent of the 60s and 70s. The way your successors brought the bank to its knees in the 80s made you as angry as I’d ever seen you.
Well, that’s how I feel about what my former employer Key has been doing to New Zealand.
A bank can be bailed out. But once a country’s gone, it’s gone.
And New Zealand is going fast. Key is driving more people away than Clark did. The escapees write to me from Queensland. They all give the same reason: the Maorification of Everything.
(And a lot of them are Maori.)
I don’t have your patience, and we don’t have the time. It’s next election or never.
I’ll do the best I can with what I’ve got.
See you later,