Victor Harris was one of my best friends at Linwood Avenue School. I remember coming back from an “after school” visit to Victor’s house and telling Mum that Mrs Harris had told me she was only 29. I remember Mum laughing out loud. It wasn’t until years later that I understood what she thought was so funny. But it stuck with me, the 29.
Linwood Avenue School was the former school of Norman Kirk – “Big Norm”, prime minister for just under two years until he had a heart attack and died in office, aged 51. We were so enamoured with Mr Kirk at school during his premiership, that the class wrote to him, suggesting that we should have a holiday on his birthday. He wrote a lovely letter back to “Room 4”, or whatever it was, saying he was very touched by the idea, and that given his birthday was on 6 January during the school holidays, we didn’t need an additional holiday!
Twenty-nine and fifty one. Both sound pretty young to me now. When Victor was thirteen, out on a boys’ weekend with his father, cousin and other friends walking along a river in North Canterbury, a rock came down from the cliff above and killed him.
I’ve never forgotten Victor and certain things make me think of him. School children rugby, his birthday, the Hurunui River and sometimes, 29.
It’s very easy to become self-absorbed in your own everyday problems. Right now there are plenty and I’ve spoken of many of these, and some of my frustrations too, about the current situation we find ourselves in.
But I think it’s important to remember what we have too. There are plenty of people with big challenges flowing from the economic shutdown, but I’m determined to count my blessings from a pretty full life, and not really being in need of anything, in relative terms.