Thursday, November 19, 2009

Easy rider

It's a long way to Tiparere. But it's takes even longer to drive from Auckland to Kaitaia. Especially when you've only just got your license and haven't spent any time at 100km/h on the open road. Double the danger by lying to Mum about going to school (I might have even dressed in my uniform before she left the house), and triple her likely disappointment when she finds out it was all Dad's idea.

As a parent it fascinates me to watch my kids in action and wonder which of their little quirks and characteristics we will look back on, and with the glorious 20/20 vision of hindsight say 'oh, yes, he's always been..... (insert words of choice)....good with his hands, useless with money, one to skive off, quick to spy a chance, nosy, helpful, ambitious, laid back, fascinated with fire, in love with knives, nasty to animals, certain to be incarcerated.

My Dad has always been a trader with a nose for a bargain. Stories from his childhood are laced with deals, schemes, rip-offs and rorts. His older teenage years were punctuated with adventures straight out of that famous Boy's Own Annual 'How stupid can you be and get away with it?'

One awful day when other mad surfers would have just committed suicide after a week of flat seas at Mt Maunganui, Dad signed up at the Port of Tauranga to crew on a Korean freighter. Up to communist North Korea they went and miraculously a few weeks later, back they came. It's not exactly exploring the world when the commies won't let you past the gate of the dock.

Incidentally, this particular trip gave Dad the best line he's ever used in raising me, notwithstanding the important daily proclamations of unconditional love. I, aged 11, had written a note to the boys in my class. Clearly playing hard to get I wrote, 'the boys are fucken wankers, bloody bastards, stupid c*@s, and useless shitheads'. The boys, not be outdone had returned it to me, surreptitiously (w.o.t.w) and simply crossed out 'the boys' and replaced it with 'the girls'. Clever eh? I went one better and accidentally left the note in the top pocket of my school uniform and Mum found it on its way into the washing machine.
I found her in bed weeping when I got home from school the next day. How could her little girl know and use such filthy language? Dad sat me down for a heart to heart, and as his concern moved to disgust out come the pearler: "I've worked on ships with Norwegian seamen who didn't use language like that!" Norway has been somewhat tarnished for me ever since. And whenever Dad says something less than born-again happy-clappy like 'Shit', I patiently remind him of the fine example those Nordic sailors set him.

Telling the skipper of a yacht sailing up to Tahiti that he had off-shore experience was another dodgy move. Dad didn't realise that sitting out the back on your surfboard was not the true meaning of off shore experience. But crewing on a yacht to a Pacific island where all the women were tanned and topless sounded like fun. What's a weeny white lie? As they left Auckland Dad started chundering and didn't stop for a couple of days. The skipper threatened to throw him overboard but decided it was worse for Dad to stay alive and endure more rough seas.

With that background you'll now appreciate why Dad thought it was a good idea for me to lie to Mum, wag school and drive nearly 5 hours with him to Kaitaia. He let me have a turn at driving on the open road - for experience - and he was wise enough not to enquire about my soul. The purpose of the trip to the Far North? A deal. And what a deal it was.

In the '80's the import tariffs on laptop computers was horrendous. So Dad used to fly up to the States, buy a computer there, bring it home and declare it for personal use, use it personally for a week or two to appease his conscience and the IRD, and then sell it using a cheap classified ad in the Herald. His profit after taking out the cost of flights etc... a cool $2,000.

But this time, he was going one better. Some poor sod was willing to trade his pride and joy, his beauty, his love, for a Toshiba laptop from my Dad. So after five hours of shared driving we all spent 15 minutes in a dingy old garage sealing the trade and then set off for the even longer, slower journey back to Auckland. Me, 16, driving the family sedan and Dad cruising on his new Honda Goldwing touring motorbike. Did he have touring bike experience? Had he ever handled 1500c.c of power on 2 wheels? Had it been more than 10 years since he had ridden any kind of motorbike? No, No and Yes.

Our biggest dilemma was who should go in front. If he crashed I could park my car to stop oncoming motorists damaging the bike. If I crashed Dad could decide whether Tahiti or North Korea would be the best bolthole to escape Mum's wrath. Like most tales of adventure the end was an anti-climax. We made it home safely. And after two or three rides as pillion passenger Mum declared that she would not be travelling to the end of the street with Dad let alone touring the South Island as he had planned. The bike had to go. Something to do with Dad not quite being able to reach the ground with his stubby little legs when they stopped at the lights, and the certainty Mum had that her long, lithe leg would be crushed when the bike tipped over.

Trader Dad made another cool couple of thou' when he sold it and we do have some lovely photos of Mum and Dad sitting on the bike. In the driveway, ignition firmly off.

Stories of our adventures give me hope. Lying here on Day 2 of my fifth round of chemo, riding the waves of nausea I can be thankful for two things. Firstly that my parents were so adventurous and included us in their travels, and secondly that I have a family of my own and we will write new chapters in that soon to be famous holiday guide "3 star holidays for suburban softies".


Kyla said...

For the rest of my life I will never forget what Dad said to me one day when I was feeling a bit low.
"Oh, darling, when I'm feeling a bit down I just go on Trademe and look at all my positive feedback."

Tash McGill said...

Which is one of MY favourite stories about your Dad ever.