Sunday, June 22, 2014


I was going to write something profound about satsumas and the World Cup, but that will have to wait now. Yesterday afternoon I'd only just arrived at Tracy's place to play board games when my phone rang. It was my aunt. My uncle had passed away in the morning. What was I supposed to say to her? He went downhill very quickly. It was only in early April that I saw him doing up their new house in Hampden. I sent him a card, knowing things were deteriorating fast, and it only got there yesterday morning.

My uncle turned seventy in March, having been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the beginning of last year. He was a good bloke, a typical Kiwi bloke you might say, who lived in South Canterbury all his life except those last few months - for some reason, even though his days were probably numbered, he got a bee in his bonnet about moving. Perhaps it was psychological: moving house is something you do when you're thinking about the future, so maybe he was trying to create a kind of pretend future that didn't really exist.

He knew his local patch like the back of his hand: every stream (he was a keen fisherman) and every slope of Mount Peel. He never really travelled, with one big exception. In 1999 he and my aunt (his third wife, although they weren't yet married) stayed a few weeks at my parents' place in the UK. They also went to Ireland. My uncle, who loved to share anecdotes back home and was generally quite vocal, was noticeably quiet. Away from his stomping ground he had nothing to say.

The funeral is on Tuesday. I don't think I'll make it. If Mum and Dad were home I might well have done. Mum has now lost two of her three elder brothers: her eldest brother, Dan, died in 2010.

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