Saturday, December 2, 2023

The picture on my office wall

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Steve Wyn Harris looks back on lifelong friendships
‘We were five mates from Central Hawke’s Bay College and this was 1978,’ writes Steve Wyn Harris. He’s the rough one in the green jersey.
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This photo has been on my office wall for 40 years.

Like anyone’s favourite photo, it captures a moment in time that has some sort of significance or meaning in one’s life.

I’d like to be able to tell you that this is my rock band from the late 1970s and that we modelled ourselves upon The Eagles.

I’d tell you that I was the drummer and we were pretty good, even though I say so myself.

I’d like to tell you all that and plenty more, but despite the fact that we do look like a rock band from the 1970s, I can’t tell you about the alcohol and drug-fuelled parties after gigs and the girls and fame and all that stuff because we weren’t anything of the sort.

We were five mates from Central Hawke’s Bay College and this was 1978, the year after we had left the college and dispersed to different parts of the country.

We had met up in Taupō for a ski trip. I’d set my Canon camera up on a car bonnet, turned on the timer and scampered to get into the photo.

I’m the rough one in the green jersey. Not a flash dresser then, and still not.

Fanny to my right and Quinny to his right and I had travelled to Ruapehu the previous winter while still at school for our first roadie and ski trip on our own.

I’d been lent the family station wagon with the promise to take care, which we did.

That first night in National Park, Fanny and I plucked up courage as two underage lads and went into the local pub, where I destroyed our credibility by ordering two “drought” beers as I didn’t know how to say draught, which was on the tap.

The publican laughed his head off but served us all the same.

When we got back to school, we were called out at assembly to go and see the deputy principal.

He told us that he was very disappointed that we had taken a couple of days off school to go skiing and even more disappointed that it would be his first time to have to cane seventh formers.

Quinny, who was head boy, pointed out that he was a haemophiliac so was given lines instead.

Fanny was a second year sixth so I remain the only seventh former to ever be caned right up until it was banned.

I didn’t get my name in gold letters on a board or distinguish myself in any way but they can’t take that modest achievement away from me.

In this year of the photograph we were joined by Butch in the red pants and John who had come to the college from other schools for a “finishing” year at ours.

Butch had never been skiing and, not wanting to get cold, had thought wearing his wetsuit would be a great idea.

He never got cold and created a large amount of amusement on the slopes.

He was training to be a teacher at Palmerston North and became a great educator.

He loved his rugby and was a terrific hooker.

Tragically a few years after this photo his neck was broken in a scrum collapse and he has been a tetraplegic for more than 30 years.

He’s still alive but the quality of his life is now not great.

John and I went to Lincoln and flatted together for this year of the photo.

He has been a good farmer and for a time a farm consultant and recently leased his farm out.

He is our independent trustee and my sounding board.

Fanny, who was brilliant at any sport he turned his hand to, became an electrician and lives in Tauranga.

Quinny studied medicine at Otago and ended up specialising in optometry and lives in Exeter in England.

These fellows have been loyal lifetime friends and I’ve been blessed to be called their mate.

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