The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 11 (February 1, 1937)
Robbie'S arm moved with the speed of bad news and rescued the bottle that was just about to topple. It was Saturday morning and as usual we were gathered at Mr. Robertson's residence “Kai-iwi.” Naturally, he was known as Robbie, and his morning reception was usually well attended for, failing appearance at his place, he had a habit of calling on everybody else. As he carried the refreshment in a well-worn cricket bag with the necks showing clear, the wisest course was to go and see him. Our street is of the kind that adorns Wellington. It exists in its highest form in our city. It has a small bend in the middle where there is a short piece of flat, but as a rule it climbs steadily all the way. Consequently all the houses have a view, not only of the harbour, but of all the lower back yards, and the last house on the right at the top carries a prospect clear over to the tram terminus. This place belongs to Smith, who has a ladyhelp who, according to Robbie, “makes Lord Peter Wimsey look half blind, and Hercules Poirot slow in the detective uptake.”
Our suburb is so high up that it is almost self-contained, and its life therefore, is much like that of a country town. We know the amounts approximately of each other's mortgages, all the wives' “At Home” days, and get fairly close to the contents of Monday's mail. According to our most distinguished citizen, Major Owen (retired), it has all the disabilities of the country and no corresponding metropolitan advantages. The major is one of our prize possessions, especially in the summer. He wears a tie that looks like the cross section of a circus flag, and I feel when he is looking at me that I know I am neither crease-conscious, sock-selective, nor tie-minded. His hot day wear, with a hat with green lining, mustard coloured drill, and tenderly coloured silk shirts, makes everyone look in front or behind for a skulking tiger. He uses “sahib, pukka and tiffin,” and (we heard from the Smith's ladyhelp) he got really angry when he spoke Hindustani to the bottle-oh, and the incredible scoundrel said in reply, “I know little of the northern dialects, sir, but my English is quite serviceable.”
He always comes round to Robbie's on Sunday morning—mainly, I think, with the idea, of keeping our views sound. He suspects me, I know of far too charitable views about Afghans, dacoits, Ghandi, and other folk who have never been elected to a decent club. His son is a great trouble to him. He is farming in the Wairarapa and has acquired some very New Zealand ideas. He brought his head shepherd to stay for the match against the Wallabies, and blew down to the Ran-furly Shield match with two Maori shearers. He blasphemes about the prices British manufacturers charge for farming requisites and questions the riding abilities of the members of the Quorn.
Robbie comes second on our list of leading inhabitants—for far different reasons. He has a large income, but devotes a large slice of it to the thorough investigation of the merits of various brands of whisky. His picket fence is a picket one with the points downwards and the flat ends on top. Once a week, at least, he has trouble as he navigates past my matipo hedge and strikes his own. He sees at once that something is wrong and leans over, bit by bit, to get the fence the right way up. Finally he overdoes it and makes a good, but horizontal landing. Watson says that one of these days “He'll just be strong enough to make the last part walking on his hands, and his yell of triumph when he enters his own garden path will be heard in Malaga and Addis Ababa.”
He keeps a gardener who is (according to our maid) his wife's brother, and who (according to Robbie) “came a crash because of his drinking habits.” By mid-day on Saturdays, Robbie was always at his best. He would demonstrate the blunders of the Italian commanders in Abyssinia with bits of cheese for mountain heights and rivers indicated on the garden table with the wet bottom of a beer