Title: Songs of My Life

Author: Bill Manhire

In: Sport 11: Spring 1993

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 1993, Wellington

Part of: Sport

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Sport 11: Spring 1993


When I began my own, entirely separate singing career, he made no songs about it whatsoever. Discordant noises, the thrum of an untuned guitar, a skittery run on the clarinet which he in any case had never learned how to play properly. Jealousy flamed him and made him unattractive. The flamenco flourish ruled his life.

One day I walked out of the recording studio and into the arms of Maria and her mother and father and her seven brothers. The youngest brother pushed Maria forward with his goose wing, and Pingao sang about our wedding which was spoken of in many South Island towns.

I travelled to Antarctica, Alaska. I considered changing my name from Colin to something else, just what I didn’t know. I had a remarkable tale to tell and I was looking for someone to tell it well and listen carefully.

But when I grew interested in the bits of Lenin’s brain they have over in Moscow, Pingao was there on cue, writing a song about it. I gave him the title: ‘30,000 Slices’. He rhymed Lenin with some word I can’t remember, then crossed it all out and did a bit of quick bush carpentry with brain and Ukraine.

Then I became Professor of Russian at Massey University, a post which had been vacant for some time so they were pleased to see me up there in the Manawatu. They were ready for Gogol and Pushkin, I guess. They must have sensed it was all over for the Cold War.

While I was at Massey there came along some women in comfortable shoes, who made no impact on me whatsoever. Maria smiled and hummed above the dishes.

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While there I also began and abandoned my biography of Robert Louis Stevenson. I got him almost to Samoa twice but neither time could I make myself go on. I suppose because once he got there, inside that big happy house, Vailima, he would just have to die.