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


He sings of trouble in the body, of anger in his knee. Not quite a song of himself, but getting somewhere.

I was looking for a blonde
but I ended up a failure
got mixed up with this little brunette girl’s
untidy genitalia.

I asked Johnny Pingao not to sing this song in case Maria might hear.

‘Is there someone?’ I said. ‘Someone special?’

No answer.

‘Why don’t you hymn the splendours of this new land of ours,’ I said, ‘which we are still busy building and hymning and generally conceiving.’

‘Show me a reason,’ he said. ‘move me with your true persuasive talk.’

I gave him topics—Zane Grey’s fishing journeys to New Zealand, my developing skill on the chanter. I told him about the whole season I spent as an emergency for Zingari Richmond, a healthy team of footballers, I only ever got half of one away game. ‘Professional emergency,’ he said. ‘Good title.’

He made a quiet song then, tender nasal chuckle of mothers talking to their children. He did not make songs about my eating preferences, my page 37 celebrated meeting with James K. Baxter, my collection of triangular stamps from San Marino.

At this period I had become the sort of person people asked to be a godfather or a pallbearer. Total strangers would come up, thinking I looked appropriate.

Explanation: absence of Maria, her overseas travels, so I missed her and waited patiently, reading John Keats aloud to him, bits of Ursula Bethell.

But he composed a song about my love of vampire movies and then, by way of contradiction, added something about my love of garlic. This song was called ‘Contradiction in Terms’, he presented it in Gore, and also got some airtime on Dunedin student radio. It never really flamed though, ‘flamed’ being how we put it in those days.