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Heels 1978

Mr Connell-Kotter And His Sweathogs

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Mr Connell-Kotter And His Sweathogs

It all started when Tony (Animal for those who know him by that name), during one of his Maths lessons, taught his class to do river crossings in the swimming pool at the Boy's Institute. From then, it was all on. A week off work to take them for a tramp in the Tararuas which, for most, would be a first and quite an experience. For me, it was no first time in the bush, but an experience for all that; fuck - words fail me.

Tony managed to enlist Loop Benton, Loop's younger brother Mark, and me, to help him herd this marauding bunch of characters.

The trip was to go in at Holdsworth Lodge, on to mid-Atiwhakatu, stay there for a few nights and then return.

We managed to get them all down to the Railway Station. However on this short trip we had a taste of things to come when two of the girls had problems carrying their worldly posessions all the way from the Terrace, so double packing was the order of the day.

The train ride was excellent. Everybody was in the non-smokers, except myself, graced with charming female company in the smoker. We were to be taxied out to Holdsworth Lodge, and I thought nothing could be easier. In fact, we made it, but on arrival the goon of the trip slammed his finger in the taxi door as he got out.

Well, off we set with our sights on Holdsworth Lodge, which wasn't hard since it was in view only 100 yards away. Even so, double packing was still a necessity. That night, the wine flowed freely; (Loop and I enjoyed a bottle of Pepe Lopez, at a safe distance from the mob), and the company whiled away the evening listening to silver lady "Hutch" on the "Battleaxe's" portable record player which was part of her essential tramping gear, which also included Twenty Solid Gold Hits, volumes one to seventeen no bullshitting, every single album without a gap, 1-17. We managed to convince her to leave this equipment with the caretaker, with some difficulty. "Battleaxe" Bronwyn was recovering from a hole in the heart - what she was doing tramping I'll never know - and spent the trip threatening to throw me in the creek which scared shit out of me - she could have, no sweat.

Also on our first evening, character (or should I say catastrophe) number three came into her own. This was Fish - a small, frail girl with very thick glasses (twice the depth of a coke bottle) - hence the nickname. Incidentally, all had nicknames and answered to nothing else. Well, Fish got pissed for the first time in her life, and started to get depressed. Romance, it seemed, had passed her by, and it was in vain that she focused her attention on the class hero, a strapping young lad called Zain (who needs a nickname when christened with that). Zain was sporting a bandaged leg from hip to ankle from a recent spill off his trusty 50 c.c. hog.

Teacher persuaded Zain to have a chat to Fish for a while, he then with typical quiet authority and professional dignity, delivered a brief but sobering morality lecture (a Connell speciality - available on request). In the end everything started to settle down and was quite quiet, mainly due to Monk, the local "Tough", who announced that if anyone were to budge from pit, even for a slash, or to mutter another word, he'd break their face. Tractor sheds have always appealed to me, so I slept thereand got a good night's rest.

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Breakfast was over and packing up was underway when Zain had the misfortune to have one of his infrequent epileptic fits. Hence I found myself wandering around Masterton Hospital for three hours while the others started off without us. Zain was fine but a bit tired, so he just slept and I wandered round, thirsty as hell, without a cent on me to buy a cup of coffee, and feeling ripped off after a long ride in an ambulance and the dog didn't even use his siren or flashing light once.

Zain and I caught another taxi and made good time in catching the rest up, only to find that Monk had forgotten to put his sox on that morning and had gotten blistered feet.

Zain, on arriving at mid-Atiwhakatu, made the classic statement that made it all so worthwhile: "Hey, where's the light switch?" After being informed about the situation, and a long explanation about how it would detract from the great beauty of being away from it all and getting right into the bush, he enquired why we didn't just stay at Holdsworth, for at least it had power.

Our stay at mid-Atiwok. was sweet with Tony racing off each day doing day trips he wanted to do, leaving me in charge of the group, my main duty being; trying to get them to leave the hut and to convince them that they were not hungry, for being an epic Connell trip he kept costs down as well as the protein intake. Nose was the hardest one to convince, for he even dreamt about Kentucky Fried day and night - I think that's all he lived on, and wished to continue on that diet for the rest of his life.

Finally we got back to Holdsworth, only to find that other people were arriving. We took one side of the hut and let a group of kids have the other side - a large organised party led by an older guy. The caretaker had told us to expect them so we showed them their half, and went off for an afternoon stroll. Then Nose came rushing in, and announced "Hey there's a whole fleet of cars coming" Thus arrived the Girl Guides who were the real pre-booked occupants of the hut, numbering about forty. Being a gentleman, Tony finally consented to them having our side of the hut, and we all slept outside under the tree - not without great complaints from the kids. After numerous embarassments, with Zain unknowingly insulting the Girl Guide Leader about her over-sized mammary glands in front of her fiance, and an eleven-year-old Girl Guide threatening to kick Loop in the crutch if he cheated at long ball again, we finally made it home - and boy was it home sweet home.

Tony Gilman

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