My father. free-spirited and funny.

David Lange. My barrister and future New Zealand Prime Minister.

This is a series of blog articles to honour my father who died 3.5 weeks ago. I’m celebrating his life and sharing various incidents that I remember.

When I was a lad I was young and free. The lads I hung out with were the same. In Khandallah, Wellington, my pals were young, free and often a little naughty and free-spirited. Sitting home watching TV or playing mechano (old school teenage metal lego) was not our thing. We were looking for adventure.

Dad and mum moved the family to Te Atatu Auckland in 1974. There I met another set of free-spirited mates. One of these was a particularly adventurous and sometimes quite naughty lad, Mark Cleaver.

Mark was a particularly free-spirited and adventurous young man. One of Mark’s favourite adventures was to drive over the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Auckland’s North Shore, jump the barbed wire fences, and climb up along the steel support structures to the apex of the bridge under the road level. Once we were there Mark’s favourite party trick was to swing like a monkey from a pipe with his legs dangling and then pull himself back on to the girder. The murky waters were a long way down and a fall probably meant death. Mark was a short stocky lad with incredible arm and upper body strength. I certainly wasn’t game to follow Marks’ lead. Apart from vertigo, I didn’t possess his arm and torso strength.

Another time, the lads were bored and so we headed into town on the back of a pickup truck. We were drinking beers and driving around. I’m not sure why but we were a little tipsy and Mark and I saw a challenging set of ladders going up the side of a building in Central Auckland. We looked at each other and decided to climb the steel fire escape. We didn’t realise it but it was a woman’s hostel. The cops were called and I was arrested as I climbed down.

Mark however decided to outrun the cops. On touching the pavement he ran off and quite a few cops were engaged in his pursuit.

I was taken to the Harbour Police Station down at the Wharves and thrown in a cell. A while later Mark was caught and arrested and they tossed him in too. Mark and I made up a story about how a Maori gang had been bullying us and that we climbed the building to escape them. Mark was taken for questioning. During his interrogation he gave them some lip and told them to get f’d and they were pigs and oinked at them. They began to punch Mark in the belly.It probably didn’t hurt him much as he was tough as hell. He was telling them to get f’d and they were belting him. Mark couldn’t be broken so they tossed him in the cell again.

The cops made some enquiries. No one had seen any Maori gangs about. The cops said we were lying and told us we would have to stay in the cells til we told the truth. They accused us of climbing the fire escape to perve at the chics in the hostel. Eventually we told them we were just skylarking. They transferred us to the Auckland Central Cop Station. It was a hollow feeling, quite surreal to be photoed and printed and tossed alone in a simple cell. The feeling was terrible but I dozed off. I was awoken in the morning by a cop with my dad standing beside him.

I wasn’t sure how my dad was going to react. Dad posted some bail money. I think it was $400. We walked quietly to the car. I was tired. Dad didn’t say much. I told him what had happened. The cops laid a pervert allegation and we were having to go to court. Dad didn’t get heavy or blow his top. He didn’t moralise or grill me in any negative way. Dad was very supportive.

Dad made enquiries and organised a Barrister. I was due to start a Law degree and a conviction would stop me being able to do practice as a lawyer. The barrister dad appointed was David Lange. David was later to become New Zealand Prime Minister. He was a big overweight dude with a big presence and a commanding voice. He was also very layback, worldly-wise but a little dishevelled. I remember seeing him a couple of years later at Wellington Airport. I said hello and we talked about the Court case. He was overweight as ever and drinking a big sweet unhealthy smoothie.

David Lange, the future Prime Minister of New Zealand did a great job in Court. I listened to him as he painted a picture of me which was quite angelic and completely unrecognisable to me. The magistrate liked the story and was empathetic to the follies of my youth and my legal aspirations. Thanks to David Lange and a loving and supportive father, I got off without a conviction.

A couple of years later I became an active Christian. I got Mark involved but the free-spirited Mark met some Moonies on the street. Mark decided shortly after to join the controlling Moonie Sect. This Moonie cult was big in the 70s in South Korea and spread to the West. Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Children of God Sects, they were aggressive with evangelism. Amongst other weird doctrines, they believe this dude Moon is a prophet who Jesus appeared to and told him to complete his work on earth. The Moonies were famous for mass weddings of hundreds of couples at a time in stadiums, with tens of thousands of Moonies watching. My sister Fiona said that Mark and his American wife and four children are still into it after 30 years. Moon recently died.