Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend

When I was nine I had a rock ‘n’ roll friend.

Her name was Tracy and we made friends at Owairoa Primary in Howick, or “Howick By The Sea” as the local businesses decided to call it.

There were five beaches, an old convent called Our Lady Star of the Sea, a decently bad pub called The Prospect of Howick and if you drove a little further along the main road, you’d immediately be in the country.

Star of the Sea (Courtesy NZMuseums)

For as far as the eye could see, there were glittering views to Waiheke and land and space.

If you were horsey, you could get grazing on the main Pakuranga Highway where KFC now sits. There was a hall right next door where we would later as teens attend Blue Light Discos; those incredibly lame booze-free dances organized by the local police that drunk kids would still try to get into through the toilet windows.

Tracy as it turned out was horsey; I wasn’t.

Tracy lived in what my memories are now telling me was a mansion. It would have been one of the oldest and grandest houses in that area and was signposted by a large, tall palm tree that was like the Sky Tower of its time.

I was a fairly ordinary child. But Tracy had a full-time nanny called Lowie who was an older English woman. Tracy also had an older teenage sister and quite often the girls would rattle around in the big house, or out by the pool with no parental intrusion.

It was magical. Once our friendship was established (largely through our mutual love of serialised mystery stories) we lived out this wonderful fantasy of starting our very own detective agency. At night the doors of the house would creak in the blackness; by day we scooped the autumn leaves out of the pool.

Tracy’s mum wore a turban and had a boyfriend called Bob who was in the NZSO. Ann and Bob spent alot of time in bed. One day, out by the pool we were making a ruckus and Ann emerged, robed and severe: “Can you keep it down. Bob and I are trying to make love.”

I went home and repeated it to my mum, who was raised in the Salvation Army faith. That was all about brass instruments and abstinence. Dad was a lapsed Catholic and found the whole thing amusing. Mum let it slide I think because she had dreamed of being a concert pianist as a child and was impressed with Bob’s musicianship.

Soon Lowie had to move on, and the new nanny was young and dating someone in Th’ Dudes. Our detective agency was flourishing and the dog, an Irish setter called Brendan, loped uncontrollably through the leaf piles.

One day at home, our phone rang and it was Ann. Tracy had run away from home, she said. Nowadays, we call the police and report a missing person. In the old days you “ran away from home.” This comprised of packing a pretty pathetic roll bag and going down the the local domain to stare at your analog watch, and seethingly time how long it took for anyone to even notice you were missing.

Tracy was rock ‘n’ roll. My mother, sister and I hopped into the car and went looking. We found her walking along the Pakuranga Highway (no roll bag) just near where her horse had grazing.

I opened the car door and she reluctantly got in and didn’t speak to us the whole way back to the mansion or for days after.

I figured out that horse people who live in mansions probably live quite dramatic lives and have very loud arguments. The nanny and the Irish setter are the glue that hold it all together.

As time wore on we grew apart. I went to Howick Intermediate and Tracy to some other school and we never really spoke again.

Th’ Dudes broke up, and the decade of the ’80s raged before me.

I recently looked up the house on the real estate websites and the price is the same as every other house in Auckland and did I just have a tinted lense on everything?


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