Sunday, October 4, 2009

More Silk Than Saville Row



Hemi, my canine friend, and I noticed in Redmond Street a couple of Jags, a BMW and a Bentley too. This is at the Three Lamps end of Ponsonby an area of eclectic shops with friendly shopkeepers– far from the fashionable evening cafes and eateries of mid to South Ponsonby Road.
Turning into Three Lamps we saw a crowd spilling out of Dymocks Booksellers into the street; we noticed wine and nibbles were being freely distributed to those nearby. Hemi was hungry and I was thirsty. Being opportunists we availed ourselves of the generosity flowing our way.
We quickly found out the crowd was there for the book launch of Peter Williams’ (QC) Petals of Memory. Peter is one of NZ’s leading QCs and is a public face supporting unpopular causes – like prison reforms and Palestinian rights. He is also a competent musician, sailor, and as John Yelash says, a bush poet.

Among the tales that night were poetry and yarns from the sailing days, and stories of protests against nuclear testing in the Pacific. The strength of the poetry is in Peter’s passion, which flows out though every line. Among the 120 people present there were prominent judges and lawyers. Their cloth was of the finest, but the real quality was Peter’s poetry. (Judges and Queen Counsels are not a common sight in Ponsonby)
Bohemian artistic and once working class Ponsonby has never been for them with the exception of Peter. Rumour has it though, that in a previous time more than a few of the Silk were regulars at Flora McKenzie’s brothel in St Mary’s Bay.

Peter’s book, with its striking cover paintings by Ronald Jorgensen and Terry Clark, (both clients of his and major figures in our folklore) is warm and tender and tells of Peter’s great love of life, adventure and his care for his fellow man. He was not short of praise for the women he married and his beautiful daughter Katie who was in attendance.

His poetry was read by among others, John Yelash, well known sailors, legal folk, and Peter himself.
Much of the talk was of his great yacht Fidelis, one of the fastest yachts in the Pacific, which won the Sydney to Hobart.
Among those there to pay respects to Peter were Green MP Keith Locke and Ballu Khan, the Fiji-Indian born business man who Peter and his partner Heeni Phillips represented in the High Court in Suva last year. Also, Joe Karam, who steadfastly led the successful campaign to free David Bain over the years.

I first saw Joe in action in 1969, as a full back for St. Patrick’s College Silverstream Rugby team where he kicked four penalties to defeat Wellington College 12-9. I knew he would be an All Black but never realised that he had so much compassion and sense of justice. As a lonely tyke at Wellington College, that game was one of my finest days at the College.

Returning to the book launch. The atmosphere was one of both electricity and warmth with Peter Solon wandering through the crowd playing his violin tunes. The added colour of the poetry made this one of Ponsonby’s great nights.

I happily paid for the book and would have easily paid more for the performances.
Great poetry, good red wine, as well as a wonderful woman - my partner Sally, and our great dog Hemi made this night the best of times.