Saturday, January 29, 2011


As soon as I got up on Friday, I could see it was going to be a beautiful day, and that made everything so much easier.         
          In the morning we celebrated Harvey's life at Old St Paul's with over 200 people. We had planned it very carefully as "An Anthology of Harvey McQueen", with a dear friend as a superb master of ceremonies, and six other speakers covering his work as an educator, an anthologist, a memoir writer and a poet, followed by my son, and Harvey's closest friend, and me.
          Each of us read something from Harvey's own work, but the first piece I read was written by one of the students he taught in his first job at Morrinsville College in the early 1960s - a girl called Janet, who grew up to be the poet Jan Kemp.

'It is February 1962 and I’m sitting in the third form at Morrinsville College, the girls in our summer green and white check uniforms and the boys in grey shorts & shirts with sandals. We are all about thirteen. The door opens wide and in comes Mr McQueen, our new Social studies teacher carrying his teacher’s leather briefcase which he plonks lightly on the desk and looks round at us smiling. You wouldn’t say his smile is a wide open simple one; he’s got an enticing sort of smile, a smile that challenges you to find something out.
        And we do. We learn about the Romans in Britain and Hadrian’s Wall. We learn about the ancient Greeks and draw maps to locate places like Ephesus and Troy. We learn about Cretan Minoan culture and that you can dig up the past. Things not often talked about in Morrinsville, though someone might sometimes find a Maori adze in a paddock. At playtime I’m going to sit next to Jim Hopa, who’s so handsome and quiet and brown. My girlfriend Jill has arranged it all. I can’t wait, so when Mr McQueen asks me a question and I’m not listening, he says “I expected you’d be paying attention, Janet!” and I’m called to order in no uncertain way. He sees everything. He has wavy hair, a heart-shaped face and I think he looks as slender as an ironing board. He wears a greenish jacket and a tie, and brown trousers and shoes. His voice is interesting, deeper than you’d think it would be.
        Years later I meet him again in Wellington at a writers’ gathering. He’s hardly changed at all. “You know, you helped show us the world” I say, as a sort of thank-you, and he smiles his friendly, quizzical smile and nods. “Good!” he says. “I’m really glad if I did." '

The last piece I read was from This Piece of Earth. Much of this book reminds me of things we did that I'd completely forgotten, but I remember this particular February evening perfectly.

'The last morning of the month starts off drizzly, but the sun soon burns off the mist and the day turns hot and humid. In the evening we walk round to help friends celebrate selling their house. When we get home it’s after ten, but the hall gauge shows 27 degrees. We open the doors and sit outside with one last drink. The nicotiana, alyssum and variegated flax glow in the reflected light. Overhead are stars, always part of my childhood but rarely noticed in the city.
        For about ten minutes the air remains absolutely still. Moths flutter silently around the lawn and flowers. Then with a gentle stirring of air, the mildest of breezes arrives, and the pittosporum leaves begin to move. It’s time to go in.'

In the afternoon the six of us - Harvey's brother and sister-in-law, his friend, my son and his partner, and me - walk down to the Karori cemetery. The kind, dignified man from Lychgate carefully places the eight-sided wooden box in the ground beneath the deep red Ingrid Bergman roses, and we each say what we want to say, to and for Harvey, and we cry. Then we walk back home.


  1. Dear Anne
    It has been a very long time since I was at Age Concern NZ and we worked together on a "A Super Future" .. I live in Melbourne now, and noticed today that Harvey passed away on Christmas Day.

    As young woman struggling with the nature and challenges of relationships I was profoundly moved by your relationship with Harvey . I remember leaving your house in Farm Road after spending time with you both, inspired with huge respect for the way two empassioned, thinking, challenging individuals had created such a special partnership. That memory never left me. I'm sure you must miss him a great deal.. I just wanted to pass on my thoughts, and to say take care of yourself. Kindest regards, Claire Austin.

  2. Anne, it's wonderful to find this post here on your blog - I came looking for your ratatouile recipe! It's good to be able to read the pieces you read out at the service - the extract from This Piece of Earth was especially apt and moving - and to hear what you did after the service. How wonderful the wooden box should go under deep red roses. How terribly sad for you all. X

  3. Thank you both - how good to hear from you again, Claire, I hope life is treating you well. Mary, I so much appreciated you and the other Tuesday poets coming to Harvey's service. I hope you found the ratatouille, it's at