One nights babysitting widened my education
One night I'm sitting down to enjoy a quiet evening at home while the missus and the mother in law go to the pictures. I read the evening paper right through, from the overseas news about shooting coots into space to the ads for used cars and how to cure dandruff. I'm just about to go to bed when a knock comes at the door.
It's the pakeha wahine from up the road.
“Hori” she says “I'm in a jam. We've promised to go to a party and our baby sitter has let us down. I wonder if you would be so kind as to sit in our place and look after little Cedric. Cedric is a dear little chap and will give you no trouble”
Well spare me days! I have had some jobs in my time from being on the business end of a popper drill to driving a bulldozer, but py korry, I haven't had a go at this babysitting racket.
“OK” I tell this lady, “I'll give it a go but I've never been in this kind of job before”
I go up to this place and this lady she says:” There you are Hori, There are some sandwiches and some reading matter. There's a bottle of beer in the fridge so help yourself”
And off this dame goes and leaves me to it.
I have a gink at the sandwiches and they measure exactly one and a quarter inches by three sixteenths in thickness – just enough to make you hungry.
Well, I tell myself I will read something, so I pick up a Ladies Home Journal dated 1948 and a book of plays some pakeha joker called Coward – a punk name for even a scribbler.
A few minutes later who should show up but little Cedric.
“Hello little man” I say “ I thought you had gone to bed”
“So what?” he says “The mum and dad are out, so I've come to keep you company”
This little joker is aged about five or six but has the look of a panelbeater or a used car salesman just about to make a kill.
“You're a Maori, ain't you” asks Cedric
“Yes, boy, I'm a Maori and proud of it” I tell him
Then this kid says, “Do a haka”
“Sorry son” I tell him, “I don't feel in the mood to do hakas”
“Well then, poke your tongue out” he orders.
To please the kid I put the tongue out.
“Shucks!” he says. “That's not a Maori tongue. It's white and looks like Dad's after he's been to the smoke concert”
Then this kid asks me about a hundred questions.
“Do you keep tadpoles?...Do you like flies with their wings off?...Why do goldfish open and shut their mouths all the time?...Why do women talk all the time?...Why does dad always say 'OK dear, you win...Why does mum say she has nothing to wear when she is always giving her clothes away to those collectors?”
“Well, son” I say, “it's about time you toddled off to bed”
“Right “ says Cedric “but you must tell me a story”
“Ok Cedric” I say “one story and then you go to bed.”
“Once upon a time,” I begin “there were three bears. The father bear, the mother bear and the baby bear - “
“Crikey,” this kid says “don't pull that old stuff on me! Tell me about the dame in the night club in Auckland who wore the plastic skin-tight. Mum and Dad know the story but they say they won't tell me about it till I get older”
Then the kid starts off again with more questions. “Do you know Mrs Smith up the road? Well, she had to get the dose of goo for hydatids. Mum says she is a lady dog and all dogs have to get this dose”
I just listen.
“What do you like for the big race on Saturday?” asks Cedric, changing the subject before I could work out about the lady dog.
“Well,” I tell him, “I think Firefly will be hard to beat”
“He won't start” says Cedric “Dad backed him last week and he told mum he was dead”
This kid seems to know plenty.
“Do you like night caps?” asks Cedric
“Never wear 'em” I tell him
“Struth, you don't wear 'em, you drink 'em. Dad has a cupboard full of them over there” he cracks back.
I tell you this boy knows plenty.
“Dad always says 'Well, well I think I'll have a night cap before going to bed' and he has a pop at all these drinks in the cupboard” Cedric goes on
I feel I could get along with Cedrics old man.
“I like the green one that tastes like peppermint” says Cedric “but perhaps you'd like the white one that Mum says is only water but is good for the kidneys”
“Well, my boy” I say at last “you'll not have any of this plonk, so go to bed or I'll slap your bottom”
“Ha ha” says Cedric “Dad is always saying he will do that, but he never does”
“Well, I'm not your dad and I mean what I say” I tell him.
He doesn't seem impressed, so I pick him up and put him across my knee and give him the plurry hard slaps.
Spare me days, this kid says as I put him to bed “I like you Hori. You're a good joker. Now you can tell me that story about the three bears”
I start to tell him this story and have just got to the part where Goldilocks is discovered when I look at this kid and see he is fast asleep.
When Cedrics Pop and Mum come home they ask if he gave any trouble
“No trouble” I tell them
“Did he get up?”
“Yes he did. Said he wanted a night cap”
“How did you get him to go back to bed?”
“That was easy. I just smacked his plurry bottom”
“Did you really do that to our Cedric?”
“Yes I really did” I tell them. “And someone should do the same to you for letting him drink that plonk. How do you expect him to grow to be the big man if your going to ruin his belly with that rubbish? How do you expect him to deal with the half-gallon jar when he grows up if his inside is eaten away with plurry night caps and things?”
That rocked 'em a bit and I let it sink in.
Finally I say “Cedric and I get on alright together. Send him to my place some time and I'll give some good Maori tucker like the crayfish, the pigs trotter and the pickle onion.
I guess that rocked 'em even more.