Chapter 1: Contingency

There was a war on. Doreen Peers was the nurse for a doctor in Upper Hutt. Doreen Peers was my mother. Frank Goodman was a plumber at Trentham Military Camp. He was my father.

Anyway, that day it rained. It need not have rained at all. But it did. Because it rained, the doctor's surgery leaked and Doreen phoned the plumber. The rest is history - and ultimately me. Thank goodness for war and rain, and for nurses who hold ladders for plumbers in storms.

My existence, in fact, is as perilous as a ladder. Most people don't like to admit to that. There's a shaky contingency in all our ancestry - which makes everything progressively fluky. We've more chance of winning lotto every week for a millennium than of ever having being conceived. Of course, if you don't know what contingency is, you haven't got my drift.


When Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in America it had a profound effect on my probability. The whole American slavery thing affected cotton prices in far away Lancashire. Ultimately a frustrated cotton-mill owner, Frederick Lightoller, had an affair with a maid, Joyce Gladwin, and they immigrated to New Zealand to become my great-grandparents. Thank goodness for slavery and Abraham Lincoln.

The Boulcott Farm Massacre in the Hutt Valley also paved the way for my possibility. Great-great-grandfather George Scrimshaw was in the 65th Regiment and guarding convicts on a ship bound for Tasmania. Eventually he was sent to the Hutt Valley instead of returning to England - to help quell the uprising at Taita. Thank goodness for uprisings and protests and murder and convicts, and for the squandering and plundering of native land by oppressive regimes.

Mum and her sister Margaret
Mum and her sister Margaret

The Irish Potato Famine was another contributing cause to my existence. Great-grandmother Mary Jane Kerr ended up in New Zealand after seeing her parents die of starvation. Thank goodness for famines and English Imperialism.

If grandfather Albert Goodman's wife had not left him, he would never have fled to Trentham and met my grandmother, Minnie. Thank goodness for infidelity and broken families and loneliness.


And so it goes on. I am the object of contingencies; the culmination of ifs; the fruit of chaos; the product of chance - born Wanganui, New Zealand, 6 December 1949; baptised as Bruce Bernard Goodman a little later by a priest who was the first person in history to photograph Halley's Comet.

I'm number five of six. My parents by then ran a pub - the Provincial Hotel. It had red concrete front door steps. A Maori girl with plaits tripped on them and Mum said "Whoopsie-Daisy!" That's my first memory. Not long after I was looked after by Miss Spoon.

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