During the time I worked for David Lange I think Mum hardly heard the TV news. She spent the time watching to see if I would appear in the odd camera shot. When I did she’d ring me up proudly. “Saw you this evening.” I never had the heart to tell her that I tried very hard to stay out of camera sight.
There was a time when I’d planned to spend an evening with her after a visit with him to Christchurch. It was just before the release of Tomorrow’s Schools and as there was so much to do I decided not to stay. When I rang and told her she was disappointed but understood. When we’d finished the schedule and he talked of dropping me off on the way to the airport I explained I’d changed my plans. “What come down and not see your mother. We’ve got plenty of time. It’s on the way. We’ll call”.
The car pulled up in front of Mum’s place. I raced up the path to warn her that the PM was behind me. She appeared at the door. “He can’t, I’ve only got my old slippers on.” “Nonsense” the big voice boomed behind me. “They’re the prettiest pair of old slippers I’ve seen for a long time.” Flustered she told him he was looking well. He responded by telling her she was looking well. I watched him put her at ease with a skill he’d obviously learnt from his doctor father.
Towards the end he said “I’ve got some paper-work to do in the car. I’ll leave Harvey with you for five more minutes”. Mum said “You’ve both got work to do, I’ll see you off.” She wandered to the car with us, old slippers forgotten. Neighbours twitched curtains. She and the Prime Minister waved goodbye at one another. As we drove off, he turned from the front seat, ‘she’ll be the talk of the street.” He gave me a conspiratorial smile. He’d read the old lioness well.