"$10.80," I said to my Nana, the everynana. "What do you
think of that for a minimum wage?"
"Who's going to be getting that?" she asked.
"Young people," I said. "$10.80. You can't even buy
eleven $1 mixtures with that."
"Oh well," said Nana and giggled a punitive
giggle. "That might teach them to get out of bed and do
"You know you are a cute little heartbreaker," said Jimi
Hendrix, played from the stereo in the bar where we were
Seated beside the artificial fire, I shovelled fettuccine
into my gob and complained: "Whaaat?"
"Yeah, they should stop being so lazy," said the everynana.
She was having steak and thick-cut fries. We both drink lemon
lime and bitters.
"Come on now," I said. "If you earn $10.80 and you live in
Port Chalmers and take the bus into town, then you lose your
first hour of pay just on transport to and from work.
"Then you have to eat. What's that, $20 a day, assuming
you'll have to buy at least one meal because you're working
too much to have the time to prepare all your food. That's
another two hours' pay gone."
"Ooh, foxy lady," said Hendrix.
Nana looked like she might be persuaded for a moment, but
then she pressed the table with an emphatic digit and said:
"Hey, Anna, do you know, when I started out I was earning
She did not say XYZ, but she said something in shillings and
pence that was meaningless to me. She did not explain what
the shillings and pence meant in terms of buying power. I bet
she could have bought the equivalent of eleven $1 mixtures
with it, and I told her so.
We ate some more. A song by the Rolling Stones began to play.
Nana recounted the time she was made to go on strike along
with her colleagues at the whiteware factory where she had
worked, half a century ago.
"I said to the [union] man, I said: ‘Now we're all forced to
go without income but I bet you're still earning through all
this.' And he was. Boy it made me cross."
"And that's when you first started voting National, and you
never looked back?" I asked. I was teasing her, for the
everynana never confirms which way she votes.
"No," she said. "No," and then, "I never paid very much
attention to politics, to be honest."
"'Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try," sang Mick
"Do you remember when this song first came out?" I asked her.
"What did you think of it?"
"We thought it was catchy."
"Did it ever bother you what the Rolling Stones got up to in
their private lives?"
"No. People should know better than to expect them to behave
in a certain way just because they can sing, Anna."
"Same as with Tiger Woods?"
"Yeah. Good at golf. Doesn't make him a moral person."
Nana admired the clarity of picture of the wall-mounted
television beside us.
"But you must have one of those big-screen televisions
yourself?" I said.
"And a man comes on and tells me, how white my shirts could
be," said Jagger.
"Oh yeah, but the picture's not that clear. Look at that,
"Good for watching sport, is it?"
"Yeah," she said, and laughed. Nana watches a lot of sport. I
rubbed the back of her head and she giggled like a child.
Two young women, probably of the $10.80 demographic, walked
past outside. One, short and stout, was wearing leggings with
black-and-white wide vertical stripes.
"I'm not sure those were such a good idea," Nana said.
"Hm. I like it when big people dress boldly," I said. We
don't agree on much.