Farewell, Nevan, and thanks

Nevan Rowe died 34 days ago. No announcement, no funeral.

Her long-time partner Kevin rang on the first morning in May, sun pouring down like honey. He said he just wanted her closest friends to hear it from him. But we wouldn't have heard it from anyone else.

Nevan and Kevin lived in the bush, an idyllic tiny hideaway at Piha, the black iron sand beach 40km north of Auckland. One room. There was a computer next door at a neighbour's house.

Nevan was a Kaitangata girl, and no, respect the cliche, you could never truly take the Kaitangata out of her. Small girl, big voice, big laugh, and big eyes that saw right through everything. She suffered fools kindly because she loved to have fun, but she knew a fool when she saw one. I liked introducing her to new people and listening to her afterwards, wait, let's recap, you got that in TEN MINUTES? Whew. She was smart, she loved new information.

Nevan's career started here at local television, DNTV2, Town And Around, Spencer Jolly, Derek Payne. I met her through local music, mutual friends in the band scene. Music was everything to me, but it was even more to her. She would do things with her head while listening to a song I would never do. Shy people keep their heads still. Nevan was always moving.

In a time when Dunedin had very few restaurants, we would go out to restaurants. The relationship was totally platonic, hence when Budapest Cafe owner Erwin Steiner stopped at our table one night and exclaimed he had never seen a couple so much in love, we played that one out to the hilt over the next couple of hours as he danced around us. One night we dined at midnight in the Southern Cross with Ravi Shankar. He was very polite.

Another time, still young, the Huntsman Steak House, Nevan suggested we confess one thing we desperately wanted to achieve in life, something we would never confess to anyone else. She went first, predicating her secret with the words, don't laugh. She said she wanted to be an actress.

A few years later, Nevan Rowe played the female lead to Sam Neill in New Zealand's first crack at international cinema, Sleeping Dogs. She would later star in John Clarke's Dagg Day Afternoon and the kids' movie Nutcase, before going on to directing short films and television commercials with photographer Kevin. By then she had moved to Piha, and it was a perfect underlining of her disingenuous attitude to beauty and glamour that she would spend half the year working in Los Angeles with Shiseido, and the other half in the Piha bush, no electricity.

There were always suitors in the early days. I was not one of those. We used to play a lot of cards. I remember once a quintessential Saturday Night Boy appearing at the usual starting time for a Saturday night, around 7.30. We had been playing cards since mid-afternoon. Nevan told him we were nearly done. He stood and watched for a while, shifting his weight from left foot to right, shuffling here, having a cigarette there, until 10.30, at which point Nevan stopped telling me to deal the cards. And this was a woman who would not leave the house without an hour-long Badedas bubble bath.

The last time I saw her was about six years ago. We watched the busker I call The Clapper, coz he claps while murdering music. She loved him and gave him $20. Nevan gave a lot of people $20. I was pretty sick that day as we walked around the town, but didn't tell her. Finally, I said I had to go home, people were coming. She said she would walk with me but I said it was too far, so we parted just before the Exchange.

At the lights, I instinctively turned around, and she was waving. I knew she had been waving the whole time. "I love you Royski!'' she shouted, a little too loudly for a crowded street, as was her way. I smiled shyly, keeping my head still. I was sure I would see her again.

Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.

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