It was a bit of a crush in the reStart mall today – which we had expected because it was a public holiday AND a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon. What we didn’t expect were these signs on many doors:
We’d forgotten there were some celebrities in town. And while it was nice to see them – Prince Charles patted Henry on the head and Camilla said she liked his shirt – there was someone else that Henry was more interested in meeting. Lurking at the back of the entourage, looking very relaxed despite the serious guys in dark glasses, was one of Henry’s heroes:
Henry first wrote to John Key when he was 7 – he’d heard something on the radio that bothered him and then he found a snippet in the newspaper and so he wrote to tell John Key that he didn’t think it was fair that Ministers had several houses and holiday homes when some kids in his class didn’t even have one house. He added the relevant bit of the newspaper article to illustrate his point.
And John Key wrote back explaining his take on the matter and inviting Henry to write again. And because letters to the Prime Minister don’t require a stamp, Henry did. Sometimes with his important political opinions but also with running records of his day, stories he had written and interesting snippets of school gossip. His most recent letter began “Dear John Key. Today you made my teacher cry…”
Once they’d got past the nice weather and the burnt hand, the conversation went something like this;
“I’m Henry by the way. Do you remember my letters?”
John Key gazes briefly into the distance and then ” Of course. You’re Henry. Yes, I’m pretty sure I do.”
Boom. Henry flushes pink. Gulps. Conversation falters.
“He likes that you always write back,” I chip in. “Proper letters.”
“Oh yes,” says John Key. “I always write back if boys and girls take the time to write to me. So I guess I’ll hear from you again soon then, Henry?”
Dopey nod. Starry eyes. Swoon. And John Key leans down and tickles Henry under the chin just before his security boffins move him off down the mall.
I hope Mr Key understands that, at Henry’s school, he is still held up as an example of how far a boy from this very area of Christchurch can climb if he works hard. He might even take the time to really read one of Henry’s letters and understand that a desire for social justice isn’t just confined to grown ups in offices and kids really can have strong opinions on the way the country is being run.
I teased Henry about missing the perfect opportunity to ask John Key not to close his school but Henry was more thoughtful.
“I think it would be better if I wrote,” he said