Whale’s Budgeting Tips for the Poor, Ctd

Yesterday I talked with you about my father, today I will talk with you about one of my mentors.

I won’t use his name but I will tell you a bit about his upbringing.

It wasn’t flash. Him and his three siblings were brought up in Howick, in a house not far from where I live now. I drive past it most days. They were poor. His father was a mechanic and from all accounts didn’t make good use of his money. His father still is poor, living in a house provided by his son.

My mentor relates often about how they were on first name terms with the local repossessor. How he shared a room with his older brother and how they top and tailed in the single bed. His sisters did the same in their room.

He says you can tell people from poor upbringings by watching them eat fish and chips…if they tuck into the chips and leave the fish to last they were brought up in a household where food was not plentiful, where there were the quick and the hungry…you see everyone was going to get a piece of fish but the chips were a free for all. Tuck into the chips and get as much as you could, then eat the fish last. If you ate the fish first then you got no chips..,. the lessons poverty teaches you.

For warmth at night there were no duvets but they did have coats. He relates a story about one night when the local pastor was visiting and he and his brother were fighting over the coats at bed time. He called out to his mother that his brother was doing one thing or another with the coats. His mother would politely remind the boys that they were duvets…till my mentor called to his mother that his brother now has his legs stuck int he arms of the “duvets”. [It has been pointed out to me that this is similar to a Billy Connelly sketch, and it may well be, but if my mentor says he slept with coats, then he did.]

My mentor’s father used to beat his mother….badly. His older brother would take the kids to one room and tell them that they were a team, that if they stuck together nothing bad would happen to them. This has stuck in their minds to this day, they are all in their 50s now and they still remember it vividly.

His father also used to beat him. Not a smack on the bum mind, or cuts with a switch, I am talking about full punches to the face and the head. my mentor has relayed to me the time he counted as his father punched him in the head, counting each blow…punch, one…punch…two….punch…three…punch…four….and so on until he passed out. I am unsure of the exact number but it was more than 40.

Imagine the terror for those 4 kids, living in poverty, a punch drunk mother, a violent large man beating not only his wife but also his kids to unconsciousness.

When my mentor was around 14 though he had had enough. He leapt onto his fathers back with a kitchen knife in his hand and held it to his fathers throat. He said that if he ever touched his mother again he would kill him. He took a beating for that but his mother was never touched again.

Eventually his father left. He found plenty of other women. My mentor pretty much lived by his wits after that…he used to catch the bus into the city and  try his hand at the eat and bolt trick at city restaurants…the owners took pity on him and then he had regular feeds. He still went to school though…and managed to chat up an older girl who would bring him his lunch each day….he married that girl when he was 18…and is still married to her today.

He also took it upon himself to defend the weak and to smash the bullies. Still he was a feared child at school. Then again anyone who will hold a knife to his bully father’s throat is probably someone who knows very little fear. Certainly no school kid could administer worse beatings than he had at home.

He left school at about age 16 and went to work for the Post Office…he learned a trade. He also sought out mentors to learn from, he has always done this. He bought and sold cars, he owned flats and on his off days would be painting and renovating them….he owned space invader machines and collected the coins and moved the machines using the Post Office truck…he used his wits and his wits taught him well.

The single best thing he learned though was sales….he taught me everything I know in sales and every week I learn more from this man.

He is one of the most generous people I know and people often take advantage of it, but he just smiles and carries on. He has given away millions of dollars in charity and asked for nothing in return. He believes that the more he gives the more he gets and considering he is worth several millions of dollars I think his plan is working.

It is remarkable that with someone who had such an appalling childhood could do so well. But what is remarkable is that every one of his siblings is like him, millionaires. Independently wealthy with multiple streams of income. My mentor now owns his fathers house, pays his father a stipend and visits with him as often as he can…he has a capacity for forgiveness that I haven’t seen too often.

When I was in my darkest days this man reached out to me and gave me a place to spend my days, he kept me busy, he kept my mind active. When I needed a loan, or some help he was there…asking nothing in return. He has been a true friend to me but like my father he had every excuse in the world to be a drop-kick, or a loser.

He has never made excuses for his childhood, he has never complained about it. His favourite saying is “It is what it is”….it is a trusism but so appropriate.

This country is great and can be even better because despite all the issues that socialists like to focus on about what is wrong with this country there is so much more that isn’t wrong. That people like my mentor, from a childhood that was pretty dire can become multi-millionaires, run public companies and retire in their 40s shows just how truly great this country is.

I have heard all week from Simon Collins in the Herald and from assorted vested interests about how life is tough, how the poor should be helped, about how tough life is. I can tell you that for every hard luck story that Simon Collins has used this week my mentor has had it much tougher. You won’t hear him calling for entitlements, life doesn’t owe him a living, he went out and took his living from life, he made his life as it came to him.

One word you will never hear from my mentor is “can’t”…because in his mind for everything he believes that he “can”.


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  • Catwoman

    Nice story WO – heard the duvet bit before!

  • Pete George

     I think one of the key words in current use is ‘deserve’. Not used in the mentor story here but he bloody well deserves his success, having earned it despite a crap start.

    The word is more often used in an opposite context. “I deserve better/more”, I don’t deserve this” etc – spoken by people who wish for an easier life to be handed to them by the state, provided by everyone but themselves.

    Maybe they deserve some sympathy but mostly they need to get off their backsides get their own act together, and to stop praying for an act of god or government to save them from their predicament.

    ‘Deserve’ is also used in politics, like ‘everyone deserves a living wage’. I thought wages were something you earned. You deserve to get out what you yourself put in, not what a socialist dictates.

  • Pingback: Deserve | Your NZ()

  • Orange

    darn it, you made me happy cry a bit.

  • Hakimofphut

    Again , he left school and got a job ( with no qualifications) at the Post Office. Those were the days of ‘an unwavering focus of full employment’ by both parties , and the Railways , Post Office was part of that.
    Those were the days!

    • Michael

      Yeah, and if we had kept at it we’d be like the Greeks. Except we wouldn’t have the EU bailing us out.

      • Hakimofphut

        And we are now borrowing  $300 mill a week with no  change in sight ?
        As for the Greeks they borrowed to the hilt during the good years,  we .. I mean Labour paid it back ( Key  said  he though we should have borrowed more during the good years)

    • Pete George

      My first job when I left home was with the Post Office.It taught me a valuable lesson – if you want to work hard and challenge yourself find a different job.

      NZPO (and NZR etc) did teach trades but they also taught many people a culture of sitting around and avoiding work and ‘deserving’ to be paid for it. That culture evolved into benificiarism.

      • Hakimofphut

        A few National MPs who didnt get back into Parliament seem to have a culture of ‘deserving a job’ from the government. Paul Quinn comes to mind

      • Anonymous

        Same here started at the post office. I once asked the chairman of our staff (union) committee what his job was. His reply was, to do as little as possible. He was very successful at it. We did have a lot of fun but there was no future in it.

  • Thorn

    Without exception, the people who claim they ‘deserve’, don’t.

  • Brian Smaller

    Ha – My borther worked on the railways. He worked as an assistant to a cabinet maker in teh Palmy workshops. This guy used to make kitchen units and so on – that he sold. He used railways space, parts, tools and materials.  Occasionally he would fix a chair or a desk or something but mostly he just ran his private business while collecting a wage. We all have stories like that:) 

  • Vlad

    WO, I hope your series of blogs under this headline continues.  It is useful, honest, moving and inspirational.  Everything the wretched Herald series wasn’t.

  • Nick

    Sorry Whale- but Ive heard this type of story for years & Ive never once has the story teller been able to produce any evidence that the story is true. The truth is that people ‘reinvent’ their history- and as a general rule, the more financially successful they are, the more they embellishe and exagerate their past. Key elements of your mentors story have been taken from other websites- the mean drunk father part is almost idential to the life ‘story’ of John T Reed, the financial success ‘story’ of your mentor is almost identical to a story blogged on Chris Lees website.Im sure your Mentor is well meaning- he may even believe that his history is ‘true’ in his mind- depends how long he has been telling the story- doesnt make it true unfortuately. See also Monthy Pythons  ‘The 4 Yorkshiremen’, spike Milligans War Books (He finally admits that he ‘jazzed up’ the stories in a later volume), The book ‘ A million little pieces’ was sold as a ‘true story’ only for reviews to find that it was a ‘novel’ that no-one would publish- so the writer lied & said it was his lifes true story’- there are many more examples.

    • Fuck off. Would you like to meet his sisters…would you like to hear their stories….I know I have….the sisters wouldn’t piss on their father if he was on fire…they continue to express astonishment that my mate can spend time with his father.

       Simply put you are a cunt…for even questioning this.

  • First time caller

    The story about fish and chips is also true when you come from a slightly larger family. Whilst not poor, I had three brothers and a sister. Eating the chips first was a well established tactic. Those boys were hoovers!

  • Pete George

    Nick, the reason why there are many similar stories of mean drunk fathers is that there have been – and still are – many mean drunk fathers.

    Obviously memories vary, they can be embellished – or diminished. But forty smacks in the head or one – are vicious, cowardly assaults and bad memories. Quibbling over degree doesn’t diminish the extent of the damage, individually and to our society.

    Our appalling violence and abuse statistics haven’t just started this century, the parental (and street) thugs of today were some of the infant victims of the last generation.


      Agree,this country is full of family stories like this one.Just a pity that some in this country feel they are owed more then they deserve.Get off your lazy whinging arse’s and work.

  • Balanced View

    I enjoyed this Whale – your mentor has inspired me through your communications.
    Let’s remember however, that this isn’t a story about not needing welfare, this is a story about creating your own opportunities through hard graft. Your mentor has signalled some of the assistance he received in forging his path, and clearly this along with his perserverance to not just settle with what he was provided has lead him into a position where he is now able to help others.
    You mentioned yourself that it is “remarkable” that he has achieved what he has after such a poor upbringing. Unfortunately we cannot expect everyone to be remarkable. And unfortunately it requires extra effort for those in poverty to break the cycle.
    I don’t like that vast numbers of our population are in a position where they rely on welfare to get by, but I do understand that some people have to come from further behind to succeed, and we should be doing our best to provide a leg up to them.

    • Anonymous

      I think this shows what welfare should be…a leg up when you need it, not an entire lifestyle choice.

  • Anonymous

    “He says you can tell people from poor upbringings by watching them eat fish and chips…if they tuck into the chips and leave the fish to last they were brought up in a household where food was not plentiful, where there were the quick and the hungry ” That doesn’t really work anywhere near as well as he thinks. There are a lot of people, such as myself, that like to leave meat until last as it is their favourite part of a meal and they want the meal to end on a high note.

    As to the beatings, with that many punches to the head, especially with being knocked out, he is lucky not to have suffered serious brain damage.But, yeah, his achievements are impressive.

  • Sarah

    Rising above adversity is the life my partner has made for himself.  Beaten by his ‘father’ and terrorized by a stepmother. He would take the blows to protect his younger brother. He was thrown out of home at 15. He headed south had numerous manual labor jobs the headed for Australia.  Knew what his parents did was oh so wrong and hates them for what they did to him. His younger brother was also told to leave home at 15. Both are successful at the paths they took.  As my partner always says he never used his upbringing as an excuse or a crutch. He just got on with life.  A caring loving man as is his brother.

  • Bit more colourful than I would have used – but it’s your blog afterall. Like him I’ve read similar stories – however I’ve believed them, as some I have direct experience of myself – the fish and chips – wasn’t aware until now why we did it we just did – and physically abused by both Mum and Dad – the good old “You just wait ’til your Dad gets home!” Killed any good childhood memories I had of him. But as an adult he became like my big brother and we learned a lot about ourselves – so it does happen……ALL TRUE….