To luncheon at Ferrybank Reception Centre in Hamilton on, yes, the riverbank. Last time I was here was for Shirley Maddock’s memorial service nine years ago. Today is a happier occasion: Media Bites, part of this week’s exciting Spark International Festival of Media, Arts and Design. The late-winter sun is shining, the birds are singing, something is splashing in the river and I am only five minutes late despite Hamilton’s best endeavours to prevent me finding a carpark.
The organisers have hired Steve Braunias to greet people at the door. Excellent. Inside, I examine the seating plan for familiar names. I see Winston Peters, Garth George, Peter Bromhead, Nevil Gibson, Colin Hogg. This is beginning to look like a seminar for elderly retirees. Perhaps Winston is here under the impression that it is a Grey Power meeting. But no, I see some young people in the distance who must be Steve’s plucky journalism students from Wintec.
I find my table.
To my right is a nice young man called Richard Swainson, whose name and face I recognise from his weekly column in the Waikato Times. We chat away about the rigours of writing a weekly column in the best newspaper in the country. I know that he runs a DVD rental store of high repute, so I pretend I am still a journalist and grill him about the state of the DVD rental industry. He modestly does not tell me that he was the first person to be awarded a PhD in film studies from Waikuni.
To my left is a nice young woman called Lisa Lewis, whose name and face I recognise too. We chat away about our children and the rigours of choosing their names. I know that she is standing for the city council, so I pretend I am still a journalist and grill her about her policies. She modestly is reluctant to reveal much before campaigning proper begins in another 10 days or so, in case her opponents thereby obtain some advantage.
We eat media lunch.
Steve Braunias gets up and explains the curious mix of invitees: we are all people who make the news or are the news and it is foolish to suppose that one cannot be both. Hence the brilliant choice of guest speaker: Paul Holmes.
And then Holmes speaks for five hours. Now I understand what it must be like to live in Cuba. To save time and space I will give you the executive summary: “I did it my way.”
Later, those of us who are still alive mingle. I am delighted to see Joanna Wane and Virginia Larson of North & South with all their Auckland media gossip, and am glad to meet various local journalists. But OMG celebrity photographer Norrie Montgomery is useless. Like Holmes he doesn’t remember me so does not take a photo of me with Lisa, me with Richard, me with Winston, me with Paul, not even me with Steve. I would have settled for that.
Even sadder, there will be no photo of Lisa Lewis with Winston Peters. Talk about missed opportunities. Do these media people really understand their responsibility to posterity? Or to the election prospects of a rejuvenated NZ First?
UPDATE: For another view of this event, see Peter Bromhead’s column (not online) in the business section of today’s Herald. Yes, he was there too, along with Alan Crafar. Truly, a glittering occasion.