Island Life by David Slack

Running on Empty

Dear Island Life: Where are you? Got any more quizzes planned? How's Mary-Margaret? I'm very well indeed, and thanks for asking. I have this habit of saying "yes" to anyone who asks me to do a job - or at least any job that sounds like fun. Could you write me a speech by tomorrow? Sure. Fancy writing a blog? Naturally. Can you do a book in eight weeks? No worries. How are those deadlines looking, Sparky?

The book? Well, it's an anthology of Terzain poetry, actually. Just kidding. I'll give you a clue - the word "Treaty" appears frequently. Also "Brash", "grievance" and "outrage". It's topical. For sure. If you've been trying to get Dad to understand your point of view on this whole Treaty of Waitangi carry on, it'll be well out in time for Father's Day, and if you're looking for a book to help you in your next argument over a bottle or two, it should do the trick. I promised the good people at Penguin that I wouldn't go putting the whole book in the blog, so for now I'll talk mainly about the business of making it.

I found that I could keep all the balls in the air while I was researching and interviewing, but once I began writing, everything else became an impediment, and got shoved aside. Weeks one through five were excellent. I interviewed all kinds of interesting people, re-acquainted myself with the history of our cheerful little isles, and generally enjoyed the process. The remaining weeks were a bit less even. Young Mother In New Haven got an email in the middle of Easter that captured the mood of the moment - sorry I haven't emailed back sooner - snowed under, it's 10.30 pm and my tape of Sir Tipene O'Regan is busted. Yours, with a screwdriver wedged in a micro-cassette, etc. That story has a happy ending, as it turns out. In one of life's little victories, I managed to transfer the tape to the carcass of a gutted blank, reconnected it, and we were back in business.

Actually, speaking of that interview, there's an observation Sir Tipene made that didn't go into the book, which is too good not to be published somewhere. He was talking about having to sit round reading bloody Morgan ( Gareth Morgan in the Sunday Star Times) sounding off about 'The Maori collective.' Every company that he advises people on shares on is a Pakeha collective, he said.

"I take him back to the Hon Mr. Rees. It's about 1879. It's an appendix to the journals of the House of Representatives. Memorandum - he's getting really uptight about attempts to destroy Maori collective rights and interests - anyway, Mr. Rees observes and opines: it is an extraordinary thing that we, who have spent 400 years developing the concept of the limited liability company, should come to this remote and distant place and here find this structure in its most near perfect form, and immediately set about its destruction."

There's a lot more where that came from, but it's at the printers. Strictly speaking, I guess, the ads should be confined to the top right hand corner of this page, so that's enough of that.

When you're knocking a book out at speed, you make the odd mistk, and miss the occasional. Or, at least, this author does. Tip of the hat to Mr Finlay Macdonald for providing a safe pair of hands to catch those errors, effect some prudent tightening and generally find ways to add some punch when it needed it. We were talking yesterday about how wearing it can be to grind out those words under pressure, and he was reminiscing about an equally short deadline he had for the companion book to the Rugby TV documentary series he worked on a few years ago. The family had a one year old baby and fulltime jobs to go on top of the couple of thousand words for the book he had to knock out each night. There's always someone worse off…

Which is all a long way of explaining why the only sound at Island Life for the past month has been the gentle rustle of those palm leaves. I promised myself a few days off when the book was done, and I will not be denied. There's the odd promised assignment to take care of first, but those are getting dealt to right now, and then I'm looking forward to a few days with the feet up. Am I too late for the comedy festival?