Hard News by Russell Brown

Friends of Dorothy

Dorothy G. Dean of Bluff has died, but not, she would have expected, gone to Heaven. I was saddened last night to hear that my favourite correspondent, a 74 year-old, self-described "liberal, staunch Labour feminist sceptic atheist" had suddenly passed away. I had thought that if and when I ever got to Bluff I would pay her a visit, but time has done us both out of that.

Dorothy never seemed to have enough time for everything, what with "grandmotherly duties", voluntary work, keeping up with the world's news ("my personal obsession … what is happening EVERYWHERE") via the Internet, and emailing me, Linda Clark, Chris Laidlaw and Kim Hill.

I made a point of mentioning her in my speech at last month's Great Blend event: "What a great thing that is," I said, "to use your retirement time actively engaging with the media." I hope I'm as sharp as Dorothy if I get to be as rich in years as she did.

Dorothy is survived by three sons, a daughter and a husband who was a delight and a trial to her. She arrived here from Britain more than 50 years ago and trained and worked as a nurse for many years. She was a member of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists and the Friends of Charles Darwin. She loved Six Feet Under, Monty Python and the New Scientist. Her name will appear in the forthcoming pro-civil unions newspaper ad.

She wrote her emails like a teenager - hectic, lively - about the Hutton report ("I am beside myself with rage at the sorry display by that ivory tower dwelling old fart"); John Campbell ("He's turned into a bighead and I am sorry"); Mediacow ("It is impossible to seriously consider the views of anon bloggers and he/she should front up"); her beloved National Radio ("To hell with Denis Dutton, and John Isles"); Nick Smith ("Didn't the 'caregiver' have any rights?"); Chris Trotter ("Can't make him out either"); Brian Edwards ("always was something of an egoist but never bland. Wit is a rare commodity and he has that"); the passing of Michael King ("he provided a gentle balm to the spirits of those of us wounded by the apparent gross racism of New Zealand society as evidenced by the response to the Brash speech (not the NZ I love!)"); Deborah Coddington ("Please please do not listen to Deborah whatsit for one second"); Bush, Blair and war ("I too roll into a ball of despair that people continue to believe lies, effing lies (in case your computer tosses out THAT WORD)"); and the role of women in the world:

It's like some men HAVE to believe that women are of less value than men. ALL the main religions have that as a basic tenent. I have three terrific sons (and a ditto daughter) and that's where males have it over women. It's hard to be a man hater when your xy child has YOUR x. And you've birthed and nurtured the little human. Once your child, always your child.

Dorothy gobbled up media: even last month, when she was "in the Te Anau basin, surrounded by the wonderful snow-covered mountains. Farm, grandchildren, pet-sitting while parents gallivant," she was online, keeping up. But most of all, she loved her National Radio. As she emailed to me once when the chatter had turned to youth radio:

For heavens sake. Please just leave Nat Rad alone. At least until I die. I'll let you know, okay?

If someone from Linda Clark's show reads this before noon, would it be possible to give Dorothy a mention? She'd have loved that. She was just a retired nurse from Bluff. But not all great New Zealanders are famous.