Random Play by Graham Reid

Alternative Nation*7: Visions of Joanne, huh?

This copy of what seems to be award-winning Listener columnist Joanne Black’s back page piece for next week accidentally ended up in a friend’s in-box. We publish it here to give Public Address readers an exclusive first.

Rubbish collection day in our suburb is Tuesday, which coincidentally is the day I walk our youngest to playcentre. Which means that on the way we pass dozens of untidy bins lining the footpath. We also walk past the homes of two highly placed politicians and when we pass their bins I slow down. Just in the hope of catching something important by way of a misplaced Cabinet paper, or the draft of a policy platform that National is about to release.

I have often wondered what is in those bins and am occasionally tempted just to lift the lid and grab whatever pieces of paper are in there. You’ll remember that it was the American obsessive and self-styled garbologist A.J.Weberman who periodically went through Bob Dylan’s rubbish to try and find the secret heart and thoughts of the man.

I’m not sure I really want to find the secret heart and thoughts of one of Labour’s more stern frontbench members.

Anyway I don’t think there would be a lot to learn. Their important papers are shredded and in their bins you would only find discarded discount vouchers for The Warehouse, a shopping list and maybe a few of those annoying inserts you get in Time and Newsweek.

Unlike our rubbish bin where you find all of those things, but also piles of discarded political pamphlets. Some from the people down the road.

Weberman wouldn’t have much fun in our suburb.


Since I came back from my State Department-funded trip to America many people have asked me which city I liked the best. It would be easy to say New York and Los Angeles (which were like different countries) because of the great shopping -- and sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I shopped.

But really I’d have to say Washington DC. Why? Because it is so well laid out and you can get to your appointments quickly. Or at least our driver made sure we did. It just seemed like such an orderly city, unlike Wellington. Or Auckland. It is more like Christchurch. But not Dunedin. Or Hamilton.

Have you noticed how seldom we see the spouses or partners of politicians in this country, even in the run-up to an election? In the United States, and to a lesser extent Britain, spouses and partners are scrutinised as much as the candidates themselves. Yet here -- other than when trouble strikes -- they are seldom seen. John Tamihere trotted out the wife and kids when he was floundering. And Don Brash mentioned his Singaporean wife for a while until wiser heads told him to pull his in, she was hardly a vote-winner.

Here we keep a respectful distance from the families of politicians and that’s probably a good thing. There may well be a Mrs Mallard -- long-suffering creature she would be too -- but we don’t really care. I mention this because I saw Mrs Brash in a shoe shop the other day, and I’m sure it was Helen Clark’s other . . . well, not half but maybe 12 per cent . . . I saw at the airport. They both looked like nice people. Joan Bolger was.


And further to that confusion mentioned a few weeks ago. We grew up pronouncing the name of that country Niger (to rhyme with “jam jar”, sort of) but now all over radio and television it is being pronounced to rhyme with “bad hair”. I’m still not sure which is correct but after I came back from the United States many people asked me about the correct pronunciation of the state called Arkansas. It looks like it should be “R-can-sis” but in fact it is “R-can-saw“.

*Lawyers acting for the angry or those with hurt feelings are advised to first look at the disclaimer on Alternative Nation*5 before making time consuming and expensive phone calls.