Random Play by Graham Reid

Talk is Cheap

The other night I had a drink -- seven or eight actually -- with Craig Marriner, the award-winning author of Stonedogs and whose new book Southern Style I have just started to read. Craig is a helluva nice guy, very much what you see is what you get and no bullshit. It’s refreshing.

I first met Craig about four years ago when Stonedogs came out. It seemed at the time that no one other than me had read it. I was keen to do an interview with this guy who had appeared out of nowhere -- Rotorua by way of Western Australia, London and Eastern Europe actually -- and had written a sprawling, slightly over-written, first novel which took in heaps of dope, the seamy side of Roto-Vegas and some swerving conspiracy theories.

I liked his book (with reservations) -- and I really liked him when we met for a beer and an interview. It was a lot of fun and he asked as many questions as I did, so it was a conversation more than an inquisition.

What I didn’t know until the other night was I was the first person Craig had been interviewed by, and he said he was relieved I’d made it easy for him. Which is why we caught up for drinks now that he is back from London for a few weeks to talk up Southern Style and take his lovely Lebanese girlfriend around the country.

In the course of the long night I also ended up talking with one of Craig’s cousins and what came up was -- almost inevitable these days -- America.

By and large Kiwis don’t much like America because there seems to be this equals sign between the words “America” and “George W Bush”.

This is nonsense of course and while chatting about American politics I always remind people that America suffered an horrendous attack on its homeland -- September 11 2001, if you have only just tuned in -- and that in the rhetoric over Afghanistan and Iraq and so on that fact is often forgotten. By us, but not by Americans I have met on my journeys across that vast and diverse country.

Like us if it had happened here, they haven’t forgotten about the 3000 dead in the blink of an eye and the attack on New York, and their arms of government. Now it seems that the White House only just missed out on having an aircraft coming through the windows of the Oval Office.

It was interesting therefore to hear both of these points (the casual demonisation of Bush and the terrorist attack that spawned these troubled times) in John Campbell’s excellent coup of an interview with British PM Tony Blair.

I think it is something worth remembering when we quite carelessly adopt an anti-American position and blather on about Middle America’s lack of political sophistication and a world view (which are both true, of course).

Of course 9/11 has nothing to do with Iraq. But before making blanket statements like “I don’t like America” -- which I frequently hear people say -- or insisting that George W Bush is the worst thing that has happened in the past five years (if you live under Mr Mugabe’s whip you might have another view) there might just be time for a brief intake of breath.

Apropos of very little I’m going to mention a couple of other things: my “new and improved” my
website is really going off and getting great feedback. I’m thinking of getting some ads onto it -- tobacco companies don’t seem to be getting much profile these days, huh? [Joke]

Anyway, I seem to have become a first stop for people wanting travel advice. I am only too happy to give this as and where I can, and if I am not too busy doing other things (like drinking with Craig Marriner then recovering the next day).

And I am a little busy at the moment.

Getting out with Craig was good break from the story I am working on for the Listener. I have spent far too much time looking at photographs of people tortured and killed by thugs in the employ of the Chinese government.

Talking to Keith Richards tonight (true) will be a welcome diversion also.

Elsewhere: Tomorrow I am on Radio Live talking about travel (New York, have a pen handy for some tips on reasonably priced places to stay). That will be at some time on Kerry Smith’s afternoon programme (it’s a pre-record so I have no idea what time it’ll run).

Then on Sunday at 3pm I am speaking/lecturing/talking at the Auckland City Art gallery about the link between music and the visual arts in Britain in the 60s.

This is the first of two hour-long sessions, this one being wittily entitled “The Route to 66” and looks at what was happening until the end of that pivotal year. The following Sunday I’ll pick it up from there and get into the rise of art rock and America striking back in 67 and beyond. Should be fun, and it’s free.

And then one morning next week I am speaking to students at Mainz on the rather lofty-sounding topic of my own making: Alternative Methods of Marketing Music in the World of MySpace.

Wonder what they’ll make of the wind-up gramophone I intend to take along?