Random Play by Graham Reid

The Sounds of Silence

Near my keyboard I have a wry quote by the American novelist Sholem Asch: “It has been said that writing comes more easily if you have something to say”

Which in part explains why it has been a month since I last posted here. But only in part.

It wasn’t as if there was nothing to say, it was more that after we came back from (the much under-rated) Norfolk Island I picked up the paper day after day and was -- in the words of a charming Chinese author I heard speak recently -- “dumb-shocked“.

The lunatics had overtaken the asylum -- and they had decided, of all the options possible, to ban billboards from the CBD. Clearly these people hadn’t spent much time considering what kind of ugly architecture was behind them.

While we were sunning ourselves on Norfolk’s sole accessible but beautiful beach it seems Don Brash burst into tears and was replaced by John Key, who newspapers and television decided it was time to profile in depth and tell us just who he was. I’m still no wiser.

Frankly I don’t trust the guy one bit. He looks and sounds like a man with enormous ambition but no ideology. Ah, but he did come from a state house, right? And “my wife’s Chinese”?

I have been dumb-shocked at the way his rise to the leadership of the Nats has been manufactured.

Then the media got into that end of year windup: we were told somewhat breathlessly on television one night that police had breath-tested four times as many drivers than usual. Hmm, now could that be because they had stopped thousands on the Friday night before Christmas? I’d be dumb-shocked if they hadn’t found dozens over the limit on that night.

Then we got the one where retailers say their end-of-year takings are going to be down and they are hoping for a last minute rush. Which inevitably comes. And they know it will because it happens every year. That’s a Big Story alright.

Then we get told that 2006 had been a record for . . . Well, you name it: retail spending, more cars on the road, credit card transactions and so on. I guess that’s what happens when a population grows. I’d be dumb-shocked if we were “trending down” as the politicos say.

So it wasn’t that I didn’t have something to say about all these things -- and Iraq, the trial of Saddam, events in the Pacific and much more -- it was just that I was too dumb-shocked by the absurdity of most of this that . . . Well, I couldn’t be arsed really. I preferred to shout at the television in the company of my long-suffering wife.

So Christmas crept up on us, we did the usual round of Christmas parties (including one with our builders whom we are finally farewelling from our now-repaired leaky building) and then in that last week did a swag of shopping just to make retailers and survey-takers happy.

At this time we inevitably look back on the year just gone and, despite me living and working in a building site, it hasn’t been a bad one. We got about a bit which was the idea when I went freelancing two years ago: in 2006 we went to Paeroa for a weekend (it rained), then Cable Bay in Northland for a few days (it poured and there was a seven hour power cut) and to Rarotonga (it rained all week).

We spent a terrific fortnight on the West Coast where people were genuinely friendly and not one made a comment about Auckland (other a guy who said something mildly sympathetic).

I went to Canada for 10 days (wonderful), the Outback for five parched days (a place that earns the overworked adjective “awesome”) and then we had that week on picturesque and historically fascinating Norfolk Island.

Okay, we might have had to add $70,000 to our mortgage because of the leaky building, but today the sun is shining, we have a new barbecue in our small garden, and my office is back in order. Auckland roads are quiet and I'm loving my city.

I have edited a book, and just about finished my second travel book (my first, Postcards From Elsewhere, won the 2006 Whitcoulls Travel Book of the Year, and is available through Public Address, a good holiday read actually). I have been invited to consider pulling together another.

These are all good things.

The Elsewhere website is rocketing along -- 1.2 million hits in the eight months I have been posting music there -- and although right now it has just some silly season stuff and my Best of Elsewhere picks in a week it will be getting “serious” again. The recipes are getting great feedback (ho ho) and thanks to all those who have sent complimentary or amusing e-mails about Windows on Elsewhere or the photo library.

In fact, thanks to everyone who wrote to me there, or made comments about postings here. All were appreciated, even the hate-mail from mad, ill-informed and vitriolic cyclists who strike me as about an inch away from being Nazis.

Anyway, feel free to check Elsewhere out here . And it costs you nothing to join the ever-expanding subscription list.

Hope you had a great Christmas and New Year. But don’t complain to me if you spent it damp and under canvas. I know more than I need to about living that way.

I’m expecting 2007 to be a good year for us. It’ll certainly be quieter and brighter without builders and tarpaulins.

I’d be dumb-shocked if it were otherwise.