Speaker by Various Artists

Going, going, but never off the island

by Graham Reid

These are thoroughly confusing times. For years we were led to believe by women's magazines that Suzanne Paul was, like, really-really rich. But now we learn she's having to the flog the silverware to find a paltry $1.2 million. Very confusing. And the woman who would shop herself about in any forum suddenly couldn't front up to her creditors?

She certainly failed that celebrity challenge and should be off the island forever.

And what about these athletes, those some hold up as role models?

Our best hope in the women's triathlon in Athens, Sam Warriner apparently, was profiled in this week's Listener. For the past few years she's been regularly off training and competing overseas. Inevitably her relationship with her fiance Nick suffered and ended. From Tim Watkin's article we get this:

"I was devastated," Warriner confesses later, "but it was my own fault, as I got so focused on my triathlons I didn't give him the time he deserved. And I was the one who went flying off around the world to race while he stayed at home to pay off the bills."

The endless training and the money struggles have been worth the hardship, she says. But not this. "In terms of my relationship with Nick, I'm upset about that. That wasn't worth it."

In a later email, however, the stubborn streak shines through. "It's one of the sacrifices you make," she writes. "It just made me more determined to achieve my goals."

Stubborn? Not the word I would have used. Selfish, maybe. She seems emotionally stunted, someone for whom love, loyalty and a relationship come second to her "goals". Role model? Nope, she's off the island too.

Confusing times indeed. And for me, because I too am off the island. After 17 years at the New Zealand Herald (formerly known as the Royal New Zealand Herald or Granny, now better known as the Herald on Weekdays as opposed to the Herald on Sunday) I have resigned.

No really, I have. I told people and e-mailed them about it. It was announced at assembly. Some cheered. I've resigned.


Reading the papers this week makes me think I might not have, that maybe there's still the possibility of a constructive dismissal and I can leave being carried out on a divan chair borne by naked and lightly oiled Amazonian women. And with what they call in all the best Westerns, "a tidy sum".

I have been taking advice from my lawyer about this and he says I've got a pretty good case. Well, actually Dave isn't a lawyer as such, more a guy who's been around the law. He's a plumber I met at District Court one afternoon, something to do with a car radio found in his possession at 2am outside a farmer's house near Drury.

But when it comes to interpreting the law Dave's pretty spot on.

Over a beer the other night he was explaining it to me. Apparently, "there's resigning, and there's resigning." What I had done might be in the latter, wink-wink camp. He called it the Annan Clause. It is named for a type of coffee.

"Now take your average politician, done and stitched up for let's say drunk driving," says Dave. "Now they'll resign, but they don't go the whole crapshoot. They'll resign their portfolio -- which, from what I can gather, is a pile of papers they are filmed carrying down corridors in parliament.

But they don't actually resign as such. So they've still got a job, and a highly paid one at that, but they have resigned from sort of doing anything until they are given something else to not do. That's one kind of resigning, going away without going anywhere.

"Like being voted off the island but not actually leaving?"

"You got it. There's also a variation on that, it's when you are so bloody useless at a job -- say being a director at Air New Zealand -- they suggest you resign, which you do quietly and they find you another job. Say being a director with Fonterra. They pay you a swag to get rid of you and when you move on you're still on the same dough. Usually you get a secretary and Lexus too. Most of those buggers are directors of half a dozen companies and spend their days with lawyers in negotiation about severance agreements from one company and sign-on agreements with another. I met a bloke once who never worked a day after he turned 30, but he'd been on the boards of 17 companies."

"So that's like voting yourself off the island on the condition you can go to another one straight away?"

Well I suppose so."

"Would you get to take a celebrity of your choice with you?"

"Well, maybe. But Graham, let's not worry about that now. Then there's that other kind of resigning which is the one you hear about mostly. You go to your boss and say you've had enough and wanna bail. Now, think carefully. Which one of those applies to you?"

"Umm, I just said I wanted to bail."

"Okay. But you see, that's wrong. So we need to invoke the Annan Clause and look at it in a different light. Let's see if we can fit you in another category -- or even better, go for that destructive dismissal."

"Isn't it ...?"

"Nope, destructive is the best one. Think about it. By accepting your resignation they've destroyed any subsequent career you might have had. They've made it look like you were an unsatisfactory worker so who, from now on, would want to employ someone perceived as an unsatisfactory worker?"

"Well, that woman with earrings from Work and Income was dumped because she was pretty useless and she managed to get a gig on television with Charlotte Dawson. I mean, that'd be kinda nice, get my photo hanging off her arm a couple of times then I could be on an island in Fiji with that inflatable blonde and Lana."

"Mate, think what you're saying. There was that Aussie boot there as well, remember?"

"Jesus, I hadn't remembered that. And Suzanne Paul too! She'd probably want to borrow some money. You're right. So maybe my best bet is ...?"

And so Dave and I mulled over my plight. I had resigned, put something in writing to that effect and even told people. Was even seen quite happy about it in the pub one night and had been taken to long lunches by people with interesting job offers. Yep, something didn't feel right with this, we had to turn it around somehow.

Suddenly Dave shot upright, then staggered a little, and sat back down. "Kids, that's your answer!" he bellowed. "We'll rally the kids."

"To do what?"

"Look mate, it doesn't matter. Kids will do anything to get out on the street for a bit a hoot around town. Look at that church group of blackshirts they got marching the other day. That was mostly kids who wouldn't have a bloody clue what they were marching for. 'Enough is Enough'? What the hell was that? If you'd told those kids to put on a black t-shirt with "Exactly the Right Amount' they would have done it and still marched.

"And it's happening at that school down the line too. The kids down there have been listening to politicians and their parents for years and so Bob's you're uncle, they come up with that old bogey, they are 'blaming the media'. It's perfect. You're in the media ..."


"No, be positive. You are still technically in the media, just remember that. So we get a bunch of 'blame the media' kids together, give them some matching t-shirts and we'll march into town and blame your bosses or someone high up in your company. It's perfect. Everyone blames the media for everything anyway and if we just put a slight spin on it, like you were ..."

"Only thinking aloud about leaving?"

"No, something a little more specific. Were you under pressure at work?"

"Well of course, that's what the job is about. You go there and work and meet deadlines, everyone does. That was the fun part."

"Okay, but were you in any way emotional? Like it was a bad time of the month or something?"

"Dave, think about it."

"Right, fair enough. Just thought we could use the Holmes Syndrome as they call it now."

We sat in silence for a long time, then there was a pause followed by an even longer silence. I thought Dave was pondering something deeply but then I heard him snoring.

I quietly finished my beer and thought about what he had said. I suppose I could rally a few friends and get their kids out of school for an afternoon march. But my best bet seemed to be I just keep turning up to work until they ask me to leave, then get my lawyers onto them. Then I could go to Holmes and tell my terrible story. He remembers the days when contracts at TVNZ were up and weren't renewed. Those "celebrities" went around the women's mags saying they'd been fired. Damn, it worked for that Angela D'Audney. She just refused to go, right? And Ali and Simon kicked up some stink about being tossed out of work and they are still on the tele.

But no, it was hopeless. I'd resigned, and I would have to be resigned to that. Off the island. Forever. It was one of the sacrifices you make, it has just made me more determined to achieve my other goals. Whatever they might be.

I got up and left Dave to the sleep the just.

I was outside the door of the pub, my collar pulled up against the Auckland rain when I glanced back through the window. I caught a watery image on the megascreen above the bar. I squinted through the rivulets of rain and there he was, a Christ-like figure of redemption, someone I could look to for inspiration. A real role model at last.

I knew now I could offer the classic excuse for having committed myself in print and verbally -- and maybe even get rich writing about it. I was back on the island! I hurried across to my old office. It was late but some of the sports guys would still be there. One was bound to have Murray Deaker's number.