Personal Elsewhere

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THE UNKINDEST CUT: The author, the interview, the sub-editor and me

4 Sep 2023  |  2 min read

When the India-born, Oxford and Stanford-educated author Vikram Seth came to New Zealand in 1988 he was still some years away from his acclaimed and enormous novel A Suitable Boy. He was on a book tour-cum-holiday and being taken around by the PR woman for his publisher to talk about his two books so far: From Heaven Lake; Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet, and a poetry novel The Golden... > Read more

TURN OFF YOUR MIND: Meditation and a missed opportunity

28 Aug 2023  |  2 min read  |  1

In the late Seventies, when in my 20s and back at university as an adult student taking life and studies more seriously, I saw a notice offering free lessons in transcendental meditation. I was curious. I'd actually been interested enough to write to the Krishnas in London in early 71 at an address I had seen somewhere. I didn’t hear back until the... > Read more

JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY NIGHT: Fight or flight, tough thugs and tough love

21 Aug 2023  |  4 min read  |  1

I never saw it coming, but I knew where it came from. The guy was to my right and just in my peripheral vision, so all I saw was a sudden blur as he spun a roundhouse punch right into my bread-basket. As the breathe blew out of me and I doubled over he brought a heavy work boot full force into my face. I fell backwards over a small wall of sharp volcanic rock and onto the grass. The... > Read more

WHAT LIES BENEATH: I'd like to be, under the sea . . .

6 Aug 2023  |  5 min read

Any honest writer will admit to this: another writer will express their idea better than they can themselves. The other day I came upon these words in the hypnotic new novel In Ascension by Martin MacInnes. It's about being in the ocean. “Nothing made the slightest sound; no thudding in my ears from the water pressure, no chattering voices in my head. I gazed at the scene, hanging... > Read more

THE PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY *: Jarred up and ready to spread

30 Jul 2023  |  2 min read  |  1

I think his name was Peter and he was South African. And, as was the way with it when I was young, people like him just appeared in our lives for a while. I was probably only about eight or nine when the bullish but friendly Peter entered the scene. I was probably only a few months older when I would have seen him for the last time. I only recall one story about him, that when he was at... > Read more

SHALL WE DANCE?: You know how times fade away

16 Jul 2023  |  4 min read

It wasn't until I met Miss Havisham on the pages of Great Expectations that I understood what a spinster was. Which is strange because growing up there were two unmarried, elderly women – probably only in their Fifties – who lived next door with their mother. The Gillards – “the girls” as my older sister sometimes cruelly referred to them – were there... > Read more

WHEN STARS COME OUT: Music without the industry

2 Jul 2023  |  3 min read  |  1

Above my desk I have a photo taken in a market town in central Vietnam. It's of a woman singer and her brother. They wear the tatterings of their peasantry. He is blind and plays a battered guitar of no fixed origin, powered by portable battery. She is leading him by a cord.This poor, itinerant couple would come to perform in the village, the woman so impassioned that she and many of her... > Read more

LIVING IN LUXURY: When you envy yourself

29 Jun 2023  |  7 min read

Frankly I've never understood why, if you are staying in some place that closely resembles paradise with a bar -- a quiet beach in Thailand or Vietnam for example -- you need a luxurious hotel to go home to. It's hardly stressful lying on the beach and eating fresh fish by torchlight, so heading back to a neon-lit room just seems a mood-breaker.However if you are in a city which boils with... > Read more

IN THE TEMPLE OF SONG: Back to the pews

25 Jun 2023  |  5 min read  |  5

Today, on my 72nd birthday I went back to the church. Not back as in, rejoining The Church and a faith I'd lost, in the manner of those great English writers who suddenly embrace Roman Catholicism. I mean back as in, just going literally back to the church where more than 60 years previous I had sung in the choir at my primary school teacher Mr Slaney's wedding. I would guess... > Read more

CALLED BY THE SEA: The runaway wee Robinson

25 Jun 2023  |  5 min read  |  2

When I was a wee boy, maybe about seven, I ran away from home. Actually that's not quite correct: I didn't run away, I ran to. I ran away to sea. It was inevitable really. My dad had been in the British Merchant Navy in the Second World War (a chief radio operator, he could tap our Morse Code with a knife at the breakfast table) and the sea had always been in his blood.... > Read more

6B IN THE FRAME: And I'm never going back to my old school

11 Jun 2023  |  5 min read

School photographs like this always remind me how much younger I was than my classmates. At the time this photo was taken I was 16, I didn't turn 17 until halfway through that year. Which means I was 17 when I went to university the following year. Too young. It wasn't that I was clever and had been accelerated, not at all. I'd been in lowly classes to this point, and the 6B of... > Read more

BLAME THE NAME GAME: Double J and Thrice the B*

4 Jun 2023  |  2 min read

This might need close attention. It's about the bewilderingly few names in my family. Ridiculously few. My father was Graham Paterson Reid and my mother was christened Margaret Noble Lamb Stevens. My older sister was Margaret Elizabeth Paterson Reid, I was Graham John Claverhouse Reid and my younger sister Barbara Reid (no middle names, although when she was in primary school she... > Read more

HERALDING A NEW CAREER: And who are you?

28 May 2023  |  6 min read  |  1

I no more expected to be a journalist than I did being a teacher. But there I was in 1987 leaving a teaching career after about 12 years in classrooms to start as a senior feature writer at the New Zealand Herald. Journalism had some distant appeal, largely because I'd loved Lou Grant on television and a newsroom seemed a cool place to work. But it wasn't journalism so much as just... > Read more

THE BREAKDOWN: The sound of lives falling apart

21 May 2023  |  4 min read  |  4

We were away when it happened but watched it from a distance. It was early 2022 and even in Sweden and Scotland the unravelling of our distant country was evident: the screaming and shouting, accusations and anger, schisms and divisions, inchoate rage, smoke and fires . . . By the time we got back in April after three months away it was to a country we didn't recognise: ram raids,... > Read more

MADRID AND BARCELONA: Putting in the hard yards for art's sake

14 May 2023  |  6 min read

We should expect to suffer for our art. God knows I have for mine -- although standing in the rain outside Madrid's famous art gallery the Prado on a bitterly cold day might just have be taking it too far. It was. I quit the queue and headed back to my tiny hotel room for a warm shower, then jumped puddles to the nearby bar where I cheerfully wasted both myself and a wet Sunday. That... > Read more

A CLASS ACT: Kicked out of school on the first day

7 May 2023  |  2 min read  |  1

I never intended being a teacher. But there is my name in the list of graduates of North Shore Teachers College at the end of 1973. Not a career I chose but . . . I'd been kicked out of Auckland Uni for “failure to make satisfactory progress”, which was hardly surprising. With no career advice at all from my school – which didn't have such a thing as careers... > Read more

A CITY IN PERIL: But who's to blame?

3 May 2023  |  4 min read

One golden afternoon in August, coming back from the Arsenal district of Venice by vaporetto, I saw it looming up behind the beautiful church of Santa Maria della Salute: an enormous, gleaming white cruise ship perhaps 10-storeys high. And in that moment, standing on the vaporetto with dozens of other tourists, I recognised the problem all around me. Like the many millions who visit... > Read more

COME STAI, NEW YORK?: Eat, drink and smoke 'em if you got 'em

30 Apr 2023  |  2 min read

New York City in the mid Nineties and we – my then-partner Jenni and I – are staying in a cheap but serviceable hotel downtown. It's noisy at night with car alarms constantly going off but it is just around the corner from Chinatown and Little Italy, where we want to be. I do some interviews (notably Ornette Coleman), see some gigs (in the original Knitting Factory, the Blue... > Read more

BOOK 'EM: Reid, all about it

27 Apr 2023  |  4 min read

About a fortnight after I took over as editor of the Herald's Books pages in the early Nineties, I was approached by Terry Snow of the Listener offering me the Arts Editor job. It was tempting but . . . In addition to the Books pages (reviews, editorial by me, interviews and so on), I was also immersed in the Herald's Entertainment pages and writing most of the stories and interviews.... > Read more

WHEELS KEEP TURNING: More to life than cars and girls?

23 Apr 2023  |  6 min read  |  1

A couple of weeks ago a strange sound came from our modest Mazda Demio so I confidently popped the bonnet. As I stood looking at the unfamiliar coils of metal and rubber it occurred to me it had been over a year since I had needed to peer into that mysterious engine -- and probably four decades since I knew what I was looking for in there. When I was at school -- approximately the time... > Read more