And then there was me ...

by David Hill / 26 February, 2005

It was the week that National Radio came to New Plymouth. They came because there is no finer place to go in high summer (that should get me a rates reduction), and because they were launching a 101FM frequency for Taranaki.

They came to talk to local people. They interviewed writer/researcher Rhonda Bartle. They featured indigenous musos, with our friends' daughter little Victoria all grown up now and singing brilliantly. They had vox pops, which weren't too embarrassing. Plus there was me.

Taranaki people came in numbers to Puke Ariki for Saturday Morning with Kim Hill. "I never realised she waved her hands around so much," said our friend Sally.

In New Plymouth's shopping mall, Wayne Mowat set up by the escalator, and stayed In Touch with New Zealand. "Don't be noisy!" hissed mother to small daughter as they passed. "It's the television!" There were hi-tech consoles and headsets and things with cables in both ends. There was Lynn Freeman's alarm clock with two bells on top as she did What's Going On?

Freeman was her usual friendly, focused self. She chatted to Greg Burke of the Govett-Brewster; to Jo Massey of Real TART Gallery, which is the place for seeing local artists; to Roger King, from the Taranaki Festival of the Arts. Plus there was me.

Mowat also moved to the Theatre Royal and ran Outspoken. "The way he picks up people's names!" marvelled Sally. Reputable citizens said things about issues. Mayor Peter Tennent turned every answer into a plug for city and province, which after all is what we pay him to do.

Right after Outspoken came Off the Wire, that irreverent half-hour where four panellists reconstruct and deconstruct the news. Before it happened, participants sat around a trestle table offstage and lied about their intentions. Then compere John O'Leary studied his script while the rest agreed what a small world it was.

On stage, O'Leary was genial and unflappable, even when the tape-recorder jammed. He took the panellists through rounds where marks awarded bore no relation to words uttered. We heard about Donald Trump's marriage to a Slovenian model, whose wedding dress had a three-metre train. A model train. We heard about No-Name-Calling Week in the US (several names were harmed in the recording of this segment), and about the Thong-o-Mat that sells sexy knickers. We heard and saw O'Leary getting an obliging audience to cheer, mutter, boo.

Two panellists were Aucklanders, and they ... they were ... do I have to say this? ... they were terrific. Mike Loder and Dai Henwood aka John da Bank Teller extemporised, fantasised, apostrophised. People laughed till their hernias hurt. Local journalism supremo Jim Tucker brought complementary wit and wisdom, and wasn't scared of the big-town boys. Plus there was me.

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