I could barely sleep the night before Kenny Baker (the man who played R2D2) was set to join us on our radio show. And what a gentleman. 3 feet 8 inches tall, Kenny was a circus and cabaret performer before getting a phone call from George Lucas in 1977 that would change his life. Who knew there were two R2s? In the original Star Wars films, there were two models, one that was remote controlled and rolled on three wheeled legs, and another which was worn by Kenny and walked on two legs. Also a surprise was discovering Kenny’s lesser known role as Paploo the Ewok.

Most interviews have at least one awkward moment and the one with Mr Baker came when he asked if I might lift him onto a chair in the studio. It should be said the chairs we use for radio are relatively high, designed to almost fall onto from a standing position. But not when you’re 3 feet 8 inches. I thought lifting Kenny might be similar to lifting a toddler. Wrong. I gingerly put my hands underneath the armpits of a 76-year-old sweaty, muscular man and hoisted him onto the seat. He laughed and gave out a satisfying grunt. What a strange Tuesday.

‘Kenny, could we have a quick photo before you leave?’

‘Great, you jump in the wheely bin.’



Or so said hunter and businessman Davey Hughes, whose memoir (Untamed) we wrote together a few years ago. Clearly Melissa Bachman, who produces programmes on the American outdoors, had never heard the saying normally reserved for kids when they think it a good idea to shoot a small bird, or any other defenseless animal. Look at that beautiful, big old cat. What a waste. And what a sad grin on the perpetrator.

During our life-changing journey that became the bestselling book Bowling Through India, it was somewhat ironic the Black Craps (as our five man cricket side was known) should end up playing cricket in a cemetery in Varanasi, otherwise known as the City of Life. The tombstones were used as stumps and a Catholic caretaker tried his best to keep games to a minimum – until we turned up. Thanks to The VC and photographer Brendon O’Hagan for providing this slideshow of our unforgettable match.

shop big attitude

In my children’s novel ‘Shot, Boom, Score’ the main character (Toby) often visits his grandma in her second-hand shop named ‘Junk and Disorderly.’ The inspiration for this came from a nearby shoe repair store, whose owners told banks on either side to bugger off when they wanted to bowl its premises. The grandma in my novel finds herself in a similar situation as told by Toby in chapter two:

Today I went to visit my grandma. She owns a shop on the main street in the middle of town called ‘Junk and Disorderly’. It sells really old things, like paintings and chairs and tables you normally only see in old photos. But she’s also got cool stuff, like a wind-up monkey with wheels instead of feet, and lots of medals from the war. There’s a medal in a locked cabinet no one is allowed to touch, not even me. It’s a shiny gold five-pointed star with a red-and-blue ribbon. It has a ‘GRI’ written on it in big curly writing, and ‘The African Star’ in eeny-weeny writing. Grandma told me the medal is worth a lot of money. Every time I visit I go straight to that cabinet and look at the medal. It’s almost my favourite thing in the shop, apart from the pinball machine with lots of girls with no clothes on.

sue pollard

It was the accent that got me. Making a cuppa in the kitchen in-between songs on our radio show I heard the indecipherable voice of Sue Pollard (Peggy from Hi-de-Hi!).
Check out the frog handbag. What a happy lady. Sadly, my excitement wasn’t matched by workmates ten years my junior. ‘It’s…you know…the lady in yellow from Hi-De-Hi!’


dic pic

Looking forward to our radio show tomorrow. Artist Dick Frizzell explains the motivations and processes that went into the creation of the New Zealand Herald’s 150th birthday wrap cover. He’s always a good laugh – and way better at scribbling than I. Regardless, for you, Mr Frizzell, a Dick Pic.

laughNew Zealand boxer David Tua has nine shots in his coffee every day. No harm done – you’d think. Until I tried it during our radio show. Never have I found ads I hear every day so hilarious. I was so exhausted after this episode I had to go home for a lie down.