Two months after 9/11 I found myself in the UK singing for my supper. I lost a bet and had to door-to-door busk my way around the Motherland mid-winter and make enough money to fly home to New Zealand. The result was a book – UK on a G-String.

A number of years have passed. Yet recently the trip came up in conversation when a girl at a party asked me what it was like to appear on the Richard and Judy Show.

‘It was bloody great,’ I said. ‘There was the ride there in a brand new Merc as well as copious amounts of food and drink in the green room with Enrique Iglesias. But there was also the moment Richard and Judy duped me on national television.’

Here’s what happened. I sang on the couch for the famous couple, at the end of which they pulled out a crisp, white envelope. Richard smiled.

‘Here is an open return ticket to New Zealand,’ he said.
I was speechless.
‘So when are you going back?’ Judy asked.
‘Well, when’s it for?’ I asked.
‘It’s open,’ said Richard. ‘Anytime you like.’

I could not believe my luck. After knocking on doors from Wembley to Wales and having them repeatedly slammed in my face, here was a free ticket back to New Zealand!

Only it wasn’t.

As I write this I can’t quite believe what eventuated. As I said my goodbyes and had a drink in the green room, I boarded the train to Liverpool, the last place I had busked. And when I opened that envelope, a dirty old boarding pass fell out.

barley ticket g string

The good guys! The decent couple! The generous TV stars! I had been duped. 

The girl at the dinner party suggested I try and track down Graham Barley through Facebook, which I thought was a sound idea. Anyone know him?

Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.

Inspect your “hads” and see if you really need them.

The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.

The conscious mind is the editor, and the subconscious mind is the writer.

Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description.

I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead.

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

Just do it.

(With thanks to @AdviceToWriters apart from No. 8)


A rainy Saturday afternoon. Kid’s soccer cancelled.

‘Really,’ I scoffed. ‘A film about sugar?’

I’ll sit through any movie. It’s like a gig, there’s always something you take away.

But sugar?

The premise: Aussie Actor Damon Gameau decided to eliminate refined sugar from his diet. Not the typical sugars we know will kill you – cheeseburgers, chips and sundaes – but the hidden buggers in yoghurts, cereals and fruit juice. ‘You see some of these products in the supermarket with a sunset on them,’ he says. ‘Or words like Mother Nature and a bee and a flower or something. And people believe it.’

Gameau consumed the typical Australian’s 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, kept up his exercise routine, the same kilojoule intake of his typical diet and only ate foods perceived to be healthy. The result? He put on weight, lost energy and craved endless sugary hits. But can a film change behaviour? Afterwards, my niece handed me her fruit juice and threw her M’n’Ms in the bin. As we left our seats I inhaled buttery popcorn and chocolate covered ice cream cones at the ticket counter.

‘Guess you’re not selling too much confectionary this week?’ I asked the usher.
‘Nothing,’ he replied.

And this morning my daughter wanted nothing on her porridge but milk.
Job done, Mr Gameau.