I last saw Graham at his second home, Brazier’s Books on Dominion Road in Auckland. I wanted to show my girls a real bookshop. Graham was at the counter, sitting down with his guitar. He asked if he could sing us his new song. We obliged. It was an honour to hear him sing. If you’ve heard Billy Bold you’ll know this guy can write a tune. He could also quote poetry by almost anyone. Did the store have a copy of Under the Mountain, I asked. He did, a first edition. He told my daughter to honour it and treasure it. Tis a Kiwi classic, he said. As he was. RIP Graham.

Today’s random phone call, followed by an email, comes via America’s Funniest Home Videos. SIX YEARS AGO I submitted a video – as a joke. The Clearance Coordinator needs first/last names and email addresses for the following people seen in the clip ‘where everyone was jumping on an inflatable cushion to launch a baby doll.’

Man heard talking in background:
First boy jumping:
Kid in background:
Woman heard in background:
Older woman jumping:
Little girl running around:
Tall man jumping:

I said, ‘That’s very nice Hassan, what about payment to use the clip?’
‘Oh, no, sir you don’t need to pay us anything.’

If you feel bad you haven’t got back to anyone for a while, rest assured.

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.


It is a typical morning in the Black Caps office. Stuffed wallabies and kangaroos hang from the walls. Brendon McCullum (Macca) is reading notes on his treadmill, coffee in one hand and 45kg dumbell in the other. Martin Guptill sits at his desk studying notes.

MACCA: Morning Guppy, first in again?

GUPPY: As always, but not for long. Got a 10’o’clock.

The office door swings open and a cheesy grin appears.


Macca attempts to thwack Warner across the head with his office chair.


Macca picks up Warner with one finger and hurls him out of the window without spilling a drop.

MACCA: Damn Ockers.

Macca sits down, pats his pet Komodo dragon and unscrews the top of his power shake. He skulls the contents and crushes the bottle with his forehead.

MACCA: Now don’t forget, we’ve got that presentation with Mitchell Starc today.

The office goes quiet. Macca looks at the rest of the Black Caps who have arrived on masse.


GRANT ELLIOTT: Um, I’m, I’ve got to be somewhere.

ROSS TAYLOR: My grandma died.

ADAM MILNE: I think, yeah, my grandma’s dy-ing.

Grant, Ross and Adam flee. Three cars start up and speed off.

Tim Southee appears from the kitchen with two semi-naked broads hanging off him. Macca holds up the presentation notes.

TIM: Come off it, Macca! I’ve done heaps lately. Plus, you know, got my hands full.

The girls laugh and nuzzle Southee’s neck.

A tornado of canary yellow enters the office. It is Pat Cummins and he looks pissed.

PAT CUMMINS: Change of plan. I’m Mitch today and I do things different. Arm wrestle to see who wins this deal.

Macca rolls his sleeves up.

MACCA: Game on.

PAT CUMMINS: Not you, him.

Him is the mild-mannered, bearded man in the beige cardigan by the photocopier.

A bogan appears, clinging to the office window.

DAVEY WARNER: You got no chance, P*SSY!

Macca slams the window on Warner’s hand, then pulls it up just enough. Warner falls to the ground below and crushes Mitchell Johnson’s mobile tattoo parlour.

Kane Williamson sits opposite Pat Cummins.

KANE: Can I get you a cup of tea?

PAT CUMMINS: Get on with it, WIMP.

KANE: What about a biscuit?

Pat grabs Kane’s right arm and forces it inches from the desktop. Kane smiles and reciprocates. The desk is split into two. Pat writhes in pain.  A broken wrist and sweaty underarms.

KANE: Thank you for the opportunity. I think you did very well.

PAT CUMMINS: Sheep shagging hobbit.

Kane digs into his work bag and pulls out a can of Rexona.

KANE: Maybe use this next time?


I left my wedding ring in a cab.

It wasn’t even my wedding night, just a few beers with the boys.

I have this terrible habit of fiddling with my ring. If I’m standing on a boat I wonder, what would happen if it fell in there? On decks I often look at gaps between the planks and think the same.

This particular night my mates and I were in a Corporate Cab in Auckland driven by Ali. Around midnight we arrived at my house, during which time I’d fiddled once again and my ring sprung into the air and rolled somewhere.

At the time I laughed. But secretly I was thinking, my ring is not on my finger and my other fingers can’t locate it. Moments later four grown men lifted seats and shone iPhone torches. Brown, you dick. How could did you do that?

Yes, yes, I know.

I figured the ring wasn’t at the bottom the ocean or beneath a deck, so waved the boys on. My fate now lay with Ali and a mobile number on a business card.

I got up at 7am. Ali got up at 4pm. Long day.

Text – 4.14pm: Wat sort of ring is it?

I described it.

Text 4.21pm: Yes mate, I got it

The next day Ali from Corporate Cabs dropped the ring off to my house free of charge.

Text: It’s al gud u don’t need to pay.


People make up stories all the time. Bob Dylan made up his own back story by creating an identity his record company would run with. Steve Jobs went out with Dylan’s ex, so he could say he went out with Dylan’s ex.

The obvious stories are found in movies, songs, books, but they can be found anywhere. Everywhere.

My kids were selling Rainbow loom bracelets on the street outside our house and a lady turned up with a yappy dog. I recognised the dog as the little bastard who barks all night, every night. The lady bought three looms from my daughters, two for herself and one for her mother who is in a rest home. I looked at the dog and inwardly snarled. As we walked back to the house my daughter said, ‘Isn’t it sad her mum is in a rest home?’

We want details, we want to know how to have a better life, we want to learn. Stories give us that. They have power. It’s not even that hard. Live an interesting life and you can write your own script.


Nelson Mandela said we should buy a house 100 metres from where we were born. Or something to that effect.

So during the holidays I took the family through my home town of Hawera in the mighty Taranaki. I texted my dad for the address. He told me and I took the photo above. And do you know what? It was a special moment. That was the house I came home to as a baby! My sister was two and I was a snot-ridden crying ball of eyebrow.

I thought about knocking on the door but that would have been pathetic.

The next day I thought about that house a lot. How it sat beneath Mount Taranaki. How it was surrounded by other lovely homes. How my parents were only 23 and 25.

I texted my dad the photo. But I got the wrong address. That wasn’t the house I was born in at all. As Dad said, ‘Our house had a garage at the back.’

And now I’m back in Auckland and the house I came home to as a baby is a little further than 100 metres away. Road trip anyone?