The afternoon had started well. I met Sir Thomas Thorp, a legend of New Zealand’s judiciary. I was honoured by the assignment but it also had the latent consequence of ensuring I didn’t start drinking early. I told him this and he smiled a 90 year-old smile. There’s a man, I thought, who knows the perils of awards. In the end, though, that detour proved to be a curse.
The New Zealand Herald, with whom I have started a column courtship, said I could join them for a pre-drink. But I arrived on a cold engine. I had no lubrication on which the gears of my important nights run so smoothly. The company was great but I tried to catch up, to drink myself into my mojo. Despite what others say, awards nights are not about acknowledging the greatness in a given field, they are about an adventure; unmitigated, throw-it-all-to-the wind adventure. There are few times in life when society gives you a free pass for madness.
I tried to make up my ground but I was lacklustre. I’m not a fan of crowds and lacking fuel, the crowd suffocated my social desires until I was squeezed to the side of good manners. I moaned at the brilliant Jolisa Gracewood’s husband before realising the person I was speaking to preferred the intimate company of another gender and was consequently not married to Jolisa at all. For a few seconds I was anathematised to my wider social awkwardness and riddled with simple personal awkwardness. I reached for another drink.
Being canonised in the media isn’t what one might call exclusive. A Canon Media award is given for so many categories that the ability to starve off sleep should really be one of them. By my last count there were 42.000 awards. Best feature writer, columnist, photograph, video, best news story involving a trampoline etc. My interest was piqued by some fine people winning (and some fine people losing) but the only thing to really wake me from my slumber was my name being read.
I leapt to my feet, confused. Reality enveloped me in the form of Beck Eleven who whispered congratulations before suggesting in menacing tones that I mention her in my speech.
A speech. I hadn’t considered a speech. That would have meant considering winning. A few weeks earlier I had done a poll at the Wintec Press event of journalists I greatly admire. The most polite of these considered the possibility of me winning for about three seconds and all concluded Braunias was a genius and I had no chance.
As I grabbed at my award like a starving man might a sandwich, I was offered a microphone. You shouldn’t have, I said.
The last time I was given such an opportunity I had threatened to punch Annabel Langbein in the pavlova, but there was no such eloquence here. I rambled a few words, looking rather awkward. I was in a wave of shock. My usual confidence and boorishness left me making me feel like I had immersed naked into my own surprise party.
And this is where things get really disappointing. Instead of rolling around drunk and railing at the injustice of loss, I was forced to contend with the kindness and goodwill of congratulations. I gritted my teeth through this and bristled at the poor fortune that victory springs upon an unsuspecting man.
History gave me no comfort. I wasn’t standing on the shoulders of giants; I was standing on the stomach of a giant idiot.
The hugs from some great friends aside, my only pleasure came when I met Hilary Barry and could tell her I thought her crying at the great John Campbell’s departure was a truly beautiful TV moment. I lent forward and whispered in her ear that Michael Laws, who had called her unprofessional, was a cunt. Beck asked if that was the first time that word had been whispered in her ear but Hilary was nonplussed. I figured maybe it wasn’t. I went back to skulking around. Creating no madness. No stories.
At this point I fear my ungrateful tone may sound churlish. But I hope that’s offset by the fact that when I awoke, I gained a not insignificant comfort. I looked at those who had won awards (and many who hadn’t) and I felt rather privileged to exist along side them. This was an achievement of which one should be proud.
And all of a sudden my swagger returned. Next year I will win best columnist! For that I will plan a speech. And if I don’t win I will drink myself into an impeccable rudeness and by god the blog will be a great one.