I paid a fine Maori beggar $10 to solve that problem. He walked me to a strange little bar focused on gambling instead of liquor licencing laws. The beer was under the counter and Waikato Draft. We shared a drink and I went to buy a second but my companion declined. Drinking was a breach of his bail conditions. He went to a pokie machine. In a flash he was up over $40. Take it out, I suggested. And he did. This day was on its way to being a winner and I was on my way to Wintec Press Club.
There are few better lunches hosted anywhere. Steve Braunias pulls a fine crowd; in fact the company is arguably the defining draw card. Waikato Draft alone would not do it.
Guest speaker Mihingarangi Forbes would have been enough but she unexpectedly teamed up with Annabelle Lee in a one-two act rivalling my all time favourites: as important as Woodward and Bernstein, as easy to watch as Bert and Ernie.
The pair discussed Maori journalism and political manifestations involved in Maori television. It was an inspired talk delivered seamlessly. Even my new mate Don Brash, so far from Orewa, seemed to nod in approval on occasion. But that could have been the drink. Mine, not his.
By this time the wine was flowing sweetly. That grand lubricant of journalistic minds spurred us on to the after match function. I left my name tag on and a senior Waikato policeman recognised it. Best I be on good behaviour, I thought. I had some concerns as we were at the same place that following the last Wintec event a great investigative friend of mine turned green at the gills, lost some weight and his sense of direction home.
It is for these, and dancing reasons, that I shall not mention names from this point onwards. Except one. Russel Brown - Public Address to his friends. Russell had alerted me to M H Holcroft who in 1966 had plagiarised an idea in my last week’s New Zealand Herald column and one that would be important to my next book. In a twist of luck he found a book by Holcroft in a second hand bookstore adjacent to the bar. In my delight I thought he had purchased it for me. In the last day or two it has occurred to me that he may have been showing it, rather than giving it, to me. Nevertheless I asked him to sign it and with that quite possibly stole it.
The evening turned a little cold and so I wrapped myself in a blanket kindly shared with me by a journalist with younger bones than me. At which point I was told I looked like, excuse me for this, a vagina. When I say I was told that I mean it was posted to Twitter: the journalists’ drug of choice.
All criminals need a disguise, I thought, as I leaned down to feel the comfort of Russell’s book in my bag.
Slowly, those who were driving home or, sensing what was ahead, fearing for their lives, slipped away. A hard-core of rascals and ratbags remained. Those of such madness that Sambuca shots appear as the solution to all things real and imagined.
By this time, the wise and witty words of Braunias, Forbes and Lee were long gone, replaced by terrible madness. I looked out into the Hamilton night wistfully. I watched a dear friend weaving down the footpath.
I wondered if that Maori beggar was about and if he could loan me $40 for a cab ride home.