In the pantheon of jobs I’ve endured in the pursuit of less unhappiness, reporting on All Blacks weddings for a newspaper was vastly more soul-destroying than screwing in the same screw 1000 times a day on a computer assembly line. It left me feeling considerably less clean than my days as a cable layer – a job that involved actually being covered in dog manure most days.
I hated it with every fibre of my being.
More than two years later, she struggles to name the date of her exit.
“It was on leap year day, in—what’s the second month, sorry?”
That’s February. Where she grew up, the months and days of the week have only numbers, not names. She never knew her siblings’ birthdays—no one gets to stand out and be celebrated. ”No one should be made special.”
By the end of my decade and a half long bender, the shakes were bad enough I couldn't get the first couple of drinks from glass to mouth without spilling it everywhere. The trick was to make a quick diversion home en route from work to pub, improvise a sling from a bath-towel or t-shirt to hold one arm steadily in place, and wrestle to my lips a sufficient quantity to quell the shakes: precisely two cans of beer.
An artificial intelligence system that can work hand in hand with medical doctors, listening to and interpreting their notes? It sounded good, very good – almost too good to be true.
In June 2017, at the Anchor Baptist Church in Lower Hutt, Matthew Christopher Taylor was born again. Two days later he was dead, his body found in a Petone playground 2,000 kilometres from home.
“Why do I do it?” she wails. “At some point you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I’m in a tuxedo with “Dead bitch” written in diamantes on the back. This is not normal.’”
Possibly she does it because it’s her passion, her penance, her drug of choice.
He began wearing the jacket everywhere. He wore it when he walked across the overhead bridge to the polytechnic where he was doing his songwriting degree. It billowed out behind him like an extra body. He wore it into the CD store where the girl he liked worked. When he came home to Te Kūiti on some weekends, I was briefly enveloped in the jacket, and again before he left. ‘Take it easy, Eyelash,’ he said.
Awful as it sounds, I’d once wondered how distressed I’d be when Dad died, but I knew in that instant how much I loved my father. I couldn’t take it in. “He was too young,” I sobbed, over and over. You’d only just buried your mother, Dad. You had a book to write, cities to explore, golf to play, plants to water, a wife to love, children to talk with, grandchildren to meet.
Seen through the lens of mathematical validity, it's not at all incredible that a professor of genetics from New Zealand's fourth largest university became the world's best-known monster hunter following an unlikely Twitter exchange that would have disappeared without incident were it not for the stumbling upon it of a Scottish journalist a year later.
But mathematical validity doesn't make for a great story.
A woman said: "I'm going to politely ask you to stop nodding" to the panel, who in their sympathy could sometimes look like bobblehead toys. "This better work," some said with menace. Many begged: "Help us". Others were resigned: "This won't be the first time we've been let down".
The panel heard it all.
Used too long, the fan smells like it's going to catch fire, but you can't leave the door open when showering because the steam sets off the smoke alarm.
Instead, I leave the two windows open day and night. The view is of a hillside, steeped in foliage and the occasional kererū. At night when it's dark and still but for the sound of the occasional bird titter or rain, I run a bath, turn off the lights, sink back into the hot water and think, I'm so happy to be here.
“This isn’t the life I thought I’d have,” Caroline says quietly as we drive away from the hospital. “I loved working. I have this fantasy that I’ll have a job again one day, a career, and I’ll come home and kick my heels off, Jarrod will have a beer for me and he’ll be a stay-at-home dad, which has always been his dream. Dinner will have been slow cooking for hours. Our kids will be happy,” she says, pushing away tears.
When it comes to writing a profile on Dr Hinemoa Elder, there are two distinct challenges. One is overcoming the compulsion to write every sentence in the sycophantic style preferred by mid-90s tabloid newspapers and women's magazines, where former kids' TV presenter Elder was once favourite fodder.
The second is to get hold of her.
"There was no long-term plan. It was, we need labour - let's ship them in from the islands, let's bring them down from the rural areas, build these houses, stick them in there and get them working."
Last month, at the Going West festival in Titirangi, father and daughter shared the stage for an hour of literary chat. The chair, Steve Braunias, read out Grimshaw's line about a chaotic childhood and asked them both what that was all about. Grimshaw said: "Well – it's complicated," and Stead said: "She was the chaos," and the audience shuffled deliciously in their seats.
The sun’s up now. Jade raises her left hand, catches a shard of light in her palm. “I can’t tell you exactly when this place became my home. Maybe it was that first day and the moment I looked down and saw this.
“I can’t stay too long away from here. I couldn’t live in town. I don’t want to live in that crap.
“But this island. It’s in your soul, I don’t know if you feel it but you know once you’re away from it. It’s just a special place for special people.”
It's hard to know where my interest in war begins. My family has no military history links, that I know of. We never rose in the dark on Anzac Day. Apolitical, atheistic (perhaps as a result?), there were no dusty shoeboxes of exotic letters or knee-bouncing accounts of ancestral heroics. Boys would bring grandfathers' medals to school for "news", and afterwards I'd jealously skulk home and demand, "Did my granddads fight in the war?"
As a lightweight in a sport of giants, it was Strack’s technical proficiency that saw her excel. She was an enthusiastic student of the sport, and prided herself in her mastery of rowing’s biomechanics.
“I knew how to get a boat moving really fast,” she says.
That was until she forgot. Or at least, her body forgot.
On the morning I became a single parent, that was where I went.
I picked up my baby and walked out of the house and went down to Newtown Park.
I saw them there, laughing and talking and playing with their children, and I asked if I could sit with them.
That was how I met them.
We are all guests of Juan, who somehow found his way here via film-making in Indonesia and Far North Queensland. He is a very interesting dude and has got me into a situation where I now wish I was somewhere else. My mouth continues to dry up because I have a feeling what’s in store for us over a weekend will transform our lives, possibly forever.
The Listener wanted to ask Kelli Balani about her case, her reaction to it and advice for other women in her position, but she is bound by a confidentiality agreement. Indeed, lawyers and investigators we interviewed for this story said confidentiality provisions surround almost every complaint of sexual harassment. Ostensibly, this is to protect the privacy of the victim, but recent high-profile cases have made it increasingly clear that such agreements are also allowing the perpetrators to emerge with their reputations intact and silencing those who might wish to warn others of their behaviour.
In one Press letter to the editor from 2011, M & S Jones of Halswell lament the influence of the "quake families" after the February 2011 earthquake: "[We] can't continue to sit silently in case the public come to feel that their comments and feelings represent all those who have suffered bereavement." In blue pen in the margin: "I know how you feel!!"
Uselessness loves company and I took consolation that I knew other people who couldn't drive. There was my niece Katrina, but she decided to learn when she was 35. There was my colleague Philip, but he decided to learn at about the same age. Well, there was always Shayne, widely regarded as the last great rock star in New Zealand, daemonic onstage, seething and intense offstage – who I viewed as a friend just as lame as I was, a plodder, carless, going nowhere. Good old Shayne!
But then he moved from Auckland to Brighton in Dunedin, where there was one bus an hour, and he decided to learn to drive. "Good one," I said, feebly.
My sponges soon became a treat between the two of us. I would make the cake, load it up with cream, put it on a pretty plate and present it to her in that little room. She would sit up in bed and eat it like a judge on the panel of a baking show. On those visits, she became master of the kitchen again. She would tell me if the oven needed to be hotter, if I didn't line the edges of the tin properly, if there was too much flour or too little, "I'll show you one day I hope, love. Maybe soon," she said.
On 15 May 2009, Jack Taylor was an employee in the cutting room at Christchurch clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin. It was a Friday, when staff worked a half day. Not long before their shift ended, the 350 staff were divided into two groups and, like lambs to the slaughter, directed to different rooms. The receivers had been called in and the company would be folding, they were told. Workers in one room were given notice their jobs would end later that year. Those in the other room, including Taylor, were told their jobs would not exist past 12:30pm that day. "We were told to go to our lockers, take our personal gear, and leave the premises," Taylor says.
It was an instantaneous, momentous decision, laced with danger – I would inevitably make a fool of myself again. Wouldn’t it be safer – kinder – to simply walk past? Of course it would.
I sat down on the bench beside her. “Are you Janet?” I said. Stupid. I knew it was Janet.
Gene editing has the potential to improve lab research, create new crop varieties, eradicate pests, wipe out pathogens, manage threatened species, and bring extinct ones back from the dead.
That’s the idea, anyway. The reality is we haven’t done much of this yet—and we’re still in the middle of asking ourselves if we should. New Zealand could be at the forefront of gene editing, or take a principled stance against it.
Old age and treachery will beat youth and skill, he reckoned, though the skill, along with the cunning, were at his end of the table.
Many evolutionary biologists would once have agreed with the Mail reader who declared that it takes longer than 10,000 years to be white. But now genetic science does exist, and the story it tells would horrify him.
While Dixon now holds a near-historic driver's resume, has a wife, two kids and a true athlete's build, you don't have to squint that hard to see that kid with a pillow strapped to his backside driving a Nissan Sentra in Pukekohe all those years ago. The grin is still as boyish as it was back when he was driving karts and saloon cars.
On the raceway, you know where those 20-odd years have gone though. Ice pumps through Dixon's veins. His mind becomes a complete, constantly moving rational calculus of fuel spent and optimal speeds. On track, the Kiwi picks up exactly what he needs – and disregards the rest.