OPINION: The Old Hack - my journalistic mentor - has been on the phone again this week.
"John, you've played out the dissatisfaction-with-the-rebuild angle. Time for some nice stories in the lead-up to Christmas. People need to feel good at this time of the year."
When he calls me at night, I can just about smell the Scotch and ciggies wafting down the line.
He always calls me "John" even though I've told him a hundred times it's Johnny.
The Old Hack has been sitting around the house, doing the cryptic crossword, smoking and getting angry at the news on telly. Which he has given up.
"The way they all banter at the end makes me sick. I wish they would save the inane chatter for after they've gone off air. That's not news, just cheap entertainment."
He tells me that if I keep thrashing the same issue, people will stop listening and I need to have some fun content among all the grizzly doom-and-gloom.
"So John, what are you going to do this week then?"
"Well stuffed if I know now. I was going to do a piece about how future descendents of those that have had their land stolen might be able to claim grievances against the Crown. I thought it's interesting that at the bottom of the land-grab notices it says ‘God Save the Queen'. I thought it might be fun to look at the land confiscation in light of the Treaty settlements."
He laughed his wheezy flutter-lung laugh. "That's a much nicer approach to the same issue. You should talk to a lawyer and try to understand how you could approach this. Be very careful with Treaty issues. You want to make sure you know what you're talking about."
"I did. It's just that when the lawyer realised I was talking to him for my column, he got spooked and said there was no way he wanted to comment on such a daft angle. I believe ‘it'd be career suicide' were his exact words."
"You should have given him more booze."
"I did, but it just made him close up even more. Drunk lawyers can be quite good at closing up where everyone else opens their mouths and tells the barman all their secrets."
"Hmmm, maybe you need to approach this from a different angle. Why don't you do it as a letter sent from the future? Maybe they have learned how to send emails back in time and the judge at the settlement claims has written back to judges today to warn them about all the strife that will be created. That could be fun. A voice from the future."
While I thought this was an entertaining idea, I wasn't sure it would fly.
"Yeah, I'm just not entirely sure the editor of The Press is ready for me to start submitting time-travel stories."
"Well it's up to you John. But you're to approach this one differently. Get back to telling stories and all that sort of stuff. Then maybe next week you can do a nice one wishing everybody a safe Christmas."
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