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ARTICLES, COLUMNS, ESSAYS & STUFF LIKE THAT
Here is a taste of Hutch’s columns. If you want more, you can always buy his books.
1. I’d Diet for my Country
2. Creativity and Open-Heart Surgery
3. Immutable Laws of Holidays
4. Futile Bureaucracy
5. P-E-T-E-R
6. From Cradle to Criminal
7. Pestilence and Doom
8. Christmas Cards

A mate of mine...

A mate of mine reckons an elderly Greek poet named Theognis of Megara was right 2600 years ago, when he said, “Assuredly 'tis a disgrace to be drunken among the sober, but disgraceful is it also to abide sober among the drunken.”

He quoted this after a mutual friend told us of an embarrassing moment while under the influence of the demon.

You should understand that our friend, who I’ll call Cleopatra in order to save her reputation, is a professional woman of some renown and was, at the time, "between relationships", as the saying goes.

Cleo’s friends regularly and enthusiastically invited her to blind-date dinner parties, with mixed results. But being attractive and vivacious, she could ignite the most dormant conversational fires.

My mate rather uncharitably reckons the friend’s motives in seeing her hitched were driven as much by their anxiety at her posing a threat to their own nuptial bliss as by concern for her happiness.

But I digress.

With all the enthusiasm of a snapper contemplating sushi, Cleo accepted one such dinner party invitation, telling the hostess she’d be a little late due to a longstanding appointment with a terrifyingly fashionable hairdresser. One who didn't take kindly to mere mortals changing their allotted times at hairdo-heaven.

On the day in question the hairdresser decided Cleo needed a totally new look. A coiffure so devastatingly alluring that siren-like, she would entice men to throw themselves in front of her Toyota Corolla with reckless abandon, in the hope they might find favour in her discerning eye.

Plying Cleo with chardonnay - no doubt decanted from a box into a classy bottle - the tonsorial artist set about his task.

You must understand Cleo lives in Central Auckland not South Central Los Angeles and the resulting affro made her gasp in fright when she looked in the mirror.

Not being one to shrink from a crisis however, she fled from the salon straight to a sympathetic friend’s house, hoping the damage might be mended before she got to the Epsom dinner-table and her waiting blind-date.

Plied with a few fortifying gins, Cleo sat impatiently while the friend did her best with straightening tongs, hair gel and whatever other arcane mending implements women employ on bad hair days.

After an hour or so and a few phone calls from the anxious hostess Cleo felt follically fixed enough to head for the dinner party.

She arrived as the main course was being served, stumbling through the door with slightly slurred speech. Hoping to divert the guest’s gaze from her hair, she covered her insecurity with a torrent of words, and chattered through the evening, barely drawing a breath.

Through slightly out of focus vision her date seemed very nice, polite, attentive and handsome in a rugged sort of way. Everything went swimmingly until the end of the evening when Cleo was advised the room wasn’t actually floating, just her perception of it.

All agreed that the date, known to be an honourable man, should take her home. Fortunately it wasn’t too far, and he managed to support Cleo in a more or less upright position into the car, into her house and right to her bedroom door, through which she collapsed face down on the bed. He removed her shoes, covered her with the duvet and retreated to the living room couch where he spent the night.

When Cleo awoke a montage of the previous evening’s events reassembled kaleidoscopically in her memory. She buried her head under the pillow, groaning in mortal shame.

A gentle tap on the bedroom door reminded her she was not alone in the house. Hastily drawing the sheets to her chin she bade our hero enter. He did so bearing tea and toast, sat on the end of the bed and inquired as to her health.

At this moment Cleo realised she had absolutely no recollection of his name. While appearing to listen intently to his every word her mind raced. Like the peasant girl in Rumpelstiltskin, every name she could think of tumbled through her synapses. Sadly her neural wiring couldn’t make a connection between his face and any proper noun she could recall.

Her thoughts turned to ways of cunningly teasing it out of him. She ruled out rifling through his wallet, he’d left his jacket in the living room.

A breathtakingly simple ruse occurred.

“You have such an unusual name” She exclaimed, her face wrinkling into an expression of earnest curiosity “How do you spell it?”

“The normal way” Came the smiling reply “P-E-T-E-R.”

It’s worth pointing out here that calamities involving the juices of grape and grain don’t only happen after imbibing the stuff. Sometimes they happen prior to any alcohol being produced.

Let me tell you about another mate who just happens to be our neighbour on Waiheke. Basil is his name. He is an Art Director by profession and over the past few years has established one of the best looking vineyards on the island – not a post is out of place and every vine is plucked to precision.

He has an immaculate winery with all the best gear. He produces about 20,000 bottles of Merlot and a superb Swiss style Rose.

For those who don’t know, after crushing; grapes - skins and juice - are stored in large stainless steel tanks, (Baz’s hold 2000 litres) for the first stage of fermentation.

Every few hours during this stage the contents of the tanks have to be plunged with a implement like a giant spud-masher. In making red wine the plunging process ensures the grape skins that continually float to the top are dispersed through the tank to come into contact with the naturally clear juice. Yeast is added to turn the natural sugars into alcohol and the tanks are covered over to allow the concoction to ferment.

Baz’s tanks stand about two metres tall and are of similar diameter. To get any leverage he has to stand on a plank set across the top and plunge the big spud-masher up and down. While doing this at Easter Baz moved the plank a few centimetres too far and, you’ve guessed it, the plank up-ended. Dropping him right in it, so to speak.

We expect the critics to warmly recommend his 2004 Merlot, Describing it as full bodied, complex and slightly herbaceous, with a lingering hint of basil.


The Magazine Awards

Business Columnist of the Year 2012

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