And that was Holmes

February 1, 2013

Sir Paul Holmes lived a very public life.

In the last few days of his life and today, after his death, those who knew the private man have shared memories which show a kinder, more generous side than those who knew him only through the media ever knew.

Among them, was this one from Jim Mora, on Afternoons, and posted on the show’s Facebook page:

Sir Paul Holmes is dead, and many will speak about him, because many knew him, and knew him well. He was always a very gregarious man, with many loyal friends.

My contact with Paul in the last decade’s been sporadic, a few meetings, always warm ones; a little bit of communication, thank goodness, before he died.

And others will sum up his life more artfully than I can, in fact they’ve been doing it for a little while, and I know Paul read some of these. How many people get the chance to do that? I must say he has been the paramount broadcaster of my generation, the best one I heard or saw in those years when he was in his prime, and I don’t think I’ll see a more skilful one in New Zealand in my time.

I’m not trying to turn this tribute into an “I knew Paul” soliloquy, because many knew him better and are more entitled to speak of him really, but back in the 1990s especially we were friends, and I spent a number of Christmas Days with him and his family, which are special memories.

I remember a trip to South Africa with him, and his doing a live cross on television back to NZ and the technician watching him and saying to me “He’s good this guy, isn’t he.” He was good.

But it’s true that the paths of glory lead in the end only to the grave, and we are remembered most usefully often for our personal not our more illusory public qualities.

When I was at a low ebb in my professional affairs once, or as Paul himself used to say with a chuckle, “repositioning”, he did something for me, and I tell this one story to illustrate the generosity of him. There are similar and probably more spectacular stories. Columnists have called him sentimental in recent writings, and I suppose you can use that word, but it was sentiment born out of his own knowledge of hard times, which few know about now.

Paul calls me up one day and says “Jimmy, let’s have a coffee”, and I had not a lot else on my plate. He says “I’ll pick you up in 20 minutes.”

So he does, in one of those fancy cars he was fond of, the Jag or the Saab I can’t remember, and we head to Newmarket.

And Paul says “Listen can you come with me, I’ve just got to see a bloke for a minute” and we walk into Saks on Broadway.

And he goes up to the guy at the counter and they chat while I wait for him, and then the guy comes up to me and says “Mr Holmes has suggested we fit you out in a suit.”

And I say “No, no I can’t.” I was adamant I couldn’t accept that amount of largesse.

And Paul Holmes, with that irresistible persuasiveness of his said “Jimmy, it’s an investment for me, you can pay me back, you can write my speeches.”

I don’t know in the end how useful the speeches were. I do know how useful that suit was to me. But of course it wasn’t about the suit. It was about friendship.

I never paid him back that well. We were staying in Sydney once at the Hilton, checking in quite late, and they got the rooms mixed up and gave me the penthouse suite with the butler and Paul the regular room 5 floors below. A clerical error which neither of us knew till we got to our rooms. He didn’t mind. I can think of people who would have.

In all the time I worked with him or for him there was never a cross word from him. He treated people with respect. He had so many skills, and professionally I’ll choose to remember his time on the Holmes show, at his peak as a broadcaster, when he could handle any situation on air with more adroitness than I’ve ever seen.

Lives are ambiguous, as someone once said, so tributes are often trite. When someone as complex as Paul Holmes dies, it’s hard to say what you really feel.

I feel, and of course so do so many NZers… sad, and we have for weeks and weeks now. He did a lot of good, as we know, but it was more than the money raised for charity which is usually mentioned, it was the gift he had for ennobling others in their lives, for honouring them, for seeing the greatness in ordinary people. That’s why he did so well, and that’s what I will remember him for most.

God bless Paul. You weren’t a tall totara, but you were mighty, and you will be mightily missed. Thank you for that big heart and all the good you did for person after person. And condolences to your family on this most difficult of days.

When someone has been very ill, death can bring relief. But that doesn’t diminish the grief..

Sir Paul lived a very public life and his is a very public death.

There will be comfort for those closest to him in the tributes from so many people, but there will also be the difficulty of sharing private moments with the public.

Dealing with the loss of someone you love is never easy, it must be even more difficult to do it when the country is watching.


February 1, 2013

7/10 in NZ History Online’s quiz.

Friday’s quiz

February 1, 2013

Thursday’s questions were:

1. This quote comes from which book?: Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.

2. When was the book first published?

3. It’s fierté in French;   orgoglio in Italian; orgullo in Spanish and whakahīhī in Maori, what is it in English?

4.  Who are the two main charters in the book?

5. If a single man in possession of a good fortune fortune is in want of a wife, in want of what is a single woman in possession of a good fortune?

Points for answers:

Andrei got four and a close but not close enough for #2..

Deborah wins an electronic basket of berries of her choice for five right and a bonus for the best answer to #5.

Cadwallader gets an I think so too.

Alwyn and Grant each win a basket of berries of their choice too with five right.

Tracy gets one – and I hope your observation is wrong.

Answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »

Kiwi legend

February 1, 2013

This mockumentary premiered at Tropfest NZ, the New Zealand contingent of the largest short film festival and wont he won the Viewer’s Choice Award.

It was produced by Tess Novak and features a star studded cast of Kiwi legends – Melanie Lynskey, Valerie Adams, Colin Meads, Dai Henwood, Steve Wrigley, Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, Beauden Barrett and Kane Barrett.

Swedes to buy Hart farms

February 1, 2013

Southern Pastures Limited Partnership, a group of Swedish investors, have Overseas Investment Office approval to buy eight Waikato dairy farms from Graeme Hart.

Swedish investors have government approval to buy eight Waikato dairy farms owned by NBR Rich Lister Graeme Hart.

The farms were part of 29 former Carter Holt Harvey dairy farms near Tokoroa – supporting almost 20,000 dairy cows over 30,000ha, on land converted from forest – put up for sale in 2010.

They were marketed for $225 million, with the cheapest at $5.1 million, suggesting the Swedish deal is likely to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

Ex-All Black captain Graham Mourie will run the farms for the Swedes. . .

The 16 former Crafar farms, the sale of which caused the xenophobes so much angst, covered about 8000ha and carried 16,000 cows.

That sale was believed to have been for about $200 million.

On the face of it, the Hart farms look like a bargain when compared with the Crafar ones but – and I stand to be corrected on this – I think the Crafar farms are on much better land.

Setting the date

February 1, 2013

It’s about 12 24 months since Prime Minister John Key announced the date of  last year’s the 2011 election.

The early announcement came as a surprise and a pleasant change from the usual game-playing and point scoring which the party in government usually employs around the announcement of the election date.

Across the Tasman Prime Minister Julia Gillard has followed his example. She announced a couple of days ago that the Australian election will be on September 14th.

Our PM has signalled he is likely to make an early announcement next year too.

Mr Key said on Thursday he will consider his options over this year’s Christmas break, but is once more likely to announce the election date earlier rather than later.

It might give away a slight example for the government but it’s better for the people tasked with running elections, candidates, party volunteers, other political tragics and the public to have the date set well in advance.

A fixed term is one of the options being considered by the constitutional review which is being carried out.

It is one I favour and I’d also support the suggestion of the fixed term being a four-year one rather than three.

Summit Wool Spinners to be sold

February 1, 2013

Summit Wool Spinners in Oamaru is to be sold to Canterbury Spinners Ltd, a subsidiary of the carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst.

The sale of the woollen mill, owned by the Japanese company Sumitomo Corporation, is subject to consultation with employees and unions.

“Sumitomo has made a decision to sell Summit. This was driven by a number of factors affecting trading results including an unfavourable exchange rate and less local demand for wool carpets. International demand for woollen carpet yarn has also been affected by the Global Financial Crisis,” said the managing director of Summit, Mr Harry Ogawa.

“From Sumitomo Corporation’s perspective, Summit was becoming isolated from the parent’s overall global textile business.

“Summit employs loyal and skilled people and produces top quality yarn. Unfortunately demand for good wool yarn to be used in carpet and rugs have fallen resulting in a difficult trading time,” he said.

The mill is one of Oamaru’s biggest employers but it’s future has been uncertain for some years.

Wool carpets face strong competition in international markets and demand has been hit by the GFC.

The loss of nearly 200 jobs is tough for the workers, it will also have an impact on the town.

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