Hard News by Russell Brown


Stories: Home

Because sometimes we had to move, we never moved when we didn't have to. My Dad worked in a bank and although he left school without qualifications, he was bright enough to regularly gain promotion. By the time I was five, we'd lived in Wellington, Hamilton, Invercargill and Christchurch.

Things setted down in Christchurch because he could be promoted between branches, so, apart from three formative years in Greymouth, where Dad worked his first managerial position, that's where I grew up. And then, the year I started work, the family had to move away.

One of my schoolfriends moved frequently – his parents liked buying and selling houses – and I could never get my head around it. Even later, when I was not greatly burdened with either responsibilities or worldly goods, I rarely moved for the sake of it.

And when we finally bought a house, we stayed put. We've been here in Point Chevalier 17 years; long enough to see the karaka Fiona planted rise over the roofline and the neighbourhood change around us. We could have sold up and taken our winnings in the Auckland property lottery any number of times, but that always seemed an awful prospect. For all that I embrace risk in other areas of my life, I like a nest.

Why am I telling you this? Because this post is intended to recall one of the more pleasant elements of the Public Address culture: the telling of stories.

Two weeks ago, I made myself a little wobbly by giving a keynote speech to an audience at an international arts seminar in Christchurch about how Public Address provided a community for people after the earthquakes and the things that flowed from that. (I'll rework it as a blog post as soon as I get the time.) And then the next day, while I was still travelling home, there was a blow-up on one of our discussion threads that made me feel weary and unhappy as I tried to moderate it. I thought, this isn't the community I was talking to that audience about.

There were a number of factors to the blow-up, not the least of them being the somewhat traditional end-of-of year Public Address meltdown. But also, new people, old people, people giving offence and just ploughing on, people raising the stakes. No malice, just people.

If you value the community here, you can do a few things to help. When you have a moment, click on your own name and have a look at your recent commenting history. If someone signals that you're giving offence, pay attention and think about whether you need to keep saying what you're saying. If you take offence, try and say so clearly, rather than snarking back.

But also, it's been a while since we simply told stories rather than debating and discussing. Telling stories is good because it means we speak from experience, not opinion. It humanises us and helps us get to know each other. It's a thing people do to be together.

So, here's your place to tell stories. Stories about Home.

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