Island Life by David Slack

7

Good Bastards

No doubt he’ll be saying it himself, but let me say it too: Russell Brown’s mates are good bastards. You came in large numbers and you weren’t shy to put your hands in your pockets for a good cause. The music wasn’t half bad either, eh?

There was a nice touch of the exotic to it, too. You came through the door of the old Windsor Castle - now home to a sushi restaurant - and found yourself surrounded by glamorous Pead PR people bearing cocktails. Over at the auction table, Ahmed Zaoui was inspecting a soccer ball signed by Rod Stewart. At the other end of the room, legendary musicians were coiffed in improbable jet black wigs. The room was full of media ratbags, friends of Public Address, and rather more young women in high heels than you see at a Great Blend. Also John Campbell, Bridget Saunders and a cameraman.

You try to behave, but sometimes you have a rush of blood - or more accurately 42 Below - to the head. Ahmed Zaoui’s friend Sally said it might be nice to send New Zealand’s most well-known Algerian to the morning tea with Helen Clark, which was about to be auctioned. I collected a quick dozen or so hundred dollar pledges for a collective bid, but that was not nearly enough. It was probably just as well that the bidding opened at two thousand and quickly went past four. It wouldn’t have been fair to imperil the blameless people who persuaded the Prime Minister to take part; not so soon after that painting business.

I told Deborah Hill-Cone that there would be no call on her pledge. She told me I should have made it $500 a piece and scolded me that I was clearly no capitalist. I began an indignant defence of my free market credentials – veteran exporter and stalwart defender of the current account for upwards of a decade etc - but she had already turned back to her conversation with Brent Hansen.

Such bidding! Thousands for RussB’s signed, framed, and beautifully presented first blog; thousands for travel and art; the electronic gear, the CDs, the fine baby wear, all of them energetically contested. And once the speaking began you understood why you were digging deep. We heard a compelling story from Russell about Aspergers, family, the things life can ask you to cope with, and what you can learn from them. The only reason I can’t say it was the best speech I’ve ever heard him give is because I was standing outside with the smokers where the acoustics are not kind to the hearing-impaired, and I lost a few lines. But you didn’t need the lot to get the picture.

I’ve known Russell since ICONZ was an ISP in a broom cupboard in Airedale Street. He has always been part of my online life. Three years ago he did me the enormous favour of encouraging me to do something with my day beyond exporting noughts and ones to Americans. I have a lot to do yet to show my gratitude for that, but last night was one fine chance to do it.

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