Island Life by David Slack

The Call of the Wild

Within a couple of years of graduating, I was already done with my first career choice.

Advertising: what was I thinking? This, in case you haven't read it.

By the winter of 1983, we had a bad economy, a bad Prime Minister, and I had no special interest in hanging around.

My friend Richard was done with being a junior lawyer, and he had the perfect suggestion. We would go to Canada: Whistler, Banff, or some other fine ski resort. Somewhere with fresh powder every morning and fresh dishes for kitchen hands every evening. We wouldn't mind the work at all. Ski all day, hone our skills and then on to Europe where we would become ski instructors at a Swiss finishing school and in due course marry into some small European principality or other. Couldn't be better.

If I hadn't been offered a job with Dominion Breweries: car, expense account, upward management mobility in a Brierley company, I would absolutely not have had my head turned, and I would not have had to tell Richard with about four weeks to go that he'd be making the trip on his own.

If I had been a better kind of mate, I would have gone to Canada, and if I had gone to Canada, it would have all worked out precisely as we predicted. But I didn't go. Richard broke his leg within a couple of weeks, hobbled off the mountain and flew on to an office job in London. At that point, he possibly regretted having staged a ritual burning of his work suit just before he left New Zealand.

For much of my ensuing adult life I have been atoning for this appalling lapse in mateship with the occasional small gesture, and the following would be one of them.

I recommend you take yourself off to a Tisdalls store just as soon as you can, because if you read just one catalogue this year, you should read the one Richard has produced this year for the family business.

Yes, really. A store catalogue. Beautifully designed, with some lovely writing. Their intention is to produce something that isn't laden with the usual commercial flannel. To this end, they've asked award-winning New Zealand novelists and poets to produce the little vignettes that appear throughout.

“IT WAS AN ISOLATED HUT AND HE WASN’T SUPRISED TO FIND IT EMPTY. As he was about to light the fire he heard laughter rise above the wind and rain outside. The laughter dropped away when the door swung open...”

This would be the third or fourth year they've done this, and this one is an especially nice job. Go and pick up a copy of Ever After and tell me you don't feel a little tempted to get out amongst the great New Zealand bush this summer. If you really don't feel the call of the wild, at least check out some of the survival gear. It could come in quite handy if we get bird flu this Christmas.