“I am not here to shoot Liberty Valance,” Owen Glenn assured the media throng; and yet everything about his swarthy Mediterranean tan, his assured bearing, his finely-tailored suit and his steeply arched eyebrows told us He Was The Bravest of Them All. In he swept and before long the air was thick with Gunsmoke.
It is my sorry task to now step forward and poop the party. That is not The Smoking Gun. I am in possession of The Innocent Explanation.
It dawned on me yesterday as I sat wedged in in my front row seat between two right wing bloggers, pecking away at their keyboards with their podgy fingers like some 21st century Mesdames Defarge. So ample was their girth I was obliged to sit forward, nearly pitching me into the lap of Mr Glenn and the telephone log he was brandishing. And that was when I saw it. There was the number he had dialled to speak to Winston Peters, and wouldn’t you know it, the number was mine.
It all came back in a rush.
To understand the problem, you need to know a little about cell phone numbers.Take yours out now and study the keyboard. Tap in 021 946 7866. Did you notice anything interesting about that combination? Well done Mr Hide! Yes, it spells out 021 WINSTON. And it was once mine.
I still remember the bafflement that ensued just days after I bought it. One morning I answered the phone to a low, barking voice. “Ross here. You want me to collect the Fish and Chips today boss?”
“Who is this?” I asked, and the line went dead.
Over the next few months, all manner of callers would wake me at all hours of the night. “Ya piker, where are ya? We’re at the Green Parrot, and Soper’s putting the steaks on your tab.”
Once a month, someone would ring and say “Remember - Carbine Club this Friday son,” and hang up before I could ask them what on earth they were talking about.
It was only when BNZ credit cards rang and began by saying: “We just need to confirm your identity first”, that I realised what was going on. People thought that you could get hold of New Zealand's most enigmatic politician just by dialling 021 WINSTON!
I should have told him, I suppose, but he had just slandered a family friend under the protection of parliamentary privilege and I wasn’t feeling charitable. Instead I played along, and one day I got a call from a man named Owen. Oh what sport I had that day! I put on my best matinee idol combination voice of John Rowles, Howard Morrison and Winston Peters.
But I felt contrite in the morning. I repressed all memory of what I had done. I tossed away the phone, got a new one with a new number, and thought no more of it.
The rest, sadly, we all now know.
It pains me to spoil the lynching of the season, and truly, this one’s a cracker, but The Truth is what matters most, and I can handle it.