Morning Story: It's a new year, I'll drink to that

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My new year's resolution is to write a column sober.

A little more on that later.

Right now I was hoping to let you in on what I love about this writing gig. Four things spring to mind.

Firstly, it's solitary.

The product may be overwhelmingly public, but the assembly line is wonderfully private.

Deadlines demand focus, which demands solo toil. So if you enjoy dressing down, this is the industry for you.

If so inclined, us scribes can ward off the cold by wearing socks under our sandals, or, if hot, nothing but Y-fronts. Generally speaking we can get away with exhibiting all the personal hygiene of bloggers.

Secondly, it's a portable vocation.

I've penned pieces holding a fishing rod between the knees at Te Awanga, at a Shanghai park in the soupy 5am mist, on a plane, under the macrocarpa tree in the backyard, in courts' press galleries, in traffic, in bed, intoxicated.

Yes, the last of that list is the third element of why I so love this gig.

It's also why the aforementioned resolution is a frightening one. I mean, where's the fun in opening the paper and recognising what you've written?

I can assure you there's nothing more exhilarating on a Monday morning than stumbling hungover to the letterbox, flicking to page six and seeing my face next to a column I've never laid eyes on. It's exquisite.

That's why I argue with Janet Frame's observation that the only honest form of publishing left for writers these days, is posthumous. I guess she never wrote drunk.

Honesty is pouring whisky over four fat ice cubes and watching the single malt direct your fingertips in a white-knuckled keyboard concerto.

Happy new year, by the way.

For today, for me, is New Year's Day. I've worked through the silly season and this is the first of 14 days off. Hoorah. Consequently I view this not as my first column for 2013, but my last of 2012.

This coming fortnight is about slowing down in a year that's already seen out its first week. Cheers. Here's to throwing the anchor out and stemming the unforgiving minute.

For me this entails reflection on the year that was - usually with a glass or two of plonk. Speaking of honesty, I'd like to share what I consider 2012's "most honest" moment.

Unlikely as it may seem, it came while covering a High Court case in Napier of a man who'd killed and sexually violated his 5-year-old step-daughter.

The honesty came courtesy this guy's father, who sat in a suit in the front row of the public gallery as details of his son's horrid crimes were revisited.

Before his lad was led off to begin the first of 16 years in prison, he got to his feet to apologise for his son's carnage.

Facing the girl's family in tears, his first words were something along the lines of, "I'm here to say sorry, but I'm not sure I have the strength to do it".

His was the most admirable act of fatherhood.

Outside court I approached him for further comment. All he said was: "Anything I have to say you've already heard from me".

I'll never forget his strength, nor the evident power of penitence. The apple, in this case, had fallen far from the tree.

And therein lies the final and favourite reason I love this job.

I'm privy to the best and worst of the human condition.

By the way, I was being facetious earlier. All my columns (bar perhaps the one written the night I arrived home from our work Christmas party) have been written sober.

I recognise every sentence of this piece every Monday.

What I do sometimes fail to recognise is the chap pictured with this column - the portly guy who you'd be forgiven for thinking drinks too much.

Mark Story is assistant editor at Hawke's Bay Today.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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