When a newspaper colleague gleefully informed me he was off to Singapore on yet another freebie, promoting tourism, I immediately wondered, when is it my turn again? These trips are known in the trade as junkets, and I've been waiting patiently for years to swan around the world in unaccustomed luxury - in exchange for writing a few sycophantic sentences about the experience.
Sadly, because I'm better known as a cartoonist, the chance of visiting a French chateau's cellar to sip vintage Bordeaux appears to be non-existent, though I'm superbly qualified in the drinking department.
I've even opened a PR division within the Bromhead empire, specifically to net freebies, and recently gave this consultancy a name: Symbiosis, meaning "the profitable coexistence of two organisms, to their mutual advantage". Or, as a writer for the Financial Times put it: "It is a self-regarding conceit of journalism that we are the dogs for whom public relations furnishes the lamp posts."
However, as the caregiver tartly reminds me, the last time I flew away on an all-expenses-paid trip, in this case representing the nation, I ended up in a ghastly little seaside town called Knokke-Heist on the Belgian coast and couldn't get home quickly enough.
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The freebie to Belgium was to head a delegation of New Zealand cartoonists to an international exhibition on visual satire. Whoever dreamed up the idea of holding the exhibition in Knokke-Heist must once have been deeply wounded by a cartoon and sought revenge by forcing the world's lampoonists to trudge around the globe, only to spend a weekend in the dreariest of North Sea townships.
When I arrived back in Auckland, the then-editor of the Auckland Star was not terribly sympathetic, having also just returned home after an all-expenses-paid trip, funded by the British taxpayer, studying rubbish recycling plants. Even I had to agree who had drawn the shorter straw.
Still, one must stay optimistic in the PR business and if any corporation wishes to appoint me to process a few superficial trifles about their operations into the media-mincing machine, I am happy to consider their proposal.
A word of caution, though: my conditions do include geographical constraints, such as North Sea coastal locations. My secretary at Symbiosis will supply my preferred travel destinations, such as Las Vegas or anywhere else that happens to have a glittering nightlife.