So here we are at the end of the year and I am doing what columnists do when inspiration is at drought conditions. I am going to look back at the year that was, by plagiarising myself.

In March I embraced the concept of lowballs and highballs. "Don't lowball me, man!" is a phrase I picked up from the goofball character played by Owen Wilson in a middle-age male slapstick movie. So, let's review the year's lowballs and highballs trotted out in my column.

January started off when I met my friend Robby inside Nelson Airport's only arrival gate. Six foot 4 (1.9m) and 120kg with that spiky hair at the back you get from hours of driving, he was wearing his favourite "Tower of Terror" T-shirt.

"How are ya?" he said.


"Do you want me to push him to the baggage claim," the stewardess interrupted.

"Nah, we're right," Robby replied, grabbing the Jetstar wheelchair. "How are ya?" he repeated, as he strode off with me down the tarmac.

"Pissed off," I replied. "When you order wheelchair service on a flight it's like you instantly have a frontal lobotomy."


The rest of the road trip was, thankfully, more of a gigantic highball: eating, drinking and laughing while we meandered up the West Coast.

In February, I wrote about my favourite obsession, cooking (high), and bleated on about the times your gadgets break and you need a plan B (First World problem, and lowball).

Access denied
March brought a real lowball when my old 4-wheel drive Suzuki that I use to access our local beach at Ruakaka was nicked. The highball was finding it unscathed.

A real lowball was Whangarei District Council blocking vehicle access to the beach, due to a small handful of hysterical evangelical environmentalists.

A highball in April was producing a training video called No Problem, You're Welcome. When I say the title I can imagine saying it accompanied by a quick flick of my head, a wink of my eye and click of my tongue. It's a training video for businesses to learn how to provide excellent service to disabled customers, clients and patients without inadvertently pissing them off. Another highball was Whangarei District Council committing to training their front line staff, using the vid.

In May, we stayed at the Waitangi Copthorne. It's so essentially Northland. It's also had a blatantly inaccessible lowball feature that has made my toes curl every time I visited; a small but very strategic flight of stairs between the restaurant area and the popular pool and courtyard.

The highball is that soon after the column was published, the stairs were replaced with a ramp. Good on you Copthorne.

June saw Minister Nicky Wagner lowballing the NZ disabled community when she tweeted, "Busy with Disability meetings in Auckland — rather be out on the harbour!" In July, after a year of waiting, I finally had an appointment with a spinal surgeon about my particularly dodgy neck which seems to be getting worse. Here is a slice of the conversation:
Surgeon: "Okay, so what I recommend for you is to go in through the throat, take a piece of bone out of your hip and fuse some of the vertebrae together. Then you will need to wear a halo or a big collar for at least two months. You don't have to give me a decision right now, it's not like you've got cancer."

Me (internally): WTF! Yep, low, lowball.

Election injection
August: Just when I thought the general election was going to be fantastically boring, just when I was really starting to fret about the public turnout to the Tiaho Trust Meet the Candidates event, just when I thought New Zealand politics was becoming painfully predictable, My Little Pony (Judith Collins' nickname for Ardern) gallops past the post. A month later she got past the post by a nose but it was still a highball finish.

During September, I pondered on unintended consequences vs subconscious intentional sabotage. They're very closely linked and, like both microscopic amoeba and politicians (similar), they are all around us. Take Metiria Turei's fall from grace and eventual resignation after she spilled about her historical benefit fraud. Was it a badly thought out plan to gain street cred? Was she being blackmailed? Or was she just sick of it and wanted to take a break, subconsciously? Hmmm, what was the lowdown there?

In October, we were in good old bad olde Russell when one of our fave musicians Tom Petty passed away. While we were there, I procured a tattoo borrowed from a Lady Gaga song — "born this way" is now a permanent affirmation on my skin. Highball for me.

In November I was a judge for the Attitude Awards. Geneva Tino, a young Maori woman, not only took out the Spirit of Attitude Award but also nailed the Supreme Award. Geneva has fairly intense athetoid cerebral palsy. As I pointed out at the time, I also share this form of cerebral palsy, a type I have observed to have a very high representation of high intelligence and devastatingly good looks. Total highball!

And here we are in December. That didn't take long. Thank you to the readers of this column, I wish you all a highball Christmas and an inclusive New Year.

■ Jonny Wilkinson is the CEO of Tiaho Trust — Disability A Matter of Perception, a Whangarei-based advocacy organisation.