Most of us have had euphoric moments so overwhelming as to be etched on one's memory ever more. Perhaps relating to an achievement such as a sporting success, such is the ecstasy one feels almost air-borne.
My supreme euphoric moment came after midnight in June 1984. As New Zealand Party leader, pressured to be simultaneously everywhere, I'd been persuaded by my friend Mike Bungay, later a QC, to attend his candidates' meeting earlier that evening for Wellington's Miramar electorate. As always there was a packed hall.
I sat on the stage silently despairing while Mike, as was his wont, making it up as he went, spouted absolute nonsense about the fishing industry, of which he knew nothing. We had the wind behind us with enthusiastic audiences; nevertheless, it hugely offended my sensibilities.
It recalled Mike's days in the early 1960s as a young lawyer. Once called at short notice by the police to act for a Maori lad on criminal charges, he was delayed, arriving just as his "client" entered the box and before he could talk to him.
Mike listened to the evidence, then rose and spoke in mitigation of the accused's horror background; of how his father was serving a life sentence, his mother had committed suicide and his sisters were all on the game.
But, he said, he had now become a Christian and was soon to start a carpentry apprenticeship. The accused had listened to all of this in bewildered silence, but it greatly moved the magistrate who, to the anger of the police, acquitted him and wished him well in the future.
Anyway, arriving home after midnight on that night in 1984, still despairing, the phone rang. That call was undoubtedly my supreme moment for sheer ecstasy when I learned Muldoon had called a snap election. Oh the joy! Only one more month and then release. I floated on air throughout that campaign in glorious high spirits, enthralled by the knowledge that it would soon be over.
Yet, compared with most party leaders, my role was a breeze. Every night, everywhere, we enjoyed full hall meetings, often with loudspeakers booming to thousands outside, which certainly wasn't the case with National, while Social Credit's leader, Bruce Beetham, was speaking to near-empty venues. No one attacked us; indeed Labour, understandably, was providing the party with guidance.
Nevertheless, I had loathed every moment of the previous two years: the gruelling seven-days-a-week speechifying at midday and again in the evening, the endless policy meetings, the sometimes deliberate media misrepresentations and the constant fear of a candidate's outburst of insanity.
I was lucky on that score as our candidates, primarily drawn from the professions and commercial classes, were motivated by promoting liberal reforms rather than being MPs, but as this year has evidenced, that's a recurring nightmare for party leaders.
Watching embarrassing candidates' outbursts from the sidelines ever since - and, God knows, they're regular occurrences - still brings shudders, albeit they're frequently amusing. For example, during the 1992 Wellington Central byelection, I was having an early dinner with Labour doyen Jonathan Hunt, who was lamenting their candidate Chris Laidlaw's extraordinary opening campaign speech the previous night.
Chris's message to our then wealthiest electorate, to the delight of the media, was to promote tax increases on higher incomes. Then talk of the devil, in came Chris with some minders. Mustering his maximum patriarchal manner, as only Jonathan could do, he demanded Chris tell him what he would be discussing at that night's meeting. "I thought I'd talk about myxomatosis," Chris said. This, I remind readers, to the most urban of electorates. "A first-rate topic," Jonathan barked. "Under no circumstances stray from it."
As it happened, Chris won after the rival candidates came out with even barmier utterances, one outlining his concerns about alien invasions.
But it's not just the relentless grind of campaigning that's so wearying, rather the soul-destroying negativity of adversarial politics, bound up in constant criticism of one's rivals and their policies or records. No matter how zealous for the cause, ultimately it's deeply depressing to be in a perpetual state of warfare, unlike sport and commerce, both adversarial but not involving abuse of one's rivals.
It's fashionable to criticise politicians. Many are undoubtedly motivated by an income and attention they could not otherwise attain, others by idealism or party tribalism. But it's the system and for all its faults, it's superior to the options.
This week, we go to the polls, and for circa 700 candidates and thousands of unseen party workers, it represents in many cases the culmination of years of relentless hard grind. So for all one's cynicism, spare a kind thought for them, moreso as by numerical logic the vast majority are doomed to disappointment. Trust me, it ain't easy, and without them we'd have no democracy.