Bloody Sean Plunket. That is quite unfair, but I feel much better for having written it. I have, like many people, I suspect, shouted such a sentiment at the wireless over the years. That might be one measure of his success. Another is that he (and co-presenter, Geoff Robinson, and editor Martin Gibson of Radio New Zealand's Morning Report) won a big gong at the radio awards last week.

He was coming to Auckland to interview Richard Dawkins, via video conference, for the Writers and Readers Festival, so the idea was to meet him here. Trying to organise this almost drove me insane - and the worst thing is that I can't actually blame him. I will anyway. Just to be contrary. He is, of course, known for being contrary, so he should be able to take it. He would say he's not contrary, or hectoring or any of the other mild barbs I threw at him - he's heard them all before. He would no doubt say he's fair and balanced. So I suppose I'd better make a pretence of being fair and balanced and say that he can't be held responsible for the bad weather that meant his Auckland flight was cancelled the morning we were supposed to meet for the second time.

But I think I might hold him responsible for the "domestic crisis" which meant he couldn't make our first date. This crisis turned out to be that he was having carpet laid because he had flooded the laundry. This is the lamest excuse I've ever heard for somebody not turning up for an interview, so he deserves some flak of the sort he would no doubt give. When I phoned to ask if I could interview him, he said what did I want to talk to him about? "You," I said. "Bugger," he said, sounding rather too cheerful about the prospect for my liking.

But I could have guessed that interviewing him would be like attempting to quiz an old boot. He is absolutely hopeless about returning calls, and I had to resort to leaving harassing messages about time and place. When he finally called back he asked, again, what it was I wanted to talk to him about? I said, "oh, I don't know. Your fascinating life." He does have a fascinating life, if you consider getting up at "God o'clock" going to work, going home, walking the dog, having a nap and flooding your laundry to be fascinating.

He said, when I finally got hold of him, on the phone, in the lounge at Christchurch airport,"I'm very house proud." This was also riveting but serve me right for asking about this fascinating life. He was clearly worried about his lack of a life.

"I have been known to lift a jar." I had better say, because he made sure he did, that he was in the "lounge lounge," not the Koru Club lounge. So there he is hanging out with the hoi polloi which is a bit rude because, I say, he's just won a big award, and, in an attempt to annoy him, he's famous. "Yeah. They're tight bloody bastards."

He means RNZ and he doesn't really mean it.

"Just taking care of taxpayer dollars", is what he really means. He just couldn't resist the dig. He never can. I say he must be a difficult employee but, silly me, of course he's not.

"I wouldn't describe myself as such. I think I'm a rewarding person to have around."

I have to imagine what his face is doing while he's saying this, and I think I can. He'll be looking very pleased with himself for his faux smug but genuinely smarty pants answer. He is, obviously, still at RNZ despite having had what I call a paddy last year when he gave interviews saying he was quitting. This was because he wasn't allowed to appear on an election debate on the telly.

So, why, I ask, is he allowed to do the Dawkins interview? ``To be honest I haven't delved too much into the reasons for that, but I get the feeling that [the election debate] was a specific instance.' And presumably he's over his very public conniption. He's not a grudge bearer.

"Oh, no, look, the worst thing about being in an abusive relationship is that you keep on sustaining the relationship. I wouldn't say that I'm in that situation employment-wise. But I think unless you address the issues as they arise, they can get out of hand. So I do tend to address them pretty head-on."

You could say that. But, to address the question head-on: when is he leaving? "Well, I would still say I think if you read back my comments at the time, it was I would do it in my own time." He's not leaving at all, is he? "Well, inevitably I will be. At some stage." When they carry him out. "Well, not necessarily. It may not come to that and if it does, I hope it's through natural causes. Ha, ha. But I think it's fair to say ... I may have calmed down a bit." So, he threw a paddy then he calmed down a bit? "Well, that would be your interpretation."

Yes, it might well be. "Ha, ha. But I wouldn't quote me on that." Good, isn't he? No surprises there. He's been interviewing far slipperier fish than himself for years. I asked, because I'm amazed he's allowed to say anything in public at all - that "tight bloody bastards" - whether he'd got clearance for this interview. "I didn't ask permission to do this, Michele, because I knew your reputation was as such a nice person that I felt safe talking to you." How rude.

The last thing he would want to be called is a nice person, and he said it in a way (a horribly nice one) designed to attempt to provoke. He thought he was being terrifically funny and laughed immoderately. I didn't. He didn't notice but then he is used to laughing away at his own jokes on the radio. I tell him that I shouted, "Plunket you plonker" at the radio a couple of Mondays ago when he introduced the Australian correspondent, Phil Kafcaloudes, after the morning had been dominated by swine fever news, with this groaner: "A man who is not a swine." I say I hope he had the grace to blush. He says he did. We both know this is a complete fiction.

Then, "but I didn't get a chance to deliver this this morning: If Melissa Lee keeps digging at the rate she's going, the tunnel will be finished before the byelection. Ha, ha, ha." Even when he's not on the radio, he's on. Or mostly. He says the bloke you hear on the radio is a slightly heightened version of himself. I wonder. Would he have got away with the Melissa Lee gag without a ticking off? "I might have got a funny little look from the producers on the other side of the glass. Or a look of consternation and concern."

He got a very big ticking off once and, after throwing a pen at his boss, was suspended, briefly. He has no fear of the ticking off. "Oh, look, that's the fun if the job, isn't it?" Although, he claims, "I think I'm better now at judging now the ones I might or might not get ticked off for."

Perhaps he's grown up a bit? "Oh. No, no, no. I think everyone else has grown to love me!" This really is utter nonsense. People love Geoff; they don't love him. He doesn't worry about perception. That would turn you into "a nutter". He seems to be relatively sane. He says he's never had therapy because it would cost too much. Ha, ha. He had a DIC last year and I asked if he had a drinking problem. "I'm a journalist. Of course I have a drinking problem."

"Ha, ha. No, actually I don't." To pay him back for being rude, I asked why he wanted to be famous, implying that he used to be (when he was on the telly on Fair Go and and covering politics for TV3) and isn't so much now. He says he was famous and still is, "well, I think I am, by a strange dint." This is another joke, but there is some truth to his having wanted fame. "But once you get there, sometimes you realise there are much more important things in life. And much as I would love to think that I was irreplaceable on Morning Report, I know that I am irreplaceable as [his 9 year-old son] Joseph's father and ... as a member of my wider family."

He says he's "a bit more philosophical than I used to be." And a lot less ego-driven, he says. He used to swagger about, I suggest, which ought to have been slightly rude. But you try offending him. He just said, "look, I think I played that game. I wouldn't deny it." He was a prat. "Well, self image is a variable feast, isn't it?"

Despite not being interested in what his public profile might be - "I just don't feel I can take any responsibility for mine" - I say some people think he's rude. And that I might have too. "Ha, ha. Do you think your perception was wrong?" No. Absolutely right. "How do you define rude, though?" Saying to somebody who is attempting to interview you that their reputation is for being a nice person.

"Am I allowed to apologise? You realise I did it with a huge smile on my face?" That is what I'd like to call a crawling backdown. But I didn't need to see his face to know he had a huge smile because he'd scored full points for fake sincerity.

I'm rather glad I didn't get to meet him. There's somehow something appropriate about interviewing the voice, over a phone, rather than meeting the body attached to the voice. And there's something very satisfying about shouting "bloody Sean Plunket" at what will remain that disembodied voice on the radio.

On the other hand, I now have a pen with his name on it. I mean that in the nicest possible way.