By JON GADSBY
After years spent writing in partnership with Alan, it's strange and disturbing to be writing this. There is no joy in this piece.
There is no fun, no laughter, none of the easy fellowship and camaraderie, no occasional flashes of insight and wisdom, and none of the sheer, wicked self-indulgence that comes, now and again, from falling about laughing at one's own private jokes. None of the things that made two decades in the close company of A.K. Grant a delight.
There was the passion, too. The debate, the argument - the occasional row. Memories abound, though, and the laughter lives on strongly in these. For the moment, I suppose that's where it will have to stay, and that will have to do.
I had a lot of laughs with Alan, over a long time. He was a master of the epigram, the sudden one-liner coming from way out of left-field. Much of this was through his highly developed sense of the absurd, and a naughty desire to prick balloons.
He had a great love of the life he chose and a deep feeling for his fellow humankind. This comes through strongly in much of his work. He railed against injustice, pomposity and social inequity wherever he found them, often as a writer and satirist, earlier in a more serious but no less witty vein, as a barrister.
He had a great sympathy with and empathy for human frailty, and was the first to admit to his own. He was baffled and frustrated by those who either would not, or could not comprehend that frailty. He did not suffer fools gladly.
A.K. was at home and at ease with a wide variety of people, ranging from denizens of the public bar and clients in the interview rooms at Addington prison, through to the leading lights of politics, business and the arts. (As muddy as these distinctions are, he might well have pointed out.)
He was certainly one of the best-read, most cultured people I have met. Quote a snatch of text or hum a bar of music, and Alan could invariably finish it, chapter and verse, no matter how obscure.
Not long before the end, I rang him late one night, with a view to to settling an argument about poetry. He took the call graciously, then rang back 20 minutes later with an off-the-cuff dissertation on, among other things, Edwardian socialism, chimney-sweeps and the works of William Blake.
He had a towering ability with words. I remember him delivering a speech in the form of a mock sermon, in a charity debate. He took as his text a passage from Isaiah: "Who is it that cometh from Edom with dyed garments from Bosrah?"
The address lasted some 25 minutes and ranged over: who indeed was it, coming from Edom? Why were they so burdened with dyed garments? Was this passage of scripture in any way relevant to modern life, and did anyone in their right mind know where Bosrah was, or more to the point, Edom? If so, had anyone been there on holiday, and where was the T-shirt? It was one of the funniest things I have ever heard.
He was a thinking, gifted, generous man, and not without the demons that inevitably accompany talent. As a devotee of the written word, it says much that he is the sole New Zealand writer (I think) to be included in Frank Muir's Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Prose, and was probably the most bewildered subject ever of This Is Your Life.
Well, the demons are laid now. This particular chapter's finished and another script is signed off. He went the way he said he'd go, and there's some comfort in that. All the same, it was too soon. I'm going to miss you, old mate. Godspeed.