Cliff Richard and a dead is­sue

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

Great day to be alive. Par­tic­u­larly when you’ve seen your name in an obituary. Rather like Mark Twain af­ter an 1897 news­pa­per re­port screamed: “Mark Twain is dead.”

His clas­sic re­sponse, quoted, or mis­quoted in var­i­ous forms, was per­fectly in char­ac­ter: “The re­port of my death is greatly ex­ag­ger­ated.”

In my case, that piece of re­port­ing – “Pat Booth is dead” – was part­fact, part-fic­tion ...

I know it sounds strange, but, in a spe­cial way, I was glad. Pat Booth haunted me for years.

Ever since nom­i­nally loyal staff at the Auck­land Star furtively placed cer­tain fash­ion pho­tos – I as­sume ten­derly and cer­tainly anony­mously – on my desk.

The end­less, mind­less hype of fash­ion week re­minded me of those high gloss glimpses of a some­times blonde bimbo in the lat­est gear. They usu­ally car­ried mes­sages in greatly dis­guised hand­writ­ing, like “Dar­ling, you’ve never looked so lovely.”

Those were the days when my Bri­tish name­sake was a fash­ion model. That was bad enough. But then she fa­mously rein­vented her­self as an au­thor of rather raunchy, big-sell­ing chic lit. First hint of new prob­lems came when my daugh­ter re­ported hav­ing picked up what she thought was a new novel by her fa­ther. Not me, I as­sured her.

“I didn’t think it read like you,” she said.

And she was right about a Ms Pat Booth soft porn job that fea­tured in chap­ter two the se­duc­tion of an air stew­ardess in an air­liner’s loo by a 14-year-old school girl. True.

An­noy­ingly, this other Pat Booth out­sold my books by hun­dreds to one. The proof: Whit­coulls or­dered car­tons of one of mine, solely on the name on the cover, then can­celled the or­der when the store found it was buy­ing me, not her. Hurt­ful but un­der­stand­able. If you doubt the com­par­i­son, look up our shared name on Google. Hectares of space on her. The odd para­graph or two on me.

Leighton Smith had some ra­dio fun when she toured here. He ush­ered me into the stu­dio af­ter an ad break and did the ob­vi­ous on-air in­tro­duc­tion: “Pat Booth, meet Pat Booth.”

She barely flicked a long eye­lash. “Oh, I heard about you in Christchurch, some­one there said ‘but you’re not the real Pat Booth, are you?’”

Couldn’t have said it bet­ter. But then, in the last chap­ter of our novel shad­owy in­volve­ment, that news­pa­per obituary which freed me from my neme­sis made very clear just who was “the real Pat Booth”. In the mail­bag: On leaky homes: “How many sui­cides will it take be­fore the gov­ern­ment takes ef­fec­tive action over the leaky homes de­ba­cle?

“This grow­ing dis­as­ter was in­her­ited from a pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment that played ‘pass the bomb’ with the in­no­cent home­own­ers, ar­chi­tects, de­vel­op­ers, builders and coun­cils.

“The gov­ern­ment re­nounced ac­count­abil­ity with an in­sane Ap­peal Court rul­ing that found the Build­ing In­dus­try Au­thor­ity not li­able as be­ing ‘too far re­moved from build­ing sites’, when in fact their hand­i­work, the NZ Build­ing Code, was the builders’ bi­ble abided by on ev­ery build­ing site through­out the coun­try.

“Un­doubt­edly the au­thor­ity was re­spon­si­ble for the sys­temic fail­ures in the code, par­tic­u­larly the in­tro­duc­tion of un­treated tim­ber which in turn ex­posed a raft of faulty construction prac­tices which have since been ad­dressed.

“It’s no won­der builders and ar­chi­tects flee as they are vil­i­fied for the gov­ern­ment ‘stuff up’, but let’s not for­get it was the BIA that fled first, and now we all know why. The es­ti­mated $11.5 bil­lion re­pair bill could be reined in by elim­i­nat­ing the cur­rent un­scrupu­lous prof­i­teer­ing by re­pair­ers and ex­pen­sive un­pro­duc­tive lit­i­ga­tion.

“The re­ces­sion is an op­por­tune time for the gov­ern­ment to fund re­pairs, ef­fec­tively stim­u­lat­ing the build­ing in­dus­try and turn­ing repa­ra­tions into a pro­duc­tive re­sult for all.” – Suzie Ann

“Dear Pa­pakura District Coun­cil,

“Al­though I am not an owner or res­i­dent of a leaky home, I feel much sym­pa­thy for those un­for­tu­nately so vic­timised (I live on the Shore).

“In an in­ter­est­ing list of Auck­land dis­tricts, com­par­ing num­bers of leaky homes, Auck­land city heads the list; North Shore comes sec­ond at 453; Pa­pakura at zero.

“I have sug­gested to the North Shore coun­cil that their build­ing in­spec­tors, who charge high fees and ‘clear’ de­fec­tive houses, should be brought to task (no re­sponse).

“Yet, Pa­pakura man­ages to ap­par­ently pro­vide 100 per­cent sat­is­fac­tory ser­vice. What is your for­mula? Per­haps Pa­pakura should of­fer to show th­ese bo­gus ‘pro­fes­sion­als’ at North Shore and else­where how to give an hon­est day’s work.

“Let’s face it, we all, in this part of New Zealand , have ac­cess to the same range of cli­mate, ar­chi­tects, (treated) tim­ber sup­plies and builders.

“The in­fer­ence is that there is a great in­con­sis­tency in skills and dili­gence of our build­ing in­spec­tors. Per­haps we need some re­search agency, will­ing to name names, through a (pub­lic) data­base, dis­play­ing the good ver­sus the bad. Con­grat­u­la­tions Pa­pakura on your record.” – Ron Durham, Tor­bay On the 11 rules: “I take is­sue with two of the val­ues listed un­der the head­ing every­one should have one. Firstly: ‘Life is not fair – get used to it.’

“This of­fers noth­ing in the way of use­ful tools to help teach chil­dren to deal with dis­ap­point­ment. In­stead it im­plies they should not even bother to strive for fair out­comes, and should not bother to seek re­dress of griev­ances.

“How long be­fore kids brought up on this mes­sage con­clude that it is point­less for them to try to be fair in their own con­duct? Th­ese are the words of an au­thor­ity fig­ure try­ing to shirk their re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“Se­condly: ‘If you can read this thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a sol­dier.’

“This is an Amer­i­can right wing pro­pa­ganda stan­dard, com­ing from the same play­book as the no­tion that a pa­tri­otic Amer­i­can must ‘sup­port the troops’ even if op­pos­ing ev­ery­thing those troops are do­ing. The idea is to frame the de­bate in a way that makes it dif­fi­cult for the anti-war ma­jor­ity to ex­press their views straight­for­wardly.

“The ‘thank a sol­dier’ cliche res­onates with the para­noid vi­sion of a coun­try per­pet­u­ally in im­mi­nent dan­ger of in­va­sion and even con­quest. I would like to add: ‘If you can read this with a grain of salt, thank good­ness for your crit­i­cal fac­ulty’!” – An­drew Mccosh

RIP: Pat Booth.

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