Country diary: Wendyl Nissen’s new role
This is Wendyl Nissen, broadcasting live from… An unexpected phone call sees our Hokianga country girl head back to the city streets, but does it mean the end of her rural lifestyle?
The words “comfort” and “zone” have paired up and become very popular in recent years. On the one hand it’s great to find your comfort zone, but, on the other hand, if you leave that comfort zone, great things can happen to you… apparently.
I’ve spent years searching for my comfort zone – a place where I can relax, schlepp around in nothing but leggings and a T-shirt and not wake up to a To Do list as long as my arm every morning. A place where nothing gets too hectic, anxiety is just something I used to have a fraught relationship with, and spending an hour sitting with my chickens is totally normal behaviour, not slacking off. For the past six months I’ve really been living it.
Paul and I were lucky enough to live full time up north over the summer with just a few visits back to town for work. And, yes, we did say with monotonous regularity, “This is the life!” and, “Just another day in paradise!”
It felt good. So, so, so good. We lived off the land, eating eggs our chickens laid, fish I caught most days (once a 3.5kg snapper!), organic vegies from the garden and bread I baked daily. The sun shone, the dogs thrived with their beach walks and we both felt very blessed.
Then I got a call. I was driving on a dirt road at the time, with poor reception, but I really wanted to talk to the woman on the other end so I pulled over and called her back. Her name is Wendy Palmer and she ran the broadcasting station RadioLIVE. She was excited and needed to talk to me about a job.
I didn’t really want a job. In my comfort zone I was doing some writing, which people were happy to pay me for, and with Paul’s income we were able to pay our bills and live quietly. To a large extent I had dropped out of my old life, closing all my social media accounts, only answering the phone if I knew who the caller was and keeping a close circle around me of family and a few very dear friends. It was a life I treasured.
But Wendy was offering me a job on the radio, and I love working on the radio. I had done quite a bit of radio at NewstalkZB years ago, filling in for my good friends, the dearly departed Paul Holmes and the very much still here Kerre McIvor, on their weekend lifestyle shows. I had been poked, prodded and whipped into shape by Bill Francis,
who ran NewstalkZB back then, and two lovely producers who taught me not to say, “Welcome back,” to my listeners after a commercial break. “They haven’t been anywhere, Wendyl!”
I hoped that one day, maybe I’d get my own show. But that never happened. Until now, thanks to the lovely Wendy, who, when we met up in town, talked enthusiastically of establishing a lifestyle show on her network.
“Everything you stand for,” she said. “Healthy living, good reads, in-depth interviews, just you and a lot of fun really,” she said, ordering me another martini.
I said I’d think about it. And I did as I stared at the Hokianga Harbour. Then I told my family and they were all delighted at the prospect.
“Really? But I’m so happy as I am,” I said to them all at family dinner.
“Do it before you start getting bored and make a nuisance of yourself,” they said in unison.
So I rang Wendy back and told her I would love to, but there was one thing I needed and that was the Hokianga.
“Can I broadcast from up north? I’ve got the perfect office, which could make a great studio, I’ll make sure the dogs don’t bark and I have the internet.”
“Of course,” said Wendy before pausing. “Let me check with the tech guys and get back to you.”
The deal was done and I now have a very workable studio in my little office, with one of the best views in the world. My intention is to work from there most of the time once I’ve got the show up and running. There will even be cameras, which means my little office-cumstudio is now getting nice new bookshelves to replace the rather dreary ones I bought from the op shop, much to Paul’s delight.
My kids tell me that my voice changes when I’m up north. They call and get a different sounding mother because I’m so relaxed. I’m looking forward to sharing some of that sound with my listeners – probably while having to chase a chicken out of the studio or maybe livestreaming one of my fishing expeditions or a visit to the garden. But, most importantly, it will be a show I would have liked as a soundtrack to my afternoons during the summer.
The hardest part was telling my friend and fellow part-time Hokianga resident Kerre McIvor, who is a talented, seasoned broadcaster on NewstalkZB, as we will both be on air at the same time.
How annoyed she must feel to have her friend encroaching on her territory, where she is the undisputed Queen of Radio. But the Queen was very cool.
“You are terrific on radio, you’ll be just wonderful and the best thing is that there’s another woman on the air. I’m so proud of you,” she said without a hint of aggravation or the sound of her teeth grinding.
It just means that when we chat now there has to be an awareness of our competing media employers and the occasional introduction of a cone of silence, which doesn’t bother us at all, and I remain very grateful for our friendship.
Meanwhile, I’m back in Auckland for a couple of months to bed the show in, get to know the wonderful team at RadioLIVE who will be supporting me and create a show I hope will attract listeners. My parents will mind the house up north in preparation for their big move there to live. I miss my comfort zone like crazy but
I’ve parked it in a box marked “Back Soon” with all the other imaginary boxes that live under my bed marked “To Be Thought About At Another Time” and I’m throwing myself into this wonderful new career.
My show broadcasts on RadioLIVE 100.6 FM every day from midday through to 3pm and it’s a very busy offering of fabulous cooks, such as The Australian Women’s Weekly’s Jo Seagar, inspiring authors, lots of green-living interviews and a fun segment featuring baby boomers having a “moan” about things that annoy them. I’ve called my show The Long Lunch because people will be sitting down to their lunch when I begin and hopefully will continue to be entertained through the afternoon, whether they are parents at home with kids, people working from home, retirees or busy people navigating traffic.
I’m so grateful to Wendy, who regrettably has now left RadioLIVE, for believing in me and giving me the chance to fulfil a lifetime dream of radio broadcasting.
And if I’m honest, I’m loving getting the old brain out and exercising it again. Everyone says I’m much funnier when I’m working hard and I know hard work suits me. Which just goes to show that great things do happen outside your comfort zone. AWW
In addition to her new role, Wendyl will continue writing her Country Diary column from her home in the Hokianga.
Do it before you start getting bored and make a nuisance of yourself.
ABOVE: Wendyl is thrilled about her new career opportunity, but her heart remains in the Hokianga.