You’re preposterous

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Man-of-many-words Braunias has a few for Queenstown.

Multi award-winning writer Steve Braunias finds Queenstown “preposterous” and “visually offensive”.

But believe it or not, he’s still a big fan of the resort.

The outspoken journalist and author stops off here on Saturday as part of an event called Words on Wheels – a whistle-stop tour of the South Island by five top Kiwi wordsmiths.

And in advance of his arrival, Auckland-based Braunias didn’t hold back to Mountain Scene with his colourful views.

“Queenstown is obviously preposterous – it’s the Kerikeri of the south and visually it’s offensive,” he grins. “But for all that, I like the place and the people are grand.

“It also does buck the New Zealand trend in that it stays alive after about 6pm in the weekdays as well as the weekends.

“Because NZ would rather retire and stare gloomily at the cadaverous face of Simon Dallow for an hour, beat the children and then go to bed.”

Braunias, 44, is one of the country’s best-known and most provocative writers.

His opinionated and witty weekly column for the Sunday Star-Times’s Sunday magazine has a huge army of followers.

In recent years he’s produced a handful of books like Roosters I Have Known and Fish of the Week and also contributed to hit television comedy shows Eating Media Lunch and The Unauthorised History of New Zealand.

Braunias recalls with relish the last time he travelled to the Wakatipu on an assignment – he enrolled in a “masochistic” beginner’s course in golf at Arrowtown’s upmarket Millbrook resort.

Never having actually played the game before, he says he soon got bored and jumped on a motorised golf cart for an impromptu joyride across the fairways, before almost crashing into the clubhouse.

“I sought permission from the instructor, who was some humourless golf pro from Brisbane, I think,” he explains.
“But I didn’t announce to him that I didn’t have a licence and had never driven before, other than into the sea once during a driving lesson in Wellington.

“I got quite carried away with myself on the cart and was having a great time.

“However, I hadn’t given any thought to the mechanics of stopping this runaway train.

“When I tried to get back to the clubhouse I realised I was heading straight for this really large and really expensive terracotta pot.

“At the last minute I flung myself clear of the machine and fortunately it putted to a halt about a millimetre in front of the pot – just as the blood was draining from the humourless instructor’s face.

“But if the worst had happened and it had gone to any small claims court, I think I could have argued eloquently in my defence that I’d simply fallen prey to a Queenstown adventure virus and was powerless to stop it from turning me into the Evel Knievel of the fairways.”

He adds: “I’ve never played golf since.”

The dad-of-one has cut back on his newspaper writing in recent times to concentrate on another book, which he says will be “a satirical novel which rediscovers New Zealand from 1779”.

He adds: “It’ll introduce some key figures in our nation’s history and if I’m lucky enough in succeeding, then readers will be able to view these characters in a way in which they’d not previously seen them.”

But although he’s delving into the country’s colourful past for inspiration, caustic political observer Braunias doesn’t hold out much hope for New Zealand’s future – especially under new Prime Minister John Key’s leadership.

“We seem to be approaching end days,” he says, with an air of grim finality. “And it’s no coincidence that we’re rolling to the bottom with this charmless, gormless ex-banker in charge.”

 

Words do come easy

Five leading Kiwi wordsmiths roll into Queenstown on Saturday lunchtime for the Words on Wheels tour.

The free New Zealand Book Council event is at Paper Plus in The Mall from 1-2pm, and as well as columnist and author Steve Braunias, it also features novelist Vanda Symon, scriptwriter David Geary, teen fiction writer Anna Mackenzie and poet Janet Charman.

They’ll be holding talks and meeting punters.

Braunias jokes the week-long tour, which involves the writers travelling the South Island together in a bus, could be like appearing on TV reality show Survivor.

“If that turns out to be the case, then I want to win,” he says. “I’m very competitive.”