Rural reporter, you must be joking. Twenty-four years of debilitating ignorance of farm life had prepared me for this moment when I would assume the mantle of agricultural journalist.
After all these years surrounded by sheep and crops and I had learned nigh on nothing of my father’s craft, so what better way to put my credibility on the line than to join a dairy farming magazine, in central Auckland.

However much I had failed to heed the lessons of sheep and crop, the mixed farm on the Canterbury Plains was at least a familiar backdrop. The dairy cow, any breed, any shape, any size, was a visitor from outer space.
Yet this was a beginning and journalism mentors persisted in saying you had to start somewhere, son.
And my employers at NZ Rural Press were hungry, perhaps even desperate, for someone who bore the mark of a farmer. As a bonus that person would be someone eager, if not fully qualified, to present farming issues to the masses.

I bore the mark of a farmer in hairstyle, manner, build and perhaps even dress-sense; but the rest was a con of the highest order.
The employer’s brief was simple: to cover dairy farming from right hoof to left ear – and expect to drive anywhere necessary from Taupo to Kaitaia. If you were really sharp you might even get a trip to Palmerston North.

At no stage did anyone ask me, nor did I mention, that my experience of the North Island was limited to a trip to Waipukurau aged 11 and a Gaelic football drinking trip to Feilding a couple of years before. But never mind, because I could speak decent French and German.

So, saddled up with a case full of cheap suits and shiny shirts and ties I mounted the aeroplane to Auckland and hoped for the best, or failing that something better than the worst possible.
Having read about life in the sub tropics during the flight I braced myself for the steamy Auckland climate on arrival. It was June 10 but my moleskins shirt breathed heavily in the warm air, even before I jumped into a taxi with a driver who consumed most of the remaining air space.

He was a friendly bloke, Polynesian by the look of things, and more importantly he knew how to find my motel on Great South Road, Greenlane. This was exceptionally useful because the most useful comment I could offer him was ‘it’s in Greenlane’ and ‘so that’s One Tree Hill, eh?’

He pulled up the motel; mid afternoon on a Sunday and incredibly in the same time zone as I had left in Christchurch. Bag dumped on bed, TV working, milk in the fridge so what to do know? Well, I knew something about the Auckland lifestyle so I wondered a few minutes down the road to the Southern Motorway and gazed at the snarled up traffic. How can they stand it, I wondered? One fretful sleep later and it was Monday morning. The office is across the road and rural reporting, here I come.

To be continued…