Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

29 December 2013

Golf. The Musical. How It Was Written

He'd thought about it for many months, discussed it with wife and friends, solicited opinion, elicited comment. Mind churn had been unrelenting.

The idea had now almost crystalized - almost; certainly sufficiently for him to put pen to paper or, more accurately, keyboard to screen. This long process of idea development and realization was not unfamiliar to him, he being a successful, experienced dramatist. Its gestation was at last a nascence. Now the work could take shape. He hoped.

He flexed his fingers and typed the ice-breaking words on to the screen in Word.doc:

The Musical.

He set the font and size: Garamond 14pt. Appropriate. Dignified.

He sat back and smiled. There it was. Now for a cup of coffee.

He processed the beans in the grinder, plugged in the electric kettle, tipped the grounds into the cafetière and waited, contemplating the opening scene of the musical - it wasn't quite there yet. Having plunged the piston into the coffee solution and poured a mugful of the Kenyan brew, he was keen to return to the computer.

His immediate impression of what he had left on the screen was that it appeared too bland.

He wiped over 'Golf', changed its typeface to Ariel Black, increased its size to 18 pt. and studied the result:

The Musical.

All right, but it needed colour, and that full stop was unnecessary:

The Musical

Much better.

Then immediately, another thought. His name:

The Musical
Huntly Rodgers

The telephone rang. It was Jerome Lee to remind him that they had a lunch date in an hour. 'Bugger'. He put the iMac to sleep and went to change into something a little more formal.

Lee was florid, corpulent and gave off an odour of stale after-shave. He tended to grunt. His table manners were porcine. He was gluttonous and his manner waspish. But to his confreres - all literati to a greater or lesser degree - none of his shortcomings outweighed his capacity to entertain.

'You still fiddling with that sod's opera?' He asked.

'"Golf"? Yes. Getting somewhere, I think.'

'Bloody silly subject for a musical. Who's going to go to a performance?'

'You might have said the same thing about "Chess". It was a triumph.'

'Hmmm.' Lee poked at a tooth gap with his little finger. 'Sex in it?'

'Don't know yet. I've toyed with the idea of two screwing in a bunker but the thought of sand under a foreskin is a bit off-putting. It would certainly put you off your putting!'

'Make him a Jew.'

'There's a thought.'

The rest of lunch disposed of too much food and surely too much wine. They consumed two bottles of a chewy Pinot Noir, Lee gulping at least two thirds as a dying man at an oasis. Unaccustomed to heavy eating in the middle of the day Rodgers felt uncomfortably replete and slightly fuzzy and after having seen Lee into a taxi following his seemingly never-ending series of dismissive snorts and bright ideas all to do with golf, Rodgers was pleased to see the back of him as he walked slowly along the street towards his apartment building.

The first thing he noticed was the flashing red light on the telephone. He pressed the messages button. It was Nancy, his wife, who was staying with her mother by the sea. 'Hi it's me.' It said tinnily, 'Nothing of import. Just wanted to know how the work's going. No need to reply. I know you of old. Love you. Bye.' beep, beep beep.

Good old Nan. Always knew when to stay away. Once the musical started to write itself he'd get her home again. He fired up the iMac.

The screen came up as he'd left it:

The Musical
Huntly Rodgers

Lunch had made him sleepy. He went to the bedroom and laid down.

Waking at six thirty in the evening his mouth felt dry and metallic. He pressed the mouse on the way to fixing a gin and tonic. The title was still there. Something not quite right. He'd think about it. He sipped the refreshing drink and thought about it. The title page felt like a roadblock. Until he'd got it just so he didn't think he'd be able to proceed to scene one which, in any case, was inchoate to say the least. The trouble with Macintoshes and Word.com was that they turned you into a typographical obsessive. Perhaps he'd have made a better designer than playwright; he just loved all of those font options!

His tummy rumbled, so being naturally lazy he went to the MacDonalds about ten minutes walk away, had a quarter pounder with cheese and a paper cup-thingy of chips before walking back home swearing that he'd never go to a take-away again.

He was plagued all night with salt and saturated fat indigestion coupled with vivid scenes of golf played both on stage and on the links. He did nothing about either discomfort, being between sleeping and waking, until he finally dropped off completely. Too soon a pesky shaft of sunlight stabbed at his eyes through a crack in the curtain. It was nine-thirty in the morning.

Something had happened in his sub-conscious. He booted up the computer and stared at the isolated title on the screen. He ran down the list of available fonts and selected Braggadocio:

The Musical
Huntly Rodgers

Then he enlarged the sub-title and opened up some interlinear space:

The Musical


Huntly Rodgers

And finally put his name in capital letters in the sans serif Gill typeface that he'd always admired:

The Musical


Huntly Rodgers

Then, with an insightful flourish, he searched the Internet for a neat little illustration that would give it life:

The Musical


Huntly Rodgers

That was it! He sat back and studied the title page thoroughly. Then he went to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee which he brought back to the study. He poured a cup of the thick, hot, black brew, spooned in four sugars, sipped contentedly, pressed the command 'insert page break', and started to type:

Scene: A crowded club house. Twelve women in tweed skirts, twin sets and pearls and brogue shoes. Ten men in blue double-breasted blazers, white flannels and black loafers. They stand expectantly, silently, either side of a door up-stage. Through the door come two more men dressed as the other males in the chorus. Sitting on their shoulders is the hero, Dick Killinger, who raises both arms and cries out 'I did it! A hole-in-one on the fourth. Shout the clubhouse.' There is a cheer as the chorus crowd round him. The orchestra strikes up...'

The telephone rang. Rodgers ignored it. The text signal played 'Greensleeves' on his iPhone. He ignored it. The apartment doorbell buzzed. 'Bugger!' he yelled, then louder and louder 'Bugger, bugger, bugger!'

He reached over and unplugged the iMac.



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By Don Donovan

About Me

My photo

Don Donovan: Biography

I was born on 20 January 1933, nine days before Hitler came to power in Germany, I grew up in south London. Although evacuated during the phoney war and the quieter times I lived in and out of air raid shelters during the blitz and experienced both V1 and V2 attacks on London. Left grammar school in 1948 aged 15 substantially undereducated. I wanted to go to art school but because of family ‘poverty’ joined a commercial art studio in the West End. I was, thereafter, variously a messenger boy, commercial artist and typographer. I was in the Royal Air Force from 1951 to 1953 when the only useful thing I did was to take part in King George VI’s funeral parade.

In 1955 I married Patricia O’Donnell, a RADA graduate, at that time playing opposite Derek Nimmo, they were juvenile leads in a touring repertory company. He went on to great success because he had a funny voice.

We came to New Zealand in 1960 where I worked in advertising. At length I became managing director of one of the companies of whose holding company (the largest domestic advertising complex in New Zealand) I was also a proprietor and shareholder. I left the industry in 1990 when my company was bought out by American interests. My timing was brilliant, at that point my first book had been published and the next was on its way.

We have two daughters and four grand-children.

Now, apart from writing, I function as a self-educated grumpy old man.

Books & Writings

‘New Zealand Odyssey’, with Euan Sarginson, Heinemann-Reed, 1989.

‘One Man’s Heart Attack’, New House, 1990. (A special edition of this book was purchased by CIBA-Geigy for distribution to NZ doctors).

‘Open 7 Days’, Random Century, October 1991.

‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’ by Saint Publishing in 1995 followed by:
‘New Zealand House & Cottage’ in 1997. (Saint Publishing have also published calendars for the years 1994 to 2004 using my watercolour illustrations).

‘The Wastings’, my first novel was published in July 1999 by Hazard Press. Although an international subject it had very limited distribution, only in New Zealand, and the rights have reverted to me. (Colin Dexter read 'The Wastings' and wrote to me: 'I enjoyed and admired "The Wastings"... a beautifully written work... a splendid debut in crime fiction... More please!'.)

Also the texts of photographic books:
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Bay of Plenty’
and a compilation of photographs and quotations titled ‘Anzac Memories’ 2004 all published by New Holland.

My written and illustrated book, ‘Country Churches of New Zealand’ was published in October 2002 by New Holland, who also published ‘Rural New Zealand’ 2004 (photographs and text), and a series of four humorous books of photographs and quotations in 2004 and 2005 titled ‘Woolly Wisdom’, ‘Chewing the Cud’, ‘Fowl Play’, and ‘Pig Tales’. My most recent book was published in August 2006 by New Holland, titled ‘Political Animals’.

Over the years I have written for NZ Herald, Heritage Magazine, Next Magazine and various local and overseas travel and general interest media.