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Farewell Randal Jackson

Last night I joined old friends and colleagues in raising a glass to the late Randal Jackson. It was the an appropriate send-off, something Randal would have enjoyed himself.

Over the years Randal was a rival, a colleague and a mate. Sometimes all three at once.

In the early 1990s I was working a freelance technology journalist in Wellington. There were others in town, but Randal was the most likely to turn up at the same jobs and events as me.

Often we’d be the only two journalists in the room. Depending on the time of day, we’d would repair to a bar afterwards to talk over whatever story was on offer and others besides.

It didn’t always depend on the time of day. Randal was happy to visit the bar any time.

The Randal Jackson breakfast show

At one alleged breakfast event I sat down next to Randal at 7am in a private meeting room at what was then called the Wellington ParkRoyal.

Two earnest American IT executives were there to talk about whatever overpriced product their company was trying to foist on New Zealand at the time.

About ten minutes in to the session it was clear they weren’t planning to give us breakfast. The mean swine hadn’t even organised coffee.

Randal wasn’t happy. He told them to stop. He said that in New Zealand an invitation to breakfast usually meant some kind of food and certainly meant hot coffee.

Fair enough. Apart from anything else we could smell the food and coffee in neighbouring rooms.

He turned to me, winked, then said: “I bet you didn’t have time to eat before coming in Bill?”.

It was a question. I told him he was right and that I was hungry.

Randal then said how he was also hungry, too hungry to think about difficult topics like enterprise computing on an empty stomach.

The straight-laced Americans were mortified. They looked confused and worried. Nevertheless they decided to bat on regardless.

Randal put his pen on his pocket, picked up his notebook, winked again and said: “Come on Bill let’s go and find some breakfast”.

We got up to leave.

“Now just wait”

The senior executive said something like “now just wait” then gave instructions to his junior. The younger executive left the room.

Five minutes later waiters entered with a coffee pot, a tea pot and croissants. This was more like it. The session resumed.

After another five or ten minutes a huge trolley rumbled in piled high with fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, sausages, the works. There was easily enough food for ten people.

We tucked in and listened, questioning the execs for another ten minutes before they took off for meetings. We demolished piles of food. They ate nothing. I guess they had their power breakfast before our session.

When, not long after, they stood to leave , the senior executive said if there was anything else we wanted we could just order and he would pick up the bill.

That was a bad move.

After they had gone I turned to Randal and asked: “champagne?”. In those day fancy breakfast functions often included sparkling wine or Buck’s Fizz.

Randal said no, and ordered cognac instead. And coffee. And more of those little Danish pastries.

We didn’t get out of the ParkRoyal until lunch time, and only then because there was a horse running that afternoon and Randal needed to find a TAB.

Glory days. Randal Jackson, I’ll miss you mate.