The 13th year of Montana’s sponsorship of the New Zealand Book awards was lucky for some on Monday the 28th July. The vines have truly been nurtured but 2009 is the last year of Montana’s sponsorship and the valedictory speeches were heartfelt. There were few surprises in the winners, although there may have been some in the nominees.
Beautiful mihi opened proceedings, appropriately for Te wiki o te reo Maori, and strains of Blue Lady and Dominion Road (very exciting for me as I consider Mr Don McGlashan to be one of our greatest living writers)accompanied nominees and winners to the stage.
The Governor General greeted us in many languages and endeared himself by confiding that he was missing his own book club night to be present at the biggest book club dinner going. He endeared himself to Emily Perkins by being an old boy of Richmond Road primary, the school her children attend.
I can report that Jennifer Ward-Lealand is as gorgeous as ever and that her presence of mind and professionalism equals her beauty. When judge Jane Westaway listed only two of the three nominees in the Lifestyle and Contemporary Culture category before inviting Alexa Johnston back to the stage to accepte the award, Ms Ward-Lealand pointed out in the nicest possible way that there was in fact one more nominee.
Westaway coped with the sort of mistake that would see me still waking up in the middle of the night 20 years hence with enviable sangfroid by saying that she hadn’t been at the rehearsal.
I cannot report any bad behaviour, although Mark Williams, convenor of the judges’ panel, had to turn a bit waspish and chide some of the audience for being rowdy and making it hard for him to concentrate.
At least the 2009 convenor got to loll about on a Rose and Heather sofa rather than stand painfully on special Montana shoes as Morrin Rout had to do a few years ago.
One nominee forgot her glasses and had to be escorted to the stage in mortal fear of a wardrobe malfunction and Emily Perkins dropped her Montana medal but recovered by observing that it “won’t be the only clanger I’ll drop tonight”.
And an era came to a close.