A camera crew had been despatched, and was filming the star of the Look Who's Talking series at his table from across the road. That was bad enough; the worst part was the group of gawping mouth-breathers standing on the footpath watching him, like goldfish staring out of their bowl. On that day, cultural cringe took on a new meaning for me.
A decade or so later, this happened:
Twice! Say what you like about Helen Clark, but at least she carried herself in a dignified way internationally. She looked like she belonged among world leaders and, as such, New Zealand seemed like it belonged too. I have a good deal of respect for John Key - most of the time, anyway - but, as someone he represents at international events, I do wish he didn't visibly get a boner any time he met Obama - in fact, it's lucky for the photographer that the man in the funny hat was sitting just there. The giggly schoolgirl routine Key did on the TV news when, after the election, Obama rang to congratulate him was seemingly only a prelude to this meeting. (On the other hand: poor old Gordon Brown.)
Of course, Key's man-crush is no fun if the media doesn't lap it up. Here, then, are a few choice quotes from the front page article. (You may want to sit down.)
- "United States President Barack Obama spoke glowingly of New Zealand during two brief meetings with Prime Minister John Key in New York today."
- "As the 160-plus world leaders attending the United Nations this week jostled for a moment with the new president at his first General Assembly, Mr Key was singled out for two meet and greets."
- "Sources tell NZPA that the New Zealand leader got more attention than many others Mr Obama met."
- ""He's gone out of his way to make me feel welcome," Mr Key said this evening."
- '"Well it was great, he came up, I was sitting at my table and he came over and said `look it was great to see you, fantastic to have a chat on the phone, (I) look forward to seeing a lot more of you."'
- '"It was good to meet him twice, as it turned out today, and he's obviously very keen on New Zealand. He was speaking very eloquently but also effusively of New Zealand so that was great."'
- "Mr Obama had a friend living in New Zealand who had raved about the country praising its golf courses, skiing and lifestyle for families."
- '"I've love him to come down but obviously he's got a schedule that's unbelievable, now, you never say never but you got to imagine he's got a lot on his plate at the moment."'
- "Mr Obama and his wife Michelle stopped and chatted to the New Zealander and his wife Bronagh rather than a quick handshake which many other leaders received."
- "The president was warm and engaging, and brought up their phone call earlier in the year."
I think I need a cold shower.