What brought you back to New Zealand?
I was always coming back in the summer, because my friend Wallace Chapman is getting married. And I missed it here. When I was in Ireland, I realised how much of my context was in New Zealand. My friends, my taste in music, books, films and fashion, and all of those things.
So, how long are you back for?
Who knows? When I came to New Zealand originally, I only planned on staying for a year, and it turned into nine.
But you went back to Ireland for a job, didn’t you?
I worked at the Cork Opera House. That was a short-term contract, so when that finished in January, I went into journalism. I ended up doing a lot of print, actually. It’s a good time to be a freelancer in Ireland, ironically, because they laid off a lot of their full-time journalists, so if you could be reasonably versatile, you were in.
When you got there, did it feel like home?
Oh God yeah, but it also felt like I was upside down. And I mean that physically – when I was sleeping in bed at night, I felt as if I was hanging upside down. You also notice silly little things like water pressure and taps and radio jingles. There’s a rawness to that.
How is Ireland doing these days?
Ireland is enduring. Normal transmission continues, but it’s certainly a more austere environment. It’s a low-level hum of discomfort, of uncertainty, of tension, of anxiety. All those things are always there in the background, and coming back to New Zealand it’s the absence of that I felt first.
What can we expect from Summer Noelle?
It’s all about stories this year. There will be personal stories, work stories, histories, love stories, stories about flying to the moon, shaggy-dog stories – all sorts of stories. And we’re going to have a book club. It will be Stephen King. We’re also going to have a hidden-passions segment.
What are you doing after that?
I’m going to stay working for Radio New Zealand. I’ll be contracting to them, whatever shape that will take. It depends on what happens, but I think for the next year I’ll be here.
How are you feeling about that plagiarism brouhaha these days?
My work was checked at length after I was accused of that. And it was found I didn’t attribute material properly half a dozen times, so I apologised for that. I was happy to be a part of that process, and happy to get on with things again once it was over.
What did you, as a radio host, think of that Australian DJ stunt?
They’re of an era, aren’t they? I think it will be very hard to continue doing them. Maybe they’ll go the way of things like chimps’ tea parties, which seemed very entertaining at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, we don’t find quite so amusing or edifying any more.
Does your family mind that you are so far away?
No, although they probably spend a bit too much on phone calls. They have never been to New Zealand and I don’t think my parents will ever go. They’re not travellers. They went to Portugal once and found a pub there that was run by the guy that they paid £50 to play the guitar at my christening. That was the first and only time my parents went overseas together on a holiday.
Do you have siblings?
I have two brothers and a sister. My brother John-Paul is a historian. He’s based in Oxford at the moment – he’s just finished his doctorate. He writes a column for a newspaper, the Independent. His columns are far more nuanced than anything I’ve ever written.
Is there a man in your life?
I’m going to reserve the right not to talk about that. You can take it how you like.
Favourite stretch of road?
Ponsonby Rd. It was the first stretch of road I ever walked in Auckland, because I was staying in St Mary’s Bay. And walking down it on a windswept autumn day, I remember thinking it was closed for the winter, because I’d just come from Melbourne. When I was in Ireland and thinking about Auckland, I would always think of that stretch of road.
SUMMER NOELLE, Radio NZ National, weekdays, 9.06am (December 26 to January 18).