My friend Roi

When I lived in Dunedin in the way-South of New Zealand, by a certain re-telling of the story, I could make the claim to have been a journalist. It’s definitely what Roi would have done in my position and as this post is about him, it’s what I am going to claim too. Just for the sport. 

Back in the day, I was a journalist in Dunedin, New Zealand. 

Roy/Roi Colbert was in fact a bonafide journalist. He was funny, kind, smart and he was a good friend of mine. He wrote sleeve notes for some of New Zealand’s top bands. He wrote lots of stuff. But I’m going to tell you about Hearts ‘R’ Us.

I washed up in Dunedin, thinking I was going to spend a couple of days there then make my way back up North before heading, finally, back to England. But like the magpie that I am, I got distracted by shiny things and forgot to leave for two years. 

As well as writing for the local paper, (and as far as I could make out, for a golfing magazine?) Roi owned a record shop. Like all the other optimistically under-employed musicians and artists of Dunedin I used to visit him there, to catch up on the gossip. He was an expert gossip. It was always bombastically embroidered, by Roi, but much the better for it. Whilst there I’d usually end up moaning about my lack of love-life. One day, out of pity, we decided to start a single’s club. We’d go on outings to help me and the other lonely hearts of Dunedin get laid, and who knows, perhaps fall in love. And we decided that we would have a magazine too. Hearts ‘R’ Us was born. IMG_8571

A number of friends got onboard, ready to taste the heady rush of pack-hunting for love. Or, as it turned out, hiring a mini-bus taxi and going ice skating. Or going to Bingo. Or, on one memorable occasion, going hydro-sliding, just three of us. In the middle of the afternoon. All under the banner of Hearts ‘R’ Us. We went to trot race meets, bowling, and several pubs. No one ever got a date out of it, let alone the ‘Full Bingo’, but successful outcomes were not part of the Hearts ‘R’ Us mission statement. It was the effort that counted, goddammit. 

The one exception being Roi himself. In the first issue Roi’s write up put full credit onto Hearts ‘R’ Us for the fact that he had gone from being a tragic loser to being a happily married man (to the lovely Christine) with two teenage children. Way to go, Hearts ‘R’ Us! Show me another singles club in the history of the Universe that has had such epic over-night results.

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So, on to the magazine. By which I mean a series of photocopied sheets of paper in black and white with a staple in the top left corner. Look, this wasn’t the digital age, OK? It had top tips, it had True Life dating horror stories, it had a photo-love story acted out by knitted dolls. It had reports of activities and of course, scurrilous gossip. The best thing about it was that every time we made a new one, Roi, in implacable earnestness, took a copy to give to the University of Otago archive. My days, I can imagine their gratitude. I picture them sometimes, looking at the controlled-environment glass case they keep them in, shaking their heads gently in awed wonder. 

During my last week in Dunedin, when I was due to fly back to England for good, there was one last issue, complete with – wait for it – a free cassette by RimShot Frenzy! Rim (as Roi was also known) had secretly recorded me speaking the last time I visited him, asking how I felt about my tenure as president of Hearts ‘R’ Us. I told him I felt pretty much unthanked. Pretty Much Unthanked was looped in the most merciless way on the track. Only the second track that RimShot Frenzy ever made. Rim’s sampling and Shot’s emotional vocal will blow you away. Their only other song, the classic, is Oh Jesus Please Stop The Gulf War. Look it up, listen, change your life. 

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It is a year since Roy died. He is so missed, by me and I know by so many others. Those two years in Dunedin were amongst the most fun times of my life and in large part, that was thanks to a lovely man, whose quiet demeanour hid the most ferociously sharp and extravagantly mischievous wit. He was truly one of the good ones. Love you Roy x

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