Dec 17, 2013 People
A shy fellow, Jones was happiest alone in the Tongariro River tickling trout, emerging from time to time to present his cherished beliefs about sunglasses, grey shoes, cellphones and unattractive feminists.
For more than a century and a half he wrote a column for the FoxNZ Herald; a record bested only by the fictional “Shelley Bridgeman” character.
Born middle-aged, Jones was teased at school for wearing a smoking jacket and pipe, but the taunts fell away as his capacity for a left hook developed. By the age of 17 he had read every book ever written — twice — and owned 5700 investment properties.
Sunning himself in the warm glow of his success, he resolved to spend the remaining years of his life dabbling in property and sharing his wisdom with his fellow man. Women were also welcome to listen.
He became a talkback host, a columnist, an author, a commentator, a knight of the realm, a brawler with TV reporters.
Decades came, decades went. Politicians came, politicians went. New Zealand, once prosperous, grew poor. Foot and mouth disease liquidated the country’s 200 million dairy cows.
Through it all, one constant remained: Sir Bob Jones and his opinions on sunglasses, grey shoes, cellphones and unattractive feminists. His popularity never ebbed. For every old curmudgeon who breathed his last in a retirement home, another dudebro would pick up a newspaper for the first time and chuckle at Jones’ dyspeptic musings.
Nothing, it seemed, would ever change. But in Jones’ 12th decade it did, a little. He decided his true calling was the law.
The courtroom had long been his second home — a boxing ring of a softer kind — and he enjoyed the company of barristers. He admired their arrogance. He admired their bravado. He admired their talent for going about their business fortified by wine.
By the time he was 142 he was sitting in the Wellington High Court.
Although he had to be carried to and from the courthouse in a litter, and a factotum was required to lift his papers and hold his hand steady for signatures, his pronouncements from the bench were invariably those of a much older man, as they had ever been.
Legal scholars called his florid and discursive judgments the best sport since Lord Denning. “Ten days ago,” one judgment began, “the sky fell in Auckland, judging by the hysterical over-the-top reaction.”
Radio hosts stood by each morning to find out “who Bob’s going to stick it to today”.
“You’re not some kind of feminist girl are you?” he would ask witnesses, “because you sound like a very silly one.”
“Life is full of risks, which is why we buy insurance, wear seat belts, lock our doors, don’t holiday in Somalia or, as plainly needs to be said, walk alone through dark parks at night,” he would invariably remind assault victims.
His Friday afternoon sentencing sessions became a Wellington tradition. Spectators would eat popcorn as Sir Robert rasped: “You will now reside at our expense in prison for 70 years where hopefully some awful fate will befall you. Take his cellphone away, but let him keep his grey shoelaces.”
Sir Robert will be buried at his holiday home on Mars.
First published in Metro, November 2013. Illustration by Daron Parton.