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Colin's column confessions: 'My family has forgiven me!'

Colin Hogg looks back on four decades of laughs, tears and tales he’s shared with our readers

By Donna Fleming
It started out 40 years ago as a six-week trial. Colin Hogg was a music journalist at the Auckland Star newspaper and in his down-time he'd share anecdotes about his four-year-old daughter Summer with
a colleague in the office next door.
"She said, 'You should write this stuff down, write a column,'" recalls Colin. Editor Keith Aitken gave him the go-ahead to try it for six weeks and the columns seemed to go down quite well.
"So I asked if I could keep going and he said, 'No, I gave you six weeks, that's it.'"
But all was not lost. A staff member at the Weekly had been reading Colin's take on life with a preschooler and asked if he'd like to continue his column in the magazine. He jumped at the chance and so began an association with this magazine that has now spanned four decades. He's had a few breaks in that time – voluntary and involuntary – but is delighted to still be sharing his insights with the Weekly's readers, who he describes as "a special breed".
Back row (from left): Jamie, his wife Nadine, daughter Maddy, PJ (Summer's partner), Tiaho (their youngest) and Summer.
Seated (from left): Kura (Summer's daughter), Colin with Olive (Jamie and Nadine's), Philippa and Miharo (Summer's eldest).
"It's like having a whole bunch of aunties and nanas and sisters who are gentle and caring, and interested in my life. It's great," he says.
Colin's column Living with Summer started out in 1982 as a dad's take on his relationship with his daughter, then morphed into more general musings about life from a bloke's point of view. That was pretty unusual at the time for a women's magazine, and while readers enjoyed it, some of Colin's newspaper colleagues gave him a hard time.
"They were quite rude about it," he recalls. "I don't think they understood the point. What I liked was that it was completely unconnected to my other job, which was writing about rock music, and I could pretty much write what I wanted."
Colin's humorous and thoughtful insights into fatherhood proved popular with readers – some who would bowl up to him in the supermarket to chat about what he'd written – and he continued the column as his family expanded. When Summer was five, he and his then wife had Gemma, now 39, followed by Rima, 37.
'I've always been able to write about the worst times in my life, but it's hard'
"When we were pregnant with Rima, I stopped writing the column for some reason," he shares. "I think it just started feeling too personal. People were angry with me – they wanted to know all about the new baby."
Colin, 71, went on to become dad to Jamie, 35 (his only son) and Uma, 34. Then his marriage broke up and after a while, he wondered if the Weekly readers would be interested in hearing the viewpoint of a man navigating the tricky world of being a divorced dad.
"It was quite emotionally trying at times, but I thought it could be useful in some way to talk about what I was going through," he explains. "I thought other people might be able to relate to it."
Initially called the Ex-Files, the reinstated column has had several names over the years and gradually focused more on his general observations of life after his second marriage to Philippa Mossman and the birth of his sixth child, Maddy, now 23.
To his much-loved grandkids, our columnist goes by the name Koko.
There was a short break for a couple of years from 2013 when the then-editor of the Weekly brought in new columnists, but Colin made a welcome return in 2015.
So how have his family felt about having their lives written about in the pages of the Weekly on and off for the last 40 years?
"They usually love it if they are in it... I think," says Colin. "Of course there are things that go on that I'd never, ever write about – there's a fine line between writing stuff people would want to read and not getting too personal. I think I'm pretty sensitive. I don't think anyone's ever been upset. They're still talking to me."
Over the years, Colin has tackled some tough topics, including the deaths of his parents, brother and best friend. "I've always been able to write about the worst times in my life, but it's hard. Sometimes I'm crying while I'm doing it. Like when my poor old mum May died in the middle of lockdown and I wasn't able to see her, which was heartbreaking. I was in tears as I wrote that."
Colin with Olive's baby sister Cleo, who arrived on May 10.
While he doesn't shy away from serious subjects, he generally tries to put a humorous spin on life where appropriate, at the same time sharing a message, "without being all preachy".
In all the time he's been writing for the Weekly, Colin says he has never run out of ideas. "I keep a little notebook and I will jot down a few words that might go on to form the basis of a column. At the moment, I've got words like 'shared meals' in there. You know how you go to a restaurant you like and there's a dish you really like so you order it and then everyone else eats it? I think that's terrible. That's a subject I may write about at some stage."
Often his columns are inspired by snippets of conversations he overhears in places such as the supermarket. "I love it when you walk past someone and you just hear one line and that gets you thinking."
He's had fabulous feedback from Weekly readers over the years and describes them as a "really loving audience".
Years ago he wrote about a particularly delicious cake, called dream cake, that his mother used to make. She lost the original recipe and subsequent attempts to bake it were unsuccessful. "I got dozens and dozens of recipes for dream cake from the readers. It was incredible. I tried a few of them and unfortunately none of them were the same, but it was lovely to get them. I've still got them stashed away somewhere."
'It's like having a whole bunch of aunties and nanas and sisters who are interested in my life'
On another occasion, Weekly readers helped him track down his former hairdresser after he found her salon had closed when he moved back to Auckland following several years away in Wellington. "I wrote a column about the heartbreak of losing my hairdresser and all I said was that her name was Kay and she was in Auckland. Two women got in touch with the magazine to say, 'Kay is at a salon in the Queen's Arcade, tell Colin.' Weekly readers could find anyone if you just put the word out."
As well as penning the column, Colin's had a busy and successful career writing in several different fields. He moved on from newspaper journalism in the '80s to television, starting out writing scripts for locally made TV shows such as The Zoo.
He tells, "It was good, but I went a bit mad after nine years of doing it because there are only so many ways you can say, 'Meanwhile, back at the giraffe enclosure...'"
He has made documentaries on famous Kiwis like writer Barry Crump and historian Michael King, worked on a range of series focusing on subjects like arts and books, and was a regular member of an advice panel on TV show How's Life?
He's also written numerous books, including one on cannabis and another, Going South, about a road trip he did back to his hometown of Invercargill with his mate Gordon McBride, who was dying of cancer. Colin sounds somewhat bemused as he says Going South has been optioned to be made into a feature film. Who does he think should play him? "No idea. Ashley Bloomfield? I can't even think about it, it's just too weird."
He's now writing his 11th book, which also has a road-trip theme but takes him to craft breweries all over the country. There's plenty to keep him busy and he has no plans to retire his Weekly column.
"I enjoy doing it and I take a lot of pride and care in it," he enthuses. "I suppose I have done some things that are completely at odds with writing a column for the Weekly, like the cannabis book, but it doesn't seem to bother the lovely, understanding aunty Weekly audience. I'm very happy to keep doing it if they're happy to keep reading."
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  • undefined: Donna Fleming

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