This interview with David Parsons took place in a basement room in his house totally dominated by train memorabilia, not only his model railway setup but all sorts of books, signs, posters and whatever else to do with rail travel. Fascinating stuff! And he not only photographs trains - see examples at www.tawalink.com/pic_week_2010-30.html - he writes about them as well. That's where his talents lie, as opposed to anything on the mechanical side.
If you've been on the commuter train into Wellington lately, you may well have seen the poster advertising David's latest book "Wellington Railways: Colonial Steam to Matangi", published April 2011. And by the sound of things, there may well be more to come down the track (pun not really intended).
Where were you born, David?
Otahuhu, South Auckland.
Where did you grow up?
Up to the age of 7 in Auckland; 7-14 Essex, England; 14-22 in Auckland again.
Where were you educated?
3 years at Colchester Royal Grammar School in Essex, 4 years at St Kentigern College, Pakuranga, Auckland. Then Auckland University 4 years part-time getting my B.Com, majoring in Accountancy.
What is your line of work?
Started at the Reserve Bank in Auckland in 1978 doing all sorts of things with an accounting flavour, like burning [old] money, part of my induction. Transferred to head office in Wellington in 1981. In various accounting roles there, including in charge of the money-burning from time to time. At Reserve Bank till 1990 when I and many others were made redundant. From then on I’ve specialised in internal auditing. Went to the Fire Service in 1990 as an internal auditor. Left there in 2005 to go to the IRD. Since February 2011 have worked at the national office of the Royal NZ Plunket Society as its internal auditor.
What about family?
Married to Cathie with 3 sons and one daughter, ages 16-22.
What are your interests/hobbies?
"Better put down railways." Also cricket. I'm a volunteer at the NZ Cricket Museum at the Basin Reserve. I also like football (in other words, soccer). "I've supported Manchester United for over 40 years, through thick and thin. The last 20 years they've been doing nicely."
How long have you lived in Tawa?
Since 18 November 1981, the day I drove from Auckland to Wellington.
What do you think is great about Tawa?
I like its position. It's handy to Wellington but far enough out to not be in the city. A 12-minute train ride or a 10-minute drive - that's nothing really. We live in a house that looks out in the distance to bush, farmland, hills, etc. And it's a nice community. The church is important to us. It's met the spiritual and practical needs we’ve had over the years. It [Tawa] has good schools and facilities. And 10 minutes the other way you've got beaches.
What, if anything, would improve Tawa?
I can't think of anything significant. "I could say silly things like it would be nice to have a test cricket ground [in Tawa] or more trains, but Wellington has most of the things we need."
What is your favourite dessert?
Have to go with pavlova, I think, with strawberries on top. Usually get it at Christmas-time now. That's about it!
Favourite sports team and/or sportsperson?
Manchester United and George Best - "for what he did on the field". I still enjoy watching him in action on DVDs. "I could watch him all day."
Favourite musical group/soloist or style of music?
Most groups have produced some decent songs, but particular favourites are Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Supertramp, 10cc, Elton John (his older stuff), and the Barron Knights for a bit of a laugh.
Favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?
The West Coast - the scenic beauty. It's peaceful, some interesting trains, some lovely walks.
Favourite quote(s) or saying(s)?
I've got a couple. One is "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Some of the nicest experiences I've had in life have been because I've had the cheek to ask.
The other is a Biblical one. 1 Corinthians 10:13 "Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out." We've had some trials in our family ... He [God] has allowed them to happen because he knows we can handle them.
If you could meet any two or three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
I would be very interested to meet Jesus Christ. "It could be a challenging experience."
Another would be George Best. [If I invited him for a meal] it would be "sorry George, no alcohol".
My maternal grandfather who died when I was 6 months old. He knew about me (he was in England), but I never knew him. I've been told that I resemble him a little.
What three things would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
Pen and paper (to write another book or two in the peace and quiet), a couple of favourite books to read, sunhat & sunscreen!
What are one or two talents you would like that you do not have?
I'd love to have been a professional footballer. I can play football, although my sons may disagree. I played for Tawa Masters for about 5 years in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was a lot of fun.
One talent I wouldn't mind having is to be able to play the guitar. I do play the air guitar occasionally, but not in public.
What is one talent you have that you could not do without?
I suppose I could say my writing. I believe I can string a few sentences together to make sense. As far as the railway hobby goes, it's a niche that I've got into. I enjoy the writing, the photography, the research.
What accomplishments/achievements in your life give you much satisfaction/pride?
Producing a loving family with Cathie. We've been married for 28 years this year.
And I've written 3 books, well 2½ actually, with each book a different experience. I co-authored Rails through the Valley with Bruce Murray. That one was a great deal of fun. It was satisfying to produce something locally. New Zealand Railway Motive Power 2002 (my first book) is my "train spotting" book. My third is Wellington Railways: Colonial Steam to Matangi. Someone has referred to it as my "magnum opus" (masterpiece). I don't think it's that. There might be something more "magnumer" in me yet. I have that twinkle in my eye.
What are one or two things about you that local people may not know?
I collect cricket autographs. I've got quite a large collection of test players' autographs, roughly 80% of all those playing test cricket, not that I've met them all!
What are two or three things you would like to do before you die?
I'd quite like to see Manchester United play again. I've only seen them twice. I'd like to go to Old Trafford.
I'd like to go across Australia by train. That's one of the great train journeys of the world.
And I suppose I wouldn't mind seeing one or two grandchildren. I'd like to be someone's grandad.
Compiled June 2011.