Compassion and Care

The marriage celebrant, clown and fire investigator.

The marriage celebrant, clown and fire investigator.

MORE SERIOUS JOB: Derek hard at work as a fire investigator. Picture by Liam Clayton
JOKESTER: A world away from his day job is Derek Goodwin’s role as a clown. He has an enviable repertoire of jokes, balloon animals and funny faces to keep kids laughing. File picture

Derek Goodwin has three very different fields of work. He is a fire risk management officer, a marriage celebrant, and a clown. He is also a very caring member of the community.

You could lose a few hours chatting to Derek Goodwin.

He has a wealth of entertaining stories but it is his friendly, down-to-earth manner that puts any audience at ease — and he has had a few different audiences in his 50 years, including friends and family of the couple he is marrying, a group of children he is making laugh, or, more sobering, people who have just lost everything.

The common thread is he is genuinely interested in, and helping, other people.

As a fire risk management officer Derek is the person on the East Coast who is called in to figure out how a fire has started.

Investigations are always carried out in the aftermath by going through the ruins.

“It’s never nice,” he says.

The people have always lost something, or someone, and you have got to talk to them in their rawest state.

Derek uses a lot of compassion.

“I’m more interested in the people and that they’re OK but I do have to figure out how the fire started,” he says in a serious moment.

Sometimes it is really easy to do that, and other times more research is required.

It comes down to patterns and reading the fire, he says.

“You create a whole lot of hypotheses, then go through and eliminate them. It is scientific.

“Fires don’t lie,” he says. “Sometimes what people are saying and what the fire is saying are two different things.”

The most worrying trend he has found in our region is the over-representation of fires started by unattended cooking.

It features again and again, and can be as simple as putting oil on the element to cook food then being distracted by the phone, kids or the television. Whatever the cause it happens “time and time again”.

“People just don’t get how fast a fire is and when you’re asleep you can’t smell. That’s why you have a smoke alarm, they don’t sleep.”

As part of his role he also speaks to groups about fire safety, and has filmed clips for Fire and Emergency NZ about safe cooking.

So he has always been articulate, which helps when you are a marriage celebrant.

He is pretty popular too.

It is the third week of January and already he has 21 weddings booked for the year.

In his application for consideration to become a celebrant eight years ago, Derek wrote that no nuptials would faze him. Even if people wanted to get hitched skydiving or scuba diving, he was in.

Derek loves the unconventional, the less than traditional . . . and the humour.

He freely admits to giving grooms “a real hard time” right before a wedding — just for the sheer amusement.

“The bigger, the badder the groom the more he sweats,” he says with a chuckle.

Last week he officiated at his 120th wedding. Settings have included shearing sheds, in the sea lapping the shore, and even a wedding where it was a surprise for the groom.

“This is what I love about what I do,” he says as he shares a photo of a bride and groom in full laughter as the groom struggles to put a ring on his new wife’s finger. Derek is pictured watching the moment with absolute glee.

His favourite part of every wedding is the moment the bride appears, because of the “raw emotion that comes with it”.

He encourages couples to write their own vows, which has resulted in promises to always bring beer and chippies during Bathurst, to give up the remote control during Shortland Street and not to nick the blankets.

Also takes clown role seriously

Humour is a big part of Derek. It comes through in his clown role too, which he takes very seriously.

He orders balloons for the balloon animals all the way from Canada, and never goes anywhere without a few in his pocket.

The hardest bit about making balloon animals is blowing them up using your breath — his record is 200 poodles in one hour, and St John were on standby with oxygen just in case.

He is not averse to having selective hearing if kids don’t use their manners, and if he gets a request for a gun, or a cat (neither of which he can make with balloons) he will simply answer, “guns are bad and dangerous, I’ll make you a sword instead” or, “I can’t do a cat, I’ve just made all these dogs and they will chase it”.

Kids laugh, they’re happy, he’s happy and the parents are happy.

It’s a bit of a gift.

His first taste of learning how to be a clown came while on his OE. It was 1989 and he was driving his mate’s Mini across Europe. He learned to juggle in Bath, added balloon animals to his repertoire and even got on TV over there because he bumped, quite literally, into a Kiwi reporter at a bar in Holland.

He has been married to Bernice for 13 years, they’ve been together for 20 and they have a son Carlos. Derek has two children, Jamie and Kayla, from his first marriage.

Bernice is an animal lover extraordinaire — dogs especially — and she runs an in-home dog-sitting service at their place. Derek says it is like a “Barnardos for dogs”, as pooches of all sizes have free roam of the home, and are even allowed to sleep on the couch.

“We had 15 people, and 14 dogs for Christmas, where the dogs had festive fare in terms of cooked chickens, for their Christmas dinner.”

His parents are Campbell and Marion Goodwin, who still live in Gisborne, and he has an older brother Daryl.

He went to Te Hapara Primary School, Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Boys’ High School. He says, half joking, that his report card has not changed much since 1975.

“I wasn’t very good at school; it did not interest me that much. I sat three School Certificate subjects and failed all three; I like to be consistent.”

There did come a time later in life, he said, when he wished he had listened more. Not that the late start in concentration has affected his career.

After 27 years in the fire service, the last 12 in his current role, Derek has also been a Justice of the Peace for 18 years and in 2010 became a marriage celebrant. He reckons his community spirit comes from his mother who was heavily involved with the Gisborne Operatic Society. Derek remembers growing up in rehearsal halls and thinks this could be why he is so comfortable on stage.

After a childhood of not following through on all those judo and musical instrument lessons, Derek has now spent more than half his life working on what he loves best —people, and making them happy.

Derek Goodwin has three very different fields of work. He is a fire risk management officer, a marriage celebrant, and a clown. He is also a very caring member of the community.

You could lose a few hours chatting to Derek Goodwin.

He has a wealth of entertaining stories but it is his friendly, down-to-earth manner that puts any audience at ease — and he has had a few different audiences in his 50 years, including friends and family of the couple he is marrying, a group of children he is making laugh, or, more sobering, people who have just lost everything.

The common thread is he is genuinely interested in, and helping, other people.

As a fire risk management officer Derek is the person on the East Coast who is called in to figure out how a fire has started.

Investigations are always carried out in the aftermath by going through the ruins.

“It’s never nice,” he says.

The people have always lost something, or someone, and you have got to talk to them in their rawest state.

Derek uses a lot of compassion.

“I’m more interested in the people and that they’re OK but I do have to figure out how the fire started,” he says in a serious moment.

Sometimes it is really easy to do that, and other times more research is required.

It comes down to patterns and reading the fire, he says.

“You create a whole lot of hypotheses, then go through and eliminate them. It is scientific.

“Fires don’t lie,” he says. “Sometimes what people are saying and what the fire is saying are two different things.”

The most worrying trend he has found in our region is the over-representation of fires started by unattended cooking.

It features again and again, and can be as simple as putting oil on the element to cook food then being distracted by the phone, kids or the television. Whatever the cause it happens “time and time again”.

“People just don’t get how fast a fire is and when you’re asleep you can’t smell. That’s why you have a smoke alarm, they don’t sleep.”

As part of his role he also speaks to groups about fire safety, and has filmed clips for Fire and Emergency NZ about safe cooking.

So he has always been articulate, which helps when you are a marriage celebrant.

He is pretty popular too.

It is the third week of January and already he has 21 weddings booked for the year.

In his application for consideration to become a celebrant eight years ago, Derek wrote that no nuptials would faze him. Even if people wanted to get hitched skydiving or scuba diving, he was in.

Derek loves the unconventional, the less than traditional . . . and the humour.

He freely admits to giving grooms “a real hard time” right before a wedding — just for the sheer amusement.

“The bigger, the badder the groom the more he sweats,” he says with a chuckle.

Last week he officiated at his 120th wedding. Settings have included shearing sheds, in the sea lapping the shore, and even a wedding where it was a surprise for the groom.

“This is what I love about what I do,” he says as he shares a photo of a bride and groom in full laughter as the groom struggles to put a ring on his new wife’s finger. Derek is pictured watching the moment with absolute glee.

His favourite part of every wedding is the moment the bride appears, because of the “raw emotion that comes with it”.

He encourages couples to write their own vows, which has resulted in promises to always bring beer and chippies during Bathurst, to give up the remote control during Shortland Street and not to nick the blankets.

Also takes clown role seriously

Humour is a big part of Derek. It comes through in his clown role too, which he takes very seriously.

He orders balloons for the balloon animals all the way from Canada, and never goes anywhere without a few in his pocket.

The hardest bit about making balloon animals is blowing them up using your breath — his record is 200 poodles in one hour, and St John were on standby with oxygen just in case.

He is not averse to having selective hearing if kids don’t use their manners, and if he gets a request for a gun, or a cat (neither of which he can make with balloons) he will simply answer, “guns are bad and dangerous, I’ll make you a sword instead” or, “I can’t do a cat, I’ve just made all these dogs and they will chase it”.

Kids laugh, they’re happy, he’s happy and the parents are happy.

It’s a bit of a gift.

His first taste of learning how to be a clown came while on his OE. It was 1989 and he was driving his mate’s Mini across Europe. He learned to juggle in Bath, added balloon animals to his repertoire and even got on TV over there because he bumped, quite literally, into a Kiwi reporter at a bar in Holland.

He has been married to Bernice for 13 years, they’ve been together for 20 and they have a son Carlos. Derek has two children, Jamie and Kayla, from his first marriage.

Bernice is an animal lover extraordinaire — dogs especially — and she runs an in-home dog-sitting service at their place. Derek says it is like a “Barnardos for dogs”, as pooches of all sizes have free roam of the home, and are even allowed to sleep on the couch.

“We had 15 people, and 14 dogs for Christmas, where the dogs had festive fare in terms of cooked chickens, for their Christmas dinner.”

His parents are Campbell and Marion Goodwin, who still live in Gisborne, and he has an older brother Daryl.

He went to Te Hapara Primary School, Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Boys’ High School. He says, half joking, that his report card has not changed much since 1975.

“I wasn’t very good at school; it did not interest me that much. I sat three School Certificate subjects and failed all three; I like to be consistent.”

There did come a time later in life, he said, when he wished he had listened more. Not that the late start in concentration has affected his career.

After 27 years in the fire service, the last 12 in his current role, Derek has also been a Justice of the Peace for 18 years and in 2010 became a marriage celebrant. He reckons his community spirit comes from his mother who was heavily involved with the Gisborne Operatic Society. Derek remembers growing up in rehearsal halls and thinks this could be why he is so comfortable on stage.

After a childhood of not following through on all those judo and musical instrument lessons, Derek has now spent more than half his life working on what he loves best —people, and making them happy.

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