Being a New Zealander often amuses me. I recall a couple of decades ago there was much hilarity in the Nottingham Nibbler, or some such Brit newspaper, when they became aware of New Zealand's Crime Watch TV programme. It seems an earnest presenter had displayed photos of a 1964 Ford Cortina that some ratbag had stolen.
The fact that a car theft could make national TV was, of course, funny. But it told people a great deal about New Zealand.
Alas, what it told people then isn't true now. We're all grown up. Just recently we've found one of our Members of Parliament to be corrupt, and he will, undoubtedly, be sentenced to prison. We've also recently found a chillingly narcissitic man guilty of a foul murder - he stabbed and cut his victim over 200 times - and he will get the maximum prison term available. Car thefts are so routine now that we may well decide to wait until next week before reporting them to our overworked police.
At least we're not so grown-up that corruption is common-place, but - as they say - watch this space.
One thing I found charming this week was the stunning juxtaposition of a couple of media stories.
On the one hand, we were reminded that it's Hiroshima Day, and the History Channel found another way of continuing their on-going replay of the Second World War: this time, it was by running three back-to-back programmes about the building of the bomb. One sentence I did choke on was the portentously delivered "This was the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima." There is so much that's factually wrong about that sentence that I don't know where to begin. But I'll give it a go.
1: The first atomic bomb wasn't dropped on Hiroshima. It was exploded at the Trinity test site in New Mexico. The bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima was, in fact, the third atomic bomb.
2: If we look at the sentence another way, it suggest that more than one atomic weapon was dropped on Hiroshima. If there was a first, there must have been a second.
However, I prevaricate. The story was Hiroshima, and how such a dreadful thing should never happen again. Amen to that, I say.
The other story was one that was greeted with gasps of delight and swoons of joy. It seems that one of the world's great fashion icons (Sorry. Their word, not mine. The word "icon", like "ultimate" has become so overused and abused as to demand some sort of legal redress.) Anyway - one of the world's greatest fashion gurus (Oops. My word. Bad man. Bad, bad man.) has given New Zealand's Fashion Week her stamp of approval, and is coming to the shows, and will, in fact, put on a demonstration flash-flash of fashion-y things she's designed all by her ickle-lickle self.
Who is this doyen of dressing? None other than Pamela Anderson. Yes, she of the boobs, big hair, radioactive teeth, and drug-addled husbands. If she gives her stamp of approval to our struggling designers, then all must be well with the world.
Well, excuse me for wanting to vomit. I know that the fashion world is shallow. I know that the dear fluttery little things who swoosh about tucking here, pinning there, and exclaiming over yonder are delicate indeed, and that their combined IQ doesn't match Pamela Anderson bra size. And I know that an awful lot of people think fashion is important, and that it keeps otherwise unemployable people off the streets. But PAMELA ANDERSON?!? What the hell are they thinking? I'd be impressed if the king of ponce, Karl Lagerdrinker, or someone with a semblence of taste was coming over. But oh dear god, Pamela Plastic-Tits Anderson. I weep.
So, yes, this week I've been chuckling about being a New Zealander. How I love this little country of ours, these three shining islands down at the bottom of the world. Our cultural cringe is so active that we think Pamela Anderson has taste, and is important. Maybe I will see, on next week's news, that the police are investigating the theft of a twenty year old Toyota Corolla from a property in Foxton. Nothing could surprise me now.
READING: I'm on the last chapter of John Connolly's "The Lovers", and I keep on puting off finishing it. I don't want it to end. It has made me gasp. So, I've also knocked over a Kevin J Anderson sci-fi book. He writes a book a week, I think. It probably took me longer to read it than it did for him to write it. He has skill, and I would recommend him, without question, to Pamela Anderson. I have found, coincidentally, a Joseph Kanon book in my bookshelf that I haven't read. it's called "Los Alamos", in keeping with Hiroshima Week. How can I have a Joseph Kanon book that I haven't read??
LISTENING TO: The soundtrack to "Juno". What joyous fun.
WORD OF THE DAY. Pamela.
He didn’t come to terms with the whole series of events - Mary’s Mum and his Dad dying - until he, Mary, and their son Adam were on a tourist boat crossing from San Francisco’s wharves to Alcatraz. They’d been together on their odyssey for just two weeks, and were standing together on the deck in the cold sea breeze when Mary went inside to get them all a coffee from the small boat’s bar.
“You’ve been quiet, Adam,” Henry said. “We’ve not heard a word out of you for a couple of days. You OK?”
“Christ,” Adam thought, then said, “No. Jesus Dad, I’m not OK. Not OK, and never will be. I hate it, I hate it all. Hate that you’re,” he stumbled and stammered “you’re dying, and you’re so bloody calm and Mum’s cheerful and Jesus Dad! I don’t want you to die, I hate it! I fucking hate it,” and Adam was shouting now, face red, tears running down his cheeks, snot coming from his nose, “and I fucking hate you I hate you,” and he beat his fists against Henry’s chest, and Henry stood and accepted the pain and the bruises, “Dad! I can’t stand it, I don’t understand it, I won‘t ever understand it! I want to stay here with you and Mum and I’m so scared and I just want to run away! You hear me? Just run away and leave you!” And Adam’s strength fled from his and he collapsed into his Father’s arms, and he sobbed into his father’s shoulder, and Henry held him, fiercely held him, and he, too, wept. And right at that moment he understood his own Father’s death, and he grieved for him, and he wept glad tears for his son, knowing that Adam would understand this loss as he hadn’t understood his own loss.
That night, as Henry slept, his dreams were shot through with fear, and a tall man riding a black horse dealing terrifying death, and in his sleep Henry trembled.
When I want you
In Northridge, as with everywhere else, all men dream. As, indeed, do all women, children, and the occasional cat. But not all men - or women - are dreamers. Let’s take a little look at a dream Henry experienced the night before he went up to the city for the tests that yes, would confirm his lack of ability to enjoy a tedious and mendacious immortality.
Despite being tired beyond belief, Henry and Mary had a restless night. To start with, they made love with a ferocity and abandon they hadn’t enjoyed for quite some time.
Actually, around three weeks, if you keep in mind their little sojourn up in Bushy Park that warm Thursday night.
Henry has an enormously strange approach to sex, making love, bonking, banging, or whatever you might like to call it. He is one of those rare men who understands the real privilege he is being given, the way his woman, his love, actually opens her body to him, for him to enter. But this is by the by, and plays absolutely part in this yarn. They lay together, sweat cooling their bodies, communicating by touch and familiarity. Despite their weariness, they took a long time to fall asleep, and it seemed to Henry that almost immediately he found himself in a totally foreign yet somehow familiar land.
He was walking across a plain toward a vast tree. The land itself was a cipher, a blank: absolutely featureless except for a graph-paper-like grid work that pulsed across its obsidian darkness. The sky was pewter grey, the sun a tarnished silver coin. As he walked, he heard a murmuring: “Guilty? Guilty! Condemn him. Guilty? Guilty! Condemn him.”
“Quiet,” came a brassy voice, a distant boom of thunder.
“Well, Mr T.,” said the dapper man who appeared at Henry’s shoulder. “It seems we have a pretty pickle here, a ribald riddle, a curious conundrum.”
“Do we?” asked Henry. “I can’t say I’d noticed. What sort of tree is that, do you suppose?”
It was a monstrous tree. Even at this distance - and it had grown no closer over the hours Henry had been walking - he could see it was vast. A small village sat huddled by its trunk, and the first branch it flung out must have sprouted forth nearly a hundred metres off the ground. Henry looked up, and could see the black forms of strange birds swirling about the tree’s middle branches, while the very top of the tree poked through the bitter clouds above. Henry shivered. He knew that the black shapes were Ban Sidhe, the fairy folk who came visiting before Death.
“It’s a big tree, Mr T. A very big tree indeed,” said the squat man who had, it seems, been walking alongside Henry all this time, although Henry hadn’t noticed him before this.
“Hmm.” said Henry. “You know, I think you may be right. It certainly is big. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger tree, although I have read of them. Dan Simmons, yes. It looks an awful lot like a chestnut tree, don’t you think?”
“Chestnut, fess nut, billyblobby harsh nuts, Mr. T.” said Henry’s slim companion, who, Henry now saw, was dressed entirely in black, except for a vivid red velvet eye-patch. “Did you know, by the way, that you were under arrest?”
“Ah,” said Henry. “Now I recognise you. You’re the likely lads who arrested Mr K., aren’t you.”
“Well done,” congratulated the chubby man, who was now dressed in a pair of bib-front overalls and rubber gumboots.
Then there came, from the great black Sidhe flying high overhead, a shrieking and cawing “Guilty? Guilty! Condemn him. Guilty? Guilty! Condemn him.”
“What am I charged with? What are you arresting me for?” asked Henry, entirely reasonably.
“He’s going to be another one like Mr K., isn’t he?”
“Entirely another one like Mr K. Listen, Mr T., are you going to get us flogged, the way that cowardly K did? Accused us, us! Accused us, he did, then refused to help even when he knew were to be beaten most cruelly.”
“Most cruelly,” confirmed Red Eye Patch. Although, now that Henry came to look at it, it was quite, quite yellow.
“I know how all this ends, you know,” murmured Henry. To himself, as it proved, for he was suddenly in a lengthy corridor, pierced every ten metres by ornate gilt doors, left and right. From behind each door Henry could hear beautiful choirs singing “Guilty? Guilty! Condemn him. Guilty? Guilty! Condemn him.”
It was the twenty-third door on the left that was quiet, and by it sat a guard - a blonde blue-eyed girl, maybe ten years old, and dressed in pink gingham, and carrying a leather-bound edition of the psalms. Although now that he came to look again, he could see that she was a large Samoan women, graceful, and staggeringly beautiful, and wearing a Japanese kimono. “Please, Mr T.,” she said. “Please go in. You’re late, you know.”
“I’m sorry,” said Henry. “I didn’t know I had an appointment.”