Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sunday Scribbles VI

Shaved my beard off yesterday. I did it because I was going to a TV shoot,and they wanted me clean-shaven. This is the first time in years the whiskers have all hit the floor, and my face feels it belongs to someone else. Actually, it looks as though it belongs to someone else, as well. It's frightened the cats, and bemused the lovely Jenny. My step-son says that I look like Bill ralston, a local media commentator and all 'round witty guy. Writing like him = good, looking like him = not-so-good. Bill's a nice guy, but has a face like the arse end of the moon.

It's an identity thing, really. I hadn't understood just how much I relied on the facial hair as a prop formy persona. I am Allan, bearded guy. It became even more difficult yesterday, when i went to the shoot. The commercialin question is set in the 1860s, so I stripped off my denims and Batman Tee Shirt, and replaced said garments with pantaloons, high boots, linen shirt, cravat, and frock-coat. On my head went a white powdered wig, and high hat. I successfully stripped off all that was me and became a different man. Dressing up is nothing new to me, but replacing my hairy face with this acreage of skin has disturbed my inner calm.

Not that I have ever had much inner calm: this latest decision to give the people who killed that unfortunate child while trying to "cast out devils" has my blood boiling. If I killed someone because I genuinely believed I could drive drunk safely they'd still lock me up. Just becasue it's "religious" and "spiritual" we have to bow down before it ands grovel. Distasteful, superstitious nonsense - and it pisses me off.

I may have a job. After eight minths on the scrapheap, I may have a job. I'll know on Tuesday.

I'm a fan of capitalism, but not a fan of the so-called market-forces. The unregulated market is a social irresponsibility, one that is designed to hurt people. How can we watch that sort of thing in admiration?

LISTENING TO: Marianne Faithfull, "Blazing Away". She is a marvel.

READING: Still on John Gardner's book. Thought I'd figured out whodunnit, but I was wrong. I'm thoroughly enjoying it: a lovely blend of historical drama, spy yarn, and detective murder thriller. The man has a nice, chummy way of writing, too: he enjoys his audience.

WORD OF THE DAY: Exorcism. It's a concept that will, one day, be regarded with curious horror. How, they will ask, could our civilised ancestors have supported such a peculiar belief?


History Never Repeats
What is it that makes a person like Henry? Background has a lot to do with it.
Henry, being a man who prefers the time that’s gone, often thought that history, like time itself, has a fluid consistency. What is true one day will be demonstrably a fallacy the next. Where, in one man’s history, King Alfred was a ditherer, so that self-same ruler of men strides in another’s history as a behemoth and a paragon of destiny and discipline. So it is with Northridge, Henry’s home town.
Northridge nestles fat and smug on a north-facing slope over the banks of New Zealand’s North Island’s longest river. It had first been settled in the late 1840s by one Arthur Ugglesworth and his wife, Agnes. Already in their 30s, Arthur and Agnes cleared a few acres, planted crops, and developed a good working and trading relationship with the local natives. After five hard years of toil, during which Arthur said not one kind word to his wife, she ran off with a local Maori, who was – it must be said – a far more cheerful individual than the dour Arthur. Agnes and Hemi settled a few miles downstream, cleared a few acres, planted crops, and established – wait for it - Southridge. Arthur carried on alone, and assimilated himself into the daily life of the local Maori village, eventually having a full moko, or tattoo, carved into his face. He tended his farm, helped establish a Co-op General Store, a Blacksmith’s shop, a tavern, and a Post Office.
Now, while Southridge also sat on a North-facing slope of the river, it was, in fact, on the opposite bank of the sinuously twisting river. Halfway between the two is The Bridge. On the Northridge side of the river it is identified as the Northsouth Bridge, while on the opposite side the sign clearly names it the Southnorth Bridge.
Crop and dairy farms soon became established over the area, and local tribesmen fought a few battles as they attempted to secure their land in safety from the invading settlers. It is to Arthur Ugglesworth’s eternal credit that he fought against the British soldiery who came to evict the local native landowners, and after falling in battle with a British bayonet snapped between his ribs, his wife Agnes had him buried in Northridge’s small cemetery.
In time, conquest and submission came to the Waikato region, and the haunted hills and valleys rang to the sound of the settlers’ steel axes felling the mighty forests. Northridge grew North along its slope; Southridge grew South. The entire region basked under a benevolent sun for a hundred years and more, with the immigrant population growing fat and sleek on the fruits of the tamed land. The first Henry Talbot came to Northridge in the late 1880s, having made a respectable pile of golden guineas in the gum-digging fields far to the North. He established a general store, and provided a building for the small township’s first bank. He served on the local district council, and eventually took a place of honour in the town’s growing cemetery. His son, Henry Talbot, was a builder, and built the first of the Talbot houses on Talbot Terrace. The cul-de-sac had been named well beforehand, in recognition of the contributions Henry Talbot (pere) had made to the town. As the years rolled by, so a torrent of sequential Henrys lived and worked from the Talbot Terrace property, until, in 1962 our Henry Talbot wriggled, bellowing, into the world. His father, the penultimate Henry, would have been horrified to learn that his son had sired only one male child and had not carried on the naming tradition. Happily, he was already domiciled in the Northridge cemetery by the time Adam was born, and what he didn’t know certainly wasn’t going to hurt him. We say “happily” in the previous sentence not because the gent in question was a philanderer, wife-beater, serial murderer, or had a habit of swiping coins from Sunday’s collection plate, but rather because Henry-The-Last wouldn’t have wanted to upset his Dad. So, ces’t la vie, Henry pere: Henry fils did what he thought was best.
Which is what he always did.

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