Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday Scribbles VII

PAIN: Another beautiful Sunday in Parrot Eyes. Not yet 9, and all is well with the world: the pain I've been experiencing for the past week or so has receded: it'd be good if it'd go away all together. I had a moment of madness when I thought I'd go to the Gym to stretch the limbs, but have decided to take it easy, and see if another day of physical laziness will kill the pain. But tomorrow - I'm off to sweat.

ALL BLACKS: They won. But I didn't watch the match last night. They're just not relevant any more. I never thought I'd write that, but there it is. I didn't miss the match accidentally: I simply didn't think about it. If the NZRFU want me to start caring again, they'd better do something, and do it quickly.

CATS: The neighbour's cats are very cocky, and have been so ever since Spike died. But Jenny's great with the water pistol. She can get two aimed blasts of water on target before the cat can get away. Viva la Senora agua pistolero!

BREAD: I do envy Taranaki residents. They get to eat Yarrow's bread, and they don't have to pay a transporting premium for it. We've now found two local supermarkets that stock Yarrow's: but the price is high: $4.50 a loaf. Worth it, though. Yarrow's is the best bread baked in the North Island. Try some. It'll give you strong white hair and curly teeth. Yum.

VALERIE VILI: if all is equal in the world, Valerie Vili will soon be Dame Val. She's is beyond being a mere phenomenon. Like Bolt, she is an astonishing freak of nature. And, like Beatrice Faumuina, she's a really, really nice person. I have read that Our Val, as she's known in our house, has the potential to become the country's greatest athlete. I doubt, however, that the skinheads and racist dorks of the world will celebrate that.

THE MIND: I watched a small segment of a programme about Galileo last night, which led me to review an ongoing conversation that's been going on at Chez Mathews about thew nature of Mind, and other trivialities. We've been discussing how people can consider things that are unknown. More on that subject at a later date. But last night I considered how Galileo's observations and reasoning led to Newton's considering gravity, which led directly to Einstein's banging on about his Relatives. Great thinking prgresses, I guess. Oppenheimer said that his team at Los Alamos stood on the shoulders of the giants, and he was right. But then, there's the other side of Mind - that petty, destructive, and feral side. The brain is a lump of flesh just over a kilogram in weight (I think): why do some blossom with beauty, and others stagnate into savagery? I'm not convinced by either the nurture or nature arguments, although nurture does hold some sway. Hmm. More thinking, more reading to do.

JENNY'S READING (and finishing) Stephen Hunter's "The 47th Samurai". In Bob Lee Swagger he has created, I think, the great American hero.

I'M LISTENING TO: The Raconteurs, "Broken Boy Soldiers". Mr White Stripes is a genius, too.

READING: "Shadow of the Raven" by David Sunstrand. A great yarn about a National Park worker in the Mojave Desert. While I feel that I'm learning more than I need to know about North America's wild sheep, so far I'm well pleased with the book. I also heartily recommend the Radcliffe book I mentioned a few days ago - "Under an English Heaven". Heart wrenching.

WORD OF THE DAY: Brunch. What a concept. And it's not a recent construct, either: my family were having Sunday Brunch when I was a child. Being that nice construct of Br/eakast and L/unch, it just works. Something I want to see get going is it's partner: Lu/nch Di/nner, or Lunner: a slow, mid-afternoon meal that can be as big as you like, and as lazy as you please. It actually works well.


“Tell you what: it’s a deal, as long as you let me take you for a ride on a motorbike first.”
Adam’s second great love – after all the girls in the world aged between, say, 19 and 25 – was motorbikes, and Henry had always hated and feared them. He hesitated again, then laughed. “What the hell! I’ve got nothing to lose now, have I? Where are we going?”
“Thermopylae, then your Uncle Don’s grave. We’ll be two days.”
And, standing outside the room, shamelessly eavesdropping, and dropping fat tears, was Mary, and she wanted to shout her joy and love for her man and her son, but she stifled the impulse, and swallowed the sob, and stole quietly upstairs, and made a pot of coffee. Later that day the entire household went down to the little fishing village that had squatted in the Aegean sun for centuries, and Gussy nudged Norman and pointed.
In front of them walked her son, flanked by her grandson and her daughter in law Mary, and in his right hand Henry held Mary’s left, while his left hand held Adam’s right.
Go, tell the Spartans, thou that passeth by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
The motorbike was an old red Kawasaki GTR 1000 that Adam had found and bought and tinkered with. It’s a great beast of ill-balanced bitchery, but it had an engine that would never die. Adam, out of deference to his Father‘s uneasiness, kept the speed slow as they hammered at the roads leading to Thermopylae.
Henry had wanted to see this site for years: the story of the battle between the two-thousand strong Grecian Athenian and Spartan companies against the million-man might of Xerxes’ Persians enthralled him. He knew how the Athenians and Spartans had held for two days on this narrow strip of land, and then how Sparta’s King Leonidas had instructed the battered Athenians to retreat and gather a greater army, while he and his surviving 300 Spartans would hold the Persian hordes: hold, and die.
For two days they held. Wave after wave of Xerxes’ troops ran themselves against the Spartan’s spears, and wave after wave of them died. Finally, the Spartans were defeated not by courage – although the Persians had displayed enough courage for a world of victories – but by base treachery. A Greek, Ephialtes, whose name even now is a grave insult in Greece, showed the Persian’s a path which led them behind the tiny Spartan shield-wall. Because of his knavery, the Spartans were surrounded, and utterly destroyed.
There’s an inscription at Thermopylae commemorating the battle:
"Go, tell the Spartans, thou that passeth by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie."
Henry walked the battlefield, stunned by how small it was. He almost imagined he could feel the stickiness of the blood beneath his feet, and smell the sweat and blood and shit and piss and fear and courage of the men who fought here. He marvelled. He felt his own bitter mortality here, where the ghosts of brave men gathered and sang their old soldiers’ songs, their breath rustling the olive trees leaves. He stood under the hot Grecian sun, under this copper bowl of a sky, and tried to understand what it must have been like to stand shoulder to shoulder with men you knew and trusted and loved, and to face certain, almost immediate, death. He could taste the leather armour harness, smell the bronze helms and greaves and swords, the four metre ash spears. Ah, the clash of cutlery, the cut and curse of courage. At the time of their death, he wondered, did they feel warm in their companionship, or did each man die alone, wrapped in his own mystery? He suddenly felt small and defenceless, and very, very scared.

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