Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thanks, gracefully

And I'd like to take this occasion to thank everyone for...

Well, no. There's too much joy and happiness in this world for such self-puffery.

?, you say? Surely it's not self-puffery to thank someone?

And again I say well, no. But it is self-puffery to start your thanks by telling everyone what YOU want to do. All you're doing is telling people that your part of the show is all about you, and not about the bridegroom / dead uncle / graduating son / retiring worker. And to state your intentions, or desire, without actually doing anything to fulfil that desire.

I've run our of fingers and toes to count the number of times I've heard that self-important phrase "I'd like to thanks....". At wedding, christenings, funerals, leaving parties, graduations, redundency meetings, political rallies, farewells to Prime Ministers and Presidents... someone always gets up on their hind legs, flashes an ingratiating smile at the audience, and says "Well, first up I'd like to thank (NAME HERE) for his / her (ACTIVITY HERE)." Then they spend another fifteen minutes or so burbling on, without actually getting around to directly saying thanks.To anyone. It's nice to know you'd LIKE TO thank someone, Bubbaloo: how about just saying it?

"First up, thanks to Alice, who's done a magnificent job of baking all the apple pies for tonight's hoe-down... "

Oops. You've done it. Actually thanked someone, instead of telling them you'd like to thank them, but you ain't gonna.

I'd like to go for a trip on the Space Shuttle, own a Moto Guzzi and a Morgan, and have Barack Obama around for a meal. Sure, I'd like to do all those things, but it's not going to happen.

Next time you're asked to propose a toast to the bridesmaids, or bury an aunty... don't tell the assembled guests what you'd like to do. Just do it.

READING: "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom. It starts with some promise, but I have this queasy feeling that the sugar's about to be piled on. We'll see.

LISTENING TO: Gillian Welch, "Soul Journey". Remarkable.

WORD OF THE DAY: Thanks. Just do it.

Henry carries on....

So long, It’s Been Good to Know you.
There have been a number of Henry Talbots. Not squadrons: more a smattering. But in a town the size of Northridge, an unbroken 130 year run is notable. And, in Northridge’s tidy cemetery, they lie in a tidy line, all tidily dead and mouldering, except for the third Henry, who is ashes.
The Henrys were not universally tidy. Indeed, the very first Henry was a scrofulous rogue, but that another story. What we need to look at now is how this column of Henrys left this world. After all, when you have a series of them born and dying, then you’re setting a precedent, if not a tradition: one which our Henry is all too mindful of.
Henry the First was, as has been indicated, a bit of a larrikin. He suffered horribly from psoriasis, a skin-shedding disease loosely related to leprosy. He was, however, lucky enough to have old Joe McTavish’s charming daughter Rachel fall in love with him, and they wed at the Northridge Presbyterian church. Henry wasn’t a member of the congregation, but as Rachel was gravely gravid, this was overlooked. The second Henry, born a scant two months after the wedding, was to never know the first. He was also to never to know his Mother: she died, poor darling, giving birth, but not before insisting the child should be named Henry Talbot, after his poor, dear, dead daddy.
The downfall of the initial H. was a complex series of events, but it boiled down to, well, being boiled. Henry the oneth had decided, after much vigorous scratching of his horrible hide, to investigate the supposed curative powers of the mud-baths in New Zealand’s famous spa, Rotorua. Upon arriving in the sulphurous town, Henry had visited one of its hospitable bars. Upon becoming sodden with the drink, Henry had left the bar, hit the night air, and promptly stumbled into a frothing fumerole. Exit one Henry. Henry the First, boiled.
Henry the Second called himself Henry the Twoth. An uncomfortable word when seen, but when heard, it explains his nick-name: Canine. Well, Canine’s easier to say than bicuspid, especially when one has one or two too many single malt scotches aboard. Canine grew, parentless, under the severe tutelage of his grandparents, the flinty McTavishes. When their beloved, and seduced, daughter Rachel kicked on, the perfect Presbyterian pairing of Dougal and Gwendolyn McT. searched for meaning. These were hard and desperate times: an aging Queen was on the throne, and 12,000 and some miles away the martial bugles were stirring the patriotic blood, and many men and their horses were being shipped across the ocean to deal to the bloody Boer. The South African gold and diamonds needed protecting for the Queen, and old men sent their sons to die for it. So it goes. D & G McT. fell in with an evangelical couple who had heeded their god’s call, and come to New Zealand, seeking coverts to the Latter Day Saint’s cause. The Book of Mormon came to Northbridge, the mourning McTavishes were introduced to it, and their Presbytarianism gave way. The tireless couple then gave their all to build a great church in Northridge. The Church was heavily subscribed by many of the local Maori population and a few of the local pakeha, or European, folk. Henry the Tooth - sorry, Twoth - was raised in the bosom of the Mormon congregation, and, it must be said, he enjoyed a happy and wholesome childhood. It was when whiskers started to appear on his face at the age of thirteen that things started going to the dogs. By this time, of course, many brave young men had died in the silly, and somewhat Boering, business in South Africa, and the world was girding its loins for a quick stoush with the Hun. This event was, however, some years away when our Canine started sprouting both whiskers and an attitude. For one thing, he’d seen the underwear his Grandfather wore for the church. For another, one of his contemporaries, a sixteen year old lad called Norman, had taken a position as doorman at the Northridge Wheel-Tappers and Shunters’ Club. Norman the Mormon Doorman enjoyed his work, but he was, let’s face it, dim. Henry / Canine was far from that, and so, one evening, he went astray. Roaming in the gloaming. He ended up in the Sandwich Isles, where he found employment as a coral-seller’s diver, and fell in love with an exotic woman, dusky of hue, and the proud possessor of some mighty pelvic muscles. And so it was that Henry the third came into this troubled world. While his mother bellowed her birthing agony to the world, several thousand howitzers bellowed their fury over a patch of land called Paschendaele. While he was being bloodily born, nearly a thousand young New Zealand men were busy bloodily dying on a useless piece of shell-torn land, signifying nothing. He grew to be a wild and importunate lad, precociously bright, but destined to become a failure because of the duskiness of his skin. Bummer. His father, the wild and wilful Canine, lived to a grand old age, and died noisily while trying to pass a stool that was more the size of a couch. He was 97 when he died, and it was on the seat of Northridge’s first public toilet that he breathed his last. By this time, of course, his grandson, Henry the fourth was breathing. But let’s take a quick peek at Henry the Third’s life.


  1. Tuesdays with Morrie. Yikes. Get the tissues out!
    Loving your blogs, by the way.
    Did I mention that when I saw you on Sunday? If not, I'd just like to say....
    Aw fuck it.
    Thanks, Al, for your blogs, and for many other things x x

  2. Likewise, I'm sure. So much to say, so little will to say them.