Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Samoa's wave.

The common word that's being used in all media reports is "devastation", and when we look upon the faces of the survivors and see the pictures of wrecked homes and lives, we can see that this little island nation truly has been devastated.

I watched, with tears on my cheeks, as a man who has lost 11 family members - ranging in age from a child of just 5 to his father of 98, was interviewed. Such dignity.

Tonga, too, feels the loss. Just weeks after one of their ferries sank, they are hit by further tragedy. Five dead, when compared to Samoa's 120, may seem small pickings. But on top of everything, I can quite easily imagine how this could break the heart and spirit of this small community.

I note that a lot of people are saying they will pray for the survivors. A little late, I should think, for prayer. Surely to goodness people must realise that if prayer actually worked, then no-one would have perished? Their god is worse than toothless. It is powerless, and every day that goes by demonstrates that it is nothing more than a figment of someone's feverish imagination.

So it goes: the astonishing power of nature once again demonstrates how fragile we are, and how we are merely hours away from disaster. I hope we've learned from this. To a degree, I hope we've learned what devastation really is. But I know that come the end of Saturday's football game between two professional rugby league teams, the losing captain will pronounce himself as "gutted", and tens of thousandsof fans will say they're "devastated". Well, they won't be. They'll merely be mildly disappointed. The battered and mourning people people of Samoa are on our tele screens, showing us what devastation really is.

READING: Romanitas, still.

LISTENING TO: Dianne Reeves, "Lovin' You".

WORD OF THE DAY: Dignity. Today, I saw it, in the face of a man who has lost everything.

More Moana:

“We went at it like bunnies, my Colin and me,” Mum told them. Once a day, except for Sundays, when we went for the daily double.”
The kids were silenced. I was glad Useless was in his room. There were things he didn't need to hear. Not yet, anyway.
“Anyway, Wendy love, I've only ever known four men who were worth more than spit. Mr Tomlinson was as good a man as you'll ever find; Colin, my husband; Mr Talbot up the road here; and young Chutty. But I know your Johnno, and I think he might just be a winner.”
'Most people don't think so, Mrs – Nan,” said Wendy. “They look at him and see his tattoo and long hair, and just write him off.”
“Nonsense, girl,” said Mum. “Don't you pay no never mind to those people. They don't know what they're talking about.”
Wendy sat back, looking smug. I looked back into the kitchen, to make sure the pots were staying at a simmer. Treen stood, and came to the other side of the bench, and leaned on it.
And told me something that made me even more determined to make sure that tonight's surprise went well.
“Dad probably won't tell you, Mum, and he asked me not to. So -”
“Spill the beans, girls. What's happened?”
“Dad. He was fierce, today. You know that Jack Stack?”
I had to stop and think for a bit. Then he came to me. A young man, with a real vicious streak in him. Came from a strange family, down by the river. If any part of town could be considered to be the wrong side of the tracks, it was the few streets down by the river. In the winter they rarely managed to get their chimney-pots out of the fog. I nodded to her, telling her to continue.
“Well, me and Dad -”
“Dad and I,” I corrected.
“Well, Dad and I were at at the club, with all dad's mates, and Wiri's grandson Wally, and we were watching the game, and there was some coverage of the protesters there on the tele, and Jack Stack starts yelling out about them, and how they were all stupid, and should all be carted off to prison, and stuff,” she said. I narrowed my eyes. “Dad did that, too! That eye thing. He called out to Jack, telling him to pipe down, that they weren't doing any harm, and they had a few good points to make.”
“Did he indeed,” I said. “Wonders will never cease.”
“And so Jack started yelling at Dad, and Dad went over to his table. I could hear what was being said: and here's what happened....”
The club had three big tele sets, and there was a general hubbub of noise. Most of the people there were men, with only a few women. To be fair, the club was trying to get more women to come down for a drink or a meal, and in time it would happen. They needed the tempering effect women made on men. Treen, Chutty, and a half-dozen others had collected at one of the tables, drinking, and eating chippies and salted peanuts, and enjoying the build-up to the game. On the tele they could see live shots of the protesters at New Plymouth's Bullring, marching and chanting, and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
It was then that Jack Stack started. Jack's a heavy-handed 21 year old, who's always been a bit too tightly wrapped. He favours tight-fitting flannel shirts, ironed to within an inch of their life, and sharply pressed gabardine trousers. He's a hard worker though, and as far as anyone knows he's as honest as the day's long. Just because none of us can find it in ourselves to like the lad doesn't mean he's a bad person.
Jack Stack knew I'd done my protest on Ugglesworth Street, at the Post Office building. Everyone in the village knows it, mainly because we had made the front page of the Northbridge News: two women, motorcycle helmets on, waving placards at the three policemen who'd come on down out of curiosity to see what the fuss was about. So when he started to give a bit of a rant, in a very loud voice, he knew exactly what he was doing: poking a very sharp stick at Tarquin Russel Wrigley, and his daughter Katrina, who were just a couple of tables away.
“These bloody stupid women, trying to tell us what's what, and trying to get us to do as they bloody want. Typical bloody brainless women, probably don't even know what they're protesting about,” and on and on he went, casting sly glances across at Chutty.
Treen told me that her Dad put up with it for five minutes. Then he simply picked up a jug of beer, walked over to Jack Stack, and poured it over his head, saying “Those protesters are trying to make a good point, boy. Them South African's treat their black people like shit. And all of those protesters are showing more bloody courage than you have. So shut the hell up,all right?”
Jack Stack's tirade stopped, the spluttering started, and Jack made a fist. Chutty just stood there, and looked him in the eye. The lad backed off, then stormed out of the club. Warren Peabody, the manager, then came over and told Chutty he'd have to ban him from the club for three hours. He said that he'd be banning Jack Stack for a week, next time he came in.
“Fair enough,” Chutty said.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Grinnin' Bill, and others...

Grinning Bill: The man is making me madder and madder. I seethed at his aristocratic "I was raised there with my 27 siblings, I now own the house, an English has owned the house since 1643, and even though I only see the place three or four times a year, it's my real home and no-one has any right to say otherwise."

Yeah? I have a right, Billy-boy, because it's my money you're claiming with this fantasy. You set out to take advantage of a loop-hole, and now you're trying cheap emotional blackmail. Ain't working, old slime. Dipstick, Otago, is not your primary home. And the fact that you stopped putting your snout in the trough after people like me started bleating doesn't stop you being a pig. And to say that you'd stopped holding your hand out because it was distracting you from your important work... well, up yours. Resign, you patronising, greedy, oaf.

Howard Morrison: Yes, he's dead.He was, for heaven's sake, in his 70s,and ill. Mind you, his family did deserve the big farewell he received. Unfortunately, being dead, he didn't see any of it.

Grlosch. Grolsch. Groloschr.: However you spell it, it you can't pronounce it. Nevertheless, it remains my favourite beer to drink in an electrical storm. Oh look: lightning.

READING: The Good Neighbours, Holly Black and Ted Naifeh. Excellent.

LISTENING TO: Lucinda Williams, "Litttle Honey" Excellenter.

WORD OF THE DAY: Grolosch. Grolsch. Groloshorlshc. Gro... Electric Storm.

More Moana!

His rage was over as quickly as it had appeared. At least – I thought it was.
I poured Chutty a small Scotch, told him to drink up and go and have a shower before dinner. He stunk of cigarette smoke from the club. Treen sat down, and looked at Wendy.
“I told my Dad about what happened, Wendy, but I guess if didn't really prepare him for that black eye, eh.” She said, reaching out to grip Wendy's hand. Tears started tracing a line down Wendy's cheek.
“I never knew,” she said.
“Knew what, dear?” asked Mum.
“What it was like to have a Dad care about you like that.”
“You'll find a nice one, one day,” said Mum. “Not a Dad, but a good mate. Your Johnno'd be a good place to start, love. He reminds me a lot of Colin, my husband.”
“Johnno does?” asked Wendy, surprised. Intrigued, I said nothing, but I readied myself to butt in if need be. Sometimes Mum's little talks can branch off into some really weird areas.
“Yes, dear. I remember when I first saw Colin. He was working at the smithy, for Mr Tomlinson, and I'd taken my Dad's bay mare in to get re-shod. Oh, he was a handsome devil, I can tell you.”
“Mr Tomlinson?” asked Wendy..
“No, you goose! Treen's Grand-dad. Colin.”
“You've never told me about how you met grand-dad, Nan,” said Treen. Mum smiled, and I could see the years rolling back in her mind. I knew the story,of course. And so did Treen. She just wanted to hear it again.
“It was just before the war. Mr Tomlinson ran a service station and blacksmith's shop on Ugglesworth Street, on the square, and Colin worked there after school.”
“Was Tomlinson VC Street named after that Mr Tomlinson, Mum?” I asked. I was humouring her, getting her to stretch out the story. I've worked prompt at the repertory. I know how to get people back on script.
“Why, yes, dear,” Mum said. “He was a war hero, from the First World War. Won the VC, he did. In France. Anyway, I took in Dad's horse, 'cause it had thrown a shoe. And Colin was there, hammering a length of steel, as Mr Tomlinson watched over him. Oh, he was like a Greek god. Colin, I mean. Not Mr Tomlinson. Although he was a good-looker, too. I made sure that I stayed behind while the horse got a new shoe put on, and Colin eventually asked me to the Saturday dance at the school hall. I got to thinking about him before, Wendy, when you were preparing dinner.”
“Did he used to make dinner for you, Mrs -” asked Wendy, interrupting.
“Call me Nan, girl. Everybody does. No, he only ever cooked the odd breakfast. It was the sausages.” Her smile was wicked.
“Mum!” I exclaimed, laughing. I knew where this was going.
“Mum yourself, dear,” she said. “Oh, my Colin had a sausage on him, all right. Mind you, I had to wait until after the war, the second one, to find out about it. We got married after he came back from Italy, and we discovered just how much fun two young and healthy people could have together when the blinds were pulled down.”
Treen and Wendy just sat there, hypnotised. This was such an unexpected turn of conversation. I decided to just let it go: it'd do them good to start to understand that old people know about sex.
“We went at it like bunnies, my Colin and me,” Mum told them. "Once a day, except for Sundays, when we went for the daily double.”

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sunday Scribbles XI

SUN-DAY: And it's a sunny Sunday, indeed. There's the odd fluffy cloud in the sky, providing some happy contrast tp the great yellow ball of fire that's providing warmth and light. It's easy to understand why primitive mankind worshipped the sun. It alsooccurs to me that there's very little christianity in the names of our days and months. There are pagan gods' names (and the pagan gods were a lot more fun than the dour, bigoted, and vicious old war god the christians are so fond of), planet gods, and emperor gods.

RITA ANGUS: Jenny and I are going into town today to take a gander at the Rita Angus exhibition. I've been looking forward to this for some time. For foreign readers: Rita Angus is one of New Zealand's foremost artists. She's dead now (and probably still will be tomorrow) but she didn't have to wait for death before her talent was acclaimed.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT. We'd planned on going to the City by Public Transport. yes, we had intended to leave the Mitsubishi at home, and either taking a bus or the ferry to the city. But no. It was going to cost too much. By car - maybe $3 in petrol, and $8 for parking. Public transport would have set us back $10 each, each way. $40, all up. Sod that.

BILL ENGLISH: His greed knows no bounds. It has been reported that he made a special submission to the handers-out-of-cash at Parliamentary Services for an extra $20 a week for cleaning his home. This, while he was exhorting New Zealanders to tighten their belts. The man gives weasels a bad name, and should resign.

SPEAKING OF WHICH.... Sue Bradford has resigned, because she didn't get the leadership of the Green Party. This sounds petty, and an awful lot like the tossing of toys out of the cot. But she covered it well when interviewed at length on the wireless, and I have to say she's quite probably doing the right thing. A pity, though: she is one of the very few politicians anywhere in the world who shows signs of having, and living by, some principles. The working class, unemployed, and children of New Zealand have all benefitted by her presence in the House. Cheers, Sue, and thanks for your service and honesty.

DYING: A dear friend of a dear frind is dying, and she is at his side while he approaches one of the greatest challenges anyone can face. Go well, Gillian. We also received a call this week from my sister-in-law, who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It occurs to me that I am now old enough to have my contemporaries die. Bummer.

THE LETTERMAN SHOW: I still haven't decided on whether our Prime Minister made an arse of himself by doing stand-up comedy on a cheap and nasty little talk show in the States. Where's the dignity, John?

READING: "The Hunting Party", Enki Bilal.

LISTENING TO: Moody Blues, "To Our Children's Children's Childen". It sort of still holds up, maybe.

WORD OF THE DAY: Disgrace. As in "Bill English is a disgrace".

More "Quiet Woman":

All we needed to do now was cook the veges, and that would be that.

Chapter Four.
By the time Treen and her father arrived home, it was nearly dark. I could hear their laughter as they got out of the car, and – happily – I heard a clink of bottles. I'd spent a bit of the intervening time decorating the room: I had party streamers up, and found a few balloons left over from Useless' last birthday party. He'd supplied the puff, and I'd hung them up.
The door crashed open, and Treen and Chutty – carrying a large plastic bag of very welcome bottles of Lindauer and beer - followed a blizzard of words into the kitchen.
Then Chutty saw Wendy, and the room grew still.
I've known Chutty Wrigley for twenty years, and I had never, up to that point, seen him angry. He is the most even-tempered person I've ever known, but that evening, when he saw Wendy, he grew still, and I could see something in his eyes that chilled me to the bone. It was pure rage. His face was pale, and his hands shook.
“Christ, Wendy,” he said. The sound of his voice sucked all the air from the room. “What piece of shit did that to you? Jesus, Treen, I didn't know it was like this. Why didn't you tell me?” His voice trailed away, and he brought himself under control. “Just give me the word, Wendy. I'll take care of the prick who hurt you.”
Sometimes he impresses me, that man of mine. If this was his reaction at seeing a relative stranger who'd been hurt, I wondered what he'd be like if someone belted me, or one of the kids. I decided then that it would be better that we shouldn't ever know.
“It's all right, Mr Wrigley. Honest.” Said Wendy. “Don't worry about it. Mrs W's taken good care of me. Katrina, too.” She looked down, then back up at him. “And Mr Wrigley? Thanks for not asking if it was Johnno.”
“ 'Course it wasn't Johnno. Blind Freddy'd know that. Hello, Ma,” he said to Mum, and kissed her cheek. His rage was over as quickly as it had appeared. At least – I thought it was.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

There's a dim-bulb in Northland

Jam. Making it is not rocket science, but the food fairies in Whangarei have come down on a charity shop run by and for the local hospice. Seems the hospice has been selling home-made home preserves - jams and pickles - that weren't made in a special kitchen. The Regulators have decreed that if you're preparing food to sell, it must be made in a seperate kitchen. So, the jams and pickles are off the shelf. A pity, because the hospice was clearing a solid 15 grand a year from them.

Now, if I were to buy a pot of home-made jam from a charity shop (something I've done many a time) I understand that it's been made by someone's granny who's been making jam for 900 years, and who knows how to sterilise a jar. And if a bug gets in, well, I knew it was home made. That's the risk you take with home-made food. Actually, I eat home prepared food every day, and yes, it will probably kill me. Something's got to, after all.

This is, as they say, petty bureaucracy gone stoopid. Everyone who buys that damn' jam will know its provenance. And I really don't want some shiney-bum with a clip board telling me what common sense is.

Marmite. The world is split into four main people-groups: Them as what eat Vegemite, them as what eat Marmite, them as what don't particularly care for either, and crazy Norwegians, who eat pickled herrings. Actually, they may pickle them at home, under dangerous conditions, so they can't be sold to raise money for the local seal hospital. Who knows? Who cares? The only thing that is for real and damn' sure is that the TV commercial for Marmite is, quite possible, the best TV ciommercial I've seen in the past year. Bravo.

Marmosets. These are strange creatures from a strange country that probably isn't Alaska, although it is hard to think of a stranger place than Alaska. And I've just realised I've made the rather startling claim that Alaska's a country, which I am sure will be news to anyone who lives there. But the point about marmosets ( and pink iguanas, which have just been discovered, appropriately enough, on the Galapagos Islands) is that they wouldn't, shouldn't, and couldn't exist except for evolution. It's good to keep these things in mind in the year we celebrate Darwin's 200th birthday. Here's looking at you, old chap. But let's not forget Wallace, who was coming to the same conclusions at the same time, and who graciously bowed to Darwin's greater scholarship.

Thursdays. I am pretty sure that best day of the week is Thursday. One: there's no-one named Thursday that I can easily think of (Tuesday Weld, Wossname Mundy the killer, Joe Friday, Man Friday, and I'm sure if I really concentrated I could come up with a Wednesday... Yes! The startling woman who had a parrot named Pavarotti. It'll come to me...) And two: It's the day before Friday. I get to spend Friday selecting books for a gazillion people who can't get out of their house. Hell, some of them can't get out of bed. I've sold one of my customers on John Connolly, which has to be a good thing.

Reading: Not John Connolly, although he's publishing another kid's book. Read about it here: The Gates . Gosh - I think I've made a linky thing. No, I'm reading a Hellraiser comic book, and Sophia McDougall's "Romanitas". It's my third attempt: wish me luck.

Listening to: Led Zeppelin, "Mothersip". And I don't feel old at all.

Word of the day: Jam. Make it. Eat it. Allow charity shops to sell it.

More Moana!

“She can't read, you know,” said Mum.
“I thought we'd had this conversation, Mum. She's a teacher at kindy,” I said, as gently as I could. Mum gave me a withering look, and wagged a finger. “Not Lady Diana,” she said. “Wendy. She can't read. Got something wrong with her brain, and can't see words straight.”
“That's what it is.” she agreed, nodding. “Now, what say I mix up a batch of ginger crunch while Wendy's doing the dinner?”
“Oh, Mum, would you? That'd be marvelous.” It looked as though I was going to Princess my way out of doing any work at all for my special night. I went out to the garden, to help Wendy.
I found out a little later that when she had to room to herself, Mum grabbed the phone, dialed the Vicarage, and made some arrangements of her own.
Within minutes, it seemed, the kitchen was a-bustle with activity. Mum mixing and measuring, Wendy frying, peeling, and slicing. And sure as eggs are ovum, Russel came in to see what the smells were all about.
“There's nothing I like to see more than women, hard at work in the kitchen,” he grinned. See what I mean? Useless. Wendy turned around to see who was talking, and I heard his jaw hit the ground. “Crikey, Wendy! Who did that to you? Was it Johnno?”
“No, it wasn't Johnno. Why does everyone want to blame Johnno?He'd never do this sort of thing.” She was close to tears again, and I waved at Russel, hoping that he'd tone down the smart-arse comments.
“Sorry, Wendy.” He sounded genuinely contrite. “But who was it? Jeez. Are you all right? Sorry. Silly question.” He was starting to trip over his tongue, so I interrupted.
“We found Wendy a little earlier, Useless. She's OK, and she doesn't want to talk about it. She's going to stay with us tonight, and help us out with the party.”
He shrugged, accepting that there were things a 15 year old didn't need to know, and grabbed himself a can of Coke from the fridge. I was itching to know about the game, but didn't dare ask. I was really conflicted about the whole thing. I was genuinely and passionately opposed to the tour, but I still wanted to know how well our teams were doing against the Springboks. And today's match was a special one: Taranaki was a team that Chutty followed with a passion – he had been born in Hawera - and he made sure that we were all supporters as well. If the Taranaki team ever came to Hamilton, just up the river a bit, we'd be the locals who were cheering for the visitors. None of us expected the Taranaki boys to beat the 'Boks, but we hoped we wouldn't be thrashed. And I also hoped against hope that the protesters had managed to really disrupt proceedings.
By the time 4.30 rolled around, we were pretty well set. The curry was gently simmering, and sending the most delicious aromas around the house, all the vegetables were peeled and prepared, and Mum's ginger crunch was cooling on a wire rack. I put the coffee-maker on, broke out the sherry for Mum and green ginger wine for me, and we all relaxed, chattering like magpies. All we needed to do now was cook the veges, and that would be that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday's Tritenesses

Energy. That's what it's all about. This sitting down to get one thing a day written - even just a simple blat on my blog - requires a dialy commitment of energy.
And, frankly, the past few days I've felt that my energy would be better oput into being astonishingly lazy. So, I've missed my daily blog. Actually, lazy isn't what I'd call myslef on weekdays: this job of mine is making demands on me that I never thought possible... but the rewards certainly outpace the demands.

OLD. Don't let me get old and dependant. I'm dealing with a varying bunch of old folk every day. All of them are dependant to one degree or another: they are, after all, housebound. They're the blind, the lame, the halt, the derelict of our society. And what a brilliantly diverse bunch they are. I shared some time with a stone-blind pianist and artist today: what a vibrant woman, Strong and powerful. I also spent a few minutes with a bedraggled alcoholic South African lady who is probably the last apologist Vorster's apartheid has in the world. I've spent time with those in their last few days in hospices and hospitals, I've seen those in nasty little Old folks Homes, and nattered with them in very flash gated communities. I won't mind being physically buggered as long as I retain my independence: I dread being brought to the stage of having someone else wipe my arse.

Myself. What is it with this word? So many people are saying "myself" when what they should be saying is "I" or "me". I hear them on the tele, on the radio, and in casual conversation. "Michael and myself went to Brisbane for the weekend..." "I've always thought that magenta suits myself. What do you think?" I think that you need to learn to spikka da English, asshole.

Words. A couple of people have made the same point to me recently: why use a $5 word when a 10 cent one will do just as well? Well, 10 cent words don't carry the precision or power of $5 words, that's why. I'd rather use one $5 word to make a point than twenty 10 cent words.

Sweat: It was a hot day today, and very busy. I sweated like the proverbail pig - a statement that's always made me wonder: do pigs really sweat heavily?

Anyway. I came home, finally, at around 6.45 - and I'd only had two cups of tea to drink all day. I was as dry, as they say, as a dead dingoe's donger. So what did i reach for? A 50/50 split of lemonade and orange juice. Perhaps i'm getting old already....

Kia kaha, folks!

Reading:Dunno.Ireally can't remember.

Listening to: John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. Shit, they were great!

Word of the Day: sweat. Don't sweat the small stuff. Actually, don't sweat the big stuff, either.

More Moana!

“Off you go, Treen. We'll see you when you get back. There's no hurry, the wedding doesn't start 'til real late. As long as you're back by 5.30, OK?”“OK, Mum,” she said. She gave me a kiss, and rushed off to the laundry. I heard Gentle Annie start up, then Treen calling to her Father.
Mum was sitting at the table, a vision in Lavender and purple, with a river of blue eye shadow glaring out at the world. She spread some jam onto a cheese scone, and took a bite.
“She can't read, you know,” she said.
“What's that, Mum? Who can't read?”
“That Diana Spencer, who's marrying our Charlie. I hear she's still going to kindergarten. Talk about cradle robbing,” she muttered, darkly.
“She teaches kindergarten, Mum. She doesn't go there to learn, she teaches. Anyway, there's something I need to talk to you about. I'm planning a surprise for Chutty.” I was worrying whether I could rely on her today, but I didn't have any option. We had Wendy to look after, and a lot to organise. I started to tell her what I had planned, when Russel burst in, carrying a load of clothes.
“Joan got us all sorted, Mum. I got this for Dad, this for Treen, and this one for me. Hello, Nan, how 're you?” All this came out in a rush, and he kissed his grandmother's cheek.
“You're a good boy, Russel,” she said. “So much like my Colin, you are.”
“Good oh, Nan.” He'd heard it a million times.
He went through, and dropped everything onto my bed, then wandered into his own bedroom to turn on the old TV set he had in there. He'd liberated it from the rubbish tip just out of town, and repaired it himself. It cost him $7 and change, and two hours of time.
It had a better picture than the TV we had in the slop room, and I occasionally went to Russel's room to watch if there was a movie on that no-one else wanted to watch.
I carried on telling Mum my plans, and Wendy came in from the bathroom, looking pink and scrubbed. Treen's clothing was a little loose on Wendy, but she looked comfortable enough. She was entranced at the plans I had, and asked if she could stay.
“We'll need to tell your Mum, dear,” I said. “In case she worries.”
“Oh, she won't worry, Mrs W. She's gone across to Napier with Tony.”
Tony, I guessed, was the new boyfriend. “In that case, love, you're welcome. In fact, I'll put you to work. Can you cook curried sausages as well as your Mum can?”
Mandy Millar's curried sausages were famous in Northridge. If there was ever a bit of a “ladies a plate” do on down at the school, everyone in town hoped that Mandy Millar would turn up with a big bowl of her curried bangers.
“I can do 'em better than Mum, Mrs W.”
This was great news. If there was ever a meal that Chutty Wrigley liked, it was curried sausages. “Well, hop to it, then. There's no time like the present.” By golly, I can organise people when I can see it'll save me a job. Wendy looked for the ingredients, and asked about carrots. “There's a few ready down at the far end of the vege patch,” I told her, and she went out to get them.
“She can't read, you know,” said Mum.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Grinnin' Bill

It’s hard to be completely sure about a lot of things. Is cheese made from bits of the moon? If so, is it fresher when the moon sets in the country, over a dairy farm? Why is pink? Or, if it comes to it, Pink? Who was it that suggested that sports players and commentators might be proof of intelligent life? And can Grinnin’ Bill English really be really real?

When the question was asked about Grinnin’ Bill English’s moral stature, why is it that no one has actually pressed the issue… or, indeed, has gotten all mad and steaming under the collar over this weasel’s prevarication and obfuscation? Just because something carries the stamp of legality does not mean it shines with moral turpitude.

English and his family have lived in Wellington since 1996. They live in Wellington, school their children in Wellington, pay rates in Wellington, eat, breathe, and fart in Wellington. At least for nine months of every year. Yet Grinnin’ Bill says, without a tremor in his voice, that his primary home is somewhere in the harshest latitudes of the Deep South.He makes this claim because of another one: the claim he can make on the public purse for the away-from-home living expenses.

Let’s be straight about this: he does not live away from home. He lives in Wellington, with his family, for the vast majority of the year. He has used the loophole to scratch some extra money from your wallet into his wallet. He’s a dissembler, a liar, a foulness on the body politic. And Key is backing him up, although he does at least refuse to suggest that English has been acting morally. He is kept busy using the “meets the legal requirements” argument.

That ain’t good enough, Johnny-boy. Fire English’s unworthy ass, and send him to the home he claims to live in, in Otago. And then let’s forget about this worm.

READING: The Littell book’s finished: I heartily recommend it to anyone who needs to have their brain exercised. I’m reading purely for leisure this weekend, and will start with one of Peter O’Donnell’s excellent Modesty Blaise yarns, “The Night of Morningstar”. Modesty Blaise is the shemale version of James Bond, but with wit, intelligence, and a complete lack of sadism and misogyny. Would have made better movies too, because there’s no way in the world Roger Moore could have played Modesty Blaise.

LISTENING TO: Jeff Buckley, “Sketches for my sweetheart the drunk”.

WORD OF THE DAY: Weary. It’s been a long, hard week.


Someone had taken to her, and recently. She wouldn't tell us who.
“Treen love, could you go and start a bath running? And Mum, if you'd pop the kettle on, I think a good hot cup of tea will do us all the world of good.”
“OK, Mum,” said Treen. She left the slop-room, and in a moment I heard the bath taps start. The cold one's always had a bit of a whine in it, and chattered a bit if it wasn't turned up hard enough.
I glared at my mother. “Mum? Kettle?”
She looked a bit dazed, which is understandable. Northbridge is a quiet little town, and everyone knows everyone else's business. Treen and I had buzzed of down to St Crispin's to pick Mum up, and found her at the lych-gate, on her knees, next to Wendy, who was weeping. Wendy, as they say, came from the wrong side of the tracks, although as the train ran around Northbridge, we were all on the same side of them. Wendy's mum was a bit of a hard-case, a woman who liked a drink a bit too much, and had enjoyed a succession of men through her front room. She had a good heart, though, and didn't do anyone any harm. Wendy was her only child, and had more or less raised herself. She was a few years older than Treen, and had worked at the sock factory since leaving school the moment she turned fifteen.
Mum started at the sound of my voice, and got up, muttering something. I paid her no attention. Mum is always muttering something, and some days none of it seems to make sense. Today was one of those days. She got up to put the kettle on.
“Now, Wendy, love. Tell who did this to you, dear. I won't tell anyone if you don't want me too. Was it Johnno?” Johnno is Wendy's boyfriend, a young man who always looked a bit rough around the edges.
“No, Mrs W, it wasn't Johnno. Ouch!” I'd just wiped a bit of mercurochrome onto the wound on her elbow. Stings like the devil.
“'Course it wasn't Johnno,” snapped Mum. “He's a good boy, he is.”
I peeled the backing plastic off a piece of Elastoplast, and did my best to pinch the edges of the wound together as I taped it. Treen came back into the room, with some clothes. “Here you go, Wendy,” she said. “I reckon we've got to get those clothes off you, and into the wash. Your Mum'll have kittens if you turn up up all bloody and bruised.” She showed Wendy the clothes – just a couple of blouses, a pair of jeans, and a sweater. There are moments when I know my daughter is, quite simply, the best daughter anyone could wish for. Wendy burst into tears, and Treen helped her up, hugged her, then took her to the bathroom. Mum poured the tea, and I took a cup into the bathroom. Wendy was sitting on the toilet, lid down, and watching as Treen busied herself at the bath, pouring in a few bath-salts, and some bubble bath.
“Here you go, love. You get yourself wrapped around that, have a nice long soak, then we'll see what needs to be done,” I told her. She pulled a hanky out of her sleeve, blew her nose, and said “Thanks, Mrs Wrigley.”
I went back out into the slop room, and looked up Wendy's mum, Mandy, in the phone book, and called. No answer.
“Right then,” I said.”We'll try again in half an hour, and if there's still no answer, I suppose we'll have ourselves a guest for the Wedding.”
Treen came out, carrying Wendy's bloody sweatshirt and jeans. She looked worried, and said “That's a nasty beating, Mum. Do you reckon it was Johnno? I asked Wendy, but she said it wasn't.”
“She told me the same thing too, love. Look, you go off to the club with your Dad, and have a bit of fun. You're probably running a bit late, now: kick-off's in ten minutes. You leave Wendy to me and your Nan, all right?” I knew that Mum and I would get to the bottom of this whole catastrophe somehow, but first I wanted a few moments alone with her. “Off you go, Treen. We'll see you when you get back. There's no hurry, the wedding doesn't start 'til real late. As long as you're back by 5.30, OK?”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What chance

Portents and signs. I saw a flying pig today, and wondered what it meant for me. What strange and oddly terrible thing would happen today that would have me saying "Whaaaat?"

Well, it's this: I agree with Michael Laws. And, actually, I'm allowed an opinion on the proposed spelling change for the fair and wonderful ex-city of W(h)anganui. I was born there, and spent a few of my formative years there. There are several generations of the Mathews family buried there, fertilising the already fecund soil.

Whether it be Whanganui or Wanganui, one thing's for sure: neither of them are culturally correct or incorrect. The Maori had no written language, so the spelling was always only a fair shot at a phonetic... sorry, whonetic.... interpretation of what the pommy bastard was listening to when he wrote it down. And let's acknowledge this small whact: he was probably pissed anyway. Off.. oops, let's make that owh... his face. Damn. Whace.

What... damn. I'd like to know the circumstances that led a pommy bastard to decide that the "w-h" spelling gave the "f" sound? Who... sorry. That reads as foo, now. The pommy person that made that decision was surely a whuck whace. There is a very old word in English (see below)that carries that spelling and pronunciation. But that word was out of use by the time the whirst pommy bastards came to this whair land. We have a plentitude of spellings that give us an "eff" sound: There's the f, oddly enough. There's the "gh" in enough. There's "ph" as in Phantom, or ghost who walks. There was no whucking "wh".

The "wh" spelling, as in "what" and "where" was pronounced with a slight whooshing sound. You blow through your lips to make it. So Tariana's pronunciation is good, and is what the iwi use. But if the spelling's changed to Whanganui, then what will happen is this: in two weeks people will be doing exactly as the dim-bulbed TV reporter did, and start talking about Fonganui. Which is culturally and whonetically and spellingly a total whuck-up.

Maybe someone will see sense. Yeah. What chance.

LISTENING TO: Ben Harper, "The Will To Live".

READING: No change. No time. Sob. I'm a librarian with no time to read.

WORD OF THE DAY; Wherry. yes, it's a small boat that took Naval officers from the banks of the River Temes (the original spelling of Thames. Oops. Which is culturally... ah, whuck it) to their ships. It's the fore-runner of the ferry, which (not fitch - that's something else) took peopleon longer sea trips.

MORE MOANA! (Well, Chutty, anyway).

He chewed on his sandwich a moment, then continued. “You know, Treen: in some ways I've regretted marrying your Mum.”
“Oh, Dad – no!” She started to panic.
“Oh, nothing like that,” he reassured her. “Don't you worry about that. No, it's just that -” he was embarrassed, and looked into his mug before taking a mouthful of tea. “It's just that your Mum's so bloody clever. You know, the way she plays those word games with you and Useless, and how she's studying for her Master's now, and me, well I'm just a glorified labourer. You know, I often wonder if she couldn't have done better for herself. Met and married some academic or something, instead of sticking around and being the wife of a ditch-digger.”
“I'm sure Mum doesn't think that, Dad. Anyway, you're a businessman, not just a ditch-digger.”
“Yeah, right: but did you hear what you just said? Not just a ditch-digger? Ditch-diggers don't have the greatest reputation for being smart, do we?” He's got a mind like a razor, that man of mine.
“I didn't mean it like that, Dad. I meant that Mum doesn't look at you as though you're just a labourer, no matter how important and honest labouring for a living might be.”
“Oh, no, you're right there. I know that. I mean - I know she's happy, and she couldn't love you and me any more than she does, but still, sometimes I wonder what her life would have been like if she'd married a guy who had bookshelves full of history books, and wore corduroy trousers. At least you'll have a chance to do that, sweetheart.”
He started suddenly, as though someone had just walked over his grave. “Anyway, enough of that. Let's get cleaned up here and look at getting out of here. The game starts in just over an hour.”
Treen stood, slowly. She suddenly felt a lot older than she had when she got our of bed that morning. “OK, Dad. Then me and Mum are going to pick up Nan from the Church.”
“Speaking of your Mum – do you know what she's up to? I went to go and see her in the spare room, and she went spare at me, telling me to bugger off or it'll ruin the surprise. And sending Russel on some secret mission: it's all very mysterious.”
“Dunno, Dad. She's got a bee in her bonnet about something. Anyway, let's get tidied up.”
See what I mean? Thick as thieves, the pair of them. Shortly afterwards, Treen knocked at the spare room's door, and called out to me that we should go and get Nan now, and that was when the day really started getting interesting.

Chapter Three

“Hold still, Wendy. I know this is going to sting.”
“Sorright, Mrs Wrigley.”
It was a nasty little cut on her elbow. It gaped open, and I thought it should be closed with a couple of stitches, but little Wendy Millar was adamant that no one should be called. She had the beginnings of a good shiner starting under her left eye, and her lip was swollen. Someone had taken to her, and recently.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cancer, Croce, and Cakapo*

Cakapo: a deliberate mis-spelling, just to maintain the eye-appeal of the capital Cs.

Patrick Swayze is dead, and the world is probably a lesser place because of it. He was an OK actor who could smoulder... and he danced like an angel. It's perhaps more accurate to call him a dancer who occasionally acted. He was an environmentalist before it became fashionable, and, it seems, a man who didn't feel the need to put a sticker in his car window about his emotional relationships. This is probably because if you do it, you don't have to boast about it. He probably was a bit of a promise-keeper, too. He died of pancreatic cancer, which is a particularly nasty one, and the lazy journalists once again jumped on the "died after a two-year battle with cancer" line. His official statement was far more truthful: he faced the challenges of the cancer. He didn't battle it. In fact, it made him angry and fearful. I do hate it when perfectly good people who do their best to die with a little dignity and nobility are demaned by that lazy catch-cry, but what can you do?

At least the god-awful "going forward" dribble is being forcefully, and hilariously, attacked. Let's celebrate the politician or rugby knothead who can get through a press conference without uttering the words "going forward".

Croce: I was listening to a CD of Jim Croce's best in the car this evening as I came home from another day's very rewarding work. I have a new short story from it, asnd must get onto it. But I was mainly struck by how strongly I was reminded of how it felt to be in love in my 20s. His music is very evocative of that time, and I could almost feel and taste the whole emotional roller-coasters I experienced at that time. It was sublime. If I were to pick music that carried the same internal symbolism of my love for Jenny, I think I'd be looking at Neil Young, and his Harvest Moon album. Actually, I think I'll put that on now.

Time has passed. Yep, Neil Young, Harvest Moon. I'll have a toon from that - probably "Such a Woman", or "Dreaming Man" - at my funeral, along with Jethro Tull's "Too Old To Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die", and Blood Sweat and Tears "And When I Die".

Saw a thing on Campbell Live this evening, re the Kakapo at the Auckland Zoo. I don't care how much we spend on out bird preservation and conservation schmemes, it's worth every penny, and more. I know the bill comes to the tens of millions. It should be hundredsof millions.

READING: No change. No time to read, and the Littell book is Big. Oh - I am dipping into a book of short "Hellboy" stories. Not comic book: actual words all connected together, and sorted into lines and everything. It's great!
LISTENING: Well, I've already told you. Pay attention.
WORD OF THE DAY: Oleagenous. Because.


“W. A. S. Wait And See. I have a plan,” I said, “and I will not allow my plans to be interfered with by meddling husbands who should know better.”
“Well, how long will I have to wait, then?”
“You'll find out after the game.”
“OK,” he said. Then he came up to me, put his arms around me, and kissed my neck. I told him to bugger off, then went to the loo to have a quiet, soft cry.
The day progressed, as days do. I gave a list to Useless, and got him to go around to see Joan, the costume lady at the local repertory. Then I went to the spare room to do some sewing work. It was while I was there that Treen and Chutty got together to make some lunch, and have a chat. Obviously, I wasn't there to hear the conversation, but Chutty told me about it the next day, and I had to laugh. Here's my version of what was said, reconstructed from what they've both told me. Oddly enough, I heard two wildly divergent stories.
“Fancy some chutney of your sandwich, Dad?”
“Yeah, too right love. Ta.”
Treen was making a couple of corned beef sandwiches for herself and her Father. They tried to make some time each week when they could be on their own and have a chat, and this was this week's time. I was in the spare room, sewing, and Useless was off at the local repertory, running an important errand for me.
“So, Dad. Are you going to wear that grotty old John Deere tee shirt to the Club, or are you going to get changed?”
He sighed. For the past god knows how long he'd had his Mum and me trying to direct his sartorial well-being, and now his daughter was adding her voice to the mix. “I was thinking of wearing my Taranaki jersey, if that's all right with you,”he said, with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“Goody!” she said. “I'll wear mine, too. Only.. Do you think it makes my bum look -”
He interrupted her before she could finish the sentence. “Hang on, love. There's a couple of things you have to learn. First – have you made my sandwich? Good. Ta. Now, listen to me.”
“Speak, oh wise and all-knowing Father, and I shall listen.” She settled down to much at her corned beef and chutney sandwich, and waited for her Dad to carry on.
“By crikey, your Nan knows how to make a good chutney, doesn't she? Now: you were about to ask me if your bum looked big when you wear that footy jersey, weren't you?”
“Yes.” She confirmed his suspicion.
“Now, look, love. You're seventeen now. That means your mum and I have been married what, just over 14 years?”
“Fourteen years, four months. And some days.”
“Crikey,” he laughed. “You probably know everyone's birthday, too. Anyway. In all that time your Mum's never asked me if I thought her bum was too big, or whether this or that colour suited her. Now, you're going to going off the Varsity soon, and that means you'll probably, well,you know, hook up with some bright young fellow.”
It was her turn to interrupt, now. “It's not as though I haven't been kissed, Dad.”
“Eh? Bloody hell. That's a thought. Anyway. There's a couple or three things I reckon you should never ask your boyfriend – or husband, when the time comes.”
“Two things I should never ask? Are there things he should never ask me?”
“Three things, and yeah, probably. When the time comes I'll have a word in his ear about that, too. Anyway: the first thing you should never ask a man is what you were about to ask me: does my bum look big in this? He can only answer in one of two ways. By telling you a porky, which you don't want... or by telling you the truth, which you may not like. If it does make your bum look big, and he says no, you'll be annoyed. If it does, and he says yes, then you'll be annoyed. Poor bugger hasn't got a chance.
“The next thing you shouldn't do is ask him what colour he reckons anything should be. The only reason our kitchen didn't get re-done ten years ago is because your Mum asked me what colour I wanted, and she didn't believe me when I told her I wanted a red one – and she never actually understood that I didn't actually give a big rat's bum what colour it was.”
Treen was laughing by now, and wiped her eyes, and asked her Dad what the third thing was.
“OK, now this is probably the most important thing of all: always operate on the suspicion that your boyfriend or husband doesn't have a clue about anything. That way you can't go wrong. Mostly because it'll be true.”
She looked at him seriously. He had a pensive, faraway look in his eyes, a look that made her shiver a bit. “So, just to clear it up,” she said, “I never ask him if I look fat in anything, never ask him about colours, and always think he's a bit thick. That it?”
“Yeah. You've got it. You know, with you going to Varsity, you're going to meet all sorts of chaps. Bright buggers with beards and scarves and duffel coats and interesting conversation. But underneath, when it comes to women they're all as dumb as a bag of hammers.” He chewed on his sandwich a moment, then continued. “You know, Treen: in some ways I've regretted marrying your Mum.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Promissory Notes

To go along with my rant the other day about the chap who found it necessary to have a car-sticker proclaiming his love for his wife, I was also intrigued by something else I saw while on the road.

The road’s a funny place. I’m out and about a few streets these days, and I do perceive that our quiet suburbia is, in fact, a seething cauldron of frustration, small ambitions, and despair.
The sign that I saw was a reflection of all the above. It was an exhortation to men who were “promise keepers” to come to a meeting to proclaim their unity in being godly chaps who kept their word to their spouses.

I’m always tempted to write “spice” instead of “spouses”. The rodent example, of course, but I do feel that every relationship could do with a bit more spice in it.

On topic, now. Promise-keepers. My heart fell when I saw the sign, more because someone has seen the need to remind men that they need to behave as though their word is their bond. It should, of course, go without saying. But why men? Why not… men and women? My understanding is that the divorce rate has been sitting at around 50% for some time now: decades, certainly. And I cannot believe that men are the cause of all that grief. I know for a fact that women cheat on their partners, almost as much as men cheat on theirs.

Society as a whole is doing its best to beat sexism to death. It’s a big job, but it has to happen. But let's not forget that it's a two-lane highway. The god-botherers are the ones hitting at the men these days: a nasty, small-minded result of taking on the mantle of guilt from the sexual and feminist revolutions. Yes, men have / had a lot to answer for. Our behaviour, looked at in today’s light, was appalling. But I think it’s about time we stopped paying for the sins of our fathers, and of our own pasts. It’s time we stopped holding one half of society up as a Nasty Bad Baddy, and started looking at what we can all do together.

People should be “promise keepers”. Not just men.

READING: The Jonathan Littell book. It’s very good, and very disturbing.
LISTENING TO: Damien Rice, “9”. Many thanks to Phil O’Neill, a true gentleman, who introduced me to this startling music-maker.

More Moana, yay!

There were two world-shaking events happening that day: the Spingboks were playing Taranaki, and the heir to the throne, Charles, the Prince of Wales, was marrying Diana Spencer.
I picked up the phone, called Mum, and told her I could take her Pledging, after all. She was thrilled, and had completely forgotten about our falling out. When I got off the phone I found that Treen had made arrangements with her father to go to the Club with him. I gave her The Look, too. And watched it fall to the floor, totally disarmed and destroyed.
Then I thought. And hatched a plan. The Wedding Party was going to be a little bigger than I had immediately imagined. This was going to be a day to remember.

Chapter Three.
There were still a couple of hours of morning left,so I got busy. I nipped out and took Mum to the Church, promising to pick her up in a couple of hours. She was good, although I'm not sure she hadn't been at the sherry before putting on her make-up. She looked like a cheap copy of Barbara Cartland – which, given that BC is Diana Spencer's god-mother seemed right for the day. I told Mum my Big Plan, and she was terribly excited about it, insisting she had to be there. And no, I didn't tell her about the pregnancy. I wanted the father to know before her, just this once.
When I got home I whipped up a batch of cheese scones, and muttered quiet “bugger” or two to myself because the Self Help supermarket was a: in Kaweka, and b: closed. It was a Saturday, after all. And I needed dates. Never mind. I got Treen to run down to the dairy and buy a pound, then I got her to make a sticky-date pudding. I hooked a dozen or so sausages out of the freezer, and set them aside to thaw.
I know that this all sounds like I was some sort of domestic goddess, but I wasn't then, and I'm not now. All four of us took turns cooking, washing, and we all pitch in to clean the house - and the D9 bulldozer. Let's face it, they both cost about the same. Also, at the time, I was doing some long-distance study, trying to get my Master's degree. It took me four hard years, but I got it.
While the heat was on in the kitchen, Chutty and Useless were down the back of the yard, pruning the apple and apricot trees. There's just a half dozen trees, so it was less than an hour's work, and Chutty was cheerful when he came in to the Kitchen. He threw himself at the Lazy Boy chair, and grinned at me. “So, Mo: what's the Big Secret, then?”
“What do you mean, Big Secret?” Ours is a family that regularly and often talks in Capital Letters. You can see them, like smoke, when we have a conversation. It's more apparent on debate night – sorry, Debate Night. Debate Night's a bit of a movable feast. It depends entirely on what other obligations we have as a family, and as individuals. At least once every fortnight we get together over the dinner table to, well, to talk. The rules are simple: every one of us is to bring at least one topic to the table, the discussion on each topic to last no more than twenty minutes, and each person's opinions and questions are to be treated seriously. If any one of us doesn't have an opinion, she or he can pass. Simple. Through Debate Night we've learned more about ourselves, self-respect, respect for others, and the world than just about anything else we do together.
I'm the one who's been to University. I'm supposedly the one who has been taught to think. Debate Night was Chutty's idea, which gives you an indication about where the brains and wisdom reside in our home.
Chutty grinned his grin at me, and I felt that warm glow at the pit of my belly. He's still got it. I don't do flustered very well. Never have, and certainly not then. “Has that boy been opening his mouth when he shouldn't?” I asked, sweetly. A carnation plant next door withered with the vinegar in my voice. Chutty remained blasé. “Not only Useless, but Treen, too. Said you had something important to tell me. So, come on. Give.” He was having fun here. He had me backed into a corner, and he knew it. I made my eyes little slits, and glared at him through my lashes. My mind froze,completely. Nothing was working. I had tried everything, My arsenal was empty. For a moment, I was tempted to just come out with it, but, frankly, I had laid my plans, and I was going to stick to them.
“It's a surprise,” I said.
“I gathered that,” he replied. Damn.
“And surprises,” I said, desperately ad libbing, “are best delivered when the surpriser dictates, not the surprisee.”
“And what the hell does that mean?” he asked. Fair enough. Now I had to think of an answer.
“WAS,” I said. Such wit.
“W. A. S. Wait And See. I have a plan,” I said, “and I will not allow my plans to be interfered with by meddling husbands who should know better.”
“Well, how long will I have to wait, then?”

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sunday Scribbles X

Well, It's been a week. There have been many occasions in the past when I would get to 5pm Friday, put my work aside, and then wonder exactly what I'd done with the preceding five days. Those days are, I fancy, over. It's hard work that I do, far more physical than I'd imagined (a box of books is a heavy thing, and I'm pickin' them up and puttin' them down an awful lot on each and every day) and the simple fact of driving a large white van artound tight suburban streets requires a bit of endurance as well. But the rewards are out of sight. There's the people I work with (and they're a really trerrific bunch of people) and the people I work for: deeply appreciative of anything that done for them. Brilliant.

Lucky. It's a word I'm hearing a lot, these day. Mainly, it seems, from older people who have, or have had, difficult lives. It's refreshing to come from an environment where people feel deprived if they don't have the latest iPod or baffling techno-geewhiz device to a place where people feel genuinely lucky simply because someone drops by every few weeks with a couple of dozen books for them to read. Is their attitude nobility? I think it comes close. It certainly has had me thinking about the virtues of humility.

Genius: It's a well-hackneyed word, and grossly over-used. Rugby players are given the appelation, as are TV game shows hosts. Obviously, the word is duumb hyperbole in those instances, but there are times when it can be applied: not necessarily to an individual, but to an act. Each one of us is capable of doing something so sublimely inspired that it can be very correctly described as genius, even though we may be the furthest thing from a genius ourselves. There is, apparently, a yard-stick for genius: to score in the top 1% of the 3 standard IQ tests 3 times over a period of 3 months. There's not many people who can do it: I might nail one or two of those tests, but certainly not all 9. There was a good article on Slate that got me thinking: I'd recommend you read it.

Films seen: Well, nothing in the past week, although Jenny and I did see "Coco" with our friends from over the bridge a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't too excited by the prospect of seeing it, but ended up loving it. Mind you, when a movie features Audrey Tatou (name speling?) it's going to be good: she is the most luminous of actors.

READING: "The Kindly Ones", by Jonathan Littell. It's been described a s a latter-day "War and Peace" and it's weight certainly lends credence to that claim. However, having read the first 100 of 900 pages, I'm inclined to agree.

LISTENING TO: Bob Dylan, "Modern Times." Sigh. Another genius. Let's face it, he did change the face of modern music.

WORD OF THE DAY: Sacrifice.


“All right, you two,” I said. “I was going to tell your father first, but I haven't found the right moment yet.”
“Tell Dad what, Mum?” Treen, looking instantly worried.
“Look,” I said. “You've got to keep it to yourselves until I speak to your Father. Promise?”
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” said Useless.
“And may my corpse be left out in the open for blowflies and rats to eat,” continued Treen.
“And green pus to ooze from sores all over my body,” said Useless.
“And my bum to fall off and be turned into a boat for boogeymen,” finished Treen. It's their usual oath: one they made up when they were small. Actually, they're still small. I felt like weeping.
“OK. It's like this,” I was nervous. Suddenly, I was a schoolgirl again, confessing to my Mum. “I think I'm pregnant.”

Chapter Two.
I found out at that moment just how deafening absolute silence can be. I swear it took them five minutes to lift their jaws off the floor and say something.
“Pregnant?” squawked Useless. “Like – you're going to have a baby?”
“Well, I can see the biology lessons at school haven't gone astray,” I said, dryly.
Treen's reaction was short, and sharp: “That dirty old man!” Then she laughed. “Really, Mum? Really? Pregnant?” I think she was both thrilled at the thought of a baby, and shocked that her Mum and Dad still did it. Little does she know.
“Really, yes. I haven't been to the doctor yet, but I'm pretty sure. Now, remember: don't tell your Dad. Mum's the word?”
“Mum's the word, all right!” said Russel. Humour, from a 15 year old. “This is neat. If it's a boy I can teach him how to play footy.”
“Be a good idea if you learned how to play it first, wouldn't it?” asked his sister. “Can you even remember the last time you won a game?”
“We win our fair share of matches,” replied Russel, defending his manhood.
“You haven't won enough matches to light a fire,” she shot back.
“All right you two, that's enough,” I said. “And remember: your Dad isn't to be told.”
“Told what?” said Chutty, from the back door. He has a way of sneaking up on a girl, that man does. Mind you, I think I did the sneaking up on him, which is how I got this way.
“Eh? Oh – nothing, sweetheart. Just a little surprise I've got organised up for later this afternoon,” I stuttered. He didn't seem to notice that I was prevaricating.
“This afternoon? Hope it's not too early. I want to head down to the Club and watch the footy with Frank, Towser, and Wiri,” he said.
“Tarquin Russel Wrigley, you are not to go and watch the footy. Not after my protests!” I snapped.
The previous Saturday, I'd been down on the main street, outside the Post Office – which is the closest thing we've got to a Public Service building – protesting against the Tour. I'd taken Chutty's crash helmet, and a big placard saying “Have a HART!” and me and Sandra Westmere stayed outside the NZPO for the two hours of the game, shouting out our support for the anti-tour people. OK, it was only two people. But we did something. Why the NZPO? It's the closest thing Northbridge has to a Public Service office.
“Quiet, woman,” he said, with that grin of his. “You can protest all you like, and I'll do what I think is OK. And I think that it's just a game of footy, and it's a game I want to see.”
“But haven't you thought about all the things I've said, and everything John Minto said, and -” I was spluttering by now.
“I reckon Minto's as big a ratbag as Piggy Muldoon is, Moana,” he said. “I just want to watch a game of footy. The Springboks have made no fuss about Maoris or anything, have they?”
“As long as they're confined to serving the beer and polishing the Springboks' boots, no,” I retorted.
“Look – Wiri's coming down the club to see the game. You don't get any more Maori than him, and he doesn't mind, does he?”
I gave him The Look, but it bounced off. What's the point of having a secret weapon, if the Bloody Man Is Too Bloody Thick-Skinned? It's not fair.
“Look,” he said. “If it'll make you feel better, you can go and protest again. This time you may not outnumber the cops. After all, Barry is actually at the game.”
Barry's the local cop, and our next-door neighbour. He gets more done with a sock-full of dried peas than a horde of psychologists and councilors will ever do.
“All right then,” I said, defeated. “You go to the Club. I'm going to -” Then, inspiration struck. “I'm going to get a Wedding Party ready!”
There were two world-shaking events happening that day: the Spingboks were playing Taranaki, and the heir to the throne, Charles, the Prince of Wales, was marrying Diana Spencer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Love My Wife

I was driving home this evening. It had been a hard day, and I was trying to keep what few wits I possess about me.

I looked at a car srtopped beside me at the lights: was it a Ford or a Holden? Couldn't decide. It might have been a Mitsubishi. It pulled away ahead of me: it was a VW Passat, which means it could have also been a Skoda. Sigh. Gone are the day when you you could identify a car by its shape. Whoops! What that our VW/Holden/Ford/Mitsubishi/Skoda owner has in his window? A sticker! Saying... "I Love My Wife".

Oh dear. I should take a note of the number plate. Call my cynical, but I have this depressing feeling that the only men who feel the need to have a sticker in their rear window proclaiming their love for their wives will fall in to one of four camps:

1: They'll be serial killers.

2: They'll be wife-beaters.

3: They'll be christians - and therefore legally insane.

4: They'll be hen-pecked, brow-beaten, submissive, and sit down when they piss.

Why? Well, it's the public statement. Sorry all you serial killing, wife-beating, christian milquetoasts: but a man who really loves his wife is quite content for her to know it, and for his kids to take comfort in it. He doesn't really need to boost his own self-image by shoving strangers' noses in his emotional life. Men who sit in numbers 1, 2,or 3 are trying to disguise their contempt for their wives in particular, and women in general. Chaps who are settled in category four are in fear of their wives, and are grateful when she allows him to have sex on his birthday. I know this, because I used to live there. No more.

LISTENING TO: Jimi Hendrix, "Are You Experienced?" My brain is leaking frommy eardrums.

READING: A Batman comic.

WORD OF THE DAY: Hypocrite. Like the men who drive around with stickers in their windows.


It vibrates. We’ve put that feature to good use a couple of times, too.
The phone rang. It's a thing that phones do, and I answered it. It was my Mum, wanting to know if I could take her into town later that morning.
“Sorry, Mum. I don't know if I can. Chutty's got the ute, he's off to Kaweka this morning on a job, and I think young Russco's going to be off in the Mitsi to footy.” I said.
“OK love,” she replied. “It's just that I've got to get to St John's to do some pledging.”
Mum goes to St. John's every second Saturday, and polishes the pews and arranges the flowers. She calls it doing her pledging, because she uses half a can of lemon Pledge every time she does it. It's no wonder people are staying away from Church these days.
“Have you seen the doctor about your angina, Mum?”
“I'm not about to let that doctor start fossicking around down there, thank you very much. And don't you dare talk about my, my, parts like that,” she said, sounding like a pissed-off wasp, then hung up.
I put the receiver back on the hook, feeling flat. Mum takes umbrage at the slightest thing, and I'm in the dog-box until she forgets about it. Fortunately, that takes about seven minutes these days. I can't help but think that – apart from her heart problems – she's starting to shows signs of Alzheimer's.
“Mum?” said my daughter. “Didn't you just say that Russco'd be taking the Mitsi to footy?”
“Yes,” I said, thinking about Mum.
“But weren't we talking about how they've got a bye this week?”
“Shit,” I said. “And here's me thinking your Nan's got old-timers' disease. Oh – and don't talk to her about her angina, 'cause she thinks you're talking about her vagina.”
The door from the hallways opened while I was saying this, and Russel came in, scratching his bum. “Whose vagina, Mum?” he said.
“Your Nan's,” I told him. He went pale, said there were other mental images he'd rather have, then asked about breakfast. At least that was something I'd got right that morning.
“Bacon's just gone under the grill. Be another five minutes or so.” I said, looking under the grill. “Give your father a call, would you, Useless?” Russco went to the kitchen door, opened it and bellowed for his Dad. I hear a “Righto, son” coming from the general direction of the workshop, and put the eggs on.
Breakfast was its usual chaos. Tea and toast and cereal and eggs everywhere, and seven different conversations going at once. I sat there and watched the three of them, and felt the lump in my throat thickening. I can't imagine how I got so lucky. And how lucky I was right now. Or at least I was hoping that I was lucky right now. Things could go all to custard if I wasn't careful. It's nice to get the four of us around the table: Chutty, Treen, Useless, and me. I'm Moana, daughter of Hinemoa and Colin Treloar. You'll gedt to meet my Mum soon.
Chutty went back out to play around with the Caterpillar's hydraulics after breakfast, so I got Useless to help me with the dishes. We worked in silence for a couple of minutes, me washing, him drying. I felt him standing behind me, and looking hard at me.
“All right, Mum. Give. What's up?” He's a month off sixteen, and he sounds so much like a man at times. As to the up-ness of what, it's something I don't want to talk about right now. Not 'til I've spoken to Chutty, anyway. I'll do it this afternoon. Promise.
“Eh? What's up? With me? Nothing.” I'm nothing if not direct.
“Treen!” he shouted. “Can you come in here a minute?”
“Coming,” she shouted from the bathroom. “I'm just cleaning my teeth.”
“Wiping her bum, more like,” muttered Useless.
“Now, now,” I said. “If she says she's cleaning her teeth, then she's cleaning -” I heard the toilet flush. “Then she's probably wiping her bum.” I laughed as I finished the sentence. Treen came in to the slop room, asking “What's up, Russco?” Sometimes my family has too many nicknames. Russco, Useless, Treen, Curls, Chutty. And Chutty's been in the habit of not only saying “Quiet, woman,” to me when we're arguing, but calling me Quiet Woman, too. He reckons it's like the Aussies. They'll call a red-haired man “Blue”, and a short man they'll immediately call “Lofty”. So he calls me Quiet Woman. What that says about his opinion of me I – we'll, I'll just keep quiet about it.
“Time to play tag team, Treen,” says Russel. “Something's up with Mum, and she isn't saying.” Sometimes I regret teaching them that it's always better to talk about things than it is to bottle them up. My Dad was one of those men who kept a stiff upper lip, and never complained. He was riddled with cancer before he first complained of having a slight belly-ache. The Doctor, whose name, for heaven's sake, is Know, reckons he would have been all right if he'd started grizzling when the pain first hit. Anyway, I could see there was no way I was going to bluff my way out of this, so I took a deep breath, checked to make sure Chutty was in the workshop, and owned up.
“All right, you two,” I said. “I was going to tell your father first, but I haven't found the right moment yet.”

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I met a little old lady the other day (my life, for a short while anyway, is going to consist of meeting a large number of little old ladies. And little old men, too.) who told me a story that absolutely rocked my socks.

She's a housebound individual. She's mobile, but only just. She depends to a huge degree on the good offices of other people coming to deliver her the bits and pieces sxhe needs for a comfortable and reasonably fulfilling life.

I bring her the reading material she needs to keep the brain ticking over.

A few days before I visited her, her televisioon set gave up the ghost. It died. It futzed out, went on the fritz, FUBARd itself, broken died, gone to the great Coro Street in the sky.

The day it died, the woman from her pharmacist arrived, with her monthly delivery of medication. Housebound people use drugs far more than you spotty teenagers, let me tell you! Anyway. The LOL (little old lady, munchins: not Laugh Out Loud.) told her friendly pusher the problem, and showed her the Harvey Norman that had co-incidentally come that day.... The dealer went straight to the local Harvey Norman, bought a tele on her own Mastercard, and had them deliver it.

Naturally, the LOL paid the Good Sam back immediately... but that wasn't the point. The point was simply that the Good Sam had decided to just go out and do it - and she hadn't asked to be repaid.

People are good.

READING: Brent Gherlfi's “Volk's Game". Russian crime. Uber-violent.
LISTENING TO: Blondie's Greatest Hits. I used to know a man who had been told to Faar Cough by Debbie Harry. Ah, such is fame....
WORD OF THE DAY: Samaritan. Just do it.

MORE Quiet Woman.

“No, he won’t. Didn’t he tell you? The coach has benched him today. He’s not playing. Given him the day off.”
“Oh. Oh, yes. He did mention it last night.”
The Coach of Russell’s footy team’s changed recently. It used to be that big joker up the road, Henry Talbot, but they’ve gone off somewhere. Rumour is that he’s crook, which would be a shame: they're good people. I like her. No pretensions, no BS. And I don’t know what it is she does to gardens, but I swear my roses perk up when she wanders in for a cuppa. Anyway, Henry passed the Mantle of Coach to Chutty, who can be a bit of a tartar. But more about that later.
I like my kitchen. Nothing too flash. Well, there’s nothing that’s too flash in the whole Wrigley household. I put my foot down a couple of years ago, though, and had it re-modelled. It’s a galley-style kitchen, which I really like. I’m surrounded by bench space. The end of the U shape is exactly 2.8 metres across, and 2.9 high: and that’s my pantry. I store everything in there, from the pots and pans and toaster and electric jug and cake-mixer and cups, saucers, plates and whatnot to the cornflakes, Thai sauces, and spuds. And all the rest of the food that’s not in the fridges or freezer. Along one of the sticks of the U, the one that faces the outside wall, is a bench. Miles of it: 3.4 metres. Under it is my dishwasher, small fridge, and some open shelves where I keep, well, stuff. The other stick of the U, another 3.4 metres, faces the breakfast nook, and I can see into our living cum dining cum slopping-about room, as well. Colours? Sensible greys and yellows. This side of the U has a small splash-back, as that’s where my double sink, with kitchen-pig, is. And more shelves, and another under-bench fridge, and a freezer.
From here I rule my roost. The living cum – look, we call it the slop room, so I’ll just keep on with that nomenclature, all right? The slop room is big. It has the big table and chairs, bookshelves along the internal wall, fireplace, stereo, tele, a couple of couches and Chutty’s La-z-Boy chair. It vibrates. We’ve put that feature to good use a couple of times, too.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sunday Scribbles IX

The Flying Wing. I snaffled something from the Library on Friday: "Eagle Annual: The Best of the 1950s comic." Very cool. Featuring,of course, Dan Dare. Why hasn't anybody made a Dan Dare movie? The Mekon is a thoroughly satisfying villain. Anyway. Featured was a series they used to do- the cutaway explanations of how things work. Steam engines, flor mills, you name it. And if you named the Flying Wing, you'd be with me. A few weeks ago I'd been reading a recent Popular Mechanics, which had an article about a Flying Wing passenger craft. Makes sense: instead of having a wing support a long, wide, tube filled with people, make the wing massive, and put the people into it. Forget the fuselage - make the entire aircraft a lifting device. The recent article banged on about how many more people could be transported more economically, etcetera. Radical! Modern! Until I saw the same thing propounded in the 1950s Eagle. Seems the idea's been around for 50 years: why hasn't anyone built the damn' thing yet?

But: I'm fond of Dear Prudence, a regular feature on Slate magazine, an American on-line magazine. The questions are heartfelt, and the answers often wise and erudite. But it strikes me that a good 80% of them start of "I'm married / seeing a wonderful guy. He's warm, witty, loving, funny, handsome, and a great lover. But...' Now, I know that men don't feel as comfortable airing their concerns about their emotional and sexual partners as women do. I think it's about time we did. The ladies, it seems, are happy telling the world they want perfection in their partner. They want a man who has everything, and flosses as well. Is it that we men aren't as fussy, or are more forgiving of the little peccadilloes that make up an individual? I really don't know.

Incidentally: One of the rare "Dear Prudence" manly questions came from a chap who didn't phrase his question with a "but"... he was asking about the sanitary habits of women. Namely, in the bra-wearing department. His lady apparently wore her bra for seven days running before chnaging it. he wondered whether this was normal. The answer came "Yes, it is. a lady's bra doesn't get as grubby or sweaty as a man's underpants do, so it'll still be clean and fresh even after five days. Well, pretty well every woman I've ever known has changed her bra on a daily basis. I know that's not a truly representative selection - but even so, I do get the feeling that - provinding Prudence was accurate in her review of American women's laundry habits - NZ women are maybe a little more hygienic than their sisters in the States.

READING: The Librarian. Good value.

LISTENING TO: Clair Martin, "Perfect Alibi". Sublime.

WORD OF THE DAY: Basterd. Yes, Jenny and I are going to the movies, to see Tarantino's badly spelled movie.

It took me two years to do my degree up in Auckland, and I did far too many drugs and shagged too many faceless men and listened to too much crap before coming back home to Northridge.
And in that time Chutty had worked his buns off and started his own business. Twenty three years old, and he employed three men, and owned four bloody great huge yellow pieces of machinery and he was a by god and by gravy contractor. Well, the bank owned everything, but Chutty never put a foot wrong.
He’d bought a house on Talbot Terrace – worst house on a pretty average street – and was doing it up. The first rooms he’d done were the kids’ rooms.
Treen’s room was done up in pinks and lemons, and little bunny rabbits. Russell’s room was all footy posters and Chutty’s old league jersey on the wall, and when I finally came home and saw it I sneered and crushed a cigarette butt into the carpet and Mum slapped my face.
It was the best thing she could have ever done.
Treen’s hair is an unmanageable black curly mess, like her Dad’s. Her eyes are bright blue, like her Dad’s. She can swear a blue streak, like her Dad. She’s stocky, like her Dad, and has an irrepressible sense of humour – like her Dad. She is, I swear, the greatest kid that anyone could ever hope to know.
Chutty and I often lie in bed at night, holding each other, holding hands, holding hope, and talking about the kids. He disagrees with me about Treen. He reckons Russell’s the greatest kid anyone could ever hope to know. I often wonder whether he’s over compensating, but then I see the pair of them, under the bonnet of some old clapped-out old car that Russell’s found, or some old motorbike that Chutty’s resurrected from the back of a barn somewhere, and I wonder about nature and nurture.
Frankly, Russell’s natural Father’s a dick, and wouldn’t know a mineral oil from a synthetic one. He wouldn’t even know which hole you poured the oil into.
Back to Treen: like me, she’s been a precocious student. She’s breezed through everything, gaining good marks at whatever she’s taken on. She loves playing word games, and reckons she’ll get one over me one of these days.
Fat chance.
She has no idea what’s coming up later on today. That’s something that’ll rattle her dags, I can tell you.
So, here she is: a bright, cheerful, over-achieving kid. As Chutty says, “Where did we go wrong?” And I really don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it. Christ, if she’d given me half the trouble I gave my Mum, I’d be in my coffin by now.
“Mum,” she says, as she comes through the door. “There’s a basic flaw in your thinking today.”
“Oh, yes?”
“You’re up and out of bed early and you’ve gotten me and Russco up, and you’ve cooked our breakfasts, and I think you’ve even made our lunches.”
“Yes – all that shows that I’m a caring and sharing and loving Mum, who you don’t deserve. What’s your point, kiddo?”
“Well, it’s this: what day is it?” She says it with a grin, and I know I’m in trouble.
“What do you mean, ‘what day is it?’” I’m the queen of the snappy comeback.
“Mu-um! It’s not even a school-day! It’s Saturday, and I wanted to lie-in.”
Saturday. Well, this demands a bit of a rethink. I thought the programme on the radio sounded a bit odd. But when you’re a wee bit distracted, sometimes you make tiny mistakes.
“Mum?” She’s sounding worried, and I look at her. She puts a hand up to my face, and it comes away wet. “Mum? You all right?”
“I’m sorry, dear. It’s nothing. I’m just a little doo-lally today, that’s all. Look – sorry. I don’t know where my head was at.”
She gives me The Look, which we both know means “don’t bullshit me, lady” but nods her acceptance.
“Look, you can still get Useless up anyway. He’ll have footy today, and –‘
“No, he won’t. Didn’t he tell you? The coach has benched him today. He’s not playing. Given him the day off.”
“Oh. Oh, yes. He did mention it last night.”

Friday, September 4, 2009

Is it racist?

I've been struggling with this thought for some time now. I think most people will agree that New Zealand has a mild strain of racism running through its psyche. I think that if we're honest with ourselves, and ask ourselves the qurestion, we'll find that we're just as capable of having an unguarded racist thought as any white-hooded KKK bum.

So, perhaps I'm a little sensitive. But I can't help but wonder about Westpac's newish ad campaign. Is it racist, or is it just plain dumb? It is definitely the latter: they have a manager of the bank who's too dense to put his dick away before doing up his zip. The same man is so frigging stupid as to engage in all sorts of childish behaviours - blowing bubbles as he's doing the dishes, giving his outboard motor death as he test runs it, and so on.

He doesn't even know how to pick up after himself, and allows himself to be bullied by people who look at him accusingly.

The fact that the man is a Maori may be coincidental. But I can't help but wonder about the discussion around the marketing manager's table when the advertising agency came to him or her, pitching this idea. MM is marketing manager, AW is Agency Wanker.

MM: So, what have you got for me this week, chaps?

AW: We're going to have a Westpac Manager at home, being lectured by his ten-year old kid about environmental concerns. The Westpac Manager will be breaking all the rules, while the kid reads from some greeny magazine.

MM: I love it. It shows Westpac's willing to embrace the new eco ethos. But we need a hook.

AW: Way ahead of you there. We actually have two hooks. One: we're going to make the Westpac a Maori...

MM: Nice. It'll show we're equal opportunity employers, and anyone can rise to the top with Westpac...

AW: And his kid will be white! A pakeha kid! We could use yours - he's about ten, isn't he?

MM: Magic! Little Bartholemew should be on the tele. Now, that's one hook - what's the other.

AW: You'll love this one. The kid follows his Dad around, lecturing him about this and that, and when his Dad's taking a leak, the kid turns off the light. The Dad - we'll call him Hemi - is so flustered that he zips up without putting his cock away, and gets in caught in his zip!

MM: And I thought Jim Carrey was funny. Nothing on you guys. Hilarious! This has legs for Africa... we can follow up with the same limp-dick Dad doing other stupid things, to show we have a sense of humour... that we're willing to laugh at ourselves as we rip off our customers. Brilliant, do it, want it tomorrow.

Well, it may not have gone quite like that, but I'd put dollars to doughnuts I'm not far off.

It may or may not be racist. What it definitely is... is stupid.

LISTENING TO: Jeff Buckley, "Grace". Best cover of Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" ever.

READING: I had to get it: "The Librarian", by Larry Beinhardt.

WORD OF THE DAY: Brother. Mine's pretty magic.

Quiet Woman starts here:

Chapter One.

Everything was well in the Wrigley household. Treen was getting herself ready for school, Russell was buggering about doing whatever he was up to, Chutty was outside swearing at the cell-phone, at the truck, and the bloody weather, and I was where I like to be at this time of the day: in the kitchen.
Four plates on the bench. The first has a piece of toast, lightly buttered, and one poached egg. That’s Russell. After he scoffs that, he’ll be into a bowl of Weet Bix, and a man-sized mug of tea. The second plate’s Treen’s: one slice of toast, lightly buttered, and cut into soldiers, to dip into her boiled egg. She’ll then have two Weet Bix, and a glass of orange. Chutty’s plate has two slices of toast, two poached eggs even though he’ll grizzle, and then his oatmeal’s ready to shove into the micro-wave. Then there’s mine: like Chutty, two eggs on toast. I’ve been hungry the past few days.
Schooldays are always a bit hectic, but if I get up with Chutty, the kids’ll be all right.
“Treen! Come on, you great lump, breakfast’s ready. And throw a glass of water over Useless, would you?”
“Righto Mum,” she calls back. “Be there in a sec’.”
And so she is. She breezes through the door, dressed in her school jumper and a pair of pyjama bottoms. They’re decorated with little yellow bunny rabbits, and she’d be mortified if I told her she looked cute. While we’re doing this introduction thing, we may as well start with Treen. Treen’s my eldest. At 17, she’s not long for this household: she’s passed all her exams and assessments, and is off to Uni next year. She’s not a pretty girl – anyone’ll tell you that. But there’s a strength to her; and earthiness that she gets off her Dad. To me, she’s beautiful. She’s my height, just a little over 5 foot 4, whatever that means in metrics. I’ve got my hand on most of the big metric stuff: litres and kilometers and kilograms and so on, but I still struggle with the little bits, the centimetres, metres, grams. Still, as long as I can still whip up a half-decent sponge cake, I’ll be all right. Anyway, my Treen. By the time I was her age I was shagging my boyfriend, young Tarquin Russell Wrigley, half to death most nights. God, I’m glad she hasn’t taken after her mother in that area. Right little bugger, I was. And when I was only 18, and just starting to show, I told Chutty to bugger off. Me and my Mum went through the usual stuff Mums and daughters go through, and Treen – short for Katrina – was born. Chutty knew about her, and did what I told him to do: he shot through to Australia. I really didn’t want him mooning about wanting to marry me and smothering me. Mind you, he sent me half his pay packet every week. God alone knows how he survived. We kept in touch, of course we did. But I needed to do a lot of growing up.
Which I did by getting myself knocked up again.
Silly little bitch.
Mum was a brick. Never asked about it, never got on my case. Anyway, there I was, under 20, and with two kids. I never saw Russell’s father after I told him the good news, and I can’t say I’m sorry. What I did do was write the longest letter to Chutty. To Tarquin Russell Wrigley. I had already named the baby – a boy - after the man who wasn’t his Dad. Well, not completely. Call a kid Tarquin? I think not! And Chutty, bless him, came back home, and lived with my Mum and the kids while I shot through.
It took me two years to do my degree up in Auckland, and I did far too many drugs and shagged too many faceless men and listened to too much crap before coming back home to Northridge.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Family

I wrote my title yesterday, not knowing what I'd put with it: it's the kind of writing exercise I relish. So - here goes.
The immediate thought is to ramble on about the Kennedy clan, or perhaps that chinless (I can talk) crowd that haunts Buck House, in London. But hell, they're both cliches, and both families deserve to now fade into obscurity.
So - I'll instead burble on about new people, new experiences, and new hopes... a blither that's all wrapped up under the false moustache of my title. I am, of course, referring to My New Job: Access Services Librarian, for the Waitakere City Library.
It's always a thrill meeting new people, and I've been given a rare opportunity of meeting some astonishing people who actually bring the ideas / notions / dreams of a cloistered community to my mind. I was the new guy on the block, and very aware of the fact that I was becoming a part of a very privileged group. My first real confirmation of this thought came when I stepped into the office: a long room, perhaps 50 metres. And the dominant design feature was that fourth great love of my life: bookshelves. Bookshelves filled with books of all kinds. Books, and magazines, and and talking books, and CDs and DVDs. Initially, I felt awkward and lumpen, as though I was a three-legged elephant. However, the feeling quickly passed. I was introduced to people - people who astonished me by their genuine and heartfelt welcome. Yes, that appalling cliche "welcome aboard" was used once or twice, but there was no feeling that I was walking up the Titanic's boarding plank: instead, I was being brought into a well-knit and cohesive group of people who still had room for one more.
They even put on a morning tea for me: sausage rolls, chocolate cake, and that embarrassing two-minute talk about myself. As I blithered to a somewhat dribbly end, someone said "But we'd heard you also wrote.."
Yes, they'd been talking about this strange older chap who was joining their team. And a few of them had checked out my blog, and were complimentary about Henry.
That was yesterday. That was the good.
Today, with the person I'm replacing, I went out to meet a few of our clients: the housebound of the city. The Library staff choose appropriate books for these people, and delivers them: it's an expensive process (that's the bad) but one which the city deems as necessary. Certainly, when I had quick chats with the dozen or so old-timers I met today, I can't argue. It was a privilege. We based ourselves at a branch for the day, away from the head officey-ness of where I'm based. Guess what? They welcomes me, they knew about me, they all have a genuine passion for what they're all doing, and they see my role as being just as vital as their own. So much so that they all gave me the impression that they considered it an honour to help me get to my feet quickly, and continue my / their / our work.
I said to a friend this evening that I was struck by the fact that no-one seemed to have personal agendas, no one seemed to be burdened by a vaulting, overweening, personal ambition. There were no dagger-wielders, looking for a back to plunge their weapons into.
They were, and are, concerned with ensuring that they worked as collaboratively as possible, that we all strove toward a common objective, that we were all seen to serve the people of their city, and beyond.
They are, after all, Librarians. And very proud of it, too.

LISTENING TO: Acoustic Alchemy, "Positive Thinking". One of my favourite shut up and think albums.
READING: Umm... nothing. True. For the first time in a long, long time... and for the briefest of periods... I don't have a bookmarked book. Some Librarian!
WORD OF THE DAY: Gratitude. I don't have to tell you why.

NO MORE HENRY. As from tomorrow: "Quiet Woman".


New challenges, new disciplines.

Change is never easy, but it is always welcome. I find myself in the odd situation, at age 57, of starting a completely new career. I said to Jenny a couple of weeks ago that I really didn't want to write another advertisement in my life: that what I had said inmy interview for the job at the Library was right. I told them that I'd more or less slipped into the business by accident, and soon found myself trapped by it. The fact that I was good at what I did was, I suppose, a benefit for my clients and my various employers. But I simply have no heart for the business any more. In fact, I have become hyper-critical of its products.

AN ASIDE: What in the hell were GJ Gardner Homes thinking when they got the shaven-headed 55-year-old-going-on-12 gay scamp to work as their co-huckster? It wouldn't be so bad if he - or the talent-free zone they have put beside him - was funny. He's not, she's not, they're not. And they don't seem to be able to find an all-Kiwi couple who've built a Gardner home, either. They're either from the RSA or the USA.

Back on topic, now. I'm nervous. I'll be stepping into a new environment, learning an entirely new job, and be expected to perform from day one. Well, I'll expect that: they probably won't.

But damn it all - I'm excited, too. The job's what I want. Working with books: check. Working with book-loving people: check. Talking to people about books: check. All I have to do is learn new stuff, and keep on learning new stuff. And if there's one thing I've always striven to do, no matter where I've been,or who I've been with - I have always tried to learn new stuff. That's why our Pub Quiz team worked so well. That, and the fact that the ever-glorious Fiona Murray filled in the gaps in my knowledge. She could Pub Quiz for the nation, that woman.

AN OTHER ASIDE: INTERESTING BITS. There are about 73 TV commercials on air that are using this vaguely irritating phrase. Guess what, folks? It was mildly amusing, and almost ane, the first time it was used. The second commercial to use it was inane. The bloody breakfast cereal that's pounding my forebrain with "interesting bits" at the moment is driving me into a homicidal rage. It weren't my fault I slaughtered my neighbours, yer onner. It were that bloody TV commercial's interesting bits....

So, back to discipline. I'll need it, over the next few weeks. New job to learn, new blogs to write. I'll be posting my blogs at a different time in the future: at some time in the New Zealand evening. This post, written and put up on Tuesday evening, is going to be counted as tomorrow's... see you Thursday evening.

Kia kaha, fine and gentle folks.

LISTENING TO: Weezer, "Red Album". Nice work.

READING: Jim DeFelice,"Leopards Kill". Hmmm. Don't know yet.

TODAY'S WORD: Tomorrow. It all starts then... on the second day of Spring.


Henry’s bed is a lake of pain. Not, you understand, from the brain tumour. From the lung cancer, which had, by now metastasised through his body. His every nerve dried out for relief, and the small amount of morphine his sneaky wife and sneaky doctor were sneaking into his veins couldn’t cope.
“I am here, mein friend.”
“Can I ask you to stand by Adam for me? Just don’t teach him to smoke those cigars of yours.”
“So, now you wish conditions? It seems to me that you are in no position to bargain.”
“Good on you, mate.”
And Wolf was blessed.
Q: It’ll be soon, I think, Mary.
A: Yes. It’ll be soon.
Henry has been taken from the hospital to the Ugglesworth Hospice. He has a room to himself, and Mary sleeps on a spare bed beside him. Their visitor is with them constantly now, asking his questions, demanding they find their own answers. They both know the voice, they both know the insistence.
“Henry, how are you?”
“Box of fluffy ducks, John, box of birds.”
“Yeah, sorry. Dumb question. Look, there’s something I’ve got to tell you.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve pranged your car again.”
“No, mate. No. Listen - I’m in love.”
“Good on you, brother. Who’s the lucky man?”
Silence. Then: “You know?”
“One of my very best friends was gay, John. It never stopped me loving him. Mary and I have always suspected that you were, but it was something you had to come to terms with.”
“We’re talking about marriage. Well, Civil Union.”
“I only hope you’ll be as happy as I always have been, John-John. Can you adopt? You’d make a great Dad.”
“His name’s Greg.”
“Greg Trelawney?”
“You know him?”
“Not well. But he’s a good person, John.”
Then Henry slept again.
Q: Henry?
A: I’m asleep. Can’t you leave me alone?
Q: Spot’s cool with you.
A: Thanks.
Mary has lost weight. She’s haggard and tired, and Asdam’s worried about her health. Joe Know takes her from Henry’s room, and speaks to her. She flares up and slaps at him, once twice bastard it’s all your fault. And she weeps and sobs, and Adam takes her away for an hour, but she only picks at the food he puts in front of her.
“I can’t do this, Mum. I can’t watch you die too.” And he walks away from her, tears streaking his face.
Q: Mary.
A: Leave me alone, just leave me alone!
The Sybling and Micah are at Henry’s bedside. She is dressed in a wild Hawaiian shirt, and bright yellow slacks. In her shirt pocket is a twisted cheroot, and in her mind is the hug that Wolf gave her.
“Hey, bro’,” says Micah. “Sybil and I are going to do our big trip too.”
“Hope I’m not holding you up,” says Henry, with a grin. “If you want to play cowboy, give my friend Walter Cochrane a call.”
“You reckon he’ll teach me how to fire a six-shooter?” asks Sybil.
“And look at you, Sis! What’s up? You’ve even had a hairdo.”
Sybil’s hair is now an even one centimetre long.
“I guess we’ve learned there’s never enough time,” she confesses.
“Bit of a tyrant, that time, eh.”
Q: How’s the pain?
A: You know something? It’s so intense now I can’t even feel it.
Q: That happens.
A: Wish you could have arranged for it to happen sooner.
Mary is shocked by Adam’s behaviour. And she knows that he’s right. She picks up the giant milkshake, and drinks it, and walks back to the hospice. Adam’s waiting there, in the foyer. She crosses the floor to him, and hugs him.
“Sorry, sweetheart.”
“S’orright, Mum.”
Mary, Adam, and Charlie are with Henry. It’s early evening, and Henry’s lying quietly, apparently asleep. He’s dreadfully thin, having lost at least half his body weight. Mary tells Adam and Charlie about the visitor, and they both come to believe that she’s cracked. But Henry surprises them by speaking up. “She’s right. I don’t know whether we’re sharing some kind of spiritual thing, but I doubt it. I think we’re just asking ourselves if our life together’s been worth while. Whether we’ve done anything right.”
“Yes,’ whispers Charlie. “Yes, it has. And yes. You have.”
And, in room twenty-three, Henry is surprised that the pain has left him, and then, just for the hell of it, and because he can, he stops breathing.
Q: ?
A: !