Wednesday, October 28, 2009
What a collection! One who changed the world by his deep understanding of the cosmos: he summarised it into E=MC2. Every now and then I dig out the book entitled "The Biography of E=MC2" and read it. It's a solid four hour read, and for an instant - no more than 10 seconds - I actually understand the formula. If anything could be likened to knowing the mind of god, then actually understanding E=MC2 would be it.
Using Eistein's equation, a terrible weapon was developed, and Eisenhower authorised its use. The arguments about the morality of the weapon's use are great and varied, and far better minds than mine disagree on the morality of the Atomic Bomb. The citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will / should never forget it. The world should never forget it.
Just as the world should never forget the third member of this trio: Eichman. This is the person who is the embodiment of the truism that there is no need for Satan in our mythology: man can do perfect evil without recourse to any supernatural being.
Three men, contemporaries. One who saw the beauty of the cosmos, one who was driven to use the astonishing power of creation in the most destructive fashion, and one who was, quite simply, evil.
Side by side, on my library shelves.
Listening to: Art Garfunkel, "Angel Clare".
Reading: Still with the Lancaster book.
Word of the Day: Jo. I've never figured out whether my friend Jo is a concept, or a work of art. I hope I come to some sort of understanding before my brain turns to Pea Soup.
“She wouldn’t be the first, Grampa.”
“Dunno as I likes it this year, though. Setting it off when we’re at war and everything. Seems to me that shooting off a cannon’s not right. There are boys dying over there.”
The old man was the town’s only Quaker. Actually, he wasn’t too sure about his Friendly status: his was a Society of one in Northridge, but he stuck to the teachings he’d learnt as a lad, seventy and more years ago. He studied his Bible, his work-roughened fingers scratching across the onion-skin paper as he followed the words. Of late, though, the old man had found reading by the light from candle and oil-lamp difficult, so Arthur had taken the book and read out loud. Coincidentally, the declaration of war had been made within a day of reading the Sermon on the Mount, and the conversation between the two men had been spirited, culminating in both admitting they had no understanding of the biblical passage at all, and quite possibly never would.
But there had been no debate about the most important question: the rightness or otherwise of the war. Both men, young and old, put their faces against the very notion of warfare, and that, they said, was that.
Of course, nothing is ever quite that easy, and further questions had arisen in the nearly three months since the declaration of war in Europe. Already, the idea of conscription was being raised in Wellington, but it seemed that it wouldn’t be adopted as policy for a long while yet: the army was having trouble coping with the number of volunteers that had come boiling out of the small nation’s hinterlands. From boys as young as 14 to men in their 50s, they had come to the Recruiting Offices in their scores, and the Sergeants had a richness of choice. Many had been turned away as being too young or too old. Other had been rejected for medical reasons; short-sightedness, flat feet, rickets. One plucky youngster had made it through the first intake before it was discovered he had a wooden leg.
“If you think setting off the mortar’s a bad idea, Grampa, you should tell her.”
“And feel the edge of her tongue? Not bloody likely, boy.”
They enjoyed an easy relationship, strengthened by mutual respect and love. Their conversation was often punctuated by long periods of silence, as each allowed the other time to formulate and hone their thoughts. The old man’s devotion to the younger man was fierce, but he was equally hard on Arthur, especially if he made a weak argument in the matter before them. Often, either one would act as the devil’s advocate, taking a contrary position simply in order to thoroughly thrash ideas out. The talk around the blast furnace wasn’t the rough men's talk out-of-towners may have expected, for the old man was a disciple of Socrates, and kept a well-thumbed copy of Plato’s “Republic” on the small table beside his easy chair. On any given evening it was a toss-up as to what book he’d pick up first: Plato, or the Bible. Discussions on any given subject could and would ricochet around the workshop for days, often culminating inboth men admitting they'd need to consult with either their own library, or the small thousand-volume public library Old Man Smith, Jayne Francis, and Whetu Ngamoki from down the pa had established at the back of the General Store.
The mortar thumped for the fourth time that evening, and Arthur cleared his throat and asked “Exactly what is a Callithumpian, Grampa?”
“A Callithumpian, boy, is – well, a Callithumpian is –“
“You don’t know, do you?” Arthur grinned, his teeth white in the gloaming.
“No, but I do suspect that it has an awful lot to do with making loud noises, and drinking beer and whisky.” The old man scratched his chin, and continued. “That’s what I think, anyway.”
“Sounds fair. An English thing?”
“American, I believe.”
Monday, October 26, 2009
The Price of Fish. There's a bit of a thing on the wireless and tele right now. Apparently the Teflon-clad commentators have just realised that there's a bit of a rort being visited upon the wallets of the consumers. The average Snapper earns the fisherman $4.20, and earns the "distributor" (read: supermarket) $35.80. Guess who doesn't eat Snapper any more? There are, however, plenty more fish in the ice. And if we stopped buying fish from supermarkets, and bought it from, gosh, fishmongers - the price'd be a lot lower.
Coastline: New Zealand's coastline is, apparently, a little longer than the continental United States of America - excluding Alaska. Actually, if Alaska's going to vote for people like Sarah Palin, then the world should exclude it. Anyway, I digress. If we have such a long shoreline, how come our fish is so expensive? The USA has a few more mouths to feed that we do. Hell, a New York suburb has a few more mouths to feed than we do. And it seems fish is relatively easily obtainable there. And, apparently, they have supermarkets over there. True.
Al Bloody Qaeda. What a bunch of worthless syphalitic savages these murdering morons are. Poisoning the minds of children so they blow themselves up, dying in order to kill for some meaningless god. Actually, of course, the god thing is an irrelevancy as far as the rabid Al Qaeda pi-dogs are concerned. They only use the god story as a disguise to hide their venality. What they want is power, and they don't care how many children they have to kill to gain it. If there was a god, they'd be meaningless smears of blackening, rotting, meat on an Afghani mountainside right now.
Where do they get them? Those peculiarly dull-looking people on those generic TV commercials, I mean. Supposed regular NZers, showing us how to use cling film, or soap powder. They all look loike slightly animated Barbi and Ken dolls. The ones of the pharmacy commercials are little better - and I know and have drunk beer a couple of them (Mark Perry and Anji Foster. Anji may well wish to forget the experience.). But I swear the household products spokespeople are smooth between the navel and the knees.
LISTENING TO: The Killers, "All The Pretty Faces". Cool! Loud! Why has nobody told me about them beforer? Oh... yeah. You did. I allowed myself to be put off by their name... Sigh.
READING: "Keeping It Real", Justina Robson. Hilarious. The woman's beyond clever.
WORD OF THE DAY: Forgive. When it comes to Al Qaeda, don't.
She’d spat into her palm, and held out her hand, and he’d spat in to his own hard palm, and clasped her hand, sealing the agreement.
The mortar had taken him nearly a year to make. It was squat, ugly, and it sat outside the General Store’s front door. After trying to carve the thing out of a billet of solid steel on his lathe, Gerald Smith had turned his thoughts to casting it in bronze. He studied the lost wax method, and set to work. The first two attempts had split – Jayne and Gerald decided that the bronze had been weakened by a small air-bubble. “That’s what be-devilled Napoleon’s gun-makers. It’s to be expected, Miss Francis,” he’d explained.
The third casting was the charm. The barrel was no more than eighteen inches long, and the bore was just wide enough to accept a cricket ball. Smith had offered to make a flint-lock for it, to make the firing of the mortar easier, and Jayne had politely turned him down. So, the touch-hole had been carefully carved and drilled out of the bronze, and a steel choke wedged in. Jayne made her own fuses, from waxed paper, tallow, and diluted gunpowder. She had the formula down pat – it burnt at an even inch per second.
And, every November 5th, for the past thirteen years, Miss Jayne Francis, self-pronounced Callithumpian* and life-long liberal, rolled her little mortar out into the middle of the square, aimed it with precision at the Dog Star, and – surrounded by excited schoolchildren and their bemused parents - had carefully dropped the precisely measured and weighed package of gunpowder down the barrel. Next came a small hoop of twine, and one of her cricket balls, stinking of kerosene and gunpowder. Another coil of twine followed the ball, the whole being solidly tamped down. Then Jayne Francis, spinster, would summons the school’s oldest girl, and show her how to insert the fuse, ramming it into the touch-hole so it pierced the package of gunpowder in the tube. Then the foot-long fuse was lit, and everyone rushed back.
Twelve seconds later the flame reached the charge, which exploded with a surprisingly quiet and flat bang. The cricket ball, spitting flames and sparks was lofted into the air, soaring up to at least fifteen hundred feet (according to the school’s Mathematics, History, English, and Science teacher, who had worked it out with triangles and guesswork) before plunging down into the river, accompanied with cheers, huzzahs, laughter, and applause. Repeat, five more times, with five different school pupils being given the honour of setting the gun off.
Old Man Smith nudged Arthur in the ribs, and said “You know that young Emily Williams there stayed in school an extra year so’s she could get to shoot that thing off?”
“She wouldn’t be the first, Grampa.”
* Being a Calathumpian was easier to be than spell, she’d say, should anyone ask.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
It's a the kind of phrase that looks good, feels good, but utterly disappoints. It is also, by the way, absolutely true.
The problem with it is this: we cannot, as a species or as a group of societies, agree on what constitutes a desirable present, or on how we view the futrure.
The problem with Homo Sapiens is that it is either too sapient, or not sapient enough. There is a cohort of visionary individuals who understand that the future can be full of humanistic freedom for every ndividual, and there are bands of equally inspired people who see the future as one of promise that depends on adherence to various religious rules.
That, of course, is simplistic to the nth degree. In between these two groupings is a vast coterie of groups, equally idealistic, that borrow from both extremes, and in only very rare instances do we agree.
We have been blessed with both imagination and ambition. The trick is combining the two with a realism that understands that we are not alone, that we have an obligation to udnerstand and care for our neighbours, that there is joy in our differences, and that our neighbours are as deserving as us to speak and think freely.
Without tolerance and understanding the present can not be secured. We have an obligation to strike down tyranny where ever we see it: whether it be a schollground bully, a workplace one, or political tyranny, we must see it ended. In free and secular societies we see examples of tyrannical behaviour on a daily basis. Tyranny is despotic and despicable. It allows for no other point of view than the tyrants. Of course, this is religion's backbone: in the worst of the christian congregations no wiggle room is allowable. Many people like to live like this, of course - it allows them to go through their existences without having to either think, make individual decisions, or take responsibility for any of their actions. Brian Tamaki's group is a prime example: with a rigidity of thought and dogma that the medieval catholics would have been proud of, Tamaki rules his flock with a tight fist.
Evil doesn't only thrive in religion, of course. Secular dogma is just as bad, if not worse The filthy ruthlessness of Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zhedong, Castro, Pol Pot, Hussein, the maniacs and murderers of Rwanda, Myanmar, and the Sudan: there was little talk of any god in their ravings. But there was, of course, a desire to have power over others.
Here in sunny New Zealand, as pleasant and green a land as you'll find anywhere on Earth, we lead a priviliged life. Our present is not a bad one, although we do all suffer under the commercial tyrants, and the politicians and media lackeys who serve them. We all serve the hegemony of money, distracted by the price of life, rather than the value or cost of it. We yearn to subjugate ourselves to our banking masters, handing over our independence and freedom to the ownership of property and stuff.
Jenny checked the value of our little rented property the other day. It would sell, so the computer says, for around $500,000. It is not actually worth that. Drop the house in, say, Taupo or Picton, and it would sell for $280,000. It's only because it's in Auckland that that it's price goes up. And while I love Auckland - it is a smashing place to live - I also ujnderstand that living here has actually diminished my standard of living. I'm not complaining. My job compensates for the difference. At the same time,of course, the price of the property dictates the amount of rent my landlaords can charge. They are very reasonable, but their hand is forced by the "market".
Capitalism is not a bad system. It is, howevber, flawed: I doubt that there is a perfect system of wealth-management - mainly because there is such a divergence of opion on what wealth is. But we must have the freedom, as individuals, to examine and debate other systems and to make intelligent decisions regarding our present and future based on open and free discourse. Our present governemnt is being less than honest with us, but then they are probably no worse than their predecessors. However, we must deal with the elephant that's in the room with us now, rather than the one in yesterday's room. I want to see and hear what our masters have to say about the distant future. They have shown themselves incapable of looking more than a year ahead. They have no control or understanding of the future, and refuse to enter into an honest dialogue with us regarding their vision for the future, and it is for this we must damn them as incompetents and also as tyrants.
We must learn to talk. We must learn to listen. We must learn to love.
LISTENING TO: The Moody Blues, "Days of Future Passed". 'nuff said?
READING: Lancaster, still. And I've jujst finished Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter's "Firstborn". That's where I found the quote that led to the rant above. Probably not original, but I haven't Googled it, so can't be sure.
WORD OF THE DAY: Tyranny.
ARTHUR'S STORY CONTINUES.
November 5th, 1914.
The thing is this: it is so desperately easy to make, and so much fun to put on display. All it required was a little time. First, you took the old cricket ball. The more battered the better, as it let the liquid really soak in. Put the cricket ball into an empty St George Raspberry Jam can, and fill to the brim with water. Then remove the ball, and mark where the water reaches on the can. Empty the can, dry it, and dump in a couple of tablespoons of gunpowder, then fill to the mark with kerosene. Stir until the gunpowder’s dissolved, and add more powder until the liquid won’t dissolve any more. Drop in the cricket ball, and cover and seal with waxed paper and an elastic band.
Repeat five times, so you have six cricket balls soaking in gunpowder and kerosene. If you run out of raspberry jam cans, then baked bean, apple jelly, or pig’s trotter cans will do. Actually, any sort of can is perfectly acceptable. It’s just that Jayne Francis liked her raspberry jam, so she tended to have a few empties knocking about.
Once the cans are full, cover and leave for six months, out of the reach of children and minor constables.
Grampa Smith had made the little mortar for Jayne Francis shortly after she’d arrived in Northridge. She’d caused a stir when she arrived: attractive, single, and in her early thirties (or so the village’s womenfolk reckoned) and with enough capital to buy the General Store and Post Office outright. Jayne Francis was fiercely independent: she brooked no nonsense from any of her customers, and had once punched young George Weatherby in the face when he had stepped, as she put it, “beyond the bounds.”
Weatherby offered an apology, Jayne Francis accepted it, and the matter went no further.
A week after arriving in Northridge, Jayne Francis had been to see Gerald Smith, and struck a rate for attending to her three Clydesdales, one Shire stallion, and a sleek black Arab she rode. She had also told him what she wanted, and, grinning, he’d accepted the challenge. She’d spat into her palm, and held out her hand, and he’d spat in to his own hard palm, and clasped her hand, sealing the agreement.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
But there was always a pretence of news: a charade I participated in. I made sure I was always on hand to watch "the news". I took part in this game because it suited my ego, my inbuilt desire to be "informed". Ever game needs two players, and I was firmly on the team.
No more. I have now stopped watching the news as news. I shall continue watching, probably, because it is relatively good entertainment. So, if I refer to "the news" again, please know that I am only doing so in order to indicate that I've seen the programme called "the news". I almost defi nitely haven't seen "news".
What has brought aboiut my distancing myself from the news? A few weeks back both TV1 and 3 carried stories - over several nights - about the naming of a new product to be spread on out toast. Yep, gool ol' Vegemite 'n' Cheese. This wasn't news. It was, perhaps, an amusing tit-bit for one time after the weather report (don't let me get started on Oafish Jim Hickey. Please.) Instead - on TV3, anyway - it got repeat stories. Clever marketing. But really, it should have been a paid advertising campaign.
Then there's the launch of Microsoft's Windows 7. Again, multipile fawning and admiring stories on TV3's news. Why? It's a commercial launch of a product that just might be crap. Theirlast one - Vista - was. And I don't recall seeing any critical stories about it, or any pressure on Microsoft to admit their bumbling and asking them to make some sort of financial compensation to all the suckers (and businesses) that bought into the hype. The same might happen here. I've heard / seen nothing that looks at the product critically.
What power these organisations have. What irresponsible use of power they demonstrate.
So, on my little 'pooter, I'll carry on with Open Source programmes. Hell, they work. And they're free. And thery don't get fawning, hand-wringing TV "news" programmes rushing around, doiing their bidding. Perhaps being ignored by TV news programmes now carries the stamp of credibility.
On my desktop I'll persevere with Microsoft's XL. It's flawed, ikt's erratic, it's difficult... but it has the advantage of being familiar. Kind of like a moronic, bumbling uncle. It's also what the rest of the world has, so if I want to email anything, I have to send it to my desktop, convert to MS Word, then send it. Sigh.
CLEO, our only surviving cat, is becoming more and more clingy and talky. She was always a sweet animal, with a gentle disposition. Now she's almost sacchirine. She is, of course, lonely. I think we may have to get a small companion for her.
READING: Still on the Lancaster bhomber book. Extraordinary.
LISTENING TO: Lisa Miller (who?), "Version Originale". I'd never heard of this artist before seeing the CD. It is, quite honestly, brilliant. Cool, small ballads, a la Nora Jones... except she has a personality and a story to tell. Perhaps a blend of Jones and Lucinda Williams.
WORD OF THE DAY: Obvious. It shoud have been obvious to me years ago that the news programmes had become venal, simpering tools of the Establishment*.
*My stars! I haven't written / thought / said "The Establishment" like that for decades. Perhaps I should go looking for my leather head band, my beads, my fringed leather jacket, and my faded Wranglers. Weekend hippiedom, here I come. Don't bogart that joint, you bastard! Peace, cool, cosmis. The Establishment. With capitals, yet. Oy!
ARTHUR'S STORY CONTINUES.
Today he would have to kill the animal.
His thumb stroked the safety catch, and he brought the butt of the rifle into his shoulder. He reviewed his position: he was anchored to the ground. His toes had purchase on the soil, his hips made a firm contact with the ground, his elbows were wedded to the earth. He looked down the barrel at where he knew Old Tom would come, and then, for the fourteenth time, made sure the rear leaf-sight was on the 600 metre mark. He looked through the bronze sights, and found the splash of white were his bullet had creased the beech tree two days ago.
Arthur had never tired of the astonishing way the deer materialised. Even badly hurt, as he was now, he simply became. Arthur’s breathing calmed, and eased. He started tidal breathing, using the top third of his lungs only. He was sipping the air, just a whisper going into and out of his lungs, barely enough to sustain consciousness. His life narrowed, becoming nothing more than the eye-line down the barrel, through the sights. His vision greyed out, and tunnelled, with the rifle’s front sight crisp. He looked through the sights and, if he were to be asked, he could have honestly claimed that he could have counted every single hair on Old Tom’s hide, at the spot where the bullet needed to hit for a quick, clean kill.
Old Tom’s flank was sheeted with dried blood, and he held his right rear hoof off the ground. He lowered his muzzle to the clean water of the stream, and drank deeply. Then he straightened his great neck, looked toward the East, then turned so he stood in sharp profile. The great red deer lifted his muzzle into the air, and roared, a cry of triumph and pain, of glories past.
The sound of the shot came a split second before the sound of Arthur’s sob. The bullet slapped into the great buck’s shoulder muscle, and ploughed carnage through his lungs and heart. The deer stood still, snorted a gout of blood onto the silver ferns, and slowly lay down, and died.
It took Arthur Tomlinson until noon to bury the great animal, and he shed a tear for every minute he laboured.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
When The Radio Network kicked me in the arse last year - on December 2nd, at 9.37am, but who's bitter? - I was actually given an opportunity to flex a few writing muscles.
Those muscles had been getting flabby: several years previosuly I had made sure that I wrote every day (and not for work. Writing as a job is exhausting. Writing for fun is refeshing.) and I found that I was able to slap around 1,000 reasonably well-crafted words words onto my 'pooter in an hour. 6,000 words a week, 26,000 words a month. They start to stack up after a while. Upon my redundancy, I resolved to write every day again. To stretch my imagination, to let my thoughts flow free, and so on.
Of course writing for a living got in the way. Actually working hard to get to write for a living got even more in the way.
But I think I've put together a few good things. I hope my friends are enjoying similar success. Paul has a Vespa, and plans to ride it around the North Island, writing reports as he goes. What a fucking brilliant thing. Stu manages a newspaper, and tends, I think, to write things when a predetermined number of Crowns have hit the back of the navel.
Two of my favourite females, Gillian and Fiona, are among the cleverest copywriters it's been my pleasure to know. Gillian's busy being a splendid human being (remember I occasionally scribble about nobility? Meet Gillian. Enviably noble. Make that Noble.) and studying Law. There's always one who proves the point. Incidentally, the word "proves", in this context, means "tests". Just so you know. I don't know what glorious plans Fiona has for life right now, but they're sure to be colourful, and involve extravagant adverbs. The Lovely Leah is no fool behind a pen, either: hugely creative, a magical woman who truly can think in four dimensions. I have two "folowwers" who hide beind psedoplumes, or nom de nyms. That's as should be. I, however, know them to be unearthly people. One of them is definitely of the Sidhe. Yoy know who you are. Then there's Roland, my step son. Probably has never, and never will, write a dramatic sentence. But he shows the way to lesser beings like myself, by his indomitable (yet casual) courage.
We all write, in our own ways. We write our stories as we live them. And sometimes a half-blind observer will write us. Consider yourselves written.
LISTENING TO: Duffy,"Rockferry". Great fun.
READING: "Lancaster", Leo McKinstry. The biography of the great RAF WWII bomber.
WORD OF THE DAY: Bastard. Sorry - I just heard the name John Key, in asociation with the letters A, C, and C.
RATS. Installment Number Two.
Even in this dim light the old devil would see that tiny pale flash, and would be even more wary.
Arthur Tomlinson normally wore his hair long, but this morning the thick dark locks were a hindrance to him. Slowly, very slowly, he gathered it together, and pushed it away from his right eye. It took him a further five minutes to uncover the rifle, and check it visually. He had loaded the magazine with two 7.62mm bullets: he would be disappointed if he needed the second round, but he always loaded it. Mistakes can happen. He could miss. The Second Coming might be trumped. Northridge might be swamped by a tidal wave.
Grampa Smith had bought the Mauser from the Farmers catalogue just two years earlier, for Arthur’s 25th birthday. He'd paid £6/6/0, or six guineas for the rifle, and he'd then spent two months working on the weapon, refining it. He’d worked at the trigger action, so it would break at an even six ounces pressure. He’d carved and sanded away at the stock and butt, taking an astonishing 17 ounces of weight from the rifle, without weakening it at all. The rifle was now perfectly balanced, and as accurate as the old man could make it. He put two hundred rounds through the barrel, checking and re-checking his results. In the old man’s hands, the weapon was consistent out to eight hundred yards, deadly at six hundred. Arthur was two hundred yards better with the Mauser. It’s the way it is, sometimes. Arthur yawned, his jaw cracking, and he winced. The sound could have been heard.
The grey and yellow down light was seeping down into the valley now, and Arthur could see the stream that flowed at the bottom of the gulley. The stream had been in his ears and mind for two hours, chuckling and dancing over the rocks, hopefully masking any sounds that the hunter may have foolishly made. Arthur’s quarry on this Spring morning had been hunted by the tribesmen from the pa, and the men and farmers from the twin villages of Northridge and Southridge for nearly twelve years now. He had survived all their best efforts, because he was old, wise to the ways of the hunters, and cranky. More so, now, because that fool Jim Towney from Southridge had put a bullet into Tom’s flank last Thursday.
Arthur had first seen the stag over eight years ago. He had been here, where he had now placed himself for the mercy shot. It had been a misty Waikato morning, the water-vapour skeining over the toi-toi and ferns, and the animal was suddenly there, a presence that dominated the gulley, and made Arthur feel insignificant. Tom – at that time he hadn’t yet earned the soubriquet “old” – had high-stepped out into the tiny clearing, and stood and tasted the air. Arthur could see, even at a distance of over a quarter-mile, that Tom’s great shoulder and haunch muscles were bunched, ready to spring and fly at the slightest hint of danger. On that occasion Arthur had been hunting with Grampa Smith’s old .50 calibre Sharps, and he had put the front sight over the great beast’s right shoulder, and visualised how the shot would fly. It would have been so easy.
He hadn’t taken the shot. Tom had simply been too beautiful. Arthur had told no-one of the sighting, and had since seen the animal on dozens of occasions. He had seen Tom in the roar, with a full fourteen-point rack crowning his proud head. He had gazed upon Tom in the shivering winter, and on lazy summer mornings. He had seen the great deer grow older and wiser, slower and craftier. Stalking Old Tom had been a constant test of Arthur Tomlinson’s skills, and he had no idea how many times the deer had bested him. This spot here – ah, this was where Old Tom had taken to breaking his fast over the past couple of years, and on this morning Arthur Tomlinson’s heart was breaking. Today he would have to kill the animal.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Our ancient and much-loved Granny Cat died in Jenny's arms at 12.37 this morning. Sometimes I think she's psychic. Well, I would if I thought that there was even the slightest possibility that anybody ever has been / will be psychic, which I don't.
Yesterday morning I realised that Granny Cat had had a stroke: she'd lost control of her rear legs, and was in a rare state. We settled her down, and pretty well waited for her to die. We had to work, and spent the day fretting about her. She could drink - she didn't want any food - if we held a dish near her face.
We spent the night with her, comforting her, and letting her know we were close. We went to bed at around 11, and immediately slept. Jenny woke suddenly, just after 12, and went out and held Granny, who sighed, purred, and died.
Jenny cried. I cried.
LISTENING TO: Claire Martin, "Perfect Alibi". Seriously smooth jazz.
WORD OF THE DAY: Remember.
READING: Still on the Cameron book, which is brilliant. Also reading the final of the Arthur C Clarke / Stephen Baxter trilogy: the last thing Clarke wrote before he died. It is, obviously, brilliant: more Clarke than Baxter.
NEW TO THE BLOG.... Rats.
But first: please accept that this is a work in progress: second draft only, so it's as rough as guts, and nothinglike the final. I'm still getting the story in the right order. Still, it may help you understand what I'm about.
November 11, 1913: Fyfe's Gully, 2 miles north-east of Northbridge.
The grass was sweet, soft with Spring’s warm blessings, and black under the three-quarter moon. Arthur Tomlinson breathed in the scent deeply, and smiled with pleasure, being careful to not show his teeth. He breathed in deeply again, and warmed to the rich and plummy earth-tones, and the succulent, fat-grass odours of ripening clover. He breathed out through his hand, careful to hide the white vapour of his breath, and, equally importantly, to capture and contain the scent of his breath.
It was a crisp November morning, in the hills just two miles south of Northridge, and Arthur’s smile was the first movement he had made in two hours. He had walked here overnight, arriving at a little past three in the morning, his rifle heavy on the sling over his shoulder. Where he lay, his feet slightly higher than his head, was as near as dammit to 407 yards from where his quarry would appear. He was quietly confident that he could bring Old Tom down with just one shot. He knew the land, and he knew his quarry, better than anyone else.
A slight breeze came from the Southwest, as it usually did at this time of year, and caressed his left cheek. The sun, when it rose, would be behind his right shoulder. Cunning and long-lived though Tom was, Arthur knew that today he would put the wily old bugger down. He had the range perfectly: he had been here two days ago, and had zeroed in his Mauser bolt-action rifle on the beech tree where he expected Old Tom to make his appearance shortly after first light.
Grampa Smith had put a rifle into Arthur’s hands when he’d been seven years old, and had been surprised at the child’s natural skill. The rifle was a Winchester .22 which threw a tiny slug very quickly, and, in Arthur’s hands on a calm day, was accurate out to 200 yards. A small range was built behind the workshop, and Arthur practised daily, putting at least twenty rounds through the barrel of the little rifle, which he would then carefully clean. Look after your rifle, boy, and it’ll look after you. How many times had he heard that? He smiled again, and looked down into the gully. The eastern horizon was showing the slightest grey stain, which Arthur felt more than saw.
Arthur Tomlinson still had that little .22: he’d used it to teach young Tim Copthorne to shoot. Now, there was a fine shot for you. Just a few weeks ago Tim had brought down a Mallard drake on the wing with the little lever-action popgun. Like Arthur, Tim had looked after the rifle carefully. With a little luck, it would have enough left in it to teach a third generation from the village.
Grampa Smith had been strict with his ward, and spoke to Arthur often about respect for the rifle, and respect for the prey. “The Good Lord gave us dominion over the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the air, my boy,” he said, over and over. “Dominion. D’you know what dominion means, Arthur? It means we have a responsibility for them, lad. We must care for them, as we care for ourselves. Even more so. And in return, they give themselves to us, to use as we must. They are ours to take, as need arises. The horse carries our weight, and the donkey carries our freight. And they will carry us and our wares further if we give them respect, and love. It is the same with our lovely land here, Arthur. Our Queen in England has dominion over us, and when needs rise, as they must, she will take from us as she needs. But she must also care for us, and defend us, and see to our needs. And so she, does, my boy. So she does.”
A soft grey light was now ghosting over the Eastern horizon, and a million stars faded. In the West, the sky was still as black as pitch, and supported the fire of an uncountable number of stars. Arthur slowly rolled over, to take the rifle from its waterproof canvas cover. He froze as a pair of bats flit-flitted overhead, on their way home. There had been a time that Arthur had been able to hear their guiding squeaks, but too many rifle-shots had dulled his hearing. Not enough, though, that he'd miss the sounds coming from the undergrowth nearby. Kiwi, probably, or Weka.
Arthur hadn’t bathed for three days now. Miss Francis would have had a fit, but that was the way of it. He couldn’t allow Old Tom to catch any human-whiff, otherwise he would simply melt back into the bush. Arthur couldn’t allow that, not today. This would be the day Old Tom died, and Arthur would be the man to kill him. His love for his old adversary wouldn’t allow any other outcome.
Dew had plastered Arthur’s hair to his scalp, and he combed it away from his eyes with his fingers, careful not to let the white of his palms flash toward where he knew old Tom would be waiting and watching. Even in this dim light the old devil would see that tiny pale flash, and would be even more wary.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Nothing to complain about. Three hundred years ago the average royal family (thinking of Chuckles) enjoyed life in draughty and cold homes. They had servants to do their dishes, and cook their meals. They had basic plumbing, and crapped into a long drop dunny. They didn't have hot showers. They parked their backsides onto horsehair stuffed seats in their wheeled transport that could whisk them, bouncing and juddering on rigid axles and spring-leaf suspension at speeds of up to 15 kilometres an hour. 20 kph, if they were ready to kill the horses. It was unusual for them to have all their teeth after the age of 25, and 4 out of 10 of their children died before the age of five. They also carked it by the age of sixty. Their subjects were old men at 30, dead at 40. Women, of course, died younger, many in childbirth. Right now I - on a low income, and in a basic New Zealand home - live far better than they could ever dream of. The most poverty-stricken person in New Zealand lives extraordinarily well compared to the poorest of those times. We're doing all right.
Street signs. I think there's a conspiracy going on, lead by street sign installers. I notice this particularly in Waitakere City, where I rely on the Wises Map to find my way around, but I think it actually holds true everywhere in the world: street signs are installed so as to be rendered invisible or illegible by other signs or vegetation. Their size is carefully calculated as to render them unreadable until you're in the wrong lane to make the turn you need. And there's no consistency in where they're put: they can be on the left, on the right, on the far or near corners. They may be white on blue, white on green, black on yellow, or simply not there. I am going to start taking my camera with me to photopgraph the worst offenders.
This will involve me in learning something technological, of course. I need to figure out how to load pictures from my camera onto my baby 'pooter, and then how to upload them onto this page. Sigh. Challenges.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: When is the new Doctor Who series going to appear on our tele screens?
Have a good week, everyone. Kia kaha.
LISTENING TO: Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young - "Deja Vu". It is still a remarkable album.
READING: "Tyrant", Christopher Cameron. Compelling.
WORD OF THE DAY: Chuckles. What a man.
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE AND VIOLENCE.
It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Little bastard of a fucking Scotchman. Bastard prick. How the fuck does he dare do that to me? I mean, well, fuck!
Who the fucking fuck does he think he is?
Jack Stack was pissed off. Royally pissed off. This was the third time in god how fucking long has it been seven fucking months the third time jesus fuck!
Jack Stack doesn’t think life’s dealt him a bum hand. I fucking know it know it and if that bitch isn’t home when I get home then.
Jack Stack’s a man in his mid forties, and he’s handed his wife, oh, yes, slut bitch cow, fucking show her! More hidings than she’s had hot dinners, and that’s not said lightly. She hasn’t had a hot dinner in weeks now, but Jack Stack’s hands have seen a little action, eh boys, bunch you two boys up and thwack thwack bitch is down and she’d better not get up, and fuck does that creep think, firing me, jesus it was only a little nip, a quick snort, it’s not as if anyone was in fucking immediate peril, but the little Scotch prick had seen the flask and opened the cab door and taken the keys and that was that fuck fuck fuck.
Jack Stack knows how to handle these things though, don’t I. Oh yes, I do, and if anyone gets in Jack Stack’s way he’s in fucking trouble tonight.
She’d better be home when I get home, oh yes. I’ll stop for a quick one or two at the Red Lion, a couple of cleansing ales, and if she so much as raises a fucking EYEBROW when I get home she’s fucking for it.
Gidday Stu how’s it going no don’t fucking tell me I don’t want to know, oh yeah, good on you mate a pint’ll be good thanks ta and up yours little cunt always sitting here thinking you’re so much better than me what the fuck do you know you with your bloody bad back bullshit, scoring well on the compo and spending your bloody days here in the pub because not even your Mrs likes you, and who can blame her. Jesus you pong, about time you took a bloody shower, yeah that’s great mate, hit’s the spot perfectly, you know that old bastard McCallister down at Forbe’s Trucking, little shit fired me no more than half an hour ago, said he wouldn’t have drinking on the job. Me, I said, drinking? Then he reached around and grabbed the flask out of me back pocket, that’s assault, right? Could have the little shit up for that, and I told him that was for later and he reckoned he could smell it on me breath well that’s a lie, ‘cause it’s got vodka in it and everyone knows you can’t smell vodka, right. Good oh, yeah I’ll have another, Jesus, take your filth away, smelly little shit, wonder if Gazza’ll turn up here later. He’s always good to have a game or two with on the table. Christ, even if he could play which he can’t I’d still take him for twenty bucks, yeah great good on ya Stu, you’re a mate, eh, man can’t have too many mates, got a smoke oh for fuckin’ CHRIST’S SAKE what do you mean you quit? When that pissy whey-faced bitch in Wellington passed that law saying nyah nyah can’t smoke in the pub anymore, christ if I’d wanted a fucking MUMMY I woulda told fuckin Mona to go to fuckin’ Wellington, jesus, can you see that, fuckin’ Mona Stack prime minister yeah right, Jesus if brains was fuckin dynamite she couldn’t blow her nose.
CHRIST ON A FUCKIN STICK what was that, fuckin cops haring past like their arse was on fire, must be something going on downtown, stupid cunts, never saw a cop I couldn’t take down with one hand tied behind me back, oh yeah smartarse? What do you want to bring that up for, Jesus a man was crook that night, orright, pukin’ me guts out and the sneaky shit, yeah, I’ll take another Stu, good man, that sneaky shit fuckin’ caught me in the guts while I wasn’t looking, eh.
Chucked on his shiny size tens, learn that fucker.
Jack Stack is in his mid-forties. He went to Northridge High School a year behind Henry Talbot. His favourite books are as follows:
7 - well, you get the idea.
Jack Stack dropped out of high school three weeks before he turned 15. He was barely able to read, could make a calculator work to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, although he couldn’t figure out why anyone’d want to be bothered with all that shit. It must be said in his favour that he could take a dead engine, breath on it, and make it go like the clappers. He knew what the spark gap should be on every model of Holden engine made since 1963.
The day he dropped out of school his Mother kicked him out of home. Bitch. He hadn’t spoken to her since. You know, she said to him that afternoon that he could either start paying her some money to make up for everything she’d spent on him and she FUCKING had the bill! She had it all itemised there, every shirt she’d ever bought for him down at the Op Shop, every crumb of food the old bag had ever put on the table. She’d even counted up all the gin he’d swiped off her. Old cunt knew everything, had added it all up, so I just smacked her one and walked out. Never spoken to her since. Or that crummy brood of half-brothers and sisters she’d presented him with, although he saw his fuckin’ sister on TV, doing the bloody news, making a packet, and never thinking of her family, jesus I’m blood, ain’t I?
Yeah, thanks, Stu. Was a million miles away there, eh. Cheers. Christ! Was that another fuckin’ cop car, what the fuck’s goin’ on? Bloody bad when a man can’t have a brew or seven without the bloody law splitting their arses on the road outside.
Yeah, man’d best walk home tonight, eh. Mind you, sold the Kingswood when the fuckers took me license last time, eh. Stupid old prick, whatsisname, said if I was nailed drink driving again then I’d be doing time eh.
Never again. Last time was the shits, eh. Medium security stir down Taupo way, cold as a nun’s cunt, and tghere was this big bastard down there, Andrews? Something like that, reckoned my arse’d make a good home for his warts and all cock.
Eh? WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN? Of fuckin’ course I fuckin’ wasn’t taking any of that shit. Beat the snot out of him, I did. Little bastard won’t be making my arse his little corn hole.
It hurt, mum. It really fuckin’ hurt, and I didn’t shit for days after the first time.
Eh? Nah, nothin’, eh. Listen, stu, gotta go. I’ll catch up with you next time and shout a round or two, orright? Keep it up, man. Be strong. Nil carborundum illegit, illegit, ah, fuck. Don’t let the bastards grind you down, eh.
Jesus, just thinking about it’s made my arse itch. Better have a piss. Fuckin’ floor’s moving. Must of ad more from me flask that I thought. Here we go, god that fuckin’ smells horrible. Those bloody blue things in the trough. See if I can move one, come on, oh fuck, it splashed onto me fuckin’ trouser leg. Good pants, nicely ironed, took a year of fuckin’ pounding before she got the idea of how I like me pants.
Jack stack is proud of his appearance. About five six. Not tall, but sharp, man. Nice tartan shirt, buttoned to the neck. Always clean shaven, Sleeved rolled down, full-length, buttoned tight, but he can see his watch through the cuff opening. Flat belly, slim hips, he’s a weasel on steroids. Trousers always fresh-pressed, a crease a man could cut butter with. Nice shoes, good shoes, polished to a high shine. And hair brushed straight back, kept in control with Brylcreem.
Getting hard to find Brylcreem these days. But gotta have it. His dad was a flier in the air force. So Mum said, anyway. Brylcreem boys, they called them. Spit and polish, the heroes of the Battle of Britain, yeah, he could see his old man up there in the clouds, throwing his Spitfire through the air, gunning down the fucking stupid krauts, god, fucking krauts, as bad as fucking SCOTSMEN!
Jesus, something’s happening in town, something fucking big. Cop cars and bloody everything going on.
Hey, mister, what’s up? Yeah? Somebody got shot? Bank robbery? Shit. That’s the idea. Man’d be king of the fucking block with a few grand in a sock under the bed. Fucking bitch keeps me poor. Mona. Never was a woman more appropriately named. Always fuckin’ moaning. Took me two years to keep her fucking mouth shut. Except for when I want her to use it, eh. That’s at least something she does well, that thing she does with her tongue, jeez, a man’s getting hard just thinking about it.
How would you go about robbing a fucking bank, then? Man’d be a mug to go strolling in with a fucking gun, anyway. Nah, the fucking cops take a dim view of that, and if a man was caught it’d be straight to Pare, eh. Jesus. Pare. Parefuckingremoremo. With all the fucking mob boys. I’d be bleeding from the arsehole in a minute. Nah, bank robbery’s not my style. Hey hey, I’m a man of the town, eh? Smooth man, sharp man, dancing man. Fucking Mona can’t dance. Says her feet hurt. She shouldn’t a broken them, eh. Stupid cunt. Jesus, some little shit’s shot out the fucking street light. No fucking respect for the law, little bastards. I catch him, he’s fucking toast. Whack! Whack! The boys’ll get into action, teach him good and proper, man fucking needs streetlights. Oh, jesus, ere we are, and the fucking lights aren’t on, bitch is NOT HOME I’LL FUCKING MURDER -
Jesus, what the fuck are you doing sneaking up behind a man, coulda given me a fuckin’ heart attack! Just get your scrawny arse infuckingside, I’ll deal with you there. Where the fuck have you been you’re not home ‘til now? Fucking hell, a man needs his fucking meal on the table hot, cooked the moment I fucking get home, what the fuck do you mean, the cops?
Yeah? You saw it? You saw a man get shot? Fucking beauty. Who? Henry Talbot. Talbot. I know that name. Oh yeah, smarmy bastard from school. Fucking stuck up rich cunt. So, he’s dead, eh? Fucking good show. Eh? The fuck you mean he’s not dead? Jesus. And the fucking cops kept you making statements, how many fucking times have I fucking told you, YOU DO NOT FUCKING SPEAK TO THE FUCKING COPS.
Fuck. What’s she fucking told them, don’t you fucking run off, cunt, I don’t fucking care about my dinner, I want to know what you fucking told the cops. Yeah, yeah, uh huh, year, right, fucking lying BITCH! Take that! You fucking told those boys that I fucking hit you, didn’t you? Keep your fucking noise down, you LYING BITCH! CUNT! Jesus, that’s just a little love tap.
Oh, yes, that’s right, yes, that’s right, oh fuck that’s good, yes come on, the zip goes down slowly, you know the way I like it, jesus, be fucking careful, cunt, you wouldn’t want to hurt Mr. Smiley now, would you. Yeah, you take your fucking shirt off, and that little bra I bought you, see, cunt? I do get you good things, yeah, rub your titties against my leg, no, don’t suck so hard, that’s the way. No, fucking don’t1 swing, and smack and she’s down and WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS? You’re fucking wearing panties? How many fucking times have I told you that you only fucking wear knickers when you go out, you never, ever wear them at home? Fucking BITCH!
The rage is on him now, full and complete, and he hits her twice, three times, four more, and one for FUCKING LUCK! And she’s down, and my hands are reaching out and tearing at her FUCKING PANTIES, and she’s there, and oh, FUCK! As dry as a fucking dingo’s arsehole, spit, that’s it, spit, and yes I’m in her and I’m in her and I’m in here and I’m in her and I’m in her and I’m in her and what the fuck what the fuck she’s got a kni -
And it’s probing into his throat, and the great artery is sliced through, and her face is baptised in the blood of the bastard, washing the fear away, washing away every terrified moment. And she heaves him off her and out of her and he’s gurgling and whimpering and he’s got blood on his shirt and she catches a double handful of it and she splashed it onto his trousers, last time I iron those, and she falls back and weeps.
While he dies, in terror, and far too quickly.
Her neighbour interrupts her later that night, as she’s digging a man-sized hole in the back yard. “Give you a hand, love?” she asks.
And so, together, they bury Jack Stack. Nobody has noticed his absence nearly eight months later, when Henry comes back to Northridge.
“Good,” thinks Mona. “Good.”
Friday, October 16, 2009
She's now very frail, very tired, and very sleepy. She's showing her age, and carrying it as well as she can. It's a sadness that age isn't being as respectful to her as she is to it. She has a blanket on the sofa, and now occasionally struggles to get up to sleep on it. She reaches up, sinks in her claws, and - if she's lucky - pulls herself up. Often, she simply pulls the blanket down, onto her somewhat baffled head. Once up, she tries to settle. But her age obviously brings aches with it: she often struggles to her feet, turns around, and lies down again. Actually, that's a bit of an exaggeration: she usually simply flops, then re-arranges her limbs.
Our old Granny Cat won't be with us for much longer, I fear. She eats little, and dreams much. When she does die, it will posibly be a welcome release for her. She'll have earned the easy mice and catnip of a fondly imagined after-life. And she'll be remembered more fondly than many humans.
LISTENING TO: A mix of Frank Sinatra, Alvin Lee, Harry Nilsson, Fleetwood Mac, Suzanne Vega, Heather Nova, and Guns n' Roses.
READING: "Tyrant", by Christopher Cameron. It's a yarn about the years of Greece's glory... when Alexander was away plundering Persia, the boys got up to a bit ofr trouble at home. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. He also wrote an excellent story called "Washington and Caesar".. about George and a slave. Read it.
WORD OF THE DAY: Grace. Old Granny Cat's got it.
The last of Moana.
“I told you she has that dyslexia thing, dear. She been seeing the Reverend every Saturday for private reading lessons.”
“He said he could teach me to understand the words, Mrs W. But he didn't, he just -”
“Now, Wendy,” interrupted Pastor John. “Remember what I told you about the Bible, how a woman must obey a man, and -”
I snarled at him. “Listen, you! You can just shut the fuck up, and let the child tell me her story.”
“Quiet, woman!” He thundered back at me. “I will not be told by a woman – and any way, I simply told Wendy that I loved her. Like the love of Christ!”
Wendy shrieked then. “You took your thing out and tried to make me kiss it! That's not love!”
I heard Chutty snarl, and I turned to him, and glared. If he started, I didn't know where it would stop.
“So, Reverend,” I said. “You seem to be a little confused how to handle a woman. How do you think you'd go with a woman with a little experience?”
I was hitching up my wedding dress as I spoke. Even if I do say so myself, my legs are still pretty good. And tonight I had them in my finest stockings, and a brilliant white, black, and red garter around my right thigh.
“No, stop, Mrs Wrigley, I demand you stop!” he shouted.
“You haven't the balls,” I sneered. And kicked him where I'd find out whether or not he did. He fell to the ground, whimpering.
“Now bugger off back to the vicarage, and pack your bags, John from the Bible,” said my husband. “You're finished in this town. And you'll be finished in the church, too, if I have anything to say about it.”
The un-revered reverend crawled to the door, sobbing. I opened it for him, and spat on him. “And you will never, ever say 'quiet, woman' to any woman again, little man,” I said. “You'll never be man enough to earn the right.”
I slammed the door behind him, and turned to my family. Chutty looked at me and said “You did OK there, love. But if you want a few words from an experienced football coach, you need to work on your follow-through when you kick. You could have got twice the distance.”
Tomorrow: A very short story thatI've submitted in a competition. It carries on the story of a character who's introduced in this yarn. My plan is to gather together four stories about people from Northridge: you've seen the first two.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The baby was found: no kidnapping, nothing sinister. Just another tragic accident, one which - because the child vanished - grabbed the attention of the nation. If it had been immediately obvious that it was what it was - a simple drowning - then we would have thought about it for a minute, then forgotten. As it was, we were forced to confront the reality of a little girl lost for seven days. A week of anguish for the parents, a week of reflecting that it was out good fortune that it never happened to us, and to send... what? thoughts? prayers? care... to the parents. All futile, of course, but I am sure they would have found some comfort in knowing that this small community of ours, this village we call New Zealand, was concerned for them, and for a brief time, loved them. We can do no more. We could have done less.
ACC: New Zealand has a brilliant, universal no fault, no blame compensation system that sees ordinary people provided with a helping hand should an accident occur. Sporting accident, accidental death, a fall at work... whatever, we're covered. Of course there's a cost: we pay a premium direct from our pay-packets, and our employers also pay their share. Our motor registration is largely ACC premium. And now, because the ACC's getting a little short of the readies, the government (as rabid a bunch of teeth gnashing right-wingers as we've ever suffered under) are upping the premium. Fair enough? Not the way they're doing it. A smallincrease for motor car drivers, a huge amount (from $250 a year to $750 a year) for motorcyclists. The rationale is that motorcyclists have more accidents, and are costlier to repair: spinal and head injuries are buggers of things. The thing is this: 80% of motorcycle crashes are caused by motor car drivers. That is - motorcyclists are to pay for the stupidity of the very people who try to kill them.
Our Favourite Murderer is a scum-sucking egoist who should count his lucky stars that he's still alive. I'm a bleeding-heart pointy-headed liberal, and I think the prick should swing. And he's now using the public purse to pay for an appeal. Apparently he figures that we didn't see enough of him as he preened, strutted, and verbally masturbated for five days at his trial.
Grinning Bill English seems to have gotten away with rorting the gullible New Zealand public. Do the honourable thing, Bill, and bugger off. Suggest to your wife and family that you all move back to your "home" in Thinksmall, Otago. You could find you're a lonely man down there in your primary home.
TV: Fringe is brilliant, and I'm sorry to see the end of the first series. What terrific revelations, though. The NZ series "The Cult" is, if anything, better. "True Blood" is truly great. That's it for good drama. Comedies? "Two and a Half Men" is solidly huge, but "The Big Bang Theory" is surely the freshest and funniest thing ever on the tele. WHEN IS "DOCTOR WHO" COMING BACK? Just thought I should ask.
HEARTWARMING STORY: (Tear Factor of Five). Went to a new Nursing Home (new to me) on Tuesday. Took a few hundred books, and - on a whim - some talking books. Explained to the old folk how it worked, and they went for it. The Activities lady asked me if i had anything for old "Walter" in the corner. He'd suffered a series of dramatuic strokes, and was physically knackered. Brain was good though. I suggested a talking book. She foiund out what he liked - a good thiller - and i gave her one. She got him connected up, and i turned away to deal with a question. Five minutes went by, and Activities Lady, with tears in her eyes, pointed to "Walter". "For the first time in five years," she said,"he's smiling." And he was. A brfoad grin was draped over his face. That's what my job does.
Word of the Day: Hope. As in "I hope Grinning Bill English grows a pair, and resigns."
READING: Clive Barker, "The Great and Secret Show". Huge.
LISTENING TO: Pink Floyd, "The Wall". I think the boys may have something here.
More Moana! At Last!
Chutty looked at me, and said, quietly, “Your turn, love.”
I gripped his hand again, and looked down at my piece of paper. Was it only 14 years and a few months ago that I'd made these vows? It felt like it was just yesterday. I took a deep breath, and read. My hand was shaking.
“I was only a girl when I first met you,” I started, “and you stayed with me while I grew and matured. You were always there for me, even though there were many times that what I did was far removed from what you would normally have been doing. You have always been patient, and kind, and generous, and funny. I could no more imagine life without you, that I could dream of becoming Queen of England.
Because you have given me riches beyond measure, treasures too vast to count. You have given me your love: and the love of a good man… surpasseth all understanding.” Treen grabbed the paper from my hand, and looked at it. She glared at me. “That's not what you said either, Mum,” she accused.
“No, it wasn't, was it?” I said.
“And so,well, and so it falls to me to congratulate you both, yers, congratulate you both,” said Reverend Knox.
“Thanks, Reverend,” said Chutty, holding out his hand.
“Call me, yes, please call me John. My Mothert, bless her, named me after one of Jesus' apostles, did you know?”
“John, an apostle, eh? Well, how about that?” and that earned Johyn the apostle a slightly tighter hand grip from my husband. The Reverend – sorry, John, named after an apostle – went pale.
“Crikey, mate. John. Sorry.” Chutty didn't sound sorry. He sounded pissed off. “Some times I don't know my own strength.” If there's one thing he hates, it's being patronised.
“No, it's ah, all right. I hurt my hand a little earlier today.”
The words fell like cold iron into the room. I reached out and grabbed the Reverend's hands. Two of the knuckles were scraped, and bruised.
It was then I became conscious if a high-pitched sound in the room. I looked around, to find it came from Wendy. I turned back to the Reverend John the apostle.
“Mum and I found Wendy at the lych-gate early this afternoon,” I started. Mum piped up, interrupting me. I've never heard her sounding so satisfied. “I told you she has that dyslexia thing, dear. She been seeing the Reverend every Saturday for private reading lessons.”
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
The reason is this: a sad and terrible story has been unfolding here in New Zealand. Actually, in West Auckland, where I work. It happened on a street that I regularly see, and which I stop on to visit a couple of clients. A normal Kiwi suburban street. Tree-lined, neat lawns. You know the picture.
A child went missing. A two year old toddler, cute as all two year olds are. Her parents had brought her with them as they were visiting a deceased relatives home, to clean it up, and prepare it for sale.
They turned their backs for a couple of seconds. As any parent will know, that's all it takes. A newly mobile kid can disappear quicker than toast and honey on a cold morning. They searched, frantically. They eventually understood the reality was a lot greater than a mischeivous child playing hide and seek, and phoned the Police.
The cops and volunteers have been heroic in their dedication. While this young couple - they'd be in their early 30s, I'd estimate - became more and more fear-stricken, backyards and trees and creeks and gullies and streams were searched. The cordon was extended, hundreds of doors were knocked on. No body has been found, and the Police have been coming to the terrible conclusion that the child has, in fact, been abducted.
This event is rare in New Zealand: apparently just five children have gone missing with no explanation in the past 50 years. Well, the explanation's been obvious, but the children have never been found,and no-one has been suspected or apprehended for abducting them.
One every ten years. This is the country that - around twenty years ago - featured a stolen Ford Cortina on a nationally televised crime show. We have our murders and our drugs. We have our child-abusers, and we have our gangs. But we're still a pretty innocent bunch. And so it is that a young couple will go to bed tonight, not knowing what has happened to their child.
But it's not the fact that this appalling event has taken place here that made me believe I wasn't spending the day in my beloved New Zealand.
It was this: after 50 hours, I hadn't heard one single journalist use the god-awful phrase "a parent's worst nightmare'. It's a triteness that gets trotted out whenever there's a dog-bite, or a scraped knee. I was obviously in a parallel universe, one where the journalists aren't hidebound cliche regurgitators. No other explanation was possible.
Then the parallel lines met: some dimbulb on the TV news used it, bellowing ands gibbering some sensationalist report. TV1, you're despicable.
READING: "Diary of a Cat", by Leigh W. Rutledge. Insightful. About cats, that is.
LISTENING TO: Portishead, "3". If this is where rock's going, I like it.
WORD OF THE DAY: Nightmare. When tempted to use it in conjunction with "worst", shoot yourself. It's less painful than dying with the embarassment of it all....
“These were our vows that we made 14 years ago. Do you think we should use them again?”
“Too right,”said Chutty.
The minister started us off, with an impromptu little speech about two people coming together to re-make their promises to one another, and so on. Actually, he was pretty good: either he'd done this sort of thing a hundred times before, or he was a very good at extemporising. He then read the thing in the letter to the Ephesians about love, and then Chutty and I turned to one another, our pieces of paper in our hands. Chutty started, as he did, 14 years and four months and nine days ago.
“Moana,” he started, reading from his paper, and looking at me earnestly. “I've counted my blessing every day that I have known you. Since you first came into my life, I have been complete, a whole person. No matter where I am, or who I may be with – you are there. You are as much a part of me as my breath, as my shadow. With you in my life, all that can come is good. No matter what trials, what trib – trib-”
I should have known he'd stumble there. He did once before.
“Tribulations, love,” I said.
He grinned at me. “Thanks, love. Bloody five dollar words.” He looked at me for a long, slow moment, then dropped the paper, and, keeping eye contact, said “What trials, what tribulations life may throw in our path, we will carry on.” He grabbed a my hand, and continued. “Because, my love, it is our path. And we shall choose to share our path only with those we love, our children, our wider family..”
I was stunned. I look him in the eye, and said “That’s not what’s written down!” And he winked, and said “You’re not the only one who can make things up, love. I committed myself to you twenty-five years ago when we met, then fourteen years, four months, and nine days ago, so I’m re-committing myself to you again now. Moana Wrigley: if you consent to remain my wife, my lover, my friend, my mate – then I shall work hard to see you are provided with all you need to be a complete woman, a whole woman, a free woman, a woman who knows to the core of her being that I shall always be beside and behind you, providing all that I can provide.”
Crikey, I thought. What I said was “Oh, Chutty.”
“Probably didn’t come out right,” he said, looking down at his shoes.
My eyes were leaking again. I gripped his hand, hard, and wiped my eyes. He handed me a hanky, and I blew my nose.
“You're a good boy, Chutty,” said Mum. “My girl done good when she got you.”
“Crikey, Dad,” said Treen. “You'd better mark that one up.”
Chutty looked at me, and said, quietly, “Your turn, love.”
Monday, October 5, 2009
Negative Growth: In all of newspeak, there are few trite phrases packed with as much Taranaki paddock decoration as this one. We could put "going forward" up there as a contender, but it's a lightweight: mere puffery. Negative Growth delivers the heavyweight KO. Not only is it puffery, it is also a lie. Not only is it a lie, it's a malicious lie, one that's designed to deliver the untruth in such a way as to convince the listener of... well, of the veracity of the lie. No, wait. To convince that the lie is not only the truth, it's a desirable... No, wait. Actually, this is how Orwell's newspeak worked. By confusing and blurring the actual meanings of the two words"truth" and lies" so that one becomes the other, and no-one who has any grasp of reality is listened to any more. Negative Growth is, in fact, shrinkage. Diminshment. Loss. "We experienced negative growth of 230 million dollars last year" means we lost 230 million dollars last year, but we're still going to reward the Board members with a 20 million dollar bonus.
Little Girl Lost: In Waitakere City today there's 150 or so cops and volunteers searching for a two-year old child who's been missing for over 24 hours. Work harder, guys, and work well. It's something that breaks the heart of any person with a pulse. So, naturally, the 6 o'clock news today opened with a story about a corrupt politician getting his just rewards: 6 years in the slammer. I suppose that corrupt pollies actually getting what they deserve is a much rarer occurence than children going missing, but come on. I know what I think is more important: it's someone who'd have to reach up to hold my hand.
Reading: Alan Bennett, "The Uncommon Reader". It's superb. It's Bennett, so of course it's superb. But it's superb, anyway.
Listening To: Jethro Tull, "Roots to Branches". This, too, is superb, although Alan Bennett had nothing to do with it.
Word of the Day: Fraud.
That's Mum. She never can leave well enough alone. Still, it wasn't a bad idea. I said g'day to the Reverend, then turned to Chutty, and looked at him. He'd wisely kept his mouth shut, although he undoubtedly had a million or two questions buzzing around inside his skull.
“It's like this Chutty,” I started. I had to stop for moment then. I was very close to tears. “It's like this. I had an idea this morning when I was thinking about Charles and Diana, and My Surprise. And I thought that, if it's alright with you, I'd like us to restate our wedding vows. I was going to make it a family thing only, but Mum's got it into her head to bring Reverend Knox in.”
Chutty just looked at me, then the biggest smile I've ever seen on his face slowly developed. I'll keep that picture in my mind until the day I die, I swear. I turned to his holiness the reverend, and asked him if he was OK with the idea.
“Well, I say, most unusual, I must say, but yes, I'm sure.” He was a pompous thing, for a man as young as he was: if he'd cracked 30 years at that time I was Mother Teresa's hand-maiden. I looked around the room, and sighed. People I loved, a friend in need, and a stranger. It was almost perfect. Treen was radiant in her Sleeping Beauty costume, the boys were handsome – I straightened Useless's loosely knotted neck-tie – Mum was looking very smug, and Wendy was keeping to the background. Time, I thought, to deliver The Surprise to Chutty.
I looked him straight in the eye, and said “Chutty. I have something to tell you, and I don't know how you're going to react, so I'll just come out and say it.”
He was suddenly nervous, and I saw him wipe the palms of his hands on his backside. I took a deep breath.
“I'm pregnant. About two months, I think.”
He stood stock still. He looked into my face, then at my belly, then back into my eyes. You remember I said I'll carry the picture of that earlier smile with me to my grave? Actually, this smile is the one I meant.
“Pregnant?” he said. “Pregnant? Bloody hell. That's brilliant. Pregnant? Really?”
I said “Yes,” teary-eyed. Suddenly, I just needed to hold him, very tight. Suddenly, he was holding me, and I was sobbing into his collar. I have never been happier than I was at that very moment.
“Well, I say, this is, this is, I must say this is marvelous news,” said the Reverend Knox. There was a general hubbub of noise, and Russel was holding us, and Treen was getting into the action, and I saw Mum holding Wendy's hand, and smiling. Wendy looked scared, and nervous, and for a fleeting moment I wondered why.
“Should we, I say, should we perhaps start now?” The Reverend was trying to impose some order on what was turning into a generally chaotic moment. I nodded, and got Treen to open the bottles of Lindauer bubbles she'd put into the fridge earlier. She poured everyone a glass, and Chutty and I turned to the Minister.
“My goodness,' he said. “I completely forgot to bring my Bible. May I borrow yours?”
Treen turned to the bookshelf “We've got one here somewhere,” she said. “Under B for, Big and Black,or under B for um, bullsh -”
“Treen!” I snapped. “Just get it.”
She flashed me a grin, and passed the book to the priest. As he took it, I reached into the top of my wedding dress, and pulled out a couple of pieces of paper.
“These were our vows that we made 14 years ago. Do you think we should use them again?”
“Too right,”said Chutty.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
We've just had a bout here in New Zealand that has been predictably labelled "The Fight of the Century!". Yeah, well. Such a stunning lack of imagimation deserves a prize. And we have to ask oursleves the important question: exactly which century are they talking about? 1909 to 2009? If so, then there've been a lot of other so0-called "fights of the century". I'd put Ali vs Frasier at the topof the pile there: I can almost guarantee that most people in, say, Chicago and Moscow have heard of that fight, while nary a one of them have heard about Tua and cameron. If they're talking about the 21st Century, then I'm gonna get them to buy me a Lotto ticket. If they can see that far into the future, then I'm on a winner.
THE OLYMPICS: Woohoo! Rio got them! I love the Olumpics.There was a time that I'd take two weeks' leave and veg out in front of the tele and watch every minute. I've become a littlemore sensible as time's gone by, but I have to say that I anticipate an outstanding opening ceremony. This could be because I'm a dirty old man who has feverish dreams of scantily clad women doing the rhumba, but that's OK. I forgive myself for that...
CRICKET: I still don't know who won! I know we (by "we", I mean the Black Caps and me. Of course.) I know we had to score 36 runs off 35 balls, with King Danny at the crease, and that means it was so do-able.... Aaaargh!
RUGBY UNION: If the powers that be want to know why football's losing its appeal, it's this: the games are on too late, and only a minority of the population can afford to watch them games live. It's that simple.
RUGBY LEAGUE: It's fast, hard, and furious, and much more accessible. But because the Union people have madce their game so hard to watcfh, then I don't watch League, either.
AMERICAN "GRID-IRON" FOOTBALL: Is there be another game so slow? It's beyond dreary.
BASEBALL: Is not much better. Four hours or so, to see 5 runs scored? It needs Cricket's skills, action, pace, and flair. And baseball is such a dumb endeavour, Cricket is, at least, a thinking person's game. Intensely cerebral.
AUSSIE FOOTBALL: Spectacularly fun. And, according to my beloved, it has the best-looking men.
LISTENING TO: America. Yes! I went through the desert on a horse with no name. So bad, it's... really, really good.
READING: Nothing is catching my mind at the moment. I'm very restless, and reading the first twenty pages of any number of books, only to put them down. This happens. I'll find something soon..
WORD OF THE DAY: Cricket!
He said that he'd be banning Jack Stack for a week, next time he came in.
“Fair enough,” Chutty said. And he left, taking Treen down to the mini-golf. She beat him, three games to none, thinking all the while that if she ever found a student who was half the man her father was, she'd marry him on the spot.
Wendy had listened to the story, barely breathing. Then she turned to Mum, and said “I think Johnno'd do the same, you know.”
And Mum just smiled her wrinkly smile, patted Wendy's hand, and said “ Of course he would, dear. Of course he would.” Then she had a big swig of sherry, and looked at me.
I looked back at her, and I thought “She knows. The old ratbag knows.” Mum's always been able to read my face, and I've learned a thing or two from her about knowing what she's thinking, too.
“She knows, all right.” I thought.
I started to serve dinner up, and called Chutty and Useless to the table. The meal went in its usual welter of laughter and conversation, with all of us ignoring the elephant in the room: Wendy's bruises. If she didn't want to talk about it, then that was that. Every now and then I'd look across the table to Mum, to catch her looking hard at me, and then at Wendy. I shrugged at her. “What can I do?” I thought, fiercely, at her. Mum just smiled.
After the table was cleared, I started to Organise Everybody. Chutty'd been curious about what he'd found on our bed, so I sent him to get dressed up in it. Useless and Treen were to do the same with their outfits, and I left Mum with Wendy as I went into the spare room to get into my dress. Everyone was to call out when they were dressed, and we were all to go into the Slop Room at the same time.
I was pulling up the long zip when I heard the knock at the door.
Three hard knocks interrupted the conversation Mum and Wendy were having.
“I'll get it, dear,” Mum called out to me. I carried on with my dressing: I was nearly ready anyway, and called out to the boys and Treen. We gathered in the hallway, Chutty's eyes goggling when he saw me. He looked good enough to eat: both Chutty and Russel were dressed in white Naval dress uniforms. Russel was looking at me, astonished: then his face broke into a wide grin.
In the kitchen, Mum had gone to the door,opened it, and said “hello, Minister. Come on in,” and Reverend Knox came into the room just as I swept in, leading the family. I was wearing, for the first time in fourteen years, four months, and nine days, my wedding dress. I'd had to let the waist out by two inches that morning, but I have to say I looked great. I stopped short when I saw the Rev. Knox. Mum looked at me, and said “I thought we should have someone proper in to do the honours, dear.”
That's Mum. She never can leave well enough alone. Still, it wasn't a bad idea. I said g'day to the Reverend, then turned to Chutty, and looked at him. He'd wisely kept his mouth shut, although he undoubtedly had a million or two questions buzzing around inside his skull.