I've dribbled on about nobility in the past, and will no doubt do so again. Let it be said right now that the Jeff has strong elements of nobility about him. His heart is in the best place possible, and it's pumping well, thank you.
Cousin Mike and his lovely Jude came and stayed for a few days as well. He's Sydney / Canberra based. Despite this, he is one of the finest people I know. His lovely Judith is right there alongside him. They're fabulous people, and I count myself privileged to call them family. I count myself 'specially privileged to call them friends.
We travelled down to Napier for the celebrations. I remain smug, as I will always be younger than my brother. This means, however, that he will get his hands in a Gold Card before I do. Not a bad trade-off, though.
The party was excellent. Jeff's daughters were all there. Leah is a stunningly beautiful creature, and is also disarmingly lovely in nature. Renee is equally as gorgeous, but in a more.. earthy? way. Tamar hasn't been seen in a while, which is a shame: she has a gentleness to her that is enviable. She's had a few mental health problems, but it does seem that she's coming through - and we all rejoice at that. Her son, Israel, is a great young man: almost too much personality for one person: fiercely intelligent, and very protective of his Mum. Speaking of Mums - mine was there, fit and strong. Dad's been gone for 9 months now, and she's not feeling the strain as much. She dreamed of him last night, for the first time since he died. I don't know if that's relevant or significant, but it feels as though it should be. My sisters are wonderful, as they always are, and my brothers-in-law are superb specimens of, well, English manhood. Yes, they're both refugees from the Mother Country.
We've enjoyed a couple of political Teacup Storms lately. Skeletor, or Rodney Hide as he's known on Earth, apologised after being caught snouting at the trough a bit too deeply. He is a despicable indiviudual, and I am sure he wouldn't have bothered apologising if he hadn't seen some political gain in it. He has the sincerity of a frozen pea. Have I mentioned that I find him loathsome?
Hone Harawera, on the other hand, is simply a dick. I actually like the man, and really wish his fighting arm a lot of strength. His cause is just, his heart is purish, and he has an unerring instinct for playing into the hands of his enemies. He's apologied for the foul language, and he's one who didn't use the weaselly "if" word, as in "If I've caused offence, I apologise." He did use the "I apologise for causing offence" line, which is startlingly original. However, he hasn't apologised for ripping off the tax-payer. The trip to paris remains there. He did blow it away with his choice phraseology. After a motherfucker or two, who cares about Paris?
LISTENING TO: David Gilmour, "On An Island".
READING: Christian Cameron again: the follow-up to his last book. this one's called "Storm of Arrows', and promises mucho bloodshed.
WORD OF THE DAY: Cruelty. Those bastards at that Lion Park in Whangerei need their bollocks cut off. I cannot believe that anyone would / could / can / whatever de-claw a tiger or a lion. Barbarism.
“Sounds fair. An English thing?”
“American, I believe.”
Actually, the old man was pretty well on the right path. Jayne Francis was an atheist in an age when it wasn’t at all fashionable, so she had simply announced to Father O’Leary, when he came calling, that she was a Callithumpian. Many years before, she'd read - in the Weekly News - an hysterical account of the activities of a Callithumpian township in South Dakota, and thought she liked the sound of it. And yes – regular festivals of beer-drinking and the letting off of cannons and sundry artillery pieces was de-rigueur for a Callithumpian in good standing. Hence, the mortar.
Arthur Tomlinson had been a regular guest at Jayne Francis’ Sunday teas for a number of years. She had seen something in the reserved and ill-at-ease young man that she liked when she first met him, and she went out of her way to include him in the activities of the town. Through Arthur, Jayne met young Timothy Copthorne, a tearaway lad who’d since taken to hanging about the smithy’s workshop after school. Arthur had taken the lad under his wing, just as he’d been cared for by Grampa Smith. He taught the lad the things he knew: how to shoot, how to bend and shape metal, how to walk in the bush and leave no trace of yourself behind you. He taught the lad the value of stillness, of going within and making yourself invisible.
“Remember, Tim. Movement makes you visible. An animal’s eye captures movement, and focuses on it. Same as a man’s eye: you can be in a room full of people, even with your ginger hair, and not be noticed. All it takes is to be still, and to think yourself into being unnoticeable.”
The boy thought this was bullshit, and said so. Arthur had told Tim to shut his eyes for a count of ten, and then to look for him. They had been in Ffyfe’s Gulley at the time – land that Arthur knew well – and the lad had taken the challenge.
Within minutes he had started to panic at being out in the bush alone, and was coming close to tears. Arthur reached out, and touched the boy on the shoulder. “I moved no more than ten yards from you, Tim. If you can learn how to do this, you’ll be in charge of your environment. No man will be able to reach you.’
The boy had been stunned into silence. A few years later, he was to scream into Arthur’s collar “You said that no man could reach me Arthur! Oh, God, Arthur, help me. Help me!”
That same boy was now excitedly helping Jayne Francis load the mortar for the final shot of the evening. Swab the barrel, to extinguish any smouldering debris, keeping out of the way of the touch-hole: unburnt powder can flare and jet back through there sigth enough power to fry an eye in its socket. Push down the small package of gunpowder, wrapped in brown waxed-paper. A coil of twine goes down the barrel, then the cricket ball, then another ring of rope. Ram it all down, hard. Jam the fuse into the touch-hole, and light it. Run back for safety. Just because this gun hadn’t exploded yet didn’t mean it wasn’t going to.
Twelve seconds. Flat bang, fizz, sparkle, flame looping up, high into the heavens, then falling with an angry hiss into the river.
“Reckon the taniwha’s getting annoyed yet?”
“The old feller down at the pa says it takes more’n seven shots to get the taniwha riled up, and Miss Jayne has never shot more’n six.”
Rev. Jackson down at the Anglican church, Father O’Leary at St. Francis’, and Fred Willoughby and his missus at the Methodist chapel didn’t think much of the taniwha, but pretty well everyone else in town was half convinced it was there, at the knuckle of the river where it turned westward. The local Maori kept well clear of the area, and declared it tapu. And since the Brown boys had drowned there – with young Aaron Brown’s body never being recovered – every child in Northridge enjoyed a secret and delicious frisson of fear when going anywhere near the troubled waters at the turn.
Actually, the water roiled and tumbled at the bend in the river because of an outcropping of rock that disturbed the flow of the water, making the area dangerous for swimmers and canoeists alike. It was also not unreasonable for anyone to think that there might be a water spirit there: anything, really, that kept kids and fools away and out of danger was worth promulgating.
And so, every year, on November 5th, Jayne Francis pelted the sky with just six flaming cricket balls, and the taniwha’s slumber remained undisturbed.