Tuesday, September 7, 2010

These Shaky Islands...

The Christchurch earthquake is no trifle. It has been a long and difficult few days for the city's residents, and truly heartbreaking fvor many of them, as their family homes are condemned to wait for the wreckers. The astonishing (I refuse to say miraculous. God had nothing to do with any of this...) thing about the 'quake was, of  course, the fact that no lives were lost. This is a testament to modern building practices, of course, but nonethless there were dozens of "near miss"* stories.
My niece, for instance: the brick wall on her house dissolved, hurling bricks and shrapnel around. Several bricks caromed off her neighbour's fence with enough force to crash through her bedroom window. One smacked into the pillow next to hers, another ricocheted around the room, coming to rest 4 metres from the window. Her daughter was, naturally, terrified, and my niece couldn't get into the child's bedroom. A bookcase had fallen in front of the bedroom door. No matter - a mother gets incredible strength from somewhere under these conditions, and it was, literally, a case of  "with one mighty heave the bookcase was shunted aside".
*It's been pointed out that a "near miss" must, in fact, be a hit. If something nearly misses you, then it it must hit you. If something nearly hits you, it's obvious that it misses. True?
One good thing about the Christchurch earthquake: the television and radio journalists have stopped being lazy and barely competent. The coverage has, on the whole, been excellent. We've been kept up-to-date on all aspects of the event, been brought face to face with the human drama, the costs, and on and on. I am growing weary of the word devastation and its various permutations, which have been utilised to describe everything from a totally collapsed building to a minor crack in a wall, to a ripped-up street. But I can almost forgive the commentators and reporters. They are under a great deal of stress... and, thankfully, haven't asked (well, not that I've seen / heard) anyone "how do you / did you feel?"
The Lovely Jenny and I are on a break. I've now spent a year at the Library, and I had a bit of leave that needed taking... so we're being lazy. I'm sleeping in 'til 8, getting up, and doing a hour's worth of writing. Yay - getting closer to finishing this draft of "Paper Heroes". Don't worry - you're only about a third of the way through it. And we've been to the movies.Twice! Yesterday to see the Austrralian film "Under Hill 60". It is truly magnificent. It should, I think, be short-listed for best foreign film at the Oscars. I wasn't overly keen on seeing it, but I was, thnkfully, outvoted. Brilliant film. And the one we saw to day? Well, speaking of Oscars... Michael Caine, "Harry Brown". People have compared it to Clint eastwood's "Gran Torino", which is, i think, a bad mistake. the only thing they have in common is the leads are played by old buggers. I don't think Caine can score a Best Actor at the Oscars... it's a UK film, after all. But he should pick up a BAFTA for it. The movie itself should pick up a hatful. God, it's gutsy.
Reading: "The Faithful Spy", Alex Berenson. The cover notes compare it favourably to le Carre. Well, you know cover notes. They're puffery, right? But actually....
Listening to: Harry Nilsson, "Best of".
More "Paper Heroes" :
Maybe this is what made them heroes. His way may lead to a different destination.

Blunt, back at his table, straightened his back and grinned and winked at Crayne, who grinned back. By god, Blunt thought. It’s good to see a smile on the man’s face. He’s grim, and that’s a fact. I’d like to know his story.
An hour later, well fed, they were about to head outdoors. They had all been requested to leave their weapons behind, and all but Hanno had agreed. “Fuck you!” the giant had bellowed. “You might as well take away my cock, or my right arm!” He had grinned when the strange little people had quailed and backed down. Blunt wondered how much that had been a performance, too. He watched the giant, and noticed his face pale, then bloom again into a calm contentment. Hanno shook his head, and scowled. Then, once again, his face cleared. No-one but Blunt and Crayne heard the whispered “Crom!”

The first movement outdoors had been a revelation. The sky was a deep blue, with clouds puff-balling along the horizon. A faint silver ribbon arced across the northern horizon. They had come out at the apex of the hill, and Cienwyn beckoned them over to a lookout to look at the city.

They were looking down on a park. Great trees and swathes of lawn were the predominant features, with low-lying houses and large gardens making up most of the man-made features. Sleek vehicles sped soundlessly along the roads that ribboned through the homes, streets, avenues, and boulevards, knitting the broad city into a cohesive whole. In the air, other brilliant machines hummed and hovered.

A small bird, its tail sweeping open into a minute fan, swooped and tittered and peeped among the men.

“That’s a fantail – a Piwakawaka. They’re almost tame,” Cienwyn said. The tiny bird swooped and fluttered around them, squeaking and chortling. It landed on Bill’s head, and Blunt burst out laughing. “God, Bill! If cats could blush, you’d be bright red right now.”

“I’m bleeding ginger, which is pretty close to red, and unless some dozy bastard doesn’t scare this flippin’ bird away, I’m gunna flippin’ eat it, liver and all.”

Cienwyn brushed the bird away, and it fluttered off, chirping reproachfully. “Go on, Bill,” she said. “You wouldn’t eat a bird.”

“Yes I bleeding – crap. No, no, I guess I wouldn’t.” The cat hung his head low.

“Have the cats got these embots, too?” asked Prester.

“Of course.” Surprise in her voice that the question had to be asked.

“Remove them.” Prester said. There was no room for argument in his voice. “Rambo has to know and listen to her instincts. Remove them, and do so as soon as possible.” He looked down at the black cat, and wondered to himself if he had embots now, as well. He hadn’t felt that calm and at peace since – well, since he gained this new life. He straightened his back. Accept that life must be taken one challenge at a time. The elephant is eaten mouthful by mouthful, and not all at once.

A bus hummed up to them, opened its doors, and they stepped aboard. Cienwyn told the bus to go. Driverless, and as silent as a thought, the vehicle moved forward.

1 comment:

  1. Relief about the earthquake - sadness too - people's lives and homes. No, I don't know how they feel, but it must be pretty awful. You took the words out of my mouth re 'Near Misses'!

    Thrilled to be getting more regular doses of 'Paper heroes' and glad there's lots more where it came from.