Four bells sounded. The dead of the night, the moon obscured by clouds, the bearing light lost. The only sound the distant crashing of waves. “Do you make that headland off the port bow” yelled the First Mate, on duty now for over half an hour since the captain had retired to his bed and probably his bottle of Jamieson’s.
“ I make it to be the lee side of Goats Island” replied Burke though he wasn’t altogether sure.
“but the surf is off to the starboard and it is getting louder. I thinks we should be calling the captain”. The first mate, Thompson, sailing out of Corktown but really an Irish boy trying to make good in the new Australia, had a vision of the skipper, half in his cups being told they were lost. He did not fancy that trip down the stairs. He thought of Nate the cabin boy. The captain had a certain fondness for him and would not be abrasive should he be woken from a drunken slumber.
The ship shuddered as it slid up/down a wave/ swell and all of a sudden Thompson and Burke entertained similar doubts. They were not where they thought they were, off the coast of South Sealand, heading through Observation strait for Newcastle. The ironic thought went through Thompson’s mind. Bringing coals to Newcastle, for indeed they had a cargo of coal, mined from the plains of Pirie
“Nate, get the hell below and tell the captain to come to the bridge IMMEDIATELY “’.
Nate rushed for the companionway but not before the clouds temporarily let the moon through to light up the unmistakeable headland of Hippo Head and all on deck knew they were on the wrong side of the Strait and in notoriously foul ground.
The captain materialised on deck and he immediately saw what his deck crew had observed,
“hard a port, full steam ahead, hard port, hard port” he screamed as the unmistakable sound of keel hitting sand bought the vessel to a dramatic and shuddering stop.
“full steam ahead” he ordered, but it was too late. The vessel was grounded and the whining of the screws only emphasised they were going nowhere.
“shit, shit , shit” the captain manically chanted, seeing his future unravelling before his whisky reddened eyes.
Ten months previous things had looked different. As the new first mate, Thomson had signed on to the coal merchant after being told the captain was the best skipper on the coast. The first weeks were an affirmation of that but slowly, inextricably, things began to unravel. A wharf collision, a collision with another steamer on Sydney harbour (although officially not the Captains fault he had been absent from the bridge and Thompson had to lie at the official enquire), a late passage, a minor navigation error which Thompson put down to Jamieson’s, then the tempers tantrums. Too often he and Burke were on the receiving end of long tirades about the company, his wife (never met) the crappy navigation aids, the state of the vessel. These all added up to both of them tiptoeing around the skipper, especially when he had been drinking.
“the court calls Captain Thaddeus Simpcock.”
A desolate Simpcock shuffled into the dock, his captain’s hat under his right arm, his uniform somewhat threadbare, his demeanour belligerent.
“ Captain Simpcock. You have been charged and found guilty of dereliction of duty that on the night of November 2, year of 1913, you failed to take proper care when navigating dangerous waters. Furthermore you were found to be in no condition to be in command of a vessel and its crew by way of gross intoxication. This court finds that you are guilty of these offences and summarily orders you to submit your masters ticket and prohibits you from applying for any reinstatement of said ticket. Furthermore this court notes a series of incidents relating to you command recommends that you seriously consider seeking professional counsel for your obvious alcohol addiction. Have you anything to say Captain?”
The Captain mumbled something which was unheard by most of those in court but Thompson and Burke recognised the usual tone of injustices, double dealings, and other self serving gibberish that they were well used to.
One day there was a girl who was doing gymnastics. She was very good but she got a 1st and second so she came 3rd. That was good but not that good, she still needs more practise because she wasn’t going well. So she decided to quit because it was no good for Maddy anymore. She didn’t do gymnastics for months. She decided to come back to gymnastic so went back to beam, bars and floor. So it was fun again. I won first place and I went to the Olympics. And Asha was in the Olympics too and I won a gold and Asha won silver. Then we lived in Rio and went to the beach and did some gymnastics. It was so cool. We were on tv and I love gymnastics. I won 5 golds and 4 silver medals.
So my team was from the USA. Then China got 6 gold and 6 silver and China cheated, they said lets take a point off USA. So we got 10 gold and we have 8 silver so me and asha did swimming. We got 2 gold and 1 silver and altogether we got 12 gold and 9 silver.
Mordechai John James was a gentle man, but a man with a mission. God was coming to bring salvation to all those who flocked to his call. To that end Mordechai John James was going to erect a Gathering point for the chosen to congregate. The Rapture would follow and all those who believed in the Lord would live in a better place. The land that Mordechai John James owned was blessed and purification would descend on all who touched it. He had the materials. Good salvaged iron and sturdy strainers with which he would raise the hastily fashioned cross, to become a beacon, a sign for all who flocked to Calvary Hill, a sign of faith.
He set out to the little hillock out the back of his farm on Wednesday 18 January 2017, the year of our Lord.
He was bought in covered in blood. Frail, disorientated and somewhat smelly. Smelly from soiling himself both ways but a deeper smell from not having washed or, more exactly, been washed for several weeks, even months. A smell of despair. He had fallen, or more accurately tripped over his oxygen line after waking up on his favourite armchair, after watching his favourite show. He favoured car shows, reminding him of his own vehicular history of Hudson’s, Fords, Holden’s then more exotic ‘foreign’ machines ending in ‘o’s and ‘a’s.
The attending staff noted that he lived with his daughter and her husband and their six children. They later ascertained that the daughter was not altogether flattering about her father who she described as “dirty, smelly, perverted old creep who only cared about ‘things’ ; not about her and her life. The staff never really found out what the perversions were but she alluded to children’s TV shows and dolls. She had taken away his walking sticks and then his walking frame because he wandered and spread lies about her and her kids throughout the neighborhood. She (her name was Madeline, but call me Madds, she intoned breathlessly to the young intern), was a morbidly obese thirty four year old, world weary and worn out by her unemployed husband who used his procreative skills as a substitute for a lack of anything else. She dressed in enormous tents to hide her bulges but her bare arms revealed the concealed jelly jungle underneath, wanted the old man institutionalized ( her words were ‘put down’ ) but conceded that a rest home would do.
“so, I still get his pension?” she hopefully enquired while the nurse rolled her eyes.
“we think we can maybe get him back home to you after a suitable period of rehabilitation” the nurse rather unenthusiastically replied. “your father seems rather malnourished and we suspect that he may have a fracture and maybe an old untreated fracture which has affected his mobility.”
“ohmmmmh! What rubbish has he been spreading. Next he will be saying I’ve kept him tied up and fed him bread and bone scrapes” Madds countered, standing on one leg and rubbing her hands together in a painful fashion. Finally, after hours of careful explanation , diagrams, exhibiting of Xrays Madds responded with a petulant “whatever” and frumped out the exit to the geriatric rehabilitation ward.
Meantime the meteorological service was predicting a growing weather phenomenon in the oceans Northwest of Calvary Hill and the nearby city of Chance. They were talking excitedly about a weather bomb.
The technical term for a bomb low is “explosive cyclogenesis”. It’s a weather system in which pressure drops by at least 24 hectopascals in 24 hours, bringing high winds, large sea swells, torrential rain and lightening.
Mordechai John James struggled with the system he had rigged up to raise his cross. He chanted the Lords prayer, he recited John 3:16 , he tried singing Isiah 49. The rising wind blew his words to the south, toward Chance. Mordechai John James pulled and pulled, chanted and chanted, sang and sang.
The radiologist had the old man on the EEG machine. The medics had decided that he had sustained a small fracture but there were no signs of old breaks, only extensive muscle wasting. The old man was disorientated and a little confused but he was also dehydrated and it was unclear if he had been taking his prescribed medications. They wanted a look at his “head work” to rule out dementia or brain injury. This was the start of a long neurological journey. The skies were darkening outside but the old man’s future looked brighter as the first assessment showed normal activity.
A huge thunderclap overhead shook the ground around Mordechai John James as he strained with the last guy rope and finally the cross stood twenty metres into the Lords sky. A bright light suddenly appeared above Mordechai John James and he momentarily thought that his prayers, singing and chanting had been answered…
Post-strike symptoms can range in severity from cardiac arrhythmias to blown ear drums and a whole lot of pain. Consciousness can be lost anywhere from a few minutes to a few years. People suffer brain damage (because the brain literally cooks from the current) resulting in concussions and short-term memory loss. Victims commonly report numbness and weakness in the limbs, with temporary or permanent paralysis
Mordechai John James’s corpse lay smouldering on the back field of Calvary Hill. There would be no Rapture for him. Mordechai John James was d e a d!
An hour later Chance was hit by the same weather bomb. Fortunately city officials had stopped all electrical street cars and replaced them with diesel buses, warned citizens of potential flooding, made sure electrical companies were on high alert, and informed the citizenry of what to do in the likelihood of a disaster. The Chance hospital was struck by lightening at 10.58. The old man, still attached to the EEG machine ( but disconnected from the mains as the hospital safety guidelines mandated this) stirred briefly and then a beatific smile crossed his face.
Two weeks later Madds was summoned to the old man’s pre- discharge meeting. She had not visited since the old man’s admission and was shocked to see the sprightly, alert, smiling man wheeled into the ward without any oxygen tubes and holding a new iPad which he almost expertly tapped the keys. As the meeting progressed Madds was faced not only with the fact that the old man was coming home but was coming back to HIS home and she would now be a tenant. Seems that the old man had remembered legal papers that had been signed and witnessed when she and her brood had moved in and although she had technically become his carer she had no legal or financial interest on the house. As her anger grew with this increasing realisation the old man’s smile and tapping grew wilder and faster. He seemed to be typing some sort of list.
OUR DAY AT THE POOL
The ,mercury was topping the 35C mark and we all decided 5he pool would be the perfect place to cool off. After a light breakfast we finalised our plans, the thee of us plus our old flatmate and his family. We had a light breakfast ( a say light because we all know that after food you should not go in the water until 2 hours otherwis3 you get cramps and you could cramp up and drown). .
Jessica got dressed first because she always cooks when we are at home. She wore her striped stretchy dress in blue and white which makes jer lo9k thin. Then Chester, who has taken to wearing his long black hair (he would kill me if he knew I had 5old you but he dies it pinned up 8n a top knot which makes him look like a girl. He wore his baggy black t-shirt with his ming coloured board shorts which made him look even more feminine. Boris was last, as usual. He looked a bit like a bear with his rounded, hunched shoulders and unusually long arms which he dragged along. He wore his bear suit which was actually just a blue t and gray baggies. . We has a8 light breakfast of porridge, coffee white bread toast with jelly spread, some fruit for health the some bacon, 3ggs and fries. And more coffee.
We got a taxi shuttle bus and picked up Harry and his hew family on the way. Harry used to flat with us but when he married Georgie he moved out. They had twin girls, yet to be named although its been a year since the birth.
The pool was crowded. So many people having fun, throwing balls , floating on air cushions and blow up animals, some just sitting on the shade.
We got our favourite spot on the tired benches on the shady side of the pool. Harry had to bottle feed the babies but Chester, Boris, Jessica and I headed for the water as, by now, it was super hot.
People stared st us but we didn’t care and we did duck dibved, bombs, played with the water toys and pretty much had more fun than anyone else at the pool. So what, we swum in our street clothes. It was so hot they dried in about ten minutes. So what if we were loud. We were having fun. We bobbed around for a bit longer until we got bored and a little hungry. We got out to get some snack food. Just a couple of jumbo bags of potato chips, a few two litre bottles of Coke, and a bevy of assorted snack bars. We went back to Harry and Georgie and the twins. Harry had taken his shirt off. He had some new tattos and we admired them as he feed one of the twins. We all agreed he looked great although a little white next to all the sun bronzed bodies nearby and it looked like he had lost some weight. Probably worrying about names for the twins.
Meanwhile Georgie was telling us about a cat scan she had at the birth and I kind of tuned out because I had heard the story s many times it kind of lost the punchlines of having to be taken to the zoo because she didn’t fit in a regular machine. Try that against being ambulanced to the weighstation to be weighed. Kinda pales in comparison.
We all watched a man in a blue hat with a big white W on the crown swimming with his two boy grandchildren. He had suddenly started screaming at them and he grabbed one of them, shook him violently, then raised him up and threw him into the water about three meters away, while still screaming “ don’t you, don’t you”. The little boy dog paddled to the side of the pool and looked down at the grating but you could tell he was crying and really upset. Some people!
Harry went off to get more chips and energy bars and Cokes.s Some papasserby saidhings like “ hippos, elephants, gross” but we were having fun and hardly noticed that a lot of people were leaving the pool. We didn’t care. We were well used to it. All the more room for us!
Adelaide January 17
The return. A friend said to me ‘how was your holiday” and then,like almost everyone, turned a deaf ear, a blind eye, to me. They don’t really want to hear your breathless retelling of 12 weeks of otherworldiness..
Well, i am going to tell you.
At first, it was hard to believe we had gone and now returned. Fortunately the homecoming was, for the most part, positive. A well cared for house, a flourishing garden, caged birds still alive, weather amenable and slightly warmer than Rome. Then, the routines started kicking in again. The mail, the bills, the obligations. Within a week Alison had travelled three times, me a couple. Memories faded. What was the name of that place? Where did we see that? Then the Kaikoura and Wellington earthquakes and, instead of central Italy devastation, we were seeing our own country reeling from a massive disaster and another wakeup call.
I rowed out to check on Faith 11. Angry seagulls circled the dinghy and I should have guessed what would happen next. They had built a nest on the foredeck and laid three beautiful green speckled eggs which they now aggressively were protecting. I felt a bang on the top of my head quickly followed by three more, amid screeching and birds angrily descended on me as I neared the boat. Blood clouded vision and I felt scared. They continued their assault for over an hour and I felt afraid to row back the 100 metres to shore.
Then the weather turned and we endured two weeks of winter like conditions. Seemed like Italy was a world away. My Italian had improved but something happens when I unlatch the gate to my teachers house . Basic words disappear. Conjugations get muddled. We had a piece on Italian University life to translate and I could not do more than three sentences. Fortunately my fellow classmate had the same experience but I wanted to give it all up. And curiously, return 5o Italy.
We are in of all places, Palmerston North for Alisons work for a couple of days. My faith in NZcuisine has been restored and I must note that my own cooking has benefitted from our travels. Simpler meals. Less meat. The meal at Nova in Palmy was a fusion of NZ ingredients married to Asian flavours. And limencello to finish.
So to answer the question. A fantastic holiday which has widened our view of the world. But, like going back to work after a break, a stressful adjustment. Blown away by a different culture but more appreciative of the rich culture of NZ.
Everything seems dull, lifeless, like those husks of wasps trapped in the space between the double glazing and wooden frame as summers heat draws to a close.
I was watching ‘The Way’ last night and I had some thoughts about the last few months. The Way is the Emilio Estevez film starring himself and his dad, Martin Sheen, and is based around the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St James, a pilgrimage that thousands take from France through to the Spanish coast. Its a story of a man (Sheen ) who has disconnected from the world and through the death of his estranged son, and the companionship of three fellow travellers, regains his faith in humanity. It was my second viewing, this time in Italian, so I could more read between the lines.
Some background. I have been living pretty much on my own for the last few years. Alison commutes to Christchurch most weeks for several days so I rattle around in a big house on my own. This trip has forced us back together about a week after she retired so there has been that but also having to be amongst new people everyday. It has been good for me and despite struggling with the language (particularly the further south we go) it has been a terribly rewarding experience. I have kept up links with NZ through this blog and I have joined Facebook and many groups where some very opinionated people have given their world views.
I have also encountered some lovely people who, despite never having met them before, have been friendly, gracious, welcoming and made me feel more welcome here than in my own country.
Why? Well I think a combination of things. Overseas I have engaged more with people, established eye contact, smiled at small things, touched, sought out new experiences. This attracts people to you. And not only Italians. On hearing a language I can identify I ask them if I am correct and that can always start up a conversation. This morning a man smiled at me , I nodded back, he saw my passport, we struck up a conversation, his wife joined on, Alison joined in and all of a sudden we learned of his holiday, their experiences, what they were doing etc. It had happened on a remote railway platform. We spoke to a young man with a bicycle who was lost. Turned out he was an Italian doctor cycling through southern Italy and he wanted to get off the road for a few days. We started talking and it all ended with an invitation to visit and stay with us in NZ . In NZ I do this to a lesser extent. Just get to where you need to be, do whatever you need to do, get out as fast as possible. Take my cardiac rehab class of 20 sessions. It was only part way through that I was informed that the physical exercise was only secondary to the purpose of the class. We were there primarily for social integration. Oh dear! How had I missed that? Di conseguenza be more open to people and engage more rather than being a hermit. And listen to what they have to say. And ask more questions of their experiences. And open myself up to new experiences. When I look back over these last few months the best things have been things that Alison forced me to do. I resisted, preferring my own safe insular world, but ultimately my fears and anxieties are holding me back from experiencing a much fuller life.
Anyway Ryanair got us to Rome where we were picked up by our suave, Mercedes driving chauffeur, who whisked us at 150 kph to our luxury apartment in Central Rome. So cooool. We should do this every stop but once in a while is affordable and a nice change.
Crowd watching at the Coliseum . Selfie hell. No5 only thousands of people taking selfies but getting whacked in the face with selfie sticks, selfie stick sellers pushing selfie sticks at you. Whoever invented them has made a fortune and should be taken to a quiet place along with the guy who invented that trumpet thing that wrecked a World Cup soccer tournament, put against a wall and be flogged to death with a Sedgway.
The family from Morrisville. Desperate to find a toilet at the Coliseum . You would think there would be public toilets where thousands of people visit but the only toilet is in a tiny pizzeria perched atop a hill about 300 metres from the place. Huge queues but I have been successful at sneaking into the ladies so did my business without fuss. We decided to have a pizza and coffee and a couple and their teenage daughter sat down beside us. I thought they were australians but turns out they were New Zealanders from Morrinsville. They have been in Holland, Italy and Denmark. Nice folks and their experience of Europe so refreshingly different. When they asked what foods Iiked most they kind of looked like they were a little bit sick. The only New Zealanders we met our whole time in Italy.
Seriously good food. Stopped off on Piazza Nouva and listened to live buskers for a couple of hours, watched street artists and all sorts of trikery by sidewalk artists. I now know how the suspended man trick works. Marvelous square. Indian in the air. How does he do it.Now, thanks to some serious thinking I worked out the only possible way it could ne done and found the props on the Internet. Then we wandered into Quirino restaurant where we enjoyed the best antipasto followed by grilled lamb chops and a salad to die for and Alisons saltimbocca was heavenly. Curiously Trip Advisor rates it poorly for the surly waiter and the incredibly rude and loud female owner who tore a strip off me for using my credit card then her head waiter for making me wait for five minutes so she could deal with me. I loved her.
Knees and hamstrings. Haven’t had a good couple of days of it as my knee and calf muscles have taken a pounding from Romes cobbled streets and the very poor walking surface which found me twisting my ankle and knee several times.
Its Goodbye bata bullets. A new pair when I left and with all the walking the insoles are destroyed, there are holes in the heels and sides, and…… they smell. I tried cleaning them by wading in the sea at Cefalu but they have just given up the ghost. Well done and well done me as my ability to walk everywhere was called into doubt before we departed. Those cardiac rehab classes were more than socialising then. Mind you I have a seriously sore right knee and I lulled a calf muscle climbing over a f3nce which has given me a day of grief in Rome.
A day of rest and reading whilst Alison goes shopping but she returns after an hour. Rome is not a shoppers paradise this time of year although I saw tons of things I could buy but well above my pensioners budget. A decent jacket for €400 is not something I can contemplate right now.
Beautiful apartment but dodgy Italian infrstructure rears its ugly head. Point one, I have documented the hot water situation. This morning, following the instructions on the wall, I could not get any hot water. Finally, after an hour of resetting everything, trying on vain to find the pilot light, I thress the instructions to the wind and followed my instincts. Hey presto! Instant hot water.
Next there is a sign in the bathroom DO NOT PUT ANYTHING DOWN THE TOILET. THIS HOUSE HAS A SEPTIC TANK WHICH MAY BACK UP. Now my limited understanding is that a septic tank will only back up if its not wmptied occassionally. I still have visions of my good friend Gordon up to his elb9ws in excrement after emptying his. AndbI am not going to deposit shitty toilet oaper in the wee bin to remind me what I have eaten last night. Cant see any obvious companies doing septic tank cleanouts and why a septic tank less than 5km from the capital of Italy in a built up suburban area. The house is relatively modern.
Then Alison turns on a switch and there is a loud buzzing noise sounding ominously like a short circuit. Another sign warns us not to run more than three electrical devices at the same time and that Italian households have a daily limit on tbe power they can consumme. This, in a country which has the highest uptake of solar power in the wo4ld.
And, door and gate locks – the bane of my life. Italians have this complicated three lock system which only seehs to deter the homeowner. Three to the left and then back one or two, or thre then righ5, left, right. We broke and jammed ( I should say I broke and jammed) three keys and were given numerous tutorials so as not to break, jam keys. Cant see why the old ,put key in lock, 5urn righ5, door unlocks cant work.
A huge storm in Mondello in the past few days. The bay is usually like glass and the colorful fishing boats bob up and down at their moorings. Much thunder and lightbning and then a tremendous downpour of rain which floods the streets. No water conservation here. Havent seen a water tank and when it rains you could fill a 3000 litre tank easily. Then the waves arrive in a strong (30-40 knot) NNW wind. Breakers crashing over the promenade, fishing boats bashing into each other, objects flying through the air. A day later it is only starting to die down but once the sun goes down you know that winter is fast approaching, although, I couldnt stay out on the balcony midafternoon as the sun was so hot.
We have a d3cent TV here so I have been indulging myself. Italian TV is crappier (if possible ) than NZ TV. Long out-of-date american crime shows, ancient american, french movies badly dubbed, endless shopping channels, really bad news channels which seem to be obssessed with immigration, earthquakes 9ten live feed cuts in one half hour segment and all showi g the same shot of a church crumbling), and advertising worse than any I have seen in any country. There are some gems though. I caught Vera Cruz with Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper, I caught a Scandinav8an comedy film which had many of the actors from a miniserues I watched called Jordskott, which was interesting and a car show which al5hough having the same format for each hour segment; man buys car; man shows all the defects in car; man takes car to mechanic friend; mechanic friend fixes car; man flogs off car at a profit or not. What is different is the show goes into a lot of technical stuff like how to remove bearings, how to do a valve gri d, how yo rem9ve rust, how to bleed brakes, how to replace a softtop, how to install an exhaust system – stuff that appeals to me rather than Jeremy and Co doing spinouts and abusing johnny foreigner. Also some d3cent music shows. We eat hed Mark Knoefler doing a show in London which I hadnt seen befoe and a documentary on Bobby Rush (dubbed in Italian)
I have a rabbit to cook tonight so am off to the village to get something to go with it. €14 -complete with head and eyes which I probably won,t use. Something Sicilian, I think.
Alison has today planned out for our last day here. We are going to visit Palermo. First to explore the markets, secondly so I can have some famous Sicilian street food, and lastly fix up a glitch with the incredibly cheap but devious Ryanair. We found out last night that we must have printed boarding passes to get onboard our Ryanair flight to Rome or will incur a €45 fine for each of us. We had been warned that this was a Ryanair trick to provide cheap fares then load them up with fiddly things
Ike this. Alisons attempts’ with Livechat only got us to the point where their wonderful new app would suffice but we have discovered this only applies to EU members. We have to print out a boarding pass and as we don’t travel around with a printer, and, Internet cafes with printers we can connect to are rare in Sicily we are hoping, by some miracle that Palermo will provide us with a solution.
The markets are a huge disappointment. Selling the same tat as you get on most beachfronts in Italy. The food stalls are better but as our home cooking days draw to a close not much to see. And the smells and rubbish are really offputting. Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor both say the Old Market is dead and gone and these are the places to be but I am increasingly questioning who these peoole write for. The Old Market has some cool bric a brac and the food is much more pleasantly presented.
Then, my next disappointment. I find my beef spleen in a bun but only served with lemon. Its not nice but I could see how with fried onion, cheese and lemon it could grow on me. A big thumbs down.
Then, we find a hotel who agree to print our boarding passes and presto , problem solved.
Palermo, a mixed bag. The city itself is dominated by Mafia built apartment blocks which are in stark contrast to those in Mondello which are characterised by the Art Nouvea villas.
The Art Nouveau villas characterize the architecture of the place, making it an important landmark in the history of international modernism . These buildings (many by the famous architect Ernesto Basile) are among the best examples of Art Nouveau in Italy and Europe.
Tomorrow all paths lead to Rome if Ryanair doesn’t spring another little Irish surprise and if the earthquakes don’t crack the runway in Rome or if …………….