Archive for Loneliness
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.
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.
The term Lido, originally coming from this island, is used to refer to certain types of outdoor swimming pools especially in Great Britain, and the “Lido deck” on a cruise ship. It also forms the first part of many place names in coastal locations throughout Italy.
A lido (/ˈliːdoʊ/ LEE-doh, /ˈlaɪdoʊ/ LY-doh) is a word inEnglish for a public outdoor swimming pool and surrounding facilities, or part of a beach where people can swim, lie in the sun, or participate in water sports. Lidos tend to be found in towns and cities in southern England, particularly London. On a cruise ship or ocean liner, thedeck with outdoor pools and surrounding facilities is often designated the lido deck.
Lido is an Italian word for “beach” and forms part of the place name of several Italian seaside towns known for their beach, e.g., Lido di Venezia, the barrier beach enclosing the Venetian Lagoon. Possibly, the term found its way into English from English visitors returning from the Lido di Venezia, where sea-bathing took place from the lat7e 19th century.
The reality is, weeeelll. A long white beach , private in places, dotted with the ‘public’ bits. Only on our passiegea the next day did we see the roped off sections, clearly telling you where you belong. Its strange for someone used to NZ BEACHES, free and accessible to all. We have a pass that allows us unto the Lido Beach Club, but we haven’t used it yet or to be truthful, found the said club. We, spent an entire day at The Lido. First get your towel. And they are beautiful towels sold by a promenade vendor. Alison has become adept at barging but falls a little short not understanding Italian numbers. When I interpret the towel guy thinks thats the price. Still, eighteen € for two cotton , beautiful lightweight towels is a bargain. Next day she managed to spruke down from €10 to €5.50 a belt. She is learning.
The beach is an e⛱🌐exercise I observe humanity at its best and worst. There is no shame. Grotesque bodies, huge man breasts, sunken bellies, sagging, necrotic skin, pale bleached anoretic, huge wrinkled, flabby arms, hanging butts. Its all on display and no-one cares.
A Japanese lady walks by, cardboard display, begging, I think, but she is offering, on-the-beach massages. I watch h in dismay as a beautiful German mother, takes all her clothes off a is pampered for a half hour. Three buxom males are next, submitting to her heavenly touch.
I dive into 27C water to cool off. Offshore a yacht ha lies lazily at anchor, A very huge Slavian women stands a few metres from me and removes her bikini. No shame. Huge pendulous breasts, swinging freely, gross pubic hair. She smiles as she pulls on a faded blue, striped dress.
I look down the beach and see a well tanned elderly gentleman gingerly making his way, step by painfully step, into the Lido bar for a cocktail to get him through the next few hours. He has obviously had a right side, left brain stroke and I want to go and help him in his painfully slow walk. He makes it and despite a severe right side deficit manages to get back to his wife on her lounger.
We wander back to our apartment and discover the old part of Cefalu. A distant tower from our balcony, a light at night, a bell that sounds every quarter hour. The big chime is the hour , the little , the quarter. The streets are like Naples, narrow, steep, quirky shops, many tourists, getting the real experience.
The days are cooling. Low 20s today with a promise of afternoon rain and thunder. Still, humidity is high and anything more than a little effort results in drenching sweat.
She sat there in her little metal backed chair looking like the roaring in her ears was getting louder and louder. It’s all very unsettling for me. As if I could hijack a plane with a tinfoil strip carrying four Cataflam. And what did she mean by that crack that the little, perfectly formed orange pills bore a remarkable resemblance to Viagra? I can see the frustration on her face and the faces of my fellow passengers as they wait impatiently for this fool to clear security. First it’s the change in my pocket, then my inhaler within its metal container, then my car keys, and still that damn bleeper is still going off. I expect they thought that I should have known about all these little metal items. I feel hamstrung and a large amount of disbelief that I could not have anticipated the effect of terrorism on air travel. It hadn’t crossed my mind that the tinfoil was metallic, and that my inhaler, which I had always perceived as plastic was, in fact, metal. My hands are now shaking uncontrollably which has further incensed the now, team of women, who was scouring my body with a passion that only matches the frantic bleeping of their instruments. Glass case with metal hinges, metal frames on my sunglasses, a paper-clip lodged in the deep recesses of my money pocket (one of the peculiarities of men’s trousers). Finally I, as a gibbering wreck, make it to the comparative safety of my seat. I quickly scan the plane for dark skinned people with flowing robes and turbans but, Flight 450, on this beautiful sunny Sunday morning, is Taleban free.Then, not five minutes into the flight, a smiling stewardess hands me two beautiful, sharpened, metal weapons to slice pilots and passengers throats, poke eyes out, or cut vital pneumatic hoses.
That swarthy male steward is not fooling me at all! He has an Arab look about him with that pointed nose and sandy stare. The name Anil Prasad on his identity tag is not dissuading me from making him out to be a member of a tiny terrorist faction intent on capturing the plane and flying it into the Beehive. Why, just this morning, on National radio I heard a security expert say that NZ is a prime target as security tightens up in other countries. Terrorists will pick on weaker countries and repeat the lessons of 9/11. I bet, even now, that Mr. Prasad is secretly sweating inside his little green uniform as he anticipates that vital second to seize control of the plane and fly it into the American embassy in Wellington, or maybe an expensive visiting yacht, or maybe a KFC outlet.
And what about that tangata whenau in the beanie, black Levi’s and dirty dogs with the barbed wire tattoo around his neck. Has he been brainwashed by Tania Turea and is now intent on copying his Arab cousins?
Now the intercom is calling out for anyone who has left a set of keys behind in security. Suddenly its upgraded to a pair of Mazda keys. Is this some secret code that only Mr. Prasad can decipher. ‘We have control of the aircraft, Anil. Break out the metal cutlery and overpower the flight crew in the rear of the plane. Anil seems remote and distracted, as if maybe, he’s forgotten the code. Another announcement. ‘Congratulations to the Northland hockey team on their runner up placing out of 24 teams at the National Champs.’ Does this mean that the plan is aborted and will be run again in 24 hours? Or is it that target 24 is to be chosen? My palms have gone all sweaty and I can feel the world starting to spin as I come to the realization that this may be the last moment of my life. Why did I choose to fly? Knowing that I could be brutally plastered against a US made building somewhere hundreds of miles from my own home. I try some cognitive reconstruction but it all sounds like psychobabble.
The pilot’s voice comes on as we descend into thick fog. ‘We are about eighty kilometers south of Wellington and there are a number of planes waiting to land in front of us so we are going into a holding pattern.’ I look out the window and we are indeed flying in thick white soup. Motionless, it feels as though the plane is hanging suspended in a moment of time. I start to think of other scenarios. A nuclear device exploded above-ground or a new electromagnetic type bomb that can be built with bits from Dick Smith and can wipe out all machines and vehicles with electronic monitoring systems. Like large 747 aeroplanes. Maybe this has happened and we are suspended in limbo. A kind of time warp. My mind starts spinning around all the possibilities.
Gradually I forget about terrorists, bombs, Osama bin Laden, and mad dog Bush. Suddenly, another announcement as the plane jerks violently in the air. ‘Ladies and gentlemen we are now descending into Wellington airport. Conditions on the ground are not good. Strong southwest winds, heavy rain and very cold temperatures with very poor visibility. I will approach cautiously but I may have to power up and abort the landing if conditions are too bad. I’ll have a second go and if that fails we have enough fuel for thirty minutes flying so we will have a go for Christchurch airport where conditions are much better. Things could get bumpy, so hang on.’
A collective hush falls over the cabin. We are all confined in the same small tin coffin. We are to be incinerated in a sudden ball of fire or worse, drowned, as helplessly we try to find the flotation device so thoughtfully hidden beneath our seats. Suddenly all thoughts of hijacking by angry Arab terrorists fade into the background as we pitch from side to side and then descend rapidly with a thump. I look below and a cold angry ocean peers back at me, and then I see gloomy Wellington streets as we round the point at Oriental parade and descend toward the airport. The plane drift sideways and then shudders and shakes. I am aware that my knuckles are white and I have worn a groove in my armrest. My sphincter muscle is working overtime. Clench, unclench. The runway seems to scream up at me and then we are down. A perfect landing and the passenger compartment breaks into prolonged applause and I even notice a small smile of relief on the face of the obviously Indian Anil Prasad.
Polynesian men line the early morning wharf. A perfect photo opportunity. Intense winters sun highlighting the silver sheen of their lines. A school of kahawai has entered the harbour and are being pulled out for their stupidity. A few wise old souls have bled them, to remove the toughness.
I wander further along the waterfront and find the left over trail of blood from an early morning stabbing. To add toughness.
He sits at the rear of the public toilets. Tall, thin and bearded he is probably three-quarters Maori. His clothes and grooming alerts you that he is a man of the street. He sucks on his can of Lion Red, at 10.45 am. He carries out a three way conversation which sometimes spills over into four or five-way as new hallucination manifest themselves. They, the hallucinations, must be vivid as each character has distinct mannerisms. Overt sweeping hands suddenly jerk into the clasped hands of the introvert. Next he is an effeminate man, then the Maori elder. His visions push and pull each other; one strikes him on the head. His finger goes to his lip in an elaborate shush.
In another time or place he might be seen as a gifted artisan. Here, he is a harmless madman.
D had just committed lactomangulation for the second time that day, manhandling the “open here” spout on a milk container so badly that he resorted to the illegal side. All-in-all it had been a frustrating day.
They had been hung over from the night before so resorted to confabulation.
“Dollars to doughnuts they’ll believe this one”
“D here” he mumbled in his best phlegmatic tone “I seem to have been influenzidized”
Midday they had gone to a movie and the inevitable game of elbonics had turned really nasty. M claimed she had the choice of the front part of the armrest. D remembered it differently. Then the popcorn had spilled onto the floor as the argument heated and he had tried to disconfect it. After expending good air M just knocked the container from his hand and roasted corn obscured the delights of Reese Witherspoon doing her Little Red Riding Hood act in Freeway.
Then as they were preparing to go out for the evening she really put the boot in
“If men can run the world, why can’t they stop wearing neckties? How smart is it to start the night with a noose around your neck?”
Always with the smart cracks and the male put down, though he secretly admired her very astute and funny eye.
So D decided that they would eat in –
‘Do you know what I would like’ he started off,”fish eggs on toast, followed by a game soup so gamey you can taste the rabbits foot. Then something fried in so much animal fat that you can feel your blood vessels clogging. For desert something with chocolate. So much chocolate that your head hurts and you feel like sneezing. They settled on Indian takeaways.
An hour later and the food still arrived. M started off on another little tirade. D teleprocrastinated for a while then eventually got through to Prasads Popodoms.
“Oh! Yes sir! Sorry sir! Our driver has been in a bad accident and delivery will be delayed. Its very near where you live kind sir and if you are so vishing you could retrieve your tasty morsels from the delivery car”
D shcmoosed into the cold night. Down the block he saw the flashing lights of a police car and an ambulance. A white van, doors open, bonnet popped, sat at a strange angle to the curb. A bus, seemingly accidentely unchallenged was surrounded by a gaggle of passengers, muttering and ooying aahying amongst themselves. As D got closer he could see the glass scattered over the road and the unmistakable red of a pool of blood near what was obviously a crash site. Two policemen, notebooks drawn were detectivising near the van. The Prasads Popodoms insignia was cruelly dissected by a large metallic gash. D spotted the white boxes in the rear with the familiar markings.
” Excuse me- I know this may seem inappropriate but that’s my food in the back. Would it be possible…” D’s voice trailed off.
The two policemen looked into each other eyes, the back of the van, surveyed the carnage, the blood, then looked back again.
“Forget the food son, it’s a goner”
Body on a Wire
He’s been there now for three days. Hanging on the wire, sideways, hands clutched at the rim. He nearly made it over the top but the Maxim machine gun caught him at the apogee of his flight and left him forever suspended in space and time. The men make macabre jokes to ease their tension. ‘He’s grown a little thinner today.’ ‘I don’t like that aftershave you have on today Ben.’
The blood has dried and crusted over the dozen or so exit wounds in his back and the smelly excreta has finally been overcome by an even more malodorous scent as the flies start their relentless feeding and laying of eggs. We would cut him down but we don’t want to end up as scarecrows on the battlefield. We argue amongst ourselves who is the more inhumane.