Sixty Nine and One Three Hundred and Sixty-fifth.*

A Day in the Life.

I spend a lot of time sitting down. Reading, playing PUBG, solving sudoku or surfing the net. When I stand up, my knees sound like someone is crushing an empty cola can inside a leather bag. I walk like a penguin, and can’t get far without support. A walking stick is sufficient for short distances but I need a walker if I’m going further. Such as down to the shower block. Walking upright hurts. I have found that leaning forward with my elbows on the handles eases the pain.

Inside the caravan I get support from the table and bench surfaces. Or I brachiate from the overhead cupboards. Standing at the sink bench to prepare food and peel potatoes is as painful as when I walk. I can’t do it for long. So I lean on the bench top with my elbows. My knees lock , my back is at a happy angle, and I can get on with the task at hand. But I still must return to an upright position when I finish. More pain. Unlocking knees. Straightening back.

I go for long slow walks in the night. There are a lot of sounds from the bush surrounding the camp. I enjoy listening and trying to identify the source. My walker has a seat so I can rest and listen when I need to. I know one must exercise. I do it at night because it is cooler, and because I am not observed. I’m shy about my condition. I’m fat. It is easy to say if I lost weight it would not hurt so much. Don’t you think I know this?

Swimming is heaven. Weightless, buoyant, I can swim all day. With water supporting me I can walk miles up and down the shallow end. It feels wonderful. I push myself to build up my leg muscles and burn some kilojoules.

Then comes the time I must get out, shower, and go home. Stepping out of the water and back into gravity is hell. It’s all I can do to keep my composure. Inside my head I’m saying “fuck, fuck, fuck”.

On some days, especially after exercise – and shopping is the worst – the pain is so bad that on my doctor’s advice, I take a double dose of Pregabalin. That seems to work, but the dose appears to be sufficient now to put me in a slightly euphoric state. Sometimes I help it along with a can of Sommersby Cider and if it is close to bed time, perhaps a tot of whiskey. I did this yesterday, because it was my birthday.

Often this euphoric state, supported by the regular morning and afternoon doses, lasts until the next day, in which case I don’t drive anywhere. I skip the pool, and do no shopping. That’s when I kill it on PUBG, or write. Otherwise I sleep. I sleep a lot by day, under a fan. Especially after a swimming or shopping expedition. That is what I shall do next. This will inevitably lead me to be awake and active at two in the morning. I was this morning. Then I slept from six to ten. Four hours is the longest I sleep. Because bladder. I have to drink copious amounts of water for my kidneys. Usually that means the longest stretch of unbroken sleep I get is about two and a half hours.

The irony is that I have to drink a lot of water, or coffee, tea, Pepsi Max, etc, and I also must take a daily diuretic. And still I retain water.

* 604,464 hours.

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69

In 1961 I was nine years old. I remember someone saying that it was a special year because it read the same upside down. The next time that would happen was in the year 6009.

I carved “1961” into the trunk of the macrocarpa tree at our front gate. I also carved my initials and those of a girl of my age who used to come over to play in my tree house and my wooden crate hut. I cant remember her name. Hell, I can’t even remember her initials., She was a great housekeeper. Loved to sweep and tidy the huts. Also she liked my rock collection, and wasn’t averse to catching frogs from the pond, Or crawlies (crayfish) and eels from the creek. Definitely a keeper.

If we hadn’t moved from Bunnythorpe to Napier she might have been the one. Who knows?

Now I can’t even recall what she looked like. But I remember she could climb trees. And I remember that when she wore a tank top or similar that left her shoulders bare, I found her shoulders to be very fascinating. Strangely attractive. There’s a memory I haven’t had for many years.

Since then I have always found bare shoulders attractive.

I’ve always thought the numbers 1,9, and 6 were special because of memories of that year. my birthday was on the 16th, and I had just turned 9. Uncanny see?

The point of this post is that the train of thought about the year back then led me to calculate how old I would be in future years, or perhaps it was more about what the year would be when I reached a particular age. 2021 was a year I particularly found interesting. I calculated that in 2021 I would be 69. That amazed me because it was in another century. Also because it was so old. Gosh, that was older than my grandma and grandad were right then. And they were OLD.

Of course, in those days I thought we were settled for life. I thought I would be in Bunnythorpe still when I grew old, or maybe Palmerston North. I could never have imagined I’d be in a caravan, far from everyone I know and love in the eleventh country that I’ve lived in, worked in or visited since those days.

But I should have known, because even then, I was an explorer. My friends and I knew every creek. We knew how to turn an old sheet of corrugated iron into a canoe. We built dams and bridges, huts and hideaways. We all had sheath knives, as we called them, on our belts. No one knew where we were, or what we were up to.

Half my friends were the children of farmers. There’s a lot to do for a kid on a farm. Billy Smith’s dad had a great Clydesdale horse. Her back was as broad as the poop deck of a frigate. She was a gentle and responsive as any animal I’ve known since. We sat on her back while she pulled a sled load of chou moliere, which we pronounced chow mollyer, to feed the cattle. Then we went to the field where it was growing, to cut some more.

I learned that chou moliere was really just a giant cabbage that grew taller than my head. Cutting it down was great fun, because we had huge machetes, which we called cutlasses, that sliced through the stems easily. It was like cutting our way through the jungle somewhere far away. We piled them on the sled ready for the next feed out.

So. Fond memories of Bunnythorpe. What did you expect? I’m an old man, meandering minded. Shipwrecked, Jim, lad. And still living in the wreck.

The Return of Rakali

The smell of my cooking proved irresistible to a wee woodland creature this evening. I made rissoles from turkey mince and fried them in a little rice bran oil. I have to say the smell was scrumptious.

Hydromys chrysogaster certainly thought so. The attractive aroma caused him (or her) to overcome a natural fear of man – AND to figure out how to negotiate her way through a magnetically closing flyscreen curtain – to check out out the source. She was clearly taken aback when she came face to face with me. Because despite my friendly greeting of “Hello small furry creature!” she fled.

But the tempting lure of that tantalising emanation was too much and she returned within minutes.

The smell was coming from the oil in the wok, which was cooling before being washed. So I swiped a couple of crusts of bread through the oil and put it on a plate along with some of the scraps of patty. I lay the plate on the floor near the door and waited. She returned in minutes.

She is skittish and shy, but I managed to get a picture or two. The light was not good, but you can see her furry unpointed face, and make out her webbed feet and furry tail. She is not a rat.

Furry tail

This is the nocturnal visitor I wrote about here and I’ve spotted a few times since. Either she was really really hungry tonight, or my cooking smells so good, that she could not resist coming into the van despite my presence. Maybe it is a she after all, and she is feeding babies. I’ll find something to leave out for her.

The Meaning of Life

Philosophically, I’m trying to work out whether enthalpy is a manifestation of life, or life a manifestation of enthalpy. Knowing this, either way, can only lead to the existential realisation that nothing matters, because all is matter. It’s just a matter of time. That is the matter I ponder.

The answer to the age old question “Why am here?” is :
TO ORGANISE THINGS AROUND YOU. Also to produce more organisers. Once we accept this, and see the circle that is life. Nothing really matters.

All other life forms are limited in their ability to organise matter from a state of entropy to one of enthalpy.

Humans, on the other hand have taken it to an exponentially greater level than the ants and termites, swifts and bowerbirds.

We take energy from fish and meat and vegetables and use it to take wood from the forest, ore and minerals from the earth, and organise it all to create houses, cities, factories, vehicles, fishing boats and farms, spaceships and satellites.

We have also devised a myriad of ways to return matter to a higher state of entropy again. Bullets, torpedoes, bombs, gas chambers, minefields and killing fields. Incinerators and refuse tips. For example.

If history and palaeontology have taught us anything it is that in the end entropy wins every time.

So organise things as best you can, and accept that nothing lasts forever.

Spuds

I was at Aldi, grocery shopping. As I selected my vegetables I saw a woman about my age pick up two potatoes and hold them in her hand with a faraway look on her face. I crossed the aisle to select a few items from the cooler and turned back to get some spuds. The woman was still standing in front of the potato bin.

“Excuse me,” I said. “ Are you OK?

She stepped aside, still holding the pair of potatoes. “I was just thinking about my late husband” she said. She hefted the potatoes one more time and put them back in the bin.

“Gosh” said I, jokingly.. “Were they that big?

“No”. She replied. “They were that dirty”.

Biltong Sausage

To make biltong sausage you must first, as the old saying goes, catch your biltong. Unlike the pemmican, which is loud and aggressive and easy to find, thus quite easily caught once their roosting places are discovered, the biltong is a quiet, shy creature that goes about its business digging up truffles and mushrooms without making so much as a rustle in the undergrowth.

Because they are so delicious, every creature wants to eat them, which is why biltongs have become very canny at avoiding detection. A good biltong hunter can make a pretty penny over the biltong season, which runs from May to September. After then the little creatures are busy shagging then, soon after, raising their litters. So that puts them off limits until their families have grown and are self sufficient. This happens around April. Each pair will produce a litter of about six kitlings which will be in prime condition and ready to eat around mid May

Biltongs mate for life. It is important therefore to catch both of a mating pair, so the other one won’t be left miserable. This is generally not difficult, as the partner will loyally remain with its trapped mate, and is easily captured. Every hunter makes it a point of pride to ensure both of a mating pair have been caught. They will even release a captive rather than break up a suspected pair. If only all hunters were as honourable.

In the season, competition for the limited legal bag is fierce and every biltongerman has his or her trade secrets. I’m not going to tell you how it’s done. But it involves string and truffle oil bait. Every biltong is then humanely despatched by RSPCA approved methods. This is a strict requirement of a biltong hunting licence. Australia has some of the most extraordinarily humane slaughtering rules in the world. They even even cover cane toads, which everyone hates. So you can imagine how lovingly we kill our biltongs. You would too if you saw those big eyes and cute fluffy ears. It’s not a job for the cruel and callous.

The biltong is then skinned, boned and shredded before being mixed with a secret proprietary blend of salts, spices and herbs. No artificial colours or flavours are added. The biltong is then lovingly extruded into sausage skins made of their own intestines. These are then delightfully dehydrated until they become the tender, spicy, chewy delicacy we all love. Biltong Sausage.

Biltong
This is a Bettong, silly.

Sometimes

Sometimes, in fact quite often, I think my blogs are pure crap. Then I read those of other people. Mine are not so pure.

But it is just a tad worrying when my most liked posts are bad taste cooking jokes.

if you really want to see what a good blog is, visit this one.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, poet (1809-1892)

Molto Vivace, -Presto

My Spotify Beethoven playlist is sixty two hours, forty seven minutes long. It is not complete because there are many beautiful performances still to be heard. I keep finding new ones. I’m particularly fond of the cello works. My favourite of all is the Triple Concerto; Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C major, Op. 56. I have only three versions so far. Sometimes I can tell which is which.

I know very little about music, but I know how it makes me feel.

As I write this, the Ninth is playing. It seems a hopeful omen for January first.

I’m not superstitious. But I like superstitions. They are a form of ritual that connects us to our past. I still throw a pinch of spilled salt over my left shoulder, not because I believe it will achieve anything, but because my Irish grandmother did it.

I messed up breakfast. I had unbuttered digestive biscuits (3) with my coffee. I realised too late I should have made tea. It’s just not the same when you dunk.

Here’s to 2021. May it bring all you need, and some of what you want.

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen,
und freudenvollere.
Freude!
Freude!

Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium
Wir betreten feuertrunken
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt

Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt

Wem der große Wurf gelungen
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund

Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrunde!
Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund

I reinterpreted the first lines…

O friends, cut the crap
Cheer up. Sing me no sad songs!
More songs full of joy!

Joy!
Joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Within thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers,
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join our song of praise;
But those who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.
All creatures drink of joy
At natures breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He sent on their courses
Through the splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
Like a hero going to victory!
You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?
Seek Him in the heavens;
Above the stars must he dwell.

Frangipani, Palau, Christmas 2009

Athbhliain

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh! (Ahvleen fui voshah gheev) – Happy New Year to you all.

I swept and mopped the floor before midnight, to remove all traces of the past year and allow the new a clean start. That’s not superstition, it’s plain common sense and good hygiene. I did it last year, and it was definitely time to do it again. Normally you can eat off my floor. There was spaghetti and spilled cashews over there, and usually one can find a few frozen peas by the refrigerator. Possibly some curry over there. I think that may have been gravy near the stove. I hope so. Anyway, it’s clean now.

I got some sourdough bread from the freezer to thaw for the morning, and banged it on the door of the caravan. Another tradition that has always worked for me. I’ve never starved yet.

So begins a new year. I was in bed at midnight, awake, and listening both to Beethoven’s Triple Concerto (my favourite piece of his) and pouring rain. Water dripped on my bed from somewhere above the window. My first task of the year is to discover the cause and fix it.

Misty Moisty Morning. Photo by Lyn Riddell.