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Paul Maunder's blog

Branding

The etymology of the word, brand, is complex. In the beginning it was a simple mark of ownership, burnt into the skin of an animal or slave.

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Then it became a make of product. We would talk of a brand of butter or car. Marx wrote of commodity fetishism, pointing out the projection of human emotions and entanglements onto commodity items: the boy and his modified car, the girl and her shoes. This is of course the basis of commercials, to turn a product into a fetish.

Late last century, there was a shift from the brand naming a certain product to the brand as a more abstract and encompassing thing: Nike or Apple or Coca Cola or Levi. The brand became detached from the product and became the fetish and the fetish then encompassed all the commodities made by that brand.

Coca Cola stands for having a good time. Nike stands for fitness and achievement.

The impulse spreads. It’s not just makers of commodities but suppliers of transport (Air NZ),  or electricity (Mighty River Power), or banks (Opportunity) – even governments (Clean Green NZ), and sports teams (the All Blacks).

The branding moves into every area of life: individual sports people, actors and singers become brands (Lorde, Sam Neill, Dan Carter), able to sell their brand to other brands.

Some churches become brands.

Discussing this with Leigh Cookson she pointed out that not just political parties but even activist movements have become brands: Greenpeace, Black Lives Matter, Me Too.

It is rumoured that Trump stood for president as a way to increase the strength of his brand and was aghast when he actually won and now has to do the job.

As brands interweave and penetrate every aspect of life, there is no escaping the system. If you’re not a brand or attached to a brand you don’t exist.

And now writers have been drawn into the game.  Victoria University Press lists its authors as brands, with the books they write as the product attached to that brand. E.g. (http://vup.victoria.ac.nz/brands/Eleanor-Catton.html)

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Photo Victoria Birkinshaw

VUP presumably provides quality control and helps to publicise the brand(s) through the usual means of performances and appearances. When I read the following checklist from a marketing website, I can see why the Press and presumably its authors found it an attractive proposition. Does your brand relate to your target audience? Will they ‘get it’? Does your brand show the uniqueness of what you offer and why it’s important? Does your brand reflect the values that you want to represent? Does your brand emotionally connect the target prospects with your product and motivate the prospect to buy and thus create user loyalty. In other words, will the reader, like the slave, bear your mark (perhaps your signature) as proof of ownership? Isn’t that the business of being a writer?

At this point I begin to feel like Hamlet. There’s something rotten…

Is there anything that resists this hegemony?

Well, the working class is not a brand and labour continues to resist being a commodity. There have been attempts to make revolution a brand and revolutionaries a brand (Che Guevera) but without real success. And then there is the ethical or creative individual. James Joyce as a brand? Thomas Mann? T.S. Eliot? Bertrand Russell? Freud? Karl Marx? It’s a ridiculous proposition.

Dare I say then that Victoria University Press has entered dodgy and demeaning territory?

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Hunting and Gathering

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Blackberry season, and I return to the ‘primitive’ task of gathering. It’s the best way of relating to a landscape. Firstly knowing where the bushes are: along the track to the creek, around the pond, along the creek bank, along the museum fence, along the road to Roa, Blaketown beach… (I’m giving away secrets here). Then keeping an eye on these places through winter and spring, watching the flowers blossom, then the berries form, hard nuts of green slowly expanding, beginning to ripen, hoping for sufficient sun and rain. Then the searching begins, for they don’t ripen all at once. Maturation is dependent on the relationship to the sun’s trajectory.

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I taste the first ripe berry, experience that burst of oral pleasure, before harvesting a few and stewing them for breakfast.  The numbers increase. There’s the threat of other gatherers getting in first so I take a container down to the creek. It’s time consuming work. There are some covered by grass, others just out of reach. On the creek bed the vines spread across the boulders, the plant seeming to be almost a different species. It’s necessary to resist the temptation to eat as I pick.

I carry home the container with a feeling of plenitude and a pie to look forward to when we host a nephew and his family who are passing through (a sort of ceremony). Above all, I glimpse for a moment the world as it once was for people reliant on hunting and gathering. This could be about survival of the clan. How busy they must have been. How aware of the natural world they must have been, with this act of gathering blackberries multiplied a thousand fold. Add to it the necessary knowledge of insect and animal life and invest this patch of land with gods and spirits… Hard yakker, a short life and occasional starvation, yet a people in touch with the specific. And in touch with the gods.

A world so far from agribusiness and supermarkets that the distance could lead to madness, which of course it does for so called ‘primitives’ when they encounter ‘civilisation’. The ‘primitives’ did some harm to the environment when they acquired fire, but generally they were one species among many and as a species they were as sustainable as a blackberry bush, or a lizard. No more, no less. Except they had consciousness, could detect patterns past the patterning of evolution. Language followed, then the written word and the ability to write this down.

For what it’s worth.

Meanwhile the apple tree which provides enough fruit to last through the year is almost ready for harvesting. But for the apples to last I need the use of a freezer, making for contradiction and the judgement that much of the above could be viewed as sentimentality.

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Ahakoa he iti kete, he iti nā te aroha
It is the thought that counts

 

Youth and Age

It’s been a varied seven days. Last week I co-facilitated a filmmaking programme for young people (10-18 years) with Alun Bollinger. We introduced them to a rigorous and disciplined process and out the other end came 5 minute films, most of which were very good. I would say that the sub text of the films revealed kids living in an anxious, threatening and cynical world – that’s not surprising. But there’s a contradiction: they are also  offered entitlement and their comfort is worried over, can even become pampering. As well, the perceived threat arrives via the media so is curiously unreal. I think this contradiction is behind the mental health issues. At the same time they responded well to the rigour and discipline, negotiated their group culture (with often a range of ages) with skill and found their way around digital systems with ease. The programme also gave them time and space to hang out together and we didn’t have to worry about RAMS (risk assessment management strategies) and high viz jackets- all that stuff that bedevils schools. It was then, a rewarding role to play, that of elder handing on knowledge of process.

From there I went to the Waihopai spy-base protest in Blenheim and afterward to a gathering to possibly launch a movement for an independent Aotearoa. This was one of those predominantly grey-haired events with a small leavening of younger people. Despite Corbyn and Sanders, it was hardly the stuff of movement building. As well, sovereignty is a contested concept, so it was sensible to put the project to one side. Yet there were fine presentations from Keith Locke and Bill Rosenberg, which surely belong on the website of the left wing think tank which Sue Bradford set up. Alas, this has somehow disappeared into an Auckland University Department and Sue is no longer involved.

In Blenheim that 1960s determined critique was present in aged form, but the best idea came from a young woman who felt that the gathering had the potential to become a forum for activists from many quarters. The spy station is a resonant symbol of the system and the fact that the protest  has taken place for thirty years is really something. Tell the story to the younger generation and let them get on with it, was her message. But the baby boomers find it hard to step aside, are fearful the critique will get lost, as oppositional movements continue to fragment into fervent  struggles for an ever more complex diversity, leading to a sort of speaking in tongues.

The US philosopher, Fredrik Jameson, wrote a seminal essay on post modernism as the culture of late capitalism. In the essay he describes a hotel in LA. The exterior is made of that mirror glass which reflects back anything from outside, for it is only concerned with its own interior self. If you make it inside the building the foyer is lavish and striking, soaring through each floor. But the shops and service centres are confused in terms of layout and there are few points of reference to enable the visitor to find her way around. And when it comes to the bedrooms where people stay and which are the functional reason for being there, they are mean of scale, mediocre of design and generally crap. A precise model of the culture we live in.

From Blenheim I drove to Nelson to visit my writing friend, Eva Brown (known also by her Hungarian name, Panni Palasti). Eva, who is in her eighties and fled Hungary in 1956, received an invitation to publish a Hungarian translation of her poems. It was a taxing project, poetry being the most difficult of translation tasks, but last November she flew to Hungary for the launch of her book, A tongue is not for lashing – Nyelvunk nem ostor, each poem printed in English and Hungarian. To have her fine work thus recognized in her native land was a healing experience. An honouring took place and the old deserve to be honoured. Yet must honour in turn the new generation.

Finally, on the way home I stopped in Murchison for a swim in the Buller. A top of the south country and western festival was being held in the adjoining camping ground and I floated blissfully in the cooling water listening to a sentimental love song sung slightly out of tune.

A moment out of time.

Rain, rain and more rain

Back from a wet bike trip: Blackball-Reefton-Westport-Charleston-Punakaiki-home. It rained every day. Biking in a soft drizzle is pleasant, but as it becomes heavier, one is torn between donning the rain gear which makes one sweat and suffering the drenching. The Lower Buller Gorge seemed particularly malevolent and I felt for Thomas Brunner on his dreadful journey. And then there’s the business of a wet tent, which inevitably leads to a damp sleeping bag. It was one of those weeks when the rain refuses to budge, like a dementia patient. The sky almost lightens, a patch of blue, but then another shower arrives.

Nevertheless, cycling, as well as massaging the cardio-vascular system, unclogs the thought patterns.

Visiting these tourist spots gave me a chance to think about tourism and tourist towns (or visitor towns – an interesting difference perhaps?). Reefton does the visitor town well – it’s on a good scale and it has managed to dramatise itself tastefully.  The shopfronts are all painted, each with a flag above the veranda. There are good cafes, a quality art gallery run by a co-op of artists and splendid second hand shops spread among the more functional day to day shops for the locals. There’s heritage in the mining school and the Blacks Point Museum. What do visitors need?  To pass the time by eating, drinking, looking at interesting things and sometimes  venturing on a walk or a cycle. Hokitika has a similar culture, with locals taking advantage of the increased market that visitors provide. There’s no singular attraction in either place and this is, I suspect, an advantage.

Westport tries, but lacks the artists and the second hand shops, so the visitor is stuck with the everyday (other than a couple of art nouveau buildings) and an awareness of marginality. Charleston is a potpourri: limestone caves and a fine bay, the business headquarters for a national company, a camp ground and the smallest club in New Zealand, which made me feel at home when I popped in for a beer. Wet through, I hired a cabin, the tiniest of rooms but absolute luxury, especially as there was access to a drier.

Punakaiki is a tourist spot, cursed with the Pancake Rocks attracting thousands for the photo op, before  most move on. There’s immense infrastructure pressure for sixty rate payers and a confusing array of councils and DOC to deal with. The water has to be boiled, the accommodation is booked out and there’s no space for expansion. The glacier towns are the same. There’s not a lot of point in this meeting between nature and capital, the photos have all been taken and a gormlessness sets in. But cycling along the Coast Road I appreciated the attraction for those life-stylers tucked away in the bush with a resplendent empty ocean in the foreground.

Greymouth lacks just about everything: there’s a couple of decent craft shops, but little art, no second hand shops, nothing to look at other than Shantytown which is on the outskirts, some tolerable cafes, but hard to kill time in a place locked into franchises and suburbia, with an inability to dramatise itself. To do so, it would have to adopt a tangatawhenua/turangawaewae framework, but instead holds on grittily and determinedly to a 1950s settler culture.

Where is Blackball in this? Puzzled I suspect. It’s possible, but difficult to dramatise an activist past – it requires  cultural and historical understanding and an ongoing political sympathy for the progressive (participatory democracy, co-operatives and the like), which is asking a lot of a small West Coast village. There’s  some craft, an excellent salami company, an iconic pub, a working men’s club that survives, a museum that does dramatise the activist past on a shoe string budget, and now a suburban infrastructure (a car park and a dunny) being overlaid to provide for the walk. There will be some local opportunism around the edges, but coherence?

The racks of bikes will pass through, someone might build a motel – maybe, as in Punakaiki, staff will come from Greymouth. In the past it has been a discreet visitor town, now it will become a minor tourist town.  Locals will keep to the back streets and wait for winter. Or am I being overly pessimistic?

As I write, the sun has come out – briefly.

Back to the Sixties

In the world of the market, Christmas arrives as theatre of the absurd; for the story of God becoming human, of challenging the system, honouring the poor, driving the money changers out of the temple, being betrayed by a member of his band of guerrillas and crucified by the colonial rulers in league with the local power brokers, takes place within a tsunami of consumerism.

A homeless man appeared in Greymouth on Christmas Eve. We’re not used to this phenomenon. He sat crouched against the Warehouse wall, his bag of clothes beside him, a sign requesting a couple of hours work leaning against his knees. Maybe from the UK? His physical appearance suggested drugs and his youth was worn out.

The Boxing Day sales came and went and for the first time, we took the grandchildren to Tui Farm Folk festival. It was a lovely occasion, two hundred people camped on Carol and Steve’s farm near Tapawera. For four days the kids and adults played, the masks slowly dissolved, the banjos strummed and the violins meditated in an Appalachian sort of way. The kids became a village and no one wore a high viz jacket (how I am coming to hate high viz jackets), or worried about health and safety. One shower served 200 people. I am sure it met none of the statutory requirements for such events, but a winding gravel road kept the bureaucrats away. It would have been good for the homeless man to have been there.

Of course, the folk music movement has its complexities, especially in a colonial culture – who are the folk?- but a South Island rural group singing Poi E dissolved contradiction.  New Year’s Eve almost had its meaning restored. If this sort of event can still take place and not be taken over by entrepreneurs and event managers, there is hope for the future. The vehicles remained static, and the rhythm of the strolling adult or skipping child took over, as in a Pacific village. The bush poetry session on New Years Day was often touching. A German read a lovely piece comparing life in Berlin with life at Tui. Her hands shook with nervousness as she expressed this vital thought in a second language. It would have been good for the homeless man to have been there.

I remembered the impulse behind the sixties: we need to sabotage capitalist culture, overthrow it, bury it, for it does too much damage. It is no good negotiating levels of compliance. Let’s really do it.

And avoid the tragedy of the sixties, of letting the impulse degenerate into another consumer item.

I arrived home to find a letter from the PM replying to a submission I had made to her as Minister of the Arts regarding a more equitable deal for the regions. She’d obviously read the submission, considered it, and will take the viewpoint into discussions with Creative NZ. After years of brief formulaic dismissal of attempted discussion, this was rather amazing.

All the best for the new year.

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Grief

Comes in waves, doesn’t it? Like the sea.

My brother died last week. He was ready to go. Was a working man all his life. The body gets worn out. He liked a smoke, had been diabetic for a while. When you can’t do stuff with your hands there’s not a lot to motivate. He had lunch at the rest home, lay down on his bed and died.

A wave lifts, then breaks, head up, water streaming.

He had the politics of a working man. ‘I’m Labour, always have been.’ He had Ken Douglas to tea once, knew the bosses were generally arseholes. As a youth I went with him up to Waipukurau when he applied for a farm labourers job on one of those stations. The owner was gentry and we were given a cup of tea on the veranda- weren’t invited inside. I’ve never forgotten.

With grief the physical world becomes dislocated, unreal. The void threatens.

He couldn’t drive anymore (he always loved his car), but got a cheap mobility scooter and would go down to the main road and sit and watch the trucks go by.

For a while the funeral was threatening to be messy, he had a funeral fund but no Will – how could his son access the money? Another son in jail down here. I was in Christchurch trying to get to see him, went to the wrong prison, had to drive down Blenheim road on a hot day – all that stuff for sale, all that signage – like driving through hell – through Rolleston to the ultimate gated village – someone must make a fortune building the fences. Disembodied voice: Visiting is not possible. Distant laughter.

As I chose the songs for the undertaker to play at the service, I wept. Music is the conductor of feeling. Next Easter we’ll have a memorial service in Manakau where he was brought up and everyone will have time to come. We’ll scatter his ashes in the sea.

I watch the news. Jacinda seems to be caught in some celebrity bubble – a photo shoot for Vogue?  Ten, or is it twenty thousand children are no longer in poverty? How do they know? Have they got names? It’s a bizarre world. I am reminded of Sartre’s Nausea.

If I stop the thoughts, the void is there. Te Po. Slightly scary.

After a month of rainless days there’s a downpour. The creek fills, the gorse falls over, the trees drink in the words. Life continues. I’ll take it gently for a few days.

Graham photo

Fixing the housing crisis

Phil Twyford’s first speech as Minister of Housing was radical. He is seeking to restore the concept of state housing to the agenda. Under the reign of neo-liberalism it has become a disreputable idea – for housing has become solely defined as a capital investment by the individual. Often that individual is attached to a family, but that only means the family is the investor. The individual or family as investor can own more than one house. And of course, investors can be companies or foreign nationals.

At the heart of this ideology and therefore at the heart of our supplying of housing, is selfishness. It is considered that if everyone behaves as selfishly as possible then social good results. There will be some who either don’t behave sufficiently selfishly or simply don’t behave and they require a safety net which has led to the oxymoron, ‘social housing’. It’s an oxymoron because all housing is social. Houses are places for people to live their lives in: sleep, eat, make love, have children, bring up their children, play, entertain etc. = all social activities. But Maggie Thatcher’s statement that there is no such thing as society, continues to haunt, for, in this scenario, society exists only for the failures and therefore ‘social housing’ is required as a charitable intervention.

Twyford talked of the state housing programme of the first, 1935 Labour Government and the role it played in the housing crisis of that time, a crisis compounded by the depression. Much inner city housing was slum-like and working class families were pleased to move to a modern home with a section, in a modern suburb with planned facilities. The place I lived in for a period in Wellington, Holloway Road, where the houses were small and damp, supplied many of the first state housing occupants in the Hutt Valley.

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Yet this socialist intervention went against the grain of the home ’ownership’ impulse, buried deep in the Pakeha psyche and which tracks back to the settlers’ desire to own some land, to be for evermore independent of lords and bosses. There’s a 1935 United/Reform coalition (soon to be the National Party) election poster showing a communist monster about to clutch at the family home. Rumour had it that the communists would also take your wife (that other private possession) into some state-run brothel of free love.

But with the state housing intervention there then existed two models:

(a) the home can be provided by the state as representative of the collective of citizens and the individual occupier pays rent to the collective; or

(b) the home is a significant investment (via a mortgage) for the individual and a means to acquire private capital (it is important for the investor that the value of the home increases).

The problem with the former can be the bureaucracy of state control and a lack of individual incentive for improvement of the property; the problem with the latter is the expansionary nature of capitalism, the inequality and instability it produces and the marginalising of increasing numbers of the population.

When I was a kid in Palmerston North in the 1950s, the two models co- existed in a state of acceptable tension. The norm was for couples to get engaged and put a deposit on a section. When they got married they rented for a while and began building their house, often doing some of the labouring work themselves. They eventually moved in and the wife got pregnant and usually stopped work. There was a cheap state loan up to a certain limit (State Advances I think it was called) and people had to get a second mortgage from a bank. The second mortgage often caused some stress, for the interest was higher and it had to be paid back earlier (the second mortgage almost caused us to default when the due date for payment arrived, but a grandparent’s will saved the day). There were state houses dotted through the town and some were sold to the occupier, who could on sell them – we ended up in an ex state house. There were people with bigger houses than ours but they didn’t flaunt them and a pretence of equality existed. My brother’s wife’s family were Maori and they rented, which was unusual. There was the odd drifter who might be considered homeless and there were a couple of boarding houses in town, but no one lived in their car and the whole seemed to work pretty well. Investing in the ‘housing market’ was not a tangible idea.

Now, after a period of thirty years, Twyford is trying to bring back this mix. Of course there are other steps along the spectrum of state versus private. There is council housing which still exists in many places, mainly in the form of pensioner flats. Housing co-operatives can be a viable option (there are many in the US and Canada), with all sorts of permutations possible: collective ownership of the land with private ownership of structures; or collective ownership of both land and house but with the ability to realise individual equity when someone leaves the co-op. I would encourage Twyford to explore these options as well.

Toronto Housing Co-op

Housing Co-op, Toronto

Ultimately, this is about relationships, relationship of the citizen to the state, relationships to land and buildings, and relationships between citizens. The difficulty will be that relationships of collectivism have taken such a battering over the last thirty years, that Twyford’s task will be very demanding indeed.

WARU

 

Waru is a very important NZ film, both in terms of content and technique. A group of Maori women writers, directors and actors have explored the horror of child abuse within a whanau. It is eight ‘short stories’ linked by the one event – the death of a child. Necessarily the culture is both judged and celebrated. Booze, the good time, patriarchy, poverty, continuing colonisation, have to be judged. The resilience of women and the sinews of the culture are celebrated.

And the children go on being children.

And these people, switching frameworks, are working class people.  Reading a book of Pacifica short stories, Black on White, I was struck by the same thought. Pakeha writes and filmmakers tend to write about the middle class experience; Maori and PI are writing about the working class.

Waru is technically, very important. Each ‘story’ is shot as a single take. It therefore subverts the usual montage which remains central to most film story-telling: the cutting between characters, the composing of a scene from separate shots which are then joined by an editor. As a film theoretician put it, montage is a dictatorial system. You see a shot of someone looking, and then you are shown what they are looking at. The filmmaker has control of the suspense, of the imagination.

A Hungarian filmmaker, Jansco, subverted this dictatorship in the 1960s by introducing the ten minute choreographed shot without breaks, so that a complete ninety minute film was made up of nine shots. Janso’s subject was Hungarian history and the choreography involved armies on horseback, battles, etc. But by joining things up in this theatrical way, history could enter the film as a coherent force. Some other filmmakers were inspired by this technique (Italian filmmaker, Bertolluci 1900; the Greek filmmaker Angelopoulos The Travelling Players), but the hegemony of Hollywood won out and the impulse disappeared.

But it is resurrected in Waru in an intimate manner. The effect of the long take is to join things up, for real time to exist, for the effect of poverty on a mother and her family to be coherent, for the impact of a child’s death on the staff of a kohanga to be coherent, for the young girl’s confrontation of the abusive uncle to be coherent. We are not told what to see next, we are simply seeing. It is a technique suited to a culture which is resisting fragmentation, resisting being broken into pieces to be restored by some outside authority.

It leads to an aesthetic which is pleasing because it has to reject the normal ideas of the aesthetic in film. You can’t light for the long take, for the camera is pointing in every direction. Nevertheless, there are moments of great beauty and some astonishing ingenuity – from car interior to house interior without break.

Waru is then, the polar opposite of Lord of the Rings, politically, economically, culturally, and aesthetically.

I know which I prefer.

2 deer 1 Pajero

I was driving home from choir practice, along the windy road by the river, when a shadow loomed at the driver’s window, followed by a thump and a dreadful grinding sound.

The door opened enough to get out. The front mudguard was buckled, pressing tight against the wheel and a deer lay on the road. A young stag had run at the car, a sort of boy racer suffering from a surge in testosterone. I tugged at the mudguard to no avail then dragged the deer to the side of the road, decided there was much venison lying here and rang Mike to bring the trailer.

Headlights appeared and a small truck stopped. A jovial Coaster got out and introduced himself. Wayne was his name. He inspected the deer. ‘Jeez, you killed him.’ He had a torch and flashed it around. ‘Wait a minute, there’s another one.’ We moved to the other side of the road. This one was a bit older, with a greater show of antlers. ‘Bloody amazing. You got two deer. Wait until I tell my mates. Two in one hit.’ ‘You want one?’ ‘Wouldn’t say no. Been a while since I had venison.’ We inspected my vehicle. ‘What if we tie a strop around it and I give it a tug with the truck. You got a strop?’ I nodded. ‘You’re Paul aren’t you? You write in the paper.’ We shook hands. ‘My Dad’s into history.’ We hooked on the strop and he got into his truck and pulled back the mudguard. Mike turned up and we loaded the deer. Wayne gave me his number. ‘In case the insurance wants a witness. There’s a bloke in Leith Crescent will take the antlers – he does the velvet. I’ll text you his address.’

We went along a potholed road down to the river and gutted the deer. An amazing amount of intestine, heart and lung came out. It was a creature in the prime of life. The deer’s eye had become familiar. It had been a beautiful creature. We bumped back along the road which had a sign saying it was no longer maintained by the Council and hung the deer in the garage. Blood was still seeping from the carcass and a puff of steam could be seen close to the surface before I washed it down and covered it with a cloth. Already I felt an intimacy with the deer. As I washed the blood from my hands, the musty smell from its skin and body was on my clothes. It was the smell of a slept in bed; the smell of bodily juices. It was the smell of life and death.

Next morning Whaea brought down Darcy’s knives and I skinned the deer. It took a while. It’s fascinating how a skin is so intricately attached. The dogs watched, intensely interested. Now it was a matter of keeping off the flies. As I wrapped it carefully, the smell of the deer seemed permanently attached to me.

I rang the insurance company and entered another world, a world of money. I realised how many billions of dollars are attached to cars: loans, insurance, claims, a national network of approved panel beaters, road side rescuers… It was all pretty straightforward as I went through the list of questions, but the woman said the car could be a write off. Then Wayne rang. The incident was entering Coast folklore. ‘I told my mate. He’d never heard of it before. Two deer in one hit. You must have been travelling.’ I assured him I wasn’t. ‘Eighty k an hour.’ ‘ Go on mate, that’s the story for the insurance company. I’ve just been gutting mine. Anyway, here’s the blokes name for the antlers.’

I levered the mudguard a bit more with a crow bar and drove to the panel beaters with my bike on the back. ‘This is the deer job, eh?’ He inspected it. ‘What’s it insured for?’ ‘Three seven.’ He grimaced. ‘I think it’s dead.’ ‘I’ve just had the motor rebuilt.’ ‘The trouble is the insurance company takes twenty five percent.’ ‘For doing what?’ He shrugged. ‘It doesn’t have to be pretty,’ I pleaded. ‘I don’t mind if the mudguard’s a different colour.’ He became more positive. ‘ In that case it might be possible. Not pretty?’ ‘No, I don’t care about pretty.’ ‘Leave it with me.’ I got my bike off. ‘Where do you live?’ ‘Blackball.’ ‘You riding home to Blackball?’ ‘Yeh.’ He gave me an unbelieving smile and disappeared. But it was good to bike back. On a bike you see things.

Mike came over after work and we cut up the deer and packaged it. So much venison. The dogs got some fleshy bones. They couldn’t believe the plenty. The chooks had a peck, so did the birds, followed by the flies. Even a moth was interested. We were back in another time. From hunger to plenitude. The hind legs were huge – a roast for Christmas Day. I chopped up the carcass with an axe for dog tucker.

By now the deer had become  story and food. That mad testosteroned moment of deer boy racing had run its course. The moon came out and I realised the digital world is a hoax, a lemon, a cop out, a parody of life. I won’t be sorry to leave it behind.

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