Wednesday, November 11, 2009

4 Unrelated 'Cs'

C is for Cowberry

I had read about lingonberries, extremely nutritious, which are collected from the wild and served with reindeer steaks in northern Scandinavia. What I hadn’t realised is that its English name is cowberry. This plant grows all over northern Eurasia and has a related species in the same North American latitudes. It is unusual in that is an evergreen, its leaves buried under winter snow. They are an important food for bears and foxes.

Friend Jenny gave me for my birthday a fancy packet of Swedish sweets, lingon soft pastilles, a sort of superior jube. They had a pleasant, tart flavour. In Northern Europe the berries are usually cooked as jam or sauce. It was customary to preserve them. Until recently they had an important role in keeping people healthy in Sweden through the long winters when fresh vegetables were unavailable.

C is for Cedenco

Cedenco is a large New Zealand vegetable processing company. It went into receivership two days ago. ANZ is providing seasonal finance to keep it trading before a sale next year. So, at least in the short-term, farmers and labourers will be able to maintain their livelihood.

One of the reasons given for the collapse of the company was a breakdown at a ‘shareholding and governance level.’ Cedenco’s major shareholder, SK Foods International, an American company, is filing for bankruptcy protection. In turn it is seeking legal redress from ANZ for its action. I don’t know who is right and who is wrong, probably faults on all sides. But I do know the lawyers will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Meanwhile Kiwis who till the soil, harvest and process the crop remain at the mercy of these global transnational forces. My mind tells me it’s been happening for centuries. My heart says something’s wrong as I see Kiwi sweat develop another viable and useful local industry only to see it gobbled up and possibly destroyed.

C is for the Cup

Yesterday, I watched on TV, a horse called Monkey King win the New Zealand Trotting Cup. In my childhood the word ‘cup’ had one meaning. It was that race which took place each November at Addington during Canterbury Show Week. Pop, my grandfather, a trotting fan, was a steward at Addington racetrack. I spent 15 months in bed as a boy with a collapsed lung – the wire wove mattress probably contributed to my present round-shoulderness. Shortly after I became bed-ridden Pop drove off to Ashburton for the day. Before he left he said listen to the broadcast of the main race, a pacer called `Gold Bar' would win. I listened and `Gold Bar' leading all the way finished first.

Thereafter Pop and I would pick winners from the paper and I would listen to the races on the radio to see how my choices got on. Racebooks became part of my reading mania. I cut them up and ran my own races with the horse's names, imitating Dave Clarkson the caller. "Good for his lungs" the doctor said. At first I played God and choose the winner but after a while I divided my cardboard track into segments and threw dice to determine the speed of advance. Must confess when I threw a one for Gold Bar I sometimes deemed a miss-throw and tossed again hoping for a higher number.

Pop told me that if I got better he would take me to see the New Zealand Cup run in November. Maybe he knew I was on the mend, maybe it was the stimulus I needed, but my temperature dropped, I stopped coughing and I started to venture outside. We went to Addington to the member's stand - a red letter day. The clerk of the course in his old world costume leading out the horses with their drivers in bright silks sitting casual in their sulkies.

"This time", Dave Clarkson's voice, "they're on their way" and the crowd's excitement mounted as they paced past. I worried that Alan Holmes the owner/trainer/driver of "Gold Bar" would wear him out before the race, he seemed to have pushed him around the track faster than the others during their preliminary warm-ups. No need. Gold Bar opened up a massive lead. Pop said they usually catch him. But they didn't. He bowled along in front all the way to flash past the post easily and gloriously first. Occasionally life gives you that dazzling sensation you feel it owes you.

C is for a Cynic
Sometimes an ill-wind blows unexpected political results. Phil Goff has been seeking a breeze to get some wind into his sails. In a strange way Hone Harawira’s outburst calling him a bastard and that ‘he should be lined up against a wall and shot’ might just do that. It would be ironic if Goff benefits from the so-called ‘redneck’ vote.

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