Sunday, May 30, 2010

Your Secret Life

Yesterday was itsy-bitsy but very full. Rosemary rang from Auckland. Suggested we watch Maori TV that evening. We did. The successful release of a kokako pair in Waitakere. The male shot up into the canopy as fast as he could. The female stayed awhile to bolt a meal of mashed banana – wise bird, a more frugal time ahead. One of my regrets, I’ve never heard a kokako call in the wild. Such a lovely sound.

I have out a DVD of an Australian production of The Magic Flute, Mozart’s last opera. Superb music, good singing, terrible plot, sexist assumptions, good production. So in watching it I come out on the credit side. Seeing I can’t get to the theatre it has to come to me.

I am continuing to enjoy Hibbert’s account of the Borgias. Only yesterday I looked at the fly-leaf to find it was the author’s last book. He died just after it was finished. So I’ve been reading obituary notices on the internet this morning. Over 60 books – quite a record. The comment is roughly the same, readable, good research, little analysis. Hibbert’s argument, was let the reader decide. There is a place for such histories.

It’s been good weather for watching and reading. The gauge has not got over ten degrees for the last three days and today looks the same. Just as I write this a weak beam of sunshine glances through my study window.

Anne and I have been enjoying the DVD series Lark Rise to Candleford. O.K, it’s idyllic, sentimental, nostalgic. But it’s BBC costume drama. The work-house, debtor’s prison and poverty are constant companions. They lurk below the poppies, wheat and oaks.

This morning’s paper has a piece about the ageing teacher service and pending retirements. The Minister is not concerned. She talks of retention. That misses the point. The generation gap is a factor in authority and authenticity.

Another chilling item is American research showing today’s younger generation has much less empathy for others than earlier cohorts. That reinforces my observation. The commercialisation of our civilisation comes at a cost.

On 1 June 50 years ago TV began in New Zealand. Last night’s ‘Country Calendar’ ran through the decades. Viewers of my vintage will recall how the showing used to end at midnight with the cat and the kiwi going to bed. Starting with that image Harry Ricketts has written a delightful poem about fatherhood.

Your Secret Life

(for Jesse)

I can see it all already:
sitting up long after the kiwi
and the cat have gone to bed
to do whatever it is they do
when the screen scrambles to a noisy snow.

I’ll hear you shut the front door
with a soft click that makes me jump
- just time to fix a welcoming smile
before you bound into the kitchen (perhaps
for a drink) blooming with your secret life

What shall we say? Will I blurt out
“Do you know what time it is?”
angry with relief that you are home
at last and apparently unharmed
from that film, that party, that lover?

Would that be better or more likely
than a “had a nice time sweetheart?”
poured out with an oh-so-casual cup of tea?
“Sorry Dad.” “Yes, Dad.” Not now, not soon,
but sometime it will happen.

Harry Ricketts

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