Saturday, July 10, 2010

Existence, Things and Events

The cold snap continues. As I’ve aged my temperature control mechanism has ceased to work as functionally as it used to. In the summer I found the heat very trying. Now, I fight the cold. Looking like a character out of a Dickens' novel, I wear mittens as I type and a warm beret I bought years ago at a fair on Waiheke Island.

Human beings are intriguing in what captures their fancy and interest. An octopus called Paul is world-wide headline news. To date it has accurately predicted the world cup results. If Spain doesn’t win this weekend? What a weight for a beast to carry.

Yesterday the podiatrist and the hairdresser called on me to cut my toe and finger nails as well as hair. Gone are the days when I went to them. The podiatrist sat on the wicker-wove stool I made as a third former at Akaroa District high School. Apart from a few photographs it’s the oldest of my possessions in the house.  Anne also uses it to sit on when she puts on my bed-socks at night and changes my socks during the weekend. I can manage slippers but not socks.

Most days I have porridge for my breakfast. Occasionally in the weekends we do brunch. I had such a meal this morning – the remains of a vensions and tamarillo casserole on toast. Rarely has heated-up venison tasted so scrumptuous. Not many peopmle in New Zealand would be having venison at such an hour. Thank you Anne.

Though my chief reading is Lark Rise – I’ve also got Fairburn’s Collected Poems on the go- I’ve been dipping into a book about the American buffalo, one lent to me by Dale. It’s full of interesting facts. For example, there is a recently established herd in the Alaskan/Northern Canadian border. Wolves there leave it alone. It’s never been a natural prey.

I knew that while the ancestors of the horse had crossed the Siberian highway to the Americas that the species had died out in the western hemisphere. I also knew that Cortes used horses to conquer Mexico from the Aztecs – indeed, they were a major factor in his quick success. What I didn’t realise was how quickly this reintroduction spread northwards. Indian tribes that adapted to their use became dominant in the prairies and it became a predominant factor in their hunting of the bison with a major impact upon the ecology of the area. When the Indians got guns the odds were further loaded against the bison.

As I write this on radio Kim Hill interviews Jane Smiley about her novel ‘Private Life’ [see blogs 21 and 22 June]. Smiley had been riding; she rides twice a day. Most of her novels have horses in them. Why did she write the novel, ‘I just wanted to tell a story’.‘What is it like to be married to someone who considers himself a great man?’ Her great-aunt had this experience. Smiley knows hardly anything else about her but this fact. Around this she has constructed her powerful piece of writing. In that era there was no-one to talk to about the perplexities of such an existence.

Smiley says ‘all novels are liberal and political.’ “Novels explore power relationships.’ ‘They embrace individualism.’ Woman’s posiiton – is she a character in her own right or just a piece of property. Smiley realised having written the novel that it was also a parable about the modern American way of life, the average citizen caught up in a foreign policy over which they have no say.

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