Monday, November 13, 2006

Guest Blog: Country History

Commentary by Country Bumpkin

It’s almost 50 years to the day since I watched the famous water polo match at the Olympic Games in Melbourne, when USSR played Hungary a few days after, way over on the other side of the world, Soviet troops had moved into Budapest to quell the rebellion which threatened the stability of the Communist empire.

The atmosphere in the Olympic Pool on the banks of the Yarra had been tense from the start. Everybody, I’m sure, sniffed the potential for disorder and it was when a Hungarian player surfaced with a bleeding head that all hell broke loose. Hungarians in the crowd rushed down to the water’s edge shouting and shaking their fists at the Soviet players, one of whom had unwisely used his nut to inflict a wound on his opponent. Oddly enough, I can’t remember whether any security or police tried to intervene but I don’t think they did. My travelling companion and I did however check the position of the nearest exit, because there was a moment when you felt as if a major riot was about to break out. Yet it didn’t, not on any large scale, and after a few minutes things calmed a little and people went back to their seats until the game, which the Russians won, was over.

I’ve told you in previous messages that I have been spending much time and my limited (but improving) skills in abstracting my father’s correspondence archives, from the often bureaucratic German into English, into a Word file. Among the documents in the archive are his and my mother’s passports, stamped on the front cover with a big red J (for Jude). In the passports are stamped their New Zealand entry visa and the ports at which we called along the journey, and photographs of my parents which look a little apprehensive, though my mother hated being photographed all her life and she may merely have been uncomfortable.

This week, 70 years later, their grandson went to the German embassy in Wellington to apply for his German (and EU) passport, to which he is entitled because our daughter-in-law retains her European citizenship. I have sent him an old photocopy of my father’s, which in the days when it was made was literally a photo, so that he will be reminded that his passport will never have the red J stamped on it. May it always remain so.

Week before last, the local branch of the Heart Foundation held its annual book fair. On Friday afternoon and Saturday, hardback books cost $2, and on Sunday the price is halved to $1, and you can pretty easily work out the theory behind this, which applies to all the things they sell. My wife and I usually go both days, and set ourselves up for the next winter with a pile of reading.

On Sunday, I selected five hard back books, and took them to the checkout. The lady behind the desk looked into my carry bag and said, “Two, four, six, eight, ten,” paused for a second and then said, “Five dollars, please.” Now, to most of us multiplying five by one would have reached the same answer, perhaps even a tick quicker, but the striking thing about this episode is that while her technique did the job she demonstrated that propensity you find in every walk of life to make things more complicated than they actually are.

Why is that, do you think?

Back on 17 October, Benny the Bee Keeper had this advice for all you apiarists in the mid-week throwaway newspaper:
“On checking the nucs one week later we found a good nuc with two queen cells and the other, we had captured the queen, meaning the parent hive will have to produce a new queen and this will save a re-queen job later. We should have a nuc with a good-laying queen and a nuc with a queen ready to mate, and a hive producing a queen.”
I’m pleased to have been able to clear that up.

One is always heartened by man’s — and woman’s — unceasing quest for knowledge, and the benefits thereby conferred on all of humankind. It costs money of course, always a competitive and uncertain thing to raise, but sometimes the research funding agencies hit a gusher. Consider the explanation for the grant of $48,000 back in 2004 to Annamarie Jagose of Auckland University, who undertook a cultural genealogy of the fake orgasm:
“Through these two case studies, Jagose will argue that the allegedly common language of orgasm marks a productive fault line for everyday understandings of the body and sexual desire, giving rise to a different framework for thinking historically about twentieth century understandings of sexual subjectivity and identity.”
I’m pleased to have been able to clear that up, too. (Say what? “Giving rise”? Oh.)

The economic development of our community continues apace. The developer of a new retailing building in the CBD is building an underground car park, the first of its kind nearer than Wellington City. Such is the interest that the local paper reports that parties of school children have been taken to see the excavation by their teachers. Wonders like holes in the ground have always intrigued construction rubber-neckers, but putting aside one’s cynicism for a moment, it must be said that all over town, such investment appears to be running at record levels. And a good thing too, there having been announced this week that a Cordon Bleu school is to be established. And, we’re told there is more such development to come.

Bring it on!

Now that it’s warming up after this morning’s frost, I can start taking off a few clothes. Not a moment too soon, given the time of year!
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Country Bumpkin is a bibliophile and man of the world who lives in New Zealand. His recent guest blogs include The Country Way of Alll Flesh, Country Images, Country Winter and Country Ice.

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