Sunday, October 23, 2011


In recent weeks, here in Aotearoa alias New Zealand (Mâori name Niu Tireni, as in New Tyranny) we have been invited to believe that we are in RUGBY HEAVEN, as that heading was affixed to a supplement published in the newspapers every day.
    We have always known that we live in Paradise, with the whole country being a scenic garden, though the forces of Hades sometimes cause the earth to HEAVE (a geological term for "a sideways displacement in a fault", but generally meaning "rise and fall rhythmically or spasmodically"). Such ground-shaking has made life Hell for the citizens of Christchurch (incidentally, or digressively, the churches of Christ have not been immune to damage there, and the centres of Catholicism and Protestantism have been equally laid low and waste). Cantabrians (denizens of the province Canterbury) were not able to take part in the Rugby World Cup tournament, because their most sacred edifice of all (their stadium in Christchurch) had been wrecked in the upHEAVals. However, their Rugby football team (the Canterbury Crusaders) had been winners all the way in the competitions.
    While I am in digression mode, but actually in the throes of getting to the point (who scored the most points in the World Cup series?) I will reminisce about my five  years at Fort Street High School (Faber est quisque suae fortunae, Maker is each of his fortune, but since that seemed to refer to making money, it is translated as Everyone is the architect of his or her own destiny).
    My chosen winter sport for Wedensday{spellchecker, I am not going to alter that to your nonsensical orthography}) was softball (rounders), which eventually became the lunchtime game, after diminutive Headmaster Mearns reared up on his hindlegs and roared at the assembly: Every boy will play rugby, and learn to give a a knock and take a knock. This was an open admission that we are dealing with a violent recreation here, involving frequent re-creation of body parts, such as noses and knees. At Balmain primary school I had been coached in Rugby League by a famous player named Duckworth (right?), but this was Rugby Union, which only toffs engaged in. My most vivid memory is being in a match and seeing the ball on the ground, unguarded, and snatching it up and running with it, doing my hundred-yard sprint and scoring a try. (I once did it in 13 seconds at the athletics day, in the novice section, but then it was discovered that the finishing tape was 10 yards short of 100 yards; and some spoilsport is going to tell me now that I was off side when I scored.) The only other time I ran towards the try-line two burly chaps gently directed me over the sideline. (Where are you now Wilson? So many of my friends are not in the list of active alumni.)
    In my first year I scored almost 100% in the final examination in Latin (and I was in the 1B class not 1A). Our teacher required that our workbooks should contribute to our final mark, and I was downgraded for deficiency in neatness. In 1951,  at the end my year in 3B, he said to me in the presence of my peers that he hoped I would not be in his fourth-year class. I turned up there (my home class was 4C), smirking in all humility, and earned Honours 1 for him at the Leaving Certificate (Matriculation).  You may know that my dear friends Taylor and Willis and I kept in contact with him afterwards, and I often think of him, especially with regard to his love of music (Britten's opera Peter Grimes, for example, and Schumann's piano concerto). The Old Boys' Union prize for Latin came my way; I bought Knaurs Lexicon (in German) and it is autographed by Headmaster Shaw (14-12-54); I still keep it handy and use it as my basic encyclopedia.
     The moral ("lesson at the end of a fable") of that ramble is that I had a strong dislike of the year's work counting towards the final mark. The idea made me want to HEAVE (call for Herb or cry Wretch, in Oz-speak).  At Sydney University you were expected to do all the assignments throughout the three trimesters, but they did not contribute to the final grade. By the way in my long vacations, I did a lot of HEAVING, of barrels of beer and bags of oysters, loading and unloading trains for the NSW railways. Though I began as a high-school  teacher of languages, I eventually became a university teacher of Religious Studies (history of and phenomenology of and sociology of religions) at Massey University in Palmerston North in New Zealand. That institution manages to fit three separate semesters into one academic year! The students there had insisted that their labours in each course should be included in the final summation. I tend to agree, because I did much better in degrees where I had to write a thesis, which I could ponder over for a long time, not regurgitate in a three-hour exam. (I failed M.Th because it was solely by examination.)
    The climax is starting to HEAVE in sight (nautically and naughtily speaking). The New Zealand All Blacks (who really know how to HEAVE a haka war-cry) have triumphed. And NZers have LABOUR DAY to celebrate, while I put my thoughts on record.
    If we scrutinize the whole gamut of the games, Aotearoa had beaten Australia even before they met in the semi-final. There was no need for all these quarter- and semi- and grand finals.
   Add up the scores and the points of the three medal-holders.
    NZ: 41 83 37 79 = 240; 20/20
    Oz : 32 6 67 68 = 173; 15/20
    France: 47 46 17 14 = 124; 11/20
If France had managed to score more than 7 against the surprisingly meagre 8 of the NZ All Blacks, they would have been the winners of the World Cup, and that would have been a HEAVING travesty of justice, a HEAVY blow of fate.
   Never mind! Niuzilderz have moved HEAVEN and earth to achieve this goal (a different kind of home goal, including a field goal against the Wallabies by our local boy Aaron Cruden before the Frogs pounced on him and wrecked his kicking leg) and now they can HEAVE to. They have capitalized on this HEAVEN-sent opportunity, and they are in seventh HEAVEN (Saint Paul only attained third heaven, 2 Corinthians 12:2-3).
    We NZ Collesses have the name Australia on our passports, and we still call Australia 'ome, but we know how to pick winners.

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