Saturday, August 25, 2012

Southern Man

Having spent so long in this little town in south New Zealand, surrounded by fatal mountains, icy blasts from Antartica, ill-equipped Victorian architecture (and dispositions) and the cliché of the 'Southern man', I guess it was only a matter of time before I started internalising and actually enjoying some of this bloke culture. Also, that sentence does still leave a bad taste in my mouth, so I haven't gone right off the deep end. 

Nonetheless, when my dear friend Lemuel told me that the Natural History NZ crew were going down to the local indoor rifle shooting range, I screamed and cried with envy until he 'invited' me. I had never even touched a gun, but had always wanted to, because I am a pathetic excuse for a peace studies student. 

After popping off two rounds - one practice and one competitive - we headed down to the local St Kilda tavern, where the awesome staff let you BYO fish and chips from down the street. Ellie came to meet us and gave 'handy tips' to the local pool players. She told him what to do, and he kindly pointed out: "I don't think that'll work, look I'd hit that other ball going past"
... Ellie: "Oh yeah! When you get down to that level I can see what you mean..."

:-| Oh Ellie.  Also: the few customers and the bartender played the most graceful, beautiful pool I have ever seen. I felt honoured to witness it, no joke. Then they told me about the time they have spent shooting pests on Stewart Island, but had never been to 'the town' of Oban. One sheep shearing young man told me emphatically that I had to go to Stewart Island, then looked me up and down and added: "but you'll have to go to the town, judging by all this" and waved his hands around me. Then he laughed, nudged me in the side and said: "you know what I mean though." 

This same sheep shearer also made the following timeless comment, regarding my ugly orange Kathmandu day-pack: "you need to lose that backpack. It makes you look even more German than you already are." Bless. 

Caution: extremely high level narcissism ahead. 

You know how people would win certificates at school and show them to you and it was so embarrassingly arrogant and painful? No, you don't know, because no one was ever lame enough to do that. I am. The first target sheet (note how BLOODY TINY the targets are) shows my first ever shots. The exact first shot, in my life, is the one in the middle - the bulls eye! (The rest are not very great, keep moving). 

The second sheet is from the 'real' (competitive) round - I got 87.2/ 100 !!! Wowee jesus I'm a gun totin' trigger happy nerd over here. The 87 is the points out of 100, and the '.2' refers to my 2 absolutely perfect bulls-eyes. Bull-eyes? Pretty happy I need to learn the plural for bullseye. 

Soundtrack for this post: 

Quiz on the Taieri Gorge

My darling idiot friends are insisting I write a blog on this quiz we entered on the Taieri Gorge historic train, which is a bit stupid, because really the above picture of Pierre wearing a custom-sized Taieri Gorge Railway T-shirt says it all. 

During Round One we thought we had it made. Lemuel (pictured in the historic rail-something-something cap, NOT a southern/ confederate hat as many mistakenly assume) is the archivist for Natural History New Zealand and an extreme geek besides that. He complains on a daily basis: "Lei, I was doing so well, but then I spent $120 on these two original menu cards from a Naval ship from 1886." 
Round One was NZ History and 'we' (:Lemuel) nailed it. 

During subsequent rounds things didn't go so well. Quinn knew about national parks and mountains, Ellie about the royal family (to worryingly extreme detail) and I knew that the Vatican City is the smallest country. But we didn't know much else. What is the name for a baby weasel? Perhaps 'Brian' we hazard. I draw stars and hearts on our answer sheets, our team is 'E' and I give a different 'E' word each sheet (eloquent, excellent, exasperated) and for one answer I write "you have beautiful eyes" to the marker. 

Part way through these shenanigans, including much jarring from our enemy team (who had changed cabins to be near us/ rile us up), the staff come down the foyer with their arms laden with treats. A bear wearing a t-shirt, a bottle of Rosé, books about the Taieri Gorge, free tickets, a novelty spoon, ladida on and on. "Is all of that for US?" I arrogantly assume. Yes, yes it is. The woman smiles and says the quiz master wanted to thank us for "consistently entertaining and creative" answer cards. Well. We were chuffed. 

My beautiful badge pictured above. 

Our rival team was not as chuffed and kept trying to remind us that on the official points chart we were below them. Quinn's response to this was simple: 
"How many spoons have you won motherfucker?!" 

On a creepier/ more hilarious note, the quiz master would read out the questions/ answers/ names of teams and results on the crackly intercom system (dating back to 1885 I would guess). He always read in a monotone, careful not to give anything away (or maybe he was just a Southern New Zealander). He called out names of teams: 'Trolleyed', 'Snakes on a Train' (our rivals), 'Murder on the Mosgiel Express' (us) and about twenty others, including, - expressed in the same dreary monotone - 'I'm going to kill everyone.' 

When you're stuck on a stationary train for over an hour in the middle of nowhere, that sentence, coming from some anonymous person on the train, has a great deal of weight. 

Soundtrack to this post: 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

CSI Osborne

Warning: this post contains references to violence, 
and a photograph of a brutally killed chicken. 

My dear friend and old flatmate Ram has recently returned to India for the time being. We're all pretty sad about it. I said "man, wasn't Ram great?" to my other old flatmate Claire and she said, without hesitation: "YES, he was the best." Robbie (a current flatmate) and I were faux-offended, but not really, cos, duh, he was. 

Ram had the somewhat unusual habit of walking up the mountain behind our country home in the middle of the night. He would take Skye, the dog, and me - if I was around. On these walks we told long, elaborate stories. The longest one was about a dozen ship-wrecked survivors, Lost style, and something creepy going on between them all. Ironically, I initially began spinning these tales to stop Ram from telling me ghost stories in the darkest parts of the forest, or asking me what I'd do right now if 'the lonely man' appeared, silent and staring at me in the black. 

So, with this history in mind, to 'celebrate' our final walk together (for some time, at least) Ram took me further up the mountain than usual. He asked me if I wanted to see the 'van crime scene' first, but I said we should save the 'climax' for last. 

A few months earlier Ram had been walking during the day, with his camera, when he had happened upon a very bizarre scene, hidden from the road by gorse fields and trees. 
Someone had completely and utterly ransacked a van and various other items - numerous televisions, VCRs, a christmas tree, a few children's play bikes and a lot of glass. Some of the televisions had been thrown with such force they were imbedded in bush, 
5metres from the path. 

So, after first taking me to a pretty look-out which Skye had led him to one night, we spent a while wandering around the paths in the gorse field until we happened upon the photographed scene, two months later. 
Ram was puzzled, as everything had been strangely moved around. 

For example, while there had always been broken glass around, now someone had taken a broken glass bottle and stabbed it into the earth, in the middle of the circle of destruction.
There were bullet holes in the side of the van. The children's' bikes had been further demolished and thrown into bushes. 

It all felt very 'Satanic', in a 'The Craft' way. 

Unsurprisingly, given the number of cats and wild beasts around, the brutally killed chicken Ram had sighted on his first visit was no longer. 

All photographs taken by Ram Alluri, who also once said, while we walked in a flowering mountain field at dusk: "This could be Pakistan. Let's just say it is"
(In response to both of our perpetual wanderlust).