Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ahu is missing (Part 10)

It was now some days since the abortive raid on the Rocky Outcrop village. Ahu had still not returned and Ahuahu was hurt that she had given no indication to him that she had planned to leave.
Luckily the loss of two men and injury to several others in their village had apparently been sufficient for the Rocky Outcrop village and they had not bothered their village again, even keeping away from their fishing grounds.
Hi’ilei was still in much pain from his wound to the shoulder. Haimona treated him, setting the bones back into their right position whilst Hi’ilei bit down on a tapa cloth wedge. Ahuahu who was with him, thought he had passed out but in talking to Hi’ilei, there would be occasional grunts of answers that meant nothing except that he was still conscious. When Haimona had done all he could and strapped his arm to his body, Ahuahu put Hi’ilei’s other arm around him and help him back to his hut where Hi’ilei’s wife Kiri waited patiently for them. She suggested he stay with them until he had found Ahu again. This he agreed to do.
The village was in mourning and the wives of Maranu and Kapaka who had been killed in the fighting cut their faces with the sharps edges of sea shells to mark their grief at the funeral. However Kapaka’s wife Aio did not cut hers so deeply and had help in wounding herself so as to make the scars decorative as she was still young and could hope to marry again. Old Maranu’s wife Hauku however was not so particular and made the blood flow freely but showed no pain whilst using the shell, but called up to the gods to find a place for him.
Ahuahu mainly fished by himself without Hi’ilei but sometimes took a young lad Paikea who was keen to come with him. His heart was not in it, he missed the constant banter from Hi’ilei. As he dragged the boat up the beach that evening he decided to try to find Ahu. So Ahuahu then spent some time asking the women in which direction she had gone on the day of the abortive raid. They were quite vague hardly remembering her leave but thought she may have gone towards the hills. He missed her badly, he needed to touch her and feel the soft roundness of her body near him. He felt bad that she was alone somewhere with little Tangaroa without him to protect them both.
With supplies of dried fish for the journey and Hi’ilei’s family well stocked with food in his absence Ahuahu set out to search for Ahu. He headed west towards the hills and passed through the Fern Gully settlement where they told him there they had just returned after a few days hiding in the forest for fear of reprisals.
Ahuahu then continued high into the hills, having to penetrate the thick bush before the undergrowth thinned as he approached the waterfall gully just before nightfall. Already there were bats in the air seeking their food for the night. Ahuahu sat down on the ground and brought out his meagre provisions and ate the fish and drank from the nearby stream. As the stars in the sky sparkled above him he prayed that she too was looking at them and could feel him searching for her.
Early the next day descending the other side of the hill he sensed her presence as he could just see the coastline far to the east. Had she been here he wondered as he carefully skirted the ngerengere settlement where a few wisps of smoke signalled their presence and a faint mumbling showed that they too were up early that morning talking to each other.
He could see far in the distance the line of the coast to the east and made his way towards it keeping to the higher ground to avoid having to penetrate the thick scrub into which the stream that he was following disappeared. When the sun was high in the sky he had to cross an old lava flow and could hear voices and the smell of sulphur in the air. It was a settlement close to the geyser and the hot springs by the Black Sands village by the sea. He had never been there and the foul smell of suphur gradually became less pungent until he hardly noticed it.
He asked the little children there if they had seen Ahu the girl with the little baby but they merely shook their heads as they stared at the scar on his face. An old man approached him, “Haeri mai” said Ahuahu bowing his head slightly.
“You have not visited us before” the old man said. “Are you looking for someone?”
Ahuahu explained about Ahu and the old man shook his head, “you must ask at the village by the sea.” He said pointing towards the coast. “Many families come in the evening to bathe here. We do not count their coming and their going away.”
Ahuahu thanked him and made his way to the village an easy walk away. Once again the children crowded around him and ran back to their mothers to tell of the stranger. One older woman came up to him. “Haeri mai” she said and Ahuahu responded. “You are Ahuahu are you not?” She asked.
Ahuahu was shocked by her knowing his name. “You know where Ahu is?” he blurted out.
“She has gone to look for you. We heard tell that the men from Rocky Outcrop have taken their revenge for your village attacking them, but did not take further reprisals. So she has gone to fetch you.” Then after a short pause she went on, “If you are still alive,” with a smile on her face.
Before Ahuahu could respond she went on “I should not have told you this but she stayed with me here, so I feel that I know you. The men will confirm it.” Atahai nodded toward the chief’s house. “Pay your respects, have some food then go and fetch her.”
Ahuahu was overwhelmed by the turnaround of fortune. He did as Atahai had suggested and found that Ahu had been a welcome visitor to the village. He reckoned he could get back to his village by Gannet Island before dark. Surely they would be reunited soon.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Recollections of a warped mind No 4

War & Peace, Politics and Nationalisation

After all the dancing in the streets, the children’s’ Victory parties, the self congratulation, bonhomie and good will at the end of the World War 2, the real hate began. Basically this took two forms: politics at home and statesmanship abroad. Winston Churchill had delivered victory to the people and on Election Day 1945, the war was still being fought in Japan. So the voters delivered defeat for his Conservatives for getting us into the mess in the first place. It was my first awareness of a general election and I naturally assumed that as we took the Daily Mirror each day that my parents would vote Labour. Not so. We all trooped up to the polling booth as a family. I was only nine at the time and I preferred the colour red of Labour to that of blue for Conservative. I was most disappointed to hear Mum whisper that she had voted Conservative and I guess Dad did too. He always bought the Daily Express and that made him a bit suspect in any case, because the editorial used to be rather patriotic and criticise scathingly any suggested change to the established order, supporting the maintenance of the Empire and the continuation of fox hunting. But the paper did have Rupert Bear as a comic strip and so much of the former was therefore forgivable by a nine year old. I realised later that having two different political views to consider did me no harm at all. I could always listen to the other person’s point of view before arguing with them!

It was wonderful to experience Clement Attlee’s dynamic government in action doing so much for the country. All at once, there was the nationalisation of the transport particularly the Railways, the nationalisation of the Steel Industry, the Coal industry, the Docks, the establishment of a National Health Service, and the reform of the Education System. All this was achieved when the country was just about bankrupt from the war.

Then slowly the former Empire was given more independence, India, Pakistan, Ceylon and then a gaggle of African States were given the right to speak for themselves. It was a marvelous and stirring time to be living in. But clearly something was wrong, we still had food rationing right until the 1950’s, our car industry produced cars for export but few for home consumption and then we had an enormous debt to our allies the Americans who wanted to be paid or at least compensated for their contribution to the war.

So the miserable child became a cynic. Now of course, a child no more, I am just a miserable cynic.

Note: This piece of nonsense was written many years ago and discovering it I thought it deserved an airing.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Ahu at the Black Sand beach (Part 9)

Ahu had walked a long way that day after leaving her village in fear of reprisals from the Rocky Outcrop men which she knew her village were attacking before dawn. She approached the women of the Black Sand village who were making baskets and talking around a small fire.
They stopped talking when she approached carefully from the side of their group rather than in front of them. “Haere mai” said Ahu politely, bowing her head. “Haere Mai” they responded, then nodded at her to sit with them and she did so ensuring her feet were facing away from them.
“Have you come far?” one of them asked.
“I have been walking for most of the day.” Ahu replied
“Is your village also by the sea?”
Ahu pointed enthusiastically indicating with her hand that it was to the north.
“By Gannet Island?” Ahu nodded in affirmation.
“And baby how old is he now?” Ahu indicated he was about a month old and this time the village women nodded.
“I have a message for you may I tell it?” Ahu said.
The women nodded again. “Speak daughter, what is your message?” said the elder one.
“I have seen Ngaire today; she said she remembers you every day.”
“You have been to the ngerengere?” This time Ahu lowered head slightly. “Were you not frightened child, that the evil would take hold of you?” This time she shook her head. “Our men have gone to the Rocky outcrop to fight them. I did not think it was safe for my baby should they also attack our village.”
“So Ngaire bade you come to Black Sands for sanctuary. Does your husband know you have come?” Ahu shook her head sadly. The oldest woman chuckling said “That is both foolish and wise.” If he returns he won’t know where you are but as he doesn’t your village cannot barter you in exchange for the attack.” Stay here, you have honoured us by speaking to Ngaire, you are safe here.”
“You must hope that your husband loves you enough to seek you out, should he be spared,” said another woman who was with child.
“He will find me” said Ahu, praying to Ranginui and Papatuanuku that it would in fact be so.
At this point, Tangaroa woke up and grizzled for a feed, so Ahu brought the baby’s sling round, took him out and fed him, feeling as contented as the baby now was that she had done the right thing.
Later she was asked to share the hut of the widow Atahai who was pleased to be able to talk to someone alone and to share her lonely life.
In less than a week Ahu was walking about the village as if it were her own and all the little girls wanted to hold and look after Tangaroa. Although the fishing wasn’t so good off the black volcanic sand beach the men still caught fine fish from their canoes in the ocean and the forests were full of berries and wildlife. There was even talk of capturing whales as they travelled north in the winter.
The women of the village showed her that there were some hot springs a short distance away where families would go and bathe in the sulphur pools in the evening, which Ahu had never done before.
“I wonder whether Ahuahu would like it here” she mused to herself. “Please let him find me.”

Atahai - girls name meaning kindness
Ranginui - male god and father figure or Rangi
Papatuanuku - female god and mother figure or Papa

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Ahuahu at the Rocky Outcrop (Part 8)

Ahuahu was not happy at leaving Ahu and baby Tangaroa. They were sleeping peacefully as he slipped away quietly well before dawn after a restless night. The wind was blowing through the trees as the men assembled before the chief’s house. The men were exhorted to defend their honour and their fishing rights with their blood.
It was decided they would travel by their boats which were loaded with clubs and spears. The craft adapted skilfully from peaceful fishing vessels to attack craft to speed their journey and to only accommodate the men and their weapons. The sea was choppy but the southerly wind pushed them quickly up the coast.
The crag of rock showed up in the light of the full moon now sinking over the west the men were ordered to slow up and paddle slowly toward the shore. As their craft glided into the beach not a sound was uttered as they were so close to the settlement.
Old Ruru was left behind to guard the boats while they were away which were pulled up off the beach and hidden in the dunes.
The men disappeared into the trees lining the shore and circled around the village. Ahuahu peered into the gloom trying to make out the lie of the land and to ascertain if anyone was awake. There was a deathly silence, no babies crying, not a snuffle, a not a murmur of people waking or even of animals snorting or cackling. He touched Hi’ilei on the arm and in the pre dawn gloom he tried to show his concern at the silence in the settlement. Hi’ilei, he could just discern was shaking his head doubtfully. Just as they were about to lie down in the undergrowth there was a mighty cry from within the village and a mass of shapes in the darkness came running toward them, shouting a fearful warning with bloodcurdling cries. With that the whole group of their fellow villagers rose up in the predawn light to respond with cries of their own, chanting revenge. The rocky outcrop villagers were more numerous and better prepared and soon Ahuahu and his fellow villagers were embraced in an impossible fight, as clubs were brandished and spears thrust, bodies pierced and arms broken.
Ahuahu heard Hi’ilei cry out as he shouldered a blow from a club and staggered to his knees. Ahuahu thrust his spear up at the attacker but merely dragged the point over the back of the retreating adversary drawing blood but doing no real harm. He then bent down to Hi’ilei and tugged at his good arm to get him up saying ‘We have to get out of here, they were expecting us.”
They fell back into the undergrowth as the noisy one sided battle petered out and the men from the rocky outcrop village sang of their victory as the rest of their own village men disappeared into cover in the now brightening day. Hiding in the dense bushland Ahuahu ripped up part of his garment and adapted it to fashion a sling to support the arm of Hi'ilei's damaged shoulder. They could hear the villagers search them out but by staggering along parallel to the village rather than away from it, the sound of the pursuers got fainter. Slowly they made their way around to the beach keeping as quiet as possible. It was some time before they returned to where the canoes had been hidden. But they had gone.
Making sure they were not seen Ahuahu walked into the water and waded in the shallows and kept going south assisting Hi’ilei. When he thought it safe enough he came ashore on a pebbly beach and then made his way inland hoping that they had evaded any trackers.
It was almost noon before he considered a stop and finding a stream sat down with Hi’ilei and brought him some water to drink in his hands. Hi’ilei was in great pain but nodded at Ahuahu and gasped out, “I do not deserve a friend like you.”
Ahuahu nodded but merely said, “We must return to the village before nightfall so that Haimona can look at your shoulder.”
“I am happy for him to look at it, but I shall be less happy when he fixes it” he said with a weak grimace.
After a short rest Ahuahu was all for pushing on back to the village with a staggering Hi’ilei by his side. Ahuahu was now thinking of Ahu and the baby and how much he wanted to be with her again. He sensed the smell of fires and cooking from their village and recognised the features of the land. He needed to touch Ahu again, he wanted to have Tangaroa asleep by their side and he wanted to feel her love. As he helped Hi'ilei into the village they heard wails of mourning, while others seeing their entrance greeted them with joy.
However little Moana’s mother came up to them and said to Ahuahu “Ahu and the baby are missing.”

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Ahu visits the ngerengere (Part 7)

Ahuahu and the other men of the village had set out early to confront the village up the coast, under the rocky outcrop. Ahu would have been happier if he had been fishing in a rough sea. She held a tiki in her hand and asked that the god Tangaroa look after him even though he was the god of the sea. “He loves you well,” she murmured, “please do not make a shipwreck of our lives.”
She then prepared to go looking for food in the fern gully. It was not a good place to find food but she did not want to stay in the village in case the men from the rocky outcrop came down to their village.
Tangaroa their son knew nothing of the plans, he was fast asleep in a sling on her back as she gathered up some baskets and set off through the woods. She nodded at the other women but they were too busy gossiping to notice which way she went.
The breeze that blew near the shore was stilled beyond the village and as she walked through the tall trees. It was dark there too as the foliage of the trees met and shaded the pathway. Her plan was to go to the village that had been raided recently thinking that the men from the rocky outcrop would not raid that village again. As she walked through the forest the wildlife chirped and chattered around her. She picked a few berries and listened for voices. There were none. As she approached the fern gully settlement there were no cries of children playing or of women laughing. It was deserted.
The fires were out and even the fish drying racks had been stripped. The villagers had fled, but there were no indication that the village had been attacked again. She looked for signs of where they had gone but their tracks had been obscured confusingly. I am not the only one to be frightened she thought.
She walked on through the foothills until she could see the smoke of another settlement. This must be where the ngerengere people were, those that had been cursed by the witch doctors. She tried to make up her mind where she should go to be safe. These victims of leprosy had gathered far from the villages near the coast and very few people came this far. She circled round the settlement and chose to settle on a rise above the huts, sat there and brought Tangaroa out of his wrapping and talked to him, eating a chunk of dried fish while the baby squinted into her eyes. She laid him down and went to a nearby stream to scoop up some water, when she noticed that she was being watched.
An old, terribly maimed woman leaning on her stick approached walking slowly and struggling to keep from falling on the sloping terrain.
“Haere mai” she croaked keeping her distance. “We do not see many strangers up here. Are you not afraid to look on me?”
Ahu explained about the fighting that would take place and her need to keep Tangaroa safe. The old woman cackled a response “You are brave indeed to come to this safe place where the most we see of others is the gifts of food they leave for us to find. Even the men from the rocky outcrop would not dare to come here. You have chosen well but you cannot stay, you must move on. Are you not frightened that the curse put on us will affect you too?”
“I too have had much sadness in my life” said Ahu, “I do not think talking to you will harm me. Now I have found much joy in my husband and my son; I do not want to lose that.”
“May I see him?”
With, that Ahu picked the baby up then unwrapped him for the woman to see.
“It is difficult to remember how beautiful babies are, to see his soft and perfect skin. May the gods bless you for coming here. What did your husband name him?”
Ahu hesitated before she said “Tangaroa.”
“Then surely he will be safe down by the sea. Go to the black beach,” she said pointing to the east. "Follow the stream through the forest. That is where I came from. Tell them you saw Ngaire who remembers them every day.” With that she turned and made her way back to the settlement limping and leaning heavily on her stick.
The sun was high in the sky when Ahu left the ngerengere woman. She followed the stream and after a two hour walk saw the signs of smoke rising and heard the laughter of children at the settlement by the shore.
Haere mai - Welcome
Ngaire - Girls name meaning flaxen
Ngerengere - Leprosy
Tiki - Carved image of a god

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Ahu and the tapu (Part 6)

Ahuahu had not made love to Ahu for some time. He knew that she would need time to recover after the birth of baby Tangaroa. Everything about their life was dictated by custom and tapu. Tapu were the many rules and regulations regarding behaviour with people, places and each other. There were places that special respect had to shown, places where men were not permitted and some where women were not. There were many rules about speaking to and walking by other members of the village. As he was a stolen child he had no rank but was respected because he was a good fisherman which benefited the whole village.
Ahuahu knew all this but knew little of women’s law. He thought it had something to do with the moon that prevented her from making love. She would tell him the right time, but he wanted her to tell him soon. Her body was blooming with health, and he wanted to do more than hold her.
Ahu was busy all day long, with Tangaroa slung up upon her back as she went about her life as usual but with her little tama jogging up and down, fast asleep as she gathered vegetables, fished in the sea and chatted to the women in the village. She felt she had got rid of the feeding child name she had had when she lived with her aunts. She was no longer their responsibility. She belonged to Ahuahu.
She knew what Ahuahu wanted. The moon was would be full tonight and then she would make him happy and they would laugh together. But did he know what Ahu wanted? Now she had one child she wanted another, a tamahine or girl child. She loved her Tangaroa but could imagine nothing better than lots of laughing babies filling their hut.
That evening Ahuahu was late in returning, he had been with the other men, discussing their business. Usually it was talk about disputes and arguments to be settled. His face was serious when he sat down but he remained silent.
“Would you comb my hair for me tonight, Ahuahu?”
He nodded with delight at the thought of touching her hair, oiling it and combing it through, while she sang a song of love. But his face was still darkened. She knew better than to ask him what the men had talked about. So she changed the subject and handed Tangaroa to him and said “Talk to your son on where to catch fish, while I get your food.”
Tangaroa should have listened to his father, but his eyes were closed and he was fast asleep. He was full and contented. Ahu nevertheless told him of the fish to be caught around the islands out at sea. Of how he must look in the sky to see the birds to know where the fish were and what bait to use on his line. Once or twice Tangaroa seemed to murmur his understanding. Meanwhile Ahu was laughing quietly in the darkness.
She returned with his food and then took Tangaroa from him and looked into her husband's eyes. He shook his head and looked as though he would cry with sadness. “The men are going up the coast to the kainga under the rocky outcrop. They have been fishing around our island and have stolen two children from the village in the fern gully” he said pointing inland.
Ahu bowed her head, and remained mute. He should not have told her, so she appeared not to hear. There had been fighting between neighbouring villages many times over fishing rights in the past. Rocky outcrop was a large village and the attack was not viable. Blood would be spilled. Women were particularly vulnerable as they might be stolen and traded on. She feared a revenge attack as she knew they would not try to get her back if she was taken as she was of a lowly rank. Attacking that large village was not a good solution but she must say nothing.
She fed Tangaroa, prepared him for bed, and then knelt down waiting quietly. Later Ahuahu came up to her and combed her hair, the oil running down her back and shining in the moonlight. This night Ahu did not sing but only hummed a sad tune. She turned to face him, pushed him on his back and brushed her hair over his body. He buried his face between her breasts and breathed in their milkiness. The full moon lit up the room as they held each other.
“Never let me go Ahuahu” she whispered as he gasped with joy at their reunion. But she knew the joyful tears he cried tonight were also of great sadness.

kainga - village
tama - boy
tamahine - girl
tapu - taboo

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Ahu names the baby (Part 5)

Ahuahu however could not yet leave Ahu and the baby to talk to the other village men. He wanted to look at them both. Ahu seemed a little puzzled that he wanted to unwrap the baby from the flax cloth wrapping and to touch the little one tenderly, looking first at the baby and then to her beaming with pride.
The baby snuffled at the unwrapping and uttered little whimpering sounds but did not cry. Ahuahu could see the baby was a boy and that Ahu had wrapped his little bottom in soft dry moss. He showed concern at the remnant of the umbilical cord darkening now after it had been sliced off. He kept turning to Ahu smiling and eventually she nudged him out the way as the little one cried out at being uncovered. She exposed her swollen breasts and drew the baby up and attempted to get the little one to feed. He sucked clumsily at her breast, the colostrum flowed freely and Ahu laughed as it went everywhere but in his mouth. Eventually the baby settled down and sucked quietly as Ahu rocked back and forth. She looked up at Ahuahu and said “He is all our love put together. But now you must go now and talk with the other men. My cousins will provide food tonight to celebrate his birth.”
“But we haven’t chosen a name for him yet, said Ahuahu.”
“I have a name for him” said Ahu simply. “I would like Tangaroa for I must make peace with the sea.”
Ahuahu could not believe she would be so bold as to put forward the name of the god of the sea for their son. It was a good name for a boy. He loved it and often spoke to Tangaroa when he was fishing. Praying that he be guided through the rocky places, to be given a good catch of fish, and that he would return safe to Ahu.
“We will talk more when I return,” he said as though he would have to think about it. But secretly he was glad that she had made the decision. He bent down to Ahu and tried to look non committal as he touched her face but he could see her eyes laughing at him.
“Ahu, you know me so well you look right inside me.”
“Ahuahu, we are one person now. We know one another.”
With that he rose up and left the hut, his heart bursting with pride.
Later that day after boasting to the men of the village of how clever he was to have a son, Ahuahu came home to find the hut full with Ahu’s relatives. Her cousins and aunts had brought food and gifts of cloth and carved wooden bowls. They all sat down, ate and talked about the baby. Ahu acted very shy and reserved, reluctantly giving the baby up for others to hold. She looked tired and ate only a little.
Kakahu who now was holding the baby looked up at Ahuahu and asked, “what name will you give your son, Ahuahu.”
Ahuahu looked up from his food and looked directly back at Kakahu said “I have decided that he should be named Tangaroa.”
The women all aware of Ahu’s fear of the sea turned to her for her reaction. She bowed her head slightly and said, “If it pleases you my husband.”
Later that night with the baby asleep beside them, Ahuahu held Ahu gently, nuzzling into her neck and ears. He then whispered to her, “This afternoon you said we knew each other. That is not right. It should be, Only we, know each other.”

Friday, 12 August 2011

Recollections of a warped Mind No 2

A long life gives you a varied and cosmopolitan view of transport. It is so changing so variable, so frustrating in its illogical way.
When I was younger during the war years, transport was limited to the public kind, buses and trains. Buses took me to school, took Mum to work otherwise we had to walk. Other than buses there were trains. Trains were far more exciting. They went to more interesting places, such as London where my Dad commuted every day.
Our world was very centralised around home. We lived a mile or so from Farnham, where I went to school at East Street School, which was on the eastern end of the town. Another few hundred yards on was the main shopping centre, West Street and The Borough, off of which was Downing Street where Mum worked in a Walkers Stores grocery shop. The Borough was where we caught the bus home at night after school, because we walked along East Street to the shop each night then went home with Mum after she finished work. Dad worked in London and he came home most nights after six o’clock. We travelled on the number 14 bus that in those days went from Aldershot to Winchester every hour.
Dad caught the train at Aldershot early in the morning after a long brisk walk from our home at Heath End to the Railway Station there. None of us had a bike and strangely enough my Mum never learnt to ride one. She was funny that way, she would have been more at home if modern inventions like the bicycle, the car, escalators and lifts had never been in invented. She didn’t understand them and was consequently petrified of travelling on them. Buses were O.K. but only just. I remember once she nearly had a fit when the bus driver took his hands of the steering wheel to comb his hair, the bus was probably stationary at the time!. She was up out of her seat and banging on the glass partition that separated the driver from the passengers to get him to be more attentive. She then protested long and loud to the bus conductor who embarrassed by this outburst was clearly hoping we wouldn’t be travelling far with him.
Because we so rarely rode in a car we were unaware of the correct etiquette in doing so. After the War when we were permitted to go on holiday again our once a year trip in a taxi would take place. It would be from home to the station and from the destination station to the holiday accommodation. Everyone in the family would be embarrassed not knowing whether we were allowed to talk in the car while we were being driven or worse still if conversation with the driver was permitted. Our journeys in taxis were therefore endured in utter silence or rarely in self conscious whispers. Dad was left to conduct business with the driver and handle the luggage. Mum and us boys were mute and invisible.
All this changed when my brother and I were given bikes. Learning was easy as the road we lived at that stage was level and not frequented by many vehicles. It was many years before the ownership of cars by the ordinary citizen became possible. If our road was used by vehicles they were mainly delivery vans plying their goods at a very slow place along the street. The baker in fact used a horse drawn van for a very long time. The Milkman came so early in the morning on his electric milk float that he was never a threat, the Grocer, the Coal merchant, Rag and Bone Man were easily avoided and the French Onion man travelled by bike too. So our wobbly beginnings were unimpeded by traffic and confidence was soon reached.
Later cycling opened up the countryside for us as we were able to explore the whole of the environs of Alton where we then lived up to about 15 miles radius. Our passion in those early teen years was train spotting and having done our dash with the local shunting engines and boring electrics, we went further afield to Basingstoke, Hook, Winchfield and Farnborough to sight these denizens of steam that were like the dinosaurs soon to become extinct. With our Ian Allen check list of locomotive numbers we hoped the next express train to pass by was hauled by a locomotive not sighted before.
Train journeys too after the War were great broadeners of the mind. Travel in wartime was a problem especially in the early years when the bombing of London resulted in many delays to schedules. It was exciting then to visit the capital, because that was where Dad worked and we boys were fascinated by the crowds, the traffic, the noise and the dirtiness of the place as well as the destroyed and derelict buildings to show what war really meant. London as I remember it from those days was a damp and grey world, almost like a nether world of strange sights and sounds that were quite alien to our cosseted way of life forty miles away.
At the war’s end train travel meant holidays, new adventures, sunshine and the blessed release from the normal way of life. Most of the south of England of my childhood was serviced by the ubiquitous Southern Electric trains. Generally they were comfortable, fast, smooth conveyances that we should have been really proud of. We were not! Our fascination for steam meant that these trains were boring and as more of our holidays were spent on the South Coast we had no option but to suffer trains without steam engines to haul them. Luckily we spent one holiday on the Isle of Wight at Sandown in 1950. The trains there were all old steam tank engines of great vintage. That holiday we spent much of the time exploring the island by train which was possible back then. Us boys were delighted and mother was calmer as she couldn't see the driver!
When I was at Grammar School, I lost interest in steam and concentrated far too much time with the opposite sex. One dear friend I had then, a stunning girl who lived at just a few miles out of town took the train home each night. I used to walk her to the station and the little push-pull engine and one or two carriages would take her from me each evening to wend it’s way through the Itchen valley to Winchester and on to Southampton. That is when transport took on a different meaning, I myself was transported! I had discovered love which was to be my life long hobby.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Ahu and her two little boys (Part 4)

Ahu’s husband Ahuahu fished for a little while on the rocks. It was not the best time to fish and he was restless. He had caught barely enough for himself let alone Ahu his wife as well. Should he go back home? Would they sendfor him when the baby was born?  Ahu was the most beautiful thing that had happened to him. As he dreamt about her wave broke over the rock he was standing on and drenched him. He shook the water off himself and heard a little voice burst with laughter. It was a neighbour’s little girl.
“What are you doing here Moana?”
“Mummy told me to fetch you as Ahu is back home now.”
Relief spread over Ahuahu’s face and he flicked the water from his hair, pulled in his line and packed the two fish in his basket to return home. As he strode off as fast as he could he almost forgot Moana who had to run along after him. Hearing her call out his name he turned at the tiny voice which sounded so soft as she cried out ah-ua-hu with all the vowel sounds making a noise like the wind blowing through the trees. As he stopped for her she placed her tiny hand in his and whispered “She is nursing baby, she is waiting for you. We do not have to hurry.”

When they approached the village, Moana broke free and rushed ahead and shouted “Ahuahu is back.”
Hi’ilei came up to him and punched him on the arm and broke into a broad grin, but did not walk with him. Ahuahu entered his hut and as he did so two village women nodded to him and left him alone. It was dark in the dwelling and as his eyes adjusted to the light he saw Ahu kneeling over the baby and wrapping it up to put it in a back pouch for her to carry it.
“Ahu, did it all go well?”
She looked him straight in the eyes and said to him “Ahuahu my husband, you have a son.”  She then lowered her eyes in the way that he loved and his heart radiated such emotion that he bent down and held her face in his hands and rubbed noses with her and cried tears of joy.
Ahu held him tight in her arms and murmured softly “You are a great man Ahuahu, as you are not immune from showing your feelings. Now I have two little boys to look after but it must be time for you to go and brag to the other men about what a fine fisherman he will be.”
“I was drenched by a wave while fishing” Ahuahu said simply, wiping his eyes.
“Yes, everyone knows, Moana has already let the whole village know.“ She responded with a smile.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Ahu goes fishing (Part 3)

At night Ahu sometimes went fishing with the other women by the sea. She was happy doing this and prepared palm fronds to set alight to see the crabs scuttle along on the shore and to pick them up place them in her basket. She preferred however to fish in the daytime wading in among the rocks and stepping on the clumps of seaweed sensing a slight movement with her toes and grabbing a parrot fish with her hands with a squeal of delight killing it and putting it with the others.
At times Ahuahu fished with a rod on the rocks catching patuki the rock cod but Ahu thought that was dull work and liked to be active when she fished rather than sitting staring out to sea waiting for the fish to bite. She was happy that he found pleasure in this as her heart sank every time he went in his canoe onto the ocean to spend all day at the seas mercy.
Her parents had both died when she was five years old crossing from one island to another and she was left an orphan to be looked after by her aunts. She was then known as a feeding child or adopted child and this made her feel unwanted.
The sadness of those days growing up without her own parents was now fading from her mind now she was married but she never ever trusted the sea not to hurt her again and this was why she feared every fishing trip Ahuahu made and was overcome with delight when he returned and showed her pleasure with his every homecoming.
Ahuahu himself could not understand her fear of the sea as it had always been his life. He loved the feel of the oceans swell, the salty spray in his face and the gifts that the gods gave them from the deep. However her relief and the love she showed him every time he came home warmed his heart and he could not speak to anyone of how much she meant to him, it was not a manly thing to do, except perhaps to Ahu herself. Now that she was approaching the time of their baby’s birth, he at last understood why she worried so much about him.
A few nights later Ahu got up when it was not yet light, and went out of the hut. Ahuahu felt her move but thought nothing of it. In the morning she had not returned when he awoke. Jumping up he went outside and called for her. A passing woman said “She is having the child”
“Where?” asked Ahuahu.
“It is nothing to do with you. You must wait until she returns, did she not tell you?”
Ahuahu nodded. Ahu had told him that when the baby came she would go down into the woods and have the baby there being helped by the village women. She would have the baby standing up or crouching down depending how tired she was. He tried to remember what else she said but could not.
“It is best you go fishing” the woman said.
Ahuahu thought about this and decided it would be a good idea. As he got ready to call on Hi’ilei to get the canoe ready, he stopped and thought “No, I will fish off the rocks for Ahu, not at sea for Ahuahu. That will give her pleasure.”

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Ahu prepares for the feast (Part 2)

Now that Ahuahu was back. Ahu went to search for oca while he and Hi’ilei pulled their boat above the high tide mark and into the bushes. She knew they would be hours talking, arguing and dividing the fish.
Looking for the vines that were dying back, she dug with her ko at their roots to harvest the oca tubers. She placed them in her basket and thought she heard the two men in the distance, but that couldn’t be so. So she quietly gathered up her possessions and hid beneath the tangled vines and in the shadows.
Two other men appeared from the village, arguing. Unmarried men usually fought and argued with each other a lot in their normal life. It was part of showing off, of being the bravest man, a warrior. She was glad Ahuahu had all his teeth and had not lost them fighting or knocked them out when mourning a family member. The men were now quieting down and were walking away. Perhaps they had decided they were not fighting over the same woman, she thought.
Kneeling there in the undergrowth she reached down and felt her stomach. Was the baby really there? She felt no different. There was no bump and she still wanted Ahuahu. If she had her chin tattooed and lips too perhaps it would be a boy and he would be strong and kind like Ahuahu. Then she too would fit in more with the rest of the village. He was strong and good at fishing but he too suffered from not being from their village. She hated the sea although she never said so, that would be unlucky. It had robbed her of her parents and now she feared for Ahuahu. But she was glad he was careful and made sure they always returned safely from fishing. All was quiet now. So she got up and gathered leaves to wrap the fish in for the earth oven and placed them with the oca in her basket and walked carefully back to their hut.
There would be a hangi tonight to celebrate the good catch. It would be a good time with drinking and singing. Everyone would see how useful Ahuahu was and he would gain credit unless Hi’ilei boasted as usual how he had found the fish. Nobody would believe him but it sowed the seeds of doubt. It would be a long night and it would be late before she could be alone with Ahuahu and talk to him and touch him. She must be a good wife to him she didn’t want to share him with anyone else. Not that that was likely as both he and she were regarded as unimportant. How could she tell him not to be so useful otherwise other families might want their daughters to be married to him too? If he did that it would pierce her through the heart.
When she got back the women were already preparing the pit for the fire and the stones to bake the food on. Word had got around fast. She went up to the others and placed her fresh leaves and oca by the women. They nodded acceptance. One old woman, who had lost nearly all her teeth, cackled noisily and pointed to Ahu's belly and grinned a gummy smile. Ahu felt sad that Hi’ilei had been gossiping already. Next, they would be coming to see her to recommend a dose of herbs to make the baby strong or something worse. She just nodded, gave a weak smile and turned to walk back to her hut.
Ahuahu was already there. He grabbed hold of her and picked her up, hugged her to his chest and rubbed noses with her. Listening carefully for any noise outside her laid her down, put his ear to her tummy and stroked her gently. She breathed in the salty tang of his body.
“It will be a long night tonight at the feast Ahuahu,” she said “Lie down and let me rub you with coconut oil.”
“No Ahu, let us rub each other.” She saw the look in his eyes and nodded eagerly. No, he would not want another wife.