Sunday, 30 October 2011

Ahu and Hoata talk to Kamaka (Part 24)

Ahu and Hoata did not worry about their visiting a sacred site that may have been tapu when they had overlooked the whole of the valley of the big river settlement, as Hoata had to tell her husband Kamaka, that his daughter Hinewai had been beaten by her new husband. What made it worse that Tui her young husband had beaten her so badly she had lost the baby she had been carrying which they had all been unaware of.
“Please come with me when I tell Kamaka” pleaded Hoata. “I may be lost for words to explain what has happened.”
“It is your family matter, but we will ask if I may be present when you talk to him” Ahu replied. ”But first I must go home and talk to Ahuahu and Tangaroa. I will come when we have eaten.”
Ahuahu was making a little toy canoe for Tangaroa when she arrived home. He was carving it out of wood and making little outriggers that were tied on with flax to make it look like the real thing. She bent down and hugged the little boy then rubbed noses and touched Ahuahu first on the shoulder then on the face looking sadly into his eyes.
Ahuahu finished off the boat and then asked Ahu if she needed to talk. She nodded and then bent down and undid the sling to take her sleeping baby out and hand her to him. As Tangaroa played with his boat Ahuahu waited for Ahu to talk.
“It has been a long day with much sadness” said Ahu bluntly. “Hinewai is being beaten by her husband and is very unhappy.” Hoata wants me to be with her when she tells Kamaka as it is a very serious matter. But let us eat first then I will go to be there for her.”
Ahuahu nodded and then they ate together and prepared the children for bed.
Later that evening when Ahu had returned from her meeting with Kamaka and Hoata, she told him what had happened.
Kamaka was surprised that Ahu had come to see him that evening and looked enquiringly at Hoata his wife.
“Husband” said Hoata. “We visited Hinewai at the Big River and she is not happy. I have asked Ahu to be here as she can tell you what she has learned too. Hinewai’s husband Tui beats her regularly and she has many bruises on her that we could see. She told us that she has lost a baby that she was carrying because of the beatings.”
Kamaka looked at Hoata and asked “Why is Ahu here? Is it not enough to hear this, must I also be shamed in front of Ahuahu’s wife?”
“May I speak, Kamaka?” asked Ahu.
Kamaka nodded.
“Kamaka, I too felt ashamed when I saw and heard Hinewai tell of her life at Big River. For all the trouble that she was here I would gladly have her back rather than know that she is being hurt by a cruel husband, young though he may be. She went into the marriage full of hope and the desire to be a happy and fulfilled wife but her life is of fear and pain and humiliation. You remember her as a funny, silly girl with her whole life stretching out before her. Now she has no hope anymore. I am so ashamed that I wanted her gone.” She said this with her eyes on the floor in her sadness and not looking at Kamaka.
Kamaka put his hand up to stop Ahu from talking. “Ahu, I do not want you to look on me as I think and talk about Hinewai, I am much grieved. Go home to Ahuahu. You are very welcome here but we must discuss how we can help Hinewai alone. It is a difficult whakahaere for us to organise”
The next day Kamaka had gone from the village. Later that evening he returned and he brought Hinewai with him. She followed him silently with her head bowed. Hoata later told Ahu that Kamaka had returned all the gifts that he received when Hinewai was given to Tui and in addition he had to give much more in the way of carved goods and tapa cloth to buy her back. Their village chief approved of his action and suggested that Hinewai might be the second wife of one of his sons. But this was merely a gesture to indicate that she was welcome back in the village and it was not a serious proposal.
A few months later she married a pouaru or widower named Torangi but was never able to have any children of her own. It was said that she took young men as lovers but not all ears heard of that.
Whakahaere - Operation
Pouaru - Widower

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Recollections of a Warped Mind (No 12)

Hungary, Communism and the Suez Canal

A few years after WW2 our usual Geography teacher at school took extended leave to visit India. Her replacement was a rather plump and pleasant woman from Finland. Sadly she couldn’t teach Geography without putting a political slant on everything. Nowadays political geography and current affairs are quite normal, for us however the notion was quite new, and I for one took to it like a duck to water. We were allowed to ask the question "Why?” rather than just accept the facts. This put a completely different perspective on the countries of the world. She cooked her own goose of course because being a Finn she protested too much about the injustice that her country had experienced, when we all thought that they sided with Germany initially only to be attacked by Russia for their trouble.

Later when the Hungarian uprising took place in 1956 the Communist forces quickly crushed the protesters without much of a protest from the Western nations. This was because Britain was itself doing something ignominious at the same time. Egypt’s General Neguib had finally thrown out King Farouk as head of state. I say thrown out which is not quite correct he had been living on the French Riviera for years in luxury while his poor nation was a tool for both Britain and France to exploit the rest of the world with their control of the Suez Canal. When General Nasser came to power in Egypt he nationalised the Canal and said it now belonged to them. Britain under the Conservative Prime Minister, Anthony Eden then sent in the troops to reclaim it. World opinion, particularly that of the Americans was against this action. The Americans clearly could see some advantage for them if they opposed the British as their own presence in the Middle East might then be welcome and there was a lot of oil there.

All such plans badly misfired as Egypt looked for Soviet Aid, the US continued to support Israel and from that time on the whole of that region of the world has been in total turmoil ever since. Meanwhile Hungary returned to Communist control for a few more years and those refugees escaping to the west we made welcome, depriving those on council home waiting lists of houses by their getting preferential treatment.

Newly married my wife and I put our names on the Council list for housing but we never got anywhere near the top of the list because we never had any children, didn’t live with our parents, didn’t work for the Council and were not poor enough. Oh! And one more thing - we were not Hungarian.

After word

This piece, as you may have guessed was written many, many years ago. Readers may throw up their hands in disbelief to contemplate Old Egg as a rebel and non conformist. Youth is a testing time and permits young adults to test the water of their own individuality. Living (and surviving) is making mistakes and learning from them. Thinking something radical 50 or so years ago does not stain you irrevocably but develops you and makes you more colourful. How do I feel now? Well in politics I usually vote for one party then when they disappoint jump ship and rebel. So should you. Never let a politician feel secure!

Thank you all for reading and commenting on these recollections of a warped mind.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ahu at the big river (Part 23)

The work on rebuilding the Black Sands village was now complete and despite the moans from the men that they had further to travel to get to their boats and go fishing they were secretly happy they were away from their wives for longer and the wives were happy that that their men were not always pestering them.
Ahu however was very happy; she had her little girl Hekehoru to look after and often she would be able to enjoy her by herself as Ahuahu would often take Tangaroa in the boat with him fishing. She knew she was probably the happiest woman in the village where she could enjoy her busy life during the day and also enjoy her husband at night.
Ahu and Hoata continued to do their work together tending the vegetable plot and one morning Hoata suggested they go up to see Hinewai at the Big River as they hadn’t heard from her for months. Even if they started early it would take them all day to walk there and give them time to get back home by evening, so they decided to go the following day.
Hoata had suggested to Hatiti that she come also to see her sister but she was not inclined to which Hoata thought was jealousy that Hinewai had married into a family with great wealth. Ahu however could see that she was in love with the rugged Kaihutu and liked working at the Hot Springs with him. Hatiti also took Ahu aside and put her hand on her tummy and just looked at her and then said “I have everything now I am happy here.”
Ahuahu was pleased that he would look after Tangaroa the next day and was glad he did not have to go to see Hinewai. Kamaka also agreed to take his and Hoata’s little boy Paikea who would play with Tangaroa.
The two women left soon after dawn and made their way at the foot of the escarpment where there was a track that avoided the forested area. It was not too warm and the women talked of many things. They ate the fruit they had taken with them and drank at the fast flowing streams they had to cross. Ahu’s baby Hekehoru slept nearly all the way in her sling with just a brief spell awake while she was fed at Ahu’s breast. Ahu handed her to Hoata while she washed at the nearby stream. When she returned Hoata was holding the baby with tenderness and looking up at Ahu said, “Why cannot I have another one?”
“Doesn’t Kamaka not want you all the time?”
“Not all the time.” There was a pause then she went on “Well not at all really”
“Does he comb your hair?” Again Hoata shook her head. Ahu then talked to her what she would do describing how she and Ahuahu would just touch gently and whisper to each other and pretend to bite the other one until they both would be so relaxed they just melted together.
“Won’t he think that strange?” asked Hoata.
“Not if you talk of vegetables, and of seeing a kiwi or how fast Paikea can run.”
Hoata laughed “I should come and listen at you hut but I would probably burst out laughing.”
With that the two women got up and continued their way to the big river. Their way took them over a large rounded hill and when they got to the top they saw the view below them and were amazed. It was a vista so vast that they could imagine that the whole world was spread out before them. From their vantage point they could see the silvery thread of the river and the clumps of trees and the little hillocks like islands standing up on the plain and the could the smoke of fires from the villages dotted about beneath them and they like the gods, looked down and counted the actions of the vulnerable people below.
The two women gasped at the sight and wondered how to tell their husbands who would surely think what they saw was a figment of their imagination.
“And Hinewai lives here?” said Ahu.
Hoata nodded. “We did not come this way when Hinewai was married. It is as though we have discovered some great secret. Let us get down into valley quickly before the gods see us trespassing in their domain."
As they made their way down the women agreed not to tell their husbands in case they had committed a tapu. They found Hinewai’s village set close to the river under some tall trees and were directed to her house.
“Hinewai!” Hoata called and they heard a movement in the hut. Hinewai came out to meet them her face lowered but Ahu could see at once that she had been beaten. Her face was bruised and she had been crying.
Hoata went up to her and greeted her warmly.
“I have brought Ahu who has never been this far south. She has a present for you.”
Hinewai continued to look down but murmured thanks to them both.
“Come inside” she finally said.
They all went inside. She told them that her husband was cruel and knew that all he had to do was go complaining to his parents and they would always take his side.
“I so wanted to be married, but being so I have lost everything. I have lost my family, I have lost my sister and I lost my baby when he beat me so badly. And still he beats me.”
Ahu and Hoata were silent. Ahu cried and Hoata’s face was grim.
“He should not beat you if you are with child when you are so vulnerable,” said Hoata. “Can you not talk to the parents?”
“They think he can do no wrong. “ Hinewai wailed.
At this Ahu kneeling beside her gave her the present. “I gave one like this to Hatiti and you should have one too. It is a tiki of the god Tangaroa. But rather than keeping it, why don’t you give it to Tui? It sounds like he is still a little boy at heart.”
“You were so strong Hinewai,” said Hoata, “perhaps you must not show that with him, and then he might not hurt you.”
Hinewai turned to Ahu and then said, “All I wanted was to be loved, as you are loved by Ahuahu.”
After the women had rested and eaten a little food they returned to the Black Springs village wondering what they could say to their husbands.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

My Backyard

My backyard did not end at the rusty three wire fence at the bottom of the garden. That was merely the portal to my magical world so that I could leave the confines of home with a troublesome brother, parental stricture and the mundane life of ordinary average people that association with would stunt my growth and development.

So I slipped away between that fence's wire strands to set foot in a land of every wonder and delight. The clucking of the hens and the order of my father’s vegetable garden were gone and I like Livingstone before me could view a land of deepest mystery and untold delights.

The grass was high (for me that is) and I strode my small steps across that meadow with haymaking still far off and observed by unseen rabbits and probably a fox cross that his stalking would come to nothing as I reached the woodland not a hundred yards from home.

If the meadow was the sea through which I sailed, my entry into a fantastic wood filled with tall trees and hazel bushes and the calls of birds warning of my approach were to me a jungle in Africa where my eyes were peeled for dangers underfoot and as well heeding the scampering of squirrels in the trees chirping their disgust that this explorer should invade their territory.

The occasional clearing would be invaded with brambles to snare my clothes as I ploughed my way through this jungle realm and acute hearing would alert me to the tinkle of a water course where my parched lips could find relief in the pristine stream that wound its way through this new found paradise.

A flash of blue darts past my eyes and a kingfisher flees from my approach as the moist ground now sucks at my feet and there looking down I spy the disappearing tail of a grass snake disturbed in its hunt for food.

I kneel down on the banks of the stream and scoop up a welcome draught of fresh water in my hands to cool my endeavours thus far. Near by is a fallen tree whose old trunk is now covered with moss that forms a right royal seat for the explorer who sit and waits, listening for the sound of the natives of that magical place.

All is silent even the wild creatures are stilled as they sense another presence yet still far off. I too strain my ears to hear that fearful sound now booming with frightful import sending all my fellow creatures fleeing for safety.

“Robin, its lunchtime!” Came the call.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Ahu sends Hatiti away (Part 22)

Many babies are born but few survive. It is as though the gods tease man showing him that they can create life but humans are always at the gods’ mercy who may snatch their creation away. Ahu knew this and tried not to show too much pleasure that she and Ahuahu had got their girl child. They thanked their favourite gods and much thanks went to Tangaroa the god of the sea for allowing them to eat every day.
They did not say how beautiful their daughter was, and even Hoata who came to see Ahu after the birth said “Girls are such trouble.”
The gods must have been pleased that Ahu and Ahuahu respected them as the little girl was healthy. So they called her Hekehoru or fairy spirit in the hope that the gods would think on her as one of them.
At first Hatiti would come round every day to help Ahu but after a little while Ahu had to breach the subject of her closeness to Ahuahu. Ahu said to her. “Hatiti, you have been a great help to me. But the time has come for your father to find you a husband. You must not be here now that Ahuahu may not touch me. You must find your own husband to love.”
Hatiti burst into tears, and said, “Where do you find a husband like Ahuahu? Show me where.”
Ahu finished feeding her baby Hekehoru and handed her to Hatiti to hold. “Ahuahu and I were told to marry, it was a joke for the people of the Gannet Island village to have the two orphans marry. Much happiness came out of our sadness. You too can find happiness but do not think that the gods will not play with you too before you find a husband to love you. It is better to have sadness first before happiness.”
“I am sad now, Ahu” replied Hatiti.
“Why don’t you go to the hot springs and look sad then,” said Ahu. “There is a man there who is not married and would like a beautiful wife I am sure.”
“You do not mean Kaihutu? But he has a broken nose, and he has lost some of his teeth.”
Ahu laughed, “Ahuahu has a terrible scar on his cheek and your father has lost some teeth. Are they ugly?”
“No, you are right Ahu, they are both handsome and I love them both. It is funny I never notice that Ahuahu has a scar when I talk to him.”
“Stop talking to Ahuahu and start talking to Kaihutu,” replied Ahu. “I do not want you as his second wife. We would fight all the time. It is time you had babies of your own. They will not have broken noses and missing teeth.”
Then thinking about what she had said, Ahu laughed out loud, “I was wrong, babies don’t have teeth. Go up to the springs this afternoon with Hoata, she will be able to talk to him and persuade him to speak to Kamaka your father.”
The next day Hatiti came to see Ahu again. She was smiling happily. She told Ahu that while Hoata was combing Hatiti’s hair by the side of a pool, Kaihutu and his mother approached them and spoke to Hoata and asked if Hatiti was now recovered from her ordeal when the sea flooded the village. They did not stay long but Kaihutu could not take his eyes off Hatiti all the time the two mothers spoke.
“I like the way his nose looks,” said Hatiti, “It makes him look very strong.”
Ahu breathed a sigh of relief.
A few days later as Ahu was feeding Hekehoru and Ahuahu was playing with Tangaroa she spoke to him.
“Hatiti now has a friend, Hoata is pleased. She will probably spend less time with us now.”
Ahuahu thought about what she had said. He had to be careful not to show disappointment that Hatiti had a suitor but he should show disappointment that Hatiti would not help Ahu anymore. Ahu could see him struggling to say something other than the grunt he made when she told him. So Ahu spoke again.
“It is Kaihutu, the one with the broken nose.”
“He is lucky to have found her,” he replied tentatively poking the embers of the fire with a stick.
“Now you have only me to look after. It is said when you save somebody's life you are responsible for them. He will take that job from you.”
“I want to look after only you.”
“That is what I want too.” said Ahu as she removed Hekehoru from her breast. She glanced up and saw him look at her body with desire and the tiniest of smiles came to her face.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Recollections of a warped mind (No 11)

7) Victory in Europe 1945 despite my brother’s interference
War eventually came to an end in May 1945. It lasted longer for our troops in the Far East of course, but the euphoria of victory in Europe was such that we now thought we were invincible. The newspapers had sparingly been providing us with news for a year or two with much being said about the Second Front for far too long. The first front of course was the horrific war being waged by Germany against the Russians. The Russians implausibly were on our side only because they were fighting the Germans. They were our allies for the duration of the war but not much long after. It was a marriage of convenience and it was this hypocrisy that opened my eyes to the political machinations of men in power even at such an early age. The Second Front was avoided by the western allies (Britain, its colonies and dominions and the United States and the few other countries that had not been overrun by Hitler and wanted to be involved in the War). Britain certainly did not want a second front if it meant that hundreds of thousands of British soldiers were going to die on European soil as had happened in the First World War. The Americans didn’t want a second front unless they could see some distinct advantage for themselves when it was all over. So the war dragged on through 1941 to 1943 whilst the Russians were slowly wearing down the German fighting machine and using up all their men and material resources. The allies had plans of course but were reluctant to put them in place. Eventually the not too secret invasion was arranged. It was too hard to hide the massive build up of troops and equipment in Southern England in the spring of 1944, so they built huge dummy camps and vehicles and placed them in and around the Southern Counties to confuse the enemy reconnaissance. The real invasion force made their way down to the channel coast by various means for weeks on end over the roads and lanes of Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. They were quite obvious, the convoys streamed continuously night and day through the towns and villages, tearing up the roads, keeping us awake at night and us boys inattentive during the day at school as we heard them pass the school’s front wall.
One evening my brother Bryan produced with pride a detailed map of Southern England which had fallen from a tank grinding through the town earlier that day. He had obviously whisked it quickly out of sight and left the poor tank commander to figure how to get down to Portsmouth Harbour ‘blind’. We didn’t hear of any missing tanks on the news but they wouldn’t have told us anyway. I like to imagine this lone tank lost in the West Country perhaps at Barnstaple not knowing where he was going all because Bryan wouldn’t give the map back. The invasion took place regardless and Field Marshall Montgomery had great difficulty advancing across Normandy with one tank short but eventually the battle was won and victory was assured.
In later years after the war, Montgomery settled in a delightful house at Isington Mill near Alton in Hampshire. He used to drive in his old Rolls Royce to Alton Post Office in the High Street, to collect his aged pension there. I only saw him once face to face and the glare he gave me made me feel sure that he knew where that map had ended up!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Ahu’s new baby (Part 21)

Ahu was near the time for the arrival of her new baby but as with all Maori women it was a natural process that did not disturb their usual work in digging the vegetable plot, going into the forest for leaves or picking up shellfish from the shore.
Ahu had wandered along the shore with Hatiti who was now great friends with her. Hoata, Hatiti's step mother stayed behind looking after her half brother Paikea and Ahu’s son Tangaroa as they played together.
Hatiti loved Ahu and Ahuahu and spent much time with them now that her sister Hinewai was married and living with her husband Tui. She knew she should not look on Ahuahu with desire but she said to herself that she must find a husband like him soon or burst with frustration.
She had been to see Hinewai living in her new home in the village close to the big river and was envious that they appeared happy, especially as Hinewai kept asking her when she would be married too. She looked on every boy of marriageable age in the hope that a spark of desire would inflame her, but she could only remember Ahuahu carrying her back after rescuing her and remembering the feel of his bare skin against hers and his voice as he spoke reassuring her that she would be safe.
As she and Ahu waded in the shallow waters of the outgoing tide watching for air bubbles from the shellfish in the sand she noticed that Ahu was walking much slower, then stopped altogether.
“Hatiti,” Ahu said, “The baby is coming very quickly, the waters have broken, and I must find a safe place in the trees up there.” She pointed to the dense woodland above the dunes.
“Should you not try to get back so the midwives can help?” asked Hatiti. “I can run back for them now,”
“This little one is in a great hurry. Mark where I go into the woods and run back for help.” She gasped with the need to find a safe spot. “Tell Ahuahu if you see him.”
Hatiti ran off along the beach and when she turned to see if Ahu was still there she had gone from the beach. As she ran along the beach she saw Ahuahu working on his canoe.
“Ahuahu, Ahu is having the baby!” She paused to get her breath, “I am going back for help.” She then ran on.
Ahuahu stopped what he was doing, stowed his tools in the canoe and set off up the beach to find Ahu.
He found her tracks in the sand and entered the undergrowth, and called out to her. “Ahu, it is your husband. Where are you?”
There was only silence apart from a slight rustling of the wind in the leaves. He stood very still and listened very hard. He could hear her panting a little way away. “I can hear you Ahu, I am coming.”
As he approached her, she looked up from her squatting position. “Ahuahu, you are here, you should not be. It is tapu…for women only.” She panted again then let out a little cry, turned to him. “The baby is nearly here; do not ever tell anyone, what you have seen.”
Ahu breathed heavily again, screwed up her face and pushed again. Her face relaxed as the baby was delivered and she let out a deep sigh.
“Ahuahu, come closer and see the baby. See it is a little girl.”
Ahuahu knelt down beside her and stretched out his hand to touch the baby. Ahu shook her head, “No, not yet, she must be cleaned up first,” She said. “Can you get me some fresh water and a shell to cut the cord later? And listen very carefully if the women are coming, you must disappear. You must not be seen.”
Ahuahu nodded then touched Ahu on the shoulder. She looked up at him and then said with a little smile. “And do not let anyone see you have been crying.”
Ahuahu returned to the beach, but it was deserted so he found some shells and filled the larger ones with water from a stream a little way away. When he emerged on to the beach again he could see Hatiti running back.
He couldn’t make up his mind whether or not to tell her that he had seen Ahu, so he kept quiet.
“What have you there?” She asked.
“You can give Ahu some water if you find her,” he said.
She looked at him a little strangely. “Have you seen her?”
He looked into her eyes, hers were laughing as she said. “Men should see, but don’t tell anyone that I said that. Come on let’s find her, the women will take ages to get here, and you will have gone by then.”
They rejoined Ahu; her face fell when she saw Hatiti and looked up at Ahuahu with a quizzical look on her face.
“Go now, Ahuahu, unless you want to be a real woman and bury the afterbirth too,” said Hatiti.
“Ahuahu, you must act surprised when we get back to the village,” called out Ahu as he went away through the woods back home, avoiding the beach. The women then started to clean up the baby.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Ahu talks to Hatiti (Part 20)

Hatiti’s recovery was very slow. She wouldn’t discuss the marriage to her promised husband Tui. Tui was quite young still and his parents had thought that Hatiti although young too was adult and sensible enough to be a good wife for him. Tui’s family came from a inland settlement even further south than the Hot Springs, it was close to a wide and fast flowing river with much fresh water fish to be caught in fish traps and hand held nets.
Word was sent to the Black Sands village which was now being rebuilt on the hill close to the hot springs that Tui’s father wanted to pay his respects to Kamaka and to see if Hatiti had recovered from her ordeal.
The visit did not go well. Hatiti was quite listless when she was presented to Maranu the father and Iorangi the mother. She kept putting her hand up to her neck to hide the scars and she showed none of the vitality they had admired in her before.
Hinewai however was polite and respectfully bowed her head to them when she was introduced. Kamaka sat down with them to eat and drink and to discuss the marriage. It was Iorangi that whispered to her husband “Hatiti is not the same girl we met before, she has not recovered. If Tui is to marry it would be better for him to marry the healthy sister.”
Maranu merely nodded and then turned to Kamaka and said “I am sorry that Hatiti has not yet recovered from her injuries. We are anxious that Tui be married soon. Do you think that she will be well by the next full moon?”
Kamaka could see that he was being pressured so that any negative response would be an insult. He rubbed his hands together staring down at them as though he were counting the days to that event. Although he knew it was less than ten.
“Maranu my friend,” Kamaka replied, “Time will heal Hatiti but if you want a healthy wife for Tui your son before the next full moon, you may consider Hatiti’s sister Hinewai, as she too is ready for marriage. She could be the strong wife you want for him.” At this point he shook his head a little. “Already there are others who have noticed her, but she is younger.” Then he looked at Iorangi, “All she needs a mother’s guidance.”
Kamaka then shook his head again and went on. “But Hatiti may not be fully recovered for three moons even if Rangi smiles upon her. I would prefer it that you wait till then.” This was not to rule her out or to renege on the agreement but to show he was still true to his word.
Maranu turned just slightly to see Iorangi’s face. She was looking down at the mat on the floor but nodded her agreement. Maranu following her advice turned back and smiling he leaned forward to Kamaka. “Tui will marry Hinewai” He smiled broadly and held Kamaka by the shoulders and rubbed noses with him. Iorangi with her head still bowed, smiled also.
Hinewai was called in, and told of the arrangement. Although it would have been best just to nod her head in acceptance, she smiled broadly too and spoke more to the mother rather than the father saying “I will try to make your son Tui happy.”
Luckily they did not notice her lack of respect to the father as Tui’s parents were now thinking that they had somehow won the marriage arrangement.
News quickly passed around the village. Ahu and Ahuahu were astounded but glad too that Hinewai would no longer be a nuisance to all the married men in the village. Ahu decided to visit Hatiti and took her a little Tiki necklet carved out of hardwood for her. Hoata was there and looked a little confused with the change of arrangements with Kamaka’s two daughters by his first wife.
“Ahu has come to talk to you Hatiti” Hoata said.
As she took Ahu in to see her, Hatiti looked up and smiled at Ahu. “So you have heard that I am not to be wed now. I am glad. Ahuahu rescuing me has made me want to be married to a strong man not a little boy.”
Ahu went over to her and showed her the tiki while Hoata went outside to attend to her little boy Paikea who had started crying.
“I will be better soon but I did not want to show it before the arrangements had been made today,” Hatiti went on.
Smiling Ahu put her finger to her lips, “Do not tell anyone else, or else they will think that you are a little schemer.”
“Secretly my father is pleased.” Hatiti went on. “He thought I was dead and now he has two teeth missing because of that. That showed me he loved me and I want to hold on to that love a little longer.”
Ahu nodded, smoothing her hands over her round belly, “Let’s hope I have a daughter for Ahuahu.”
“Even if it is a boy, he has a daughter in me, as he rescued me.”
Tears came to Ahu’s eyes, “Now I can love you as a daughter too. I was jealous when I saw you being held so close by him when he brought you home. Then I learned that he tended you in your nakedness. A wife always fears her man will look over his shoulder to admire a younger girl.”
“It would be strong man to love a girl, covered with mud and blood and vomit even if she was naked, but he treated me tenderly as though I was his daughter and I will respect him for that for ever.” Hatiti said.
When Hoata returned, Hatiti indicated that she would like to sit outside rather than being stuck inside moping. “I want to see the new village being built” she added fingering her tiki now hanging from her neck from a piece of string made from woven flax.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Recollections of a Warped Mind (No 10)

6) Hitler’s Terror weapons and my disdain for them

Having started school in war time I knew no better than to accept that our way of life in the early 1940’s was normal. I was, as I have said before a miserable child. My first day at school presumably in September 1941 was not a happy one. I had to leave the comfort of home and the exclusive possession of my mother that I enjoyed during the daytime and mix with other children and possibly have to do things for myself. Mum was anxious to have me off her hands so that she could supplement the family income with some form of work. That first day is a blank, but the next morning I remember clearly as I refused outright to return to school having ‘been there and done that’. This was clearly a problem as I was left with Granny Kimber while Mum pursued her new career which initially was a helper in the school canteen. She later got a job in a Walker’s Stores, a grocery shop in Downing Street, Farnham, where she stayed for the duration of the war, rising to illustrious position of First Hand!

My minor victory on that second day was turned into total defeat for me the next when I had to return to school full time. Luckily I saw little of my brother as I was in the infants and he was two years ahead of me. Each morning we all got up after Dad had gone off to work in London. Our faces and hands were washed over the kitchen sink and we were bundled into our clothes and set off to walk with Mum to the school about a mile away. We boys carried our gas masks in square fibre boxes slung around our necks. It was heinous crime to turn up to school without them. Because the previous world war twenty years or so before poison gas had been used in the trenches and the likelihood of it being used on civilians this time was thought to be high. The walk to school was enjoyable and generally uneventful. One day however it wasn’t. Daydreaming as usual and not looking where I was going I walked straight into a traffic light pole and knocked myself out for a few seconds. After a scolding and a rub better we set off again.I would mention here that there were on 2 traffic lights in Farnham at that time so I should have marvelled at it rather than ignored it.

Occasionally the weather was too inclement to walk and we went in by the number 14 bus operated by the Aldershot and District Traction Company. The trouble with this was that we got to school too early and had half an hour to muck around before going in, Mum having stayed on the bus to get to work. Needless to say we explored the whole area around the school and found some very interesting places to play. There were brick air raid shelters built in the roads to provide people some protection in case of air raids. There was hardly enough room for delivery vans to pass by, but as there was so little traffic then it didn’t matter. We also found a disused factory site with a tall brick chimney that had a furnace under it. I climbed in and looking up could see the sky with clouds racing past ever so quickly high in the opening at the end of the stack, that was exciting as no one else was game to squeeze in. Then there was the large Farnham Park where huge concrete blocks had been built to discourage enemy gliders from landing and disgorging hundreds of German soldiers to overpower the citizens of Farnham and presumably our school adjacent.

We lived just far enough from London to miss most of the raids on that city, and there was no big industry to destroy in our neighbourhood. Later when Hitler did unleash his real terror weapons we had become very blasé about the war. We heard the doodlebug or V1 rocket for the first time when we were playing cricket in a field adjoining our street but we knew we were safe because if you could hear them it was all right. When their throbbing rocket engines stopped you had to take cover very quickly as it meant the bomb was then on the way down. The later more powerful V2 rockets were not a thing to worry about at all, either they missed you or you were dead! They were shot off high into the stratosphere and without much control landed where they liked with absolutely no warning at all, not even an air raid siren. The traditional bombing that did occur near to our house was of mainly stray bombs dropped by accident or unloaded when the true target couldn’t be reached by the then returning bombers. It was comforting to know that if a bomb did drop on the house it was not really meant for you!

Wars are not terrifying for boys only exciting. The true impact and meaning of the war only came home to us when we found that a chum at school stopped coming, and we had to pray for him at assembly. But we soon put that out of our minds and returned to our bartering for war relics like bits of shrapnel, bullet casings and foreign cigarette packets.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Ahuahu and Hatiti (Part 19)

The village was still flooded the next morning although there were signs that the sea water was now receding after the earthquake out to sea has caused the sea to come rushing in to devastate almost everyone’s homes.
Ahu and Ahuahu and Tangaroa slept on the ground on a little hillock a little way from the village. Hoata had found Kamaka and Hinewai but the elder daughter Hatiti was missing. She was probably in their house when the wave had hit and had almost certainly drowned as it was engulfed. But they couldn’t find her body which was assumed to have been washed out to sea. Kamaka had already knocked some of his teeth out in his sorrow at losing his favourite daughter. Hinewai cried all the time and had cut her arms to show her grief. The old widow Atahai had also died as she too was in her hut when the water destroyed her home. In all about 20 people had died or were missing most of them children.
The water from the stream that ran past the village tasted foul but there was nothing else to drink. Kamaka and Ahuahu's canoe was missing together with most of the other boats.
The funerals for those who had died were held with much wailing and sadness. The funeral held in an open space in the forest a short walk from the devastated village was a sombre affair with almost all families except Ahu’s grieving for relatives.
The day after the men of the village met on a hillside between the village and the hot springs. After discussing the situation and the need to atone the gods it was finally agreed to rebuild the village where they were now meeting. For men like Ahuahu and Kamaka it would mean a much longer walk to the beach to fish but clearly it would be safer than staying on the low lying land they were on previously.
Ahuahu had made a temporary shelter with branches, leaves and pieces that were still usable from their old house. There was only just enough room for the three of them to fit the shelter to sleep at night what with the saved utensils and tools as well as the garments they had salvaged.
Far to the west the mountain still smoked but it was no longer angry and slowly the life of the village inhabitants regained some order. At night Ahu would not let Ahuahu leave her for a moment and with one hand touching him and the other Tangaroa she had to lie on her back. Ahuahu gently caressed her rounded tummy and talked both to her and to the unborn baby and his soothing voice was just what she needed to relax. He also told her of the change of plans now that Hatiti had died.
“Kamaka will ask the parents if they would like their son to accept Hinewai instead,” he told her.
“Will they?” asked Ahu dreamily.
“Would you?”
“Hinewai will be very lucky if they do.” Ahu said then pulled his hand over to caress her breasts. “It will be very lucky for Hoata too, she will have Kamaka all to herself.”
Ahuahu shook his head, “Kamaka is hurting a lot and he will be a changed man because he could see his first wife in Hatiti.” As Ahu murmured some words to him, he went on, “Tomorrow I will go down to the shore to gather up the drift wood that has been thrown up on the sands. Will you come with me?”
Ahu shook her head, “No, tomorrow Hoata and I will looks at the vegetable plot to see if any can be saved.” With that she fell asleep.
Then next morning Ahuahu found his machete in the ruins of their house and set off down to the beach and started gathering pieces of wood and piling them high above the beach. He had wandered some way north and was about to turn back when he went inland into the undergrowth to look for the stream for a drink of water. Even here there were signs that the sea had come this far inland with broken branches and even marooned shellfish and scuttling crabs underfoot.
He stopped and listened hard to drown out the background noise of the sea. There was a call. It was a faint but plaintive cry. It sounded like “Tohu” repeated faintly over and over again. He stopped, and stayed as still and as quiet as he could.
“Tohutohu.” The voice again called.
This time Ahuahu worked out the direction and headed straight for it. Every now and then he would stop and call out “I am here. Keep calling.”
Eventually he found a bedraggled figure leaning up against a tree. It was young woman. She was dirty, naked and scratched and bruised all over.
“Hatiti? Is that you” asked Ahuahu.
The young woman burst into tears and called out his name, “Ahuahu, Ahuahu, Ahuahu,” over and over again.
He went straight up to her, knelt down and wrapped her in his arms. “I have got you. I will take you back but I will need to clean you up a bit first. I am going back to the stream to get some water. It is not far. I will talk to you all the time.”
Hatiti nodded still crying holding him, not wanting him to go. Gently he released her grip and talking all the time walked back the way he had come to get to the stream.
Ahuahu was back quickly with two shells full of water. He got her to drink some which she did greedily then with the rest attempted to clean her up. She had a few deep cuts which still oozed blood and the dirt was carefully wiped away with a part of his clothing. He then took off his half cloak and tried to cover her nakedness. All the time he was attending to her she held on to him too frightened to let him go.
“The cloak does not cover you properly Hatiti, so I will tie it around your waist and I will carry you back. Hold me tight and you will not be exposed.”
Hatiti nodded again, and attempted to get up and as she did so Ahuahu put her arms around his neck and he picked her up under her knees.
“We will have to walk back along the shore, let me know if you need a rest”
“It will be you that will need a rest, Ahuahu” Hatiti said.
“Good girl, you will have a wedding to look forward to”
“He won’t want me, if he sees me being carried from the forest by a nearly naked man.”
“Even with the cuts and bruises he will still want you Hatiti”
With that she held him even tighter.
It took them till after midday to get back to the temporary encampment. When Ahauahu said it was Hatiti there was a great wailing and crying thinking that she had been found dead. She held on so tight to him that she didn’t appear to be alive. Kamaka rushed toward them with tears in his eyes.
“She is alive, she is alive” said Ahuahau as he handed Hatiti to her father.
“You are truly my brother Ahuahu.” Kamaka said.
Hinewai alone looked very cross.

Tohu, Tohutohu - Save me or Help me

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Recollections of a Warped Mind (No 9)

5) My involvement with Fighter Command in 1940

The indoctrination that took place during the war affected everything we did. It was one thing to be bombarded in the newspapers with acceptable news, but even in peripheral things there was the subversive mind twisting of our young brains. On one hand the bad news was reported obliquely. “Bombing raids took place in several industrial centres in Britain overnight,” not telling us where, as though that was reassuring. At the same time advertising happily talked of winning through, we were urged to save for victory, dig for victory, and to be like Dad and keep Mum! The jungle telegraph however was quite effective, it took next to no time for the news of heavy raids on the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth to be passed word of mouth across the country and the bombing of London we knew about because Dad would tell us about it the evening after work or in the morning if he had been on fire watch duty the previous night.

One incident in our own family which brought the war very close to us was the tale of the egg. One poor chicken in our backyard run laid and enormous misshapen egg. This egg was raffled off to the neighbours and friends of the family and the proceeds were sent to the “Buy a Fighter fund” which many a local Council had organised. So our poor chicken unwittingly helped the war effort and contributed in some small part to the building of a Hurricane or a Spitfire fighter plane.

The elements are not conscious of the deeds of man and the summer of 1940 was a glorious one. For Britain however there was little joy, having had to endure a defeat of massive proportions when the allied forces finally came up against Hitler’s advancing armies and escape from them at Dunkirk. It was at this time however that Chamberlain the lame duck Prime Minister had been replaced by the far more dynamic and forceful Winston Churchill. As a peace time politician he was regarded somewhat as a renegade or a stirrer. In war it was essential that he was in control as he was clever enough and strong enough to see the whole situation and to take the unpalatable decisions when he had to. His fighting spirit, his rhetoric and charisma and his ability to inspire trust was what was needed when defeat seemed so close to the nation at that time.

As that summer drew to a close the German Luftwaffe had for weeks been pounding the cities and industrial centres of Britain and our embattled fighter planes were being knocked out of the sky almost faster than they could be replaced, either by machines or manpower.

In September 1940 just before children returned to school for the new school year we made a trip down to a small village between Alton and Winchester, where a friend of my Father, Charlie Humphries had a small pub on the main road. This pub which was named an unlikely, “The Shant” was the place that I witnessed a dogfight between German and British fighter planes high above the rolling chalk downs of northern Hampshire. It was impossible to tell the planes apart as they were so high above us. Their tiny silhouettes and their vapour trails were all we could see. But it was there then on that hot summer afternoon in September that I too was part of the Battle of Britain.

It was fortunate then that our chicken had done her deed and the money contributed to the Fighter Fund had been put to good use. By the 15th September the major aerial dogfights were over, the Battle of Britain had been won. Winston Churchill talked later about how much was owed by so many to so few but our long suffering hen got not one word of praise.