Happy birthday, Elvis, if you are in the building

January 8 was Elvis’s 75th birthday. The Academy Cinemas, a small independent theatre based in the public library, showed a double feature to celebrate:

Betty was in with knobs on. She and the boy person friend reported for duty at three o’clock and found a small but devoted bunch of Americans hanging out in the lobby. The cinema had suggested costumes, but nobody seemed to have dressed up — thankfully, according to some.

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The Wise Men

Two Chesterton poems in a row: my word. Betty does apologise. She cannot help it. This one seems particularly suited to the feast of Epiphany, which celebrates (if you are of a Western bent) the revelation of Christ to the Magi; Eastern Christians traditionally celebrate Jesus’ baptism on this day instead, but no matter, is it. Here it is.

The Wise Men

Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all the labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And serve the made gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly … it has hailed and snowed…
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
(… We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone…)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.

G. K. Chesterton

The Napoleon of Notting Hill

To Hilaire Belloc.

For every tiny town or place
God made the stars especially;
Babies look up with owlish face
And see them tangled in a tree:
You saw a moon from Sussex Downs,
A Sussex moon, untravelled still,
I saw a moon that was the town’s,
The largest lamp on Campden Hill.

Yea; Heaven is everywhere at home
The big blue cap that always fits,
And so it is (be calm; they come
To goal at last, my wandering wits),
So is it with the heroic thing;
This shall not end for the world’s end,
And though the sullen engines swing,
Be you not much afraid, my friend.

This did not end by Nelson’s urn
Where an immortal England sits–
Nor where your tall young men in turn
Drank death like wine at Austerlitz.
And when the pedants bade us mark
What cold mechanic happenings
Must come; our souls said in the dark,
“Belike; but there are likelier things.”

Likelier across these flats afar
These sulky levels smooth and free
The drums shall crash a waltz of war
And Death shall dance with Liberty;
Likelier the barricades shall blare
Slaughter below and smoke above,
And death and hate and hell declare
That men have found a thing to love.

Far from your sunny uplands set
I saw the dream; the streets I trod
The lit straight streets shot out and met
The starry streets that point to God.
This legend of an epic hour
A child I dreamed, and dream it still,
Under the great grey water-tower
That strikes the stars on Campden Hill.

G. K. C.

New Year’s Resolutions

1. Stop procrastinating. [giggles like a fool]

2. Read more fiction — starting with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I picked it up about two years ago, loved every word, and inexplicably put it down several times. There’s no real reason that I can discern: it’s the size of a medium-sized music box and heavy to carry around, and its tone and milieu make it difficult to dip in and out of, but for pete’s sake. Two years. I’ve gone back to the beginning.

3. Do some form of exercise that’s not Pilates or walking. Before I moved here I was taking ballet classes for a short while, and it was awesome. When I got here I excitedly looked at other dance classes, trampolining, capoeira, and kettlebells. Then I started working every night. There must be a way around this.

4. Sleep, think, and pray more. Preferably all the time, though not all three at once.

5. Learn how to thrift shop like a big girl.

Museum adventures

Betty has been enjoying her long sleep-ins, and has spent a goodly amount of time watching The Office and not working out, but even so, yesterday she decided to behave like a grown-up person and go and do something useful. Not useful exactly, because what she decided to do was this: she would hop into the car and go to St Luke’s mall, because you can park there easily, and after that, she would go to the museum.

St Luke’s was a pleasant enough interlude, though Betty did get accosted by a cuticle-oil salesman; she extricated herself and did a modest amount of wandering around. Then she had a brief jaunt down Karangahape Road and found a shop selling handmade satin slippers with embroidery on them, which she has half a mind to buy and wear to work sometimes, because it’s all indoors and her current sneakers leave giant footprints on the mats. Then she picked up the boy person friend and headed to the museum.

They were only an hour before closing time, so it was a selective trip.

They looked at the dinosaurs, and then at the kiwi eggs and the albatrosses. There is a moa skeleton from a collection in England. Interesting.

It seems odd, though, that museums don’t ordinarily have a human anatomy section. They have a mummy — Betty discovered it by accident on an early date with the boy person friend, shortly after explaining to him that he was on no account to let her see it. He announced its presence with some surprise, causing Betty to quail within and freak out. It’s a smallish mummy; it looks about ten or twelve, horrible wizened-up thing.

Still, though, a bit of comparative anatomy wouldn’t go astray. Betty casts her vote for a few plastinated cadavers, or at least some human skeletons to stand beside the dinosaurs, for scale, and so on.

After the natural history section, they had a quick whip round the war:

…and the archives.

And then it was time to go home, a fact that was made abundantly clear by the ringing of the Last Post. Betty, however, has firm plans to go back for the special exhibition on roses (sequel to the special exhibition on orchids). Museums are lovely.

Mission Bay mish

The other day, Betty and the boy person friend went to Mission Bay, which is a swish beachy affair with a Movenpick parlour. There were no Movenpick icecreams eaten on this mish, however.

Pretty, huh? They walked along the beach for a bit, and then bowed to the inevitable and went for a burger.

Betty’s was a remarkably good crumbed pumpkin and spinach pattie with salad. Nom nom nom.

While they ate, Betty wondered about the blue tarpaulin lashed to the side of the cliff. Some elderly lady, no doubt, who lives in one of the swish houses on the top of the cliff probably lowers herself onto it every morning to do her sketches.

I want to be like her when I grow up.

Happy New Year!

Betty worked until 10.30 PM on New Year’s Eve, which left just enough time to drive into the city, pick up the boy person friend, and drive halfway up Mt Eden. As it turned out, the rest of the city (as well as a large percentage of Germany and the USA) had decided to join us, so everyone abandoned cars and made the rest of the trek up the hill on foot (everyone, that is, except two taxi drivers who were peeved at being stuck on the side of a hill all evening: they stayed on the lee side talking to each other the whole time, bless them). We got to the top in time to see the fireworks set off above the Sky Tower.

A beautiful welcome to 2010. Happy New Year, everyone.

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