On sun and parachuting

There are a few fixed rituals in Betty’s year. NaNoWriMo is one; others have come and gone, like hot air ballooning every Easter (for something like five or six years, Betty forgets), or strawberry picking in the summer, or abseiling at youth camps. The most enduring, Betty reflects, is quite possibly the annual pilgrimage to the Parachute Music Festival every Auckland Anniversary weekend.

This is a little odd, since Parachute is not really Betty’s thing; she was introduced by her hip friends back in the late 1990s, and reintroduced by her well-connected and keen sister a few years later. Betty’s sister, for reasons related to autism and other awesomeness, enjoys few things more than planning and timetabling, listens devotedly to the radio, and loves fast food. Readers will therefore appreciate the significance of an event that packs dozens of bands into dozens of short timeslots, in a massive tent city peppered with literally dozens of hot dog stands, coffee bars and gourmet pizza marquees. It is like heaven.

It will, Betty readily admits, be fun this year: Switchfoot are headlining on the Mainstage, as they did in 2008, and Betty is quite quivering to hear them; there are also other regular highlights, like the World Vision installation (you line up for hours, wear an earpiece, and undergo some kind of simulated third-world horror; last year it involved sitting in a makeshift clinic waiting to be told if you had contracted AIDS; it was harrowing and very moving), the gourmet pizza, and the midday roller disco or barndance in the Palladium.

By far the most significant part of Parachute, however, is the sun. Betty has an unholy horror of sunburn. Though she spent her childhood tanned to a deep shade of acorn or teak, she is now Baltic pine at the very most, and not at all fond of getting lupus-like flushes of red across her cheeks, or that permanent dark nose-stripe that develops after a day or so of unprotected sun exposure. One year, despite her best efforts, Betty left Parachute with a burned parting in her hair, and a strip of her scalp peeled off in one deliciously satisfying and yet totally unacceptable piece a few days later. There always seems to be a spot — the top of a foot, a corner of neck, a strip of hip, an entire ear — that ends up blackened and blistering.

However, Betty chooses to live in hope. Armed with a small array of sunscreens, a pair of dark glasses, sleeves, and a hat, Betty will once again attempt to avoid burning. The festival is just over two weeks away, so helpful suggestions and recommendations are most welcome.

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Theobroma

At Theobroma at St Luke’s the other day I had this soy hot chocolate. They do an interesting chilli hot chocolate, too, and if you get a big one it comes in a mug with a candle underneath it. Chocolate and open flame — a truly Betty combination. It’s not a perfect chocolate: it mostly makes me wish there was a Koko Black or even a Max Brenner in the country, but nonetheless, chocolate does the trick.

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