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From: David Jarman [dsrjarman@hotmail.

com] Sent: 24 February 2004 08:44 Subject: finnland, or the surrealities of travel i wanted to write the following as a piece of fiction, based on real events, but alas i lack the skills and any gloss of fabrication would detract from the foundations of oddness on which my tale is built. the intention was a one-day visit to te awamutu, birthplace of 'crowded house's' neil and tim finn: songwriters whose melodies and lyrics were as important in my upbringing as eddie izzard videos and charlene ramsay. it's a small town - straight roads, a locally famous church and a rose garden - but proud of its favourite sons, and fully geared up to show them off. (ok, this ain't no 'beatles experience' to the cavern and back, but for a dollar the visitor centre will provide all manner of photocopied goodies.) all this i knew, the rest was merely a lava flow of icing on an already substantial cake. taking the night train up from wellington, the new dawn and i first saw the neat rows of suburbia around 6.30am, and we headed west into town. clearly anticipating another busy saturday, nothing would open until ten, leaving me plenty of time for a leisurely stroll around town. i then had breakfast in the park, cleaned my teeth and sat down for a bit. that took me to about 7.30, so i had another stroll, on my return barely registering the car which had driven into the shell petrol garage shop in my absence - such was the calm manner of the staff sweeping up three plate glass windows rearranged into a hundred thousands shards of diamante. please excuse my apathy, i was tired, and the car was side on among the crisps and magazines - it looked normal... after a one-way chat with a woman who was following her former boyfriend around the country and staving off tears with another cigarette, i entered the serene orderliness of the visitor information centre. it was now ten o'clock. of course they'd look after my bag, and yes they had information on the finn brothers, and do say they sent me when i reached the town museum, but be quick because it shuts at three. busy saturday remember. many times over the next few hours i smiled to myself - not unusual for an only child - as i walked the same streets as a couple of lads who grew up and wrote songs: here i was a million miles from home just checking out their first home, first school, old employers and father's former legal practice. that first house is now an old people's home, enough said perhaps as the pace of young life slows to imitate the crafted patience of art. or a comment on their target audience. to the museum, subtitled 'history never repeats' after an finn song. such subtle homages are somewhat at odds with the finn display inside, focusing as it does on 'split enz', that band of older vintage than the crowdies. here were the costumes and videos of a group that shocked malcolm mclaren in the '70s, and brought the curly tsunami quiff to global recognition. there's also a decorated paving slab propped against the wall, the first of many to form a town walk of fame; who knows, in another generation there may be one for your other foot as well. i decided that this was the time and the place to but my first split enz cd, where better? unfortunately te awamutu had other ideas as i couldn't find a shop selling one. indeed, i couldn't find a shop selling any cds at all. have they all evolved to ipods here already? (rest assured however that 'te a' does boast a 24 hour panel beaters. just the one though: the market has been cornered.) after all that, i dozed in the rose garden, managed to get my bag in time and sang the

town's praises. and so to the railway station again, to continue the journey north to auckland on the day train. expected time of arrived: 5.00pm; i was ready: 4.30pm. 6.00pm. beginning to run out of things to do on a 100m stretch of platform, accompanying car park and broken corrugated shed. new zealand's railways have been 'continuously welded', to remove the clackety-clack - and consequently the ability to expand safely in the heat, so there would be a delay to avoid buckling them. as entirely expected however, i was joined by a flame-red and brass wooden fire tender, and its cargo of bride, groom, photographer and entourage. photos were taken, poses struck, and now i've seen the kiwi 'footballers' wives' audience for myself. why restrict your wedding memories to the platform when you can clamber down onto the tracks and sleepers? if the photographer wants you to stride into the distance, you do so, and if one's bride can't keep up in her heels... it was a nice idea i guess, but if the snapper regularly takes his newlywed clients down to the railway, wouldn't he get bored with the milk processing plant in the back ground? moving on, and the sun's nearing the opposite horizon, our time here together nearly over. almost eight o'clock, boredom descending with the dusk, so praise the lord for the runaway horse. from a quarter mile distance, the reins skipped against the sky, the stirrups bounced with a freedom they were never meant to have. just a shame there was no rider to enjoy the ride: saddle and tack were redundant. but wait, one horsepower was now pursued by several hundred, equine 4x4 taking on the designed-to-drive-on-the-moonand-deliver-the-kids-to-school variety. dust flew across the car park, but in the final equation the mitsubishi driver blinked of course. hot on his mudguards, a people carrier, 'had i seen a horse?' cried the passenger: part baseball pitcher, part helpful citizen, i pointed the way - the people carrier never stopped accelerating. a further cloud of dust announced the horses decision to investigate a front garden, the passenger followed: exit pursued by a jockey. and thus the natural order of things was restored for horse and rider returned my way as one, with little doubt in any observer's eye as to who was in control... surely my only surprise after that would be the eventual arrival of the train. it depends. how much significance should i place on the four bare-footed children who walked the same route as the horse? in silence they came. one after each other in descending height order. and what's more, they never returned. the sun set, the train arrived, my david lynch experience was over. clearly i can never go back. it'll never be the same. although what could possibly happen after dark? now i know why the smallest of towns produce artists fit to take on the world. the rest of the planet is a grey, reserved place of insular cultures compared to the natural highs of the multidimensional pythonesque everyday of their upbringings. outsiders can only catch glimpses, in lyrics and costumes, concepts and occasional visits. 'the darkness' are from suffolk: i rest my case. i feel privileged to have been admitted, and lucky to be able to relate my tale. * has anyone made it this far down? moving on. a few more days in new zealand brought much rain, thunder and light shows. further glimpses of the north island gave me enough to want to come back and do justice to the place. more walking, more coastline, forests and middle earth next time please. the

fascinating history of human settlement, exploration and exploitation of these awesome islands demands continual reassessment, while the future will surely bring no respite from the shifts of population, tectonic plates and the global film industry. one of my final trips was to kare kare beach. black sands pounded by the tasman sea and the odd storm sent direct from the antarctic. it was the setting for jane campion's portrayal of new settlers in 'the piano', and few first sights of your homeland could have been more imposing for nineteenth century europeans after their long voyages. i performed by best anna paquin impersonation, both wan and indefatigable. (please note therefore that although my primary reason for visiting may have been to visit the spot where crowded house recorded their final album, i was able to appreciate the wider experience. better be home soon, eh?) * melbourne. few cities have the space to build as many cultural institutions as central melbourne, let alone the funds and the will to do so. new galleries, institutes, squares, stadiums, museums and parks, impressive stuff. but i was here for australia day: i had a flag and i was not afraid to wave it. (i did consider cutting off the stars to cancel out those who had cut the union flag from theirs, but this may have incited trouble.) for all its many traditions, great britain has precious few state-sponsored expressions of national identity. no summer day's holiday when politicians and royalty salute the flag to the accompaniment of big ben and massed morris dancers. aren't we multicultural enough to need to find some common ground to celebrate? perhaps the lack of decent competition australians find in the world's sporting arenas has undermined that more run of the mill outlet for being what you is. either way, a day off school, more time to watch the australian open, and big ol' fireworks can't be too bad. adelaide. home for a few weeks to me and the (second) biggest fringe festival in the world. also, 44 degree heat, and an opening street parade attracting 100,000 of one's nearest and dearest. lucky i gets to precede the parade announcing its imminent arrival to teams of stewards (via radio) and the general populus (through a big megaphone). back to the days of waving a red flag before a vehicle, the first to poke a head out of the trench, breakaway cyclists ahead of the peleton. you'll notice the future tense being used here, so should i manage an anti-moses and bring the twin tides of humanity together in the middle of the road through a simple breakdown in communication, i leave these as my final words. supply your own punchline as to my final thoughts. but hey, don't dream it's over. david.x post script: parade over, fringe up and running, everything's ok.

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