The Art Site

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sweet Deals for your Valentine

The papers are full of it. You can't read the press without finding some pink - bordered Valentine's Day catch - phrase splattered with red hearts and cheap deals. "HALF PRICE" says The Warehouse, trying to make some easy money. Give your loved one a sterling silver heart and key bracelet, only $24.99. Or what about a double deal, and SAVE $4.98: for $24.99, 12 red roses + a box of Roses chocolates for $9.99 : practically given away at $30.
Then again, your darling might want lingerie. Well, the Warehouse is being incredibly kind and generous: buy two or more pairs and SAVE 20%.

"For your Valentine" says Woolworths and Countdown, dropping out of their customary plain, no frills ads and down to earth sales. This ad is decorated with bouquets that would make the florists furious, and prices that would finish them and their businesses off. Of course there are specials on the wine: they offer Lindauer Rose for $8.99. To finish off the mushy sentimentality, they advertise Hershey's Kisses in a heart - shaped tin, chocolate roses and the necessary "Be My Valentine" cards.

It is not only the shops that are fevered with this infectious disease. Facebook has caught some of the dreaded lurgy too: On everyone's facebook page is a little button that you can press to give the person a Valentine's Day gift. Worse, the person will only recieve the "wrapped" present and message at midnight on Valentine's Day. There are also all manner of Valentine superpokes available. The only ones that tempted me were the "boycott Valentine's Day" ones.
It seems that there is some method behind all this madness, and a bit of history too. Geoffry Chaucer is apparently the first person to mention this special day, and he does it with his classic wit:
This, from Chaucer's Parlement of Foules, composed around 1380, which takes place "on Seynt Valentynes day,/Whan every foul cometh there to chese [choose] his make [mate]."

What is amusing is that Chaucer refers to these people as "foul" - this may be an old English way of saying 'fool' but then again, it's bad either way.
According to an old embellished tale, the curse of the Valentine started in the 3rd Century after Christ. Claudius II was the Pope of the day and with a problem on his hands. His soldiers were pathetic wimps who got married and wanted to stay with their wives. Claudius sternly decreed that the soldiers should never marry, but meanwhile, St. Valentine (a local priest) was achieving his evil plans. Feeling sympathy with the romantic passions of youth, he was secretly marrying the young soldiers and their lasses. Little did he know the danger involved in going against the Pope (although he should have, the Pope being the top dog).
Before he knew it, he didn't know it. The Pope's soldiers came into his little shack and slew him where he knelt. Of course the man was made a martyr.

Although many believe this little story of fluff and love hearts, it is most likely not true at all, but a common myth.

To sum up: the commercialised Valentine's Day is little more than cheap ads for chocolate and flowers with tacky love hearts, getting men into a guilt trip which induces them to spend more money than they should (they have perhaps been reading the Valentine's Day ads rather than the global economic crisis articles) and advertising for "single's nights" at malls.
Single's nights? Bleugh. But I'm sure there is some hope out there. My parents, for example, went out for a coffee today and had large steaming cups of coffee and tall pieces of passionfruit cheescake, decorated with rasberries and chocolate hearts. Dad brought home six brilliantly red roses which are now arranged in a glass vase on the table. Mum is in the garden at the moment finding the last of the strawberries for tomorrow's Valentine's breakfast.

In spite of myself, I find it quite sweet. But enough of this mushy sentimentalism! It's about time for Snip part 11, and I won't find any love hearts and Valentines in there, I hope.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Snip Part 10

It was a truly beautiful horse. Danny sighed as he looked at it, his eyes caressing the tawny-gold coloured mane that was catching the evening sunlight, the majestic head that was held high enough to show its distinction from the barn horses, the pawing hooves, the rippling muscles, the deep brown eyes shot with gold highlights. A horse like that, thought Danny, was not for the likes of him, but someday he would have a horse that was equal to this one. You couldn't have adventures on an old barn horse like, for instance, Clarissa. Clarissa was the oldest horse in the royal stables and she looked it too. It didn't matter how much you currycombed her, she always looked like she'd had a fright and never got over it. Her watery eyes protruded and stared glumly into the dark of her stable. She was good for pulling a cart; nothing else.

Danny picked his way through the piles of horse muck and straw in Alexander's stable and picked up the brush from the shelf. The problem with mighty horses like these was that they made a huge mess of their stables - and the stables had to be cleaned every night - his job. There were only three stable boys: he was the lowest of them all and therefore got landed with the 'dirty work'.
It was worth it though, all the shoveling was worth it once you were actually currycombing a magnificent beast like this one. The brush glided over the silken hair, finding almost no burs or matted dirt. Danny fell into the rhythm of brushing with one brown hand and stroking with the other, the sunlight glancing off the stable windows and dancing on the hair of stable boy and horse.

"What are you doing, boy? Get your filthy hands off my horse this minute!"
The voice split the warm evening air with it's shrill insistence. It was as surprising as a bolt of lightning on a Summer day, as icy as an outhouse in Winter.

Startled, Danny looked round, the whites of his eyes like thin 'O's in shock. What met his eyes was even more unbelievable than the unexpected words: An irate little man stood just outside the stable, one hand clutching a walking stick, one foot draped slightly behind the other. He was snarling, actually snarling, his sharp teeth bared, little jets of spit foaming and spilling out of his mouth. His clothes might have been an obscure freak of fashion sixty years ago, his hands, gnarled and wrinkled with work were hideous, but it was not them that made Danny stare. It was the man's head. To start with, it was little and slightly pointed on top, like an egg, but it was bald as well. On the whole of the man's head, there was not a hair that he could call his own. The sun glowed on his shiny head, increasing the eggishness of it.

Danny could feel mirth bubbling up from somewhere deep inside: something in him was pointing at this man and laughing hysterically. Danny choked back the mad laugh and coughed politely into his hand. Keeping one hand on Alexander to steady him, he inquired:

"Excuse me sir?"
The little man did a little jump.
"You heard me! GET those filthy hands off my horse AT ONCE!"
"Sir," Danny heard himself saying calmly, "If you have any complaints about the service your horse is receiving, please report them to the complaints commissioner."
The man spluttered, choked on his rage.
He half-strode forward, dragging his lame foot behind him. From nowhere, a horsewhip rose in the air, flew down, stung Danny's legs. Again, it rose in the air and laid a stinging blow to Danny's bare shoulders. He felt nothing for at least five seconds, then the pain was there, cutting into his flesh like a dagger. The whip was so fast, the little man so adept at using it, that it was at least five blows before the stunned Danny thought to try and grab the whip. Quick as a flash, his hand reached up to snatch the weapon, but the man was to fast for him, and before he'd had half a chance, the whip was there on his back, clinging to his skin and flying back in the air. Danny let himself fall to the ground, and using some of that new arm muscle, he grabbed the man's legs and pulled. The man fell, his fat belly jiggling, his mouth in a perfect O.

Danny thought at this point that it would be an easy battle. He had the man on the ground, all that needed to be done was to lay a few well aimed punches on the man's hide and the fight would be over.
Then the viper struck. Even though Danny's knees were pinning the man to the splintery wooden floor, one arm came up and caught Danny around the middle. For such a little man, his arms were surprisingly powerful: he flung the boy across the floor and against the wall, where he lay for a moment, stupefied.

The man jumped up as though nothing had happened and limped over to where Danny lay stunned on the ground.
"Was that enough discipline then, stable boy?" he hissed, his face twisting into an expression of diabolical evil.
Danny's face was ashen, he'd hit his head on the heavy wooden panelling and a stream of scarlet blood trickled down his neck. His head started to throb - it was as if some african wild-man was beating a drum inside his head.
He said nothing but stared intensely into the man's bulging eyes. Something in his stare made the man blink and look away.
"You're going to have to learn to get along with me, boy. You have some guts, some strength. You're exactly what I want for the job."
If he expected to get an answer from Danny about that statement, he was disappointed. Danny continued to glare up at him from his broken position on the floor.
"You're going to help me find the princess Arabella, just like her father the King wants me to. We're going to find her, but we won't claim the big reward then," whispered the man. "oh no, we're going to find many uses for her before we ransom her and get a much bigger pay package from her father."
His piggy eyes stared into space, a smile lurked in the corners of his mouth for a brief second. Then he pulled his face into a fierce look, and scowled at Danny.
"If you even breath a word of this to anyone I will have the great pleasure of killing you. Got it, stable boy? Not a word."
He limped away, back to the palace.
Anger swelled up in Danny, words rushed into his head that he wanted to slay this hideous man with. He choked them down. They wouldn't help Bella. It was up to him to help her now.

The Pukeko Dance

In front of me I could see a dark shape sitting near the middle of the road. As I looked, its glossy black wings quickly rose and fell a couple of times. I could see, as I rode past, that it was a pukeko (the beak gave it away) that it had been hit by a car and that it couldn't move (thus, the hopeless wing-lifting).

My friend Lillian, who was biking in front of me, did a U-turn and together we biked back to the pukeko. We were coming closer to the scene, when another pukeko hurried out to the injured pukeko and did a strange dance around it, flapping its wings and screeching helplessly. It was pretty pathetic. The wounded pukeko's orange legs trailed out uselessly, and he waved his wings. His friend looked down the road (I assume to check for oncoming vehicles) and raced back to the grass verge. From seemingly nowhere, three or four other pukekoes appeared and waited by the road, screeching, flapping their wings and looking at the injured pukeko.


I jumped off my bike, leaving it on the grass, checked for traffic (the other pukeko had been a good example to me) then walked out on to the road. I had a moment's revulsion at the thought of actually picking the bird up, but knelt down beside it anyway. Reaching under it, I picked it up gently (it swore at me, but then settled down) and made my way over to the grass by the fence. The other pukekoes had got themselves through the fence, into an apple orchard, so I felt they must have their base over the fence somewhere. Then I tried to get the pukeko through the fence. Failure. The pukeko would not/could not get through the wire fence. It was getting late, (Lills and I had work at a strawberry farm) so I left the pukeko there, his head and shoulders part way through the fence. I wasn't sure whether or not he'd make it through, but I couldn't do much more with him.

Coming back home, I looked out for the pukeko, vaguely expecting to still see it sitting by the fence. There was no pukeko.
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