Fairy tales by Trevor Plumbly

Once upon a time

Queen Street Auckland in the 1950s

On arrival in NZ in 1971, my first impression was that of a country a bit like England in low gear, or if you ventured far enough afield, in reverse. ‘She’ll be right’ was more a statement of disinterest than reassurance while emotion was generally reserved to sporting matters. In short, we were a pretty placid, albeit boring, mob.

These days we’re more in touch with the world and we can panic along with the best of them. What we used to call ‘eccentrics’ are now bona fide nutters and there’s nothing like a crisis to rouse the silly buggers. Once the brown stuff hits the fan, they rummage through the detritus in search of cause and effect, then rush off to deliver their ‘message’. At such times, heaps of folk feel the need for what they hope will be wise counsel, so even email evangelists never go short of a few worshippers.

On with the motley!

Moses with the laws written on tablets of stone

Crises are like a talent quest for academic theorists: anyone with an ‘ology’ can pull a crowd. Years ago, when professionals delivered opinions, they came with a Mosaic authority that no-one dared question. There’s still a few of those around, some with more than one ‘ology’, but politicians, silly sods, and Google addicts have joined the high ground on this one, so clarity’s been spread around a bit thin and we’re almost back to the simplicity of ‘ring-a-ring-a-roses’ days. The problem is that the ‘ologists’ can’t seem to cough up much beyond predictions, laced with ‘given that’s’ and ‘assuming if’s’. Even allowing for my half educated and somewhat cynical approach to such things, it’s incredible that with all those brains churning away, the best they can come up with is, ‘you’ve got it, or you ain’t!’

Babes in the woods

Following the Pied Piper without questioning

These days ‘she’ll be right’ has been swapped for the ‘Pied Piper’ approach; problem is that there’s a fair few pipers out there, and some are a bit out of tune, especially those of a spiritual bent. One such, a self-ordained Bishop, despite national pleas to socially distance, led his flock onto a public domain to gather in the name of ‘freedom’. I’ll accept that God protects the innocents, but I need some proof he endorses stupidity as well. Some of these libertarians refuse to use protective masks in public. I’m not sure of the justification for this, the old ‘I’ve got my rights’ has been a bit worn out by the criminal fraternity, so they may need a re-write to get that message across.

Fairy Godfolk

Not content with the fact that the bloody pumpkin is actually a pumpkin, non-conformists flaunt their mental limitations as if they were the only ones destined for a happy ending. Recent stunts include sliding down bedsheets to escape quarantine facilities because presumably life in a five star hotel can get too much. Two intrepid gals, escaped to the far North on false papers for no given reason: sex workers perhaps doing their bit to alleviate rural isolation or a couple of stray lambs from the good Bishop’s flock seeking a less exacting shepherd? Then there’s the North Island Mayor who’s not ‘anti vaccine’, she just wants the one that’s not freely available! I’m telling you, these are real people, and they’re ours! They’re the sort that will stop the world viewing us as a big retirement village for All Blacks.

Frog kissing

Curtain time! You’d think that by this time most would know the story, but that’s the beauty of this one: it’s the mayhem that keeps us focussed, even the scriptwriters can’t cast past the first act. I’m hoping for a call; I had thought of an academic role, but like most East End street kids my Latin’s not up to much, so the chance of an ‘ology’ is pretty slim. Church dignitary appealed: ‘Cardinal Trev’ has a blokey feel to it, but even senile fantasy’s got its limits. Nor will I join the illusionists however famed: Donald may shoot up disinfectant and Boris continue to sow his privileged seed, but I see them more as the arse end of the pantomime horse rather than credible actors.

One nail makes all the difference

To end on an uncharacteristically serious note, it’s almost impossible for those unaffected directly by the virus to fully understand the pain it can bring and it’s just as difficult to find sufficient words to thank those fighting it on the front line. But for those who believe that a supreme being will take care of things or that half-arsed theorists hold the key, try ‘researching’ the old proverb that starts, ‘For the want of a nail the shoe was lost.’*

*Attributed to Benjamin Franklin:

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,

For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,

For the want of a horse the rider was lost,

For the want of a rider the battle was lost,

For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,

And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.

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