This page written circa 11 November, 2023.
by Edwin Brock
There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
To the top of a hill and nail him to it.
To do this properly you require a crowd of people
Wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
To dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
Man to hammer the nails home.
Or you can take a length of steel,
Shaped and chased in a traditional way,
And attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men with bows and arrows,
At least two flags, a prince and a
Castle to hold your banquet in.
Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind
Allows, blow gas at him. But then you need
A mile of mud sliced through with ditches,
Not to mention black boots, bomb craters,
More mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs
And some round hats made of steel.
In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly
Miles above your victim and dispose of him by
Pressing one small switch. All you then
Require is an ocean to separate you, two
Systems of government, a nation's scientists,
Several factories, a psychopath and
Land that no one needs for several years.
These are, as I began, cumbersome ways
To kill a man. Simpler, direct, and much more neat
Is to see that he lives somewhere in the middle
Of the twentieth century, and leave him there.
I first moved into 85 Chelmsford St on Anzac day, 1990. My furniture had arrived a few weeks earlier and was stored in the garage, pending the previous owner moving out to her next place of residence. During that time I was a nomad, staying with various friends. It is moments like that when you find out who your friends are. (Thank you Deb, Lou, Tony....)
History does repeat, albeit with variations. Two weeks ago, I overflew mid-Tasman the container holding all my stuff. It will wind up in that same garage. Should it not all fit, I may need to store some stuff before I repossess, renovate, and reoccupy flat 5. Nothing like events to test your worth in peoples' eyes. It is vaguely possible that the reoccupation will occur on Anzac day. There is something poetic in a perfect 33-year cycle time.
The poem at right was the unseen question in my final English exam in my final year at high school. That was 1973. I have loved it ever since. I cannot help noticing that 50 years on, I have escaped the twentieth century. Looking at Ukraine and Gaza, I am not sure that the risks do not still linger.
Speaking of death, my first graduate supervisor and friend Professor J Godfrey Lucas has been taken seriously ill. His trajectory this last week smells just like my mothers last week. Peter reflected "Double shit. If this goes to the likely outcome, and you guys go to get pissed on Thursday, can you let me know?" That will be a big wake. I do hope it does not happen.
In one sense this page is simply a diary update. In another sense it reflects my surprise at having lived this long, remembered this much. It comes at a volta, a turn in my life. Some things change, some remain. Sidere mens eadem mutato.
Postscript: The wake happened.
Losing Godfrey affected me more than I expected. He was the first person I knew personally that I used as a role model. His work ethic, his attitude, his analytical thinking all became part of me.