Monday, January 17, 2005

Tauomo reappears

Our local rag, the Central Leader, has a report on the re-emergence of Tauomo:

Mt Wellington's forgotten volcano has reappeared. Demolition of industrial buildings on Morrin Rd has revealed the remains of Purchas Hill, or Tauomo, which once stood 30 metres high, at the foot of Mt Wellington. Tauomo has been unseen for years and now lies within the Mt Wellington quarry land earmarked for subdivision...geologist Bruce Hayward wants to see the remains preserved, saying the volcano's cone could be recreated by looking at early photos and drawings and using dirt and other material gathered by quarrying...He would like Tauomo to become something like Mt Cambria in Devonport, which is a similar size and has been made into a park...

Like other volcanic cones in Auckland, Tauomo was terraced and fortified as a pa by pre-European Maori. Like the original cone, the earthworks are gone...The European name for Tauomo was given by Austrian geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter, who visited New Zealand in the 1850s. The Reverend Arthur Guyon Purchas, an Onehunga Anglican vicar with an interest in science, accompanied von Hochstetter on some of his expeditions.

The Central Leader's not online, so I can't refer you to a picture of Tauomo, but there's a good photo of Mt Wellington here, on a site dedicated to Auckland's volcanoes. You can see some of the subdivison work in the foreground.

Reading about Tauomo reminded me of my recent visit to Otuataua Stonefields, Mangere's one-hundred hectare 'Stonehenge of South Auckland'. Otuataua is almost as little-known as Tauomo, despite the efforts of the local Waiohua iwi and of archaeologists like Hayward, who together managed to save the site from development in the 90s.

Find out what you've been missing here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


A few days, a few weeks later, I remember stopping, in the doorway, and looking back, at my unmade bed, at the coffee mug that smelt of stolen vodka, at the posters advertising gigs I was too young to see, at the stack of half-read novels on the desk, at the record that had rolled out of its cover across the room until it leaned against the turntable on the floor, like a tyre waiting to be fitted.

I remember thinking that, if I were to walk out the door, jump on my bike, and ride, fast, downhill, through the rain, through the first red on Takanini Strait, then the random objects of my room would become sacred, inviolable. Instead of shouting at me to tidy up, my mother would stand silently in that doorway, and cry, and chase the cat off the bed, and carefully lean the record my father had put away back up against the blown speaker. All of my friends would come to admire the room, making mental notes to buy their own copies of the books on my desk, to listen again to the bands advertised on my wall. All of them except you, who knew better.

We used to joke about it, riding through the Papakura cemetery, on the short cut from the tinny house back to Youngs Cres. We’d shout song titles at each other as the headstones sped by, until we’d assembled a set list, a mix tape you swore you’d make. You even asked your Dad, who was still practicing law then, to help you write a will. He’d laughed, at the idea of you leaving anyone money, but you’d only wanted to put down some of your best jokes. Don’t Fear the Reaper. Bela Lugosi’s Dead. I Am the Resurrection. Your favourite, Another One Bites the Dust, which you wanted us to play while your coffin was being carried away. It would be, you said, like playing DJ at a family function. It would be a last stand, against sentimentality. Against boorjwah morality. A way to say fuck you to them all, without having to see them shake their heads, to see them walk away. Yeah, right, take another toke, I’d say.

Your sister said the undertaker was a hippy. I said he was just tight. He wouldn’t pump you full of formaldehyde, said that the scent of decay was better than the smell of chemicals. You, who always loved to fill yourself with chemicals, must have felt cheated of a last hit.

Your body already felt cheated. Your body had grown from a tiny smooth animal that did nothing but cry and shit, into a skinny boy who dropped catches in the covers and went regularly over the handlebars of his bike, before at last reaching something like regulation size. Now it had lost its right to bulge and wrinkle, to grow grey hairs and varicose veins, to expire in an overheated hospice bed surrounded by bored great-grandchildren and the clicks and flashes of incomprehensible machines.

As it lay on the stainless steel tray, waiting to be fed to the fire, your body took a sort of revenge, living its lost decades in a couple of days, ageing a few hours every day. Your skin turned yellow, then pale green, as though it were registering some disease of the old. The rope marks on your neck and jaws darkened and deepened, until they looked and smelt like bedsores.

You never made that mix tape, and I didn’t tell anybody about it, at the planning meeting, the day before, in the messy room you left. I was afraid that your parents, who had always warned you about me, so that they could warn you about yourself, would think I was making the songs, making your set list up, the way I made the bust at the tinny house up, the way I made the fight with Sean Sands up. I let your mother and sister burn their own CD, even downloaded some stuff they wanted, but didn’t have – something by Enya, and I Will Always Love You. I remember crying and singing along with the others, as you creaked along that conveyor belt into the fire we couldn’t see.

The Clinic

Now that I am well, now that I am not quite sick, I sit in the clinic’s back garden, or in the clinic’s front garden, in a blanket that feels as heavy as a sack of spuds. A few paces away, at the bottom of the yard, at the top of the yard, Mr Isserman and Mr Webb, or whatever their names are, sit on opposite sides of a fold-out table. With a look of disgust Isserman pushes a Queen away from his end of Webb’s chessboard. Miss Fowlds has turned her armchair away from them, Miss Fowlds has begun threading her knitting needles, which are long and yellow and very sharp, like the wingbones of an ancient bird. I lean back in my armchair, close my eyes, and try again to order the last few days, weeks, events. Pills. I cannot separate Wednesday from Saturday, or April from May, cannot distinguish exploratory surgery from amputation, but I can remember, I can distinguish the pills. Each pill has a different colour, a different purpose. If I could arrange them into some sort of order, if I could thread them together, like the little plastic jewels in a child’s necklace, like the beads of a rosary…there was the green pill, which made me vomit, the red pill, which stopped me vomiting, the yellow, the yellow and black pill, which made me hallucinate, the little pure white pill, which sent me into a dreamless sleep, the square turquoise pill – it was aqua-blue, in the light of the bathroom on floor three – which kept me awake in the afternoons, and the grey pill with two horizontal stripes, which seemed to do nothing at all, and was perhaps designed to do nothing at all. There were, are others, other colours…The nurses, too, they came, come, in different colours, first in grey, in dresses that are pale grey, like paracetamol pills, then then in the green overalls of the radiation room, and in matching green masks that slip slightly, with each sympathetic smile, with each grimace of disgust. In the last room, which dissolved too slowly into the white light of morphine, the girls wore blue, like the hostesses on Cathay Pacific. When one of them pushed a trolley with a stainless steel lid to the edge of the bed I managed to lift my leaking head slightly, but I saw a pair of huge tweezers instead of the expected burnt chicken. If I could arrange the pills, the nurses, the colours…it is not that I propose that I am steering some course, making some journey, that began with the nightmares and sore shins, and will end in a cure, or in the compulsory cure of death. I have no need to impersonate a healthy man, nor even a condemned man. What interests me is the question of when the doctors and the nurses and the orderlies ceased to treat me, and began to treat The Body. I know that I arrived at the clinic with my own body. I remember showering it, and stroking its scars like kittens, during the first days, the first weeks, the first pills. At some stage, though, at some indeterminate but indefinite point in time - a moment, an hour, a day, a pill - the staff issued me with a new body, with The Body. The Body is six feet tall, and hairless, with a smooth expanse of pubic bone that ends abruptly but tidily between its muscled thighs. The Body is criss-crossed by dotted black lines, and names have been tattooed in block letters between the lines, names like HEART, LUNGS, and APPENDIX (IF UNREMOVED). When Dr Hobson introduced me to my new body – I remember, now! I remember! – during the powerpoint presentation in the pre-op room, on the day, during the semester when it seemed I might graduate, from the status of patient to the status of doctor, the status, the title of surgeon – of prodigy, of maimed one! – when Dr Isserman introduced me to my new body I protested, demanding my old model, with its caved-in chest and sprinkling of short fair hairs. He laughed, and said that my body was in my mind, but I know better, I know that my mind is in my body, in my liver, my kidneys, my gall bladder, in my spleen…It is not that the doctors were uninterested, are uninterested, in my old body. They jab at my arm with increasingly outrageous needles, explore my rectum with rubber fingers as thick and hard as cocks, receive my daily cup of piss with the solemnity of pious men accepting water from the keeper of a holy spring. The doctors divine the strategic objectives of my illness, the balance of forces in my vital organs, but when they interpret their findings, when they formulate plans for counterattacks and fighting withdrawals, then they begin to speak of The Body, the six foot tall tattooed eunuch from the pre-op presentation. It is as though they are studying one body and treating another. Now, as I open my eyes, as I open my eyes to see Mr Webb still frowning at his pawns, I realise that the very clothes I am wearing were tailored with the other body, The Body, in mind. I had been excited, I had been so excited about entering my old clothes again, after weeks in pyjamas, in the green gown of the punishment cell, but this silk shirt, these jeans, designer jeans, this denim jacket, they so outsize me that I am sure they were sewn, that they were worn in by The Body, and that my real silk shirt, my real jeans, my real jacket were pushed like stillborn children into the furnace on the other side of the clinic. It is lucky, really, that I lack the strength to rise from this chair, to take these few steps to the fold-out table, to offer Isserman and Webb, Hobson and Webb, my advice – if I stood, if I tried to stand, if my knees began to straighten, to unwarp, again, then these beltless jeans would drop effortlessly down my shivering legs into the lawn, into its bottomless brown elephant grass. I close my eyes, and lean back in the armchair, no, I don’t, I hear Isserman, I hear Webb shout suddenly, as though they are on the tables in ward four again, and my eyes are open, I am standing bolt upright, for the first in days, in months, because The Body has stepped into the yard, closing the swinging door behind it slowly, because The Body is padding across the grass, its toned torso shining faintly in the late afternoon sunlight, as I clench my fists, and Isserman and Webb and Miss Fowlds snarl and yelp and advance, towards the spot where The Body has stopped, and stretched his muscled arms into the air, into the sunlight, because Isserman is throwing a slow roundhouse, and Webb is jabbing at the torso, and Miss Fowlds has dug a bird bone into the tattoo that reads LEFT SHOULDER, because The Body is bent now, is on its knees now, has emitted a sudden high-pitched whistling, a high-pitched sigh, because Isserman is shouting again, You show ‘em, Rosie! You show the bugger! Coming out here like that! and now the nurses, the three nurses from the ground ward, the ones in paracetamol-grey dresses, trot down the back steps, the front steps of the clinic, and pull Miss Fowlds off The Body, and frogmarch her and Isserman and Webb back into the building, and Doctor Hobson steps out of the clinic, and puts his arm round The Body, which has gotten quietly to its feet and extracted Miss Fowld's bone with one quick backward motion of its left arm, and the pair of them walk slowly back into the clinic, as Hobson puts his hand on The Body’s pearl-grey shoulder, and wipes away a speck of blood, and I am left standing alone in the backyard of the clinic, in the front yard of the clinic, with my jeans around my ankles.

2:54 pm  
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5:17 am  

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