Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    I watched LOTR1 on cable over the weekend. Still liked the film with little if any dimunition of pleasure since my first viewing; but then I still enjoy rereading the books every seven years or so.
    But part of the visual pleasure is the fact that the film was shot in New Zealand's Southern Alps which are one of the amino acids of my psyche along with, preferably the southern ocean when it's angry, the sea – "The Sea. Even my secret speech is moist with it" as Amiri Baraka wote when he was LeRoi Jones - & the sound of distant trains.
    My main memory of Hokitika, where I was born – contrary to the comment I read in an Australian newspaper a couple of months ago that no-one was ever born in Hokitika - & lived until I was six, is of one horizon made up entirely of mountains which the town's main street ran directly towards until it was swallowed up by them. Or so it seemed. Distant, but still large enough & difficult enough to pass through or over to isolate the area from the outside world. A town founded on a nineteenth-century gold rush – contemporary photos show a forest of masts rising up from the river; when I was there, only one flat-bottomed scow could make it over the bar at the river's mouth – with 47 pubs & a population of 4700 – do the maths & you'll find that there must have been little else to do except drink. A town taking its time to die, but probably now revitalised by tourism.
    At spawning time the river would run bank to bank with whitebait – inanga in the Maori; I remember mountain parrots resting on the back fence; & every now & again, you would see a sacred white heron, a kotuku, flying over to or from their single breeding ground further down the coast.

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