Wise advice from Ruru
Kia Ora Dear Readers,
Words-marvelous, wonderful words, the Queen’s English is spoken in New Zealand, albeit with a Kiwi twist. Words that have thrilled me in long ago British Literature courses, are in common usage here and sound delightful to my American ears. Fortnight and frock- fabulous! How boring two weeks and dress sound in comparison. Porridge. When I spy porridge on a breakfast menu, I expect Goldilocks to deliver a bowl that’s not too hot, nor too cold but just right. What about the humble footpath? Is footpath not poetic? Is it not far better than the prosaic sidewalk? Would a Footpath Inspector be an exotic specimen? Definitely, yes.
Peddling my push bike down Pohutukawa Avenue one sunny morning, I spotted an odd looking vehicle, inching slowly along the footpath. Inside was a driver, wearing a high visibility vest and a helmet. That struck me as an abundance of caution, since he wasn’t driving in the road but as they say, “safety first”. He stopped. I stopped. He looked down. I looked up. He was the Footpath Inspector. What an exciting discovery. I had never seen a footpath inspector. Who knew there were footpath inspectors? Not me. And where was he when Mr. Bill and I needed him? Both Mr. Bill and I have come to grief on the hard pavements of Ohope. I stumbled and fell on an uneven section and Mr. Bill was attacked by a rogue flax plant.
It is embarrassing to trip while walking down the street, especially without the excuse of texting or taking a selfie. Enthralled with my new surroundings, I was strolling down Pohutukawa Avenue in March of 2013, looking everywhere but down, when my shoe caught the edge of broken concrete. Instantly I was airborne, to the amusement of a group of young boys. Be you six or sixty, it still hurts when boys laugh at you. It must have looked funny though, I’ll grant them that. One minute there’s a woman walking down the street, next minute she’s waving her arms like a demented windmill, trying to regain her balance, then SPLAT, she’s spread eagle on the front lawn. Since pride ‘goeth before the fall’, I was up quicker than a septuagenarian (you are always faster than somebody). Two little girls who had just passed me on their skateboards, turned around when they heard the thud and zipped back to offer their assistance. The boys meanwhile were convulsed with laughter. That’s when the most amazing thing happened. This angelic girl who was no more than 7 or 8, threw the cacklers a look of utter contempt, that instantly silenced them. No Mother Superior could have done it better. It was mighty impressive. As I limped home, I thought it was worth the fall, in order to have had, that ‘full on’ Kiwi Experience.
Now, Mr. Bill’s unfortunate footpath encounter, which left him bloodied and with a broken rib, was not self inflicted as was my mishap. For want of a footpath inspector, the native flax plants along West End Road, had become overgrown and were encroaching upon the sidewalk. Native New Zealand flax, is a majestic plant, tall and strong. The plant produces a copious amount of long, sword shaped, leaves, that grow 1-3 meters long. Tubular shaped flowers, bloom on sturdy stems that grow 4.5 meters high. Although they don’t flaunt the showy blossoms of many popular cultivated flowers, what they lack in color, they make up in usefulness. The Maori fashioned flax fiber into rope, fishing nets, cooking baskets, mats and clothing. The nectar from the flower was made into a sweet drink. The plant’s roots were used as a disinfectant, a laxative and as a poultice for skin infections. Gum from flax leaves eased pain and healed wounds, especially burns. All this bounty from humble beginnings but sometimes things that grow wild can become wild, as Mr. Bill discovered.
One beautiful afternoon, while jogging along the footpath on West End Road, Mr. Bill was felled by a flax plant. His right foot landed on a flax leaf , that lay across the walk way; unfortunately, the innocent looking leaf was still attached to the plant and that created a trip wire. The weight of his foot, pined the leaf to the ground, pulling the flax taut and it caught the tip of his left sneaker, as he ran forward. He hit the pavement, hard and fast. He felt a rib crack. He was dazed, cut and bleeding. Instantly, the teenaged boy who had just cycled past him, turned around and offered first aid. Our neighbor, Colleen, who was outside on her patio, rushed to offer help as well. However, Mr. Bill’s pride is stronger than flax; he was up in a flash, he thanked them and called it a day. Humbled by kindness and hobbled by a plant- what a run. As he limped home, I rather doubt that he felt that the fall was worth it, in order to have the ‘full on’ Kiwi Experience.
Lending a helping hand, is the Kiwi way and it’s what we love most about New Zealanders.
Happy Trails to all and mind the flax.
The Footpath Inspector
Mr. Bill and the mighty flax plant.
Dried flax leaves are spun into rope but when still attached to the plant, they are trip wires for unsuspecting joggers.