Morning Story: Kai ka pai as clock keeps ticking



Whether the following anecdote is true or not is immaterial.

Some place in Italy, the story goes, some time in the 16th century, Michelangelo sat in his studio staring at a slab of raw marble. For weeks he did so, not moving, not speaking, not lifting a hand; just staring intently.

This eventually raised the ire of one of his many pupils who, puzzled at the apparent lethargy, asked:

"Just what is it you are doing?"

"I'm working".

When I say the veracity of the story is immaterial, I'm suggesting there's no denying we're more time poor than our ancestors.

And we're the poorer for it. The imagination is playing an ever-diminishing role in our lives. It has become a luxury. Who among us doesn't crave the indulgence of having massive chunks of time before chipping away at the marble.

Given the pace of modern life, Michelangelo's approach to work would stand as a blueprint for success - if it weren't so ridiculously aspirational.

Regardless, you've gotta love the cut of the carver's jib.

Inadvertently I sometimes emulate his example by spending countless hours awake, staring at the ceiling.

Very occasionally, if an idea's good enough, it'll snowball and deprive me of sleep until I hear the first birdsong about 4.15am. While I adore sleep, the hours spent pondering are worth the heavy, baggy eyes.

Actually, I'm not sure why I don't charge my employer for the hours spent forming ideas and shaping sentences. Thumping the keyboard is simply the printing stage. The hard work, the real work, is done already.

I mention this because my life is becoming more insular by the day. Deprived of time, I actively filter information before I allow it inside my brain. If someone stops to chat to me about the weather, the flag is raised and I'm not there mentally. The problem is, the mesh on the filter gets finer and finer as I age. Only the important snippets are allowed to pass.

These days that includes only things to do with family, work (of course), and a few select hobbies. I let the phone ring. I wear hats and sunglasses so I can avoid bumping into someone who wants to chat. I travel incognito. It's my way of staying sane.

The problem with decanting most of what confronts me is that the world passes by so quickly. I mean, Santa's here soon, and I refuse to believe he was here 11 months ago.

In the past fortnight we had Guy Fawkes, the Melbourne Cup, Halloween and the US election in the last week. The latter two, of course, were one in the same. For each of these events I was asked numerous times one of the two questions: "Have you been following the ...", or "What do you have planned for ...". The answer to both respectively was "no" and "nothing".

I emerge from my shell only when truly Herculean events crop up - like Saturday's Kai in the Bay.

The first thing I, the wife and five kids stumbled across at this festival was a wild pig being hung and blow-torched. Unlike Michelangelo, the butchers, who looked like Wal Footrot, wasted no time. With large knives they worked their marble with deft little strokes. With each cut jointed, the animal looked less like an animal, and more like what you see cling-wrapped at supermarkets.

My 3-year-old daughter, sitting silently stunned atop my shoulders, whispered in my ear: "Poor pig".

It was a crucially cruel component in culinary education, but that's what we were there for. The dismemberment of game added a wonderful carnal note to this festival.

After all, healthy bush-tucker was one of the many great eats on offer.

The Bay had pulled out an absolute belter - the crowd a sea of sunglasses.

I'd gone with the intention of enticing my kids to try something more feral. But it didn't happen. Maybe the public evisceration of swine put them off. Or maybe it was the sight of their portly dad loading up and chowing down on mussel fritters, alpaca sausage and creamed paua.

There was but a singular low point. After parting ways with a fiver for a whitebait fritter, I waited (like Michelangelo) for a masterpiece. Instead I was handed an egg fritter.

The apparent scarcity of whitebait was soon forgotten after swapping another fiver and necking three slippery oysters. Food gets no better than molluscs sitting happily in their own briny marinade. Nothing - and no one - could improve on their natural state.

I'm glad this event slipped through my filter - a cloudless sky and flawless kai.

Mark Story is assistant editor at Hawke's Bay Today.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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