I'm departing to Sydney on a high note

By Terry Sarten


The concert Sunday afternoon in the museum supporting the work of Women's Refuge has been described as being my swansong. I wasn't sure whether this was a good thing or not so I looked it up.

Ancient legend had it that swans, though mute all their lives sing just before they die and the term swansong was used to describe a final gesture or performance given before dying or retirement. My first thought was that seemed to be a bit tough on both the swans and on me. I have no intention of passing away to the great gig in the sky anytime soon.

A little study showed that the whole silent swan thing is myth. Even the type known as the Mute Swan do make noises and definitely do not sing just before expiring. On Sunday, I will be doing that. Along with a bunch of talented musicians I will sing and play for the last time in Whanganui before making a move across the Tasman to Sydney.

It is not really a swansong as I will continue to write songs, sing, play guitar and remain motivated by the creative muse wherever I am. Bring your voices tomorrow afternoon and join us.

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I'm not sure how that equation was arrived at? Was it a thousand little words for a little picture or lots of long ones for a larger image? The other important question is where do words go when nobody is using them anymore? Does it mean they have been left, like orphans on the doorstep of language, lost to generations of writers, poets, actors, singers and all-round prattlers?

Some words die from neglect or simply get their meaning metaphorically, mangled and mauled by years of alliteration and bad pronunciation. Some words go feral, finding new habitats and contexts where they can leap out of a sentence, startling unsuspecting foreigners.

The Australians have made some very innovative adaptations to language. I was in Sydney recently and discovered the pleasures of eating what they call banana bread. I don't know the recipe but it sure seemed like banana cake to me. Disguising cake by pretending it is actually something healthy like bread seems a particularly clever trick and may explain why their economy is in a better fettle then ours. If you call something an economic downturn instead of telling everyone it is a recession then people think of it as being more of a rollercoaster than a disaster.

We like to think that it is the Australians who talk funny but they do have a point when it comes to the NZlind as she's spoke. Next time you are hanging about in a NZ airport listen to the call over the intercom. "Can Mr Mysterious Person please come to the chicken." It is hard to say what comes first - the chicken or the egg on our faces. Australians think this is hilarious.

Australian animals are certainly cleverer than ours. They all seem to have taken self-defence classes. A lot of them sting, bite, stab or hurt you in some way if you mess with them. Possums are protected over there. I am not sure how they managed that but whoever is doing their PR should be given a fur coat.

Terry Sarten is a writer, musician and social worker who is actively supporting our export industry by moving to Australia in a couple of weeks. Feedback email: tgs@inspire.net.nz

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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