Things - and I'm sure you'll agree that never in the history of newspapers has a column begun with such sonorous profundity - trigger things. Such sonorous profundity indeed that I think the statement needs to be repeated without the parenthetic interruption, apt though it was. So, parenthesislessly, here goes: things trigger things.

Do you need a little time? To ingest? To ponder? To scratch the chin a bit and then to nod? No? Very well then. You are doughty readers. Were I wearing a hat I would doff it to you with a great Venetian sweep that brought my head below the level of my waist and raised a plume of 16th century Venetian dust. But I am hatless, so shall we move on?

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Things trigger things. And the thing that triggered things this afternoon was a model aeroplane. The little plane went up and down and looped the loop at the behest of a middle-aged man with a box of electronics and a craning neck. And I could readily see the pleasure of it. For which of us as children did not long to fly, and here was a man fulfilling his infant longing without risk or great expense.


Through his little machine, which looked to have been built from junkyard scraps, the man was feeling the will of the air, was riding the sky by proxy, was halfway to being bird. And I, who have never been any way toward being bird, wanted to ask the man questions, to hear how it felt. But he was so engrossed in his aeronautics that I was shy of interrupting.

Aptly the man was undertaking his gentle recreation at a recreation ground and I too had come to recreate in the form of walking the dog. My dog on arrival made a brief assessment of the buzzing aeroplane, decided that it didn't constitute a threat and went about his sniffing. Not so, however, the terrier.

The terrier, which arrived some minutes later unaccompanied, was younger than my dog and more excitable. It saw the plane and instantly it wanted it. It barked at it. It leapt at it. Wherever the plane went aerially the dog followed terrestrially.

The plane had triggered something in the terrier, some ancestral memory of birds of prey, perhaps. And the terrier in turn had triggered a memory in me. Years ago I had a little black mongrel called Jess. Jess was triggered by helicopters.

On Hagley Park one ancient Saturday the Westpac Rescue Helicopter brought in a medical emergency. As the chopper came in to land on the grass across from the hospital, a neutral observer would have noted a little black mongrel sprinting through three cricket matches to get to it, and barking as she went.

As the paramedics unloaded the victim on a stretcher, that same observer would have seen the little black mongrel arrive and in the excitement leap to paw again and again at the stretcher despite the swinging boots of a paramedic.

And if the same neutral observer had looked closely he might have noticed a younger version of your correspondent tutting loudly at the ill-controlled mongrel then walking briskly away. Ah well, Jess is long dead now, rest her bones. And she meant no harm.

The terrier meanwhile showed no signs of tiring of the plane. It ran and leapt and barked. Clearly if the plane ever came to ground the dog would savage it.


"That dog," I said to the aviator, "would you like me to …"

The man looked up and smiled. "This often happens," he said. "Watch." And he brought the plane down low and buzzed the terrier which drove it crazy with excitement, then sent the plane away beyond a little creek that ran beside the ground.

The dog was brought up short by the water. This was clearly not a dog that liked to swim. Thirty metres along was a footbridge. Sometimes you can see dogs thinking. With the plane circling temptingly just on the other side the dog made up its mind and sprinted along the bank, crossed the bridge and ran back along the far side.

Whereupon our local Wright brother flew his plane back over the creek, landed it at his feet, put it in the back of his car and smiled at me as if to say that's how it's done. Had I been wearing a hat I'd have doffed it.

"Things trigger things," I said as he got into the driver's seat.

It is hard to come up with an instant reply to sonorous profundity. He closed the door and drove away without speaking.