The Beat of the Pendulum, by Catherine Chidgey

The Beat of the Pendulum, by Catherine Chidgey (Fiction)

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From the author of the acclaimed The Wish Child comes something unexpected and fearless: a found novel. The Beat of the Pendulum is the result of one year in which Chidgey drew upon the language she encountered on a daily basis, such as news stories, radio broadcasts, emails, social media, street signs, TV, and many conversations. As Chidgey filters and shapes the linguistic chaos of her recordings, different characters emerge – her family, including her young daughter, and her husband, mother and sister, her friends, and an extended family formed through surrogacy and donation.

In her chronicling of moments of loveliness, strangeness, comedy and poetry and sorrow, Chidgey plays with the nature of time and its passing. The Beat of the Pendulum is also an exploration of human memory – how we acquire it, and how we lose it. This bravely experimental and immersive work draws us into the detail, reverberation and transience of a year in a life.

Cover artwork: Fiona Pardington
Lycaeides melissa (Melissa Blue) wing scales, 1, 2016
from the series Nabokov’s Blues: The Charmed Circle
1568 x 1048 mm 

With thanks to the Musée Cantonal de Zoologie, Lausanne, Switzerland
Fiona Pardington is represented by Starkwhite, New Zealand
© artwork Fiona Pardington             

From: The Beat of the Pendulum, by Catherine Chidgey



I think your door is open.

People sometimes hear something but they don’t hear it correctly. How’s wee darling? Did she see the New Year in?

No no no, gentle gentle gentle with the pearls.

Is he playing hard to get? You won’t catch him. He’s stupid but he’s not that stupid. Shall we put you in the chair?

She looks at everything. I don’t know how she looks so long without blinking.

She’ll knock that off there. That’s not going to stay there. Try the other hand.

Some babies at that age really can’t eat. They can still just only have bottles. You’re a show-off aren’t you? Yes, you’re a big show-off. She’s keeping her eye on you, isn’t she? That shortbread was lovely. Did you make it? Oh. Well it just tasted like homemade. When you can buy things as nice as that—I presume you bought it—it’s hardly worth turning your oven on, is it?

So were there lots of admirers talking about the baby paraded at lunch the other day?

Oh yes—how old is she, what’s her name? Yes, they thought she was beautiful. They all like to see something like that, because you know . . .

That was a nice guy at your table, with Gwen. He said she’s got more hair than he does.

Yes he’s lovely. He’s got an artificial leg. He had his leg removed about three years ago. He’s good fun. Gwen’s quite a quiet lady. Les and I have lots of jokes and she joins in, you know. I have a feeling she didn’t have a happy marriage. She’s never quite said, but I think he went to the pub and football and left her alone quite a lot. We have a good table, Les and Gwen and me. There used to be another guy there, but I don’t know whether he’s died or gone upstairs or what’s happened to him but he’s not there, and nobody seems to know. And we’ve now got a lady there who doesn’t even get a joke.

She hasn’t done anything interesting for the last thirty-six hours or so.

Nana’s having a cup of tea. Stop laughing at Nana and eat your carrot. Tea’s so different just made in a cup, compared to sixty cups in a teapot.

Where’s my laptop? I’ll show you some photos Helen posted.

What’s she standing on?

It’s Charlie’s hoverboard.

In the news, a lot of them have been spontaneously combusting. They just burst into flames.


Because there’s videos of them all over the internet. Because of the batteries or something. And there’s videos of people veering out of control and then coming off horrendously. They’re back early from their holiday over there. The neighbours. They were meant to be away for four days and they’ve been away for two. Perhaps they’ll do the lawns. Careful . . . careful . . . gentle! Gentle! Take control of that hand, because it’ll get onto your hair or your pearls and the pearls will be all over the floor in seconds.

Do you want Nana’s pearls? You can’t have them yet. No. You’re supposed to sit down. Bend your knees. Bend your knees and sit down. You’re supposed to be just sitting down quietly. You don’t like me holding on to you, do you? Do you want to go on the floor? Do you want to go on the floor? I’m trying to think how old that is.

That? I thought it was your father’s.

Yes it was. And he came out from Ireland. It would be in the 1890s, before the turn of the century. I think about ’98. Of course Dad had no idea when he came out.

Well he didn’t know how old he was.

You can’t imagine somebody hardly going to school, can you.

Why do you have to go off getting into trouble? Always getting into trouble.

Have you got a problem? Daddy’s got a problem more like.

Rebel with a cause. Her toenails need doing too, Catherine.

They’re so tiny at that age, the toenails, aren’t they. I don’t really want to see her with only four toes. I used to hate cutting your nails.

No need to look worried. Trust me, I’m a professional.

What’s Mummy doing?


You can’t just call a child Bill when it’s not short for anything. You think they understand things. I’m not a positive person, but I’m a logical person. I’ve got my head round having an only. You don’t want to look like a copy.

It sounds like a lot of hard work, changing my name. It’s not that I’m anti-marriage, it’s just that after fifteen years, if we could fill in some forms online . . .

Is that even a real name?

No, it’s a butterfly name.

It feels like being difficult for the sake of it. They spend a life correcting everyone. When our babies are not the norm anyway—sperm donor babies, surro babies—you don’t want to give them something else.

I’m the only one eating.

She was telling us about the farewell afternoon tea they threw for her and she gave her speech and she said you all think I work night shift, but it’s because I don’t like any of you. She said they all laughed.

I put an order in for the dimples. It was like a train you could never get off.

I think we were just at the wrong end of the bell curve.

I’m actually worn out. I just need to get on with my life.

There’s nothing wrong with only children. He’s fine. He’s a good boy. It’s all how you make the world around them. I get annoyed when people post that they’re struggling to have a second one, and they post my child cries every day and asks for a sibling every day. I’m thinking, that’s you putting that into their head.

Some of the things that children cry about that they want but don’t get—I want a bike, I want a brother or sister.

I don’t have it in me any more.

They had a UN-level conversation with a three-year-old about it, and it’s because they live out in the country and the three-year-old’s a bit bored some days. She’s three. She doesn’t understand what a sibling is anyway.

Harry’s the best sharer I’ve ever come across. He’d give you his last lolly. He went to his dad’s on Christmas night and he didn’t really want to go. They had the girlfriend’s nieces and nephews over and they were allowed free rein of the house, which includes his bedroom. If kids come to our place, they’re not allowed free rein of the bedrooms. He says all of his stuff gets touched. You should be able to have a bedroom at your dad’s.

My brother used to do it, looking for money, because it’s what he’s like.

Look at the deaths we’ve had. Look how many we’ve had in the last couple of years.


But wait, there’s more! You’ll also get the pressure oven recipe book. This is a present from my kitchen to yours. Shh, shh, shhhhh. Say daddy and I’ll let you go. You can be sure that you will have results you never dreamt of. I was ecstatic. I almost fainted.

Give me the child.

It cooks before your eyes. I think I stood two feet taller.

You could just change the name—the Hermann Göring pressure oven.

You’re being recorded.

I really didn’t want to cook any more; I kind of lost that desire. It has totally sparked a new creativity in me. And my husband hasn’t been this happy in a long time, because he’s like part of you has come back. We can’t get enough of this meatloaf.

Trips to restaurants and carry-out can cost the average Australian family hundreds every month. But wait, there’s more! You’ll also get the pressure oven recipe book. This is a present from my kitchen to yours.

Hold everything.

He’s asleep with his eyes open.

You don’t have to save cooking a fourteen-pound turkey for only the holidays.

You’re quite a strange person, aren’t you. Do you like the taste of the stars?

Flavour free with a great taste.

If you need to return it you only have sixty days from their ship date. The customer service rep was rude and unprofessional and laughed at me when I asked for a refund. She said, ‘You are two days past your sixty days, do you have any other questions. No? Goodbye.’


REDUCE SPEED. When I say left, I mean right. REDUCE SPEED NOW. If you can see this, I’ve lost the boat!

Look at the light out there. I’m tired of suppressing myself to get along with white people.

You’re a carrion bird of conversation. You pick out the bits of meat.

What a horrible mother.

What’s coming to New Zealand? Family Feud. Tonight the beauties get lost in translation, and the geeks attempt to become perfect partners. We are so close to the grand finale, I can almost taste it. When James said that this challenge was on linguistics, all I could think about was pasta.

There’s blood in my eggs.

I’ve been told that I could talk underwater with a mouthful of marbles. If I could speak any language in the world, I would love to be able to speak Mexican. Because I love Mexican food.

Do you know what that means? Blood in the eggs?

Like in folklore?

No, I just mean . . .

Why is there blood in the eggs.

Why is there blood in the eggs.

Wow, the Republicans really don’t understand how they created Donald Trump. And it’s too hard to pick out because it’s right in the yolk.

There’s probably a reason for that.

Dylan is a good teacher. I think he gets really frustrated because he feels like he’s always talking to a brick wall. I am a pretty brick wall. My English is terrible. Sometimes I feel like people smile and nod at me when I’m speaking the same language as them. Shakespeare also speaks English, and he writes books. Who comes up with this stuff? I should write a book; it’d be more logical than anything Shakespeare wrote.

I’m feeling pretty masculine right now. It’s the manliest I’ve ever felt. Eat, eat, eat. Be a man. A real man focuses. Are you a man, Oliver? The hotdogs weren’t great, they tasted a bit like sadness.

Going into the challenge, I’m feeling more masculine than ever. I think my best physical feature would be the shade of blue my eyes are. Sometimes when I’m looking in the mirror even I get lost in them.

I guess I’ll go to bed and read about Nazis.

That very night in Max’s room a forest grew.


I’m worried that if I put her to sleep she won’t wake up again.

Eye bags just disparaged in sixty seconds.

This screen here is to arrive the patient. Now her clock is ticking away. This man is having a heart attack. A heart attack is not always as dramatic as you think. Will you be killed by your sofa? Do you have childcare on your mind? We asked people to show us what a heart attack looks like.

Have you ever had your neck clicked? Do you hate it or do you not mind it? Because this just is not moving. And short of getting out a mallet, I think the step before that is we might try a wee bit of a click. Now obviously there’s an inherent danger, which is pulling your head off. We do try and avoid that. Take a deep breath. Cutting is huge at the moment. They say it’s proof you’re alive. I listen to the most horrendous talk from teenage girls—and boys. What they think they should look like is a hundred times worse than we had it. Today the deal is that you’re really nice to yourself. Something to get your shoulders away from your ears.

Is that private? And you know about the convenience fee? More people pass away at the beginning of the year, having got through Christmas.

You’re got to be careful, and then you’ve just got to let it go. It could have been fatal. With anything kids do, they’re always at a crossroads—it’s going to be fatal or it’s going to be nothing. And if you always treat it as fatal, you’re going to be dead before she’s five. Our house used to finish here, so in that wall was a great big window. And I was on the phone one day and I heard Hannah talking away to herself and then getting very quiet and then starting to go oooh-hooo-hooo, and I thought, that’s sounding like she’s scared, but she doesn’t know whether she should be or not. I turned round and she was at the open window, hanging on to the frame, ready to fall out onto the concrete path. But by the time you’ve traumatised yourself over that—she’s gone down the stairs. They’re just an accident on two legs, they’re just waiting to happen. If she doesn’t bang her head she won’t know the consequences. That girl we met yesterday looked like you could snap her in half. She’s become so strong, it’s like wrestling a grown-up.

I always said I was going to be a better parent than this. Go in the Jolly Jumper for a while. I’m off to have a drink. They can do their counselling when they’re thirty.

Even though we’re not believers, we ended up going to mass anyway. We’ve been to that particular service for a few years—it’s the one at the Catholic cathedral, it’s where the families go. It’s the children’s mass. And we’ve always been there without having a family. And so this year: I don’t care, we’re going, and we’re taking the baby, and shoving it in all their faces.

Eventually it gets like that. You do what makes them happy, which feels like you’re ignoring them, and leaving them. We’d go out and visit Mum, and she was more comfortable just being left alone in a room by herself.

Be prepared, because you can guarantee it’ll be when the wind’s coming this way that they’ll light it. It won’t be when the wind’s going to their house. I’ve been working on my tapping because I was sabotaging myself.

The thing is, now it’s Christmas tree dumping season. They’re not the best for pregnant cows. It causes abortion. You’ve got this neighbour trained, haven’t you? I wonder if the skin needs to come off?

I worry about her eyes drying out. She doesn’t blink.

We’ll go to Cathedral Cove. I love swimming there. That’s where you can either do that really hellish walk, or you take the water taxi.

I don’t know which we’ll do, with her.

We’ll take the water taxi. Took him half an hour to get Alice across the road and he’s thinking: hellish walk, we could do that.

But then you’re out on the water, and if the boat capsizes or sinks or something . . .

John’s nickname when we were farming was Think of the Worst First John. That’s what the workers called him.

I was a health and safety dream come true. Don’t wear your woolly scarf next to the tractor hydraulics.

You have all these little knots from all your accidents and operations. Margherita, remember your mother? She had that broken rib. Hugged her too tight. Imagine a swan lying on the ground with its neck hanging out.


Did you get one of these little booklets? It’s got some ideas for menus with iron. Clever girl. You’re very clever. And making sounds? Knows her name?

She knows no.

Good girl. Can I just pop around and give you a snack chart? And PlunketLine’s always there.

He’s not wearing a mask. That’s not Steve cleaning the spouting, is it?

I think it’s the wife . . . what’s her name? I think it’s her brother.

He doesn’t look Indian.

Yes he does.

Does he?

Look, lesbians on the cover. Because they’re known for having malnourished children.

They look like sisters.

They do. Are they the Ulmer twins?

No, no, the rowing sisters.

Yes, the Ulmer twins. Because they advertise beef and lamb.

Oh is that what it is.

Yes. Not lesbians, then. Oh the Evers-Swindells.

Yes. They’re the rowing twins.

Is your baby getting enough iron?

It’s all meat, meat, meat, meat.

Maybe she can have fish. It mentions fish at the start.

Well it’s a good way to get mercury.

When we were rowing, we needed iron-rich beef and lamb to ensure we performed at our best. Now we’re helping Tom and Lucy do the same. Their favourite is beef mince and kumara: Tom needs it puréed and Lucy loves it mashed!

God, she was wearing very pungent perfume. I don’t know. I just smile and nod.

This is put out by the Beef and Lamb Board.

I don’t know what to do, I really don’t. I feel like we should already have made the decision.

Let’s put you in your chair. Shall we put you in your chair?

Man finds revenge dildo in his shopping basket after leaving a bad review on Amazon. Look.

Plunket’s such a whore, with the Beef and Lamb and the Wattie’s.


Oh dear, the place has gone mad here. You knew about my Christmas decorations . . . ? She’s since taken my rubbish bins. I’ve got them back again, but I think she’s gone a bit weird. She’s holding my fingers. I can see your little teeth.

You’re going to stand up, are you?

Can you see how that goes together, Alan? Are you going to help Daddy? Are you going to help Daddy?

No, ist kaputt. We’ll have to get you a new one.

Could you do that?

Don’t they supply them here?

We’ll talk to Denise.

Nana’s going to shut the door. Yes I am. Boo. Boo. Boo. I can’t do it any more. No.

She was quite grizzly this morning, I’m surprised she’s being so docile.

No, you’re beautiful, I don’t believe Daddy. No, you weren’t grizzly, were you.

Hello! We got terribly lost, and then I lost Barbara. Oh poor Alice, all this noise. And then we thought—the bank, somebody’ll know there, but no, I can’t help you he said. And then I found a nice lady who had a map on her phone. We should have gone round that roundabout.

I think Hamilton is a silly city.

Well it’s all different. Totally different.

How are you, old thing? Behaving yourself?



Actually I can never find anything to be naughty about, living in here.

You’re got a nice little room.

No, it’s lovely, I’m very happy here.

And is she a good little girl?

As if our family would be naughty.

She’s not telling any tales. Goodness, I’d almost forgotten how to hold a small spud. Oh dear—no tears. No tears, no tears, there’s Dad. I’ve lost my touch. They’ve got a lovely feel about them. Their skin’s beautiful. We’re saying how lovely you are. No no no. No tears. And I hope she hung her stocking up?

She did. She got a cage for Christmas. Nana gave her a cage, didn’t she?

I used to love these playpens but they’re supposed to be psychologically damaging.

It would be if you put them in at eight o’clock in the morning and left them there till half past six. I never thought of doing that.

Barbara’s in the Meadowbank Village now.

Yes, I haven’t left Meadowbank Road yet.

They knocked down the big centre that Mother was in.

It’s all new.

They’re with Oceana.

Oceania. Oceania is the name of the owners. They bought all the Presbyterian Trust ones throughout New Zealand. Oceania did get the top award for all retirement villages in New Zealand.

Yes, I know that. Yes.

Is Mallory’s full?

Oh yes. There’s I forget how many people waiting.

My sister’s gone to a Mallory’s one in Chapel Road, and my brother, but they both say that my apartment’s got better appointments.

Well this was one of the first ones. It’s the staff of course.

There’s so many people now living in places like this. We’re all living so much longer. All us grey-haired widows.

Are you looking for a man so you won’t be a widow?

No no, no thank you, I’m fine. I could always dye my hair.

I better go and sign out.

No, they’re doing that for you—I told them.

See, I don’t have to do anything.

What were you going to do?

Sign out. We have to sign out. So they know I haven’t run away.

All the things one carries around.

Barbara just about fell off her chair when I said we lived in Ngāruawāhia.

That folder said Bowel Charts.


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Subject: It’s so erotic


Maybe somewhere, there is a person who will be perfect life partner for me. By nature I am a calm, open-minded and warm-hearted woman. And I would be really happy to meet a smart and cheerful man who wants to create a family. My heart is full of warm feelings and I want to give all of my tenderness to my special man. I have a lot of friends, because I know how to listen the people. My friends tell me that I’m very attractive. I need a honest man with serious intentions who will appreciate me, who respects me and has his own opinion. I’d like to start our acquaintance! Let’s chat!

Regards, Nadezda.

The greatest destroyer of the glass eye is the salt in the tears.


Sally Field Is Gone! Today we say goodbye to Sally Field.


Yeah, what happened to Valentine’s Day?

I ask myself that every year . . .

And it’s not even Lent yet.

Well you need to have something to give up in the first place I suppose.

I saw hot cross buns at Countdown last week.

I blamed my wife for our messy house, I was wrong for many reasons.

Scientists tell you why making your bed is disgusting. A weighted blanket moulds to your body like a warm hug.

Hurry up and cross. The freakin’ cars aren’t stopping for you, did you notice? Man you guys are eggs. Now get to that toy department.

You don’t know about falling, do you? I don’t want her to go through life with facial scars.

No, but I also don’t want her to learn to be scared of the world.

Tina struggles with reality, and Dev gets his birthday wish. Sister Julienne receives a phone call from Holloway Prison where the Salvation Army, who normally provide midwifery for female inmates, have been struck down with influenza. Two young girls who happen to look identical decide to swap households so they can play matchmaker to their single parents. A thief falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her. An elderly lord abdicates to his three sons, but two of them become corrupt and turn against him. Dominic endures the scorching heat of the vast Australian Outback to locate one of the rarest bats on the planet—the ghost bat. Doris has been buying and selling vintage clothing for over thirty years, and has built her magnificent obsession into a high-end boutique store in LA. Old hand Stuart shows his skills handling dangerous eagles, but just how good is he? Lisa is called to a horse in trouble, and an adorable puppy melts hearts on its way to Florida. A body is discovered lying beneath a Jaguar Mark 2. In the movies they’re sultry seductresses; cunning liars manipulating men with lustful acts.

The only witness to the conversation was Hitler’s Alsatian.

This is awkward.


When someone you love is in heaven, there’s a little bit of heaven in your home. Right now murder is hot. That’s what everyone wants, that’s what the competition wants. A must-watch video about monthly periods. Take note of the male who thinks periods are brought on by stress.

I am on a garlic-roasting mission over here! I just pulled these bad boys out of the oven! I also have bread going into the oven right now! Woot! Home-made gnocchi, home-grown lettuce, peas, tomatoes and basil! Espresso machine ready!

He may look like a normal pup. But wait till you see WHAT he does with THIS paintbrush. WOW!

I NEVER knew sleeping on your left side can do THIS to your body. Did YOU know about this?

Do you have a novel inside of you? Stop reading this. Start writing. James Patterson Writing MasterClass. Author of nineteen consecutive bestsellers reveals his tricks of the trade. I have started but have no clue where to go from here. I even have a second book in mind for my character. I picture myself in front of a fireplace in a mountain cabin writing an insightful novel. My whole life is an interesting novel. I just lack the focus to write it all down. I write a chapter a day, on my eleventh book, love writing, don’t know what to do with myself without writing and face book, poet on my page and have lots of readers also post on another page from where I grew up. I finished writing my manuscript, but don’t have a clue on how to get it published? There are uncountable numbers of self-publishers around now . . . and many are on FB. Mom and I recently had a book published. All I can say is DO YOUR RESEARCH! This is a wonderful bargain. But . . . James Patterson doesn’t even write his own books any more. You get popular then hire other writers. For the underemployed that isn’t cheap. Make it cheaper. It is the best look inside the mind of the best author of our time. Afterlife + Angels + Love + mind + soul + murder mystery + time travel. Im in the process of finishing my first book but I have almost every James Patterson book he ever wrote. I was hooked on James Patterson for years and even Introduced some of my co-workers to his books too. Is there anyway to figure out if you have enough material in your head to do this? It’s a lot of money for me, and I don’t want to waste it. I’ve almost finished mine lol

I want this! It would be perfect for my needs. All I would need then is a small electric motor. I have got to get this!


Woke up this morning not quite awake and half in dreams. Would you survive in a horror movie? Why do so many people hate America? What is the saddest truth about life? If it’s true that God made man in his image, then why are we not invisible too? Which language do you love? What keeps you from giving up on life? Are we the same person from birth to death? What colour looks best on you? Is everyone addicted to at least one thing? Is feminism a hate group? Are you afraid of bees or wasps? Do the people of North Korea like North Korea? Do you believe Donald Trump can make America great again? Can I have sex with any guy I like once I’m legal? When can babies eat eggs? If you were a bird what kind would you be? What should I name my book? Is there a chance my cat has mental problems? What is love? Do you have enemies? Do you have frozen meat in the freezer? If you knew your husband was cheating, would you contact the other woman? Is a person who’s had homosexual sex a homosexual? How do I help my daughter not be attracted to demonic things? Do you like Sundays? If mathematics is so useful how come people barely even use it? Does vanilla matter? When you brush your teeth, do you look at the mirror while brushing? Why don’t you go out for a little walk? Is there a website where I can get paid cash to answer questions?


No, Tuesday would be the first appointment. I’ll let her know you’re here. David Bowie passed away yesterday. He wasn’t that old, either—but I suppose lifestyle. When you’re dealing with plants that have been in a hothouse, what do you need to know in order to take them outside? I’ll never give up, I admit that loud and clear, but I’ll certainly cut down. I bought 30 grams and it cost me fifty-two dollars, up from forty-three. They can’t say it stunts the growth of babies, look at Angela—she smoked all the way through Cody and he was nine one. So there goes that fucken theory. All you need to do is stretch out your arms and legs as far as they will go, and then relax. Stay afloat, stay alive. For now, it is appropriate to cry.


I’ve taken the dive. If you’re uncomfortable, just let me know. It feels like your skin’s popped. I’ve got you. This is the solution for you. If it’s too much, just let me know. You may get a little tender. You may get a bruising feeling. If it’s unbearable, tell me to stop. You’re not alone.

I don’t think I want to watch Real Housewives of Melbourne; it makes me feel bad about myself.

Well, how many of them have had a book accepted by Chatto & Windus?

I used to be a runner. I’m a mess. I get home, I sit on my couch. You feel like you have to keep control. Shall we have some courgette? You hold it. You don’t have to get dressed. They’re never little long enough. Good girl. Bite. Good girl.

This is your last chance. You can feel all the muscles in your body contracting. This is the solution for you: a little gentle manipulation.

I was the blinded doctor. I felt it in my core. Spiders. Rats. Men standing in the corner. Don’t ask. It probably feels strange, but it’ll help. Is that you? What are you waiting for?


I played the baby her own heartbeat. A lot of people use cotton buds, but they can turn their head, and bingo, they can’t hear any more. I keep wondering what she’s going to look like as a person. If I took a daguerreotype of her she’d need to be asleep, but it could look like a post-mortem. In baby photos of me, you don’t see my face. I’m just talking, but apparently I’m boring you. It’s a stock image deliberately chosen to be empty.

I’ll have to check out the back. My hips are my biggest nightmare. I wore it twice and it all unravelled. Do you want another one? I don’t think so; it’s soulless and horrible. It’s been too long, eh—we’re in January. See if there’s another large, Rose-Marie. Did that go all right? What about the red cardigan, no good? It was a large, Rose-Marie. It’s been really hard saying goodbye to one in particular. Is this how we get out? What have I done to deserve this? She kept saying I’m healthy, there are worse-off people than me. And she’s, like, towering. Are you happy there? Are you all right?


There might be a label on the shelf but that doesn’t mean we carry it. We might have had it, at one time, and it didn’t sell and didn’t sell and sat there for ages. There’s very little call for something like that in Hamilton. Did you get a name when you rang? I’ll give you the speech I give everyone: you must always get a name. Otherwise they’ll just tell you yes, we’ll be getting some more in next week, goodbye, hang up. They don’t care. There’s no customer service these days. I tell you what, if I had a name I’d tear strips off that person. I’d hang them out to dry.

Watch your step as we go in, and try not to hang on to anything. It will be noisy at times—I’ll get the guys to stop using the saws, I don’t want to upset the ears. Steps are a big thing. And lots of leads, so be aware of tripping. If something does happen—if we have to evacuate the site—not that I think we will have to—just go to the end of the driveway, and if something does happen there’s a first-aid kit in that red box. Now I just need you guys just to sign, just to say that we’ve talked about the very simple hazards, just to protect me, if anything does happen.

I always tell people, the first person you want to go and see is the builder. Go and see the builder, and then go and see the architect. And the reason I say that is that we’ll give you good practical advice—an architect will give you wow, we can do this and we can do that. Nothing against them, but they don’t necessarily always understand the implications. And so what they did was the architect arranged it all with the earth-moving guy, before we came on the scene, and got them to cut that there and then push it all out here. They could have pushed back quite nicely . . . but they didn’t. They got it wrong, and I said that’s a massive drop going down there. I think the house should have been where the shed is. It wasn’t my problem, because we came along once it was done.

So we’ve started doing some of the fancy stuff—the finials and the fancy barges. We’ve got the fretwork to do, between the posts and the beams. He put a lot of detail into stuff like that. Typical architect though, we had a lot of detail that we didn’t need, and no detail where we needed detail. We’ve had to make it work. He sort of shows it, but he doesn’t tell us how it’s going to work. There was a lot more head-scratching here than there needed to be. They’re using an original front door—it’s not quite right, because obviously it’s come out of a different building and different width jambs and what have you. They’ve got ceiling roses as well. When I show you the plan you’ll be blown away when you see what would’ve happened with the ceilings. They client didn’t realise that they were going to be having what the architect drew, until I pointed it out.

Typical villa—a lot of what I would call wasted space, with the hallways. There were going to be arches going in, but the cost factor to get them curved—we were kissing goodbye to another $10,000. I was a little bit afraid where the cost was going. There’s just so many unknowns.

Now you’ve got to let your eyes adjust a little bit. You definitely don’t get this in an original villa—this is the media room. There’s no light whatsoever in here. This had to be as dark as we could make it. It’s killing the size of some of the other rooms. The bedrooms I think are actually quite small. I would do it different.

It’s going to be the good old authentic-looking kitchen. They’re not putting in a coal range though—it’s more like, they want that look—that there might have been a coal range at some stage. Can you go somewhere else, mate? Go do something else? We were going to have balustrading round here—we’ve just talked them out of that. You couldn’t look through, you’d lose the view, because by the time we’d come down five hundred from the top and we’d come up a metre high across the bottom, you end up with a tiny gap. And you’re looking out and you’re thinking, I’m in jail. As I said to them, it’s all right if you’re looking straight out through that gap, but every time you turn onto the angle, it suddenly becomes a solid wall. I said to them, it’ll be like going back to pre-school, because you’re going to be in this little playpen. And we’re having to get them up here and say hey, there’s no detail, there should be detail, what do you want? We’ll raise things with you, like that out there, and say hey, we think this is going to look ridiculous, how do you want us to do it? And then what they think is in it isn’t there, and then when we go and do something that’s according to the plan—we didn’t know, we don’t like that. Well it’s on the plan. Oh well we didn’t ask for that. Unfortunately when it gets to the plan stage, for us as builders, we’re taking it that you’ve signed everything off. They wanted a wood burner, and then they couldn’t decide what they wanted, and then they decided they didn’t want it, they wanted something a little bit different and a little bit bigger. We can’t change that structure now, we have to go with what’s here. So they’ve gone with the gas, which will look good, because they’ve got a massive big mantel. There’s a few things, like they’ve got a four-poster bed that has to fit the bedroom, and this mantel has to fit. It’s just making sure that we’re understanding each other. We’re governed by the likes of yourself and the architect. We don’t really have a lot of say. They turn up every day. And I love that with clients, but sometimes I think—can you actually see anything? There are days like today where you’ll look and you’ll think, what have they done? But I guarantee we’ve been there.

You see what I mean about the corridor. That’s at least five square metres, so between that and the front entrance, there’s another bedroom that’s disappeared, and by the time you go down the other corridor, you’ve almost lost two. That’s why I was a little bit . . . with the architect. I don’t think there’s been a lot of actual thought. It’s about getting the outside looking great, absolutely, but the inside’s got to work too. And if you can’t get it to work right, then it doesn’t. The thing with us, we do pretty much anything. We’re the old-fashioned builders, we’re not like a housing company. The housing companies these days, they don’t really employ builders as such, because the builders just stand frames and put trusses on and that’s it. They don’t do gib board, they don’t put the windows in, they don’t do the roof work—they’re not builders. It’s a little bit different with us, we’re the good old-fashioned guys. You’re welcome to come back and have another look if you want, once it gets further on. Because at the moment you can see it, but you can’t see it. Give me a call though, because I’m a shocker.

I’ve got a nephew down at Massey doing political science—I wish I’d never liked him on Facebook. Everything’s political. I don’t mind, but talk about a subject that gets people going. And my other nephew’s going down to uni in Otago, to be a doctor. It’s a place I never got to. It’s funny isn’t it, you play to your strengths. My dad always said to me—I come from a family of four boys—you’re not going to be a labourer, you’re not going to sell stuff. You’ve got to get something behind you. You’re either going to get a trade, or you’re going to university. There’s nothing else.


He was nice, actually.

He was. I wondered if he reminded you of your dad.

He did a bit. How do we get to the other one?

It’s an eye-catching sort of home, isn’t it, really. Are you guys looking to build?

We’re just starting to think about it.

Would you be in Cambridge?

We’re in Hamilton.

It’s been very popular. Absolutely insane. People want something that’s a bit more than the cookie-cutter. We do design and build, we design per site per client. It’s light and airy. It’s wonderful.

Here he is. That’s my husband. She just had to finish her bottle.

Ohhhh . . . so cute. How old?

Seven months. All right, we’ll just have a wee look around.

Alice, come and see. Don’t poo on the shagpile. Oh my God, look at that chair.

A window seat . . . I’d love a window seat. Um, we live in Hamilton.


We live in Hamilton. Not Ngāruawāhia.

Okay . . .

This is what I would rather, than the other one. It’s more realistic.

The other one’s imposing.

I like this carpet. It’s a shade darker than ours.

It’d be nice having the TV set out of the way like that.

It’s quite high. I suppose you’d get used to it. I find that quite high.

I want this chair. I want this chair.

I bought you a recliner.

And it didn’t fit.

And we had to sell it to the lady with cancer. These are the kinds of drapes I want, with that pleat. Not stupid bunchy ones. This is nice.

This is very nice. I really like this.

This is so much nicer than our grotty deck. Our on-the-cheap deck.

Let’s not talk about our house for a while.

Okay. There are no architraves. The granite’s brilliant. Isn’t it. Oh, it’s got a chip on the edge there.

Amazing how you can do that.

All right, we better get her to Nana’s.

Are you off, little one? Well you know where we are.

I was just wondering why they didn’t have architraves, if they’re going for the villa look. I mean I quite like it.

They wanted more contemporary on the inside but definitely villa replica on the outside.

I mean it still works.

She’s adorable. I would spoil her rotten. That’s why we have them, isn’t it.


Look at this lawn. I have lawn envy.

This is the Burt Reynolds’ moustache of lawns.

Why don’t we have lawn like this?

Because we were sold bullshit.

It didn’t say bullshit on the bag.

No, but we were sold bullshit from a bullshit artist.

What would be an alternative to lawn? Why do we have to have grass? It’s just a convention. Astroturf?



I like that letterbox.

I don’t. It’s rustic.


It’s a bit unrealistic. If you were afraid, you’d turn on all the lights.

Maybe you don’t want to alert the killer to your presence.

Stop thinking so loudly, I need my own thoughts.

She’s got a new hairdo.

It doesn’t look very professional, does it. She looks like a bit of a bimbo. Murder–suicide?

I like her new hair. Is he the killer? That’s the new Leo, I take it.

She had breast implants—they have serial numbers.

Do we know she had implants?

We just saw them.

That’s the fake sister.

Who was the first guy they showed?

Just then?


It was the same guy, they just turned him over. It’s Mossad, doing it all.

Is this your theory?


You’re all right, bubba. You’re okay.

Tear some more hairs out of Daddy’s leg.

Her hair’s straighter there than it was in the last scene, but she’s wearing the same outfit. So now that the other guy who wasn’t Leo isn’t in it any more, they have to sex it up with her and the new guy.

Did we see him leave or die or whatever?

No. We must have missed something. We didn’t see Leo going either.

I meant Leo.


Thurr’s bin a murr-durr. Again.

Was she a Mossad agent too? The nanny?


She’s got the cord again! Cords and shoes!

It’s coiling around her foot like a tourniquet. We put you in there to be safe. Not for you to garrotte yourself.

The chick in the wheelchair doesn’t get to be much more than a token character.

She’s developed.

But we don’t see her back story or love life or house or anything.

She probably just goes home and plugs in and charges up for the next day. It’s a very limited color palette in this. It’s all greys and blues. It’s desaturated.

What was that?

I’m lost.

Nathan, the little boy who died. He’s his nephew. The guy who was shot through the ear.

Who’s he?

The manager guy.

What does that mean?

I don’t know.

Okay, I think it’s bedtime.

Where’s my sweet? Where’s my sweet little strawberry? Give Mummy a kiss.

Oh, he’s the nephew.

Yeah. They collected his DNA.

I thought it was the little boy. So they were double-crossing him?

No, they’re Mossad. He’s a terrorist. They’re Secret Service.

So they were helping?

Although they don’t have the bag.

I always reach a point in this show where I completely lose the thread.

They found the evidence on the corpse from the ferry. That’s where the ransom was originally. She’ll be drugged. Now I’m confused. I don’t know who that was that’s dead. I’m short of a character.

Bubba’s MIA. She’s working on the camera again. Crossing wires over, making a bomb.


Many people are shamans—healers who have access to the spirit world—and don’t know it. Are you a shaman and you don’t know it? Here are some telltale signs. I can relate! I’m Christian and I have been feeling better lately as I have been answering God’s calling on my life! Wow! Natural therapists and psychologists have always told me I’m super empathetic and that’s the cause of most of my illnesses, because I literally feel the pain and suffering of the earth and animals, so I can definitely relate to this. Funny this pops up and I have been really drawn to aromatherapy lately! I have desperately tried to be a shaman and help others in their afflictions but it seems that most only want to whine and complain and not do anything about it . . . I printed out all kinds of information and even gave them medicine to take and they don’t do anything but go back to the doctors and get some more poison. I can relate to all of the listed, and especially the stealth shaman. I do have physic feelings and have seen my guardian angels. I have no memory of this. I was bullied, lied to, verbally assaulted, not invited to Christmas.


Placed in the right spot, shimmer is not just for teenagers. Do you really think gravitas is a key attribute for women? It pays to plan your wardrobe like you plan your life. You’re probably not going to fix the heart.

Dark lips and dark lids are no longer taboo. This season you need to commit. If he’s smoking five cigarettes a week, it’s ten cigarettes too many. The fact is he’s got one foot in the grave and a gentle gust of wind is going to blow him in there.

Wearing a smoky eye and bold plum lip has never been so exciting. He’s walking a tightrope for his heart. The subconscious is just a bunch of programmes of all your life experiences; it’s just an operating system.

I will die or I will live.


I thought I might take some DVDs to the beach. I’ve got Triumph of the Will and The Goodies.

Oh my God, it’s a two-headed cow. Wait, it’s two cows standing end to end.


The students could just stick a synonym in here and there and it won’t catch it. You’d think they’d do that, but they don’t. They just don’t. Because if they were clever enough to think of doing that, they’d be clever enough to write their own freaking work. They’re pretty dumb when it comes to that kind of stuff. If you ping somebody for plagiarism you have to get them into your office and make them cry. Now she’s trying to come back and do further papers and waive pre-reqs because of special consideration. It was all a bit ridiculous. She hadn’t been to any classes—obviously bad stuff was happening in her life, but bad stuff happens in our lives all the bloody time. Bad stuff happens in my life and I don’t just not turn up to lectures for three weeks. I lost a baby and I wasn’t like, I don’t think I’ll come in and teach you guys because I’m a bit sad now.

The people who were in our house were professionals. They were in and out like that. They only took stuff they could sell, they didn’t trash the place, but they tipped out drawers that might have had cash in them. They’d been watching. I kind of didn’t want the stuff back after they’d had their grotty little hands all over it. Even when the X-Box came back, I said to Sahaj, disinfect the whole thing. I had this whole big long narrative about how I was hanging around with horrible people when I was sixteen and did some real dumbass things, and at some point you have to make a decision to stop doing that because it never ends well. If you keep doing that stuff, it never ends well. And lots of people I knew then are dead, and is that how you want to end up, because you very nearly did in my car—you were lucky you didn’t kill yourself or somebody else, which would’ve been worse, and really, sort yourself out. He cried a bit and I ended up hugging him, and he hugged me back—he didn’t back off and he wasn’t like, weird middle-class white lady. And I think it was good for Caleb to see that he needs to behave himself as well so he doesn’t end up there in a few years. A lot of people I knew, friends of mine, who were children of nice very well-off Remuera families, ended up doing some really stupid things and are dead now. Wealth and privilege don’t protect you.

Instead of the only option being to kill people, you can polish their stuff, motivate their people, or you can kill them. You build an empire—you research new technologies and you make houses for people. And then you kill them.

And your worlds get deleted.


How do you see this working?

I don’t know, I’m an artist. Don’t question me. If you choose to take in the views, listen to the melodic ramblings of a tūī, or examine the flower of a pūriri, then the walk may take longer.


Their daylight path followed the flight of the shining cuckoo, and relied on their knowledge of wind, waves, clouds, birds, and drifting seaweed. Expect the unexpected. Where you look is where you’ll go.

Life’s too short to live in a shithole like Hamilton.

We don’t live in Hamilton.

Haere Mai Ki Ngaruawahia.


Apparently we’re not to look disappointed if she says her first word and then won’t repeat it, because that might harm her self-esteem. So when she does say fuck for the first time, we’re to let her get around to saying it again on her own.


I’m the winner anyway because if you aren’t smart enough to debate and your only real response is to delete me then I could care less. You are obviously a closed minded person out there dogging something because YOU COULDNT DO IT! I have not cursed anyone on here as that is just replacement for a person that has a limited dictionary. This is an extremely weird and toxic conversation.


Meryl Streep Is Gone. BREAKING NEWS. We will miss you Meryl Streep.

And how are you?

Just back from a holiday at the beach. Alan wants to move to Coromandel, he’s decided.

He obviously hasn’t spent enough time there.


Miles away.

He wants to make daguerreotypes there. I did point out to him that it would be quite a long commute for me to work, to earn some money, so we can afford to live.

Flying cars are not far away. Surely in another couple of years—we must be getting them soon, surely. So how did your body react to having time off?

I’ve been feeling better in there, but it’s kind of all moved up. But that’s more to do with sitting on the laptop. On the couch.

On the couch.

I know.

So do you think you’d move?

I had the idea that I could run very expensive, very exclusive creative writing workshops for wealthy tourists. But I’d have to look at a lot of shit writing.

Lots of Americans having mid-life crises. You need Disney to buy one of your books.

I don’t think I really write Disney books.

I am so happy to hear that.

The Holocaust on ice.

Is that too much, or is that okay?

It’s okay.

Not really. It’s a weakness in your pattern. Between now and when I see you next, have a serious think about patterns. And if you can, take a mental Polaroid every hour, to see what you’re doing.

Turn left at the roundabout, taking the first exit. Prepare to go over the roundabout after 970 metres. Prepare to go over the roundabout after 300 metres, taking the second exit. After 100 metres, go over the roundabout, taking the second exit. Recalculating route. Drive for 1.4 kilometres. Prepare to turn sharp left after 280 metres.

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I think it’s the Grasslands that we get, but can you just check on our card? It’s normally my husband who comes.

Course I can. What’s your last name?

I think it’s under Chidgey. C-H-I-D-G-E-Y.

Is it Cat A?

Is it what sorry?

It’s for cat, isn’t it?

Oh yes, it’s cat, sorry.

I think it is . . . I don’t know if it is, eh.

Maybe it’s under Bekhuis. B-E . . .

No no no, it’s under your name, you’ve told me the right name, but I can’t remember . . . was it Pacifica? Catherine? No, it’s Wild Prairie.

Oh is it? Did we used to get the Grasslands?

Yes you did. Did you want to go back the Grasslands? You’ve been getting the Wild Prairie.

I’ll get the Wild Prairie then. Is Ginger Boy hanging out on the concrete where it’s cooler?

Yeah. It’s real hot, eh.

Not nice to be a cat today.

Recalculating route. Take the next left. Then, turn left at the roundabout. After 50 metres, turn left at the roundabout, taking the first exit. Prepare to turn left after 460 metres. Take the next left. Take the second left. Then, go over the roundabout. Recalculating route. Fuck. Prepare to turn left after 610 metres. Prepare to turn left after 300 metres. After 100 metres, turn left. Recalculating route. Prepare to turn right after 410 metres. Prepare to turn right after 280 metres. After 100 metres, turn right. Prepare to turn left after 400 metres. Take the next left. Prepare to turn right at the roundabout after 550 metres. After 100 metres, turn right at the roundabout, taking the third exit. Take the third exit. Then, turn left at the roundabout. After 70 metres, turn left at the roundabout, taking the first exit. Prepare to go over the roundabout after 430 metres, taking the second exit. After 100 metres, go over the roundabout, taking the second exit. Prepare to turn right at the roundabout after 770 metres. Prepare to turn right at the roundabout after 300 metres, taking the second exit. After 100 metres, turn right at the roundabout, taking the second exit. Take the second exit. Prepare to go over the roundabout after 490 metres, taking the second exit. After 100 metres, go over the roundabout, taking the second exit. You’re over the speed limit. Recalculating route. Fuck. Prepare to turn back at the roundabout after 250 metres, taking the third exit. After 100 metres, turn back at the roundabout, taking the third exit. Take the third exit. Prepare to turn back at the roundabout after 340 metres, taking the fourth exit. After 100 metres, turn back at the roundabout, taking the fourth exit. Take the fourth exit. Drive for 12 kilometres. You’re over the speed limit. The police are investigating threats made against a woman who filmed herself sexually abusing her one-year-old son for $300. You’re over the speed limit. A woman has died while diving in a bay on Wellington’s south coast. Islamic State militants have set up a specialist command to plot attacks against Europe. The signs are that Paris was not an isolated attack. The coroner says the driving of two Korean tourists prior to a fatal crash on the West Coast was so poor that witnesses photographed it. The deaths are another example of tourists needing to drive more responsibly. A woman injured by a car in a Whāngārei cake shop is now in a stable condition in hospital. Recalculating route. Motherfucker. Prepare to turn left after 490 metres. Take the next left, pinning her and her daughter against the counter. The Ford Motor Company is pulling out of Japan. Prepare to turn left after 290 metres, focusing its attention instead on China. Take the next right. Drive for 4.3 kilometres. You’re over the speed limit. Shut up. You’re over the speed limit. Prepare to turn left after 800 metres. What is the appeal of that kind of cricket at the Basin, do you think? I think it’s just sitting on the grass and watching cricket. Prepare to turn left after 300 metres, when you’ve got two great teams going at it on a sunny day. Take the next left, then, take the next right. Take the next right, then, take the next left. You feel like you’re part of something. Take the next left. Prepare to arrive at your destination after 240 metres. No. Arrive at your destination after 100 metres. No. You have reached your destination. No I haven’t.


I still don’t know what I’m meant to be doing.


On an exhale, release the heart.


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We often wonder if the earth beneath our feet could swallow us up.


I don’t get over very often and today was a free day and I thought shit, I’ll come over. I’ve been driving a truck for this guy—I’ve been halfway round the bloody globe. Timaru and back twice, Christchurch and back, way up north . . . I run a trailer down to Christchurch for him and I charged him seven hundred and fifty bucks. Just a figure that came out of my head. And he up and paid it.

Who’s Erin engaged to?

Some untidy-looking coot from Timaru. He’s got the biggest beard you ever did see. The first thing I said to him was, you got a job? He goes yep, I work for Fulton Hogan. Then I said, have you been in jail? And he goes no, not yet. I said, have you got any money? No. Have you got a house? No. You’re not much bloody good to me then.

You’ll have to have a cuddle with Honorary Grandad Brian, bub. You’ll have to get used to him. We don’t have any other grandads for you. It’s all right. It’s all right.

Look at the mouth.

I’ve stopped getting old. I’ve just stopped having birthdays.

That’ll save me buying the cards and birthday presents that I used to.

And that ten shillings that Johnny Burrows used to give me, and you never ever did. Johnny Burrows always gave me ten shillings for my birthday and I waited for Aunty Pat and it never ever turned up.

Who’s Johnny Burrows?

The old dude next door. There was Tom, Bob, Terry and Johnny. Four brothers.

My godfather.

Who was your godfather?

Johnny Burrows.

He was mine too.

I know.

Were they all bachelors?


And Miss Gallagher. Miss Gallagher lived there—there were five of them in the house. And the funny part about it, I was at Mum’s graveside just the other day, and two of the Burrows boys were fat guys, and they both died at sixty-four, and the two other guys were skinny and they died at seventy-four. Ten years apart, they all died.

Flat white?

Yes please, love. You’re a good girl. Thank you. All my pilot mates have lost their licences with cholesterol. If they have a heart attack while they’re flying. One time he took my heart and it was a smidgen under what it should be. Doctor Somas—he’s been there for a hundred years. He’s from one of those funny countries. They play cricket there.

Johnny was my godfather. When I was little he used to buy me a pair of shoes every birthday. My father used to buy us a drink at the Halswell Hotel. What was it? Sarsaparilla, that was it. After the Wednesday sales at Addington they all used to go to the Halswell pub, and I’d be sitting out in the car and Dad would bring me out a sarsaparilla. I don’t even know if you can get sarsaparilla now.

Yep, you still can. I’m sure it doesn’t taste the same as what it used to, though.

It tastes like toothpaste to me, whenever I’ve had it.

That’s it. So have you read the books on those murders in Picton, have you? Gone out and bought those new books about Scott Watson?

Don’t upset her.

No, no I haven’t. Have you?

No I haven’t, but I’ll have to get them and read them. I like that sort of thing.

Yes, I was thinking about reading them. Very interesting, isn’t it. I think there’s a lot hasn’t come out.

They’re saying now in one of the books, they’re saying there was a drug deal.


They took one off the market, but it’s back on today.

Have you got the books?

No. No. They took it off the market Wednesday or Thursday, and Whitcoulls have got it back on the market today.

Have they got it back again?


Have you got any of the books?

No. No.

No, I’d quite like to read them.

It does sound interesting.

Don’t let her get upset.

Do you know those writer guys?

I know of them. I don’t know them.

How would he get all this inside information?

He said he’d sifted through the police files.

Well how’d he get the police files?

I don’t know.

It’s never quite said about that, has it.

No. But this witness that he says he interviewed says he saw someone fitting Scott Watson’s description getting rid of two bundles that looked like bodies.

That’s interesting isn’t it.

And that they might be buried on land, not disposed of at sea.



There’s still something queer about the whole thing.

I think that he definitely did it.

Oh yes.

I don’t know. That Scott Watson, he lived next door, and when he was born we’d push him round in the pram. And his mother was Beverly Boone who lived where we used to park the bikes to go to school in the bus. We weren’t really associated with Beverly Boone, because she was bad. She went to Halswell Primary, you see. And her mother, Mrs Boone, she was on our party line when I was a kid, but she was bad too. She always had a new boyfriend. Always on the line talking to a new man.

I had no idea. I didn’t know that.

There’s lots of things.

I’m too far away.

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Tags: Fiction