Danny does mind control
A FORMER US Army soldier claims that a colleague once stopped the heart of a goat simply by staring at it. That story inspired the title of Jon Ronson’s book ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’, later turned into a film starring George Clooney.
I was reminded of that tale last week when taking the Rugby Challenge – a series of interactive rugby-skills tests – in Christchurch, New Zealand. After testing my kicking (good), catching (average) and passing (bad), I found myself trying to will a magnetic ball towards a set of goal posts against an opponent trying to do the same. Somewhat to my relief, I lost.
Mind you, as the Rugby Challenge is run by a reputable organisation called Science Alive!, I’m sure our exercise had more basis in reality than killing animals with one’s mind. It’s all about concentration, apparently, which is why my Kiwi opponent kept throwing out random comments about his country.
The Christchurch area has suffered three earthquakes in just over a year, and the Central Business District remains off limits. Many businesses and tourist attractions have shut down or moved to the suburbs. It’s an eerie feeling to find yourself alone on a city street at 9pm.
Still, there are signs of recovery - I counted seven ‘no vacancy’ signs on one street last Thursday. Places to eat near the city centre aren’t ten-a-penny (I almost resorted to hospital food on the first night before I got my bearings), but there is greenery and rugby-themed photo exhibitions galore.
On my doorstep are Christchurch Botanic Gardens, a wonderful oasis that includes a rose garden. I defy anyone who grew up listening to Midwest Radio not to involuntarily sing ‘I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden’ when seeing those two words together. Another afternoon was spent at Riccarton Bush, a kind of Cong Woods on acid, and home to that ultimate New Zealand symbol, the kiwi. I devoted a day to the wonderful Canterbury Museum, which houses an Egyptian mummy (prompting the memorable question “Mummy, is that a real mummy?” from an uncovinced child), some Antarctic memorabilia, and a natural history section. It also includes a house which once belonged to Fred and Myrtle Flutey, whose sitting-room wall was covered by over 1,000 colourful Paua shells. “It’s my job to dust them,” the now-deceased Myrtle chuckles on an old documentary.
I flew to Christchurch from Rotorua, where I paid the Knock-style development levy ($5) and no security check of passengers’ hand luggage was deemed necessary. Maybe this is why the Asian woman beside me kept blessing herself. Or perhaps she was praying for me, because when I landed, a text message informed me that I had won £400,000 in the UK lottery. Funny, I don’t remember entering.
Daniel Carey, a Mayo News reporter, has taken a year out to travel the world. His addiction to the keyboard remains, however, and this column will carry his reports from life on the outside.