Tuesday 21 January 2020

'And every time I like him when we meet'

One Maori word I have managed to memorise – I could hardly fail to – is Tui, the name of the bird whose loud and distinctive call forms a major element in the soundscape of the Wellington suburbs. 'Tui' is onomatopoeic, an approximation of one of the amazing range of sounds that make up the Tuis' incessant discourse – whistles, croaks, squawks, gobbles and grunts, mechanical-seeming noises.
Here is a Tui in full flow –

When several of these birds are conversing, it sounds like a raucous, ribald commentary on the passing scene.
  From our daughter's house, up in the hills above the city centre, there is a wide and spectacular view, and across this vista Tuis are constantly flying to and fro. Heavy-bodied birds, they flap their wings laboriously (and surprisingly loudly) to achieve lift and remain airborne, but manage to fly, dipping and rising, for some distance at a good steady speed before landing amid the Pahutakowas to resume their vocalising. They are as numerous as crows are back in England, but more colourful, with their blue backs and that odd tuft of feathers at the throat. They certainly have the same rascally air and braggart ways. They are indeed very much in charge and I'm sure would see off any corvine competition. I've grown to like Tuis very much, and now feel about them very much as Kay Ryan does about crows in her Felix Crow

'Then each lives out
his unenlightened
span, adding his
bit of blight
to the collected
history of pushing out
the sweeter species;
briefly swaggering the
swagger of his
aggravating ancestors
down my street.
And every time
I like him
when we meet.'

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