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(Indeed, four words) full of information – though, unfortunately, empty of adventure.
Way way down south, down near “the bottom of the world” – as they say – there lies a small island. An outcrop seemingly so small and insignificant that it has never been given a real name of its own. Not many humans visit it, except on occasional Ecological Tourism trips. However those lucky few in the know call it “Unda Island”, as a joke about where it can be found on the Globe of the World.
Of course, we know the real joke – the name is a magnificent mistake. Because the Globe of the World is up-side down, wrong way up, tipped on its head. Just like the Map in the Atlas. In fact, as all its inhabitants recognise, Unda Island is on top of the Planet. After all, it is where the Sun first rises, each and every lovely new day upon Earth.
All the animals and birds of the seas around Unda use it as a brief stopping-off post. It’s an ideal spot for a short breather on the way to somewhere else. That somewhere else usually being Rakiura (Stewart Island), the third and smallest Island of the trio that make up the Pacific nation of Aotearoa (New Zealand).
Only a couple of small families of Weka – the cheeky little brown, bush-hen – make their permanent home on Unda. Mainly because being unable to fly, they can’t leave. Which raises an intriguing question. Yes, indeed poses a interesting problem. However, the fascinating answer – as to how they ever got there in the first place – is masked by the Myths and Mists of Time.
And why can’t they fly? Well in olden times before Humans visited Aotearoa there were no rats or mice, stoats or ferrets, dogs or cats in residence anywhere on the islands, so it was safe for birds to nest and lay eggs on the ground. Eventually some species, like the Weka and the Kiwi, decided that it was simply much less bother to wander about in the peaceful forest, rather than tangle with the wild, weather whipped, southern skies on the wing.
When I came to tell these stories about my Mum and her feathered friend I came across a difficulty. I simply don’t know whether our dear little Weka mate – UP – is a boy or a girl. A human just can’t tell which on sight. Should I write ‘her’ or ‘his’, ‘he’ or ‘she’? And I do think it’s a bit impertinent to ask any fish, fowl, or other fine fauna about a matter of such inconsequence, a subject of such triviality. It’s the sort of thing that’s only important if you are yourself a Weka, and have taken a particular liking to a particularly likeable bird. And perhaps not even then.
So, I shall relate the first story using ‘his’ and ‘he’. On the understanding that, in the interest of fairness and good manners, the next tale may well refer to ‘she’ and ‘hers’. And so on, and so forth. You, of course, are most welcome to make your own choices as you read.
Of course even the most insightful human author has never experienced life as a Weka. So naturally it is very presumptuous of me to try and present the life of one as if I utterly and completely knew the ins and outs of their outer and inner lives. And while there is no doubt that Weka are highly fascinated by humans, they are just as confused about us as we are about them. Because sadly, although we live on the same beautiful planet, we no longer speak the same language.
So I must confess that almost all of these stories is just a product of my over-active imagination. Though it is very true that my Mum was the Anglican Parish Priest of Rakiura for 25 years, and lived with her husband John in a house high above Leasks Bay, surrounded by beautiful gardens. And they did have a feathered companion – though it was a duck called Jeremiah.
It is also proper to note that I “borrowed” small details of dear friends and family to feature in the stories, though every character featured is entirely a figment of my imagination. So, if you ever visit Rakiura you won’t find any of these people there.
Anyhoo (cried the Morepork owl) … I hope you enjoy these little stories about one of the most beautiful places on Te Whenua, Te Ao (Planet Earth).
Kia Ora, Kia Kaha, (Be well, be strong)
P.S. (Post Script, or “ by-the-way”) I wrote these stories many years ago when I couldn’t afford to buy presents for family birthdays and Xmas. An idea you’re more than welcome to use. It’s fun to create something that is based on make-believe stuff around your own family.
UP, the little brown Weka, was feeling a lot bored on that day in late Spring when Rewi and his tourist boat “Rawhiti” (Dawn) turned up on Unda Island. So while his family entertained the tourists by playing chase up and down the beach through the bubbling surf, UP decided to have a big nosy around inside the boat. Weka love anything that shines, therefore all the glint and gleam of the Rawhiti’s nautical equipment really sparked his curiosity.
UP explored the Rawhiti from stem to stern. Not a single nook nor solitary cranny was left lost and lonely without a lingering poke of his inquisitive beak. After all, food can usually be found absolutely anywhere if you seek hard enough. Unfortunately on this occasion the rewards were few and far between, because all the food had been carefully stored and the boat’s galley thoroughly cleaned. Eventually, UP became worn out by his investigative endeavours, so he tucked himself in behind the Chillybin of beer for a wee recuperative nap.
When Rewi and the Tourists got back after sharing their picnic lunch with the other Weka, they didn’t notice the smallest member of the family stowed away in the darkness of the gunwale. They didn’t notice him when he woke up on the journey back and popped his head out of the cabin for a nosey at the view. And when they arrived on Rakiura Island they were so busy being busy, making sure that their own and other people’s belongings were not left behind, they didn’t even notice when he scuttled up onto deck behind them.
UP waited until they had all straggled, still fussing and fretting, down the road back to the Hotel, before he jumped onto the railing at the end of the wharf. There he stopped quite still to survey the wide golden crescent of Halfmoon Bay sparkling in the crisp spring sunlight. He suddenly felt exceedingly elated at having travelled so far from home, and all on his own. So, fairly bursting of energy, he scampered round the point. Skedaddled along the yellow sands of Lonnekers Beach under the towering Blue Gums. Then following no particular rhyme nor reason, on a whim he skipped up the hill above Leasks Bay. And into the very first garden that he stumbled upon.
UP was mightily impressed. This garden was nothing like the rough and ready tumble of native plants at Unda Beach. It flowed around neat lawns. It rose and fell over artful rocks. Its colours contrasted and complemented. It was very shapely, well tendered, and obviously much beloved. Everywhere he looked was a wealth of treats. Here, a profusion of poppies. There, a riot of roses. All wrapped in a fragrance of freesias. The entire abundance fringed by the lush green bush, which looked rather jaunty and stylish with a garland of the first of the new season’s red Rata in it’s hair. UP was particularly delighted at some juicy bulbs whose pale first leaves were just cresting the rich brown soil.
“Tu meke! (Awesome!)” thought UP, “Some fulla must have guessed I was coming coz this is the most scrumptious feast I’ve ever seen, eh?”
UP had just finished another delicious mouthful of moist more-ish cream freesia when the most extraordinary figure suddenly loomed above him on the gravel path.
UP was confronted first by a pair of stout and sensible brown leather boots. However, unexpectedly, above them flowed the gold encrusted hem of a long and lavish robe. The glittering golden threads led on ever upward through rainbows of colourful embroidery over shimmering silk. UP’s gaze rose and rose in astonishment till it stopped, fascinated by a stern face surrounded by a whirl of wild auburn hair. Little did he know it, but UP had just met “The Very Reverend” A-L Dyson, and The Very Reverend A-L Dyson was very angry. She had been walking home after taking the Sunday Morning Service at the Christian Allsorts Church and had decided that she’d have a wander round her prize garden before she took off her robes and regalia,.
UP was very fond of humans, and was especially pleased to meet one of such imposing and colourful style. Without waiting for so much as an introduction, he popped his head to one side and began to chat happily to her.
But The Rev. Dyson stayed resolutely mum, and said nothing in return. Instead, very slowly she produced a broom from behind her back, and then suddenly swooped down on him -
“You little horror! You’ve completely devastated my precious spring bulbs!”
UP didn’t understand what she said, but thought to himself,
“Way choice, eh? Most humans just stand and laugh and sometimes throw me food, but this Lady, she is playing chase and dress-ups with me, eh! Wananei! (Wicked!)”
He ran off, chuckling to himself,
“He reka! (Sweet!). Aren’t I a lucky fulla to meet such a nice lady? She must think I’m really special to make this much of an effort, eh.
You know what? I’ll be just as nice back and never leave her garden. I’ll find all kinds of lovely places to hide. Then, when she’s not expecting, I’ll run out and surprise her.”
So he did. And that gentle Spring there was a lot of vigorous running and chasing, as they “played” together in the garden. The Rev. Dyson’s husband, Skipper John, even turned off the telly of an evening and instead sat on the porch in front of the Christian Allsorts Vicarage to watch them frolic. UP noticed he laughed a lot, and for some reason this made The Rev. Dyson even more excited. And when she got more excited she seemed to lose control, flail about quite a lot, and trip over rather easily. And that just made Skipper John laugh even louder. So then, The Rev. Dyson would chase with her broomstick. But Skipper John just ran inside and locked the porch door.
UP snorted, not at all impressed.
“Pai kare! (By golly!) What a cheat, eh. And now he’s missing out on all the fun.”
Though he did worry occasionally about whether The Rev. Dyson should run about so much because she did seem to get really red in the face. Especially standing outside the locked porch door calling loudly to Skipper John, hiding somewhere deep inside the Vicarage.
Then one evening in early Summer, when UP was fossicking under the Cabbage Tree, The Rev. Dyson came running out of the house onto the porch without her broomstick. She twirled around to show off a beautiful, sunny, kowhai yellow, summer frock, all spotted with white daisies. UP had never seen her so excited, and laughing so much.
“You little horror!” she called out to UP, “All that running around I’ve lost enough weight to wear my favourite clothes! You’re forgiven!”
Then she ran back inside, and she and Skipper John had a very loud and strenuous conversation about taking a “holiday” on the Mainland. Afterwards, Skipper John came out and waved his fist energetically at UP,
“Now look what you’ve done. I’ll never get a minutes peace. She’ll shop till I drop!”
UP thought it was very nice that Skipper John had come out especially to thank him for playing with The Rev. Dyson. But there was no need for special thanks, as to be honest he’d had a very fine time himself through it all.
The very next day, the Very Reverend A-L Dyson and the Very Reluctant Skipper John left the house with a Very Large Number of (empty?) suitcases and went down to the relatively small Halfmoon Bay Wharf. UP pottered after them and waved a wing as they left on the Ferry which went to the Mainland of Aotearoa. The Rev. Dyson waved back and blew him a kihi nui (big kiss). UP was a bit embarrassed and ducked his head shyly. But he was also secretly quite pleased, and wished his family had been there to see the fine friends he’d made on his big adventure.
UP waited and watched as the Ferry disappeared into the morning haze. On board, The Rev. Dyson looked exceptionally happy, and was chatting ninety to the dozen about all the great fun they would have. Skipper John smiled extremely broadly all the while, but seemed to be very pre-occupied with finding a safe place for his wallet. After they had vanished over the horizon UP casually sauntered back round Leask’s Bay and back up the hill. He pottered all over the Vicarage garden and all through his favourite haunts looking for something fun to do. But it all seemed enormously empty and awfully quiet without The Rev. Dyson to play with.
As he wandered through the lanscape he noted that the usual suspects were in residence, but UP didn’t really enjoy their idea of fun. The Tuis in the Kauri Tree preferred to sit around pompously fluffing their throat feathers and showing off by singing themes from famous operatic arias. The Kaka parrots, down by the letter box, liked to skulk about plotting scams to destroy yet another piece of heritage forest. While the sea gulls didn’t have a single brain cell between the lot of them to do more than bicker over other people’s long-discarded, rancid rubbish. So that just left Small, the neighbour’s enormously large and ponderous tabby cat. That he was a cat wasn’t a problem. It was just that Small’s idea of a dangerous and arduous adventure was a slow meander across the porch to his milk bowl.
Consequently, it didn’t take UP very long to get bored being all by himself. And he decided it was high time he went back to the Beach on Unda Island to see how his family was doing.
“’Coz them fullas are probably a wee bit worried about me by now, eh. I should probably head home and put them out of their misery. Tell ‘em everything’s ka pai (choice), eh.”
Just on the quiet, between you and me and this stumpy ponga on my left, I think that our little feathered friend was actually a mite lonely, and more than a tiny touch homesick as well. But, whatever the reason, quietly at dawn the next morning UP stowed away again on Rewi’s tourist boat “Rawhiti”, and went home for Xmas and the rest of the summer.
I hope you enjoyed Up’s adventure in this story. Here are some snippets from further stories in the “UP From Unda” series. You can download the full versions of Up’s escapades on this site.
… Now that she was down at Weka level, UP could see that the strange bird was in fact a girl human. She was wearing a long feather cape over a matching red evening dress, which to UP’s delight, sparkled and flashed with sequins all over. UP was about to potter over for a closer nosy when she was stopped in her tracks by a lot of thunderous rumbling sounds from inside the Christian Allsorts Church Hall. They were followed by a very violent and cacophonous crash, much like the sound of a woodpigeon flying into a closed window – something they did with monotonous regularity. UP was about to laugh at the thought when a frightening figure stumbled out onto the Hall porch.
UP peeked out from where she had hidden, under the wings of the Bird-girl’s cape, to study the fiendish creature as it stood catching its breath …
… UP, the little brown Weka, was really very worried about his dear friend The Rev. Dyson, and her husband Skipper John. They were both behaving very strangely in the back passage of the Christian Allsorts Vicarage. Skipper John was swaying precariously on top of a ladder, flailing his arms about in all directions. Meanwhile The Rev. Dyson danced about him, flapping her hands and squawking loudly.
“E hika! (Boy!)” thought UP, “they got to get with the programme, eh. They’re Humans and those Humans fullas, they just can’t fly!”
He felt very sorry for them. “Kia Tau, eh! (Relax!)” He remembered how bad he’d felt on the day he finally realised that he’d never swoop and soar through the sky like the Mollymawks, or the Titi, or even the big fat Wood Pigeons.
“Wekas and Humans, eh? We haven’t got the wings for it.” …
… UP scarpered like the sea wind whistling through the shivering and clacking flax bushes. She scurried like the lightening chasing the scudding storm clouds across the sky. One minute, scampering along the teasing tendrils of surf at the edge of the sand. The next, skittering over and under the roots of the Rimu and Kauri trees. Then, skidding in sprays of dirt round lumpen clumps of tree fern, her claws scrabbling for grip on haphazard hard and slippery rock outcrops. For, no matter how she rebuked them, cajoled them to behave, sought to divert and placate them, her legs had a mind of their own. And the only thing on the mind of her legs, was to get as far away as possible from that hideous sound …
… This fine late summer day the weather was taking a well earned break, and there was not a breath of wind over the Island. But the largest Ponga in bush at the edge of The Rev. Dyson’s garden was shaking as if it were being tossed and torn by an Antarctic gale. However when you looked close among the bracken at its base you could seen that this had nothing to do with the weather. For tucked against the Grandfather Ponga trunk, shaking like the big fern leaves above, was UP the little Weka.
UP had had a very bad fright …
[(*]The Maori Language[)*]
Te Reo Maori is the very beautiful language of the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand). So it seemed likely, that as a native citizen, UP would speak Maori rather than the English. But that might have meant a whole of lot of confusion when trying to read his words so I have chosen just to render in Maori the kind of phrases that you and I could actually use from day to day.
Kia ora! – Hi! G’day! Cheers! (Literally – Good Health!)
E Mara! – Hey Bro!
Tau Ke! – Awesome!
Tu meke! – Awesome! (Literally – Too much!)
Wananei! – Wicked!
He reka! – Yummm! Sweet!
Ka pai! or Kei te pai! – Good! Choice! Excellent!
Tino pai! – Really good!
Aue, e hika ma! – Goodness me!
Pai kare! – By golly!
Titiro! – Look!
Kia Tau! – Relax! Chillax!
Me haere! – Come quickly!
Te ataahua hoki! – That’s beautiful!
He tino pai hoki koe! – You’re very good!
Kei runga noa atu koe! – You’re the best!
Kei te pehea koe? – How’s it going?
Ka kite ano – See you again
If you’d like to use these phrases and say them correctly then you can hear them on this site:
http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/maori-language-week/100-maori-words. Just click on a word and it will be spoken for you. When saying a word sound each of its vowels seperately.
The following English equivalents are a very rough guide to pronouncing vowels in Maori.
a as in far
e as in desk and the first “e” in where
i as in fee, me, see
o as in awe (not “oh!”)
u as in sue, boot
Up - the little flightless weka - likes to visit his human friends on the remote southern isle of Rakiura. However they can’t figure out each other’s language, so there is always an adventure to had in the misunderstanding. In Book 1 of a five part series, Up makes his very first human acquaintance - the Rev Dyson. But will they beome friends? Book 2: Up gets caught up in some very devilish dangers. Book 3: Up restores the sparkle to Xmas. Book 4: Up has a most discombobulating interaction with music. Book 5: Up tries to look after the sick and becomes an accidental fashion stylist.