An extraordinary tale of marine vicissitude
“Well,” said the Baron, his voice causing the babbling voices in the hall to fall into expectant silence, “You ask me how I fared on my travels.”
He took a thoughtful sip from his wine, placed the goblet back on the table with a click, and began:
“I took ship from Bremerhaven, as you know, with a fair wind and a bold heart, but lady luck was soon to change her face. On the third day there arose a storm of unimaginable size – the waves were as high as houses, then as high as mountains; strange howlings came from the ocean; passing whales begged to be allowed on board as on that night the sea was no place for a creature of God; and I personally was struck by lightning three times.
“Naturally the mariners ran quivering under the decks to their prayers, and it was left to me to manage the ship, which – with some small difficulty – I did. Bow to the wind, I finally faced a wall of water so tall it reached – as I measured it with apparatus – all the way to the sky, and had no choice but to pilot my vessel straight into it.
“After a few moments under the water I passed a group of comely mermaids who, once they had recovered from their surprise, looked quite taken by my person and seemed on the point of asking me to spend more time with them when I, running short of breath for more reasons than one, was forced to move on.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever been trapped under several fathoms of water, struggling to escape and deprived of oxygen, as you face your apparently inevitable expiration knowing that no matter what convulsions you go through or how loudly you shout no living soul will know or care. It’s uncomfortably like being Phil Goff.
“Yet somehow – I attribute it to my fickle mistress Fate still holding some love for me (but that is another story) – I reached the surface alive and tasted air again.
“During all this time I had, of course, kept my hand on the tiller, but on resurfacing I discovered the tiller had become detached from the rest of the ship.
“It is of course out of the question that I should have run the ship over a reef, even in such trying circumstances as I have described. However it is the case that my vessel had met a reef; this particular reef notoriously mobile and aggressive – so without question it was the reef which ran itself onto me.
“I will not speak its name for fear of invoking it again. Suffice to say it is named after a piece of navigational equipment. This name, I can reveal, reflects the intention of its creator (a powerful sorcerer) that it serve as a scourge upon all those who (as, in this case of dire necessity, myself) fail to consult the instrumentation they were supplied with when piloting their ship.
“I was able to keep myself afloat by clinging to one of several thousand pieces of flotsam that chanced to be in the area, until I discovered a place where the surface was sufficiently solid for me to stand on it. (I am told this does not normally happen but I later discovered the sea had been decorated in support of the local team in a major sporting tournament.)
“I was, though at some leisure, still lost on the open sea, so I considered how to supply myself with a mode of transport suited to my status.
“Having recovered my breath I was able, by blowing into the end of the tiller, to inflate it into a serviceable boat and convinced a school of dexterous fingerfish (where do you think fish fingers come from?) to crew it.
Initially they were somewhat laggard workers but I happen to always keep upon my person a bottle of my patented welfare reform nostrum. Once applied, this immediately transformed them into happy and diligent workers and did not kill any of them in any way. I passed the rest of the journey with pleasure as the company was now rather better than the average at sea, though snuff was not widely available.”
Here the great raconteur paused, holding up one finger to suppress the murmur of applause that was about to turn into thunder. He picked up his wine again, wetting his lips then smiling behind the goblet as he is wont when about to demonstrate his greatest flights of fancy.
“Also,” he said, “The response to the Rena incident does not reflect of deep sea drilling at all, National Party policies are good for the underclass, there was an urgent ACC crisis, that RadioLive show didn’t encourage people to vote for John Key, we don’t deserve to know why Richard Worth was fired, those tax cuts weren’t really tax cuts but they did make everything better, the police surveillance bill was well thought-out and constitutionally justified and we will be back in surplus by 2014-15.”
With a flourish, the Baron drank off his cup, then dipped his head in a slight bow as our laughter and applause shook the hall’s very flagstones.
Truly, his mighty powers of picturesque invention will be unequalled in this or any future age.