The first thing I learned about Invercargill was that the hospital had set a man’s ass on fire.
"There was a sort of flashfire and that was it,” commented a doctor on the scene, “but it was fairly alarming at the time."
The fire ignited when the man was being treated for a nasty case of hemorrhoids , a procedure that involves cauterizing the wound with an electric branding iron. Unfortunately, the patient chose that precise moment to pass gas. Perhaps he was feeling relaxed, lying there on the cool metal operating table. Personally, if a gang of white-coated men were crowded around me, pointing an electric branding iron at my anus, I might tense up a little. But such is not the Southland way. I imagine him lying back, closing his eyes, and ripping out a nice, satisfying fart as he thought, “Thank God I’m not cropping the bloody sheep today.”
Cropping the sheep, as it happens, is also ass-related. But that is a post for another day.
There are a variety of signs posted on the roads leading into Invercargill, each boasting a particular attraction of this fair city, perched at the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island. “Welcome to Invercargill, Where Dreams Are Possible,” reads one. “Welcome to Invercargill, City of Light,” claims another, somewhat poetically. And, on the road from Dunedin, along the East coast of the South Island, is my personal favourite:
“Welcome to Invercargill, Asshole of the World.”
That particular slogan, it may surprise you to learn, was not invented by the Southland Board of Tourism. It was coined by none other than Mick Jagger, who was pelted with tomatoes during a loud and raunchy concert in 1965, which prompted him to loudly compare the city to an excretory orifice for the planet, after which he said something rude about people who make love to sheep.
Invercargill, it would seem, has a lot of critics.
But not me. On the contrary, I feel at one with the pulse of this fair city. Why, just the other day, the Southland Times broke a story that happened right here, on my street, just a few blocks away from where I hang my hat:
COW'S HEAD FOUND ON CITY STREET.
It would seem that my fellow citizens, vigilant as ever, rang the police when they observed two unidentified men dragging a decapitated, gory cow's head down the middle of the road. It was approximately three in the morning. The article went on to say:
"When the police arrived on the scene the men were gone but a cow's head remained."
It was a short article. Important questions were left unanswered, such as: who were these intriguing gentlemen? Where did they acquire a severed cow's head at three o'clock in the morning? And what, exactly, were they intending to do with it?
Questions, alas, that have remained unanswered.
And as we all know, every great city has a few good mysteries.
[Amy Milne, "Cow's Head Found on City Street," Southland Times, 20 September 2008, pA4]