For the past few weeks, I’ve been walking around without my fish hook. I won’t tell the whole story, but in summary, here's some advice: if you’re a female visitor to this country, and you’re walking home with a guy (me) late on a Friday night, and 2 bogans across the road offer to “fight your boyfriend”, the answer is not “sure!”.*
I was lucky I checked afterwards, noticed it had gone, and went back to retrieve it from the pavement.
Fish hooks are a Maori tradition going way back, and are obviously a symbol connecting people and persons with water and fishing. Also, the fish hook apparently provides the wearer safe passage over water. Tradition also suggests that you give or bestow it upon someone meaningful some time in your life – maybe tomorrow, maybe in 50 years.
Obviously I don’t have a strong personal connection with Maori culture, and I don’t believe in charms or superstition, but when I had the opportunity to carve my own in a workshop in Whitianga many years ago I thought I would give it a go. The result was a pendant that has only left my neck (since putting it on in 2003) for massages and life modelling.
I am not a jewellery person. I am a big fan of the piercings that I have had (right eyebrow, top of left ear) and the piercings that I currently have (left nostril, left tragus), but I don’t really think they count as “jewellery” – more like punctuation. However, this fish hook has been special to me, in my own way. It doesn’t symbolise anything in a literal way, but it's something I made while abroad travelling, and it represents in a vague way who I was, where I’ve been, and who I am. I could live without it, but I am very attached to it.
So recently, finally, I got a new neck cord and attached it in a new way as the picture shows. It’s not pretty, and in time I might take it to a professional carver or restorer and have the original loop put back (I don’t mind if it’s a different material or whatever, I’m only a purist when it comes to guitars & amps, and even then I’m no connoisseur). But for now it’s fine, and – exactly 8 years after making it in the Coromandel – it’s back on my neck where it belongs. Perhaps even, in a way, the brokenness and makeshift fix are like scars: they help show where we’ve been, and they display a sense of resilience. Or maybe I’m talking nonsense.
*I have very strong feelings about drunken people being “different people” to how they are sober. No matter how drunk you are, it’s no excuse to be a twat, and it’s no excuse to be dangerous. Even when pissed out of my skull, I don’t feel the need to jump off cliffs, call strangers a cunt (as someone on drugs did to me in my own room recently), stand in the middle of the road waving at oncoming cars, or, indeed, invite violence on a friend.
I have also done irresponsible things while drunk, but these are things I would well have done sober; the point is, alcohol is no excuse.