One chaotic night in Tsim Sha Shui back in 1987 or ’89 – I misremember – your correspondent and fifty or so of his closest friends found themselves in a watering hole y-clept “Ned Kelly’s Last Stand.” Parched by the heat and street dust endemic to that part of the Mysterious Orient, they took it upon themselves to set everything in order, not only because of the salutary effects of measured portions of ale and other strong spirits to the vital organs, but also because thirst is a terrible thing.
So important was this work, and so assiduously did we set about it that our efforts came in time to be noticed by the locals of the establishment, who sought to drown out our increasingly agitated murmurings with a round of song or several. Not ordinarily being of the type and nature to break out into spontaneous harmony, these their actions did we witness with our beetled brows o’ertopping a general, if bleary-eyed expression of low cunning.
Finally working it out that we had been invited into as who should say a kind of competition, we ourselves saw fit to answer with a resounding rendition of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” After the third verse it fell upon your humble scribe to carry the football forward until the next chorus could be joined, for with all his previous attempts notwithstanding yet did those brain cells remain undamaged that were imprinted with the sacred words. And while our hosts did their level best to drown us out with the tale of a gal named “Matilda” somehow managing the consecutive miracles of simultaneously waltzing and squatting by a billabong (under the shade of a coolibah tree), we were in our hoarse multitudes not to be denied, nay not until the last breath:
And in the streets: the children screamed,
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken;
The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.
Our hosts observed these our labors with a kind of weary acquiescence, quantity having a quality all its own. Which, rewarding as it might have been precluded us from the kind of cultural exchange that would have informed us who this “Ned Kelly” person was, and what it was he had last stood over. Useful knowledge indeed to provide a layer of context to the news that while hizzoner’s bones are not quite found, yet has his final resting place been discovered.