I BLITZ THROUGH many blogs—you learn a lot from other people’s experiences; how wise the humblest can be, and how arrogant and stupid some of the better educated or more highly placed. All grist to the mill, as it were.

BUT THIS IS DIGRESSION. We were discussing mysterious happenings and things that bonk in the night. You know, apparitions and spectral spectres that don’t really exist so they aren’t there, that kind of thing. Okay … maybe some folks do see things that don’t exist; and of course for every visual aberration there’s always a rational explanation. No sweat. So what I am about to tell you won’t be at all mysterious.


were driving through a heavily overcast moonless night from Auckland’s North Shore to Opito Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula. I say night, it was about one-thirtyish in the wee small hours. I say ‘we’ … one of us was doing the driving and navigation whilst the feminine half of the equation was inspecting her eyelids (from the inside). We were way out in the sticks (the wop-wops, boondocks …) on a very winding country road miles from nowhere and the only illumination was from our headlights. No company for the pilot but the hiss of tyres and rumble of the road—I was relaxed but alert and not in the least bit sleepy, happily adjusting my speed to the conditions. I’d dropped down from open-road limit of a hundred to around a comfortable eighty (don’t be impressed, that’s k’s, not miles) but I got the nagging feeling that even eighty was a tad too much. It wasn’t, but I’d learned never to argue with a gut feeling. So I slowed even more.

THE feeling grew more insistent and without me consciously doing it our speed fell away proportionately. Winding road, native bush, pitch black, and now crawling along—feeling that somehow we shouldn’t even be moving. I know—stupid.

Beside me Spouse suddenly awoke with a jolt, looked around then asked “Why have we stopped here?” which under the circumstances was a very good question. I just wish I knew the answer.


very gingerly, and as we crept around a bend that was totally obscured by native bush, a possible answer. There, floating in the middle of the road in front of us—a ghost.

A very ghostly ghost.

Palled in white, almost mannish in shape, an amorphous blobular ghost with no visible means of support. With us hardly even moving at all my reflexes still hit the anchors hard. We didn’t even jerk. Instant goosebumps and tingling all over. Twitch twitch—

“What the hell is that?”

I flicked the headlights to full and ‘that’ drifted slowly across the road. Two big eyes appeared floating in the darkness beside it. Every hackle I had was standing to attention and on full alert. Then suddenly—CLICK—

“I think it’s a cattle. A cow. A bovinious beastie.”

We trickled slow ahead. And yes, it was a cow. I’d never seen a Banded Galloway before—and it was only some days later that “Everyman’s Book Of Common Cows” in the library produced a match. Their front half is a matt black, the rear half is likewise a matt black, and the fur in the middle half is pure matt white. On a dark night all you see is the white middley bit apparently disembodied and floating. Brrrr.


there is a perfectly acceptable explanation. Cow. Our apparition was merely the middle band of an otherwise superbly camouflaged cattle-cow.

You don't want to meet one of these on a dark night~!
You don’t want to meet one of these on a dark night~!


for every spooky event there’s a logical and entirely rational explanation. Things do not go bump in the night, God is in His heaven and all is well with the world. (Had we hit that beast at cruising speed our very flimsy little car would have been a write-off—and probably us with it.)

“Mr. Argus … Sir?”

“Yes, little Ollivia?”

“Mr. Argus — you’ve explained about the cow, and that’s all very nice, and helpful—”

“But, my cherub? I hear a ‘but’ coming—”

“—but how did you know to start slowing down a full kilometre or more before—”

“Hush, pest! You’ll be getting me a bad name in rational circles—let’s just call it a manifestation of the Dibdin* Effect.”

“Dibdin effect?”

“Yes, darling child—’there’s a sweet little cherub up aloft, to keep watch for the life of poor Jack‘—”

“Eeeek! Mr Argus! Keep that up and you’ll have to hand in your Rationalist Society badge—”

“No, Pet. I checked the rules—Rationalist doesn’t mean closed mind. So long as I’m open-minded I’m legal. But you raised a very good point there: how did I know?


How indeed. For now I’ll leave it for better minds than mine to explain. I’m just the reporter here—not a scientist.




* Poor Jack * 

Go, patter to lubbers and swabs, do you see, 

   ‘Bout danger, and fear, and the like; 

A tight-water boat and good sea-room give me, 

   And it an’t to a little I’ll strike. 

Though the tempest top-gallant mast smack smooth should smite, 

   And shiver each spliter of wood, 

Clear the deck, stow the yards and house every thing tight, 

   And under reefed foressail we’ll scud: 

Avast! nor don’t think me a milksop so soft, 

   To be taken for trifles aback; 

For they say there’s a providence sits up aloft, 

To keep watch for the life of poor Jack

I heard our good chaplain palaver one day 

   About souls, heaven, mercy, and such; 

And, my timbers! what lingo he’d coil and belay; 

   Why, ’twas just all as one as High Dutch; 

For he said how a sparrow can’t founder, d’ye see, 

   Without orders that come down below; 

And a many fine things that proved clearly to me 

   That providence takes us in tow: 

For, says he, do you mind me, let storms e’er so oft 

   Take the topsails of sailors aback, 

There’s a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft, 

To keep watch for the life of poor Jack

I said to our Poll — for, d’ye see, she would cry — 

   When last we weighed anchor for sea, 

What argufies snivelling and piping your eye? 

   Why, what a damned fool you must be! 

Can’t you see, the world’s wide, and there’s room for us all, 

   Both for seamen and lubbers ashore? 

And if to old Davy I should go, friend Poll, 

   You never will hear of me more. 

What then? All”s a hazard: come, don’t be so soft: 

   Perhaps I may laughing come back; 

For, d’ye see, there’s a cherub sits smiling aloft, 

   To keep watch for the life of poor Jack! 

D’ye mind me, a sailor should be every inch 

   All as one as a piece of the ship, 

And with her brave the world, not offering to flinch 

   From the moment the anchor’s a-trip. 

As for me, in all weathers, all times, sides and ends, 

   Nought’s a trouble from duty that springs, 

For my heart is my Poll’s, and my rhino’s my friend’s, 

   And as for my life, ’tis the king’s. 

Even when my time comes, ne’er believe me so soft, 

   As for grief to be taken aback, 

For the same little cherub that sits up aloft 

   Will look out a good berth for poor Jack! 

 —Charles Dibdin 




    1. There’s hope for me yet …

      Thanks for that. reminds me of a cartoon by the great Brit Giles — in his classroom the cadaverous ‘Chalkie’ (teacher) standing in front of the blackboard, in the foreground two typical-of-the-time boys at their desks, one whispering to the other—

      (but first, on the blackboard two diagrams, one of a ball and the other a pear; ball labelled ‘old Earth’ and the other ‘new Earth’) …

      —boy whispering from behind a cupped hand “And can I ever remember how many times I got punished for not drawing it round!?!”

      Ol’ Giles too was a genius …

  1. I would try and explain it to you, but I don’t think you’d really be that interested. Good job you listened to that gut feeling of yours though, otherwise you might have been seeing the great holy cow in the sky! [laughing profusely]

    1. Of course I’m interested~!

      As Wille Spokeshave put into the mouth of one Hamlet Esq, words to the effect of “There are more things twixt hev’n and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy Horatio” …

      (Dammit, I’ll have to look it up and get it right. I use it often enough …)

    2. Hah! Got it … didn’t take long:

      “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
      Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”

      1. Nice introduction, although a drum-roll would have sufficed [grin]. Well, I believe human instinct is stronger than is given credit for. You being a dog should know that [looking over the top of my shades]. Little kids exhibit very strong instinct, and that’s because they haven’t had it beaten out of them yet, and told that their ‘intuition’ is wrong versus the rule of science, or religion, or the philosophy of arm-measuring. It would seem then, my four-legged fluffy-faced friend [scratching under your chin] that the smell of coffee is indeed strong with you Obe Wan. And that perhaps you should listen to it more often. The more you do, the more you will be aware of what you do already know ahead of time. Trust me I know these things [grinning again, shades drawn].

      2. Dammit, Ma’am … you inspire me to fulfil one of a squillion promises; I’ll have to post on that topic. Soon.

        Thanks for the scratch (base of the ears drives us dogs all weak-kneed).

      3. I’ll remember that (base of the ears..). Glad to have provided an itch to scratch [you know that could be soo misconstrued right now, but I’m gonna go with it ‘cos it’s making me laugh]. Good drawing of your cow by the way…

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