Ball and chain

FROM Bali to New Zealand's far north, which has the world's biggest trees (now also entirely surrounded by Germans) and a good deal of rural poverty and idleness. But as to loafing - there doesn't seem to be quite enough of it. Judging from the local paper, the highly strung inhabitants live lives of relentless drama, all reported in interesting detail.

On the day I was there, for example, 1,000 words were devoted to the case of the man wielding a baseball bat who chased another through the Awanui Hotel on the grounds that he was wearing a red jersey. Well, indeed, red can be a provoking shade - certainly the court took it all as a matter of course. The question then arose about his other weapons, which included an iron stave and a steel chain. The chain, the defendant testified, wasn't a chain at all, but a belt belonging to a friend. At this point the report becomes unclear, but it seems the prosecution riposted that it could not possibly be a belt: if it was, how could the owner have subsequently held up his trousers?

The friend then leapt to his feet and, with emotion, said that ever since that day he has had to wear tighter jeans. Which answer, the paper states cryptically, "provoked a testy response" from the judge. More next week.