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Ether Street / The NI Crossword

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The séance continues as the spirit Nil reveals further forbidden secrets gleaned from a thousand incarnations.

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‘Feet on sun-baked rock / A hand clasping mine / The scent of new-baked bread / The blessing of wine.’

What the hell is that? Are you in training for an incarnation in the greetings-card trade?

No, I was just singing along. The most popular tunes out here in the ether are all along those lines. Somehow when you’ve not been incarnated for a while, you forget that having a human body involves pain – from the torture of childbirth to the sheer hell of a heavy-metal concert. You only remember the wonder of having five senses.

So eternal life is over-rated?

No, it’s just different. We’re never as alone as you are, all locked up inside one body. But there are obvious compensations to the corporeal state – there are some wild and tender nights that loom very large in my memory.

And were you male or female on those wild and tender nights?

Sometimes one, sometimes the other, of course. Your culture’s obsession with the difference between them is a constant source of amusement out here.

Really? We’re sure women in Afghanistan under the Taliban – who can’t go to work or go out of the house without being completely covered – will be pleased to know they’re providing you with entertainment.

Hoity-toity. The trouble with you readers of the New Internationalist is that you can’t help being earnest. You have to keep reminding people of the iniquity and inequality of the world.

That may be so. But we’ve got a point, haven’t we? If spirits like you have been incarnated many times as both men and women, how come people don’t learn over time to treat each other as equals and meet in the middle? Instead what we end up with is ‘men from Mars’ and ‘women from Venus’.

You think you’ve got problems. You should see what a nightmare it is on the third planet out from Alpha Centauri, which has nine different sexes.

And have you been incarnated there too?

No, I’m pretty much an Earth specialist. I can’t abide these planets which have five moons; there’s something unnatural about them. Give me the wind in my sails on the Brahmaputra or the cool, clear air of the High Andes, any day.

But you still haven’t answered our point about women and men.

Oracles don’t give answers, they just hedge their bets. I could say you’re actually making progress on that front: look at New Zealand...

You mean Aotearoa...

If you want to be pedantic. There, male politicians are so passé that they have to be foisted on to international organizations to earn a crust [Ed: see Worldbeaters]. But on the other hand I have to say we never had any of these Taliban-type problems in the good old days three millennia ago when we all believed in a Great Goddess. Still, you may yet end up with a Great Goddess of your own: in a world where a phoney spot of tongue-kissing turns Al Gore from Clark Kent into Superman, it can be only a matter of time before Madonna launches her own bid for global leadership.

Next month: the greatest king in history makes an entrance.

The NI Crossword
No 49 by Axe

Crossword no.49

 1 Hot one Berlioz composed when based in Brazil (4,9)
 9 Assassin, Ibo, injured imprisoning Native American (10)
10 African country lake (4)
11 Aeneas’ trusty friend from a church at Ephesus’ walls (7)
12 ‘Ard nut to crack? What a waste! (6)
14 California excise takes two from Tahoe Indian settlement (8)
17 Fought two rounds, capturing Spanish city (6)
18 Shakespearean character dropped an ‘h’, according to Verdi (6)
19 Arms importers’ goal to get drug addicts (3,5)
20 English college team in Missouri touring around the country (6)
21 Numb crowns; they’re frozen permanently... (7)
25 ...but I can live with them! (4)
26 Island drink that French have adopted? (10)
27 Raft devisor to cross dangerous narrows (6,2,5)

 2 African cattle disease resulting in panic from New England to Florida (4,5,5)
 3 Sanskrit derivative got from audio Riyadh produced (5)
 4 She’s Greenpeace Branch?… (5)
 5 …this puzzles 9 assassins! (4)
 6 Iron dhoti like Robin (9)
 7 Love the lingo in metal smelting, first seen here in northern Brazil (9)
 8 Well-groomed dog moves up to Canadian tree (8,6)
13 Mesopotamian Tower’s scene of confusion (5)
15 California first embraced wine French-style, but now it is one that does not conform (9)
16 Bachelor embraced by mother after again going to court here in Australia (9)
22 Yorkshire character when bereft of heath is bluff (5)
23 City vehicle I get into at roundabout (5)
24 UK national: one has to be quiet abroad in the wake of the common Englishman (4)

 1 Capital of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais (4,9)
 9 Native American Sioux tribe, originally in Saskatchewan (10)
10 Country of north-central Africa (4)
11 ‘Fidus ———-’, a reliable friend (from Virgil’s Aeneid) (7)
12 Arctic region of permafrost (6)
14 Indian city on the Bay of Bengal (8)
17 Northern Spanish city and province (6)
18 Opera by Verdi (6)
19 Recipients of exported goods (often arms) (3,5)
20 Latin American country, independent since 1821 (6)
21 Permanent coverings in polar or alpine regions (7)
25 Semi-legendary Himalayan manlike creature (4)
26 French Caribbean island (10)
27 Stretch of water between the North Sea and The English Channel (6,2,5)

 2 African cattle disease transmitted by ticks (4,5,5)
 3 Official language of Orissa state (5)
 4 Evergreen tree of the Mediterranean (5)
 5 Main inhabitants of the former Biafra (4)
 6 Bird-like (9)
 7 River and state of northern Brazil (9)
 8 Conifer prevalent in eastern Canada (8,6)
13 Foolishly conceived lofty structure (5)
15 Protestant named after the French reformer (1509-64) (9)
16 Agricultural town of Queensland, Australia (9)
22 Steep escarpment (5)
23 Largest city in Africa (5)
24 Colloquialism for this nationality, particularly abroad (4)

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