Ernest Spender, Prayer Book man to a New-Age channeler

December 20, 2007 at 4:44 am (Fiction) ()

To make a success of the first House of Assembly election, the Administration Officers at Angoram faced a gigantic task. The greatest burden fell on the Department of District Services represented by Harry Payne, John MacGregor, John Barnes and a new arrival, Ernest Spender. 

When Ernest Spender arrived, Harry Payne was out on patrol, so John MacGregor was virtually in charge. He had heard that a Cadet Patrol Officer was arriving from Wewak on the morning plane, so he was there to meet him. Before Ernest arrived, Jock thought he would be another eighteen-year-old from down south, wet behind the ears and without a clue. He duly arrived and proved to be something of a surprise not only to Jock, but to the rest of the station.

 Ernest Spender was a man in his late twenties of middle height with a spruce military bearing and a refined English accent. On leaving the plane, he approached Jock and introduced himself: “I’m Ernest Spender and I was told to report to Mr Payne.”  Jock put his hand out and said, “I’m MacGregor, call me Jock. I can see you are a Brit and I guess you know where I come from. Anyhow, Payne is out on patrol and I’m in charge while he’s away. I’ll have your gear sent to the house allocated to you. In the meantime, come with me to the Sub-District Office and I’ll introduce you to a few people.”

 When they got to the office, Allen Warburton was there with Karen Barnes who worked as a typist/secretary. Jock introduced Ernest to Allen and Karen. Before leaving the room, Karen said to Jock: “You must bring Ernest to the club after work.”  “Yes, I shall” said Jock.  She turned to Ernest with a big smile and said, “I’ll see you there.” To this Ernest replied “I’ll look forward to that.”  Jock excused himself as he had to attend to a problem Dr Jan Speer had in the hospital. Before going, he told Allen to show Ernest the ropes around the office and introduce him to Sub-Inspector Pius Kabui. 

 Warburton was relieved that Spender was not your usual callow Cadet Patrol Officer and was most impressed with what he gradually learned about him. To Allen it was clear that he had a military background and he was gratified to learn that he was a graduate of Sandhurst and had served in Northern Ireland, Germany and Malaya and to top it all off was an Old Carthusian. Allen was sufficiently in the know to realise that this did not mean that he had been a monk, but that he was an old boy of the Public School in England, Charterhouse. 

Both Allen and Karen were impressed with Ernest. Allen could see that Ernest was a man with a good pedigree and background. Karen was sexually attracted to him. She was thankful that John, her husband, was out on patrol and she pictured the possibility of a pleasant evening developing with Ernest. Spender was oblivious to the undercurrents he was creating. This was probably just as well. He was a committed Anglican of the old school with a devotion to the Book of Common Prayer. Karen’s desire “to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites” Ernest would have found rather daunting.

 MacGregor eventually returned to the office and told Spender to go and settle into his house, and have the rest of the day off, and he would see him later in the club. In the club, Spender met some of the town notables. 

 Karen Barnes was in determined conversation with Ernest Spender. Sam Bell and John Pietro called in briefly. Since MacGregor had arrived in Angoram, it was noticed that Pietro appeared to be far less aggressive and bellicose in his general manner. It was speculated that Pietro felt that MacGregor had got his measure and was not going to stand for too much “bullshit” and stand-over tactics. On this particular evening he was on his best behaviour. After an hour or so the gathering broke up and Ernest kindly offered to walk Karen home. MacGregor was heard to say: “You can never underestimate a British officer.”The truth of the matter as it transpired was a little less clear cut. Karen offered herself body and soul to Ernest. Well, perhaps not so much her soul but certainly her body was offered, and it is probably true that Ernest declined in a most gentlemanly manner. Karen and Ernest remained on the best of terms. Karen displayed nothing of the “woman scorned” syndrome and remained her beautiful friendly self. 

 As well as MacGregor and Spender, there were two drivers for the outboard motors and two general crew hands. Jock also took one police constable. They set off down the river early in the morning and arrived at their first stop in about an hour. This was Taway, a saw mill run by the Catholic Mission. Jock thought it would be a good idea to call in as the saw mill employed a number of workers from various villages and a little bit of political education might go a long way. The mill was managed by a lay missionary, Snowy Clarke. Jock considered him to be a good bloke. He had met him in Wewak and they had shared a few drinks at the pub. He said to Ernest: “I’m starting to change my mind about some of the Popi (Catholics). What I like about them is they all like a drink. That priest in Dreikikir, Casey can drink any self-respecting Protestant under the table, and he was always straight with me. The trouble with most of the Protestant missions you find in the Sepik is that they are a mob of wowsers, not like our Presbyterian ministers in Scotland who are always ready to share a dram with you.” Ernest wondered a little about Jock’s criterion in measuring who was acceptable, but he thought it best to keep his own counsel. 

  ”Ernest, I’ve been in the Territory much longer than you have, and I’ve always made it a rule of thumb to never let my job interfere with my drinking. Don’t worry, laddie, I’ll get you down the river soon enough.” Ernest considered his most diplomatic response would be to have another beer, which he duly did. Ernest was most impressed with Jock. In dealing with the natives, he demonstrated confidence and poise. Even now relaxed with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he exuded self-assurance and Gaelic charm. Ernest thought to himself, “No wonder we had so much trouble conquering them.” 

 Jock had not previously met Ted but it was obvious that Ted did not stand on formalities. He introduced Ernest, after which Ted said: “I did hear that there was a new pommy kiap in Angoram. I’ll see you at my place shortly.” 

 As the drinking progressed, Ted’s talk got bawdy especially when he asked Ernest if he had got his end in. At first Ernest thought that Ted must be referring to some sort of engineering operation of the big-end variety. When the true meaning of the question became obvious, Ernest was embarrassed and answered, “Of course not.” 

   Ernest Spender expressed his love in his dedication to The Book of Common Prayer, the Authorised Version of the Bible and a commitment to the Anglican tradition. He had passed through “the furnace of temptation” successfully. Jim McLaren had arranged an assignation with one of the princesses for Ernest, but he declined, in the most gentlemanly manner, to oblige the young lady. The town also learnt that Ernest was to be transferred to Port Moresby to join Special Branch in government intelligence. Allen Warburton arranged a farewell for him at the club and spoke of his excellent work while in the Sub-District, saying: “He was a man who refused to be compromised.” Allen also called for three cheers for Ernest and all the members joined in. 

  Ernest Spender left PNG after independence and returned to the United Kingdom with ideas of entering the church. Because of his age, and one suspects his rather independent nature, he found it difficult to find a bishop willing to sponsor him for the ministry. While his quest was going on, he met David Spangler who invited him to Findhorn in northern Scotland. At Findhorn Spangler had recently established a New Age community and there Ernest seemed to find his milieu. With Spangler, he became something of a guru. He was introduced to Alice Bailey’s earlier work on theosophical esotericism. It was   said that he collaborated with David Spangler in his great work, Revelation:The Birth of a New Age. Ernest became deeply involved in incarnational spirituality. This was a belief that ordinary lives can be both spiritual and sacred. He became a New-Age channeler and was said to be clairvoyantly aware. In fact, he became quite a hit conducting seminars around the country. 

At one of these seminars, he indirectly brushed up against his old life in PNG. While explaining his concepts concerning the existence of non-physical entities to a seminar audience in London, he became over demonstrative, and had a heart attack. He was rushed to nearby Guy’s Hospital, and referred to James Clayton who performed quintuple heart bypass surgery on him. The operation was a success and while Ernest was in recovery, he and James caught up on their PNG associations. The last heard of Ernest was that he was still at Findhorn and in his search for physical well-being, he was exploring body harmony, energy medicine and meditation.

Excerpts from Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk    

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