The Nelson tradition is upheld down south, except the foes were frisky young females

It took more than a bunch of sheilas from Southland to knock out his eye

Dunno if the Busted Blonde went to Southland Girls’ High School.

But if she happens to be an Old Girl, Alf invites her to explain the nature of the “traditional water fight” between the prefects of that establishment and the prefects from Southland Boys’ High School.

It seems improbable that school authorities would approve a battle of the sexes that involved the deployment of water-fight weaponry.

But – good grief – such an event is mentioned in a report at Stuff today.

Trouble is, important details are not mentioned, such as the origins of the water fight.

How and when did it start, and for what purpose was it started? How many combatants take part, what exactly is the nature of the weaponry they employ and how is the winner decided?

By the number of drownings, Alf wonders.

He can appreciate that a water fight be an attractive proposition in a city that typically does not go short of rain, although maybe they could have staged a swede fight.

Indeed, there is a whole lagoon of foul water at Waituna – so foul that it has no useful purpose other than providing armaments for warring prefects.

Mind you, the flinging of cow dung is another possibility, because there must be ample supplies of that, too, as the Southland dairy industry burgeons.

Alf’s musings about the water fight and exactly what is entailed was triggered by the Stuff report’s news that –

A teen who lost an eye during a water fight at a school sports day will return to class next week, two months after the accident.

Peter Ngatai, 17, a Southland Boys’ High School prefect, was taking part in the traditional water fight against Southland Girls’ High School prefects on February 21 when he was hit by a water balloon fired from a catapult.

“I went behind the Girls’ High group with some water balloons, and I went back to the Boys’ High group through the girls and didn’t realise I was in the line of fire. I got hit. I got dropped,” Peter said.

Admiral Nelson lost an eye too, of course, but he is generally credited with being a bright bugger in the tactics department.

The somewhat confusing explanation of what happened in the quote above suggests Peter was somewhat less adroit.

On the other hand, scraping with a bunch of stroppy Southland sheilas seems a much more formidable proposition than having to sink the French fleet.

He’s bloody lucky they didn’t do more damage.

He did not know the extent of his injuries and felt stinging pain after the hit. Taken by ambulance to Southland Hospital, then by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital, Peter had surgery on his left eye, which was badly damaged.

A month after the accident, Peter’s left eyeball was removed and replaced with a prosthetic one.

The Stuff report proceeds to deal with medical stuff – tissue and muscle were sewn around it so the prosthetic eyeball could move like a real one, and a plastic cover would soon be put on, painted to look like his right eye.

And Peter says the vision in his right eye, which was also injured, was not blurry but not sharp.

“I can definitely do a lot more than I could. I play a lot of sport and have lost my depth perception, so it is hard to catch a ball, because I don’t know where it is. I am practising a lot and it is getting better.”

He played cricket and rugby, and would have to wear wrap-around glasses to play basketball, he said.

The report essentially is about how the lad is coping with his disability and is admiring of his positive attitude.

But further down in the story, Boys’ High rector Ian Baldwin deals with the water fight.

The students involved were all briefed before the water fight and there was no indication that they were going to be using anything other than water balloons and buckets of water, he said.

“Unfortunately … they procured some catapults, which, at least in their view, was going to be a harmless and fun thing to do to fire the water balloons.”

Mr Baldwin said this information had all been included in the report he had submitted to the Labour Department.

He said the water fight would not be held next year.

And thus – in the name of health and safety – another splendid tradition comes to an ignominious halt.

As for the hapless Peter, Alf notes he is worried about how the loss of an eye might affect his career prospects – he had hoped to become a radiographer.

Dunno about the eyesight requirements for the radiography racket.

But a one-eyed lad could do well as a journalist in the Parliamentary Press Gallery where – like all the others – he coulde turn a blind eye to Alf’s contributions to the betterment of the country.

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