Friday, April 28, 2006

Go on, you know you want to

I got this irresistible meme from Cristy who got it from susoz who got it from WEG. Considering the alphabet is my fundamental code in life (see Unusual Skill or Talent), it makes a lot of sense as a life sketch.

Accent: What a friend once called Standard Australian University English Department. He has it too, so he didn't mean it as an insult. Once, when I'd been teaching in Melbourne for some years, I was correctly identified by accent as a South Australian -- by a profoundly deaf student who'd been lip-reading my lectures.

Booze: Relatively small amounts of really lovely booze. Heineken in a beer mood; G&T when it's hot; lovely South Australian wine, especially eccentric white varietals like pinot grigio and verdelho, and a couple of the local red fizzies -- Fox Creek Vixen and d'Arenberg's Peppermint Paddock, yum. UPDATE: how did I manage to leave out champagne white bubbles and single malt Scotch?

Chore I hate: Cleaning the bath and shower.

Dog or cat: Cat (der), but I also quite like (some) dogs, and I adore Border Collies.

Essential electronics: Computer.

Favourite cologne(s): Chanel No. 5, but I think of it as a 'fragrance'. I used to wear Tuscany, Beautiful and Knowing, but I think it was more about names than smell.

Gold or silver: I have to choose?

Hometown: Curramulka, South Australia, pop. approx 100.

Insomnia: Almost never, thank God.

Job title: Freelance writer and independent scholar.

Kids: None. A matter of leaving it too late and not being sufficiently organised, sufficiently ruthless or sufficiently intelligent about partner selection. Fortunately I don't regard my uterus as my defining organ.

Living arrangements: Untidy.

Most admirable trait: Either reliability or sense of humour, though you'd think they'd be mutually exclusive.

Number of sexual partners: Heh.

Overnight hospital stays: At least five or six. I've been around for quite a while now, and bodies wear out just like everything else.

Phobias: Used to be mildly phobic about moths. All my other fears are, alas, all too rational.

Quote: Depends on the day. I've always liked E.M. Forster's 'Separate those people who will hurt each other the most', and was once able to avert a major public social disaster on the strength of it.

Religion: I did a quiz once that said my world view made me half Buddhist and half Quaker. I actively dislike organised religion of any kind but have great reverence for ritual, so I probably respect religious observance more than others who dislike it less -- how convoluted is that? I do have a highly developed sense of the numinous, and of the spirituality of the non-human (animals, landscape). The Bloke calls me an animist, which is probably about right.

Siblings: Two sisters, one on either chronological side. I'm grateful for this because it meant I was raised as a person, not as 'the girl' or 'one of the girls'; I also regret it, because if I'd had a brother or two, I might have made fewer idiotic mistakes in life about men.

Time I wake up: When I've had enough sleep.

Unusual talent or skill: Proofreading. I'm very responsive to typography and all things alphabetical and punctuation-related, and was taught to proofread properly (line by line backwards, with a ruler and another person reading aloud including all the punctuation and spacing) by an old-school ex-Age journo called Hume Dow who used to work with George Johnston and Charmian Clift.

Vegetable I refuse to eat: None, if it would be rude.

Worst habit: Internet addiction

X-rays: Teeth, various girly bits, cervical spine (high-speed highway rollover, very nasty)

Yummy foods I make: Osso buco with gremolata and buttery mash; de luxe potato salad with homemade mayo; fresh cherry and toasted almond ice cream once every summer; Jane Grigson's OTT trifle with red summer fruits, syllabub topping and three different kinds of alcohol.

Zodiac sign: Taurus. I once went to see an astrologer ('There's a gypsy down on Bleecker Street / I went in to see her as a kind of joke' -- Joni Mitchell) who'd done my chart before the appointment, and when I arrived at her house there was a plateful of florentines from Acland Street and Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations. Tragic to be so predictable, even to an astrologer.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Regarding the Weatherpixie's cat

As you can see, we now have a less glammo and more homely weatherpixie. The last one was making me feel inadequate.

You may be wondering about the cat. Here is a bit from the Weatherpixie site's FAQ page:

'Q: Why is the cat sometimes there and sometimes not?

A: He is a cat. They're like that.'

Miles Franklin shortlist ...

... announced today. This was my exact prediction, but like a fool I didn't put any money on it.

Brian Castro, The Garden Book
Kate Grenville, The Secret River
Roger McDonald, The Ballad of Desmond Kale
Carrie Tiffany, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living
Brenda Walker, The Wing of Night

Garry Trudeau for President

Anyone who's been following the current 'B.D. Gets Counselling' storyline at Doonesbury online will be unsurprised by this bit of site feedback from yesterday:

'Today I started to cry when I read the strip. Fortunately, in San Francisco, someone weeping on the streetcar attracts no attention.'

The return of Private Kovco

If the price you have to pay to give the PM a personal spray is to have your dead soldier husband's body lost in transit in Kuwait, maybe I'll pass.

From here:

'Private Jake Kovco's body was expected to arrive in Melbourne early this morning on commercial flight from Kuwait.

However, a mix-up has seen the wrong casket loaded on the plane.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, who was due to meet the plane with the family of Private Kovco, says it is a terrible and unacceptable mistake, which will be thoroughly investigated.

... The Defence Minister says when he learnt of the mistake he flew to Sale, in south-east Victoria, to inform Private Kovco's widow of the error.

He says Prime Minister John Howard also spoke to Mrs Kovco about the mix-up last night.

"Mrs Kovco said, 'I would like to speak to the Prime Minister'. So I said, 'I'll arrange it'," he said.

"I rang the Prime Minister, I got through, I said 'I am with Mrs Kovco ... she would like to speak to you Prime Minister', he took the call and yes she gave him an earful in a polite Australian way, but he got the message."'

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Anzac Day portraits

Both my parents signed up for WW2 and both my grandfathers for WW1. The parents only just snuck in under the age wire -- both turned 18 in 1945 -- but the grandfathers, at 22 and 19 respectively, were sitting fair and square in the age bracket for the Great War when they both sailed off to it in 1916. Both were in France, both were gassed. My mother's father carried the bullet he took around with him till his death in 1970; my father's father got bad frostbite and ended up in Edinburgh City Hospital, from which he emerged with a Scottish fiancee and all his fingers and toes intact.

My mother's father George, my Grandad, was very tall, very thin and very deaf, with blue eyes and a shock of white hair. He drank strong red tea and addressed all of his four daughters and seven granddaughters, indiscriminately, as 'Bonny'. In his younger days he was in demand as a reciter of verse and had a notebook with all his favourite poems, all Australian, written out. He gave me my first lesson in literary criticism when I was five or six and we went for a walk in the bush somewhere around Gosford to listen to the bellbirds so I could hear for myself that Henry Kendall's 'running and ringing' wasn't a particularly good description of the sound they made.

It's through him that I'm connected to my two First Fleet adventurers and ancestral ratbags, Jane Langley and Thomas Chipp. He worked before the war as a horsebreaker, training Australian horses for the British Raj in India and once travelling with them on the ship to what was then Bombay. After the war he worked as a carpenter. I mostly remember him from the house in Arcadia Vale on Lake Macquarie where we made pilgrimage from South Australia to visit every summer. To this day I can't smell fresh woodshavings, passionfruit, tropical rain or a certain kind of sunblock cream without thinking of him.

My dad's father Leslie, called Papa, is the handsome sausage in the photo, on leave in Ireland in 1919. He looked in his later years like a cross between Robert Menzies and Tom Playford, who were in charge of Australia and South Australia respectively for the last few decades of his life. He approved of both of them. He was a third-generation South Australian farmer, living simply in the original homestead house, which was small and simple and nothing like as grand as it sounds (my dad, the only child, used to sleep in the closed-in veranda, kept warm by the cat).

He worked his backside off doing hard farm graft till he was about 65 and couldn't any more, but I don't remember him in any clothes other than beautiful, immaculate shirts and pants of cotton and wool, in muted colours like sage and slate. After he retired and they moved to Adelaide, he tended his roses and fruit trees with the same meticulous Virgo attention he'd always given to the wheat and sheep. He was donor and board member of a favoured children's charity and a judge in the sheepdog trials every September at the Adelaide Show. Every summer he made big pans of jam and trundled round his suburb carrying buckets of perfect peaches, apricots and nectarines to give away.

Whenever something bloody awful is happening in life, I remind myself that I've got their blood in my veins and will deal with it. Today seems like a good day to salute them.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The wisdom of Joan Rivers

'You got to try to look good. Life is shallow. Never mind an education -- take that money and get yourself a nose job. Men are stupid and like pretty things, and women should understand that.'

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Je suis Souris: vivent les Rats!

Occasionally some small chunk of schoolgirl French detaches itself iceberg-like from the continental shelf of my subconscious and drifts into view. This happened again the other day when I first heard on the radio that the Cruise-Holmes sprog had been called Suri -- which I (mis)heard as 'souris', the French word for 'mouse'.

How sweet, I thought dreamily. TomKat have called their kid Mouse.

Wait a minute ...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Carn the Ferrets

Heard late this afternoon on local ABC radio: 'That was Saturday afternoon football, and Saturday night football's coming up. After the news, settle in for the Lions and the Tigers. And this afternoon it's been the Doggies over the Cats.'

Spare a thought for any bewildered Bhutanese or flummoxed Finnish tourist who might have been listening in.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Whatever gets you through it

I've got a long, challenging and more than usually heterogeneous agenda today, which is why I'm sitting here cowering blogging instead of getting on with it. I'm going to need a little help.



Lottery win?

Prescription drugs?

Yes, they'd all be good. But here, after some consideration, is today's little helper of choice:

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Geraldine Brooks

I've just seen the brilliant and elegant Geraldine Brooks charming the socks off Tony Jones on Lateline as they chatted about her Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, awarded last weekend for her 2005 novel March.

For those who haven't caught up with this book yet, it's an imaginative re-creation of the absent father from Little Women, telling the story of his life during the year that the children's classic covers during the American Civil War. It covers a great deal of historical and philosophical ground and transforms Little Women into a dark and adult tale.

One reason I was particularly happy about this win for Brooks was that, along with Delia Falconer's The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers, also set in 19thC America, March is one of the most poetic, intellectually complex and coherently imagined Australian novels of 2005 but is nonetheless ineligible for the country's best-known and most prestigious fiction prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, whose rules as laid down in Franklin's will include the stipulation that the winning novel 'must deal with Australian life'. I expect to see Falconer's book get some international recognition as well before this year is out.

Speaking proper

Paul Bongiorno, of whom I am in general terms a fan, has just said (1) 'watched on' when he meant either 'watched' or 'looked on', (2) 'comprises of' when he meant either 'comprises' or 'is comprised of', and (3) 'Cambra' for 'Canberra' -- all in the space of a single report, the lead story on Ten's TV news.

As far as (1) and (2) are concerned he may merely have been reading out what someone else wrote. (Still not good enough; he should have corrected it on the fly -- and it shouldn't have been written in the first place). But the ubiquitous 'Cambra' must have been all his own work.

Some will say it serves me right for watching Ten in the first place instead of waiting for SBS and the ABC, but I like to know the news about what the media think the news is. I don't know why, I'm sure: it only makes me sad.

Besides, the ABC is in my personal doghouse at the moment in the wake of a rude, hostile and bullying interview with Tanya Plibersek conducted this morning by Adelaide ABC Radio's Matthew Abraham, who appears to believe that a woman's place is barefoot and pregnant.

On the implementation of long-term plans

To all those who might ever have dreamed of dropping out of their jobs and becoming full-time freelance writers: unless you are truly great or have a very lucky break, you'll have to live on a tiny and irregular amount of money. It will come from ten or fifteen or twenty different places, all with their own special paperwork, and when it comes to getting money out of them, their fingers will usually have to be pried apart and twisted. Be prepared, at any given time, to be owed anything between two and ten thousand dollars for work that was done and dusted months before.

None of which I mind, since I'm living the life I always wanted unless you count the rusting gutter and the ancient stove. But when the government starts paying already well-off women to stay at home and look after the bubs because $250,000 or more just isn't enough to make ends meet otherwise, I start to gibber and froth more than this government has ever made me do before. I bumped my bank balance back down to three figures yesterday in order to pay the taxation department money that is going to go to women with marble bathrooms.

Howard is invoking the nonsense rhetoric of 'choice', just as he does when defending the funding of private schools so they can build an extra velodrome next to the mock-Elizabethan school theatre. Yes, families on $250,000 ought to be able to choose to be even richer than they already are, providing the women, sorry, wives, stay at home.

I remember listening to the radio in the car one day back in the early 1990s when I still had a real job. Howard had just taken over as Liberal leader in the wake of the Hewson debacle, and he was banging on about the importance of The Family in a way that left his real, unspoken meaning in no doubt: Back in the kitchen, you upstart women, where you belong. Kinder, Kirche, Kuche and no mucking about. I felt strangely energised by this moment. He had shown his colours and identified himself as the person who was to be fought tooth and nail.

Well, we've lost. His government has been white-anting women's rights and women's freedoms in this country ever since they got in. Bit by bit, the rights of women to live their lives as they see fit have been eroded here and dismantled there, usually by stealth. Give the Health portfolio to a conservative Catholic; make it financially absurd for mothers to go to work; fork out one-off bonuses for women to pop out more little white babies to outnumber the ravening illegal hordes; downgrade all structures and provisions for women's affairs that have previously been put in place; talk up The Family, by which you mean the patriarchal family.

And now we have, well, what we have. Here you are, Tiffany, here's my quarterly tax. You should be able to buy a couple of gold-plated taps with it. Sorry about the blood.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Creative Writing 101

They say the opening sentence is the most important one you can write, and it's my usual test of whether I want to read a book or not. So here's an assortment from the current To Read pile; if I meditate on them as I type them out, I might be able to whittle it down a bit.

* Stephen Fry (yes, that Stephen Fry), The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within:
'I have a dark and dreadful secret.'

* Peter Rose, A Case of Knives:

* Ian McEwen, Saturday:
'Some hours before dawn Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet.'

* Linda Fairstein, Death Dance:
'"You think we've got a case?" Mercer Waller asked me.'

* Eric Hobsbawm, On History
'The least philosophically minded historians can hardly avoid general reflections about their subject.'

* Andrew Taylor, The Suffocating Night:
'Timing is all, Cameron Rowse used to say.'

* Helen MacDonald, Human Remains: Episodes in human dissection
'Here we sit, in the boiler room of an abandoned brewery in London's East End.'

And the winner is John Banville, for the first sentence of The Sea:

'They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide.'

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bookshop, Martha, moonshadow: Easter Saturday

Today in the bookshop where now I work on Saturdays there were few buyers but lots of browsers, plus a third category of people who thought I was an information bureau: the gaggle of teenage boys who were looking for the cinema up the road; the Danish tourist who couldn't find the travel agent; the woman who wanted to know when the woman in the shop next door was opening up for her Easter sale.

I sent a couple looking for specialist books on contemporary Australian furniture-making down to the Experimental Art Foundation, and a man who rang looking for books on Stanley Spencer up to Carrick Hill, where they've got at least one Spencer hung. I like working in the bookshop, it makes me feel competent. I've learned a few things already, like never to trust anyone in a baseball cap, especially if he has it on the right way around. (If he is a she, call the police. Not difficult, as they're only a few doors down; I could step outside and shout.)

The shop is in Hindley Street, which is, erm, colourful, and last week I had to go to the front door and give a drug-crazed busker who was camped on the doorstep and competing with my own choice of ambient music -- Bach cellos -- a choice: would he please either move a few doors down or let me tune his guitar properly. He moved.

Sufficiently knackered by the time I shut up shop this afternoon to be grateful for a nice night in, I settled down with some buttered noodles to RocKwiz which I have decided is one of the kewlest shows on TV. I was listening to Martha Wainwright's mum and auntie before young Martha was born (just), so it was such a treat to see and hear her being truly stunning live on the teeve -- that show is very unforgiving, with weaknesses exposed for all to see, but Wainwright just ate it up, a big sexy girl in a faux-retro dress, crooning impromptu and a capella into the mic in a way that would have made her mommy and her daddy and her big brother Rufus proud.

And then when I went outside late tonight on the romantic errand of taking the pre-loved cat litter out to the bin, the Easter moon was so full and bright and the sky so clear that the shadow I threw on the pavers was sharp-cut enough for me to check out the silhouette of my haircut.

Haircut, six out of ten. Martha, ten. Moonshine, eleven.

Thalassametry *

* I made this word up.

It wasn't until I was typing this out for a post to a Larvatus Prodeo literature thread that I remembered -- no, realised -- what a stupendous poem Wallace Stevens' 'The Idea of Order at Key West' really is. So here's the favourite bit again, just for no reason at all.

... tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting light.

Image from here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Easter Thursday afternoon in Adelaide

At the Haigh's factory and Visitors' Centre they'd hired three security staff, of whom two were outside in the tiny car park making sure that shoppers didn't overcrowd, bang into or kill each other. A third was inside, watching no doubt for opportunistic punters who might try shoving a chocolate chicken, fish or bilby up their jumpers. There was an actual policeman inside as well, but I think he was just buying chocotreats like the rest of us.

There would have been sixty or seventy people in the shop, but apart from the two feral children running amok under the feet of the ever-patient staff, all was orderly, more or less. I bought a half-egg with scorched almonds for my dad and stepmother, another half-egg with Freckles in it for one sister and a box of peppermint creams (dark) for the other, and a bag of chocolate frogs for R, who when I arrived at her house in the Hills had a bag of Haighs Aprichocs for me.

The drive up the freeway, especially since they put the tunnel in and flattened out the worst curves and slopes a bit, is glorious as long as you hold your nerve. (An Adelaidean by birth, I learned to drive in Melbourne, so am still appalled by the way my fellow croweaters drive: an indicator light means 'I just pulled over into your lane right in front of you', and someone else's indicator light means 'I can see you want to change lanes so I'm going to speed up so you can't get in front of me'. A speed limit sign does not apply to one's own car. Amber means green, and so does red.)

Ahem. The Adelaide Hills are full of deciduous trees, and we're at the precise cusp of autumn. It was like being in Rivendell.

At R's we drank champagne and watched a beautiful unidentified bird with pale grey wings, sky-blue tail and lemon-yellow breast share the seed bell hung in the sapling with a blue and red Adelaide Rosella. At the end of R's veranda the transparent pink glory-vine leaves hung down on strings like a curtain with the afternoon sunlight shining through them. When you take the freeway back down into the city, you can see the huge Adelaide sky stretching across to the sea -- yesterday there was soft air with end-of-summer warmth in it, and some high cloud the same soft grey as the wings of the mystery parrot.

Over on the up track of the freeway, the traffic was thickening up as people joined the exodus. On local ABC radio they were talking to a couple of blokes staffing the Driver Reviver stations outside Angaston and Naracoorte, where people were pulling over for a free coffee and a stretch and a chat, and a third ABC person was watching the holiday traffic head north up Port Wakefield Road on its way to Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas, the mid-North and the Flinders Ranges, and somewhere in there my friends L and M were heading for Port Broughton to go fishing, with Oscar the Border Collie in the back of the ute.

(All a bit like the Les Murray poem below, really, though this didn't occur to me while I was posting it.)

The ABC also kept cutting to someone giving safe-driving tips and here's one for anyone who might ever find it useful: if you're towing a caravan and see a truck coming in the other direction, don't slow down or move further to the side of the road, as people are apparently wont to do. Both of these things will destabilise the caravan. Keep to your course, and speed up just very slightly as you pass the truck; it will pull the van straight behind you.

It's a 45-minute drive home from R's and when I got home it was still light and no accidents had been reported from anywhere. The cats were asleep.

Happy Easter to all.

[Image from here.]

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Poetry makes nothing happen

... as W.H. Auden once said.

(However, he also once said 'I have no gun, but I can spit.')

Things are a tad fraught here chez Pav so to take everyone's mind off whatever has been disturbing their rest, here in honour of the US's Poetry Month is a favourite bit of a favourite poem: the final section of Les Murray's 'The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle'.

The stars of the holiday step out all over the sky.
People look up at them, out of their caravan doors and their campsites;
people look up from the farms, before going back; they gaze at their year's worth of stars.
The Cross hangs head-downward, out there over Markwell;
it turns upon the Still Place, the pivot of the Seasons, with one shoulder rising:
'Now I'm beginning to rise, with my Pointers and my Load ...'
hanging eastwards, it shines on the sawmills and the lakes, on the glasses of the Old People.
Looking at the Cross, the galaxy is over our left shoulder, slung up highest in the east;
there the Dog is following the Hunter; the Dog Star pulsing there above Forster; it shines down on the Bikies,
and on the boat-hire sheds, there at the place of the Oyster; the place of the Shark's Eggs and her Hide;
the Pleiades are pinned up high on the darkness, away back above the Manning;
they are shining on the two Blackbutt Trees, on the rotted river wharves, and on the towns;
standing there, above the water and the lucerne flats, at the place of the Families;
their light sprinkles down on Taree of the Lebanese shops, it mingles with the streetlights and their glare.
People recover the starlight, hitching north,
travelling north beyond the seasons, into that country of the Communes, and of the Banana:
the Flying Horse, the Rescued Girl, and the Bull, burning steadily above that country.
Now the New Moon is low down in the west, that remote direction of the Cattlemen,
and of the Saleyards, the place of steep clouds, and of the Rodeo;
the New Moon who has poured out her rain, the moon of the Planting-times.
People go outside and look at the stars, and at the melon-rind moon,
the Scorpion going down into the mountains, over there towards Waukivory, sinking into the tree-line,
in the time of the Rockmelons, and of the Holiday ...
the Cross is rising on his elbow, above the glow of the horizon,
carrying a small star in his pocket, he reclines there brilliantly,
above the Alum Mountain, and the lakes threaded on the Myall River, and above the Holiday.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Miscellaneous domestic developments: a list

* I came relatively late in life to gardening, and relatively late in gardening to bulbs. But this year, for the first time ever, I've just been alerted to a miracle in the front garden: last year's bulbs are putting out this year's shoots. Snowdrops and white ranunculi, if I remember rightly.

* If you move the potted lime tree out of the wind like all the books tell you to, it will look like a completely different person plant in less than 24 hours.

* After seventeen years of drinking coffee at the computer ... yes, it finally happened. More of a slosh than an actual spill, but still requiring the frantic tipping and holding upside-down of the keyboard to drain, some delicately wielded tissues and cotton buds, and a quick burst of the hair dryer. Girlie paraphernalia rules. (Thank God I don't take sugar.)

* The gutter problem is now urgent. (See Weatherpixie ... no, she's cleared up again. Mercurial Melbourne weather in Adders today.)

* Amazingly, one of the institutions that owe me money has paid up.

* Unfortunately, the other thing in the mailbox was a reminder from the vet that the tortoiseshells are due for their shots in May. Oh, the hiding under the furniture, the howling during the drive, the danger of the uncut claws of the inside cat in spite of the raffia scratching post. Last year the gentle one was so traumatised by the rectal thermometer that she tucked her nose under my armpit and hid her little face for shame.

[Snowdrop image from here, which looks like an ace place.]

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Vale Gene Pitney

I was as yet but a very young gel, pre-pubescent indeed, when the plangent and plaintive voice of Gene Pitney singing 'Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa' gave me my first-ever inkling of the many irregularities of adult life, of the weaknesses, forbidden thrills, deceptions and heartbreaks that lay ahead.

By the time I heard Dusty Springfield sing it, I had a slightly better idea of what it was about.

Apparently Pitney died after giving a great performance. It's the best death any musician could reasonably ask for.

The Aged P

Pavlov's Cat dragged herself guiltily away from the fascinations of the blogosphere as the ringing telephone in the other room brought the bolder of the tortoiseshells to the study doorway with that 'Aren't you going to answer the phone?' look on her face.

Just as well. PC had one 800-worder and one 1500-worder due by the end of the day and not only had she not yet started to write either of them, she still had 20 pages of the book left to read and 15 minutes of the video left to watch.

At the other end of the phone was PC's dad, 80 next birthday, calling from the supermarket where he was chauffering the sister with the newly-reconstructed right hand around while she did her shopping and such. He wanted to know if PC had just been trying to call him. 'By the time I got the mobile out of my pocket the bloody thing had stopped ringing.'

PC thought about the number of times she had tried to show him how to check for messages and ended up in a yelling match.

She thought about the number of times she had tried to explain that if ever she had been trying to call him, her name would appear on the screen. She knew this because she had set it up herself.

'Is W there?' said PC.

'Of course she's here, we're doing her shopping.'

'Give her the phone and let her check and see if there's a message,' PC said.

PC's dad began to huff and puff. 'Not going through that again,' he replied, gnomically. 'I don't take bloody messages.'

PC had a sudden flash of the day after her sixteenth birthday when he had tried to give her her first driving lesson and they had made it all of two hundred metres down the street where they lived before she had stopped the car, got out, slammed the door and stomped off home.

'Okay, fine,' she said soothingly. 'Forget I spoke. As you were.'

The Aged Parent began to chuckle.

PC hoped the call hadn't been about anything important.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Radio, too

Driving home just now (the car radio is like a box of chocolates ...), I heard Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies at ANU, being interviewed on the subject of our deteriorating relations in recent days with Indonesia. In reply to one particularly doom-laden question about possible future developments, Prof White took my breath away:

'It's scary,' he said, with an audibly straight face, 'to scenarioise.'

He's not American or anything, either.

'Verbing weirds language.' *

* Hobbes to Calvin, somewhere or other

Monday, April 03, 2006

Random red books

Intrigued by the shelving methods expounded by Laura of Sorrow at Sills Bend -- she hates the 'visual mess' of the usual bookshelf and instead groups her books by colour -- I have done some research into the mysteries of bibliobiography and have taken down, at random, one red book from each of the eleven bookshelves in the house to see if any conclusions can be drawn.

Here they are in alphabetical order of author, with a representative quotation from each:

Bade, Patrick, Femme Fatale: Images of evil and fascinating women

'Manet's Olympia, one of the masterpieces of Realist painting, depicts unmistakably and shockingly a modern Parisienne ... Olympia's challenging and unmaidenly stare no doubt had a great deal to do with the moral outrage which greeted the picture when it was first shown. The black cat which stands on the end of the bed and which, like Olympia, fixes the viewer with its gaze, brings a touch of Baudelairean diablerie and suggestions of black magic and the witch's familiar. Olympia is the Realist's version of the sphinx -- or the sphinx divided into its two component parts of cat and woman.'


Chaucer, Geoffrey, The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

'Ther was also a Nonne, a PRIORESSE,
That of hir smiling was ful simple and coy;
Hir gretteste ooth was but by Seinte Loy;
And she was cleped madame Eglantine.
Ful weel she soong the service divine,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe,
For Frenssh of Paris was to hir unknowe.'

Douglas, J.H., Denis Gerard and W. Thompson, Cassell's Compact English/French French/English Dictionary

'cattiness, cattishness, n. méchanceté, sournoiserie, f.'

Grafton, Sue, J is for Judgment

'I extended one arm and studied the artificial tan, which had faded by now to a pale peach. I raised one bare leg, noticing for the first time all the streaking around my ankle. Jesus, I could do with a shave. It looked as if I had taken to wearing angora knee socks.'

Grigson, Jane, Jane Grigson's Fruit Book

'In France, the little fruit huddled in their trays in neat rows came to be known as souris vegetales, vegetable mice, which I think is a better name than the recently-adopted "kiwi fruit". But I can see that if the American market was squeamish about "Chinese gooseberry" as a name -- on account of politics, or dislike of the ordinary gooseberry? -- it would take even less kindly to "vegetable mouse".'

Kerry, Cath, The Haigh's Book of Chocolate

'Terrine of three chocolate ice-creams on a mocha anglaise with hazelnut praline.'

Mansfield, Katherine, Letters and Journals

May 1917: 'My sticks of rhubarb were wrapped up in a copy of the Star containing Lloyd George's last, more than eloquent speech. As I snipped up the rhubarb my eye fell, was fixed and fastened on that sentence wherein he tells us that we have grasped our niblick and struck out for the open course. ... it is a dreadful thought that these immortal words should go down into the dreamless dust uncherished. I loved to think, as I put the rhubarb into the saucepan, that years hence when in the fullness of time, full of ripeness and wisdom, the Almighty sees fit to gather him into His bosom, some gentle stone-cutter living his quiet life in the little village that had known great David as a child would take a piece of fair white marble and engrave upon it two niblicks crossed and underneath:
In the hour of England's most imminent peril he grasped his Niblick and struck out for the Open Course.'

Would K.M. have made a sublime blogger or what?

de Maupassant, Guy, Short Stories

'Below us the flat rectangular roofs descended like giant steps, until they gave way to the sloping roofs of the European quarter. Beyond the latter appeared the masts of anchored ships, and beyond those again the sea, the open sea, reflecting the peaceful azure of the vault of heaven ... I watched the stars as they came out one by one in the darkening sky. They were barely visible, so far and faint were they; they hardly seemed fully kindled. A mild warmth, delicate as the brushing of a bird's wing, caressed us, and sometimes, more ardent, less ethereal, from over the peaks of Atlas, came the breath of the desert, charged with the air that speaks of Africa.'

Nabokov, Vladimir, Ada

'... the girl turned her attractive, though almost eyebrowless, face toward him and asked him if he would like a cup of tea before breakfast. No. What was her name? Blanche -- but Mlle Larivière called her "Cendrillon", because her stockings got so easily laddered, see, and because she broke and mislaid things, and confused flowers. His loose attire revealed his desire; that could not escape a girl's notice, even if colour-blind ...'

Piven, Joshua, and David Borgenicht, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel

'Hang on tight and pull the reins to one side to make the camel run in a circle. It will stop on its own.'

Gavin Wanganeen, legend

Freakishly talented, ludicrously beautiful, and reputedly the nicest bloke you could ever hope to meet.

Oh, and the first-ever Aboriginal player to chalk up 300 AFL games.

Here's a call from his early days:

"10 mins Salisbury picks up the ball at centre half back, but on this occasion he is caught flat footed by Wanganeen, whose tackle jolts the ball loose some 15 metres nearer to goal. Showing Salisbury a clean pair of heels, Wanganeen sprints forward, taps the ball ahead of himself once, and then gathers it up before arcing 'round onto his left foot and, from 25 metres out straight in front, prodding a low, purposeful drop punt right through the centre of the goals. Port Adelaide 11.8; Glenelg 7.8

14 mins Hodges comes careering out from goal to meet the ball at centre half forward. Crashing through a pack of players, he scoops the ball up and feeds off to Ginever, whose quick, almost reflex handball finds Gavin Wanganeen running in towards goal. Wanganeen closes to within 35 metres before, with great deliberation, stabbing the ball over the head of Ross Gibbs in the goal square for a magical 6 points. Port Adelaide 12.8; Glenelg 8.8"

Third quarter of the 1990 SANFL Grand Final.

He was seventeen.

Cleopatra, Queen of Denial

Longtime Labor liability Marn Fern is quoted in this morning's Age as having dismissed the poll figures on Julia Gillard's rising popularity as 'neither here nor there', while the corrupted and crippling Labor factions are, he said in their alleged defence, 'a fact of life'.

Way to go, Marn.