Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Stuff of Nightmares

When I saw the headline 'Coalition plans pensioner slug', I wondered if this was the kind of thing they had in mind:


It seemed preoccupied with devouring our lemon tree when I saw it, but I'm sure it could be persuaded to nibble at pensioners in its spare time, if asked nicely.

I am regularly amazed by the truly fantastic nature of so many creatures lurking in the most ordinary of suburban gardens. Even a fly, when you look at it closely, is a strange, strange thing.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Breaking News

I've been reading the papers again. Not for the first time I'm baffled by the antics of my local government:
The use of the word 'attracting' strikes me as slightly ill-chosen there, but more worrying is what exactly those 225 litres are being collected for. I do hope there is no mad plan for a centennial artwork which will use them as an essential ingredient.

Meanwhile, in the national papers, things continue to be all over the place .

Friday, 29 March 2013

Glamour and Anti-Glamour

I noticed this on a shampoo bottle in the shower this morning:

It made me laugh, although of course it shouldn't have. After all, if I'm setting culinary trends in my vegetable garden, who knows what they're up to out in the industrial suburb of Hume.

All the same, it seemed a ridiculous juxtaposition and made me think of my much loved, sadly missed friend Katherine, who used to point out newspaper advertisements for PAs in London which were headed 'London, Paris, New York' but on closer reading turned out to be mainly involved with booking tickets for various bosses to jet off to those and other glamorous locations (but never, for some reason, to Hume, ACT)

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Battered Penguins - Hemlock and After by Angus Wilson


Young fiction writers are often told that the secret of success is conflict. If this advice is correct then Hemlock and After, a novel that is about nothing less than the conflict between good and evil, ought to have been a terrific hit. Unfortunately for me though plot is less important than style, and I find Wilson's writing, like that of Iris Murdoch and, to a lesser extent, CP Snow, not entirely appealing. Despite the range and liveliness of Wilson's characterisation in  this book, and the detail and accuracy of his descriptions, for me the novel lacks warmth. This is also an  aspect of Murdoch's writing that strikes me each time I try her. It may be a quirk of mine, or, since they were contemporaries, there may have been something peculiar in the water when they were both alive.

The novel opens on the day that Bernard Sands, the book's central character, receives, 'Treasury's final confirmation of official financial backing' for 'the purchase and maintenance of Vardon Hall as a centre to provide leisure and support for' younger writers. For Bernard, a 'Grand Old Man of Letters' who has recently acknowledged his own homosexuality, this is the latest in a long line of successes. He is delighted, but as time passes his delight is diminished by a 'growing apprehension of evil that had begun this summer to disrupt his comprehension of the world.'

Bernard's apprehension of evil is hardly surprising given the monsters who surround him. There is horrible Mrs Wrigley, whose portrayal is so vivid I found it hard to convince myself, when I'd finished reading, that the lingering odour I thought I could detect existed only in my imagination :

"Despite the hot June evening, Mrs Wrigley's first action on getting back to the cottage was to light the paraffin stove. The smoke filled the stuffy airless little room. Mrs Wrigley's protuberant frog's eyes smarted and watered behind her thick steel-rimmed glasses. The smell of the paraffin spread to blend with the rank odour of stale sweat, the clinging scent from the half-empty tin of sardines on the table and the sickening, periodic whiffs mingled from bad meat and dog mess somewhere near the sink. These Mrs Wrigley did not notice. She took off her worn old red leather hat - disintegrating relic of the craftwork of some proud gentlewoman - revealing a close cropped mannish head of grey hair. She did not remove the old mackintosh which she wore over her bulky, shapeless form, although she was sweating with the long climb up the hill from the village. She put the kettle on the rusty gas stove which had been bought from some of Ron's winnings at the dogs only a year ago. While she waited for the kettle to boil she prodded with her boot at  an old collie dog with sores that lay in a basket under the table. Then pouring the boiling water into a teapot full of dead tea leaves, she drew the sardine tin towards her and liberally sprinkled the contents with vinegar.'

There is Hubert Rose who is engaged in a 'frenzied search to regain those wondrous secret childhood games beside which all the pleasures of the adult world were dust and ashes in his mouth', and who tries to justify his attempt to procure a small girl for himself with the argument that she 'was born into a world with nothing to offer her [and] is going to part with something she'll be giving away to Tom, Dick, and Harry in a couple of years, at an age when an ignorant society prefers to think she's bathed in childhood innocence instead of slum smut.'

Worst of all, there is dreadful Mrs Curry, 'an elephant figure of Mabel Lucie Attwell chubbiness', who resembles a 'huge, obscene parrot' and has a fondness for 'comfiness' and 'pretty little tiny things', furnishing her cottage with pictures of 'a bluebell wood, misty and shimmering, in which two tiny naked children sported' and 'a field of dancing daffodills into which a little girl had strayed without her clothes', about which she would observe, 'quite suddenly, "Poor little thing, she's lost her frillies"' or '"Naughty little things, they want a smack a bot, don't they?"' Her utterances, we are told, are always open to two interpretations, either pleasant or 'of such extreme obscenity that the mind reeled before it.' It is she who recognises Hubert Rose for what he is and sets about procuring what he desires.

In Mrs Curry's activities, Andrew O'Hagan pointed out recently in the London Review of Books, there are echoes of the Jimmy Savile affair. Strangely, there is an even closer parallel in the description of one character's fetishisation of her clothing, which mirrors the odd way in which Savile himself treated his dead mother's dresses:

"Celia Craddock preserved most of her old evening dresses ... going to her bedroom ... she would look at them, touch, stroke them and eventually would find herself seated on the floor, surrounded by the billowing pools of rich material."

Fortunately, in the midst of the ghastliness that takes up so much of the novel, there are moments of humour, some surprisingly Barbara Pym-like:

'"I can always get you turkey eggs when you want 'em," she heard Bill say. It was difficult to imagine when she would want them ...'

some more grim than Pym:

'She had been reminded ... of a long session with an analyst - that Bavarian, Dr Wengl, who had made you draw pictures - in which they had got stuck at her father's deathbed. Dr Wengl had insisted on her visualising the scene ... but they had got nowhere; all she could recall vividly was the intricate square of iron work at the bedhead.'

others possibly appealing only to an Antipodean English person, who recognises a peculiarly English kind of pleasure:

'It was more than comforting to find the famous vine so small and fruitless, the delphiniums so inferior and the shrubbery no more than a tangled mass of dusty St John's Wort. There was general conviction among the visitors that they could have done better at home. They settled down to an afternoon of satisfied disappointment'

or to those who have been to Leicester Square:

'The evening seemed cooler. Almost anywhere but Leicester Square would have reflected its summer beauty.'

Even more fortunately, amid the seemingly unrelenting corruption of the novel's characters, one figure of integrity emerges - Ella, the apparently insane wife of Bernard Sands, whose 'foggy picture of life' is pierced by 'letters and words [which] began to weave themselves - Minors, Lincoln, loins and then again minors, minors'. Once her 'armour of neurosis' is penetrated in this way, Ella rises to the challenge and sets out to frustrate Mrs Curry in her endeavours.

In case we have not picked up the message that in this mad world only the mad can be sane, Wilson underlines it by ensuring that, of all the characters, only Ella can see Mrs Curry as she actually is. Elsewhere the woman is described as 'a gigantic moored airship' of 'soft cushiony flesh'. She is given an almost supernatural, eternal quality when she is portrayed pondering her prey and asking herself, 'What, will the line stretch on to crack o'doom? All the love-starved and the needy, and all on bended knee'.

Through Ella's eyes, however, she shrinks back to normal size and becomes unthreatening, impotent and ordinary:

'She blinked at the huge figure before her in undisguised interest, taking in every detail of the broken veins around the nose and on the cheeks beneath the layer of powder, the old-fashioned shoes with pointed toes, the flesh forced into bulges around the corsets, 'Evil power' indeed, she thought with scorn ... Why! she was just someone's cook dressed up, certainly dishonest and probably a secret drinker.'

Ella is unafraid of Mrs Curry and is able to halt her progress temporarily. However, as Bernard recognises, Mrs Curry has 'a fertile imagination for evil'. She has not been defeated forever but only for the moment. The struggle against what she represents is neverending.

Despite this, Wilson permits a touch of optimism - or at least a reminder of a grandeur in existence beyond 'the rack of self-advancement and self-pity' on which people spend their lives in Bernard's social world - to creep into his book at its close. On the final page, he shows us Ella turning from the room she is in to look at the view beyond the window:

'It was really easier to concentrate on the clouds moving above and below like great golden snowdrifts'

she decides, and with that enigmatic sentence, hinting at distant splendour, the novel ends.


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

On Trend

Home from Sydney, I go out into the garden and pick kale:
The vegetable garden feels a long way from the glamour of the city, with its clattering cafes filled with tastefully (?) tattooed people wearing bright shiny city clothes.

I come inside and set down my harvest. I am on the point of shrugging on my usual provincial sackcloth when I notice this in the paper:

Is it possible that I'm not so far from the centre of the universe as I thought I was? Maybe all those months ago when I first planted my kale seeds, someone was watching. What if they are still? What next new wave have I already unleashed - unwittingly? Home-cut hair? Undusted furniture? Filthy ovens?

I'm going to have to be very careful from now on. It appears that I am a grade A hipster in disguise.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Goodness, Gracious

I've learnt something wonderful in the last few days. It is that some rare human beings are so kind to each other that it is almost impossible to believe.

On Friday, my brother, who has been in dialysis for almost three years, was given a kidney by a friend. The story of how the two of them became friends has a miraculous quality to it, but I won't go into that for the moment. The point is that my brother's friend made the decision some time ago that handing over a kidney was something that needed doing, and after that they would not be dissuaded. Ignoring the danger they were putting themselves in, undeterred by the knowledge of the considerable pain they would have to endure in the recovery period, they took no notice of my brother's protestations and went ahead and did it.

Forget celebrities. Forget all the shiny, sharp-elbowed people we are encouraged to be interested in. It is the rare individuals like my brother's friend that we need as models to aspire to. But of course they don't want adulation or attention. They don't think what they do is hard. They think it is simply a matter of doing the right thing.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Showtime

I was feeling a bit cross with myself for missing every single local country show this year. Once upon a time I used to go to Bungendore, Queanbeyan and all points east, west et cetera. I even used to compete, which was a delusional act, considering my horse had been rescued from the knackers and, despite being beautiful in my eyes, actually had a ewey neck, too long a back and a very uncertain, verging on crazy, temperament. Best hack he was never going to be. Later I got roped into my parents' activities with hackney ponies and horsedrawn vehicles. Unlike me, they were highly successful competitors, but success came at great cost to the mental health of all concerned. I will draw a veil over past traumas, merely observing that stress does not come any more intense than being part of my mother's team on a show day.

Anyway, despite my earlier mixed experiences, I have always remained very fond of a good show. It is their amateur nature that appeals to me, the knowledge that they are usually put together by a committee of overworked locals who probably wouldn't cut the mustard in a Paddington cafe but are willing to work like crazy for their little town's big day. I like the ridiculously long and legalistic list of rules that arrives if you ask for an application paper and I like the way the competition classes and codes of dress for competitors never change. I like the perennial griping about judging. Best of all, I love the crafts classes and the produce sections.

Which is why I was so pleased when I realised on my way to visit my mum on Saturday that the Yass Show was not yet over. Of course, I made a detour. Yass has one of the prettiest showgrounds around. How could I possibly give it a miss?

There was jumping, one of the few sports I absolutely love watching

There was the lovely old grandstand with its little wrought iron turrets (which I haven't captured very well)

There were kids with show bags

There were the kinds of teenage girls that terrified me at school until I got to know them

There was more jumping, hurray

There was poultry for those who fancy it (yes, that includes me)


There were fleeces (of course, it's Yass)

This one got second in the Super Fine category

Which makes you wonder just how fine the first prizewinner's fibre was

There was appalling art and dahlias - presided over, inappropriately by what looks like Dame Edna down the end (it's not the season for gladioli, I presume)

This was the deserving winner of '"Scentsual" - a dining table arrangement of scented flowers and/or foliage' (and here was me saying the classes never change)

This child is clearly overawed by the creative possibilities of boots (and Canberra eat your heart out - that 150 refers to Yass Show's 150th year, so there)

This, frankly, looked a mess to me - and it had no scent that I could detect. Nevertheless it took off second prize in 'Scentsual' (stand by for aforementioned griping about judges)

A very nice dinner party arrangement for Oma and Opa, although evoking in me at least slightly unfortunate memories of funeral home tributes 


The theme was recycling but this entrant just went a bit too far in their pursuit of the theme

whereas this person was very 'tasteful'

The lemon butter section was hotly contested, although preserving fruit seems to have dropped off as a Yass pastime

Someone I know who requested an entry form for the sponge class was told she must be either very good or very brave

Mysteriously, after the judging all the beer bottles were empty


The cakes that didn't win - is this where the phrase 'on the shelf' originated?


The advent of clingfilm has really done nothing to improve the viewing pleasure for spectators at the iced fancies table

But there's always a giant pumpkin or two to cheer you up


There are many mysteries in the universe and one is what exactly makes that plate of cherry tomatoes so much better than their rivals



Whereas it's obvious here that the judges have been influenced by novelty - the first prize winners are not traditional vegetable-garden chillies at all


A lovely frock for the slightly larger woman, should there ever be an international film premiere in Yass
They all looked the same to me, so I clearly don't know my onions

This breathtaking creation won the 'Garment - Adult' and was the Champion of all the entries in all the crafts sections. I am utterly speechless.

This nice man is one of those who I was talking about above - a stalwart of the show; he has been part of it for over 30 years

If you zoom in you can see him in the middle picture - I'm afraid Australia's sartorial standards have not improved over the years.

He was a really nice man who gave me good advice about growing kohl rabi and confided that his swedes had been a wash out this year. He even gave me this golden tomato, which he says is the tastiest variety he's ever grown. I was so touched by the gift that I can't bring myself to eat it. Which is very silly.

It is somewhat ironic that the growing of fruit and vegetables should be such an important part of country shows given that just outside the produce pavilions in side show alley nutrition of a quite different kind is being promoted - if you listen carefully you will actually hear the spruiker refer to a dagwood dog with tomato sauce as 'a three course meal on a stick'
It is quite unspeakable. No, no, it's all part of the fun (ugh).




Saturday, 16 March 2013

More Mystery

I've hesitated for a while about where to put this passage from the Sunday Telegraph. Is it a sub-editing mistake, (in which case it should by rights be appearing at www.absentproof.blogspot.com), or is there someone out there who actually believes that Piers Morgan is 'luminous':

Meanwhile, if you want genuine luminosity, look no further than this unkempt house around the corner from me:
Untended, unencouraged, that crowd of crocii battles through the Ainslie clay each season, dazzling passers-by:

Friday, 15 March 2013

Infinite Mystery

I'm pleased that in Italy (or, for pedants, within Italy - for the Vatican City is within, if not in, that country) two events have coincided. First, a new Pope has been chosen - rather quickly, it must be said, which was disappointing for all those of us


(possibly only me and Fellini?) interested in clerical attire (and was it just me or were the lace frocks and red and gold satin surplices donned for a couple of the dazzling spectacles - sorry, ceremonies - associated with the proceedings slightly tackier than in earlier years? Could the person in charge of Vatican procurement have decided to cut costs by choosing machine-made Chinese lace manufactured from synthetic fibres and nylon shop-bought satin rather than the genuine article?)

Anyway, as well as the charming sight of Argentinian nuns leaping for joy, we next learned that, just at the same time as the Catholic church was making its decision, Italian physicists elsewhere in the country were publishing their findings about the Higgs Boson or 'God' particle. Apparently it does exist, although that confirmation doesn't really seem to leave anyone very much the wiser.

Two approaches to the central mystery of existence, one country, one moment in time. I like it.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Words and Phrases - a Continuing Series

Speaking of fatness, (see yesterday), I've been wondering lately if, in our use of English, we are beginning to try to deny our own responsibility for things. The other day, for example, my husband pointed out that the word 'tragedy' is often used in place of 'outrage' - the case he was looking at was a news item about how hundreds of Australian sheep had been slaughtered very cruelly - and almost certainly unnecessarily - by some people in Pakistan.

My husband (as always) was right - this wasn't a tragedy. It wasn't the result of fate or any force beyond the power of humans to control. It was the result of the brutality of a whole lot of people who had actually signed agreements promising not to be brutal to Australian animals exported to their country - and of the incompetence of other people, employed by Australian taxpayers to ensure that those agreements were upheld.

In a similar fashion, no-one seems to be allowed to be fat any more. Which is not to say that there aren't a lot of fat people around. They remain very much with us, but now they have a condition - they are 'obese', which, perhaps because 'obesity' has a kind of pseudoscientific semi-medical aura around it,  is a diagnosis a doctor is allowed to give a patient, whereas these days telling someone they are 'fat' is pretty much taboo.  In some cases, of course, fatness (sorry, 'obesity'), may be due to an illness or a problem with glands et cetera, but in the majority of cases it is simply a failure of will.

But no, that's wrong. Apparently there is an 'obesity epidemic'. So that's all right. We're not to blame - after all an 'epidemic' is the result of infectious disease. All these poor people, they've simply caught 'obesity'. It's nothing to do with them.

Fatness, on the other hand, is not infectious. Fatness results from a lack of self-discipline, (another semi-taboo concept). It's not up to anyone's doctor to do something about it. It's not up to medical authorities to find a cure for the 'epidemic' of fat.

For those straying towards the tubby side of the spectrum, (and, before anyone accuses me of being unkind, I should point out that I include myself in that cohort), usually the solution is individual responsibility. It's a case of eat less, move more  and when considering eating something, remember my mother-in-law's maxim: 'When in doubt, don't.'

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Health Warning

Before I get accused of encouraging a wave of gluttony across the many nations of the world, I should point out that eating can make you fat. To illustrate the point, let us have a look at what Patrick Leigh Fermor saw when he went to the Hofbrauhaus in Munich in the winter of 1933/34 (from the book A Time of Gifts):

"The trunks of these feasting burghers were as wide as casks. The spread of their buttocks over the oak benches was not far short of a yard.and they branched at the loins into thighs as big as the torsos of ten-year-olds and arms on the same scale strained like bolsters at the confining serge. Chin and chest formed a single column, and each close-packed nape was creased with its three deceptive smiles. Every bristle had been cropped and shaven from their knobbly scalps. Except when five o'clock veiled them with shadow, surfaces as polished as ostriches' eggs reflected the lamplight. The frizzy hair of their wives was wrenched up from scarlet necks and pinned under slides and then hatted with green Bavarian trilbys and round one pair of elaphantine shoulders a little fox stole was clasped. The youngest of this group, resembling a matinee idol under some cruel spell, was the bulkiest. Under tumbling blonde curls his china blue eyes protruded from cheeks that might have been blown up with a bicycle pump, and cherry lips laid bare the sort of teeth that make children squeal. There was nothing bleary or stunned about their eyes. The setting may have reduced their size, but it keyed their glances to a sharper focus. Hands like bundles of sausages flew nimbly, packing in fork load on fork load of ham, salami, Frankfurt, krenwurst and blutwurst and stone tankards were lifted for long swallows of liquid which sprang out again instantaneously on cheek and brow. They might have been competing with stop watches, and their voices, only partly gagged by the cheekfuls of good things they were grinding down, grew louder while their unmodulated laughter jarred the air in frequent claps. Pumpernickel and aniseed roles and bretzels breached all the slack moments but supplies always came through before a true lull threatened. Huge oval dishes, laden with schweinebraten, potatoes, sauerkraut, red cabbage and dumplings were laid in front of each diner. They were followed by colossal joints of meat – unclassifiable helpings which, when they were picked clean, shone on the scoured chargers like calves' pelvises or the bones of elephants. Waitresses with the build of weight lifters and all-in wrestlers whirled this provender along and features dripped and glittered like faces at an ogre's banquet but all too soon the table was an empty boneyard once more, sound faltered, a look of bereavement clouded those small eyes and there was a brief hint of sorrow in the air."


Monday, 11 March 2013

Cake Time

Following on from yesterday's delicious lunch description from Jane Gardam, here is tea, as promised:

"For tea ... we had small thick triangles of rye bread and butter, small thin triangles of white bread and butter. scones with butter and home-made strawberry jam in a glass dish with the strawberries hanging whole in the jelly, suspended like rubies. We had Sally Lunn and Sad Mary and sponge cake with jam in the middle and icing on top - plain white. We had fresh lemon-curd tarts and raspberry tarts, each the size of a fifty-pence piece and light as flakes. We had an English Swiss roll, not sticky and with bitter chocolate filling, not sickly black cherries. And - bother the boy, it had taken five hours - we had an old English Lenten Simnel cake soaking with soft marchpane, soft as honey, light as air ... 'You are of course mad,' said my husband, 'but at least there is now one Swiss in the world who won't forget that the English respect food.'"

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Another Reading Feast

Having spent many years bewildered by the lack of publicity received by the writer Jane Gardam, I rather rashly offered to do a 1p review of something by her for the Dabbler the other day. As a result, I'm rereading her collection of short stories, Going into a House Darkly and I've just come across a great food passage that I really ought to have included in this post, had I remembered it.

It is part of a story about a woman who is trying to prepare a very bright young Swiss boy for a Common Entrance exam, which includes an imaginative essay element. They boy appears to have no imagination and the English relatives with whom he lives cook nothing but baked beans - usually burnt.  The teacher decides to invite him to lunch and give him really good food, in the hope that it may 'unlock one shred of his soul'.

This is what she gives him:

"We had ... little lemon soles, hot and curly and light and crisp, in breadcrumbs and with lemon juice. Then we had sirloin of Scotch beef, not en croute but just as juicy; and green vegetables and small carrots with parsley butter and chopped, uncooked onion. The potatoes ... I parboiled and then shoved far back in the top of the oven for seventeen minutes in hot olive oil ... [They] came out of the Aga like golden, crunchy, soft-centred flowers. Then we had redcurrant water ice, the redcurrants from Rusham Farm, and for the damson tart a jug of cream from Solley's Farm at Worth, thick and yellow. The cheeses were Cheddar - I'd spent a long time choosing the finest of five good ones - a local chevre and a perfect double Gloucester.

The pastry for the tart was the best I had ever made. I'd iced the knife as well as the water and the bowl. It was crisp but flaky. Almost transparent. The damsons sat darkly inside it basking in a congealing sticky lake of crimson juice and sprinkled with hard brown sugar. They looked comfortable as fat black ladies in a spa."

She also gives him tea, which I will save for tomorrow.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Love in a Time of Fizzy Drinks

Coming out of the shop just now, I noticed three kids sitting in a row on the brick bench outside, all wearing school uniform. There were two boys of about 12 or 13 and a very excitable girl, who I wouldn't have thought was much more than 10, maybe 11. They were sharing a bottle of one of those sweet yellow drinks - Tango, possibly, or Sprite? The girl seemed to be doing most of the drinking and possibly it was the yellow in the drink that had produced the wild look in her eye. Or maybe it was just a hot Friday afternoon at the end of a long school week.

Anyway, while I unlocked my bike, I overheard the three of them having this conversation:

First boy: Sinead is soooo ugly.
Girl: You asked her out, didn't you?
First boy: Yeah, and she said she'd go out with me, but then she wouldn't and she went out with Henry instead.
Girl: Yeah, and Sinead said she kissed Henry and then Henry kissed her, and Dimity said ...
Second boy, interrupting: No, no, that's not what happened. What happened was Sinead kissed Henry on the cheek and then Henry was like, 'WHAT WAS THAT?'
First boy: Sinead is soooo ugly.

We've come a long way, baby.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Joy of Babel III

As I've mentioned before, while I enjoy learning languages, I'm not very good at it. Which is why I identified very much with this passage from Simon Winder's introduction to his book called Germania:

"...for many years I charged at language after language in the manner of someone running up against some massively barred and studded fortress door: Italian, Latin, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic (in a moment of lunatic lack of self-knowledge), German, Ancient Greek - a catalogue of complete pointlessness."

Winder goes on to explain that he did manage to master Arabic script but then:

"... there was an awful awakening - Arabic beyond the script was even worse than French ... There was an unhappy sequel to this. I still vividly remember wandering around the abbey of St-Denis, north of Paris, where all the French kings were buried, and vowing to improve my knowledge of medieval monarchs. I had the sequence down from 1550 or so (everyone's called Louis, in order, with a handful of easily remembered, vivid exceptions) - but the huge accumulation of earlier people called Louis or Charles was a tangle.

This was when I realised the limits of the human brain. I had always assumed I could indefinitely add stuff - battles, capital cities, dynasties. As I loaded up those Merovingian and Capetian kings I felt my brain, like some desperately rubbish, home-assembled bathroom shelf, lurch suddenly to one side, and all the Arabic alphabet fall off the other end. Shortly after that the whole thing came off the wall, taking the pointless Merovingians with it too."

I know that feeling. Oh dear yes, I know that feeling very, very well.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Yoof of All Ages

Sitting in my front window, like some latter day Miss Matty from Cranford - although, being latter day, rather than fiddling around trying to impress my neighbours with the numbers of candles I can afford to light, I am actually playing with my lap top while half watching the news - I am disturbed by the sound of drug addicts bellowing at each other on their way up to get their daily methadone.

But, hang on, it's quarter past seven in the evening. The chemist is closed. And, on cue, the bellowers appear in my field of vision, and they turn out to be 'young people', a boy on a bike and a boy and a girl with a backpack on the pavement.

But they sounded exactly like the morning chorus drug addicts. My brilliant conclusion - that the drug addicts are actually just stuck in permanent arrested development. No wonder they seek escape in oblivion. I shudder at the thought of being trapped forever as my silly teenage self.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Ford Madox Ford Meets Oz Commercial TV

I do wonder what the author of Parade's End would think about his narrative being interrupted by the Lotto draw. I also wonder how interested the Channel Nine audience will be in the adventures of Christopher Tietjens:




Saturday, 2 March 2013

Sorry

I apologise to any commenters who find the word recognition thing annoying. I find the word recognition thing annoying too, but I've had to put it in thanks to a persistent pest called hajjundumrah who, despite the name, appears to deal entirely in epoxy coating, concreting et cetera, and operates in the Sydney area. I should avoid them at all costs. They must have too little to do if they are wasting their time trying to advertise on this blog.