Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Knight of the Burning Pestle

Happy Christmas, everyone. I spent the day improving relations with my parents' neighbours by tuning a set of sore-neglected bagpipes. My brother harmonised with the whipper-snipper. If anyone is to blame for this, it's the aforementioned parents. They bought the bagpipes (18 years ago). They bought the whipper-snipper (this month). They produced the offending offspring (at various junctures between 1969 and 1978). Moral: if you don't want noisy descendants, don't have any; if you do have them, buy them quiet toys.

Meanwhile, back in the land of pottering around the internet, I've just become aware of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, first staged in 1607. Why I've never heard of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, but I hear on an almost weekly basis of King Lear (which first rolled off the presses the following year) beats me, unless it's something to do with branding. (That's "branding" as in "marketing-a-brand", in this case, Shakespeare TM, not "branding" as in burning one's initials into a wee calfie's back leg or nuffing.) King Lear, I hereby declare, at the risk of alienating whole generations of Higher School Certificate students and Harold Blooms, is a dud. It's nothing but eye-gouging and bad parenting and wise-guy/fool inversions and threatened incest and battles and sibling rivalry and existential angst and malicious weather and discrimination against kids whose parents weren't married and lines like "Out, vile jelly!", which shouldn't be spake directly after lunch.

The Knight of the Burning Pestle, on the other hand, has pestles. You can download him here. I will give a dollar to anyone prepared to stage this play. If your name is Baz Luhrmann, I'll make it two dollars.

Monday, 24 December 2007

The Gentle Art of Eating Christmas Cake

When I left the parental abode for the Leichhardt Ladies' Hostel #1 (before it became the Petersham Ladies' & Periodic Gent's Hostel, then the Leichhardt Ladies' Hostel #2, Slightly Closer to Annandale), it was a December. I was wide-eyed and giddy at the prospect of kibbutzing it up with three comrades, a cat and the über-roaches of the Inner West. Me mum (blessed be her name) was convinced that I would starve to death within days, and so she brought into being the biggest, brandy-soddenest, almond-studdedest Christmas cake the world hath ever known. It was my sharehouse dowry. I put it on the kitchen table in the Leichhardt Ladies' Hostel, and repaired into my room to discuss Schopenhauer with the local arthropods. The next morning, three layers of glad wrap had been gnawed away by a feline tooth, the top of the cake bore catmouthsized depressions, Max purred plumply from a kitchen chair.

This year I have lived on my ownsome. No cat, no cockroaches, no fellow house-citizens. And me mum (blessed be her name) made me the same old Christmas cake she's made every year for the last seven years. She said something about my taking some in to work. And feeding it to my neighbours.

Neighbours? Colleagues? Pah! Here lie the remains of me mum's Christmas cake 07, the entirety of which was consumed over a two week period within the walls of Hôtel Harlot. I say this with pride. This was a sturdy cake.

Naysayers: marzipans at twelve paces.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Buy FIFTEEN; get ONE free!

Good old FlyBuys. For a year's worth of card-swiping every time I buy lentils and dried shitake mushrooms at Coles, I've racked up a grand total of 876 points. Just another twenty-one thousand one hundred and twenty-four points and I can fly for free to Adelaide. By my calculations, assuming a steady rate of grocery purchasing over the next few decades, I'll be in Adelaide by the year 2032. Those who are tempted to despair at these figures should despair not, because as a special seasonal gift to me, FlyBuys will post me a $20 voucher if I spend $300 at Coles in the merrie month of December. Check out that ratio, ladies and gees. 1:15. Merry Christmas.

The Language of Goethe

Which is better: "safely stops your dog with just one click", or "stoppt ihren Hund sicher auf Knopfdruck"?

Henceforth this blog shall be known as Die Lexikonische Dirne.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The Citizens Electoral Council of Australee Strikes Again

Tell Bali to pack up and go home. News just in from the Citizens Electoral Council: "Argentine scientists say sun, not humans, behind climate change". Thank goodness for that. And printed on 100% recycled email too.

I suggest we excise a suitable portion of the sun (exact quantities to be determined by Argentine scientists), seal it in lead boxes and bury it at Maralinga or send it to another solar system or something. Then we can stop all this nonsense about peat bogs, and get on with solving real problems, like how to protect small children from the terrorist recruitment cells infiltrating myspace.

Who are these people and how did they get my email address?

Sunday, 16 December 2007

I move in elevated circles

I was chatting to my friend Quentin yesterday, when suddenly, halfway through a mouthful of watercress, he asked, "Is it possible for someone to be an impostor as an impostor?" What did Quentin mean, you may well ask. I wasn't sure either, so I telephoned Tama, a logician with the philosophy department at Melbourne University, whom I happen to know because his cohabitrix makes a damned fine chickpea bake. I intercepted Tama right in the middle of some philosophising, even though it was a Saturday. Someone should notify the union. Meanwhile ...

"Tama," I said, "Is it possible for someone to be an impostor as an impostor?"

"What do you mean?" he said.

"Good point," I said.

"Instead of thinking about impostors imposting as impostors, why don't you think about George Bush's coinage, 'misunderestimation'?" he said.

And so I did. I'm still not sure if "misunderestimation" means falsely underestimating, and thus estimating correctly (or perhaps overestimating), or whether it means it's high time they had their next presidential election, those Americanians.

Unrelatedly, today I saw the name of the vicar at Moonee Ponds Anglican Church: the Rev. Bill A. Beagley. I would pay cold hard cash to have Beagley as my surname.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Sneak Preview

I am doing a book about William Blake. Most of the book was written by dead people. I am prefacing their observations with my own observations, wherein I observe what I think they're observing and why I think they're observing the way they do and I explain how they knew Billy B., or (more commonly) how they came to know of him, and I venture generalisations about the fate of the Blake Question (visionary, madman, or darn-tootin' ironist?*) throughout the nineteenth century. It's meant to be (so say the publishers) a run of the dark satanic mill reference book, this book, but to me it's a biographies' biography, festooned and metatextualated to its back teeth.

Here are some things (they make good Christmas presents):

1. In 1824, Bernard Barton wrote to Charles Lamb to ask if he had written Blake’s 'The Chimney Sweeper', which Lamb had contributed to an anthology for chimney sweepers. Try to find a book like that in Borders these days. They just don't do anthologies for chimney sweepers the way they used to.

2. In Algernon Charles Swinburne's exposition of Blake's sexual libertarianism, he insists that there is "no prurience of porcine appetite for rotten apples ... [in this] sensual doctrine". If my surname were Swineburne, I'd watch where I put the word "porcine".

3. George Bernard Shaw calls Blake "an avowed Diabolonian". "Diabolonian" means "Satanist", but it's hard to take seriously a word that sounds so much like "abalone". I'm wondering if this was Shaw's point. (Probably not, for the record.)

* They don't tend to notice the irony in the nineteenth century. Their Blake's either stark bollocky (naked in the back garden with Mrs B.) mad or the clairvoyant's clairvoyant. Later on, when the Victorians start getting all art-for-art's-sake-ish, they coopt him as the patron saint of a cult of beauty, which seems to miss all sorts of points. But fair enough. It takes a lot of mental energy to wear velveteen knickerbockers.

Friday, 7 December 2007

The Aged P.

In honour of the Pa's birthday (yesterday), here's a ditty selected at random from his repertoire of Quotations for All Occasions:

Up on the mountain
Green grows the grass.
Down came a billygoat
Sliding on his - overcoat.

(Best served aloud, in the presence of eight-year-olds.)

Monday, 3 December 2007

Grumpy old Harlot exceeds 100-character limit

God curse the mobile Phone,
Sony and Ericsson,
God curse that Phone.
Drop it - splash! - in the loo,
Bash it with four by two,
Store it inside a shoe:
God curse That Phone.

O Lord, how to express,
In just an SMS,
What I disdain?;
Is it the ring tones six?,
Phone-induced nervous tics?;
Or nudie voda-pix?:
Oh Lord, the pain.

Oh God, thou hear'st us grown
Bring back the telephone,
The landline phone.
People wrote "you", not "u",
Did not ring from Peru*
To ask about shampoo:
God kill the Phone.

* Not that I'd mind being texted from Peru. If you're in Peru, please send me a text. Don't ask about shampoo, though. Ask about William Blake or something.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

A note to the keepers of the almanac

This website is one year old today. Happy birthday, this website.

Upon Being Invoiced by the Australian Taxation Office for LOTS OF MONEY, payable by the 14th December: ways to console oneself

One of this continent's great and glorious institutions, the Australian Taxation Office, recently informed me that I owe the nation a hefty lump of mine filthy lucre. Here, let me not overstate the lumpeness or filth, or, indeed, lucrativity, of my filthy lucre, which is not such that I own any or all of: a house, motorised transport, a food processor. I like to think that, were my owings on account of some good and right tax (like an income-indexed income tax), I would have greeted this correspondence from the Australian Taxation Office with a little leap, a quiet joy, the thought that I too could give something back to the nation at whose teat I've suckled. But nay, my owings are on account of a wicked and perverse tax, and even though my filthy lucre will dribble into the same, one, great, transcendent treasury, I will not feel spiritually cleansed by the dribbling. I will feel like a lettuce leaf nibbled round the edges by slugs. I will briefly contemplate purchasing private health insurance so as to avoid paying the wicked and perverse tax, even though I visit a doctor approximately once every two years, and then I will remember that the only reason this tax is wicked and perverse is because it tempts us to buy private health insurance and so deprive the state of the money that the wicked and perverse tax extracts from us.

Here is how I will console myself:

1. I will think about the words "thrift" and "penury". These are two of my favourite words. If my son, Witlof, should ever acquire siblings, I will call them Thrift and Penury.

2. I will find the button that fell off my trousers in the wash. I will do this by looking in the washing machine. Then I will sew it back on again.

3. I will read this article about how schools in Amerikay were forced by underfunding to cut the past tense from their language programs and I will be glad that I am possibly funding antipodean language programs, even if via a wicked and perverse tax instead of via a good and right tax.

4. I will remind myself that many people who do not own food processors lead full and happy lives.

5. I will receive my telephone bill and it will tell me that I am in credit (this is my plan, anyway).

6. I will loudly deplore the wicked and perverse tax, while simultaneously preaching the merits of the income-indexed income tax, and I will say things like "The tax bracket into which I fall should be taxed at a higher rate, but the wicked and perverse tax should be abolished", which I may come to regret later.

7. I will eat marrows, ostentatiously, perhaps for lunch at work.

Taxing times

I've always been in favour of tax, much as I've always been in favour of taxidermy. Any system that can redistribute wealth and fund the ABC's screening of the National Chess Championship and embalm one's late ocelot for the benefit of posterity gets my full and unreserved support. Actually, scrap that about taxidermy. Taxidermy can get stuffed. (No! Me? Plagiarise a pun? Surely not.) Meanwhile, seeing we're qualifying, let's just amend my enthusiasm for tax and say that there are taxes (like income-indexed income tax) and then there are taxes (like the medicare levy surplus), and some of them (like income-indexed income tax) are good and right, as, by the way, are mangoes, puppies and well-turned rhyming couplets, but some of them (like the medicare levy surplus, which you don't have to pay if you get private health insurance, even if the cost of your private health insurance is less than the tax would be) are wicked and perverse, like black puddings, intestinal parasites, and sentences of undue convolution. These taxes, the wicked and perverse ones, are used to persuade high income earners to fling their money at private health insurers rather than giving it to the government, whence it could funnel into the public health system. Another thing: I prefer being taxed when I suspect my money's being spent on walking frames, Bogong moth husbandry, and maths teachers; I'm altogether less enthusiastic about being taxed when I suspect the dosh of which I've been brief custodian turns into landmines, prime-ministerial eyebrow pruning, and concentration camps for refugees.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

In my marrow

Summer tiiiimmmmme, and the livin' is queazy, partly because I just bought a kilo of marrows for fifty cents down the Thornbury Veg Emporium and now I gotta eat 'em. While I was there I acquired my first ever witlof, a little leafy number shaped like a tulip. Depending how it responds to sesame seed oil, I'm thinking Witlof could be the name for my first born.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

It's all Geek to me

I had the enormous pleasure of sitting at a tressle table in a hall today, notionally in order to field questions from high school English teachers interested in how we can help them hone their skills as lit-critters, but in fact in order to get some of the free food. My favourite question (betwixt morsels) was: "Does your English department offer Gaelic?" Indeed we do, Sir. Amongst our fourteen full-time academic staff there just so happen to be no fewer than seven specialists in regional variants of Irish Gaelic, three of them fluent in Scots Gaelic, and one the author of a doctoral dissertation modestly titled "Rodents and Rowboats: forces for change amongst the Gaelic vowels of the Outer Hebrides". (Now that, lemmings and gerbilmen, is a thesis waiting to happen. You betcha.)

Relevance of title? None. So how about I type it again? It's all Geek to me. Oh yes it is.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

How to talk to dogs

You are sitting on the toilet. Your underpants are slung low around your ankles. They are white and clean. The newspaper is folded into quarters on your lap, and you are completing the crossword puzzle with a blue biro. You are slowly, satisfyingly evacuating your bowels and you have four more clues to solve. Alfred noses open the door, which you haven’t quite shut, because Alfred and you are the only ones home. You do not acknowledge Alfred’s presence because this is supposed to be a quiet moment between you, your digestive system, and D.A., who compiled the crossword. Alfred tries to get your attention. He does this by dropping a wet tennis ball in your underpants. Your underpants are like a hammock, designed especially for tennis balls. The tennis ball is wet because it has been in Alfred’s mouth and thus marinated in Alfred’s slobber. Other things that have been in Alfred’s mouth over the past four days include sock, stick, wombat dung, raw cow flesh, dog food, your brother's ear. There is now a wet tennis ball in your underpants, possibly bearing microbial traces of whatever lives in wombat intestines. Do you say anything to Alfred, and if so, what?

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Wisdom Teeth

Quoting from one's students' essays on one's website (yea verily even without their permission or knowledge) is unethical. Forsooth, it is. But as it is high time for tea (or high tea time), and I am still at work marking my students' essays, and there is no prospect of going home anytime in the next - ooh - thirty-six hours, the usual moral strictures do not apply. Also, like Saint Augustine, who prayed for chastity and continence, but not yet, I let my digits clatter away at yon keyboard, hoping that my nobler nature will surface just as soon as I've pressed "publish".

Meanwhile, I give you the tippety-toppety best sentence from the latest bunch of freshperson disquisitions on autobiography. It's this: "I don't write diaries because I saw many movies in which the guy was found guilty by the evidence in his diary, so I don't think writing diaries is a good habit anyhow." I hereby nominate this sentence for the Alumni Association's Excellence in B-Grade-Espionage-Flick-Induced Paranoia Award.

While I'm at it, cast your een over this contender for the Prioritisers' Choice Award: "I myself have often thought that relationships are more important than trivial issues." Yes. I myself have often thought that important things are more important than unimportant things too.

And this heart-rending lament: "Oblivion is one of the greatest gifts God gives to men [...] People with great memories always find it hurts."

And for sheer excellence in noun-to-adjective transition surgery: "As well as the use of the first person, speaking of oneself in the third person can imply a somewhat humility element to the writing."

My head hurts.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Charge of the Light Wombat Brigade

The silence round these parts has not been the sound of me chewing my silkworm way through the mulberry leafitude of yon collective first year essay. No. It has been the sound of me riding a giant wooden wombat round the streets of Dame Nellie Melbourne.

Ladies and gennelmen, I bring you "The Charge of the Light Wombat Brigade" (one verse only):

Half a league, half a league,
Riding the wombat
Into the burrow of Swanston
Street, unto combat.
"Go, trusty quadruped!"
"Charge for the lights", she said.
Onto the tram, they lept.
Everyone wondered.

N.B. The above photograph is not to be circulated amongst employers, present or future, second cousins, prospective friends, or shown to the man next door.

Friday, 16 November 2007

The No. 1 Getting-Up-My-Goatical Rhetorical Manoeuvre This Election Season

If I see or hear the expression "Make no mistake" one more time this election - especially if it comes out of the mouths of the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia, who insist on enspamulating mine inbox with premasticated policy tripe, and deserve an honorary mention for inventive use of the word, "swindle", as in "the 'climate change' swindle run by the British financial oligarchy and supported by our complicit mainstream media" (pardon? did someone mention olive-garchies?) - I will - I will do something drastic - like phone up the Amsterdam Hilton and ask if they'll provide the venue and the chocolate for a week-long bed-in.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Free the Radicals

I drank some apple juice yesterday, the label on side of bottle of which informed me that I had consumed three times 200% of my Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin C. Then I ate 5 peaches over an eight hour period.

Take that, scurvy.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Further thoughts on the horseploitation

1. Next year, I urge you all to observe Melbourne Cupcake Day. If a good patty cake with pink icing doesn't stop the nation, then I'm migrating to Finland.

2. The French word for horse is cheval. The French word for hat is chapeau. Say "chapeau" very quickly and quietly, with seventeen chestnuts stuffed in each of your cheek pouches, and I guarantee that your auditor will think you said "cheval". I know this, because I conducted an independent enquiry in a lab coat.

I have a theory. My theory is that the Melbourne Cup was never meant to be a horse race. It was meant to be a hat race. The inaugurator of the Melbourne Cup, a Parisian milliner, had seventeen chestnuts stuffed in each of her cheek pouches, and a very squeaky voice, and when she said "chapeau", many thought she said "cheval", and proceeded to toss away their hats in exchange for hosses. You will observe, however, that to this day, a few brave participants in the Melbourne Cup still wear magnificent hats: plumed, tulle, three-feet-wide, thoroughbreds of the hat world. These participants secretly know that the Melbourne Cup was meant to be a hat race all along.

Lexicon Harlinski, wearing a hat, possibly digesting a Melbourne Cupcake.

And so I exhort you, good people all, return the horses to their paddocks, and start training your hats. I name mine Inefficient.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

While boycotting the horseploitation, Harlot's mind turns to ...

One of the occupational hazards in my line o' work is the tendency to turn adjectives into nouns. Yes, adjectives (like "small", "porcine", "Marxist") into nouns (like "Clydesdale", "elbow", "neurosis").

It all began with "aesthetic". "Aesthetic" used to be an adjective, as in "My, what an aesthetic rhubarb!", but now I have "an aesthetic" (not to be confused with anaesthetic), as in "My aesthetic includes rhubarb, but not celery, unless daubed in houmos, which doesn't go so well with rhubarb". Sometimes I have multiple aesthetics. My aesthetics have recently become so nominal (that's "nouny" to you) that I speak of them in nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, locative and vocative cases, regularly.

Likewise, "problematic". "You are a problematic child", my Aunt Janice* used to say to me, as I hosed her decoupage papier mache pot pourri vase. Nowadays, though, I catch myself speaking of "the problematics of pedagogy", or, sometimes, "the problematics of cooking the mushrooms in a separate pot when it's still encrusted with last week's burnt noodle offering".

Or take "poetic". Long gone are the days of adjectivally bewailing one's poetic soul; now one bewails one's poetic. Or another's poetics. Or we all bewail each other's poetics, which is fun, but it troubles my old-fashioned notions about adjectives and nouns and never the twain shall miscegenate.

The crowning insult to a hypocritical noun purist such as myself is the naming of a horse with an adjective. Efficient, I tells you. I mean, really, couldn't they have gone the extra syllable and made him Efficiency? If this sort of behaviour isn't nipped in the bud, posthaste, Prudence will be renamed Prudent, and Hope, Hopeful, and Chastity, Chaste, and Richard will go all Richardy, and Wilbur will be called Wilburious, and Alexis - God help us - Alexistential (angst, perhaps).

*A fictional aunt. Or perhaps just "a fictional".

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Things I have learnt from the Rt. Rev. Harlot, Esq., my father, Or, Gosh I Miss My 'Rents

1. If caught in public with pants unzippered, say "It always pays to advertise."

2. In case of flatulence, blame the dog. In absence of dog, say "Better out than in."

3. Upon meeting small white dog that looks like Dame Barbara Cartland's slipper, say to the dog's human companion, "That's a ferocious looking beastie". This will generally elicit a condescending smile. If it doesn't, run.

4. Don't trust a man who drives while wearing his hat.

5. In case of request, "Would Sir like cream or ice-cream with his dessert?", reply, politely, "Yes", and then, "Both", and then allude to the deprivations of World War II.

6. Beagles are humans too.

7. Something about negative gearing, capital gains tax, and stamp duty, but I wasn't listening.

8. John Howard is immoral, on all counts. Views on Pig Iron Bob more complex.

9. Always wear a suit and tie to protests.

10. Mrs H. is a paragon of all things excellent.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Sources of Inordinate Joy

Source of Inordinate Joy #1
The sound of a New Zealandese waiter farewelling her colleagues at Soul Food: "Will, I'm off, so hev a nice shuft and shut."

Source of Inordinate Joy #2
The listing of "louche" directly after "lotus-eater" in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

"My vegetable love should grow/ Vaster than empires, and more slow"

The colleagues and I celebrated ding-dong-the-term-is-dead last night with a visit to the Ivanhoe pizzeria and pastarie, where mine goode selfe stupidly ordered the Vegetable Platter of the Day. I had fantasies of char-grilled aubergine swooning over a fricassee of courgette and sundried tomato, with butterbeans and garlic and olives and oil and asparagus spears and marinated vine leaves and champignons. Instead, $12.50 of virtuously steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, with a couple of baked taters. Moral: go to Ivanhoe for your hoe, or your ho ho ho, or your Ivan, or your I, or your van (quite), not for your vegetable platter of the day.

Meanwhile, delirious with hunger, I start seeing superior vegetables lurking in every cranny of Western literature: Alexander Pumpkin, Russian Romantic; "Tomato, and tomato, and tomato"; "Lettuce go then, you and I,/ When the evening is spread out against the sky"; "Come live with me and be my spud"; "And the peas of God that passeth all understanding"; "To bean or not to bean"; and on and on and on. You wouldn't want to know. Really.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Free Associations

Tonight I am going to walk from work to Macleod Station, right along Springthorpe Bvd., past an innocuous little sidestreet called Ernest Jones Dr. Ernest Jones, note, the very same who penned Sigismund Fraud's biography, popularised Hamlet's Oedipus Complex, and presided over the International Psychoanalytic Association in fluent Welsh. That, like Death and Eros, this Jones character gets his own drive tickles my post-Freudianism like nobody's business. I haven't had this much fun since they erected a sign outside the maths building at Sydney University, proclaiming it the Carslaw Complex.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Put that in your pipe and peep it

Correspondence just in: my employer reminds concerned parties of workplace anti-discrimination regulations, noting, in particular, that "The University has policies, procedures, publicity materials and people in place to deal with inquiries or complaints relating to discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment." I haven't seen such a sustained act of plosive alliteration since Peter Piper picked his peck of pickled peppers, and, dag nabbit, I like it.

Idle minds, of course, turn now to that plethora of public policy documents that have failed to fully capitalise on their alliterative potential. The New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority's "How to Get a Heavy Vehicle Driver Licence", for instance, could be restyled as "Hoping to Have a Heavy Hauler Handler Licence?". The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority Regulation Act (2006), Regulation 7 (currently, "The Authority may, by means of signs, barriers or buoys, close temporarily the whole or any part of a public area [other than a public road] to the public"), should be refigured thusly: "The Authority may, by buoys, barriers or beacons, betoken the brief beclosure of the big bulk or any bit of a boulevard (besides a byway) to the bourgeoisie (&c.)". What's lost in precision is more than made up for in tongue-tappin', and that, mesdames, is a fair trade.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Not with a bang, but a whimper

And so it came to pass that thy trusty author, haggard and footsore, approached the end of the Semester of Doom. Only one lecture remained, and she had vague and ignoble intentions of making it a repeat performance of the technicolour oration she had spun this very morning (on all manner of notions, including a reader-response theory of genre, the dangers of matching one's bustier to one's bloomers [i.e., puts one at considerable risk of being mistaken for an Easter egg], the derivation of the word "diet" [from the Latin for day, "dies", because diets were never meant to go for more than 24 hours], and, hey look, is that the time?).

I've just collected informal course evaluation surveys from my worthy third year students, one of whom, to the question, "Is there anything you disliked about the course?", has replied, "I didn't like you being interrupted in the lecture". Bless you, worthy third year student, though you know not what you say. It's my being interrupted in the lecture, my anticipation of, and growing reliance on, being interrupted in the lecture, that has enabled me to prepare a good 6.3 minutes less material per week, thus ensuring the salutary kip that has kept me in such excellent health and spirits and saved me from deliquescing utterly into a puddle of reader-response theory and underpant commentary and sentences like this one.

But they don't like me being interrupted in the lectures (they being those who don't themselves interrupt), and I feel like it behoves me to respond in timely fashion and prepare a final and uninterruptable lecture for Wednesday. So (yawn), if you've got any suggestions (yawn) about (yawn) what I might say (yawn) in a final first year blather about autobiography, suggest away. Pleeeeeeeease.

Sunday, 21 October 2007


The rockmelons are heartbroken because they cantaloupe.

Further evidence that author's siblings are best ever.

Discussing council development applications for (cough) therapeutic massage parlours, a sibling of mine who shall remain anonymous proposed the following name for an house of ill repute: The Anthology of Pros.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

E-pistling down

Can't decide which is more exciting:

1. The hand-stapled three-page letter I received from David Rhodes of Perth, enclosing five cents as a token of his sincerity, inviting me to join him in a "legitimate opportunity" that's "perfectly legal", and promising me that "within 60 days [my] life will too be transformed" (damn straight it will; this five cents and I won't be looking back);

2. The email from the Citizens Electorial Council of Australia, sealed with the holy earwax of Americanian Statesperson Lyndon LaRouche, beguiling my vote with promises to abolish rivers and support nuclear power (how did they know?);*

3. The wholesale enspamulation of this very website with advertisements for the complete World of Warcraft collectable collectors' items with free World of Warcraft organic tofu replica battleaxe for only $199.95 which I will be painstakingly deleting just as soon as the 'puter and I have a spare five hours.

* Oh, all right then, and with some sensible policies about opposing anti-terror laws, but let us not to the telling of good stories admit impediments.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


Graffiti in the gels' loos at work: "Heraclitus rocks!"

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Scientific evidence supports author's claim that she has best siblings ever

Following discussion around yesterday's post on sexual aggression in Anas Melburniensis, my sister has sent me an email with the heading "Endocrine-disrupting contaminants and alligator gonads". Put that in your pontoum and rhyme it.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Mate on dry land, why don't you?

I'm just back from my constitutional saunter round Carlton Gardens, where it's yea verily spring. The lilacs are a-bloom, the bees are a-buzz, and the ducks are a-drowning each other in their aquatic fornications.

We Harlots are some of nature's great zoological voyeurs. On more than one occasion, mine own mother has beckoned me into the garden to watch the slow slimy romancing of amorous snails, and when I see a uxorious pigeon bobbing about his lady friend, I generally cancel all engagements and stick around to see what happens. But these ducks! I don't think life'll ever be the same again now that I know what has to happen to bring ducklings into the world.

So she's going about her business fossicking lunch from the bottom of the pond. The drakes are churning through the water like paddlesteamers on steroids, trying to keep each other from getting to her. Then one of them hops on her back, grabs her head in his beak, pushes her under water, and goes to it. Now, while he's too preoccupied to watch his own back, two others pile on top and her whole body, her head, everything, is submerged. Somehow, minutes later, they reach some sort of resolution. The duck emerges, frisking out her wings, unpanicked, as if this sort of thing happens every half hour.

Meanwhile, your bespectacled observer has been turning moral somersaults on the grass. Should she intervene? Is the duck being assaulted? Is she anthropomorphising the duck? Is it wrong to anthropomorphise ducks? Would it be wrong to intervene? Is the duck drowning? Hang on a minute, I'm serious, is she drowning?

She wasn't, and I just watched, but drowning looked like it was a serious possibility. If any of you ornithologists out there were to tell me that ducks regularly die mid-copulation, I'd be none surprised.

Friday, 12 October 2007

On Wheelbarrows Divested of Wheels, Planted with Petunias and Used as Garden Ornaments

Are they real or are they false?
Are they wheely wheely wheel?
Are such barrows wheelbarrows?
Are they wheely to their marrows?
Do they have a wheely pulse?
If you poke them will they squeal?
If you cock your leg and wee
On them a stream of nectar golden
Will these barrows up and waltz
In circles wheely round the garden?
Or are they just on bended knee
Abject things that have NO WHEELS,
Deprived of wheel liberty
While seedlings do not ask their pardon,
But sprout and swarm and bloom in shoals,
Like arrows through the barrows' souls?

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Chastity Pants and Industrial Relations Implications

I conducted exhaustive surveys today, and learnt that the eight buttons of the Chastity Pants (not including supplementary waist-adjustment buttons) take on average 18 seconds to undo and 25 seconds to rebutton. That's an average of 43 seconds for the whole combined unbuttoning and rebuttoning experience. A button and zipper, on the other hand, can be worked in well under 5 seconds either way, so let's - generously - allow 10 seconds for the combined unzipping and rezipping. The difference, you'll note, is some 33 seconds. Assuming three visits to the bog during working hours per working day, that's 99 seconds per day squandered, 495 seconds per working week, 21920 seconds per working year, factoring in four weeks leave, and 219200 seconds over a ten year employment period, not accounting for long service leave. This, you'll see, raises serious concerns for workplace productivity. If I weren't myself the owner of the Chastity Pants, I'd be making velcro mandatory.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Chastity Pants & Two-tone Brogues

I realised some time ago that were I never to acquire a single item of clobber ever again, there'd be enough liberty print boiler suits (&c.) in my wardrobe to last me for my entire foreseeable life. And so, said I to me, do not buy thyself any more habiliments, especially of the jackety, shirty, skirty, pantsy sort, for thy wardrobe bursteth at the hinges and thou couldst spend thy dollars on goodly works, or tofu, or somesuch.

But then one thing led to another, and within the last month alone, I've gone and got me a pair o' new shoes and a set of pantaloons, pantaloons which I refer to as my chastity-pants, on account of the eight buttons I have to undo whenever I heed the call of my pontine micturition centre. The chastity-pants are knickerbockers. Tomorrow I am going to measure the time spent unbuttoning and buttoning them up. This will be very fun. The truth is, they've already paid for themselves in pelvic floor muscle exercise.

As for mine shoon, never was a knickerbockster so pleased to wear a two-tone buckle-up brogue, or two.

These kids come from Vegan Wares, bespoke cobblers to the Melburnian lentilophile.

And now this is all well and good, and frankly, if you've read this far, you should go off and do something improving immediately, but - here's my pledge - no more. There will be no more chastity pants or shoes or shirts or hats or detachable epaulettes until, unless, the old stuff falls to tatters. I have enough doo-dahs, as my mum would say, to sink a battleship (Terrorism Hotline running hot).

Friday, 5 October 2007

With a type type here and a type type there

Tomorrow is World Animal Day (d'ya hear that, fleas?), and I will be singing with my quire at the Fitzroy Town Hall World Animal Day extravaganza.

I am doing the platypus solo in the indigenous fauna harmonised a capella version of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". I was lobbying for non-gender specific language ("And on that farm she or he or it had a platypus"), but I got voted down by the Amphibians' Rights faction, who felt that I was muddling the issues, and bad enough that there was only one frog verse (dedicated to the Pobblebonk, "with a bonk bonk here and a bonk bonk there").

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Sunday, 30 September 2007

At crastinating I am pro.

Lectures to write, essays to mark, loo paper to procure. I know, I'll take photos of my hands.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Phun with Fonetics

Phlegm. That many consonants and you know something's got to be wrong. But I would take my bronchitis, and gladly, if it meant the full and proper acknowledgement of those consonantal clusters. Time and time again, I hear the phonetic glories of "phlegm" reduced to - ho hum - "flem". (This, a pronunciation so pervasive that my first born niece, in sicklier and less literate days, believed that she was coughing up "flame". This would have been perfectly charming if she'd been a dragon, but altogether dangerous given that she's not.)

Phlegm is a subject close to my heart. In my lungs, to be precise. For a limited time only. So I am seizing the chance to militate for a fully fledged articulation of all those consonants. "Ph" is /f/, plus aspiration, then there's a "leg", then an /m/. I suggest a glottal stop between the "leg" and the /m/. One, two, three, repeat after me: f-puff-leg-m!

Next week: Rasp sputum and the Fall of the Russian Empire.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Mr September

"Okay, okay, okay. Can't a guy lie around on his own verandah without the paparazzi turning up? How do my ears look, anyway? A little to the right?"

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Lexicon Harlot, Match-Unmaker

It's happened. My lucrative career as essay adjudicatrix has spilt over into real life. Not content with the impress of my pedantic pencil upon the collective undergraduate disquisition, I'm now getting up the goats of Voltaireans across the nation by ripping down hand-penned personals notes.

On the subject of personals notes, I'm not - in principle - against 'em, though it would take a braver person than I to risk a couple of hours of precious weekend on the strength of "N-S G.S.O.H. 28-35". But no, far be it from me to disdain a desperado. Indeed, I hereby tender for your consideration that there are far worse preliminaries to a human couplet than a rhyming one.

"Handsome yuppy, seeking other,
To replace his much loved mother."

"Hello! My name is Susan Bretts.
If you refrain from cigarettes,
Like jazz and books and croissants three,
It sounds like you're the one for me."


So what, you ask, could possibly move a Harlot About Town to remove a hand-penned personals note from the public domain? Try this on for size (we're talking A4 paper, lined, blue texta, posted on the noticeboard outside the library):

Hi! I am an Aussie guy, did 5 yrs at uni, looking for an Asian girlfriend. Interest? SMS/Call: *********** C U Soon"

Now call me picky, but "Aussie guy", "5 yrs at uni", replete with own mobile phone number, doesn't really cut my mustard. What we all want to know is whether he makes a good basil sauce, promises not to watch televised ballsports, and will occasionally consent to being dressed up in viking regalia and wheeled around the carpark in a shopping trolley. But that's all by the by. If self-styled "Aussie guy" with mobile phone is your cuppa tea, then dunk your biscuit, by all means.

Equally, my predilection is for persons who write in words, rather than lone-rangering alphanumerical symbols. In my book, "C U Soon" is a poor substitute for "every minute will be an agony of anticipation", but I suppose our "Aussie guy" is affecting a casual tone to help distract from the out and out creepiness of - and here I get to my point - "looking for an Asian girlfriend".

The United Republic of Asia is a very big country these days, but even if it didn't stretch between the regions formerly known as the sovereign states of East Timor and Turkey, there'd be something a little troubling about the notion of "Asian" as a homogeneous category. (Equally, there's something a little troubling about the idea of "Aussie guy" as a homogeneous category, but blah blah.) This particular "Aussie guy", I can't help thinking, thinks of prospective girlfriends in terms of different flavours, like ice-cream, flavours that are best described, not by referring to the prospective girlfriends' politics, ethics, aesthetics, preference for wearing corduroy dungarees, or snail-racing prowess, but by alluding to the geography in which their grandparents grew up. Of course, "Aussie guy" isn't actually interested in geography; it's this, that with an "Asian girlfriend" he knows what he's going to get. I could speculate about his assumptions, about what's encoded for "Aussie guy" in the words "Asian girlfriend", but I'd only be doing so in order to invigorate my indignation. His assumptions, whatever they are, are predicated on a notion of cultural (and genetic) homogeneity sprawling across an entire continent, on that enlightened "they're all the same" position, and what I want to know is what he was doing for those five yrs at uni.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Finding Nemo (in all the wrong places)

Corporate fish mongery has really lucked out with this Omega 3 fatty acids hoopla. Apparently Omega 3 fatty acids are good for kiddlywinks' brains. Apparently Omega 3 fatty acids reside in fish (and flaxseeds and walnuts, but that's beside the point). "Boo yah!", says everyone from the fish monger to the candlestick maker, "Let's put essence of fish where it's never been before and market our fishified wonderworld to the Omega 3 crowd".

Yesterday I bought pomegranate juice. "Pomegranate juice", said the label, which also happened to sport the letters "OMEGA 3". Omega 3, schmomega 3, thought I, and thought nothing else of it at all, until, idling away from the juice providore, inspecting the packaging from all angles, indulging in pomegranatical thoughts, I glanced at the list of ingredients. Refined fish oil. This, in letters the size of flea droppings, tucked down the bottom of the rear guard label. Refined fish oil. And why would it be, I wonder, that they don't mention the refined fish oil somewhere where an unsuspecting pomegranate juice fancier might actually notice it? Big letters: Pomegranate and Fish Juice, Freshly Pressed European Carp and Fruit Extracts, Do Not Sup From This Bottle Oh Ye Who Would Prefer Not to Drink Liquefied Fish, etc. I'm in a minority, I know, but these things matter to me.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Wherein Sir Isaac Newton Turns in His Grave

Many years ago, somewhere round the midpoint of my life thus far, I signed up for Maths Club. Maths Club was run by a couple of civic-minded mathematicians from the University of Sydney, who once a week plonked a page of problems before a roomful of empassioned teenage algebraicists. The empassioned teenage algebraicists would solve two, perhaps three, of the problems. They did this by steaming up their glasses, nibbling the overhanging tendrils of their incipient moustaches, and thinking. I, on the other hand, generally solved none of the problems, in part because I lacked the right sort of brain, in part because I never mastered the moustache trick, and in part because I spent most of the two hours of Maths Club declaiming to Bernadette and Jane up the back of the classroom.

I didn't attend Maths Club because of my mathematical aptitude. I attended Maths Club because I thought it would be good for my image. You know how it is; fourteen year old kids are constantly trying to pass themselves off as mathematicians in an attempt to impress their peers. Also, my big sister had gone to Maths Club. For the three years this sister had worn dental braces, I had tugged at my baby teeth with a bobby pin, trying to twist them out of alignment so that I too could wear dental braces. It didn't work, but the attempt at least shows that I was keen to tread where she had trodden. Maths Club had big sister prints all over it.

I developed a lot of theories at Maths Club. This is because whenever I am in the presence of thinking people, I think. I don't necessarily think about what the thinking people are thinking about, but I think about something. Their brains emit a low-pitched hum, and mine starts to resonate along. The person next to me is proving Fermat's last theorem, and suddenly I figure out why you have to put the peanut butter on the toast before the marmalade.

The best theory I ever came up with at Maths Club (a mathematical theory, no less) is the Theory of Why One TimTam is the Same as Two TimTams (and by Analogy Why Doing Half My Homework is the Same as Doing All My Homework). It goes like this:

1. One TimTam consists of an infinite number of infinitely small bits of TimTam;
2. Two TimTams consist of an infinite number of infinitely small bits of TimTam;
3. One TimTam equals two TimTams.

Genius. Adaptations of the theory hold good for most measurable quantities. Three kilometres are divisible by an infinite number of infinitely small distances; likewise three centimetres; so three kilometres equal three centimetres.

(Anyone who's tempted to mention asymptotes can go get infinitesimalised. As the Spice Girls so memorably sung, sometime around 1997, "This is the night when two become one".)

Anyway, I mention all this by way of preempting observations that I have only written one blog post in the last week. One post consists of an infinite number of infinitely small wordments; forty posts consist of an infinite number of infinitely small wordments ...

Blah blah blah.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Not dead, just marking.

And the prize for best inadvertent pun in a first year essay goes to "not a footprint anywhere, not a sole in sight".

Friday, 14 September 2007

No need for applesauce

I just consulted my almanac, and it's been six months and four days since I forsook the motherland for the Deep South. HMAS Earth has made 'alf a blooming orbit around the Sun in that time, and what have I got to show for myself? I've seen 0 (zero) giant East Gippsland earthworms, spearheaded 0 (zero) revolutions, published 0 (zero) novels, learnt to play 0 (zero) sitars, been to 1 (one) biology lecture, drunk 3 (three) bottles of cider (2 [two] in pubs), 2 (two) pots of shandy with far too little lemonade in 'em, lost my oregano (one) to the green caterpillar (one) of doom, achieved a tram trip/essay marking ratio of approximately 2:1 (two to one), learnt to pronounce "rascal" as "rassc'l" and "castle" as "cassel" (when I remember), and borrowed 4 (four) dining chairs from my esteemed colleague. Thus the State of the Nation. Things had better perk up soon.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Up the oxter

Though I am no henchperson of the deodorising industry, though I refuse to police the pore, though it pains me to know that fully grown humanians anxiously bedaub their every nook and cranny with (in parfumiers' parlance) toilet water, I was almost converted to a policy of government-mandated full-body unguentation this morning when a gent sat next to me on the tram smelling from head to toe of ripe foot. There one is, scoffing at the Lynx Effect, telling all and sundry that nutmeg and water and a change of clothes every couple of weeks served one's ancestors for generations, when suddenly one is mere centimetres away from a genuinely smelly man, a man who pongs as if he's winched himself into a rubber jumpsuit for six months and run laps of the Sahara, occasionally tucking a dead mouse up his oxter.

He was probably a genius mathematician, or clever with his garden, or a kind soul with a fondness for small mammals - but I am so busy trying not to wretch that I never find out.

Oh nose, you do him wrong.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Out on a limb

Why tripod, but octopus?

The Erotics of Telescope Assembly

The unexpurgated and compleat printed text of Section AZ3 from "Refractor/Reflector Telescopes With Altitude/Azimuth Mount Instruction Manual" read one giddy morning in Spring, for adults only.

Adjusting Tripod Legs
1. Slowly loosen the height adjustment clamp and gently pull out the lower section of each tripod leg.
2. Spread the legs apart to stand the tripod upright.
3. Adjust the height of each tripod leg until the tripod head is properly leveled. Note that the tripod legs may not be at same length when the equatorial mount is level.

Attaching the Accessory Tray
1. Place the accessory tray on top of the bracket, and secure with the locking knob underneath.

Attaching the Tube Rings to Mount
1. Remove the tube rings from telescope by releasing their thumb nuts and opening their hinges.
2. Fasten the tube rings to the mount using the wench [sic] provided.

Attaching the telescope Main Tube to Tube Rings
1. Find the center of balance of the telescope tube. Place this in between the two tube rings. Close the hinges around the telescope and fasten securely by tightening the thumb nuts. Do not overtighten the thumb nuts.

Installing Control Cables
1. Slide the sleeve end of the cable over the nipple on the end of the worm gear. Secure the cable by tightening the set screw against the flat surface of the nipple.

Attaching the Finderscope
1. Locate the finderscope bracket and carefully remove the rubber-o-ring from it. Position the o-ring into groove on the finderscope tube.
2. Slide finderscope assembly into the rectancular [sic] slot and tighten the thumbscrew to hold the bracket in place.

Eyepiece Assembly
1. Loosen the thumbscrew on the end of the focus tube.
2. Insert a diagonal into the focus tube and re-tighten the thumbscrew to hold the diagonal in place.
3. Loosen the thumbscrews on the diagonal.
4. Insert the desired eyepiece into the diagonal and secure by re-tightening the thumbscrews.

I let these lines speak for themselves, except to add that I've always had my doubts about the astronomical fraternity. They didn't excommunicate Galileo for nothing.

Friday, 7 September 2007


A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of confetti.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

I ate the world's last Tasmanian Tiger

I was reading this here book about how to write your life. How to write your life retrospectively, that is. I don't bother with books about how to write your life prospectively, as I already happen to be the world's foremost authority on writing my life before it happens. (Not, mind you, in some sort of spooky prophetic time-bending sense; more in the "having imaginary conversations with absent friends/adversaries/gurus, wherein I come across all witty and bilingual and have compliant hair, in the hope that when the moment of embodied colloquy actually falls upon us [me and the friend/adversary/guru], I do not appear to have a mouth full of turnip" sense.) So, I was three pages into this book about how to write your life retrospectively, when I came across authoress Miller's most tantalising subheading so far: A Confession, she wrote. Whoohoo, thought I, A confession! Only one more sentence before Patti Miller reveals her secret addiction to dressing up in women's underwear.

But what do I get for my trouble? This: "I probably should, here at the beginning, confess the true extent of my passion to know what life is like for other people." Thence ensue the scandalous details of her longing to ask persons in supermarket queues what it's like to be a person in a supermarket queue. Quel jolly horreur. There's nary a lady's knicker in sight.

It is my firm belief, as the world's foremost authority on writing my life before it happens, that if you're going to go about offering up confessions, then you'd better have something decent to confess. Something criminal, or arguably immoral, or at the very least antisocial. "I killed JFK", for instance, or "By the by, I think it's time I told you, I ate the world's last Tasmanian Tiger". "I have a passion for knowing what life is like for other people" doesn't even begin to cut the confessorial mustard.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Name of the Feather

I'm thinking of getting me a better nom de plume.

Dammit if "the Scarlet Pimpernel" isn't already taken (thanks for nothing, Baroness Emmuska Orczy).

Alexis the Hun? Alias the Hun? Esmerelda de Taco? Le Bagpiper Noir? George Smith? George Smith the Hun? George Smith the Hun de Taco?

Friday, 31 August 2007


Early onset Spring has set up shop in my nostrils, so this is what I want to know: is it possible for a very talented person to earn a living entirely through sneezing? I mean, I take your point (preemptively): anyone can sneeze, but my sneezes are something else. I think of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, I think of Niagara Falls, I think of whatever it was (Napoleon's cannonballs perhaps) that blew the nose off the Sphinx, and then I think of my sneezes.

While other children were toilet trained, I was coached in sneezing excellence. "Great big grandfather blow", my mother would say. "Great big elephant blow." My prowess in the pneumatic expulsion of particulate matter from the nasal cavity is - I don't mean to boast - pretty darn prowessy. Surely there's an Arts Council grant with my name on it.

Style Sheep

Sheep, in Yorkshire, discussing next season's fashions over a mouthful of low-fat herbal grass.

Far be it from me to disdain a bold attempt at bilingualism, but I cannot resist this. The website of the Journal of Humanities of Taiwan's National Central University directs potential contributors to its "Style Sheep". Enough with italics and single spacing; today's writers want to hear the latest on waistcoats. (Sheep, you understand, know about these sorts of things in advance.)

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Regency Sundae

Commercially made ice-cream was first sold in New York in 1786. That's One-Seven-Eight-Six. I make no further comment.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Attack of the Maltipoo

Now I'm not one to speak ill of the dog. The dog is a fine figure of a mammal. It's true, I prefer a dog with a bit of a woof and a tendency to roll in cow manure to a dog who looks like Dame Barbara Cartland's left slipper, but I'm really not fussed. Dogs are grouse (so grouse, in fact, that I wonder why we say "grouse" [as in "Lamingtons are grouse"] and not "dog" [ as in "Lamingtons are dog; I think I'll eat a dozen"]).

Dogs, I like 'em. Nevertheless, it is no service to my good opinion of the dog to find that amongst the dogly multitude exists a canine subculture of maltipoos. If someone had come up to me yesterday on the street and offered me a maltipoo, I would have handed her a plastic bag, gone home, and washed my hands in lemon juice. Today I learn that the maltipoo, somewhat like the labradoodle, is the offspring of a poodle and his less woolly paramour.

Let me not to the marriage of true hounds admit impediments. If a poodle and a Maltese terrier like the look of each other, then more power to them, I say. It's the eugenicist perversions of dog breeders that trouble me (here I must, reluctantly, include the breeders of beagules), and the strangely infantilising names they bestow on pups who want nothing more than to gallop valiantly across the tundra and bring down whole herds of wildebeests with a single paw.

Friday, 24 August 2007

FiFi & Me

Lock up your money boxes, Mammonites. Not only was my last mastercard statement completely undastardly (thanks to my new doo-dah abstinence policy), but it came with a wee leaflet instructing me on How To Win Something. They told me banking could be fun, but did I ever believe them? More fool me.

I'm a serial game-show contestant, a recovering high school examination-addict, and I play scrabble on-line, which is to say: one sniff of a competition and I'm heart-poundingly, giddily there. "Win a year's supply of horse manure!" I'm there. "Confederate Flag Boxer Shorts!" Yes, please. "Half expenses paid trip for two to glorious Cesstown!" Beam me up, Scotty.

So what's going down with young Master Card? Well, this.* Each time I buy something with it, I'm entered into a competition to win a day with Madame von FiFi, celebrity stylist, and $5000 wherewith to be styled. I know for sure that FiFi and I would hit it off terrifically. "Fantastic," she'd say, "The natural leg hair look! I have just the handkerchief in mind." But more to the point, $5000 to frivol away on clobber! I could have a different hat for every day of the year, which has long been one of my more noble aspirations. When the critically-acclaimed $20 jeans de la Kmart I bought last year finally wear out, I could get NEW ones! Two hundred and fifty pairs, to be precise.

The downside of all this is not that I may not win my day with Madame von FiFi, but that I may win one of the thousand consolation prizes: a six-month subscription to Shop Til You Drop, the magazine for people who like to pay money solely to read advertisements. I cannot imagine a world where this would be an appealing prospect. Except our world, of course, where apparently it is.

* If any of you acquire mastercards because I have drawn your attention to the FiFi-o-rama, I will, in remorse, eat my entire hat collection.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The Reign of Terrapin

Turtle in the moat at work!
Turtle in the moat at work!
Or possibly a tortoise.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

In the words of The Carpenters, the Partridge Family, and Lenny Welch ...

"Breakfasting up is hard to do."

Breakfast, quoth the Wikipedians, "is the first meal of the day, preceding lunch or dinner, and is typically eaten in the morning." Such, meine Damen und Herren, are the great profundities of life, and we here at Lexicon Harlot Inc. are dedicated to plumbing their conceptual depths with all the scholarly rigour of the western world's finest conceptual depth plumbers. Why, f'rinstance, do we speak of today's breakfast preceding today's lunch or dinner, and not of today's breakfast as pursuing yesterday's lunch and dins, or, for that matter, of today's lunch and dinner as preceding tomorrow's breakfast? Does this rhetorical breakfast-centricity not reflect a certain temporal prejudice, a confusion of chronological relatives with chronological absolutes? What if I have no lunch or dinner, so that my breakfast does not precede 'em? Is it no longer a breakfast?

On another, but related, matter, this morning, faced with a superfluity of superannuated soy milk, I elected not to consume it in all its fermented glory on my muesli, but to disguise it in pancake batter - to which end, I battered me the best batter ever. Oh yes I did. I bet a better batter bar none never was.

And now, all you wanted to know but never dared ask! (Steady on, soldier.) Yes, without further ado, I present to you the ingredients: wholemeal self raising flour (rest of packet), No Egg (yes, yes, I know), soy-linseed-almond mix (left over from my sister's trip to the nut providore up the road last June), poppy seeds (coupla spoonfuls), tahini (a bold addition, but by Jove, a good 'un), dried barberries (not for them with child), and a goodly slosh of thoroughly alcoholic soy milk. Slop into sizzling frypan, cook, eat with your pancake condiments of preference. Lunch, a flash of sandwich in a crowded hour, didn't hold a candle to my pièce de crêpe (as opposed to my piece of crap, if you'll pardon my English).

Now seems as good a time as ever to spread glad tidings of great joy: yes, "ante-jentacular" is a word. Good mates with "post-prandial".

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Vegetarianist agitprop

"Small retrivers"? Small retrievers? Small golden retrievers? I hear that it's a dog eat dog world, but really, this is getting way too literal for me.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Sweet Charity

Thornbury's opportunity shops are fighting crime the nice way. For years, the Melbourne mafia have terrorized footpaths with their off-cast ceramic ashtrays and bags of contraband second-hand dressing-gowns. No more! The Thornbury Lions Club is reclaiming the badlands with a security camera and a simple message: smile.

The incidence of out-of-hours footpath donation has decreased by 94% since the implementation of Operation Smile, but it remains to be seen whether the Lions Club's softly-softly approach will reduce the effects of trolley "borrowing".

We're giving you the benefit of the doubt, Sunil. Of course, you merely "borrowed" our trolley, and perhaps we weren't clear on the loan's duration. But hear us loud and clear, mister, if you don't "please" return that trolley soon, then your "borrowing" days in this town are over. This ain't any old shop; this is a Charity Shop.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Wherein the author gets all sentimental

Dinner with my illustrious 'rents tonight. Just how illustrious, you may well ask. Well, cop a load of this: my dad, as I was telling folks the other night, enjoyed a brief stint as Sydney's foremost amateur potato-sexer,* shares a name with the erstwhile chair of the sewerage management committee formerly known as the NSW Waterboard, and has entertained countless international audiences with the antics of his false tooth; me mum does cryptic crosswords in the time it takes lesser mortals to tie their shoelaces, has the world's most fascinatingly webbed toes, and - I think this is true, correct me if I'm wrong - wrote the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. They are, additionally, two of the loveliest people in the whole world.


* Potato-sexing, Pater Harlot-style, performed by dangling a nail by a piece of string above the suspect potato. The trajectory of the nail's gyrations will indicate the potato's sex.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Specialite de la Maison

I'll have my usual, thanks. Oven-baked staying up late preparing tomorrow morning's class lightly drizzled with chocolate sauce.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Critters with teeth, lack thereof

Why aren't there more Patagonian chinchillas in my life? In fact, what's with the total absence of rodents? There is a whole bowl of apples sitting, exposed, on my dining table, chewable electrical cords all over the shop, ample fluff, suitable for the nesting therein, delicious soap in the bathroom, more paper than a self-respecting mousie would know what to do with. This place is rat paradise. But do I see so much as a vanishing tail? A small pile of dried poo? A toothmark on the kettle cord?

I read somewhere once that there were five rats for every human in Moscow. Send some of them here! There are fifty humans for every rat.

I was always going to be a guinea pig wrangler when I grew up, but I don't think I've even seen a guinea pig in the last five years. There were a couple of dismembered mice in the back garden at Leichhardt (here's looking at you, Bruno), but mice don't cut it when there's a question of guinea pigs - or Patagonian chinchillas.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Notes from the Deep South

As British English "gyratory circus" is to American English "roundabout", so be Melburnean English "pot" to Sydneian English "middy" (both of which, for those of you not au fait with Australingual beerology, are the words you'll be using when you order y'rself a swift half pint of full-cream dairy-milk mead down the pub). When it comes to fronting up at a bar and specifying my desired volume of liquor, I prefer asking for a pony: "I'll 'ave a pony of shandy, please - lashings of lemonade". This would be so regardless of the pony's size, simply because "pony of shandy" sounds seventeen times better than "schooner of shandy" or "jug of shandy" or "tot-glass of shandy" or even "thimbleful of shandy". Most people down here in the Deep South buy their beer by the pot, so, in the interests of cultural assimilation, I've learnt to suppress my philoponyism and take my shandies pot-size.

I wasn't always so at ease with the ways of the southern publican, though. Shortly after I arrived in this here smokin' town, I noticed that my local establishment proudly offered a $10 Tuesday night "Parma and Pot Special". In New South Wales, the Parma is a breed of wallaby (that's macropus parma, to you) and pot's, well, this, so you'll understand why I thought $10 was awful cheap. It didn't take long before I came round to the pot concept. It was just a matter of tinkering with my lexicon. Middy equals pot does not equal this. But "parma"? The Oxford English Dictionary, my tour guide and travel companion of choice, suggested "Parma" as an abbreviation for any of "Parma violet", "Parma ham", or the aforementioned "Parma wallaby". None of these, on reflection, seemed likely candidates for the Tuesday night special.

In fact, it turns out - and I've only gleaned this by virtue of extensive fraternisation with the natives - "Parma" is Victoria's national dish, the gustatory anthem, the salute to all things Melburnean and publy, and consists of a slab of dead beast, crumbed, deep fried and bedaubed with red sauce and cheese. They eat it down here like Newtowners eat Thai tofu green curry. Which I mention, lest any of you are under the impression that this whole inter-state migration thingy is just a walk in the park. They speak a whole different dialect down here. And they eat Parma instead of tofu green curry (inexplicably). And their middies are called pots. And their castles cassells. This cross-cultural encounter fandango, it's not easy.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Hindus and don'ts

My pal next door at work took one look at my aura of harriedness last week and informed me that I would be joining her for lunchtime yoga. All I have to do is say the word "yoga" and I'm awash with feelings of wholesomeness. It rolls around my mouth like a gobbet of wholebran organic vegan muffin, premasticated by unionised freerange indigenous marsupials. I feel my toenails growing thicker, my eyebrows bushier, my gluteus maximus hardening into something that Michelangelo would carve in marble. The word "yoyo" does not inspire the same effect.

Today was Welcome to Lunchtime Yoga day. Though my spine is stretched, I have biceps, and I'm feeling almost indecently relaxed, the best thing of all were the sentences like this 'un: "This position is downward-facing dog, which is called adho mukha svanasana in Sandscript". Ah, Sandscript, sacred language of the Oil-Rigveda.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Apologia pro vita mea

Dear comma-rades, it's been a week, and I've missed you all. I've been fending off tribes of nomadic first-year students, all keen to pitch camp in my overpopulated autobiography course. I gave the course reader a hot-pink cover. The young folk saw it there in the campus bookshop. It spoke to their collective inner Barbie-doll fetishist, and before I knew it, 80 new converts were trying to squeeze their way into my lecture hall (only to discover that I talk inordinately about the painting of dead Japanese fish).

Note that I do not mention members of the Australian Football League. My self-restraint surprises even me.

So, it's been all quiet on the blog front, while I've bulldozed my way through a wall of solid administrivia, armed with nothing but cocoa solids. My sense of vocation was reinvigorated this morning when one of the young scholars told me I looked like a Jane Austen character. "It's the spiky hair and the knee-length skirt, isn't it?" Well, no, I look like a twentieth-century Jane Austen character, she said. Mr Collins in drag, perhaps?

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

But I can still hit the semi-colon key

Four lectures down; fifteen to go; have lost my will to type.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Caveat lector

Chromoblastomycosis. Do not look it up.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Footie in mouth

Them's that know me in the flesh (regular perusers of the King James Version should read that clause with caution) will be aware that gross motor skills are not my pianoforte. Indeed - and I think I may have mentioned this round these parts before - when I were a wee tacker they sent home a letter to my 'rents advising remedial physical education on Thursday afternoons. I'm good for a swift uphill walk; I'll even break into a canter on occasion; can swim round islands and lift whole cantaloupes with a single hand; but throw anything in my direction any smaller than a bar fridge (as people insist on doing), and I drop automatically to the ground. This endearing trait I appear to have inherited from my father, and along with it, I've inherited a total indifference to ball sports. (That's "indifference", in its less used "fear and loathing" sense).

So when I received a phone call today from a young chap who wanted to know if I'd been contacted yet by his manager - the one who manages elite athletes attempting to dribble* their way through university - I stifled a yawn and brought up my tutorial schedule spreadsheet. No, I didn't yawn. I am totally uncynical in my interactions with people on telephones. But let's just say that when I hear "elite athlete", I think "Horseman of the Apocalypse", not "Where are my pompoms?"

He plays AFL, says the young chap. For this team, which he names. And his name is, and he says his name. An hour later I mention to a friend that a student wants to take my course without attending lectures because they conflict with his football practice. Who is it, asks my pal. I get out a first name, because that's all I can remember. My friend promptly supplies his surname, his team, his height, anecdotal detail of his enormous 15-year-old female fan base, and is on the verge of suggesting we just give him his degree, when I am suddenly overcome by an urge to drop to the ground.

* I believe I'm deploying a metaphor from basketball, yes?

Thursday, 26 July 2007

"But enough about me, what do you think of my memoir" - Nancy Miller

I received an email this week, a journo from The Australian wanting to hear my expert academic opinion on contemporary travel memoir. Word must have got out about my PDF-making talents. "Dear Professor Harlot", he began. That'll be Dame Her Holiness the Vice-Chancellor Harlot to you, sir. If you're going to do titles, you should do 'em in style.

The last travel memoir I managed to read (not counting my cousin's, or my cousin's partner's [not that my cousin's partner would know me from a bar of soap, or chalk, or cheese]) was Charlie Darwin's, and a ripping good yarn it was too. But contemporary? Non. Do I let that stand in the way of a 1500 word waffle on the subject? Non. I may not be well read in contemporary travel memoir, but I got 'pinions, sir, and I'm not afraid to use them. I'm looking forward to the headlines: "Academic expert: Darwin invented travel memoir".

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Potable Diabolo Foment

As if my late-onset discovery of Portable Document Format weren't edgy enough in its own right,* I have recently learnt that PDF is all it takes to magically turn word document to whizz-bang powerpoint slide. Steady on, Harlot. Get any cooler and you'll be able to make your own ice cubes.

In other evidence of my all-round cosmopolitan dynamism, I had my first Melburnean choir rehearsal yestere'en, and what a night on the tiles that was. First, we sang some scales. Then we sang some rounds. Then we sang some songs with four-part harmonies. Then I came home, checked my emails, made a couple of PDF files, brushed my teeth, and went to bed.

* A very pleasing revelation - PDF is easy as pie - a lesson which I owe largely to the techknow-how and communication skills of this person.

Sunday, 22 July 2007


Take a herd of galloping otters, a flagon of molten chocolate, a prime-ministerial Maxine McKew, combine 'em, and still you ain't got a cocktail as downright pleasing as this one.

It's mon cheri, le Wilbur, caught in a rare moment of not-sleeping-on-the-couch-ness, coupled with my all time favourite form o' precipitation.

The only thing better than a dog in snow is snow in a dog in snow. If anyone's the dog for the snow-eating job, Wilb's that dog.

"You gonna throw that snowball? Are you? Because I'll be ready. Just watch me."

Here I narrowly missed obtaining graphic evidence of Wilbur's al fresco micturation prowess. You'll just have to take my word for it. He's got prowess. In spades.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Shivering me timbers

Emmy was visiting last week from subtropical Sydney. For six mornings, she struggled to get from her bed into three layers of trouser before coming down with frostbite. It was a daily race against the elements. Keen to demonstrate my brand new superior Melburnean constitution, I'd invite her to switch on the heater next to her feet, and then I'd breezily open the nearest window, give the place a bit of an airing, and mix myself an iced tea. By saturday night, great torrents of mucous were coursing from my nostrils and some of my favourite extremities had snapped off. I have now capitulated to Winter: soup for breakfast, a hot water bottle for each limb, and woollen frocks.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007


What follows might suggest that I have lodged, once and for all, in the internetian digestive system's deepest, dankest, darkest intestinal pocket. It might imply an abuse both of my wireless internet access, my leisure hours, and my right to self-determination. But be not deceived, my learned colleagues: what follows is perhaps the greatest empirical study conducted on behalf of psychoanalysis since Sigmund Freud attempted to determine the effects of cocaine on seasickness by hopping into a dinghy with a little plastic zip-lock bag full of talcum powder and inhaling deeply.

So, the wisdoms of Captain Freud. They go something like this: you've got this "Id", see - it's your inner toe-tappin' dilettante-about-town - and then you've got your Superego - it's your inner form prefect, reminding you not to eat in the library - and then there's your Ego, which in my opinion confuses what would otherwise be a pleasingly symmetrical binary. For decades, psychoanalysts have wantonly worn the nape off many a velveteen chaise longue trying to determine whether the Id or the Superego prevails in any given psychoanalytic subject. They have asked questions, probed deeply, tried to ascertain whether the subject would still choose to murder his octopus and sweep with his mother rather than knuckle down at the office and do the dishes. This is a very difficult thing to ascertain indeed, so that the subject has had to remain with his analyst for the rest of his life - and sometimes the transference isn't marvellous - and the healthcare rebates tend to peter out very quickly in the absence of a firm diagnosis.

I believe what follows is a revolutionary new measure that will simplify and speed-up the analytic process. I call it Psycho-Scrabbalysis. You pit the Superego against the Id, throw 'em some tiles, see who wins, and seek out expressions of repressed libidinal energy in the resultant wordplays.

"Covert", "ragoo", and "hoot", for instance: I'm not sure if I could be any clearer in polite company.

What you see above is the initial stage of my own Psycho-Scrabbalysis. As you will observe, my Superego is thrashing my Id, which will surprise those of you who are aware that I should be writing next week's lectures.

Um. Yes.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Warning: may contain microbial references

I'm in the first throes of a major snot infestation. I've mobilised the handkerchief collection, stocked up on mandarins, and cancelled all engagements (except for a brief walk this afternoon with Antwo from Sydney to inspect the self-composting toilets in East Brunswick [with which I was favourably impressed, but I'm not sure that the body corporate will be amenable to my suggestion that we rip up the carpark and install pit dunnies]). Meanwhile, two fresh pairs of gentlemen's bloomers made their way onto my balcony today, the first such incident in several months.


Saturday, 14 July 2007

Too bad they didn't bring their capsicum spray

There's an old fella living upstairs. Every so often he cranks up his muzak to maximum volume, and under cover of "Que Sera, Sera" emits a maniacal cackle and a volley of passionate expletives. I haven't been game to make a diagnosis, and I haven't been game to pop up and offer my counselling services, but I've accepted that he's none too well, and if 50s pop music, very loud, every couple of weeks, is what it takes to make his life bearable, well, so be it.

Couple of nights ago, round about 8 p.m., he was working his way through the Flower Duet from Lakmé, shouting angrily at his invisible friend, when two members of the Victorian constabulary arrived and demanded that he open his door. Then I heard "If I have to come back here again, I'm going to put my foot in your face and my knee in your groin and I'm going to smash every piece of sound producing equipment you've got." Bloody effective. My neighbour was suddenly so subdued I couldn't hear his reply. But - I'm no mental illness management expert here, though it seems sort of obvious - bloody irresponsible. Nothing like a bit of good old fashioned bullying and intimidation to cure a chap of his psychoses, or his alcoholism, or his Tourette's syndrome, or whatever it is my neighbour's got going on.

Sure, the good people of Thornbury shouldn't have to listen to scratchy French opera on a Thursday night. Whoever phoned the police was well within their rights. But the threat of physical violence was totally disproportionate - maybe even illegally disproportionate (I don't know) - to my neighbour's offence. Legalities aside, what I heard sounded terrifying; I'm pretty certain my neighbour was terrified, and a bit of real-life terror's the last thing this guy needs.

This is sinister enough in its own right, but it happens just as, on a different scale, federal security powers are doing their bit for the police state. If upstairs is what happens when there are laws to protect people's civil liberties, I'm pessimistic as can be about what's up in the Brisbane Watchhouse.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Bigger than Elvis

Senator Bob Brown! Tonight! Northcote Town Hall! 6:30! Bring a spare bra or two for the throwing!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Bishop's Stotford

I spent from 2 til 4 o' the clock this morning wedged between a hot water bottle and the impending doom of next semester. So strong was my sense of imminent pedagogical catastrophe, as the inner-eye eyed off a catalogue of infinite tasks, that it took several rounds of my unpatented Abecedarian Soothing Technique (wherein your trusty insomniac compiles mental lists - of dog breeds, capital cities, edible fruits, nineteenth-century poets - in alphabetical order, inevitably snagging on XYZ) before I could bore myself back to sleep.

Though I don't have time at the moment, I have concocted a plan to safeguard against future wrestles with sleeplessness. My plan is this: the forthcoming Harlot's Inimitable Compendium of British Railway Station Names, With the Proposed Humber Coast and City Railway Supplement. The almost irresponsibly soporific Spalding, Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Bishop's Stotford, and Sleaford will put narcotics-traders out of business for ever. Law-and-order advocates will demand the use of sniffer beagles at airports to snout out contraband Inimitable Compendia. Civil libertarians will argue that consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes should be able to read what they like, though Harlot's Inimitable Compendium should carry a warning.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Incoming correspondence

Last month I received emails from Kerry Compton, Coleman Tracy, Madeleine Felton, Felecia Taylor, Joy McCullough, Natalia Ratliff, Conrad Underwood, Elbert Richardson, Zelma Wooten, Jesus Lopez, Jodie Chen, Hester Smiley, Chance McDowell, Dirk Lynch, Wilfredo Pelletier, Darwin Platt, Freddy Acosta, Freida McKinney, Noel Austin, Rusty Gaston, and Bradly Wong, all of whom were bored, twenty-five years old, female, and keen to show me some great pictures. Personally, my money's on Hester Smiley.

Monday, 9 July 2007


Not that I'm against navel-gazing - navels being one of the great delights of the mammalian belly - but there seems to be something unhealthily introverted in the fact that my employer (a university, God love it) is now offering a Diploma in University Administration. Sooner or later the Dip.Univ.Admin. will be superseded by a D.Univ.Admin. and scholars across the world will be writing doctoral theses comparing contemporary lecture hall booking facilities with the operative structures of early Byzantine lentil trading consortia

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Rise up, ye scions of the Cambrian Explosion

"Oh it's nice to have a spine!
It really is so great!
It helps me keep in line,"
Said the happy vertebrate.

"A central nervous system
Is the boon of our subphylum.
Oysters clearly missed 'em
Which is why they are not smilum.

"No, you never see an oyster smile,
But those of us with backs
(Like the knobbly crocodile)
Are grinning stacks and stacks.

Perhaps we're rather boist'rous,
We who are so dorsal,
But better thus than oysterous -
Him's a squidgy spineless morsel."

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Vee Pees

The jury's still out on whether or not the Democratic People's Republic of Amerikay does good coffee, but there's no denying they do good vice-presidential nomenclature. Comrades, I give you Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr, after whom I would be proud to name - perhaps not my firstborn - but certainly any furred quadrupeds I or my descendents may in time husband. Take that, Deputy Prime Minister Mark "My Parents Couldn't Even Be Bothered Picking Something that Alliterates With My Surname" Vaile. Noone's going to name their guinea pig after you.

Lest you imagine that Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr., is a mere flash in the pan of appealingly named Americanian vice presidents, cast your ears over Hannibel Hamlin, Spiro T. Agnew, and Millard Fillmore. Even J. Danforth Quayle (expropriate the expropriators, I say) has a certain Republickerin' ring to it.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007


Because I am a clean-living pillar of society who likes to keep the temple holy, and because my entire capacity for substance-abuse is exercised in the regular consumption of chocolate (more recently, Green & Black's organic hot chocolate formula), I've never really gotten round to coffee. I realise that in saying this I lose all credibility as a Melburnean. I realise that those of you who have observed my sophisticated ways with relative pronouns and assumed that I'm some kind of sauve, macchiato-toting grammarian will be bitterly disappointed. But them's the facts. Coffee, and I, we just weren't meant to be.

Yet here I am, in a city whose inhabitants do espresso like I do air. Is it quaint and charming when I offer friends a choice of lemon grass and ginger or Siberian ginseng detox? Au contraire. It is, apparently, anti-social. As is, so I hear, telling them that my household consumes an average of 0.825 toilet paper rolls per week, and we'd like to keep it that way, thank you.

So I intend to reform. Not to take up the demon drink myself, but to stock appropriate apparatus, so that I can say breezily, "Oh, I won't have one myself - knocked back a few before breakfast and feeling a tad squiffy - but, behold, a deluxe percolator! Go ye into the kitchen and brew." Or something.

My question is this: do coffee drinkers (you know who you are) prefer coffee made with those glass jobs with the thing you press down or do they like those silver stove-top thingies?

Monday, 2 July 2007

I rest my objective case.

I don't want to get all grammatically prescriptivist on your neighbours' asses, but "whom" is not posh for "who". On weekends I dress up in a moustache and trilby and wander the countryside militating for the Keep Whom Alive Society; nonetheless, even I - yes, I - would rather see "whom" fossilised forever in the peat bog of dead English than watch it writhing in the throes of unschooled abuse.

Remember: "To whom should I bequeath my trilby? Should I bequeath it to her or him?", but "Who is that stealing my trilby? By Jove, I think it might be the milkman!"

P.S. I know, what with the conversational tone and the direct commands and all, that it looks like I'm talking to you, comrades, but actually these paragraphs are for the benefit of the young scholars, who, here's hoping for all our sakes, never find their way hither. God bless 'em. Come to think of it - whom am I kidding? - they're for my benefit, aren't they? This is one of those moments, self, where we realise it's just me, and me, and those good old objective relative pronouns.

Sunday, 1 July 2007


The littler of my big sistren is in town this week; so's her offsprung, who is a small person with a limb at each corner and a prodigiously expressive range of vocalisations, including "er bleugh" ("Would you be so kind as to pass the cheese, please?"), "tsa tsa" ("Why, hello, fine quadruped; yes, you with the long ears"), "errr" ("Fancy that! A bookshelf! Ripe for the unstacking!") "omblong" (untranslatable), and "eee" ("Take note: my ontological angst will attain unplumbable nadirs if you fail to acknowledge my presence forthwith"). She also waves, this offsprung, and smiles, and sits on indoor plants, liberates fridges of their fridge magnets, warms the cockles of complete strangers on trams, and laughs uproariously at cow impersonations.

To celebrate the presence of two of my favourite people, I've been doing really fun things with them. Like today I took them to the Thornbury vegetable emporium, and showed them the enormous eggplant. And then I let my sister make alphabet soup on my stovetop. And then we watched the train going by - on the Epping line, no less. Ah, the simple pleasures. Melbourne: city of fun.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Yes and snow

I don't want to overdramatize things, but the fact is that my nexts of kin are teetering on the verge of world domination. Ma & Pa Harlot are currently plotting the agricultural coup of the millennium: nine guava saplings are due to arrive at Chateau Harlot in Bright next week, and mum has already drawn up plans for Harlot & Sons Guava Jelly Enterprises Inc. My father has mastered the internet in a burst of late-onset techno-genius. Wilbur has urinated on every lamp-post in the entire greater Bright region. My brother has supervised. I mention all this by way of explaining why it is very important that I visit Bright regularly. I am a moderating influence. "Wilbur", I say, "Why not save up some of that urine for the guavas? Give the other dogs a chance." "Dad", I say, "What happened to ginger and apple conserve? You used to love ginger and apple conserve." "Brother", I say, "What do you think of all this guava business?"

Knowing, then, that it's my intermittent presence that holds things together (a service I perform not just for the sake of my family, but for the sake of the global jam-manufacturing community), you will look leniently on the fact that while I was "working at home" yesterday, I was in fact, er, working at Bright. You'll think none the less of me when you hear that I decided that my overall productivity would be enhanced by nothing so much as a quick trot up the local knoll (let's call her Mount Buffalo) during my lunch break. And now, with your sympathy guaranteed and my manifest commitment to hard work and family unconvincingly reconciled, I'll get to the point, which is that I SAW SNOW! I saw it, and I sniffed it, and I ate it, and I pranced around in it, and - whaddayaknow? - I even photographed it.

Lovely lovely stuff! It has reaffirmed my enthusiasm for weather, helped reconcile me to the trauma of not living in Sydney, and thoroughly permeated yesterday's shoes. Did I mention the snow? It snowed! On me!