Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Return of the Gentleman's Underpants

They're back again, navy blue, and on my balcony. If they were more my colour - green, say - I'd confiscate them, soak 'em in disinfectant, and add them to my collection. As it is, to paraphrase my dear friend Oscar, to lose your underpants once may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose them twice looks like carelessness.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Wee happy few

"Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water." - Christopher Morley (1890-1957)

Christopher Morley was clearly a chap who understood the existential ache of a full bladder. Or maybe it's just that I've been re-reading Rousseau's Confessions, almost every page of which alludes to Jean-Jacques' difficulties with (a) the ladies, and (b) urine retention. The eighteenth-century catheter wasn't all it might have been.

All this reminds me of a sign that my dad, a fellow of impeccable decorum, pinned up above the outside loo some years before I was born. It declared, in sententious script, "All the water in this establishment has been passed by the management." I lived with that sign for fifteen years, and never once thought of Morley's heavy heart.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Look who's thrifty now, Brown Owl

I can't go past a pile of abandoned household detritus without, at the very least, having a poke through. Having had my poke through, rare is the occasion when I don't decide that something - half a tent, a ceramic otter - deserves rescuing. My friend says people throw the things they throw out for a reason; usually that reason is that the things they throw out are crawling with Vibrio cholerae. This may be true, but I suffer from congenital archivitis, exacerbated, so my analyst tells me, by the trauma of failing to earn the Thrift Badge at Brownies. Besides, it's only a matter of time before an enterprising young pharmaceutical company patents cholera as the all-natural weight-loss drug (right up there with intestinal worms).

On my way home yesterday, amongst a pile of typhiferous mattresses and tuberculific wooden slats suppurating on the footpath, I met with what I privately call, in moments of profound passion, an escritoire. Others, less given to bestowing fancy French names on ordinary items of furniture, might describe this same entity as a "desk", but these people are missing out on one of the principle joys of foraging through piles of abandoned household detritus, where desks are escritoires and white elephants are les éléphants blancs (or something). As I was saying, I met an escritoire. I looked at it; it looked at me. It was love at first sight.

I galloped home, dumped my bag and my latest pot plant (a hybrid tea rose, for those who take an interest in such things, with blooms of cream and crimson). I galloped back again. I dared the passing cars to abduct my escritoire. None of 'em did. It may be that I looked scary enough. It may be that the cholera rumour has spread.

All well and good, only then came the feat of lugging her home. I managed. She's here.

Thanks be to my poor benighted bodkin, which growns retrospectively from every joint. My biceps were barely up to tooth-brushing this morning. Bruises sprout on both knees. I suspect I dislocated a hip, or a spine, or an elbow. Hard to say.

Apropos of yesterday's letter from Olchik, and to all those seeking conversations with strangers, I highly recommend conspicuously hoiking something twice your body weight up a busy street. Blessings be unto the seventh generation to the dog-walking couple who helped with the last two hundred metres of desk-lugging. Blessings in moderation to the old man who stopped with me on the pavement, squeezed my upper arm, pronounced "You're strong", and slapped me genially on the back. Also blessings to the kind young man who offered to drive me and my escritoire home. Had you not been behind the wheel of a two-seater Mini, I'd be forwarding your details to Olchik today.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Da na nana na na na na ...

News just in from the Australian Electoral Commission: I am now living in the federal electoral district of BATMAN!

Ah, if only this had happened twenty years ago.

Letter from Olchik

Unaccustomed as I am to the ménage à une (which is to say - just in case anyone gets the wrong idea there - "living on my ownsome"), I've been doing my darnedest to make myself a friend or two. I'm not fussy. Anyone who smiles when I start ranting to them in the street will do. The flute teacher from next door was particularly receptive to a prolonged chinwag outside the hardware shop last weekend. For that matter, I cannot sufficiently extol the conversational prowess of second-hand furniture salespeople. Certainly, it's slow going, this person by person method. You've got to wait until your suspect looks unoccupied, sidle up without arousing suspicion, launch into deceptively nonchalant chitchat, and then slip 'em your email address before they notice that you just confessed to being from the Evil Empire up north. (No, not that Evil Empire; Sydney.) But nonetheless, I feel like I'm acquiring some expertise in the befriending-strangers business.

Just how much expertise, I only realised when I found this heartfelt e-pistle in my inbox this morning:

Good day

After the long searches I have found you and I am very glad. I miss something big in my life, I am lonely in this huge world and the loneliness is killing me. I want to find a husband. And I decided to write to you. I am an ordinary girl. I am pretty, smart and sensitive. I like people, new places and nature. I am very romantic and believe in good. I am religious and I pray every day. If you are interested to know me better, please see me here http://theloveisonline.com/darling

Waiting for your answer


Well, look, Olchik, I'm awful flattered and all, but this just isn't the way to bowl up to someone you've never met. Firstly, imminent death-by-loneliness is way too intense for your second ever sentence. Try, instead, my all-time favourite conversation starters: "Gosh, it's hot, isn't it?"; "Lovely day for it"; "This beats sitting at home watching telly" (nicked this one from me dad); or "Excuse me, could you please tell me how to get back to the footpath?" These are inoffensive, non-confronting pleasantries. Wait for your interlocutor to respond, and only then tell them that the loneliness is killing you. Secondly, Olchik, you mustn't talk exclusively about yourself. It's reassuring to know that you're fond of people, new places and nature, and I see from your website that you also like ironing (me too! it's right up there with cleaning the loo), but there needs to be some back and forth in a first conversation. You could try asking your interlocutor whether they like ironing. Or perhaps, once you've mastered "Lovely day for it", progress on to "Do you believe in good?" Show that you care, and not just about yourself. Thirdly, this husband thing: don't get me wrong, some of the best chaps I know are husbands, but they're married. Most of them have long-standing commitments, mortgages and the like, which make spending overly much time with you a little awkward.

Having said all that, you might like to try buying some second-hand furniture. What you lose in floor space, you gain in gratuitous information about varnish.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

The Eligible Spatula*

Due to poor pantry management at Chateau d'Harlot, Pancake Day 07 wasn't all we'd been hoping for. The milk supplies were dwindling, so I had to supplement with water. The closest thing in the fridge to butter was low fat nuttelex (which, let me tell you, you can believe is not butter). Moreover, I'm yet to invest in a spatula, so I had to do my pancake flipping with a plastic spoon. I ended up celebrating Pancake Day with a plate full of scrambled flour.

Some time ago, I resolved that it would be crass and vulgar and transparently self-interested and altogether improper to post a gift registry on this blog. The very institution of holy matrimony (and its many unwanted kettles) would just as likely crumble within weeks. But if you do happen to be having giftwise thoughts in my general direction, you could do no better than to procure me a nice young spatula. Unless you wanted to buy me a vacuum cleaner. Or a life-sized chocolate beagle.

Speaking of which, rumours have reached me of persons who intend to give up chocolate for Lent. Here I invoke the wise words of a certain academician and brother-in-law I know, "I intend to give up Lent for chocolate." Quite right too.

* kudos to B. Bramble for originating the eligible spatula concept, circa 2001.

Real live authentic telephone dialogue from Family Harlot

Sister Kirstel: [rounding up long-distance phone conversation] I love you lots.
Sister Lexicon: [concerned] Did you just say "My ears are blocked"?

Another love or deaf decision.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

A Load of Crepe

It's Pancake Day! Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day, Pancake Day. Got it?

Monday, 19 February 2007

Gentleman's Pants

Yesterday afternoon was Official Surmount An Ever Increasing Pile of Work Day. In an age of short attention spans and microwaveable tandoori tofu, official days cannot be expected to last a whole twenty-four hours. This is why my Day devoted to Pile-of-Work Surmountation (as opposed to Sermon-on-the-Mount-ation) consisted only of the hours between 3 pm and 8 pm. Minus, that is, the time spent gazing out the window, which I considered a necessary Occupational Health and Safety measure to avoid optical deterioration.

Marking my Victorian literature exam papers in Victoria proved somewhat less exhilarating than I had hoped. Indeed, so unexhilarating, that I almost cheered when a pair of navy blue gentleman's knickers sailed down from the balcony above and landed in my new potted gardenia (such are the joys of strata living). I decided that decorum required their owner to fish them out for himself. Who knows, knocking on the door of apartment number 7 with a pair of pantaloons in paw might breach some chapter of Thornburian etiquette. We New South Welshpersons are utterly unsqueamish about undergarmentry, but I daily hear tales of Melburnean gentility, and it is still too early, methinks, to rock that particular boat (i.e., the Good Ship Frank Discussion of Pants). I pulled down my blind, to allow the underpant salvager a private retrieval, and when I raised it again, an hour later, my potted gardenia was unfestooned.

Lesser highlights of Official Surmount An Ever Increasing Pile of Work Day include reading the following: "rediculouse", as in "a rediculouse waste of time" (one suspects the author of anti-communist sentiments); "I would like to point out that the wicked process of industrialisation was the main reason women turned into prostitution" (should this scholar get a job in public policy, I take no responsibility for resultant legislation); "sigma", as in "Ladislaw faced social sigma because of his parentage" (better than social omicron, that's for sure); and in parentheses after the word "Plummle", used to describe the Dickens character more orthodoxly known as "Drummle", the words, "Sorry if this is the wrong name, my mind is B-L-A-N-K" (a confession I found so charming that I was at risk of throwing in Official Surmount An Ever Increasing Pile of Work Day altogether).

But now that particular sub-hillock of my mountain of tasks is defeated, and I say, with a tear in my eye, and a nostalgia in my left temple, "Farewell, oh Sydney Varsity! I knew thee well!" To work.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Persons who are not pathologically interested in Thornbury or over the age of 18 are advised to leave this website immediately.

Thornbury. Suburb of mystery. A place to find yourself, lose yourself, and eat gallons of Greek biscuits.

Let the magic of Thornbury lead you down its cobbled lanes.

Past its gingerbread cottages.

To the architectural splendour of its Cold War era apartment complexes (cf. Prague, 1952, minus the weather).

Dine on fresh bulk pet meat daily. Yes, please.

Paint fences with cutting aphorisms.

Free the refugees, why don't you?

Ponder questions of scale.

Race tram 86.

To Carlton.

The other thing you can do in Thornbury is put your mushrooms near the back of your new fridge so that they freeze, and then cook 'em a week later. Most mushroomy mushrooms you'll ever taste. Don't know why we haven't been freezing our mushrooms for years. Thank you, Thornbury.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Haute Couture

Melbourne is hot. Not, just now, in the questionable faux-leather undergarment sense of hot; more in the armpit-squelch-inducing sense. Exhibit A: my armpits.

You'd think that coming from Sydney, practically on the Equator, to the 'Bourne, just a notch north of Antarctica, I'd be moving from swelter to freeze. Or, if not freeze, then some kind of sensible temperature, compatible with the wearing of clothes and the exercising of brain. Think again, geographers. It's all I can do not to prostrate myself under my desk, with a wet rag across my forehead, and a couple of nearby penguins agitating their wings in a cooling fashion.

The good news is that I managed my first ever Melburnean clothes wash last night, and a week's worth of shirts and pantaloons dried on the line in 2 hours flat. Hot.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Occupational Elf

Today I had two hours of welcome-to-your-new-workplace occupational health and safety indoctrination. There was even a film, to illustrate the importance of sitting with the top of my computer screen at a level with my eyebrows. I feel ever so much more healthy and safe as a result of my learnings in occupational health and safety, but I'm wondering where the "occupational" bit fits in. I've barely had a chance to even sniff the grindstone, so busy have I been learning that if my building spontaneously combusts I should go outside. As the OH&S lecture neared the close of its second hour, it became clear that the lecture theatre was full of persons, like me, wondering when they would fit seventeen hours of work into the day. Thus, when our instructor called for questions, and met with a peeved silence, I resisted the urge to ask the question that had been singlehandedly keeping me conscious for the past thirty minutes, viz., who, what, why is an "occupational hygienist"? Every good OH&S department should have one, of course, but what exactly do they do? Are they responsible for the dispersal of campus sewerage? The disinfecting of rubbish bins? Do they advise individual staff on nail brushing and soap use? Will the occupational hygienist take one look behind my ears and declare me a threat to occupational health and safety? Do school children get career counselled into occupational hygienism? I want answers, and there's no way I'm taking my scungy fingernails to OH&S to get them.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Put this in your Vogue Living and smoke it

Hello Chez Harlot!

Yes, contrary to all expectations, there are, in fact, some books in the new 'partment.

And this rather fine lampshade (thanks, E & E; no thanks, spraycrete ceiling).

And the latest addition to the revolutionary cisternhood.

Not to mention the Rolls Royce of cheap fridges. Without the wheels.

Stay tuned for my next photo essay, "Greater Thornbury and Her Many Greek Pastry Vendors".

Monday, 12 February 2007

Chuck D.

It's Chas. Darwin's birthday today. 198 years old, he is. Not bad for a bloke who had to contend half his life with a beard the size of a merino sheep. I'm not entirely sure how to celebrate this auspicious occasion, but a cake in the shape of HMS Beagle would be a good start.


The potential for confusion between "Victorian" (pertaining to things down south) and "Victorian" (pertaining to things nineteenth-century and British) promises endless amusement. The Victorian Dog Training Academy on Preston Rd, spotted this morning, immediately made me think of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's spaniel instructing a row of pups in the proper handling of tea cups and croquet mallets. I'm almost as excited about the prospect of marking my Sydney students' Victorian Literature exam papers in Victoria. What larks!

Sunday, 11 February 2007

This post brought to you by next door's unsecured wireless network

Greetings from sunny Thornbury, home of the Thornbury markets, Thornbury station, Thornbury newsagency, Thornbury Thornbury, and - as of yestermorn - Thornbury me. There's been a certain lack of blogliness in my life these past couple of days, which illustrates the following principle, namely, That Time Spent Foxtrotting Around the Internet Is In Inverse Proportion to Time Spent Adventuring on the High Seas of Real Life.* Which reminds me, no time to regale the world with tales of Adventure on the High Seas of Real Life just now. Boxes to unpack, Melburneans to meet, dust to expel from my respiratory tract, et cetera. However, I HEREWITH SOLEMNLY PROMISE that a guided tour of Thornbury Heights is just around the corner. V. soon. Meanwhile, I love youse all. More or less equally. Sort of. There's a lot of love, anyway. You know who you are.

* This site takes no responsibility for those who meet with accident or misadventure of a maritime or vulpine nature while foxtrotting on the high seas.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Cleanliness is next to Dogliness

It was the age of Senator Joseph McCarthy, of good, clean American fun, and what better way of safeguarding the nation's moral integrity than a spot of same-sex dog-washing?

Inert Butane

They said it couldn't be done, but here I am, safe in the bosom of Thursday morning. Yes, the removalists are removaling my worldly goods down south as we speak, my summer school lectures are almost over, and My Third Televised Game Show went off without so much as a single producer requesting that I shave my armpits. (Here I thank, respectively, the best darn housemates in the world, the passing of time, and the armpit concealing properties of my cardigan.) You can catch all the dramatic tension of my Third Televised Game Show and see just how many electronics I won by tuning into the Kerry Packer Memorial channel, at 7 pm, on Tuesday 6th March. Go on. You know you want to.

For now, the edited lowlights.

Edited Lowlight #1
I don't know quite how this happened, but I somehow managed to say, on what will become national television, "I rather fancy Bert Newton." What I meant to say - and I'll persist in this version of events until the day I die - was, "I rather fancy inert butane". It just so happens that Bert Newton's face was winking at me from across the set at the time. I am nonetheless confident that my apparent confession of Newtonphilia was no more than a slip of the spooner. Not to say that Bert Newton isn't a very nice chap. In his way. No, really. A fine figure of a Bert.

Edited Lowlight #2
Game Show Host: "What word rhyming with 'plan' describes a small cake?"
Me: [confidently] "Fran!"
Ah, yes. The benefits of a tertiary education.

Edited Lowlight #3
Let's just imagine for the purposes of this anecdote that I won a 1.8 metre-wide plasma TV with DVD recorder, and that in the process of chatting to the elderly gent sitting beside me on the plane trip back to Sydville, I happened to mention it. The elderly gent considers this revelation for a moment, and then turns to me with a sage look in his eye, pronouncing, "If you get Foxtel, and some decent beer, you can have any boyfriend you want with that TV." I inspect his delivery from all angles for traces of irony, and, finding none, start dreaming of Bert.

Monday, 5 February 2007

No point Russian

It is my opinion, supported by clinical tests conducted across the northern hemisphere, that persons who seem to hail from foreign climes get better street directions than persons who sound like feckless locals. As one soon to don her pith helmet and start scything through the jungles of exotic Melborneo, I want to be able to sound like the ignorant new-comer I am, rather than a fifth-generation St-Kildarite who happens not to know how to buy tram tickets. To this end, I have recently been revisiting my accent repertoire, trying to decide between Glaswegian, Wessex, Bavarian and Russian.

It takes the better part of half an hour to stroll from the Leichhardt Ladies' Hostel to l'office, and I'm in the habit of using that time to flex the old larynx and natter away to an invariably delightful imaginary interlocutor. Today I was speaking to my imaginary interlocutor in a Russian accent. Just as I had intoned, quite loudly, "Hallo, my name is Vlasta. I would like you for to show me where is seller of tram tickets please", I heard a crunch behind me, and realised that my imaginary interlocutor and I were not alone. Indeed, we were sharing the footpath with a debonair young gent looking more groomed than Sophia Loren's eyebrows. He favoured me with a wary smirk and promptly crossed to the other side of the street.

Something I said? Surely not!

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Lazy for you

"It is better to have loafed and lost, than never to have loafed at all."

- James Thurber

Saturday, 3 February 2007

trivia, trivia, triviorum, triviis, triviis

It's now only four sleeps until my Third Televised Game Show kicks into motion, and though I'm fairly confident on the capital of Mongolia, there are strong grounds for suspicion that an alien vivisector has removed from my head that portion of the brain which in most of us retains trivia about Angelina Jolie and Shane Warne.

Housemate Emmy sent me this quiz, courtesy of the National Nine News website (journalism at its most reputable). The quiz consists of ten exacting questions, designed to test one's powers of penetrative cultural analysis. For each question - i.e., "According to a massive online poll conducted this week, who is the world's number one fantasy girlfriend?" - the quiz offers us a choice of four possible answers. Given that my fantasy girlfriend is somewhere between Hildegard von Bingen, Katharine Hepburn and an otter - the possibilities of Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Beyonce Knowles, and Adriana Lima left me with no choice but to guess. The other nine questions placed me in similar predicaments, and it's a damning indictment on the laws of probability that I proceeded to score 5/10, rather than the 2.5/10 that I statistically deserved.

In order to redress this appalling lacuna in my general knowledge, I purchased myself a copy of the Nine Network's official cultural affairs periodical, New Weekly. Here is what I learnt: if you have the temerity to be photographed standing within two metres of a chap under a palm tree, you are clearly negotiating what is officially known as Revenge Romance, in order to show your scoundrel and blackgard of an ex-paramour what-for; if you are photographed failing to gaze adoringly at your spouse, your fingers are not laced into his buttonholes, or your head not glued to his armpit, then there is every likelihood that you will walk out on your children; if your paramour and your estranged spouse both wear baseball caps, then you are trapped in a pathologically recurrent psychodrama and there is considerable doubt over the paternity of your offspring; celebrities do not have surnames, or much to eat, or long and fulfilling relationships, but the good news is that if you buy the Elemis Liquid Radiance Cell Renewal System for $191.40 and a pair of Balenciag Platform Boots for $2163 you can be just like 'em.

On sport, the name of the Ashes poet-in-residence despatched with the English cricket team is David Fine. Do not read his poetry.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Ignoramus potamus

Amongst my various foibles are fondnesses for (a) competition, (b) public exhibition, and (c) getting free stuff. It's a dangerous combination, which in the past has led to appearances on "Sale of the NEW Century" (at the tender age of 21) and "Wheel of Fortune" (at the less tender age of 25). The free stuff has been stupendous. I've bagged teddy bears valued at $1510, a shiny red lawnmower (my pride and joy), unwearable costume jewellery, a couple of boardgames, a "hostess set" (patriarchalese for a cakeslice and two salad servers), more chocolate than you can poke a stick at, and a Germani Jeweller Gold Sale of the Century lapel pin. I think the bin ate it. Whether or not the free stuff has warranted the strain of being asked by Glenn Ridge on national television if I can bellydance and bagpipe at the same time is a moot point. It's free stuff.

I was in a state of mild panic on Wednesday afternoon, induced by the thought of everything I have to do before I saunter down to the Deep South on Saturday week. I cannot fit in another thing, I told myself. Not another lunch with another friend, not another entry on this infernally procrastinatogenic blog, not so much as ONE MORE CROSSWORD. Nothing, I said. Just say no, Harlot. Nixarama. But then I got home, and there was a message, enquiring as to my availability next week to record My Third Televised Game Show appearance.* Suddenly I found myself contriving to flex my schedule around a day trip to My Third Televised Game Show's recording studios - studios which just so happen to be in the 'Bourn.

Should I be doing this? Undoubtedly not. Firstly, taking two flights from Sydney to Melbourne in the space of four days just isn't environmentally responsible. Secondly, I have lectures to write, a house to move, dearly beloveds to farewell, essays to mark, sleep to sleep. Thirdly, and most troublingly, My Third Televised Game Show (not to give too much away) is a jumped-up trivia competition. And I am infamously poo at trivia competitions. Ask me about Victorian literature, the Julio-Claudian emperors, fleas, or extinct megafauna, and I'm Bob, who is your uncle. Anything else, though, the name of Tom Cruise's baby, the lead singer of the BeeGees, the Wimbledon runner-up, and I am a gibbering ignoramus.

From the Latin, for "we do not know why she didn't just tell them to call back after she'd moved".

* Haven't seen a contract yet, but I suspect I am not allowed to identify My Third Televised Game Show before it is screened, hence my cunning ruse of calling it "My Third Televised Game Show". This is not, in fact, it's real name.