It is a little known fact that today I turn fifty-six, if you round my age up to the nearest fifty-six. Certainly I am nearer to fifty-six than zero, which is not something I could have truthfully claimed four years ago. Just goes to show, if you keep working hard enough at something, you'll get there eventually.
I have been celebrating my birthday by Working At Home, which is still working, even if I do most of it in bed and pyjamas. Before lunch, for instance, I wrote a paragraph towards the 7000 word essay that is due on the 30th May. It's a very exciting essay (oh yes), about the rhetorical exchanges between Decadent poets and late nineteenth-century psych-iatrists/ologists in codifying those conditions now known as synaesthesia, and I wrote the conference paper version of it in January. Now I have to turn it into something that will withstand the buffets and blows of peer scrutiny, with no prospect of distracting said peers from my logical slipshoddery by the usual (my charmingly Australian accent, the light winkling off my spectacles, the blob of dried hummus on my lapel). So back to my day: I wrote this paragraph before lunch, and after lunch I deleted most of it, and then I decided to let the essay moulder at the back of my cranium for another day while I addressed the pressing matter of Monday morning's three hour seminar on Janet Frame. The thing is, and I know I'll sound like Geeky McGeek in saying this, but I can't imagine a nicer way to spend a birthday. Especially if you throw in a couple of cats spilling off my lap, and some interesting things from my sisters in the letterbox, and the knowledge that tomorrow morning the Beagle Express is going to be hurtling down the Hume Highway bearing Wilbur and my parents, who have kindly scheduled a date with a suitcase repairperson so as to excuse the seven hours of driving that will enable them to have a birthday dinner with me.
So what have I learned in my fifty-six years? This: that American exchange students often have names like Brandi and Hunt; that you should always carry a safety pin; that however you cook it, tempeh tastes like it has been prised from the forest floor with a sharp gumboot; that "facetious" contains every vowel in alphabetical order, as does "facetiously".