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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Alfred the Great

One of the things I spoke about in my Dad’s eulogy was the joy we shared in trips to the Lake District. We would go up two or three times a year and I could still talk about favourite routes with some small authority.

An integral element of our walks was a close study of the marvellous guidebooks of Alfred Wainwright. He was an unassuming civil servant who spent his weekends tramping the fells and producing his series of Pictorial Guides, describing in great detail every route up every fell.

Crucially, he also produced his own drawings and maps, and the books reproduced his own handwriting.

The text itself is, most importantly, informative, but is ornamented with a great appreciation of the landscape, a poetic turn of phrase and the occasional outbreak of gentle humour. The effect is one of tremendous charm, and the complete set of guides that I have now inherited is a cherished possession.

Here he is about Haystacks, a beautiful mountain and the one on which his ashes were spread:

Haystacks stands unabashed and unashamed in the midst of a circle of much loftier fells, like a shaggy terrier in the company of foxhounds… For a man trying to get a persistent worry out of his mind, the top of Haystacks is a wonderful cure.

(The various - notoriously unreliable - quotation websites credit AW with the classic “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”, which I first heard in a Billy Connolly routine and have repeated often ever since. Did AW really originate this?)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear...

On Friday we had a are trip to the theatre to see Brecht and Weill's The Threepenny Opera. Originally a condemnation of the Weimar Republic (think Cabaret performed by Tom Waits), this production has caused some local controversy for updating it to contemporary Sydney. Unsurprisingly, the themes of political corruption and moral bankruptcy among the ruling classes survive the transition just fine.

The plot revolves around the infamous villain MacHeath, aka Mack the Knife, who revels in the assertion of brute power and his apparent immunity from the law. His catalogue of crimes remains shocking, including numerous instances of rape and murder.

Weirdly, among the whirl of coke-snorting bishops and transvestite prostitutes, M&I both felt that the most transgressive moment was The Soldier's Song, including the lyrics "Black or brown or khaki/A darkie's still a darkie". We have become inured to everything, it seems, except the possibility that the Aussie Digger may not be entirely PC when it comes to dealing with the locals.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Meme evidently composed by a young person

A meme post, via Con. Passes the time.

1. Name one person who made you laugh last night?
Dylan Moran, live at Sydney Opera House. He was pretty good.

2. What were you doing at 0800?
Piled up in bed with M&Bs, preparing to get up. It’s all been downhill since then.

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
Checking email.

4. What happened to you in 2006?
I thought we had agreed never to raise that incident. Also, I started working at University of Sydney and watched B1 grow up.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud?

6. How many beverages did you have today?
Water, diet coke, diet pub squash.

7. What colour is your hairbrush?
I remember hairbrushes...

8. What was the last thing you paid for?
Car parking.

9. Where were you last night?
See (1)

10. What colour is your front door?
No idea. You could probably find out on Google Street View. (This is a weird thing not to know, I imagine. Basically I don't care enough to use up the brain capacity.)

11. Where do you keep your change?
Front left pocket.

12. What’s the weather like today?
Boringly Australian.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavour?
Boysenberry, mmm.

14. What excites you?
Sex and Arsenal FC, usually at different times.

15. Do you want to cut your hair?
Kind of a moot point.

16. Are you over the age of 25?
Well and truly.

17. Do you talk a lot?
Not so much as people think, somehow.

18. Do you watch the O.C.?
Never have. Ought I?

19. Do you know anyone named Steven?
Many. Incidentally, if you should ever find yourself talking to a creationist then Project Steve is an amusing fact to mention although it may earn you a less than Christian response.

20. Do you make up your own words?
As a rule, I think we have plenty to be getting along with. I am very careful to use words with as precise a meaning as possible.

21. Are you a jealous person?

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’.
Big Andy.

23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’.
The Lovely Kate.

24. Who’s the first person on your received call list?
Richard, the neighbour with whom I saw a radio show being recorded last week. I don’t get many calls.

25. What does the last text message you received say?

26. Do you chew on your straw?
I hate straws.

27. Do you have curly hair?
Look, stop making jibes about my lack of hair would you?

28. Where’s the next place you’re going to?
The computer shop next to work. I need to get some AV cables. Yes, my life is that exciting.

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life?
Probably my neighbour Paul, to whom I am equally rude in return.

30. What was the last thing you ate?
A couple of peanuts.

31. Will you get married in the future?
I think M would be both surprised and disappointed.

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks?
Deep End

33. Is there anyone you like right now?
Do you mean fancy? In which case M, obviously. In a more general sense, I agree with whoever it was that said, roughly, "I like people, it's humanity I can't stand".

34. When was the last time you did the dishes?

35. Are you currently depressed?
Hmm, that’s a big word which I avoid because I am not clinically depressed and would not wish to belittle that terrible condition. I would say that I am of a melancholic disposition and have had reason for sadness recently.

36. Did you cry today?
Not yet, but I do cry a lot.

37. Why did you answer and post this?
Meme posts are more fun to write than to read, so I would be amazed if anybody has read this far. If you have, please write the name of your favourite fish in the comments.