You can go your own way

Last week, I found myself walking up the street behind an elderly couple. One might have described them as slightly eccentric on first appearances, if one was willing to lay down such a judgement purely on the basis of their dress and manner. In both dress and manner they exhibited an adamant indifference to the rest of the street, and – one couldn’t help but imagine – world, around them, and this was enough to make them stand out. I wished I could take a photo of them.

If a suburb is to be judged by the price of its real estate, then they, and I, were walking in an expensive suburb of Melbourne, but like many expensive suburbs in Melbourne, Government Housing exists side by side with houses that sell for seven digit figures. It’s also a touristy suburb, being on the beach, but we were walking along a shopping strip away from the tourist area, and more likely to be populated by locals. These two characters looked neither wealthy, nor obviously poor, nor like tourists. I assume they were locals, but they could have been eccentric millionaires, or eccentric residents of Government housing, or anything in between.

The old man was slightly bent, and wearing a pair of those glasses that has an extra flap of dark glass that can be flipped up or down, so that they function as ordinary glasses or, with the extra flap down, as sunglasses. He had flipped the darker shades up, so he was walking along the street with those stuck out on a 90 degree angle. This struck me as amusing while I’m sure that from his point of view, it was completely practical. He wore a cap on his head, a shirt and a long, baggy, probably home-knitted cardigan, and trousers that hung loosely from a belt around his waist.

Here was a man who reminded me of my own father – because he clearly chose his attire due to the necessity to wear something for decency’s sake, and not because he had any interest in the colour or style, or overall effect of his ensemble. Walking closely beside him, his wife (I assume) also wore a large knitted cardigan, but hers was very colourful. Like him, she displayed indifference to any dictates of fashion, however unlike him I imagine she had, at some stage, chosen the clothes she was wearing today because she liked something about them. Probably the colours.

(*The couple in the pic above are more stylish than my elderly couple, but they exude the same sense of independence.)

In inner-city Melbourne, one would be more likely to see a colourful knitted cardigan on a young hipster woman, but this woman had been wearing them, and probably knitting them, for decades before Hipsters ever thought it a quaint idea to bring them back into fashion.

This couple were probably around the age of my parents, who are in their late seventies, and they were almost definitely  younger than my partner’s parents, who, now in their late 80s, have various health problems, and are easily exhausted. They don’t go out anymore unless they are chaperoned by someone who can help them navigate their way slowly and carefully in and out of cars, restaurants and public toilets.

But I don’t think it was this contrast that caused me to be struck at how independent and autonomous this couple seemed as they went about their trip to the shops together, walking at their own pace, talking loudly to one another, and ignoring the other people striding along the street briskly and purposefully, causing them to dodge around them as they approached from the front, or overtook them from behind.

It was because they were going their own way.

Perpetuum Mobile

I am not one of those people who rush to level crossings just to watch trains go by. Nor would I describe myself as a train nerd, no, I can’t claim that level of love for trains – but I have to admit that most mornings when the V-line (country) train pulls loudly into my station, a tiny thrill goes through me.

Let’s face it, diesel trains aim to thrill. They love a dramatic entrance; their very presence, as they stand humming in front of you, is tinged with drama. In this sense they are superior to their rather insipid cousins, the metro trains that utilise electricity and are, by comparison, relatively discreet about their arrival at your platform. Stopping at a station is not exciting for those guys; they stop every 3-4 minutes on average and probably up to 30 times on some Melbourne lines.

The arrival of a Diesel train, by comparison, is an Event. Not only do diesel trains announce their arrival at the platform with sound levels that require all conversation on that platform to temporarily stop, they stand and hum while passengers board, as though they are awfully impatient to take off again and only being held up from doing so by the annoyance of having to let people get on. Motion is everything, they seem to say, and if you are not on board in 60 seconds that will be your loss. Hurry up!

Once on board, the service protocols on country trains make the trip more of an experience than travelling in a city train is, and I’m often reminded of being a tourist travelling by train across foreign countries. Trains are not trains, they are a service. “Welcome aboard the 6.58 service to Geelong.” There are on-board announcements at each stop, advising travellers to ….look around and make sure you take all your personal items with you. Please make sure there is a platform below you before you step off the train. Lara our next stop.

For a moment, I feel like I’m travelling through Italy or France.

The sense that I’m travelling somewhere, on holiday, is sometimes exaggerated by the fluctuations in the weather that occur on a 55 minute train trip between Melbourne and Geelong. It’s possible to leave my destination in bright sunshine, travel through low lying mist as we pass the You Yangs mountain range, and arrive in pelting rain. Or vice-versa.

I enjoy train travel, because it’s a chance to ponder the clash between the permanence of the land, and the transience of human presence within it. Travelling on a fast-moving train, I whizz through landscapes that have existed, in some form, for a few millenia. I see the end products made by humans: our cities, towns, roads, and bridges, and I reflect on the changes that have taken place, even within my own lifetime – which is, of course, only a microscopic speck on the timeline in which that landscape has existed.

 

country-living-sunrise-by-gary-light

 

When I was a child, we rarely ever caught a train, and if we did, it was a major cause for excitement, partly because train travel meant travelling to the city, but mostly it was just the excitement of the train travel itself.

In those days, country trains had separate compartments, like small waiting rooms, each about 3 metres wide, with a bench seat running down each side of the little room. You walked down a little corridor, peering through the windows into each compartment, trying to find a compartment with as few people as possible in it, and when you found one, or gave up on that objective, you opened the door, entered, put your bags up on the rack and took a spot on one of the bench seats. Once the doors of the compartment closed, you were all cosily tucked into a small space the size of a walk-in wardrobe for the duration of the trip, and  you would sit for the two hour journey, facing someone else on the opposite bench, and trying not to meet one another’s gaze for more than the brief moment that was socially acceptable.

As a teenager, it was the end goal of the train trip that provided my sense of anticipation, because train travel meant escaping my small town for the thrill of the city.

Still, even then, I would stare out the window at the endless paddocks flying past, and feel a sense of affinity with the land outside the train. It was as if I knew it well, as if those paddocks and gum trees were the land I had come from. It is, and yet it isn’t: I didn’t grow up right out in the countryside, but I did, and do, live in this country. My father lived on a farm as a boy, and in the hazy memories of my own childhood, it seems to me that we spent many weekends walking through acres of bush, or through paddocks of dry yellow grass and fallen-down trunks of old grey gum trees. We drove past land that looked like this every week, visiting my cousins on their farm, which also looked like this. On longer drives to see my grandmother in Melbourne, the dry, brown paddocks between our home and the city seemed to stretch on endlessly. So, yes, those landscapes were familiar.

In Australia, and outside urban hubs, you can’t travel from point A to point B without passing through wide expanses of land where all you can see is paddocks on either side of you. In some parts of the country, paddocks become desert. Australia’s landscape is far from exotic – although on second thought, I guess what’s exotic depends what you are used to. The First English painters who tried to depict the Australian landscape grappled with the difference in the light, and the unfamiliar shapes and colors of the native trees, and somehow made the Australian landscape look softer and more lush than it really is.

view_of_geelong_1856_painting

View of Geelong, Eugene Von Guerard, 1856 (public domain) 

When I look out the window of the train now, at the yellow paddocks that stretch on as far as the the horizon, scattered with the dark green specks of eucalyptus trees, and underlined by the blue of distant mountains, I still often think about the age of the countryside that I’m travelling through. I try to imagine how the same patch of land looked 100 years ago, or 200 years ago. Was it covered in thick, dense forest back then? Would I have seen an Indigenous tribe settled near that dam? Maybe a river ran where there is now a dried up creek bed. Perhaps, as in the painting above, I might have spotted settlers, travelling through in a covered wagon, looking for a place to put down their roots.

One thing I’ve come to understand more clearly in the last few years, is that the physical world is not as stable as we like to think, and that in fact everything – including the natural landscape as well as man made structures – is in a constant state of flux. We notice the roadwork and the construction altering our city landscapes, but many other changes to our physical environment are minute, and so gradual, that they are not noticeable. The physical world, or even the landscape in which I’m travelling, is not the same as it was five years ago, or one year ago or even yesterday. This state of constant change will continue throughout my life and long after I’m gone from this earth.

All of this goes through my mind, sometimes, when I look out the window of the train in the morning, on my trip to work. I’m miles away from the inner suburbs of Melbourne where I live, and it’s a commute that not many Melbourne dwellers would voluntarily choose to do – travel out of the major urban centre to  Geelong for work – but sometimes, that travel actually feels less like an annoyance, and more like an opportunity. It gives me a different perspective on the city where I live, reminding me that it’s not the whole world, that just outside of Melbourne are all these boundless plains.

 

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*when I’m able to think of one, I like to use a title or lyric of a song for the name of a post. In this case, Perpetuum Mobile is a piece of music by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, which does very aptly capture a sense of forward, ongoing motion.

Photo above: Country Living Sunrise, by Gary Light, licensed under a Creative Commons licence.

Kool Thing

via Discover Challenge: Song

I’m slow off the mark at times. It must be nearly two weeks ago now that I saw a prompt on the Daily Post,  just one word, song. I was already 3/4 of the way through a different post, however, and I chose to finish that and let the other idea sit in the back of my mind, where I knew there were at least 100 different posts I could write with the word song as a starting point. After I’d published that other post and sat down to write something on song, it seemed the idea that had made its way slowly to the top of the pot was to write about this song, or more specifically, why I can’t listen to it any more.

When I hear Kool Thing, by Sonic Youth, I feel a sort of cold chill run through me. It’s not a chill of excitement. It’s the chill of a complex mixture of negative emotions I can’t quite pin down. Let’s say that in that mix there is embarrassment, mortification, and anger, too, probably.

Those feelings, embarrassment, mortification and anger, are directed at myself. They are directly squarely at an image of myself, five years ago, on the night of Sunday September 11, 2011, standing at the sink, peeling potatoes, and listening to the Sonic Youth album, Goo.

Taking a step back, about 2 hours earlier on that same day, I had learned that my younger brother John had died suddenly, in his sleep, some time that weekend. Conversations had been had, phone calls to other family members had been made, and now I was left, alone. My partner had gone out, to drive across town and pick up my youngest brother; it was he who lived with John, and it was he who had phoned us with the news. My daughter was only 11; instinctively she kept herself busy in her room.

If my daughter had come out of her room she would have seen me in the kitchen, and to her everything would have looked normal – I was moving and functioning – but in fact I was not completely present; there was an invisible bubble around me, keeping me at arms length from reality. I had stopped somewhere, but I had a dim awareness that time was still moving on around me, and this told me that dinner needed to be made, so that we could eat something when the guys got back from across town. In this state of reality/unreality, I put on Goo, to listen to as I cooked.

I chose that album because John had always been a huge Sonic Youth fan, and I thought maybe that was what you do when you’ve just found out that your brother has died.

Or did I? I look back now and wonder what on earth I thought. Did I think that the most appropriate thing to do was to put on music that the deceased person had liked? Did I think that it was no different to fondly thinking about someone who was merely absent? Did I think I lived in a fucking movie?

Because if I had been an actor in a movie, an appropriate soundtrack would have swelled up in that scene of me peeling potatoes at the sink; music representing my brother, music that he had liked, lyrics that encapsulated something about him. And the music would be accompanied by a montage of snapshots, images of him throughout his life, existing in the head of the character I was playing, but visible for all the viewers at home, the way that TV and film can do.

But if I’d been an actor in a movie, it would all have been acting; my “brother” would be played by another actor, neither the actor or my brother would really be dead; there would have been no reason to totally switch off my emotions.

So, mistaking real life for a movie at that moment – maybe because everything suddenly felt so unreal – I put on Goo, as if for all the world I was putting on the album because my brother was on his way over for a meal. I did what it seemed that someone in a movie would do in this situation: put on the album, let it be the soundtrack of that night, let it honor him, while I cooked.

Of course, inevitably, I have never been able to listen to that album again. But it’s not because the tracks off that album evoke such sadness in me. It’s embarrassment, mortification and anger at myself for what seems now like a display of insincerity, that have become attached to the songs from Goo after that night.

I picture that moment at the sink and actually blush, from a deep sense of shame, at what a stupid thing it was to have done. Looking back now it seems disingenuous, as if I was playing out the role of a grieving person, learned from TV soap operas. Here in the present, I’ve felt mortified to be the person that did that. It seems as if I thought some kind of celebratory move was required, when it was way to soon for that. And I’m annoyed that I spoiled that album for myself, because it was an album that John loved.

Of course when I look back now, my action in putting on one of his favourite albums to play while I made soup highlights how the news of his death had only broken through the surface of some very outer barrier of my mind at that stage, it had not yet really penetrated my understanding, and shock was already playing its part in making me feel like a robot going through the motions: make a nourishing meal. Ring your sister.

Rationally, I know that it is not worth feeling humiliated, mortified or embarrassed about. I realise that one doesn’t know what the done thing is, when someone dies suddenly. But these irrational emotions are surprisingly effective at blocking out others. When I’m filled with the heat of embarrassment, I’m not also able to feel sad at the same time. I cry at all sorts of things nowadays, and certainly at plenty of songs, but not at songs by Sonic Youth.

 

 

 

 

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Note: this prompt encouraged the writer to post links or multimedia; but in keeping with the topic, I don’t want to.

A Bridge over Troubled Waters

In the late 1700s, Britain faced a few problems.

I say this with all the authority of someone who was born in the colonies, mind you. Consider that a disclaimer about my relationship to Britain, if you like.

Due to the industrial revolution, population in the cities had increased, poverty was rife, leading to crime, and as a result, there was severe overcrowding in prisons. With many families struggling to have enough food, incidences of petty theft were high. Harsh sentencing laws made it common practice to jail people for crimes that, these days, would not considered worthy of a jail sentence. In 1786, a first-time thief could be locked up for stealing a few parsnips. (Serious offences like rape or murder warranted death by hanging back in Britain.)

At this time it was not seen as the role of a government to tackle social problems, so for some time the solution to the cycle of poverty and overflowing jails had been to send convicts to the American colonies, but, inconveniently, America was moving towards independence by this time, and it seemed unlikely that this plan could continue.

As it happened, Joseph Banks had recently returned from a far-flung expedition across the seas, and declared that a newly discovered land in the south was remarkably suitable to housing the overflow of prisoners.  So this enormous land mass to the south, now dubbed by the British as Australia (much as you might claim a stray kitten as your own and name her) had its dubious beginnings in Western, or modern, history, as a penal colony.

11 convict ships sailed in the First Fleet, from England to Botany Bay, arriving in January 1788. Convicts were banished to the colony of Australia for crimes ranging from misdemeanours to political activism. A glance at records meticulously collected at a site called First Fleet Fellowship shows that the most common crime committed by those hapless prisoners was larcency, the crime of non-violent theft. Some of the perpetrators were as young as 15 years old.

Different penal colonies were set up, notably at Sydney Cove, and in Van Diemens Land, later renamed Tasmania, Australia’s southernmost state. Between 1788 and 1868, it’s estimated that approximately 162,000 convicts were transported from Britain to Australia’s penal colonies, and approximately 73,500 of these were sent to Tasmania.

Wandering around Hobart (the capital city of Tasmania) in the present day, and along the convict trail outside of Hobart, you will find plenty of buildings and landmarks that were built, back then, by gangs of convict labourers. One of these is the charming old Richmond Bridge, in Richmond Village, about a 20 minute drive outside of Hobart.

Richmond village is a tourist destination in Australia, because western-style architecture that dates all the way back to 1820 seems to us to be very old indeed. That’s because, within Australia, it is very old. What’s more, the use of handcut sandstone, and even the tiny size of buildings that were built back in the early part of the 19th Century, are an exotic novelty for people like myself, a Melburnian, who sees a lot of skyscrapers being erected where old buildings have been torn down, and only sees sandstone architecture when she visits areas that were old penal colonies.

The Richmond Bridge is Australia’s oldest stone arch bridge, completed in 1825.

richmond-bridge-tasmania

Photo: © Blathering 2016

Convicts formed gangs of unpaid labourers that basically built buildings and infrastructure in the first decades of Australia’s new identity as a British colony.  According to the State Library of New South Wales:

Convicts were a source of labour to build roads, bridges, courthouses, hospitals and other public buildings, or to work on government farms……..Just as dreadful as the cat o’ nine tails was a long stint on a chain gang, where convicts were employed to build roads in the colony. The work was backbreaking, and was made difficult and painful as convicts were shackled together around their ankles with irons or chains weighing 4.5kg or more.

It seems incredible, standing near this bridge on a sunny morning in 2016, to realise that a little less than 200 years ago – a relatively short time in the history of western civilisation; merely a few generations of great-grandparents ago – people were working as forced labour in chain gangs in this country, to build a utilitarian piece of infrastructure, that we are now stopping our tour bus to take photos of. How quaint, we say, look at the charming stonework! Look at the plaque that says 1825! How ancient! 

Of course, as a white Australian, my history, if one assumes that my history is contained only within my family lineage, can be traced back through the stories of various white people who emigrated from England and Ireland, as well as at least one relative who was transported here as a convict. (such pride!) It’s possible that the history of my family line could include someone who worked as a labourer in such a gang, or, someone who oversaw the gang (although that is less likely as the earliest of my emigrant relatives were Irish.)

But I’ve come to realise that as an Australian, my history is inextricably intertwined with the history of this land where I live, and the people who lived in these places before me, whether that was in this house, in this suburb, or across this continent. Prior to 1788, that history is not contained in buildings and landmarks that remain for us to admire, because the indigenous peoples who had lived here for many thousands of years were largely nomadic or semi-nomadic, moving with the seasons. They comprised of 250 different nations with differing ways of life, but mostly they did not build permanent dwellings, so we do not have the stone castles and old ruins scattered across the landscape that one finds in Europe, those constant visual reminders of lives lived 100s of years earlier.

The history of Australian lives on this land prior to 1788 might encompass 40,000 years or anything up to 125,000 years, according to differing studies. Those lives largely took place in caves and impermanent, sustainably built structures, in bushland, and desert, and by the sides of rivers, creeks, and lakes. Therefore, there are few visual reminders found today in the urbanised landscapes that I inhabit, unless you happen to take the time to learn the history of a local area, where a feature such as a river might have had huge significance to the lives of tribes living nearby, right up to the period in history that I’ve been talking about.

Rivers like the Coal River, in Tasmania, over which Richmond Bridge is built. Lives that were largely wiped out in Tasmania, within about 80 years of the arrival of white Australians.

So the Richmond Bridge is charming, certainly. I like it as much as anyone, and took about 12 photos of it from differing angles. But if we are to dwell on Australia’s colonial history for any amount of time, this bridge can also serve as an important reminder of harsher times, when some groups of people were treated almost like slaves, and other groups of people were not even accorded that status.

 

via Daily Prompt: Bridge

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Quite a few sites were consulted for information in this post. If not already linked to within the text above, they can be found below:

australia.gov.au – Convicts and the British colonies

First Fleet Fellowship Victoria

Discover Tasmania – Convict Trail

environment.gov.au – National Heritage Places – Richmond Bridge 

State Library of NSW – The Convict Experience

wikipedia – Kulin Nation

 

How Much I Hate Milk

One of the great advantages of being a blogger who writes a personal blog, apart from all the paid writing gigs,* is that I never need to be stuck for an answer again, when  filling out a survey, updating my CV, or just making polite small talk, as to what my interests and hobbies are. Of course, I can readily answer that blogging is one of my hobbies, but I don’t need to stop there, the way that a non-blogger might have to if they can’t remember any other interests right at that moment – and let’s face it, that has happened to all of us in a job interview.

If I draw a momentary blank at the phrase “so Blathering, tell us a bit about yourself,” I don’t end up creating a long and awkward pause in the conversation while I rack my brain to try and think of something, just to prove that I am, in fact, a well-rounded person with lots of varied interests.

In a matter of seconds, I can whip out my phone or iPad, pull up my blog, and, barely missing a beat in the conversation, reel off a wide range of interests. Hah! That’s because all I need to do is glance over at the Tag Cloud at the right-hand side of my blog. Displayed there for all the world to see, are the topics that have interested me the most, in the six years (where did all that time go??) that I’ve been writing this blog for.

 

A super quick guide to my interests, if not so much my hobbies.

A super quick guide to my interests, if not so much my hobbies, on August 16 this year.

Instantly, I impress my aquaintances with my broad range of interests. “Music!” I announce confidently. Great – everybody in the world says they like music, whether they do or not, so I can’t go wrong there. “Cats.” Seems worth a go, with the slight risk that they may be a cat hater, or have a cat allergy.  I scan the list of other topics frequently written about. Insomnia? My brother died? These may send the wrong message in a job interview. Time? The Universe? These may make me sound too much of an abstract thinker for this executive role in the Pest Control industry. Hmmm. “Yoga….mats?” *grins weakly*

The Tag Cloud is a constantly morphing thing; a ‘real-time’ guide to your latest passions, if you like, since Tags, and their relative sizes (in this particular style of Tag Cloud), are based on how often a topic is written about and tagged. Readers can click a tag and be taken to posts about that topic.

In the beginning, the major topics on this blog, and therefore reflected in the Tag Cloud, were moustaches, eyeballs, rhinos, avocados, and Samuel Beckett, which I felt nicely captured my enjoyment of the absurd. In order to present a more rounded picture of myself,  I naturally progressed to writing a few posts about Nietzsche, and existentialism, just to add an appearance of high-brow intelligence to the blog, and show that I could write about more than just a few common nouns (and Beckett.) Nietzsche pops up every now and again since he is such a funny guy to write about.

Oh alright, in all honesty, the prominence of Nietzsche on this blog only began because of his utterly ridiculous moustache, and from there it developed a life of its own, which I feel barely responsible for. As Kierkgaard once commented, when you combine a dour philosopher and a massive comical moustache, the material just writes itself!

This is where the Tag Cloud can be misleading, because it would make me seem a tad more intellectual than I really am. You could, for example, see his name there and assumed that I’ve written a doctorate on Nietzsche. (I have actually sent an application to the University of Melbourne to write a post-graduate thesis on his moustache, but they have so far not allocated a supervisor for this project.)

Similarly, Air Supply (an Australian band, big in the 1970s-80s) is not really a particular interest of mine, but was for a short while a few years ago, when I read a strange line about them on their Wikipedia page (since removed), and wrote a post about it. As I am a student of post-modernism (thank you to Art School), I then made the self-referential move of referring to that post in other posts, which had the end result of causing Air supply to be a highly searched term on this blog for a while, and I guess must be how they are still retaining their status on the Tag Cloud.

Based on this Tag Cloud, Technology also appears to be an interest of mine, however I’m far from a “tech-head.” I’m not anti-technology, and it can be interesting, but I’ve probably written more about old technology or, even better, imaginary technology, my favourite kind. These are probably what that tag refers to. Although forced to deal with it on a daily basis in my job, my ability to understand current technology is not high, for example I don’t really even understand what a server is or does. So that is another misleading Tag.

Of all the things still popping up in that Tag Cloud, it is probably most strange that rhinos maintain a position there, when I can’t recall having written about those cuddly critters for quite some time now, possibly since this attempt to describe myself for readers, and that was written a few years ago.

But the reason for this post today is because I feel there has recently been a gaping absence in the Tag Cloud. A topic that was there for some time has dropped right off, and it’s something I feel is an integral aspect of my identity. It’s clear that I have not written enough about it lately. That is, my hatred of milk, or, as it was previously spelled out in the Tag Cloud, How Much I Hate Milk. My hatred of milk stems right back to my childhood, and I’ve written about it in detail here.

Let’s just say that when, as a child, your introduction to milk is the freshly frothy, still warm stuff that has just been squirted out of a cow’s udders, into a bucket, and then tipped into some old sherry bottles (of dubious sterilisation) that still retained a smell, or taste of sherry, it’s a wonder if you can hold your Weeties down in the morning.

Of course, I realise that I am able to manipulate the Tag Cloud by writing posts about, and tagging, specific topics, but what blogger would let their Tag Cloud guide what they choose to write about? If I was going to do that, I’d write a whole post based around the concept of how much I hate milk, just to see if I can get that tag to appear on there again.

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*Paid writing gigs: 0 so far. If you need someone to write about rhinos, eyeballs, moustaches or any other common nouns for your newsletter or website, please indicate your interest and rate of renumeration in the comments. All offers considered.

A few words from our sponsors

A Few Words From Our Sponsors is a new quarterly segment brought to you by our local business sponsor,  Moustaches Are Us, suppliers of quality moustaches to existentialists and philosophers for over 150 years. Below are our favourite words for Spring.

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Posthumous

the state of despair arrived at when you have eaten all your hummus* and have none left to dip that last bit of pita bread into. (*some spell it humus or humous – a tasty dip of Lebanese origin, made from chickpeas.) Some believe that this state can lead to questioning the very meaning of existence and that it may have been a hummus shortage that triggered the beginnings of the existentialist movement in the late 19th Century.

 

Rejected cover art for the biography of Friedrich Nietzsche

A rejected submission for the cover of a biography of Friedrich Nietzsche

Phosphorescence

a word designed for the sole purpose of having a softly soothing word to whisper quietly to yourself in the dead of night when you cannot sleep. Try it tonight! For certain success, drink a large glass of brandy and swallow a valium before you crawl into bed to begin. As a cure for insomnia, the Phosphorescence method is highly recommended by Lady Macbeth, and endorsed by Dorothy Parker.

rhythm

a word that will forever feel incomplete, because of the oversight of the powers-that-be, who did not include a silent n at the end of this word when they built the original. This author bravely attempted, back in Grade 6, when taking part in the combined primary schools spelling bee, to bring this scandalous oversight to light, but her efforts to highlight the need for an n on the end of rhythm did not get the swell of community support hoped for, so rhythm continues to always seem one (silent) letter short of its full potential.

unrequited (by request from the Department of Speculation)

A word brimming with possibilities, but mainly only if you are playing the game where you locate other words hidden within it. This author put her timer on for 3.25 minutes and located the following:

quite

quiet

quieted

it

queer

tied

diet

die

tired

tried

ride

If you can find other words, please leave these in the comments below, to go into the draw to win one of our Existential Moustaches for October.

billious

this word is the result of a dysfunctional union between two already icky words: bile and ill, but that second syllable in billious adds a whole other dimension to it, making this writer imagine a sickly, yellow hue, and think of movement in a circular direction, all of which seems to suggest very clearly the vomit that is probably churning ferociously up your intestines as you read this.

orangutang

Nietzsche famously remarked that it’s a myriad of pleasure just to pronounce the word orangutang, let alone to visit the obligingly zany creature at the zoo. (I believe Nietzsche actually confided to a friend that in fact he got even greater enjoyment from the phrase, Hubba Bubba, and had spent many delightful evenings engaged in smoking his pipe on the verandah and repeating that diverting phrase to himself, but conceded that orangutang was a strong second choice and gave him a chuckle every now and then.) The burning question is, why has no-one named a tangy orange drink Orang-u-tang? Red bulls have a drink named after them, why not orangutangs? You heard it here first.

ferocious

While we are making predictions, this word has so much presence all by itself that it is just begging to be the startling, one-word title of the next Man Booker Prize winning novel, and following that, the Hollywood film based on the novel, starring Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Maggie Smith. (I really wanted Jake Gyllenhaal but he just wasn’t quite right for the part.)

ricochet

ricochet is fun to say. We like words that are fun to say, but we also like it when, in our imaginations at least, the word seems to convey the concept. Ric-o-chet sounds to us like the pinballs bouncing from one corner to another inside a pinball machine.

And that’s it for our words for this quarter. Stay tuned for summer when we will bring you another round, courtesy of Moustaches Are Us.

 

A short play for two people

Scene: a kitchen.

Two elderly people – we’ll call these characters Mum and Dad, are seated at the kitchen bench looking through a pile of photos from their son’s recent wedding.

A third person, looking to be in her forties, is drying dishes nearby. We’ll call her Daughter.

Mum: (squinting as she peers closely at a photo) Who’s that?
Daughter (steps in and looks at the photo): um, that’s your husband of, what….nearly 50 years now?
Mum: (tone of surprise) Oh! (directs next question to Dad, as if trying to get her head around a complex scenario): So…..you were standing next to [son] and…….his friend was standing on the other side of him?
Dad (takes photo to verify): It sure looks that way.

 

mg-cartoon-dad-paul-g-paul-b-at-pauls-wedding

An Artist’s Impression of the unbelievable scene that took place that day.

 

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PS: on formatting – many thanks to Silver Tiger for emailing me with the tip on how to finally get a space to appear in the published version of this post, between the text and the image. I’ve never had a problem before but for some reason on this post, in the draft it looked fine but in the published version there was no space. Now fixed and I’m 100% happy with the result. I knew some lovely reader would have the required know-how. Hurray for readers! Hurray for know-how!
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