Another blogoversary. I’m going to resist the temptation to analyse the last 12 months. Instead all I’ll say is that last weekend, I finally fulfilled a year-long ambition.
It was worth getting the second visa just for this:
I had some research to do for this project I’m working on and I was putting it off and putting it off because I was too lazy to do it and also because I feared that it would take a lot of time to achieve not very much.
Finally, yesterday, I thought, that’s it, you’ve just got to do it, so I signed up for membership at the State Library of Victoria. I go there often to use the internet but this was the first time I’ve tried to access any of their resources.
It was just too easy. I selected two books that I was interested in from their online catalogue, hit the request button, and a sign popped up on the screen saying that my items would be available in 30 minutes. I imagined this whole team of people in the basement being activated the moment I clicked the mouse, beginning to move methodically up and down, left and right, through a grid of bookshelves, combing through rows and rows of books for the titles I needed. It was like playing an arcade game, only better, because I would win every time and the prize would be exactly what I wanted. I could see that this could become addictive.
Shortly after collecting my books, my suspicions that I was not a very effective researcher were confirmed. One of the books was completely useless; my own fault entirely since the main reason I picked it was because I liked the title. Skimming through the contents page of the second book, I forgot all about the focus of my research when my eye alighted on the chapter title The Murder of Margaret Graham.
Of course I had to read it, and it was an interesting case. An attractive, red-headed 18 year old was found murdered in her bed by her husband, sometime in the early 1860s I believe (I’m not such a terrible researcher that I took notes on something irrelevant to my project so I can’t be sure). A casual farm hand who had been camping in the area was arrested on the strong evidence that he had an evil eye. Further damning evidence was the unusual pipe found at the scene of the murder which allegedly belonged to the accused. Or was it taken to the crime scene at a later date? The police investigating the case couldn’t agree on this point. At any rate, a farmer who had once employed the farmhand said he’d seen him with such a pipe. The farmhand was found guilty and hanged. He never confessed to the crime.
Personally, I think it must have been the husband. The victim was alive and well at 9pm and dead by the time he got home from work at midnight. What’s to say he didn’t stab her himself then run out and tell the neighbours she was like that when he found her?
Apparently the murderer entered the house via the chimney and the author of the book I was reading speculated that there would be no need for the husband to enter his own house in such an unconventional manner.
Surely there would be no need for anyone to enter the house in such a ridiculous manner. It certainly wouldn’t be very stealthy. You couldn’t make your escape the same way you came in. You’d have to exit via the front door looking conspicuously sooty and probably leaving a trail of black footprints that would lead the police straight to you. Not to mention the sooty fingerprints you would leave on the body and in the bedroom. I wondered what evidence made the police think this was how the criminal came into the house?
I also wondered if it would be possible to go back and look at newspaper articles and court reports and witness statements from the time to work out who the killer was. It’s been done before: I saw an exhibition in Melbourne Gaol about Colin Ross who was pardoned in 2008, 86 years after being hanged for murder.
But intriguing though it was, I didn’t have any more time to mess about. I knuckled down, got the information I needed, then returned the books to the collection desk.
Pikelets: We had pikelets (mini pancakes) at smoko (break time) yesterday, which is what sparked this whole post off. Back in Edinburgh we used to sell pikelets in the supermarket where I worked. I thought they were French, like crêpes.
“We’re all out of blinis I’m afraid, but perhaps you’d like some pee-ke-lays to go with your smoked salmon?”
But no, they’re Aussie, so pike-lets it is, then. They don’t sound half so glamorous now.
Meat pies: Before I came out here three different Australians told me independently “You have got to try an Aussie meat pie.” So I did, and this is what I thought: Meh. Don’t get me wrong, they’re tasty all right, but come on, it’s meat stuffed in a pastry case. We can do that in the UK too, you know. Then I heard a rumour that the quality of the meat pie depends on the brand. Maybe if I try a few different brands I might find a pie that blows me away? I’m prepared to give it a shot.
Kangaroo: Did you know that kookaburras eat kangaroo? It’s true. I was having a barbeque with some friends in a national park in Victoria and just as I raised my sandwich to my lips, a kookaburra swooped past my face and swiped the kangaroo sausage right out from between the bread slices.
Crocodile: One of the textbooks I worked with when I was teaching English as a foreign language had a chapter devoted to international food. It said that Australians eat crocodile. I didn’t believe it for a second. I thought that crocodiles were endangered. But then I got here and discovered that you can buy crocodile burgers at gourmet burger stands. I’ll try one someday. It’s about time crocodiles were put back into their rightful place in the food chain.
Anzac biscuits: For today’s smoko we had Anzac biscuits baked by the farmer’s wife. She told me that they are so named (ANZAC stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps) because they used to be sent out to soldiers fighting in the war. The rolled oat biscuits kept well which made them ideal for transporting abroad. They didn’t last very long at smoko; less than five minutes I would say.
Liked this post? Vote for my blog, Helen Caldwell: Living, working and travelling in Australia, in the People’s Choice round of the Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition. Thank you!
Three years of blogging, 188 posts (that’s a nice number, isn’t it?) and 25049 hits. I’m hoping for exactly three more hits in the next 35 minutes so that by the end of today I’ll be on 25052, a palindrome, which is a very very nice sort of number indeed.
Since my blogoversary falls on Halloween, here’s a creepy video in keeping with the spooky theme of the day. It’s Thrill the World Melbourne, which took place yesterday. It looks great, doesn’t it? Man, that’s a complicated dance. I know some people who took part this year. I practiced with them a little in the run up to the event. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to join in. It’ll definitely take me the full 12 months to master the steps!
I’ve just been reading the latest issue of Mslexia and there’s a mention in the What’s New section about the recent Washington Post neologism contest where readers were asked to come up with alternative meanings for words. Check out the winning entries here.
My favourites are flabbergasted (adj): appalled over how much weight you have gained, willy-nilly (adj): impotent and balderdash (n): a rapidly receding hairline.
The Washington Post also ran the Move on Back competition where they asked readers to create new words by moving the first letter to the end and to provide a definition. The winning entries are so clever. A few of the best: erriered: made an ass of oneself, carecrows: women who are so devoted to their men that they scare them away, Carusi: a man who died while trying to sing an impossibly high note.
Can you come up with a new definition for an existing word? Or coin a new word altogether?
I’ve heard that it’s getting harder and harder for new writers to break into the world of traditional publishing and that they’re having to explore new ways of getting their work out there. But posting your novel page by page on New York City lampposts? Or tattooing the words from your story on 2000 volunteers? Whatever next?
What unconventional method would you use to get your writing out there? I’m thinking skywriting. Or projecting it onto Edinburgh castle… Neither of these are cheap options so a more DIY mode of distribution would be to convert my manuscript into confetti using a hole punch and scatter it through the city centre. Not sure anybody would be able to read it though, unless I wrote in teeny tiny writing.
Agatha Christie, apparently. I pasted 1000 words of prose into the I Write Like analyzer and that was the result. My blog posts are more in the style of Chuck Palahniuk* and my interviews are like something H. P. Lovecraft would write. Thanks to R. A. Martens for bringing this entertaining procrastination tool to my attention.
*Fab Wikipedia fact: Chuck Palahniuk’s literary agent is Edward Hibbert, the actor who plays Gil Chesterton on Frasier.
Who do you write like? Do you have a favourite Wikipedia fact?
Do you remember me blogging about the Genomics Forum Poetry Competition last August? Well, the winners have recently been announced and you’ll note that the first-placed poem is indeed shaped like a DNA helix!
I’m not a romantic person, not at all, and I woke up this morning wondering what the Valentine’s day equivalent of “Bah, humbug” is. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem appropriate to blog on February 14th without throwing in some reference to love or romance, so here is a literary love quiz.
My score was shocking, 3 out of 10. I think that says more about my knowledge of English literature than my romantic nature, though.
Your heat catches clouds.
Pianos split silver kids.
I selected ‘noir vocabulary’ for that one. I also tried the ‘erotic vocabulary’ setting but I was a bit disappointed by the result, which is not erotic at all, unless you have a thing for priests dressed as Tarzan?
Earth wakes but joy wakes.
Snow cruelly sprouts a priest.
Today is National Punctuation Day so let’s follow founder Jeff Rubin’s tips on how to celebrate:
Or, if leaving notes to correct shop owners’ bad punctuation is not satisfactory enough, you can always thoroughly shame the shop owners in question by photographing their poorly punctuated signs and sending the snaps into Jeff for publication on the website. My favourite is the smoking pets.
You want some more punctuation fun? Try entering the haiku competition, deadline 30th September. There are some very funny haikus by Craig Harrison up on the site to inspire you, for example:
Dot dot ellipses
The yada yada of print.
So on and so forth.
I’m off to scour today’s papers to see what mistakes I can find. I’ll keep you posted. What’s the most amusing or unfortunate punctuation error you’ve come across?