Saturday, 23 August 2014

'Along the road to Gundagai' - new boys

"My brother and I came to be enrolled in Scotch College ('Oldest in Victoria; biggest in Australia; best in the world!!!') entirely by accident…. . Mother went along to interview the headmaster to see if he would accept us (and she him).  Though the creeper-clad surroundings appealed to her she was so shattered by the Head's devastating Australian accent that she did not honestly feel she could let us be corrupted to that extent. …..
So she went to visit the preparatory school of Scotch College, and there interviewed the Head,…. [His] command of English, his expression and accent were sufficient for Mother to be convinced that Good Old Scotch was where we were to go.

As new boys we received notebooks in which to do our homework. On the cover was a label with name, school, number and form.  We wrote in our borrowed* names, and our numbers, mine was 1064,  Colin's 1065. Opposite the word 'form' I wrote 2B, but Colin who had misread 'form' as 'from' thought he was supposed to write his address.  Spelling not being his strong point, he wrote: The 4 Gas Set, Melborn, Australia, Sea, World, Sola Systim, Univers.  The School's motto was Deo Patriae Litteris.  This was generally construed by the Latin scholars as follows: (To the glory of) God: (For the good of one's) country: and (for the advancement of) learning.  During my period at Scotch the student at the lamp of learning, hunched somewhat after the manner of Rodin's Le Penseur was replaced by the flag of St. Andrew, the voyaging lymphad, the Southern Cross and the Burning Bush common to both Moses and the Presbyterian Church."
[*surnames 'borrowed' from their stepfather, George Thirkell]

The Road to Gundagai  Graham McInnes

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Australian Heir

"Left alone in the hall with the sun streaming in from the park, I was just reading the family crest on the door, Je vive en espoir, when a tall man in a bush hat loped through it.  'Stradbroke' he said.  'Call me Keith.'
…by luck his Lordship himself was over from Sydney.  He normally costs a thousand quid an hour for interviews, but waived all charges for Punch.

Wild light blue eyes glittered at me over his mug of tea. 'I had a peculiar childhood,  I couldn't read or write till I was about fifteen. Granny wrote to me on my fifth birthday saying, "'Dear Keith, You are now the head of the family, here is one guinea, put it in your war bonds."  Same every birthday, but never enclosed the guinea.  I don't have to keep Henham.  I could sell it tomorrow.'  But he keeps it.  It's a challenge.  He has a fax machine in the corner near the scones,  'I'm a commission man.  I'm about profit.  The thing tells me my Sydney office is making a profit and my English office -- this lot -- isn't.  It's going to. '  He stared moodily out at his pretty, derelict acres.

It is odd, it must be odd, to emerge from a family of alienating inbred weirdness, get kicked out of Harrow, build yourself an uncomplicated fortune in a hot new land --only to be clobbered from across the seas by a chilly, failing estate, a press of merciless taxes and an unsought title, bestowed by a subtle and decadent old country which has the nerve to think that you are the oddity."

Coronet among the Corks  Libby Purves  © Punch Limited

Thursday, 21 August 2014

"The terraqueous ball."

"ANTIPODES, s.    The people who living on the other side of the globe, have their feet directly opposite to ours.   Waller.  "

A Dictionary of the English Language  Samuel Johnson

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Meeting the Yahoos

"The  Master Horse ordered a Sorrel Nag,  one of his Servants, to untie the largest of these animals and take him into a Yard.  The Beast and I were brought close together; and our Countenances diligently compared, both by Master and Servant, who  thereupon repeated several Times the Word Yahoo.  My Horror and Astonishment are not to be described, when I observed in this abominable Animal, a perfect human Figure; the Face of it indeed was flat and broad, the Nose depressed, the Lips large, and the Mouth wide: But these Differences are common to all savage Nations, where the Lineaments of the Countenance are distorted by the Natives suffering their Infants to lie grovelling on the Earth, or by carrying them on their Backs, nuzzling with their Face against the Mother's Shoulders.  The Fore-feet of the Yahoo differed from my Hands in nothing else, but the Length of the Nails, the Coarseness and Brownness of the Palms, and the Hairiness on the Backs.  There was the same Resemblance between our Feet, with the same Differences, which I knew very well, although the Horses did not, because of my Shoes and Stockings; the same in every Part of our Bodies, except as to Hairiness and Colour, which I have already described.

….For as to those filthy Yahoos, although there were few greater Lovers of Mankind, at that time, than myself; yet I confess I never saw any sensitive Being so detestable on all Accounts; and the more I came near them, the more hateful they grew, while I stayed in that Country.  This the Master Horse observed by my Behaviour, and therefore sent the Yahoo back to his Kennel."

'A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver's Travels  Jonathan Swift

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Words of vile contempt

"Roger de Portlaunde, clerk of the Sheriff of London, made plaint to Ralph de Sandwich, Warden of the City of London, …that Robert de Suttone, in the full Court of Thomas Romeyn, Sheriff of the same city, which the said Roger was then holding in the name of his master aforesaid, on Thursday the morrow of St. James the Apostle, in the 19th year of the reign of King Edward, cast vile contempt upon him, the said Roger, in contempt of our Lord the King, by saying these words in English, --'Tprhurt, Tprhurt,' because he would not allow him, the said Robert, to plead in his Court, before he had reformed his conduct towards the Warden of the city of aforesaid, by whom he had been before suspended for certain trespasses alleged against him; and because he would not submit to being forbidden by the said Roger; and thereupon uttered the aforesaid words, --'Tprhurt, Tprhurt, Tprhurt', to his damnifying, and in manifest contempt of our Lord the King."

Memorials of London and London Life, 1276-1419  Henry Thomas Riley

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Billet doux

" 'I don't think you understand, ' Mrs Thripp smiled patiently.  'He hasn't spoken a word to me for three years.'
'Three  years ! Good god! How does he communicate?'  The instructing solicitor laid a number of little bits of paper on my desk.
'By means of notes.'

I then discovered that the man Thripp, who I was not in the least surprised to learn was a chartered accountant, used his matrimonial home as a sort of Post Office.  When he wished to communicate with his wife, he typed out brusque and business-like notes,  documents which threw a blinding light, in my opinion, on the man's character.

'To my so-called wife,' one note read, 'if you and your so-called son want to swim in hot water you can go to the Public Baths.  From your so-called husband.'  This was fixed, it seemed, to a padlocked geyser.  Another billet doux was found in the biscuit tin in the larder, 'To my so-called wife.  I have removed what you left of the assorted tea biscuits to the office for safe keeping.  Are you determined to eat me into bankruptcy? Your so-called husband, F. Thripp.'

I made two observations about this correspondence, one was that it revealed a depth of human misery which no reasonable woman would tolerate, and the other was that all the accountant Thripp's notes were written on an Italian portable, about ten years old.

'My husband's got an old Olivetti.  He can't really type,' Mrs Thripp told me.

Many years ago I scored a notable victory in the 'Great Brighton Benefit Club Forgery' case, and it was during those proceedings I acquired my vast knowledge of typewriters.  Having solved the question of the type, however, got me no nearer the heart of the mystery."

Rumpole and the Married Lady  John Mortimer

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

At the Rue Fossette

"The morrow would not restore him to the Rue Fossette, that day being devoted entirely to his college. ..….if there was a hope of comfort for any moment, the heart or head of no human being in this house could yield it; only under the lid of my desk could it harbour, nestling between the leaves of some book, gilding a pencil-point, the nib of a pen, or tinging the black fluid in that ink-glass.  With a heavy heart I opened my desk-lid; with a weary hand I turned up its contents.

One by one, well-accustomed books, volumes sewn in familiar covers, were taken out and put back hopeless; they had no charm; they could not comfort.  Is this something new, this pamphlet in lilac? I have not seen it before, and I re-arranged my desk this very day -- this very afternoon; the tract must have been introduced within the last hour, while we were at dinner.

I opened it. What was it? What would it say to me?"

Villette   Charlotte Bronte

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Bermuda: "In th' Ocean's bosom unespy'd"

"The strange thing was that when I came to the surface I found that during my time below I had forgotten all rules of perspective and other dicta of the art schools, and that I had drawn everything in proportion of its importance to me.  In the upper world of air we have accustomed ourselves to make subconscious adjustments in our vision, so that an elephant seen a mile away still conjures up an idea of something large, though its actual dimensions on our retina may be no bigger than those of the fly on our boot.
 Under the water all these adjustments vanished, and if a particularly interesting small fish passed in the distance, I found that in my drawing it was depicted very much larger than some dull fellow twice the size who happened to be near at hand.  This suggests a parallel with primitive art, where objects were drawn on cave wall or canvas according to their importance to the artist, and not according to mathematics and laws of optics.  Doubtless, when I have dived more often, I shall begin those accursed adjustments of reason, and may even, in time, write a textbook on the subject.  God forbid!"

Blue Angels and Whales  Robert Gibbings

Friday, 1 August 2014

'Where the remote Bermudas rise'

"Each time I went down I made a drawing: there was no need to wander about and search for a subject; wherever I looked there was something new to draw."

Blue angel fish pass and repass in scores                           Three miles from the shore a ring of coral rises from deep water

The drawings printed on this and the eleven following pages are direct reproductions from the author's pencil sketches made on Xylonite while he was actually under water.

Blue Angels and Whales    Robert Gibbings