Sunday, 25 May 2014

Things I Liked This Week

I am stupidly busy and probably will be until November and so my post on Percy Grainger - sorry, Mahlerman - remains confined to the muddle of my computer in which, somewhere, there are some photographs of the museum in his - Percy Grainger's, that is, not Mahlerman's - honour.

In the meantime, I would like to note the things that I've enjoyed as I've hurried through this last week:

1. A telly series set on Shetland called, what a surprise, Shetland. In one episode, a female police officer, commenting, in a charming Scottish accent, on the very austere living arrangements of a suspect or murder victim - (can't remember which, or wasn't paying enough attention - these sorts of programmes are only really background noise as I pound away on a stationary bicycle doing something horrible but supposedly very good for one's health called Lifesprints, [known more informally in my mind as 'torture']) - amused me by saying:

"Even the Spartans liked to have a few wee doilies around the place."

2. A telly series called Vera, set in England somewhere north of London and featuring a stout, (obviously doesn't do Lifesprints), female detective who calls almost everyone pet. In the one I saw a murder victim's last meal was revealed to have been "chips with curry sauce washed down with a bottle of red wine". This led to a brief but horrifying glimpse of my own total lack of sophistication as my mind, before I could stop it, allowed itself to think that the meal sounded like a very a tempting combination, possibly even a candidate for that night's evening meal.

3. A radio programme in which the British Labour politician Alan Johnson talked about the book that changed his life.

4. A review in The New Yorker by Adam Gopnik of two books, one that seeks to argue that some words are utterly untranslatable - looking mainly at French, German and Italian, I think, but also glancing at Romanian - and one that seeks to debunk the idea that the structure of the language in which you are operating has an influence on how you think and what you think. Gopnik says an example given for the argument that language does influence what is thought is the title of EP Thompson's book, "The Making of the English Working Class", which becomes in French "The Formation of the English Working Class". Gopnik sees no difference between these, although I would argue that the emphasis in the French title falls more on the finished condition than on the process.

Anyway, Gopnik goes on to talk about Orwell and his views on lucidity and morality in this context and comes up with a paragraph that somehow made me laugh - and, finding little enough to laugh at in the world, I do like to share that which I find:

If lucid writing is the sign of a moral state, it's the moral state of hard work, keener effort, acquired craft - a desire to communicate rather than intimidate, to have fun with a fellow-mind rather than bully a disciple. Sane and shapely sentences are good because they're sane and shapely.There's no guarantee that they'll contain the truth: lots of sane and shapely sentence makers have had silly ideas. But, like sane and shapely people and homes, they are nice to have around to look at.

5. Finally, having discovered that I will be leaving Canberra soon, (hence, in part, the stupid busyness), I was told of perhaps the most brilliant comment ever made about the place. Supposedly, this remark about Australia's capital was made in a speech by a departing ambassador from Romania:

"Canberra - you cry when you arrive; you cry when you leave."

Luckily for me, I will only be going for a few years. It's an awfully nice place to come home to and, despite all my gripes and moans and the idiocy of its actually having its own government, forsooth, (what is the population - certainly not more than 300,000 people), it's actually one of the nicest places I've ever lived. On the other hand, I could be suffering from a geographical form of Stockholm syndrome.


  1. I've been away far too long ZMKC ... two overseas trips, family crises (of the sad not tragic sort), and other things seem to have got in the way. You're leaving us? Though I was glad to read further down that it's just for a few years - and that you like living here. Both good.

    You comment in no. 2 about liking the idea of cups and curry sauce with a bottle of red wine made me laugh - with fell feeling I'm afraid (though for me these days it would be white wine).

    1. Hope everything sorted out and the travel enjoyable. I'll be coming and going to some extent as my mother is here and no longer young. Plus I'll miss the People's Republic of Ainslie

  2. My sister mentioned she had had a packet of Bullets (liquorice with chocolate) and a bottle of red wine for dinner and I found it quite distracting for days. Will plan to watch Shetland and Vera from the wilds of Tasmania. Do you think we could get together before you leave ( to where?) - something of a 'stretch target' as my horrible old boss like to suggest to me? My email has changed and now is We are usually in Sydney for a weekend a month, though we will be driving through Canberra in July so perhaps we could have dinner then? Carey xx

    1. That sounds great, we can have chips followed by bullets - and lashings of red AND white wine, (plus beer, if so inclined). I'll send you an email.