Thursday, August 03, 2017

Days Of Past Futured

Classic Question:

What would I say if, knowing what I know now, I could go back in time and, ignoring the possibility of this action fucking the world with a cataclysmic absurdity of looped events which will cause a rupture in the timeline that destroys the possibility of the world developing in such a way that I could go back in time in which case (duh) I could not go back and therefore I would not go back and so I could not cause a rupture in the timeline in which case (sigh) I could go back after all, and give myself one piece of sage advice garnered from the lessons I have learned in the intervening years?


I'd have three pieces of advice to choose from:

Advice One: Do things that will generate sage advice you/I could garner from the lessons you/I will learn in the intervening years so you/I will have something useful to tell your/myself when you/I go back in time to give your/myself said sage advice.

Advice Two: Don't go back in time. It could fuck the world, etc. Don't even think it. It will confuse you and the readers of your blog.

Advice Three: Don't listen to me. It'll be fine.



Also let's ignore the fact that someone, such as yourself, appearing from the future would just blow the standard model of quantum mechanics right out of the water and the world would descend into a panic of chaos, uncertainty, more Tom Cruise movies, not to mention research into time travel which would... (Um, best leave that alone), etc...


Because, let's face it, I have learned nothing of significance over said intervening years. I would have nothing to say. Life has washed over me, the good things and the bad things have come and gone. They've made dents, scratches, and bruises, but big deal. They're not lessons, they're just experiences.

Even though everyday I do something stupid or sometimes something vaguely wise, it doesn't sink in. It might be something stupid I have already done a squidillion (large number of) times. My life is full of bad examples. Repeatedly. There's no point in telling myself to avoid those decisions, those procrastinations, those actions, those inactions, those words, or those silences, because even if I recognise myself doing them again, it would be retrospectively, and I'd still have performed them.

And it wouldn't matter.


Having said that, I am in a pretty good place. Sure, I haven't won a Nobel Prize, or made the newspapers for the wrong reasons, written a novel about E@L and his action-adventures, nor completely fucked the world (certainly not by going back in time). But I am financially comfortable, in a nice apartment in a nice part of a nice (at least very clean) town, with every possible kitchen appliance, condiment, book, creature comfort, and absence of life-partner that I could possibly desire.

I've brought some pleasure to some people ("It's twins!" is one example, "Thanks, that's a really nice wine," is another), but I've brought pain to other people ("The Doctor will come and talk to you in a minute" - meaning that you have lost the baby, or you have a bad cancer).  I've even seen dumb people and not (always) said something judgemental behind their backs, and I've seen smart persons and envied their ability to do dexterous things, to have passion about what they are doing, to remember things (like names, face, and... something else I can't remember), and not always not praised them. They've got by, with or without me.

It used to take me a long time to say sorry, but I'm better at that now. I have also learned to not say sorry at the beginning of a talk or presentation, so that balances out.

I've fucked up an average number of times, I guess. There are the ones that keep me awake on restless, sweaty nights, and those that make me shout "Fuck" out loud as I walk down the street, and there are those I've not heard about. These have not been bad or frequent enough to require restraining orders, or a hearing for negligence or incompetence, or a prison sentence. Best to leave that alone.


How should I know what I'll be, I who don't know what I am?

Alvaro De Campos (Fernando Pessoa)


It's probably best that, if I was made to go back (what could possibly go wrong?), I avoid my young self and let that naive man just get on with it.  And then, when I come back to the present (presuming I could), and I see my other untouched self (see above re: fucking up the world) having a London Pride during during happy hour at sQue, by the Singapore River, with a bunch of argumentative, annoying, funny, smart, supportive, and loveable best friends, in order to avoid fucking up an unknown future, I'd again avoid any contact with


Saturday, July 01, 2017

On-Line Shopping? Unimpressed

Hmmm. The perils of on-line shopping if you are a big fella...


The old 3XL Jack Wolfskin rainproof jacket I used to use when skiing in Austria back in the day still fits nicely, but it is falling apart. Well, some part of the inner lining is shedding like dandruff. So I ordered a replacement 3XL one, in as similar a style as I could find on-line, from their store in Amsterdam and had it delivered to Izzy's place in The Hague.

JW is a German brand, but they don't sell them in Singapore or Australia at the moment, and they don't deliver internationally at all, which is why I had to use the Amsterdam store.

Warning bells.

I thought I'd better bring my even older LaFuma 2XL jacket (from Canada, back when I used to ski Whistler/Blackcomb) as a back-up, just in case. It's a tight fit, but it does zip up at least, so long as I have thinnish layers underneath.

I am not normally this wise.


Here I am in Holland, off to Iceland in two days, and I try on the new 3XL jacket... It is EVEN SMALLER than the 2XL LaFuma. I cannot zip it up with losing some hair from my belly. Seriously. This sucks. Iceland, where the wind doth howl and the rain doth fall. It's probably warmer than it is in Melbourne at the moment, but... wind, rain. Need a good jacket.

And here we are. Same alleged 3XL size as the previous one (4XL Asian size), and it is not even equivalent to a Canadian XXL.

Maybe Germans are shrinking. Maybe

E@L is not.

[Addendum: Two hours later. Izzy walks me to a sports/camping store in wintery, summer, downtown Den Hague...

That 2XL Northface jacket that DID NOT fit me in Singapore, not even close is now --- Nice And Comfy with plenty of room for lots of layers...

I need to go to Vietnam and give these  JW clothes-makers a severe talking to...

p.s. The LaFuma, which almost fits, was made in Hungary. The NorthFace that DOES fits was put together in Bangladesh. Now these people know how make to a 2XL!]

Friday, April 21, 2017

Want of Dexterity

When I was blogging more frequently, all those joyous years ago, my not-so-subtle (and no-so-secret, and not-at-all-unique) plan was get a grunch (new word) of posts together with a similarity of theme and tone that I could put into a coherent order, so that I'd have less of the discontinuous non-narrative that blogs inevitably are - rants, pseudo-essays, and shady stories all over the place - and with a little bit of fiddling and tweaking and filling in of gaps, I'd create a readable, unitary, written/typed object - aka a book.



Still on about The Trip TV show... In the second series, in Italy, Rob Bryden is forever chasing "Byron slept (well, he went to bed) here", and "Shelley punched someone out here" landmarks for him to be photographed at, and I was wondering where he found his information on this their last, epic Grand Tour (which included Lausanne, as mentioned in the previous post).

So I searched for a book about those rapscallion poets on the loose.

The book that Rob had most likely read was Edward John Trelawny's 1858 first hand account, Recollections From The Last Days Of Shelley And Byron. There is a NYRB edition out, but they don't have it, or any other edition, in stock in Singapore at the moment*. I was thinking to pick it up this weekend, before I fly off again: Tokyo this time (I'm currently in KL). I searched for an eBook to hold me over, but none is available.

It is not on Gutenberg Press either.

But there is a scanned copy at Scribd, the on-line eBook library, but that requires a subsription to read off-line or on a mobile app.

ANYWAY, point of story...

One the first page of the preface I found this:

"I wrote what is now printed, not systematically, but just as the incidents occurred to me, thinking that with the rough draft before me it would be an easy, if not agreeable, task to re-write the whole in a connected form; but my plan is marred by my idleness or want of literary dexterity."


Idle and wanting literary dexterity. So it's not just


* This is the sort of book you'd be rummaging for ceaselessly in dusty second-hand bookstores, and loving every minute of it.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Gimme One Reason...

Here's a line from the TV series, The Trip, with Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan (Series 2, Italy), which works well for expats in Asia. As it does for comedians in Italy, I guess:

- She only wants to sleep with you because you're rich.
- I only want to sleep with her because she is young and beautiful.

Steve throws arms up in air... implying one reason is as good as another.


(Don't have a clip of this, but they are hilarious.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Savoyard - ambiguation

Interesting. Not ironic, merely coincidental. Merely an example of Littlewood's Law, roughly: "A person can expect what appears to be a "miracle", that is, something with odds of around a million to one, to happen to them about once a month."

What is this rare, nay, semi-miraculous proto-religico/mathematico occurrence, you ask. What has brought once prolific and popular blogger E@L back from the brink, yea, from staring into the blind, echoless abyss of not writing much these days?

E@L has come across the word "Savoyard" twice in as many weeks. It was a new one on him, as are most references to cultural things.

Wow! hey?


In his semi-autobiographical 1964 novel My Brother Jack, the Australian writer George Johnston* has his proto-self, proto-agonist David Meredith, working at an elite printing firm in Melbourne (as did Johnston). The printers were more than mere craftsmen: they were also artists, designing and etching the posters and advertisements themselves, as commissioned.

But they had other, dare I say cultural** interests:

"... because every one of them was a fanatical Savoyard, and at any hour of the working day would be as likely as not to burst into a chorus from HMS Pinafore or Yeomen of the Guard or Pirates of Penzance, then everyone would join and the whole studio would rock to Gilbert and Sullivan airs..."
(approx location 1210 of 6276 on Kindle)

Savoyard: 2: a person enthusiastic about or connected with Gilbert and Sullivan operas: so called from the Savoy Theater in London, where the operas were first presented. (


In her most-amusing 2004 novel (and aren't they all?) The Finishing School", Muriel Spark arranges it so that the students of College Sunrise in Ouchy, a lakeside town just out of Lausanne, leave their laptops and knapsacks behind and head off on a ferry down Lake Geneva to the Chateau of Chillon.

It was while he was in Ouchy itself, in 1816, that Lord Byron, who was with Shelley on holidays [i.e. fucking whomever they could catch], wrote an allegedly well-know poem [not to E@L] about a certain prisoner who was kept in a dungeon there (Chillon) for six years. François Bonivard, the Prisoner of Chillon, was imprisoned (with his two brothers, according to Byron) in an underground cell because of his radical political views, espousing the independence of the Genevese area from The Duchy of Savoy. The Duchy at the time of Bonivard's incarceration [1530's or so] included a chunk of what is now eastern Switzerland: all the shores of Lake Geneva, from Geneva around to Lausanne, and then to Montreux. Chambery, in what is now France (Savoie or Haute-Savoie, can't be fucked looking it up - E@L is 6hrs into this post already) was then the capital, but Savoy included the Piedmontese area around Turin, and down to the Mediterranean at Nice. Lots of geo-politics going on as you would imagine. But of that, more later.

OK, so the students are told to ponder on Byron's poem while they were at the Chillon chateau.

What next befell me then and there
I know not well—I never knew—
First came the loss of light, and air,
And then of darkness too:
I had no thought, no feeling—none—
Among the stones I stood a stone,
And was, scarce conscious what I wist,
As shrubless crags within the mist;
For all was blank, and bleak, and grey;
It was not night—it was not day;
It was not even the dungeon-light,
So hateful to my heavy sight,
But vacancy absorbing space,
And fixedness—without a place;
There were no stars, no earth, no time,
No check, no change, no good, no crime
But silence, and a stirless breath
Which neither was of life nor death;
A sea of stagnant idleness,
Blind, boundless, mute, and motionless!...

Listen: Chris, one of the more precocious students is writing a novel about Mary Queen of Scots, the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, and the assassination of her recently repositioned personal seckertary and alleged boy-toy, David Rizzio, formerly of, wait for it, the Duchy of Savoy - he was born near Turin. When Rizzio was stabbed 56 times in 1566, Lord Darnley was then estranged from Mary, an 'orrible 'usband [marry in haste, repent in hell not long after] who had been buggering none other than Rizzio for many a moon previously. He feared most murderously that his (Rizzio's) ascendancy in her (Mary's) eyes threatened him (Darnley) both politically and romantically. [E@L is toying most flagrantly with history here, having only half-remembered pieces of the story from a recent Melvyn Bragg podcast, and less-than-half-read Googled snippets to go on]. After Rizzio's body is disposed of, Darnley, King of Scotland, gets, naturally enough for those days, back with his once-hated and conspired-against Queen. But he is murdered himself next year by the Earl of Bothwell, who marries MQoS after raping her [rape in haste, marry and murder at leisure], and the rest is history. But Chris's "excitingly written" twist on the story is that Darnley was in fact murdered by assassins sent from Savoy by Rizzio's family of diplomats (aka spies). Whoof.

Anyway, [are you still with me?] Chris, the aforesaid precocious student and inchoate novelist at the Swiss finishing school of the novel's (Spark's) title, was on the ferry, thinking of Bonivard and Rizzio, who were, #foreheadslap, roughly contemporaries:

"They might have met. They lived in different worlds yet it was not impossible that the lordly Savoyard should encounter the young Piedmontese diplomat who won his way into the courts of Europe." (Pg 23.)

Savoyard: 1: a native or inhabitant of Savoy. (


But of course, checking the maps of the region, although it was difficult to pin down exactly the gerrymandering going on over the centuries with Google and not a proper historical atlas, E@L has discovered a possible misfiring in Spark's research/reasoning.

Turin was, as mentioned, in the Duchy of Savoy during the 16th century, and became the capital in 1563. It had been part of Savoy for six centuries and would remain so for two or more, um, more. Rizzio would have considered himself as much a Savoyard as Bonivard, rather than just a Piedmontese. [Perhaps, but for the sake of spectacularly iconoclastic blogging, let's say, Yes]. And, more controversially, Bonivard, imprisoned as a Genovese secessionist, might justly bristle at being called a Savoyard, when he most devoutly wished to be anything but one.

The history of the area is complex, to say the least at this time of night. Lausanne and Geneva did not remain in Savoy much longer. Those of the House Savoy became, firstly, the Kings of Sardinia (which included a state of Savoy that commenced below Lake Geneva, and had Piemonte as a separate state), and then the Kings of Italy, reigning from Turin, after the unification (also once called the "Piedmontisation") of Italy.


As another aside, while Muriel was writing this, her last novel, in a little village in Tuscany (about 60km from where E@L experienced the infamous "angina incident" of 2012), a political group in Savoie and Haute Savoie, the areas of France around Chambery (former capital of the Duchy, remember?), The Savoyan League, were calling for the unification and independence of the French speaking regions of l'ancien duché de Savoie. They gained 5.39% of the vote in the area in 1998, but failed to turn up at the 2004 elections.


Fascinating. Maybe not in your opinion, certainly in the opinion of



* E@L is reading My Brother Jack (he should have done so many years ago) because George Johnston is mentioned, photographed even, with his wife Charmian Clift, in
So Long, Marianne: A Love Story, the bio-story of the muse of Leonard Cohen's classic song, which E@L found in Kinokuniya and still hasn't started reading because: see above.

This had prompted E@L to pull out his almost as unread copy of Garry Kinnane's wonderfully titled 1986 biography of George Johnston, George Johnston: A Biography. Inside of which, E@L found four mysterious pressed flowers.

After some Facebook sleuthing, it turns out that it was the Ex who had placed the flowers there when she was reading the book back in the day - we are talking nearly 30 years ago.

** "Culture" and "Gilbert and Sullivan" - uncomfortable bedfellows, some snobs might say.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Soon. Surely.

I'm just gonna haveta start writing up here again. Not writing is stopping me from writing.

Not tonight though, I have a bastard behind the eyes.

Siderses blott up and a sort trote.


Watch this spot.


And that one.


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

That In Aleppo Once or Twice...

E@L's father was a damn good cricketer. E@L's No1 son is a damn good cricketer when his back and his knee don't take him down. E@L was a damned cricketer, and a laughing stock on occasion (wrong shoes for turf, slipped over when delivering the first ball, etc...).

For the 1952-53 season, E@L's dad won the batting averages for the PMG (Post-Master General, now split into Australia Post and Telecom) cricket team in a town in country Victoria. No doubt a social level competition. But hey. E@L's son has more information on his cricketing prowess. On one particularly splendid day he bowled out the other team almost single-handedly, and then won the match with his batting - 106 not out!

They gave a him book, called Dust On My Shoes, by Peter Pinney. It was published in 1948 by the great Australian house of Angus and Robertson (still going on) and purchased at a salubrious bookstore named Cowans Newsagent in the lakeside town of Colac. (Where E@L was born.) The story is of a young Australian man, something of a rake E@L gathers, making his way, single-handed, across the Middle East and South Asia, from Greece to Burma just after the end of WWII. E@L hasn't read the book, though as a child he always wondered at in his mother's small library (the remnants of his father's, he presumes, plus some childhood books for E@L's sister) and was particularly entranced by the photos. His late father-in-law had read it, and given it the thumbs up. How it got to his place is unknown. No1 son?)

Opposite the title page of his dad's prize copy is a photograph of Pinney looking from a window in the Great Citadel of Aleppo, in Syria, a view that show a minaret, the large dome of a mosque, five smaller domes on the structure next to it, and the city in the distance. It looks dusty, and E@L bets it was.


Interestingly, the photograph of Pinney in the window has been reversed, presumably for symmetry's sake. The actual view from a vantage similar to that window is this:


Aleppo is having the crap bombed out of it during the current Syrian civil[sic] war. E@L thought the view might be different now, for obvious reasons so he did the G thing,(search "Aleppo bombing" - there's no need for E@L to show them here). He saw photos of destroyed houses, dead babies, men screaming, rubble on the streets from smashed houses, terrified children running, massive bursts of earth, fire, and stone from bombs caught at the instant of exploding, grieving fathers holding their dead children on their laps, blood-stained cobbled streets, burnt-out vehicles, exhausted refugees squatting with stacks of their belongings at the side of the road. Humans in the midst of a modern tragedy, the weapons of mass and individual destruction built and supplied by our countries of course. Horrifying, heart-breaking, unnecessary, and completely avoidable. We are a fucked species.


Anyway, he found this:

Wondering if this is indeed the same mosque - those smaller domes smashed, the minaret luckily intact - and thinking he should read that book is



I used to love sitting here, settled in my comfy home-office-chair, banging away, letting the words flow as my ideas, like the soft inflated things they are, bounced off walls and down along strange dark pathways I might once have had the wisdom to not take. Before blogging.

Now, there never seems to be the time to blog. Hours have evaporated as I've distracted myself with FB and disgraced myself with porn and ended up lost in a labyrinth of click-on and click-backs, and I am eye-fuzzy and brain-glazed, yet fighting valiantly/foolishly against the call of the sleep faeries and a very very comfortable bed. And a very quiet CPAP machine.

Has the therapeutic catharsis which maybe fuelled them, departed from those confessions and musings? Let's see.


When I am back in Australia, I try to follow my regime of, every other day at least, taking my cardiologist's strong recommendation for a one hour, or longer, walk. I go in the morning there (everyone else is still asleep, even if I set off at 9). Despite listening to podcasts or music, my mind looks for observations and reflections that might make me feel like I am not brain dead, that might sound good in, say, a blog. Walserian note-taking: of the way roses on a bush wilt here, yet bloom there, the way a large black dog tugs on the leash and pulls its small female walker to one side of the path and her scarf billows up.

I question myself, but on trivial things these days. Where will I end up? Where will I retire, should I live that long? The brooding navel-gazing of the man who nearly died three years ago has lightened somewhat - the soundtrack of my blog would no longer be Bjork's Anchor Song. Or would it?


In the time when I used to set off from my mother's house, I would take part of the route that brought me home from my primary school (imagine letting an 8 year old walk 2 miles home by themselves these days). And I walk up past the town's main cemetery and the stone-masons, and look for name I recognise in their windows. The past, in those paddocks (now low-rent housing estates - Commission Homes) where a friend saw a stallion with an erection and wouldn't stop talking about it for weeks. The past, in these houses nearer to school which are weatherboard, tiny, with knee-height steel bar and mesh fences, houses that never will be worthy of gentrification, house where school-friends, enemies, and bullies, liars, cheats and other genuinely bad people - both children and adults - once lived, perhaps still do, tragically trapped in small minds and small rooms. The past, now at the war-memorial in the middle of the roundabout, where up float thoughts of my father, a soldier in WWII, who served in Borneo, who died 58 years ago, allegedly from war-related malarial heart damage. I follow my shadow to the breakfast cafe, shut on Sundays, and enjoy toast and coffee when I can. That was a more sentimental journey.


Instead, now that mum's house has been sold, she and I stay in my sister's house in slightly a more rural environment (still there are paddocks of massive penises in nearby agistment properties), and my walks have no memories attached - I avoid the street where an ex-girlfriend lived. I pluck at one or two stiff leaves from various types of native trees that loom over the footpaths and snap them horizontally at small intervals. I smell them absently. I order a flat white from the cafe near the Coles supermarket, where two pleasant ladies serve me and we joke a bit, or from the McDonalds McCafe, where I am just a number to the busy, underpaid young girls who don't know that a Medium flat white is the same size as a Venti (and does not contain 20oz), if the other is closed.

I walk past the fading white fences of the horse farms and past the For Sale sign on a fire engine, mysteriously in an otherwise empty paddock, sipping away. Others are out walking. Many are overweight, some as big as me. They might have "heart conditions", too. They might be walking their dogs. They might be wearing annotated jerseys and be on bikes. I wonder at how many paces distant will the other morning walkers lift their head and greet me - a nod, a grimace-like smile, a barely audible "'Ning", or "'Day". FYI, it measures out fairly consistently at ten paces. Twelve paces seems like you're looking at them too observantly for comfort. Eight paces, and it's like you were thinking of ignoring them, or vice versa, with a sudden decision to recognise their humanity at the last minute.

Many other thoughts. Many other observations. Wind, clouds, trees, dogs, bitumen snakes that writhe in repaired cracks of the asphalt walking path that is the old Queenscliff railway cutting. Life, death, and other minor distractions. I buy the newspaper at the Chinese-run small supermarket - I'm almost back home now. We all read different papers - local, right-wing, left-wing. 谢谢, I try to say, but the owner never seems to hear or understand.

Eighteen years living in Chinese-speaking Asian countries and I can't even say "thank you."



Free Podcast

Related Posts with Thumbnails