Tuesday, 15 June 2021

No Rhyme Nor Reason

 Just some local curviform flavour ahead. 

The face of Dogecoin taking tea

Art deco coffee set in a shoppe window

Chinese tea for me
Tea-tini for Mr. P

Morgan Three-Wheeler
Turning heads in the 'hood

Council's stamp of progress on
The corner where works never cease

Beare Park homage to cartoon cat food

Putting some distance between patrons and staff
In the very nicest way

Footpath adornment for winter

Soup season is upon us

As is the seasonal joy of the Camellia sasanqua

Remember the Blood Moon?
'Phone cameras cannot capture the magnificence

Nor the Lunar Eclipse some minutes later

The El Alamein Fountain is safer phoney camera territory

The travelling installation known as Narcissus Garden
By Yoyai Kusama 1966/2002

Has come to the library of Alexander Macleay,
 Entomologist, natural historian & Colonial Secretary to Governor Darling*

The Greek Revival Elizabeth Bay House,
Never quite completed owing to Macleay's financial woes

But the delightful elliptical domed saloon
Is a great boon to the oeuvre of colonial architecture


* The same Governor Darling who had his own post around these pages recently and where, temptress that I am, I promised another on his undignified departure from the Colony of New South Wales. Fear not! It is coming soon.

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Thursday, 27 May 2021

A Survey Of Confinement


Plague Covers

Xavier de Maistre, A Journey round my Room, 1794

Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders, 2001

Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, c. 1350


Origin: mid 17th Century; from Italian quarantina 'forty days', from quaranta 'forty'

If there's one thing, Dear Reader, we all learned this past year, it is the definition of the word Quarantine. In varying degrees, I expect we all had a chance to find out what forty days at home might even feel like, and probably all came to the conclusion that whoever put the quaranta into it was either wildly optimistic or just deluded. And, for some, confinement may have been a better word for what ensued.

Anyhoo, in the expectation that no time could have been riper, Your Correspondent seized the opportunity to join hands across the centuries with a couple of writers who had their own take on Staying In for a bit, and one modern author who could not have been more prescient in her choice of subject. And appreciating you may be over even reading about these times, I shall merely briefly survey how they fared:

Our traveller Xavier taking in the sights

42 Days: Xavier de Maistre was a a young soldier based in Turin in 1790 when he was confined for forty-two days under house arrest for duelling. He parodies his time as a travelogue, and in A Journey round my Room, he luxuriates in exploring his thirty-six-pace perimeter bedsit, admiring and discoursing on its fixtures, furnishings and bibelots, digressing and pontificating as though on a Grand Tour. 

Verdict: He emerges sane and refreshed at the end of his six-weeks, enabled, of course, by the unwavering companionship of his dog and reliability of his loyal valet who could interface with the outside world for him, with a book under his belt and wholeheartedly recommending this style of Voyage for its frugality and comfort for those with limited means or mobility.

Eyam in happier times in the early C19th

425 Days: Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders, is a positively marvellous fictional account of the true story of the small village of Eyam that self-quarantined for a full year when Bubonic Plague came to them for around fourteen months in 1665-6. The story is seen through the eyes of a housemaid who finds herself rising to the occasion and through necessity self-training as a nurse and herbalist as those around sicken and die. Self-sacrifice, selfishness, superstition and survival are explored in this extraordinary tale.

Verdict: Our fictional heroine, one of the survivors, takes on all the shocks and challenges this disaster throws at her and finds that the year, after all, is for her one of wonder. And the real-life village taught doctors valuable lessons in enforced quarantine zones and contamination minimisation, also wonderful. And a 2001 novel about the strange ills of the past that became suddenly very topical again - how could Ms. Brooks have known it!

Such a genteel escape from the Black Death
Franz Xaver Winterhalter, The Decameron, 1837

14 Days: Ten affluent young Florentines flee to nearby Fiesole for fourteen days to escape the Bubonic Plague of 1348 and amuse themselves by each telling a story based on a particular theme every weeknight. The 100 stories Giovanni Boccaccio cobbles together are indeed sourced from throughout the preceding ages and many lands, but brought a bit up-to-date (viz. C14th-style) with some local flavour and were probably recognisable to contemporary readers. They are in turns bawdy, lewd, pious, irreverent, violent and a source of great delight and admiration to the ten storytellers. Then, amused and uplifted, they all go back home. [Nota bene: Extensive show-notes accompany this Norton Critical Edition]

Verdict: Do we care? If it wasn't for the entourage of servants that rolled out the red carpet every day for these ridiculous, self-indulgent and pompous youths and they had to fend for themselves for the duration - it's every man for himself when the plague strikes the Middle Ages - they'd probably have perished. 

I do realise this is fiction, obv. and I'm sure Signore Boccaccio probably wrote this as a bit of escapism from the awfulness of living though the Black Death, but did he expect that centuries later this book is still lauded as a masterpiece?? Frankly, Chaucer would have probably come up with enough inspiration for his Canterbury Tales without the leg-up from this nonsense. Pity the poor students who have to critique this. And that careers have been made as Decameron-experts astonishes me. The show notes are just as self-indulgent. Reading this, I took one for the team*.

Conclusion: Does quarantine accurately live up to what is promised on the box? No. Xavier came closest with 42 days, but it was house arrest not escape from pestilence that confined him thus. Unless 40 days is re-instituted as the prescription, Pipistrello thinks it's time for a name change.

* Why I'm all phooey with The Decameron will come as a future post!

Image credits: 1: Flying With Hands; 2: via Internet Archive; 3, 4: Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Clubs For Loose Talk


For a life thus far described as well-crafted along antisocial and team-averse lines, it may surprise you to learn, Dear Reader, that Your Correspondent was once a member of a Club. The University Women's Club, to give it its august title. In London's Mayfair, no less. A quirky, private establishment for, as it says on the box, women-who-went-to-university and where they could socialise, Woosterish fashion, with similar, or just rest their weary brogue-shod feet and have a cup of tea after a hard day's shopping in W1.

Whilst I was working with the standard motley crew of an early-90s merchant bank dealing floor, where retired officer classes rubbed shoulders with Sloaney Ponies, upstart Antipodeans (hullo!) with Hooray Henries, and potty-mouthed Essex Wide Boys with Oxbridge nerds, my opportunity to get first-hand experience of the Clubland that I understood best through the parodic lens of British fiction actually came courtesy of the couple I lodged with for the first six months of London life.

He was a member of the Oxford and Cambridge Club on Pall Mall, an older and rather more illustrious, if not notorious, club and where I managed to disgrace myself* the one and only time I was invited for lunch with him and his wife and sister. The crisp snapping of newspapers and audible sniffing was as far as the punishment went for my youthful interpretation of singing for my supper, but I was never invited back for a repeat performance, shall we say!

Not to worry, for the University Women's Club beckoned, as my host's wife and sister, a Committee member, were especially keen to have a 20-something on their club register, overlooking my apparent penchant for loose talk. It seemed membership was withering on the vine and the average age of their Ladies was becoming ancient, so it was rather hoped that I'd lure onto the books more young gals from the banking coalface.** 

It was all rather quaint and nice, but the food was rather uninspired and it ultimately wasn't really terribly handy for me to utilise regularly. So, apart from attending the occasional lecture or event dinner, I didn't use it much and, frankly, it didn't live up to the eccentric expectations I'd had about such a place. Except in one respect.

One of the more elderly members would claim as her own the doorman's chair that sat directly inside the front entrance. From this pole position she could see all comers and preside over the passage of members across the lobby where, of course, all action took place ... and, as she seemed to suffer from Tourette's syndrome, make rather, ahem, unsavoury, loud comments about them as they passed. While everyone studiously Pretended Not To Hear the salty language the poor dear would come out with, gaily covering up the blushes on the unwary targets, each visit to my club was a veritable master class in loose talk.

* I was regaling them with the occasion of some unexpected cattiness between two lady tennis commentators on the telly in Australia when I was a teenager and whose microphones were still on when they cut to a commercial break. The slight dining room hum which had disguised my anecdote unfortunately dipped momentarily into silence, just as ol' Pipistrello sailed into the punchline about what one lady commentator said she would do to the other if she didn't desist in whatever the unseen annoyance was.

** They did rather overestimate my sociabilities there as I recruited not a one!

Image credit: Flying With Hands

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Madness & Taxes In The 27th Kingdom

C16th manuscript illumination

Alice Thomas Ellis, The 27th Kingdom, 1982

Have you ever had a difference of opinion with the Taxman, Dear Reader? It is a tiresome affair. But one can be grateful that we're not under the C14th reign of Ivan I, Prince of Moscow and Grand Prince Vladimir, whereupon tax collectors took a rather more hands-on approach to extracting pesos from reluctant subjects for their Sovereign overlord, as is fetchingly illuminated above. 

But at some point, the tables must have turned even in Russia, as Aunt Irene, hailing from a family of Roman Catholic émigrés who fled from that hallowed homeland across lands and countries and is presently finding herself at odds with the Inland Revenue in the 27th Kingdom, reflects:

Some minor official had been persecuting her for months with trivial enquiries about her means; but since she couldn't bear forms and had a profound conviction that her need of her own money was greater than the government's, she had ignored him. She felt the noble irritation of a fine spirit called from viewing the sunset to inspect the blockage in the kitchen sink. Her ancestors, she thought, would have him boiled. In oil.
I suspect that a general survey across most Kingdoms today would find that Taxmen operate somewhere betwixt the thrashing of subjects and being themselves boiled in oil. While for the taxpayer, these outgoings are still an affliction to be borne like madness. 

Aunt Irene went through the various forms of tragedy that afflict the living: madness and death duties for the upper classes, hunger and indignity for the lower, the eldest son's marriage to the girl on the haberdashery counter for the middle.

Warm and generous Aunt Irene, who presides over her cosy dominion in 1954 Chelsea, finds plenty with which to philosophise further in Alice Thomas Ellis's little gem of a 1982 Booker-Prize-shortlisted novel, The 27th Kingdom. 

"'Why are you looking like that?' asked Kyril.

'I was wondering why people put ferrets in their trousers,' said Aunt Irene.

'Thanatos,' said Kyril. 'An illustration of the death wish.'

'What I wish,' said Aunt Irene, 'is that you'd never read Freud. It's had a very leaden effect on your conversation.'"

The Ferret
Thomas Bewick wood engraving, 1790

As you may guess, this book finds natural endorsement by the Flying With Hands Department of Whimsy for its light and fanciful touch, as opposed to the withering review I found by a New York Times reviewer (bandying about such words as cocksure, facetious, smirky, tired, done to death - phooey! and one who evidently cannot enjoy 150-odd pages of slightly mad company.) Kyril, by the way, is the odious nephew of Aunt Irene and rather considers himself irresistible for both his beauty and his charming wisdom:

"'He's one of those people,' said Kyril, 'who once they go into analysis never never come out - which wouldn't matter if they'd keep it to themselves, but then they never talk about anything else. It gets to be a way of life, and they become extremely earnest and keep examining their motives and looking straight into other people's eyes, and yakking on about transference and ambivalence and complexes until you could murder them. It renders them entirely unfit for human society.'"

It is into her bohemian yet genteel home, Dancing Master House, that Aunt Irene (whose "own looks had gone - disappeared under waves of creamy, curdling flesh. How odd that bones, reminders of old mortality, should be considered essential to beauty in this perverse age") takes in a luminous, Caribbean postulant, Valentine. And the assembled cast of lodger (sad Little Mr. Sirocco) and Kyril's tormented lovers, char-women Mrs. Mason (fallen on hard times and resentful) and Mrs. O'Connor (with the shady side-hustles and jolly), and a cat with more sense than most of them has a mysterious new member.

Valentine it seems, has been sent by Irene's sister, the Mother Superior of a Welsh convent, to rub shoulders with the earthly and hopefully lose some of her unsettling, slightly saintly qualities. For in amongst the still pocked, post-war landscape of London there is plenty of space for a thaumaturge to float relatively unnoticed among the mortal and venial sinners, and take the pressure off the quiet convent.

Thaumaturgy in action, or
A Miracle of Saint Joseph of Cupertino
Placido Costanzi, 1750

But it's not all sweetness and light in this slight, supernatural tale. Times are hard and housing is still short. The recent war has left its scars on the city and its people, and opportunists abound. "There was, thought Aunt Irene, a glaring thread of madness in human affairs which shed about it a short, confounding light towards which people were drawn like death-drugged gnats." 

Not to mention that lurking tax man. After a worrying visit from him, Aunt Irene is served a restorative cup of tooth-stripping tea in her own good china by the jollier of her charwomen, Mrs. O'Connor. "The world was upside down. On the whole this pleased Aunt Irene as much as it angered Mrs Mason. It was more interesting that way, but it was hard on the porcelain."

Image credits: 1: GrangerAcademic.com; 2: Flying With Hands; 3: V&A Museum; 4: Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Things Are Not Set In Stone


Hello, Dear Reader. There are changes coming in my neck of the blogosphere, so I've been a bit busy in the toolshed of this one, trying to fathom out how some of the pulleys and levers work. It's not really my natural habitat, and has frankly been rather tedious, especially as the, ahem, quality outpourings of my mind have been meanwhile accumulating like dust bunnies in the Draft Department. Such a mess there!

For any who may be interested, new botherings lie with Emails, RSS and what even is it and if my life has got to this point without knowing then why should I now? Is Mailchimp a rabid primate or not? Would just switching to WordPress make these unfathomables go away? It has Plugins, which are nought to do with domestic appliances. See what I mean? Tedious. And means not a scrap to anyone with no Blogge.

In other News, reading has been continuing apace, and some book spoilers will be coming your way in due course. Brilliant new history podcast entertainments, Age of Victoria, comes courtesy of sidebar resident Ur-spo who is seen about the Comments Department. We've been Out to another baroque concert and seen the ballet, reviews there also in the clogged pipeline, and my own dancing classes have resumed to supplement the weekly tap dancing. Life is presently heading toward the classification of Normal.

So this little salutation is more of a Proof of Life missive. Middling success will be the outcome if this blog post reaches you in a seemly and timely manner. Else it shall be back to the workshop.

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Fare Thee Well, Ross Poldark


Sigh ... the Affair is now over ...

It's been thirty-three years but I've finally shown Ross Poldark the door. The affair is over, the love is gone, and I should be bereft but my heart is stoney cold. It must be the shock. 

Best-friend-Abigail and I were utterly devoted to the machinations of the Poldark dynasty when their lives first came to our television screens when we were twelve. She of the classy taste and my partner-in-crime in devouring the scores of Jean Plaidy books in our school's library, we were utterly romantically ripe for falling for broody Ross when he walked into our living rooms. It was the first adult drama we both got to watch - high school and all meant homework and no more 7:00pm bed-time! - so the impact was decades-lasting, as it's turned out.

When my family moved back to Sydney from Our-Nation's Capital after the heady year of our best-friendship, the weekly letters between Abigail and me the next year were filled with the minutiae of the Poldark-Warleggan goings-on each episode. In the way that television used to be, you only got to see these things once, but the detail lives on for ages. History, romance and intrigue and dastardly blood-feuding set on the Cornish coastline in the late 18th Century is nigh on perfect entertainment for a twelve-year-old me, and a fifty-five-year old me. Or so you would think.

The first seven Poldark books up for grabs!

Fast forward to the early years of this century and lo! a tidy package of Winston Graham's novels were sitting on a shelf in a quaint country-café-cum-second-hand-bookshop and I immediately pounced on them. These beauties brought everything back in a rush. How could I not have realised before then that these books were just out in the world waiting for me? They went straight to the top of each and every book pile in the casa and were then foisted onto Mr. P who had only hazy memories, if at all, about the 1970s television sensation, his own family's single television at the time being likely tuned to the Other Station.

And then, joy of joys, the fabulous and coincidental announcement of another retelling of these stories coming to our screens! In our excitement, we tracked down the originals on DVD to binge watch in anticipation. It was all as I remembered and surprisingly not too dated, but reading the books did fill in a lot of detail about the whys and wherefores of the characters, the country, Cornwall, Methodism and mining, politics and banking, indeed the whole shebang of the era.

Then in 2015 the new Ross Poldark in our lives enters, a.k.a one Aidan Turner!

Ross Poldark surveying the Cornish scene
With the infamous torso under wraps

Everything was fresh yet familiar, Demelza and Elizabeth impossibly glamorous, Ross and George Warleggan nicely at odds with one another, the sets and costumes lush and spot on. Series 1 had us seduced, and probably most of the boxed-set-addicted world.

As familiar as an old slipper, Chavenage House a.k.a. Trenwith
A costume drama staple location

It was gratifying to know that all the actors in the land who’d learned to ride and wield a sword were in gainful employment, and while Demelza looked confident on a horse, it was a good couple of series before she was kneading dough in the kitchen scenes like a proper olden days kitchen wench, as it appears rusticated domestic skills aren’t taught at Actors School. But she becomes capable with a broom, too, and Ross seemed a natural with a scythe.

Prudie and Demelza busy at the Costume Coalface 

So the years roll by. Initially, the year-long wait was agony until the next series pops up. Technology is also moving at a pace, so we can start storing earlier series digitally and do catch ups before each new series. But by the fourth series I’m starting to flag. I’m not sure what’s wrong. Is it the lack of, well, verisimilitude that’s starting to get to me? The impossibly modern and perfect skin and teeth on the peasantry? The alarming amount of time Ross & Co. need to whip their tops off? The sub-plots aren’t of any interest to me? I don’t know. So Ross Poldark and I have a trial separation.

I’m not even sure how long it was that we stopped seeing one another but earlier this year I felt I needed some closure. The latest series had been waiting neglected and unwatched and sort of cluttering up the bandwidth and so I dusted it off and watched the final series on my own. 

In truth, it was with some determination that I saw it through to the finish and all the aforementioned niggling complaints I had were magnified. I had absolutely no interest in the side stories, I disliked most of the characters and in the end, the only character who I cared for was Horace, so it was rather gratifying that he had some lines and a bit of drama around the penultimate episode. He was such a good little actor and he kept me going.

Horace the Pug

So that’s the story. We’ve officially broken up. Production has ended anyway but this last version won’t ever be played again. The books have gone down to the condominio book exchange as shelf space is precious here and the year of plague has brought more books into the casa. The 1970s DVD boxed set will stay in the cupboard and might get dusted off, just for old time’s sake, when I’m in my dotage, for I’m going to be mature about this and fare him well, and Ross Poldark can go off to be fascinating for decades of someone else’s life now.

Image credits: 1, 3: via Pinterest; 2: Flying With Hands; 4: Wikimedia Commons; 5: via Twitter; 6: via Google

Saturday, 3 April 2021

But 'Tis Not Chocolate!

The Local Low-Cal Egg
a.k.a. Zhang Yangen, Sea's Nest, 2012

In other disappointments, the Hot Cross Buns this year are a failure. I fear I killed the yeast as I was a bit distracted by trying to watch Imeneo when I should have been simply listening whilst multitasking in the kitchen. There shan't be an accompanying pic as any fule kno what Rock Cakes look like. Not to worry, there are only twelve to get through and I'll give it another shot next week. 

Meanwhile, it is most definitely autumn around these parts for this is the sight that gladdens the eye when we go to the park now:

It was rather busy in the park as the weather was Glorious yesterday. But we found a park bench in the shade behind this sweep of Anemone hupehensis and settled in for a read. We were near enough to watch the passing parade of dog-walkers, pedallers and pedestrians but secluded enough to be just us and a family of foraging magpies on this bit of grass. 

While Mr. P was busy with spies, I found myself suitably sun-dressed for my choice:

Image credits: Flying With Hands

Monday, 29 March 2021

All Ears


Pipistrello Illumination Snippet
The Psalter of Humphrey de Bohun, 1360-1400
Exeter College MS. 47

As ever, new technologies are slowly adopted hereabouts, despite Mr. P embracing the glitter of the new. So whilst the idea of podcasts and whatnots might be old hat in your own household, it has taken a bit of time for Your Correspondent to come around to the idea of doing something other than listening to music* when an opportunity for multitasking arises. But times are a'changing and I've now joined the fray.

A for inst. in the Multitasking Opportunity Department

I can, Dear Reader, finally report back on a handful of Free Entertainments - our favourite kind! - out in the interwebs which may pique your interest. So if you are All Ears in that department, do read on:

Slightly Foxed

The joy that is the quarterly literary magazine Slightly Foxed has been spoken of here before, and does  indeed require some pesos for subscribing, but they've been putting out a delightful & free monthly podcast (29 to date) where they chat about behind-the-scenes stuff and interview a guest on matters bookish. English.

Articles of Interest

Blogger Taste of France recommended this one in the Comments Department. This is a story of fashion(ability) in 12-episodes, where each episode unpicks a theme, eg: Pockets; Punk; or Plaid. The host is a Young Person, so a little bit gee-whizzy in her delving into the whys and wherefores, and covers a bit of territory which may already be familiar, but she unravels some fascinating tidbits and weaves a quirky history of each topic. American.

The India Hicks Podcast

India Hicks, daughter of Lady Pamela Mountbatten and granddaughter of the last Viceroy of India, chats with her nonagenarian mother about her life over 14-episodes. Thoroughly eccentric, gossipy and a sort of upper-crust Who's Who (doing what and with whom), with rambling insights into Our Queen's Commonwealth Tour in the 50s and the partition of India and Pakistan amongst other stuffs. English.

Handel's Operas

Do you like your opera Handel-flavoured**? The Göttingen International Handel Festival is screening their past ten annual operas through NDR Kultur, so there are visuals, too, which aren't particularly useful if you're looking to do something else at the same time and in no way add to one's comprehension of the German-subtitled Italian show tunes as they're truly whacky, but you can listen along. I'm presently working through them and am up to Imeneo, which I am indeed watching since it's staged with baroque gestures and choreography and is a candle-lit production and the costumes are amazing. Thanks to Sean in the Comments Department for pointing me in this direction. German.


This is an ABC Radio staple which has been going for years now and hence has about a gazillion episodes, so Richard Fidler has of necessity been joined by Sarah Kanowski in taking turns to interview an Interesting Person for an hour. When we painted our House by the Sea, Conversations formed part of the drum tattoo which kept our spirits from flagging as we slogged like slaves on the trireme Home Renovation. Some par examples: memorable interviews from the painting days are with Ken & Patricia Taylor, Ken being the Canadian Ambassador to Tehran during the 1979 hostage crisis, and Yossi Ghinsberg's survival story of adventure in the Bolivian Amazonian jungle; and Mr. P, who listens more regularly, advises the recent two-part episodes with Tana Douglas, the world's first Lady Rock & Roll Roadie; and Will Oxley, the ocean racing navigator with incredible manly tales. Australian.

Futility Closet

Resident on the Flying With Hands sidebar is the Futility Closet and they are currently at episode #337 in their weekly podcast of stories historic, and a bonus lateral thinking puzzle to be thrown in as well. Another quirky gladbag of offerings. American.

There are more multitasking entertainments to be had in audiobooks, and I can't resist our back library of P. G. Wodehouse & Agatha Christie's which entertained us on our car journeys in times past (the latter restricted mostly to readings by either Hugh Fraser or David Suchet, because the reader makes all the difference), and I'm also third book into the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O'Brian (abridged versions are sufficing because a) they're read by Robert Hardy, a.k.a. Siegfried Farnon in the 1978 version of All Creatures Great and Small, and b) I don't know what in the heck is going on with the ship and sailing chatter but by golly they're exciting and I can't even tell how they've pruned the up to 18-hour unabridged readings to a much more comfy 3-4 hours) and am determined to get through the 21 books in my lifetime, for they are famously entertaining but said life is too short to sit and read them all!

* Although last year did provide for a solid listening and pruning of the CD collection, which did occupy some rather goodly amount of time.

** Mr. Wikipedia reminds us that Handel's operas were not universally acclaimed and languished unseen for some centuries after they often bombed at the box office. We Modern Things couldn't care less!

Image credits: 1: Bodleian Library; 2: Flying With Hands

Monday, 22 March 2021

The Enduring Appeal Of Pegs


The Mastermind outing on my last post feels incomplete without its companion piece, the superlative board game, Master Mind. A staple in the Pipistrello toy box, Dear Brother & I would regularly test our genius against one another by moving its little plastic pegs around a brown plastic board. It sounds so, well, boring on the page compared the wizardry-gadgetry of today but it was rather clever, and not to mention utterly satisfying to solve the code in as few moves as possible*. 

Hunting about for a suitable pic, I discovered that not only was this game enormously and enduringly popular, (such that the models** in the iconic photograph were reunited to recreate the shot thirty years later), but this adaptation of the paper game Bulls and Cows was the brainchild of a Romanian-born Israeli postmaster and telecommunications expert, Mordecai Meirowitz, and is even the subject of a 2013 academic paper***. Between its invention, rights' sale then launch, and finally award of Game of the Year 1973 lay only three years, which must be some sort of game-development record, and proves that there's nothing more entertaining to a child than a bucket of pegs.

* Competition against a sibling three-years younger shall not be mentioned here as such shameless exploitation implies an ugly competitive streak in an otherwise blameless character.

** Enigmatic hairdresser Bill Woodward went on promotional tours with a passport in the name Mr. Mastermind and the über-chic computer science student Cecilia Fung now has the married name of Masters!

*** For the oh so curious, the often cited paper concerned with "the psychological relevance of a logical model for deductive reasoning" can be found here.

Image credit: via Google

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Arcane Knowledge In Two Minutes

Take a seat, to the tune of
"Approaching Menace".

Magnus Magnusson: "Name?"

Pipistrello: "Pipistrello."

MM: "Occupation?"

P: "Hausfrau."

MM: "Specialised subject?"

P: "Juniors' Rooms in golf clubhouses around regional New South Wales, and general golfing deportment."

MM: "And your time starts now ..."

In real-life, pipistrelli like to fly out of their caves upon arising and scoop up tasty morsels for their day's sustenance. They never really need to dive deeply for anything as morsels are everywhere for the taking. The same could be said for Your Correspondent, in a way. I'm more than satisfied chasing shiny little nuggets about, collecting all manner of tidbits about life and the world, while never really diving deep down into any one subject, despite the encouragement of Doctors of Philosophy among Family & Friends. 

MM: "Where will a Juniors' Room be located in a golf club?"

And yet I do hold an arcane knowledge of a sort and could probably rustle up the requisite number of questions with which to demonstrate my unique ability*. Here I do speak of Mastermind, of course, the near-perfect forum for Asperger's-scaled obsessives to shine. Except that some general knowledge is also required. Regardless, it is a serious and solemn opportunity to dazzle an audience of factoid-lovers without the hysteria of a game show.

P: "Between the bar and the gents loo."

MM: "Correct. Name the three requisite forms of entertainment in the room." 

My Special Subject: Golf. But not the usual train-spotting factoids surrounding names, dates, scores, courses or even history**. (Although I did stand upon a drenching, windy St. Andrew's for a photo opportunity on my first trip to Scotland). My arcane knowledge lies in the behind-the-scenes world of Juniors' Rooms in clubhouses around regional New South Wales, and General Golfing Deportment.

P: "B&W Television, pool table and darts."

MM: "Correct. What is the special feature of each of these entertainments?"

For a period in my childhood, school holidays were spent trooping about the countryside on the fabled Pro-Am Golfing Circuit following the unfolding sporting career of an erstwhile stepfather, and whereupon many many hours were spent trailing courses about the land and idling away in the requisite Juniors Room in the clubhouse later as the adults did whatever it is that needed doing before prize-givings, viz. pouring over scores whilst waiting for the stragglers to finish.

P: "They are Broken."

MM: "Correct. What comestibles will be offered by the gentlemen who discover you there on their many trips to the loo?" 

We had a caravan for such excursions, so in addition to visits to regional towns, there was also the opportunity to explore caravan parks between matches. Setting out always required leaving pre-dawn for some reason, and we had a second car for the towing, in addition to Mum's pumpkin-orange VW (1600 Sedan, for the oh so curious), a black Chrysler Valiant, known as the Mafia Staff Car, which tickled we kids no end. Winter school holidays in a caravan were such fun!

P: "Pink lemonade and Nobby's Nuts."

MM: "Correct. An 18-hole round of golf will take four hours to play. How long will a player spend re-living every shot in the bar afterwards?"

The days were long, needless to say, and between walking the course (Shhh!!!) and the hours in the spartan and usually very uncomfortable Juniors' Room, the space for under-aged golfers who weren't permitted in the licensed areas that always, always, had deficiently-equipped entertainments (viz. the telly won't be tuned or the channel cannot be changed; the pool table will be missing either the balls or the cues or both; and the dartboard has no darts), many hours were spent on the Practice Green, perfecting one's putt and chipping out of a bunker, if you could get your mitts on a club.

P: "Four hours."

MM: "Correct. What will a professional golf player do when they are standing idle yet conversing not about golf?"

Books and comics helped, but this was an age of small pockets and no bags, so they were invariably left in the car or caravan and imagination was the best entertainment. Lots of observations of the general descent over an afternoon of the often red-nosed and portly elderly gentlemen, club stalwarts thrilled to the back porcelain teeth their regional club was hosting the fresh young talent and occasional celebrity player from across the land, and unable to refrain from continually quenching the thirst such excitement brings on, for inst. I'd like to say that critiquing the Fashions was on the cards, but these were times when street-wear and sportswear did tend to overlap, somewhat - a bit like today - and the lairy fare was quite unremarkable for the times.

P: "Swing an imaginary golf club."

MM : "Correct. What is the percentage chance [Bzzz] ... I've started so I'll finish. What is the percentage chance a child thus exposed to professional golf will have an interest in golf or any other sport when they are an adult?"

P: "Zero."

There was the occasional statement-making plus-four ensemble ...

... But 100% polyester was rather more the uniform.

* To be fair, not only could dear Brother answer the self-same questions, but he does rather trump by additionally holding one of the PhDs about the place.

** There's only been one winner to brush up against the Golfing World, one Andy Page in 2003 whose specialist subject in the final was "Golfing majors since 1970". Predictably, any anorak-wearer's fodder.

Image credits: 1: via UKGameShows.com; 2,3: via Pinterest

Bats In The Belfry