Monday, September 13, 2010

Toilet paper planes

"So, what's been happening?" asked an old friend at the weekend. Hmmm - not much, I had to answer. I haven't blogged for a while, as things are just drifting along in that humdrum way that they do when you are middle class, middle-income, middle-aged and your lawnmower is broken. Everything is pleasant enough, but there are not many actual events worth taking up storage on a Google server on their secret island in Lake Geneva.

Our big dog is getting bigger. The weather has been wet. The toilets at work are as far away as ever, but they have been innovating - today there was new toilet paper, a bit like that typing paper from the old days. Really crisp, and I think it would take a fineline pen pretty well, without bleeding. When you scrunch or fold it, it crackles. You could probably make fine paper planes with it also.

I have been continuing to draw houses hunkered down below the road, with the dark steep bushy hill behind them, and their chimneys up like periscopes.

We had a very nice get-together with some old buddies at Nick and Anna's on Saturday. Our privacy-loving friends X and Y are moving back to Tasmania from steamy Queensland. X is slowly driving all their stuff down to Melbourne to bring it over on the boat, while Y and the girls have flown ahead to Hobart, to stay with her mum and dad and have tea with pals. They are actually settling in the tiny town of F in the far north-west, where X will be teaching at the district high school, starting pretty much immediately.

They are really sweet people and we have missed them since they've been away. They have been on the lookout for jobs here and something finally came up. The heat has been killing them. Y, also a teacher, described how the only room in her school with air conditioning was the computer lab, so she booked it for every single period  she could get her hands on. Mostly she didn't need to use the computers, but she sat each kid in front of one anyway, with strict instructions to get typing if anyone looked in.

I have just finished a book dad gave me called Imperium by Robert Harris. It's a novelisation of Roman history, which I'm pretty sure is an established genre now. Didn't Colleen McCulloch do three or four of them? I have never been attracted to them, but I really enjoyed it, and I feel like I have caught up now to Michael, who at six is the family Roman expert. The other day he was telling me something about the Parthenon in Rome - I started to butt in that I think it's in Athens, when he corrected himself. "Pantheon - the Pantheon I mean. That's in Rome. The Parthenon is in Athens". The kid seeks out his own books at the library, brings them home, reads them, remembers the stuff, and can then lecture on it. (As does Marcus, but he is still hooked on the Horrible History series, so much of what he is memorising is to do with maggots. He's pretty strong on the Tudors though.)

Anyway - Imperium. It follows the early career of Cicero, with cameos from Julius Caesar, Pompey, Cato and Crassus. Also it's chock full of Marcuses. Near the end of the book, after many ups and downs, election day has arrived. Cicero's secretary and slave Tiro is the narrator, and he describes matter-of-factly the standard procedure for getting an election underway.
...the entrails were inspected, the skies were checked for suspicious flights of birds, the blessings of the gods were invoked, all epileptics were asked to leave the field (for in those days an attack of epilepsy automatically rendered proceedings void), a legion was deployed on the approaches to Rome to prevent a surprise attack, the list of candidates was read, the trumpets were sounded, the red flag was hoisted over the Janiculum Hill, and the Roman people began to cast their ballots.
 Maybe our last federal election would have been over in less than two weeks, if someone at the AEO had just thought to ask the epileptics to take a raincheck.

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