July the Thirtieth

Five years ago today. And three.



The History Man

The Complete Works Part II (at last)

Giles Milton’s Nathaniel’s Nutmeg was one of my favourite reads last year, so when I found a copy of his earlier The Riddle and the Knight: In Search of Sir John Mandeville I snatched it up and started reading immediately, despite not knowing who Sir John actually was.

Mandeville was, it turned out, a major figure of English literature almost completely written out of history by the Victorians, who knew better (they thought) about his fanciful claims of travelling to the Holy Land and the Far East in the fourteenth century. Mandeville’s account of his journey, known simply as The Travels, influenced readers from Columbus to Keats, and on discovering it himself Milton set out to determine how much of it was true.



You Are Where?

Last November I gave a seminar about building an online presence as an academic. I didn’t post the talk here right away, because there was a chance of getting it into print at the time; but that didn’t end up happening, and now I’d want to re-work the whole thing before trying again. It still has value in its original form, though, and given the rapidly changing nature of the field it loses that value the longer it sits neglected, so today I’m putting it online.




More poems. Where will it end?



Yet More Animals

Noble Creatures

The kangaroo, and wombat too
Are noble creatures through and through
The roo can, in a single bound
Leap the wombat on the ground!
Without it even saying ouch

The wombat, it can dig its way
Through two foot three or more of clay
Give or take a centimetre
As diggers go, a true world-beater
You could say it’s no slouch

These animals enjoy renown
For jumping up and digging down
And share another trait to boot:
The tourists think they’re really cute

And oh yeah, they’ve both got a pouch



Currently Reading

The crowd on the old Mindini was rather different from the heterogeneous mob one meets on a brass-bound liner. Practically everyone knew everybody else, or at least had heard of them, because gossip and news in the Islands is as rampant—and as devastating—as in any English Cathedral town. There are only about 500 white people in the whole Solomon Island Group, and, as far as I am aware, there is only one gentleman of the Jewish faith amongst the lot. But then, of course, as is the case throughout the tropics, there are a lot of Scotsmen. Nicholson told me the mosquitoes were pretty bad, too.

Clifford W. Collinson, Life and Laughter 'midst the Cannibals, 1926.



New Adventures in Woodworking

I live an urban life; the urbs are my abode. But now and then I’m reminded that they aren’t where I’ve come from.

Jane and I went out to dinner a while ago with a colleague of hers and his wife, and the conversation soon turned to the reliable theme of home renovations. They’re having some sort of problem with a door, and Mrs Colleague suggested he drill some new holes to re-hang it. “I’m not buying a drill,” he said, as if the very idea was laughable. “I’ve never used a drill in my life. It’s dangerous. You could have someone’s eye out.”

We all chuckled, while Jane and I thought of the cordless drill sitting in the cupboard at home, waiting to leap out and blind us. I own two drills; three, if you count the hand drill Mum and Dad gave me for my thirteenth birthday. That could take someone’s eye out too, verrrry slowly.



The Ranting Rabbit

An old friend of mine has finally decided to join us here in We-blo-gland. His site, Blithering Bunny, will be “full of reactionary, free-market ravings, but also some skeptical stuff”. Not exactly the politics of yours truly (not that yours truly has written about politics for a while), but it should be entertaining in a P.J. O’Rourke kind of way:

It’s totalitarianism I’m fighting, whether that takes the form of Stalin, Hilter, Ron Vibbentropp, the VC of this Uni, old ladies who are slow in the supermarket queue, people with beards, people who annoy me in some way, I’ll have them all damn well shot!



Fine Specimens


Photos from a visit to the Darwin Centre of the Natural History Museum, London, Christmas 2002.



Seeing it Through

Tom Coates has posted a long entry with a number of good points to consider before starting a doctorate, which reminded me of a letter I wrote to The Australian a few years ago out of similar concerns.



The Complete Works

When I shifted to this 2004 format I told myself there’d be a few changes, and by now you’ve seen what they are: even more infrequent posting; essay-length entries interspersed with goofy one-offs; and an almost total lack of metabloggery and reviews. I hadn’t planned on ditching the reviewing, but my intake of movies and music has been fairly light this year, while my book consumption has outstripped opportunities to write about them. After getting back from two weeks of reading the Time Out guide to Andalucia and signs in Español, I read anything I could get my hands on, and have hardly stopped since.

Over the next week or so I’m going to revisit them here, grouped into four or five themes. Kind of a Times Literory Supplement. I’m not sure why; it seems mad to write about a bunch of books that regular readers of this site won’t have read, and random Google searchers won’t care what I think about, without getting paid to do it by Rupert Murdoch. But that never stopped me before.

The first theme, just to get them out of the way, is The Last Two Books I Read Just The Other Day.