Tuesday, 25 March 2014

So many books, so little time

What I am doing (apart from typing this) is sorting through some of my books. A friend and I were discussing Dava Sobel's book Longitude, and I thought I had a copy. But where is it?  I cannot find it. Did I only imagine I had it? Is it a false memory? Did I have it and give it away? Am I an ineffective searcher? Am I being defeated through having too many books?


Of course, as I search, I find books I have not looked at for quite some time.

Oner of these is A Working Musician's Joke Book. I have just been glancing through it, but have not got very far. So far it is not all that funny. However, here is one joke (early on the book) that I quite like.

The audience at a piano recital were appalled when a telephone rang just off stage. Without missing a beat, the soloist glanced in the direction of the stage manager and said, " If that's my agent, tell him I'm working."

On re-reading this, it does not seem all that funny, so that is one more book for the junk pile. It is about time I rang up the people who collect books and then sell them to raise money for their classical music radio station. However I just had another peek at the joke book. It gets unfunnier, and nastier, at every glance. I think it can go into the bin. Whew!

There are problems with having too many books, and a curious mind. Life is not long enough to read all the books. and when you cannot find a particular book, lots of time gets wasted. Well, perhaps not wasted, exactly. You just don't finish whatever it was you were planning to do. You find lots of interesting books, so it is absolutely necessary to browse through them.

In a perfect world, your bookshelves would enable you to arrange them logically so that you knew where all the books were, instead of having to rifle through them for considerable periods, and thus be subject to endless enticing and interesting distractions. But as books come in all manner of sizes and shapes, it is a constant battle to put like with like. It is necessary to arrange lots of books by size, and hope that you can find the one you want WHEN you want it, instead of just happening upon it. Fiction is relatively easy, as you can arrange by author, and biography is not too bad, but sizes vary rather more. Then there are travel books, and books about music, and they should really stay together. The history books also need to live near each other, and reference books of all kinds need togetherness too.  I suppose at this point I am sounding rather like a librarian, which is only natural.

There is not enough time to get everything sorted out and organised, as there are too many other things to do - desirable as well as necessary things. In an ideal world I would just get a whole lot more bookshelves. I have friends who moved house, downsized their book collections, but still needed compactus storage.

Another friend reads a lot, but never keeps a single book. I could no more do that than fly.

Enough. Back to the search for Dava Sobel.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Educated guess

With my feet stretched out on the coffee table, I am inanely watching a quiz show. The contestants tend to say they will make an educated guess. What a strange expression this is. Generally what they really mean is that they have not the least idea.

I am always surprised, when I watch quizzes, at what people, including myself, know and don't know. And what I used to know, but which is either completely forgotten or is lurking in some deeply inaccessible part of my memory. Things which I regard as common knowledge lots of people have absolutely no knowlege of, and of things they know and which spring readily to their lips,  I do not have a clue. Sport, TV, films, pop music take up very little space in my mind.  I am quite good at gardening, plants, biography, geography, history, books, literature, art, craft and classical music. And politics and some legal matters. And I am quite good on electoral facts and systems. However technology, science, computers, tools, cars, following instructions about gadgets and such ilk don't take up effective brain space. Not just not enough space left, but my brain was evidently otherwise wired, and irrevocably so.

All this makes me wonder what people are learning in schools and the various institutions of learning. And whether it matters.

I suppose in lots of ways most of us enjoy trivia. And arcane knowledge, and lots about the practicalities of life. How to get from Point A to Point B. Which shops to recommend for certain things (such as wool, fabrics, food and drink), and who knows whom,  and who does what. It is really quite amazing when you think about it, the extent of and complexity both of what we need to know, and what we just know or pick up incidentally, through the ether.

I think my children  must  regard me as remarkably ignorant about all sorts of things, and they are not wrong. There is a lot of generational change around. Lots of knowledge wears out, it ceases to be useful or relevant. As we know more and more, in increasing detail, you would not want to hold onto information which turns out to be actually wrong. Perhaps learning, knowledge, resembles fairy dust. We remember past 'knowledge' and science, as how we managed to learn and understand, build upon, and overthrow and supersede.

Yet in other ways we do need to remember what people believed or reasoned, as we need to understand each other. And to understand  humanity, so that we can uphold our fundamental equality and uphold principles such as that slavery is evil, and women are not possessions. there is an urge to know more and to do better, and to overcome evils against humanity.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Crime and punishment

Memory is often strange and unreliable, especially after the passage of many years. And the things that trigger memory can be strange. Someone put on Facebook some very old and sexist advertisements, in a number of which women were spanked by their husbands for some or other failure in their performance of their domestic duties. While my usual feminist rage rose, frothed, seethed and boiled, I remembered the last time I was subjected to corporal punishment. These ads, and the Tasmania election, triggered my memory.

I was 21. An adult, eligible to vote, and to get a driving licence. And I was trusted to, and required to give considerable domestic help. My elder sister had escaped some of the domestic load, as she was a nurse, and in those days, trainee nurses lived in, at the nurses' home.

I had learned to drive and had just recently passed the driving test and obtained my licence. It took some time for the licence to arrive, and in this period my parents went to Tasmania, for a legal conference of some kind. They took some of the children, leaving me to care for the others, and to keep house. Which I did.

My licence arrived, and so I used the family car. After my parents and the other children arrived home, I had casually mentioned something about having used the car. My father looked thunderous. He said I had not been permitted to use the car in his absence - although the issue had never been raised. And as a punishment for what he saw as disobedience, in his view deliberate, he gave me a belting, and naturally I was prohibited from driving the family car. My protestations of innocence of intention were to no avail. I was enraged. I did not act with bad intent, and had, after all, been acting as an adult and was, I suppose, in loco parentis, and I cannot abide injustice.

After some weeks my father made me drive with him, so he could be satisfied of my capability. He then permitted me to use the car, from time to time.

Well, of course, this all happened many many years ago, and, as they say, worse things happen at sea.  But with the memory, albeit somewhat imperfect, having been triggered, the same feelings of having been treated unjustly, and being subjected, as an adult, to corporal punishment, have surged up, and I wonder just why my father had treated me thus, with no presumption of innocence of intent or consideration of extenuating circumstances.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Hola and forgetteries

As the best laid plans of mice, and women are often hit for six, kind fate treated me to this yesterday.

Firstly I got up, did my lymphoedema drainage massage, put on my hideously expensive sleeve and glove, and set about meeting the day with the required degree of fortitude and determination.

The man who is repairing the garage wall was to arrive while I was home, so that he could get inside the garage and repair that part too. Previously he came and did the outside while I was out, and I did not know when and if he was coming. Then he telephoned to say his car was emitting serious quantities of smoke, and that he needed to get it to a repair premises before anything worse happened. Then he would arrive here on his motor bike, which contained all his stuff.

This meant my plans for the day had to be rearranged. And here I must confess guiltily that I had forgotten the note in my diary that said to expect my niece the bride, the groom and the Mexican in-
laws - father, mother and sister.  They arrived, dumped their stuff, and headed for Bondi Beach, where they had a good time, despite the cool weather and water.

In the meantime Paul, the repairman arrived and set to work. As he had said he had some surplus paint, I asked him to paint (at my own expense) a small section of wall with the paint crumbling, cracking and flaking off, and he agreed to do so. I nicked off to meet a friend for lunch.

The work was finished and looks good. Now I am worrying about how long it will be before the local school children inflict some graffiti and these lovely new surfaces. The man down the lane had some graffiti on his wall yesterday, so he charged down to the school to complain. He was out on the prowl this morning and so was I, with the hose, trying to see whether the rather numerous paint splatters and drops could be washed off. No, they couldn't.

Eventually everyone arrived back here and we spent the afternoon sitting around with nibblies. I made some baba ganouj, very nice, too, with raw vegetables.

So we all sat around and talked and looked at the wedding photographs I had taken. The bridegroom and his sister speak English, and his father a little, the mother, no English. Some years ago I learned some Spanish, but these days it is lurking in some very deep recesses. Infrequently some words emerged, but not very many verbs. However there was quite a lot of conversation, and quite of lot of several of us not understanding very much at all. We had a good time, though, and went out to dinner at a restaurant up the road, and then they caught a taxi to the airport.

It was lovely to see them all.

The endless fascination of everyday life.

Here it is, Tuesday already. How time slips away. So much to do.

This morning is a day with no actual activities and thus free choices abound. I have been changing the sheets, doing the washing and thus, while indulging in this domestic role, why not choose to explore the new vacuum cleaner?

First unpack it. Not easy. Box resists manfully. As they do. Sharp instruments needed. Finally manage to extract all the pieces. Goodness, what a a lot of them there are! How to put it all together?
Better find the manual and read it, and try to understand its contents, and all the diagrams. There are many.

The manual  has many languages, so I have to find the English one. On my way through I note that there is an Italian version, so I speedily have a look at that.

Having been working hard on the use of the imperative tense, I note that in Italian you can use the infinitive as the imperative. This usage is, I think, for recipes and manuals. I resolve forthwith to take the manual to class, and read it aloud. The class is sure to be edified and rivetted by this treat.

I have now vacuumed three rooms, not very expertly, being rather out of practice. I must be doing something wrong. This vacuum cleaner does not like being pushed, which has hitherto been my preferred modus operandi for vacuuming. It wants to be pulled. The suction is very strong, which, in a vacuum cleaner, is surely a good thing, but I now feel quite puffed, as well as confused about the trillion and myriad instructions. So here I sit, resting the arms and that part of the brain which (allegedly) copes with manuals and instructions. Is there a special push mode?

After having rested, I will lug the machine upstairs and do the bedroom.

Then I might guiltily examine the contents of the bag and find out just how bad a housekeeper I have become. It seems increasingly probably that at last I will get my act together and employ a cleaner.

Perhaps before lugging the machine upstairs I might go out and buy a coffee. And then sip it while perusing, deciphering and thinking deeply about how to use the machine effectively. Or perhaps I should go and do some food shopping.