Hey look! A thing you should read!

So, you know how I’m always talking about what complete lunatics my parents are? My mum has started a blog of her writing and is excellent and like, wins awards and stuff (but is not very good at internet-ing) and here is my favourite thing she’s written:


(Interesting how it’s along the same lines as the first thing I posted here…)



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2015, or, a list of fun but useless facts

This year has been surprisingly good. I have been on seven planes, been in the same (very large) room as Stephen Fry, remembered that there’s a species of plant called “cockburnianus”, built five pieces of flat-packed furniture and only had to drill four extra holes, used a power drill for the first ever (FUCK THE PATRIARCHY), cited myself in a footnote (auto-erotic academic practice?) and saw a man pushing a pug in a pram on three separate occasions.

I also finished one thesis, then started another (one might suggest this makes me a sucker for punishment, but after spending nearly two years in Percy Grainger’s head I think I’m pretty set for S&M for some time) and got to wear a silly hat with a tassel.

In the process of starting the new thesis, I’ve read, like, 130 books in the last six months, and, because my brain is a total jerk, have absorbed pretty much only the information that has NO BEARING AT ALL on my thesis. In an attempt to expunge all this useless information from my head, here is a list of my favourite fifteen irrelevant facts that I’ve discovered in the last six months:

  1. In the 1870s Western Australia had a great trade in dugong leather.
  2. There is a spider called a ‘harmonicon’. (This makes searching on google for the journal or instrument a bit scary.)
  3. The proprietor of the Argus newspaper introduced sparrows to Australia.
  4. There was a surveyor in the 1880s called Malcolm Fraser (It’s really hard to find anything about him because of the other guy).
  5. The American state of Minnesota established its “State Historical Society” more than a decade before the state was actually founded.
  6. Australia has a tiny provision in the constitution in case New Zealand changes its mind and wants to join as a state.
  7. In England they established a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in 1828.
  8. More people voted in the 2012 American idol final than did in the 2012 US presidential election. The winner of the 2006 American Idol got more votes than Ronald Regan did in 1986 (he got the most votes of any president ever)
  9. Nellie Melba used to use the word “bloody” in conversation all the time and “bloody hated” Queen Victoria.
  10. The British national anthem used to have a verse about crushing the Scots.
  11. If you eat the meat of carnivorous animals you can die of vitamin A poisoning.
  12. One of the only things the island of Jersey exhibited at the 1851 exhibition was a “pair of socks knit without glasses by exhibitor, aged 93’.
  13. Before NZ signed their treaty in 1840, Australians were negotiating directly with the Maoris in NZ, trading flax for guns. No wonder the Kiwis don’t like us much.
  14. Emesis is a genus of butterfly and also the medical term for vomiting.
  15. The German word for ‘bagpipes’ is ‘Dudelsack’. The French word for ‘paperclip’ is ‘trombone’.



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Things My Students Say: Part Four

It’s probably time to put another one of these together. (See, if you feel like it: Parts One, Two and Three) They’re all still completely mad. I am forever surrounded by tiny, tiny nutters.

Student: I played this piece in assembly today!
Me: Oh! Well done! How did it go? Did you get lots of nice feedback from your friends?
Student: It was good. But no one could hear it…
Me: …why not?
Student: I didn’t have a piano. I just played it on my lap because I got bored with all the talking…

Student: Can I learn something else from Telstra 100?
Me: From what now?
Student: Oh, not Telstra. Optus. Can I learn something from Optus 100.
Me: … do you mean opus?
Student: … yes.

Student: You know like ‘bae’ is like ghetto for ‘babe’, so like, ‘slay’ is ghetto for ‘Yaaaas’, you know?

Student: When you were in England, did you see the queen?
Me: Not this time.
Student: She’s so old. Do you think we’d get the day off school if she died?
Me: I don’t know. Maybe?
Student: Cool. I hope she dies.

Student: Are you married?
Me: No
Student: When are you getting married?
Me: I’m not!
Student: Why not??
Me: I don’t really want to…
Student: WHAT! But don’t you want to have children? And a farm?? And a million dollars???

Me: (explaining time signatures) the top number tells you how many beats there are in a bar…it’s four here, but it could be three, or seven, or…any number really!
Five-year-old Student: Could it be a googolplex?

Six-year-old: Are you a slapper?
Me: Excuse me?
Six-year-old: A slapper. It’s a word for a lady…
Me: That’s an awful word, don’t say that.
Six-year-old: …a lady who slaps people.

Student: What does the S stand for in J.S.Bach?
Me: Sebastian.
Student: OH MY GOD THAT’S MY BROTHER’S NAME. What’s the J stand for?
Me: Johann, it’s basically German for John
Student: OH MY GOD THAT’S MY DAD’S NAME. This is like my family. But my name isn’t Bach. Once I fell over on tan-bark.

Student: I’m going overseas next week!
Me: That’s so exciting! Where are you going?
Student: Adelaide!

Me: A flat major is easy to remember because the flats spell the word ‘BEAD’
Student: I wish there was an R flat…so I could make the word ‘BREAD’…I’m hungry.

Student: Beethoven was really ugly.
Me: Does that matter? He was a genius!
Student: Yes, but he was stockily built with broad shoulders, a small nose and short neck.
Me: …wh… are you quoting from a book?
Students: no… I mean…yes.


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Inappropriate Music, or, an Appeal to Advertising Decision-Makers

It may be simply that since finishing my Masters I’ve been around televisions more, what with all this blissful free time and such like, but I have lately become far more aware of the persistent and (I believe) inappropriate use of music in advertisements. I don’t really mean inappropriate in relation to the obvious perversion of great works of art to sell, just, like, things… Instead, I mean, many of the works used in adverts were written with a specific purpose, or with the intention to convey a specific meaning, and now they’re being used in a totally weird and different way without any acknowledgement of their context. (SHUT UP YES I KNOW ‘death of the author’ and all that. We could argue for ever about authorship and intention and ownership of meaning all of that. Or is that just me? I’ve had two and a half glasses of red wine and egads I’m bored without constant academic arguing.) I just think advertising-people who are actually employed to make decisions about how stuff is marketed could do a quick Wikipedia search of the background of the music they’re using. You know, have a tiny bit of awareness of the connotations held by the great works that they’re pillaging, or something.


There are some really obvious ones, ones that have been around forever: Pasta sauce using ‘Donna e mobile’, for example. Clearly they’re going for the whole easily-recognisable-symbol-of-Italian-culture thing by using Rigoletto, but tell me the use of a song whose lyrics say, essentially, HEY WOMEN, YOU’RE SUPER FICKLE AND THOUGHTLESS STOP BEING SO USELESS doesn’t sit slightly uncomfortably when coupled with the promotion of a kitchen-centred domestic product. YOU STAY IN THE KITCHEN, YOU SILLY WOMEN WITH YOUR LACK OF THOUGHTS.

The ‘Flower Duet’ from Lakmé is another one that gets a frequent advertisementorial outing. Most recently I’ve seen it used to sell fried chicken by the South-Eastern American State based Fried Chicken Company, but it seems to come up whenever anything, from airlines to magazines, wants to depict tranquillity. Knowing the plot of Lakmé—basically presenting the oppressive forces of imperialism on an indigenous culture—I don’t understand how it’s seen as an appropriate channel for the selling of chicken. I generally try to avoid take-away food when it’s coupled with Social Darwinism…

Even worse, perhaps, is the all-pervasive use of the ‘Dies Irae’ from Mozart’s Requiem. I keep hearing this, and seeing an ad that seems to be depicting a baby pulling an “I’m pooping” face in slow motion, but I’ve never paid enough attention to remember what it’s trying to sell. Whatever it is, the ‘Day of wrath and doom impending’ is probably not a particularly pleasant way of marketing a product. I’m told several years ago a tyre company used to use it pretty regularly too, which is possibly even scarier. I don’t drive all that often, but I still don’t find much comfort in the association of my wheels with the eternal wrath of a vengeful god.

The one I’ve been finding the most ridiculously inescapable and irritating at the moment, though, is the use of Handel’s Zadok the Priest by the hideous-poison-burger company (otherwise known as the one that starts with an M and ends with cDonalds). This one, I feel, deserves a little unpacking.

Written in 1727 as one of four Anthems for the coronation of George II, this work has been performed at every English coronation since. The words go:

Zadok the Priest, and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon King.
And all the people rejoiced, and said:
God save the King! Long live the King!
May the King live for ever.

It’s such a wonderful, epic piece of music, and they’re such a massive wang of a corporation.

It would appear, through the use of this piece, that they are either comparing themselves or their what-might-loosely-be-called-food with Solomon. (LIKE those conspiracy theorists needed more fuel for their ‘LOOK AT THEIR ZIONIST AGENDA’ thing. Ugh. If that’s actually what they are then this is a crazy-blatant statement, what with the unashamed comparison to King of Israel, son of David, you know. )

Perhaps there is, in a sense, some poetic justice here. Solomon built a whole bunch of temples all over the place, married far too many ladies and amassed far too much money, which angered wrathful-old-testament God who smashed up his empire. (IS THIS NOT WHAT WE’RE SEEING NOW?)


IN CONCLUSION: Dear Advertising Companies. Please give me a high paying job pointing out the flaws in your choice of music. Kind regards, slightly drunk Sarah.


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Spring Cleaning (in Autumn)

I am a slut, in the old sense of the word (so, the untidy kind—rather than the sexy kind. I don’t approve of using that word in the sexy way—whoever’s appendages a woman allows to be jabbed variously about her person remains her business alone.) I like to think of my mess as ordered chaos—a highly specific, complex filing system whose cataloguing machination is known to me alone—despite how messy my house may look to an uninitiated outsider.

After recently finishing a degree (I will soon be ‘Sarah, MASTER OF MUSIC’. Cower before me, puny mortals) I have decided to clean out everything I own and throw most of my accumulated unnecessary possessions away. This is an impulse acted upon many a time before, yet it seems that every time I attempt to purge myself of material goods, I discover a trove of new things that are so sentimentally significant or weird that I simply CAN’T get rid of them. I wrote a thing like this way back when I was new to blogging (It is entirely possible that that was the last time I properly cleaned my house and why am I admitting to this on the internet? It’s also true that I still haven’t thrown any of those things out. Ugh. My life.)

ANYWAY. Here is my most recent collection of things from the past that I should bin but won’t because FEELINGS.

These posters.

A collection of these GIANT SPARKLY SPACE KITTIES have been collecting dust in the top of a wardrobe for a good 15 years. I had almost entirely forgotten about them until last week and now I feel like my life will be lacking if they are not on display ALWAYS. There is no argument against GIANT SPARKLY SPACE KITTIES.


Bardot ephemera

This is the most tragic sew-on-patch ever, commemorating the pitifully short-lived Popstars-created girl-band, Bardot.


I really like the idea of ‘forever’ being the period between the years 2000 and 2002. Alongside this patch, I would like to include in this lot, their extended discography and numerous VHS tapes, all of which I have in a cupboard. Probably the most brilliant thing about them was that about two songs in, their songwriters just kind of gave up, giving rise to the most wonderful nonsense. Thing like:

‘I’m out of the fire and into the swimming pool…I bet you’re still, a two, three, four letter word’

‘The love we made was incomplete, like the shoes on your feet’

Egads, that was a good two years for music.

Terrible gimmick-y hair things.

I was SO EXCITED when I rediscovered my Quick-braid. Sure, it hadn’t worked all that well when I got it as a Christmas present many years ago, but could that not have been the fault of my unskilled, childish hands? Surely it would now be no match for my near two-decades-of-piano-given dexterity, right? It still had WORKING batteries and everything. Oh my god. It was the most exciting thing ever.

The advertising that went with it showed such fancy, fancy braids.


In actual fact, what you get is:


The result is only bitter, bitter disappointment. Bitter disappointment and a mass of matted hair.

Questionably named old toys.

While going through the shed, I came across some of my early childhood toys. I hadn’t realised until recently but my parents must have had a really good time naming my dolls for me. I had two rubber duckies called Gregory Peck and Doug E. Duck. However, the best one was my knitted Scottish man, Och-Aye (the noo).


There was some really weird naming stuff going on in my street about that time. I also had a cat called Stoolie (not because she had three legs, but, as my father puts it, because she was a ‘little shit’) our neighbours on one side had a black cat called O.J. (because he liked Orange Juice, my parents insisted…) and on the other there were two cats, one black and one white, called Zambia and Alaska.

Anyway. I miss writing and I miss having a thesis to write. I am filled with an existential sadness. Now my house is clean I might go and start that PhD…


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Pissing Glitter.

I was intending to blog all through my travels, but they’re very suddenly at an end and it would appear that I have largely forgotten to bother to get around to it. I was probably, you know, like, actually doing the research I came over here to do or something. I’m currently in a hotel and Heathrow, flying home stupidly early tomorrow morning and I’m really quite sad to be leaving. I suppose these can be my Grand-England-Adventure Bookend-Blogs.

One of the highlights of travelling this part of the world is the diversity of language. Everyone is speaking English, but they all seem to be doing it without really consulting each other.

I spent about a week in Ireland (saw, not deliberately, but by chance, many of the places from which my convict ((and occasionally non-convict)) ancestors came. Incidentally, that thing British people do where they make jokes about how I must be a criminal? Very original. I’ve only heard it like, fourteen times this trip. Also I definitely ride a kangaroo. However, if you talk to me about shrimps on barbies I’ll set my drop-bears on you lot. They’re PRAWNS, ya drongos.) They use words beautifully over there; my favourite examples include the pick-up line “let’s go back to my place for some chicken and some sex”, the phrase “I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crisps” and the two most gorgeous insults – “shite-hawk” and “spanner”.

I went to Leeds to visit my favourite musician-turned-school-teacher-literature-wank-awesome-friend who has a job there, who taught me some more excellent examples of the local vernacular including the phrase to be “pissing glitter” with excitement, “did you shit the bed this morning?” to greet someone who has arrived early, as well as a “Dewsbury shower”, which is apparently the term for covering oneself in spray-deodorant as an alternative to bathing.

In Oxford (which is so fucking BEAUTIFUL in the snow that I’m going to start calling it Snoxford) I hung out with people who had the poshest accents in the universe, adding extra hilarity to their already amusingly posh conversations. For example, they regularly said things like: “I’ll just head upstairs and have a confab. with mummy re: dinner plans.” I wish I could talk like that, all in abbreviations and stuff (it’s like the girls from one of the posh private schools in Melbourne shortening ‘indubitably’ to ‘dubes’ back in my day…IN WHAT SITUATION WOULD YOU REQUIRE THAT WORD ABBREVIATED. WHAT!?)
I also love all the weird things I’ve over-heard. Things like: on the boat to Dublin I was sitting near two men who were discussing poker in their really thick London “I’ll-cut-you-you-slag” accents, when one said “want to see the picture of my cat in the doll’s house? He sleeps in there now…fucken idiot…”

This country (and the surrounding Ireland/Continental bits) are also so full of lovely museums that I am almost pissing glitter at the thought of them. Call me a child (everyone else does) but I am so so excited by collections of STUFF. I especially loved the V&A, mainly for the metal leaf they had to cover the statue of David’s junk when he visited. I also find a lot of classical sculpture quite funny. All those…lion wrestling with a griffin or a dragon wrestling with a unicorn things sound so much to me like the questioning of an 11-year-old. You know, ‘who would win if a dolphin fought batman’ etc.

All the while, London has just been so bloody…London-y. I have been to karaoke more times than I ever intended in my entire life. (While I remain unconvinced by the activity as a whole, the bar in the basement of the Guildhall’s music school is hilarious on a Friday night. So many drunk singers being drunk and singing.)

As sad as I am to be leaving, I think I may enjoy going back to a city that doesn’t give you black snot.


AS AN ASIDE: Some time ago, I wrote two angry vignettes, from days upon which I was feeling less than positive about this fucking city. I have included them here because I am VERY TIRED AND IT SEEMS LIKE A GOOD IDEA. READ ON ONLY IF YOU CARE FOR GENREALISED COMPLAINING. I’m sorry if I sound like a spoilt child.


I can no longer use Vodafone, the shit-sticks. I had an argument with their customer service people. Over here, mobile internet has a “content filter” thing that specifically blocks “erotica”, online gaming and chat rooms. You know, so young people don’t accidentally win a stripper in a game of online poker or something. I tried to read an article on the Guardian about how sportswomen deal with their periods and the taboo surrounding the subject, and was unable to, because that article apparently qualified as either erotica, online gaming or a chatroom. I complained, because I thought it was pretty sick/sexist to conflate menstruation with erotica (because, as weird as my brain is, I can’t quite cram it into the ‘chat room’ category) and Vodafone resolved my complaint by removing the content filter from my phone. I said that not being able to access the article myself wasn’t the problem, it was the fact that it was blocked in the first place. They said “your complaint has been resolved”. I said “no it hasn’t! Your company is objectifying women by assuming their natural biological functions exist fundamentally for the sexual stimulation of others! It’s sick!” and they said “your complaint has been resolved” and I said “no it hasn’t! To whom do I complain about your company’s gross objectification of women?” and they said “I can’t comment on that. Your complaint has been resolved” and I said “right, well, I’m going to go find some other phone company that doesn’t think periods are essentially erotic.” It does feel good, I suppose, to cast off the shackles of the terrible decision I made to get one of their sim cards because it was the first phone shop I saw when I got off the train from the airport, in a jet-lag daze. It’s also nice not to be giving any more money to a company that supports dictatorships and the suppression of political dissent, and then MAKES AN AD PRETENDING THEY INSPIRED THE REVOLUTION THEY WERE TRYING TO SUPPRESS. (Seriously, Google Vodafone and the Arab Spring God. I’d almost forgotten about how angry I was about that. Good thing for reminding me, dickheads.)


Due entirely to my own inability to plan like a responsible grown up, I found I had two days in the middle of the trip in which I had nowhere to stay, with all my usual avenues of accommodation unreachable. I found, online, the cheapest hotel (which is, for London, not actually that cheap) and made the HORREDOUS MISTAKE of not looking at the tripadvisor reviews before booking. It was genuinely the worst place I have ever stayed. There was a single power socket that worked, in a room that has a conspicuously large number of powerpoints (seven) for a space that houses only a single bed. There was the constant smell of stagnant water, which was relieved somewhat by my emptying a small bottle of hand sanitiser down the sink, only to return with a vengeance some hours later. The sink, incidentally, didn’t really have a plug hole per se, just a gaping hole where I imagine some sort of fitting once sat, or was to sit. The hot and cold taps were also, amusingly mislabelled. There was a television, however, it was apparently 10 pounds per day if you wanted a remote for it, which was fine, as I’m wasn’t really here to watch TV, but even if I wanted to, it was plugged into one of the many power points that didn’t work, and its wall stand was held together with weird Christmas-themed sticky-tape. During my visit, it was hanging at a rather precarious angle, so I was not really game to touch it. The room was also in an attic. ON THE PLUS SIDE: sometimes it’s fun to pretend you’re some tragic lonely artist living in a 19th century garret. SO. FUN FACT: Contrary to popular belief, the worst hotel in England is in London, not, as many would think, in Torquay.


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I am, again, in London.

It’s nice, coming back. The principal goals from my last trip (namely, to find and indecently proposition/profess my undying love for Kevin McCloud and to see a real life pelican in St. James’s Park) endure, and to this point remain largely unfulfilled. (I say largely, what I mean is totally. Nonetheless, I shall persevere.)

I actually came over for a conference, and, while there is much to be said for the indiscriminate shouting, flailing, and making-a-dick-of-myself-in-front-of-a-bunch-of-very-clever-people that I’ve come to associate with conference paper-giving, I feel that, in the interest of retaining some shred of a façade of a semblance of professionalism, I should probably not go into that here. I will say, however, that EGADS academics can put it away. I truly feel that I have let myself down – given the drinking trifecta of being a student, musician and Australian – by not trying hard enough to keep up with the pints after pints after pints expected of us, and on at least one night, going home to bed at a reasonable hour.

ANYWAY. Here are the other things I’ve been doing.

Flying for 27 hours is horrible. On the long leg of the flight I sat next to a lovely Irish woman, who happened to be travelling with a baby, which is apparently something that’s meant to strike fear into the sleep-loving section of people’s brains, but which really didn’t bother me because I got a bit of extra leg room and I don’t sleep on planes anyway. It was actually a pretty nice baby, hardly cried, and when it did, it didn’t make that 1000 dB, near whistle-tone piercing noise of doom that some of them make even when happy. She asked me to hold it at one point, while she got something out of the overhead storage, and I didn’t quite know how to do it. I think, in total, I’ve probably held about three babies ever. On the other hand, I do, frequently, carry cats around as if they were babies (Fun Friday night activity: Drink a bottle of wine on your own and then pick up you cat and show her high up things she normally wouldn’t get to see during her day-to-day goings about) Cats, while soft and furry, are also wily and angular, and knowledge of this is the only way I can account for what I said when she handed me her child, which was: ‘wow! She’s so much less pointy than a cat”… I am an embarrassment at conversation and I hope someone will take pity on me and teach me to interact with humans soon, because she just looked at me like she regretted giving me her child and it was awful and then we had to sit there for eight more hours.

The first day was also not all that pleasant. I’m fucking TEETHING (as in, I have a wisdom tooth coming through – I eagerly await the swathes of wisdom in which I’m expecting to be soon enveloped) and I think I was actually jetlagged for the first time in my life. I blame the fact that it gets dark at BLOODY FOUR IN THE AFTERNOON here which is ridiculous and WHY WOULD YOU SET UP A SOCITEY AT THIS LATITUDE. I spent the first afternoon pacing around Paddington, trying to stave off the sleep, alternately pulling that weird face that happens when you try and jab at your very back teeth with the tip of your tongue, and muttering about the absurdity of axial tilt.

But everything got much better. I went to Bristol, which is fucking spectacular, if a tiny bit very, very windy. (Take that statement any way you like, in all its homonymic glory. My umbrella was ravaged in the wind while I was getting lost in the bendy streets.) On the first night we got fairly lost looking for the suspension bridge (It’s fucking MASSIVE, and traverses a GORGE, and yet, we couldn’t find it) and ended up traipsing through a forest of mud, for an hour, which was actually super fun. Then the restaurant we’d booked for dinner called and said their sewer had exploded and that we could still come, but it was a bit smelly (so we didn’t). Then we drank the ‘strongest cider in the country’ and it was a good night.

I also went to Bath, which is disgustingly pretty. The actually have shades of green here that don’t exist in Australia and the Roman baths are awesome and surprisingly full of Victorian kitsch and everything is just SO NEAT. I was also staying four doors down from where the guy who discovered Uranus lived. (LOL). On recommendation from a number of people, I went to the new baths (the ones you can actually swim in) and it was HILARIOUS because I was genuinely the only person in the entire building who wasn’t there as half a couple. Basically, I spent two hours on Sunday night sitting in warm water watching strangers make out.

Despite the crazy ostentatious prettiness of that city, I do think I would actually vomit everywhere if I had to live there. All the buildings are exactly the same colour and texture and looking at them for too long is like eating ONLY CHOCOLATE FOR EVER and nothing else. (Am I the only person who has like…visceral responses to buildings? Does anyone else get eye-nausea? Can we call this a new form of AWESOME synaesthesia?) ALSO I deliberately crossed a road to avoid the Jane Austen guy. My feelings about those books are known, and I don’t need to be harassed by Mr. Darcy on this plane of reality as well.

ANYWAY. I’m going to Belgium on Saturday. Hurrah!

*the title is intended to be shouted like this

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