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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Things My Students Say: Part Three

Apparently, it’s been over a year since I did one of these, which is strange, as I seem to have small people yelling nonsense at me on a weekly basis. I remain convinced that children are merely tiny, drunk, mental adults.

Here are parts one and two.

As it turns out, I started teaching piano about nine years ago, which is HORRIFYING, as I still have no idea what I’m doing or how to cope with most things that happen ever. Last term, a child licked me. I remain unsure of the protocol for these situations.




Student: What kind of degree do you have?
Me: I’m doing a masters but I’ve got a bachelor…
Student: Hahaha…bachelor…
Me: What?
Student: My mum loves that show…


Student: I don’t like the 18th Century.
Me: Why is that?
Student: Ugly Clothes.
Me: Really? There were lots of big pretty dresses…if you were in the aristocracy…
Student: Yeah, but you wouldn’t get Nyan Cat on a t-shirt…


Me: Do you have a metronome at home?
Student: No…And I’m not wasting a Christmas present on one…


(talking about Wagner and the Ring cycle)
Student: Can I go see it?
Me: I suppose, if you can afford it. It’s very expensive…
Student: More than…$25
Me: yeah, maybe about a thousand?
Me: well, it’s very long…it goes for over 16 hours
Student: SIXTEEN HOURS!? Did he WANT anyone to see it?


(After a discussion of pop music)
Me: So, do you like any other styles of music? What about classical?
New student: Yes!
Me: Ooh, really?? What sort of thing?
Student: Um…Selina Gomez?


Me: What’s the next note?
Student: G
Me: And the one after that?
Student: You’re going to make me say “G” again, aren’t you?


“I wish I could have adult opinions”.


“why’s that hashtag next to that note?”


Student: At school, we were deciding which was the most useless part of the body…
Me: Go on.
Student: It’s definitely the testicles.
Me: …what?
Student: They just sit there! They don’t DO anything. It makes no difference at all if you have them or not.
Me: *confused face*
Student: I mean, they might be useful where you’re first born, or for your immune system…
Me:…are you sure you’re not talking about the appendix?
Student: Oh. Yes. Appendix. Not testicles. Appendix.


(after an extended discussion about Beethoven)
Student: That is so cool…a dog did all of that!
Me: Dear god, no. That’s a film. He was a person.
Student. Ok. … so, was the dog named after the guy or the guy named after the dog?
Me: The guy died in 1827…
Student: So…the dog named after the guy?
Me: Yes.


Me: This is a semibreve, a very long note.
Student: As long as a Brachiosaurus?


New student: *burps*…haha…sometimes I do that just before I vomit…
Me: You’re not going to spew on my piano, are you?
Student: I don’t know! *giggles*


Student: Can I learn another piece by that shoe-guy?
Me:… the what guy?
Student: He had some shoes, or something.
(After some questioning)
Me: Wait..are you thinking of Schubert?
Student: YES. THAT’S HIM.


“Your hair looks like one of my blow up doll’s wigs!…not in a creepy way…”


‘The only Shakespeare I like is Hamlet because Mrs. Hamlet had six boobs”


Me: Have you heard of Lang Lang?
Student: That’s a kind of soup, right?


Me: I’m going to be away for the last three weeks of this term.
Student: Who’s going to be my decoy?
Me:…your what now?
Student: My decoy.
Me: Do you mean substitute?
Student: No. The word is DECOY.


Teaching a reduction of the ‘Surprise Symphony’, I told a student to “surprise me” by doing something different at the point where there’s supposed to be the big, surprising, loud chord. She did. She substituted that particular chord with a large fart.

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New Zealand, Or, A Series of Failed Interactions with Other Humans

NZ is spectacular. I, however, am a bit of a fuckwit.

Auckland is, of course, full of lots of interesting things and has that REALLY TALL TOWER with the glass floor that people seem to enjoy flinging themselves off for fun, BUT my absolute favourite thing in the entire city is their little-green-man. He WALKS. It may have been the 12 hour flight, the change of time zone and the desperate lack of sleep, but seeing him made me grin like a fool for a very long time. I found this youtube video someone else has taken of him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHy6vUXMlnY I am SO glad someone else is as excited by this as I am. (I may made exactly the same “ooh look at him go” noise on Monday.)

There was, though, one rather frustrating part to Auckland. After a terribly long flight, 5am arrival and hours and hours of wandering the city, I just wanted to do that drink-on-your-own-in-your-room-watching-British-comedy-on-youtube thing. While buying groceries, I attempted to buy a single bottle of cider. My conversation with the supermarket checkout-man went something along the lines of:

Him: Do you have ID?
Me: *produces drivers license*
Him: Ummm…Do you have a New Zealand one?
Me: No. I’m not from here…
Him: Oh. Well. I’m going to need to see your passport.
Me:…I…does anyone bring their passport grocery shopping?
Him: Oh…well… I can’t accept this.
Me: [and this is the bit where I think I really offended him, it was a stupid thing to say] Can you really not accept an Australian license? We’re practically the same country!
Him: We’re really, really not…

Apparently this is fantastically insulting to Kiwis, and for this I apologise to the whole country. Still, I didn’t mean it in an…arrogant colonialist kind of way, I just thought, like, considering their government doesn’t even require me to have a visa and doesn’t mind if I stay there as long as I like, they probably wouldn’t really care if I bought one single bottle of cider. Ugh.


I went on a fabulous tour thing of the Waitomo Caves with all the sparkly, sparkly glow worms, and saw lots of sheep shearing stuff which was actually really interesting. I am trying very VERY hard not to make jokes about sheep at this point but…its just…in my DNA. As a sort of compromise I will direct you to the most gratuitous thing ever on Wikipedia: Under “Etiquette in Australia and New Zealand” it says, SO UNNECESSARILY:

Making jokes at another’s expense or “taking the piss” is common in Australian society and is often a bonding process. However, it is frowned upon and considered cowardly to make jokes in the absence of the subject. Contrary to many other countries, Australians will generally wait until the subject is present before making derogatory jokes. For example, when an Australian meets a New Zealander on holiday, they may ask if they brought velcro gloves in order to get a better grip on those Australian sheep.)”

At the check in for the tour thing, the woman marking off names and filling in paperwork handed me what appeared to be some of those super huge puffy earphones in a plastic bag (you know, how they give them to you on planes.) The paperwork was taking a little bit of time and more out of feeling I had to make awkward conversation than any desperate need to know, I asked her of the headphones: “Do we hang onto these or give them back at the end?” She put down her pen, gave me the most “what the fuck are you on about” stare and said “…you can keep it”. I, of course, immediately thought she was the bitchiest woman I’d ever encountered. It wasn’t until I got on the bus and was ready to plug in my headphones that I realised they were, in fact, a giant chocolate muffin.

The tour ended in Rotorua, which is pretty exceptional. Of course, there’s the unavoidable fact that the whole place smells terrible, but one assumes that this is balanced by the immediate benefit of being able fart whenever you like with no one being able to smell it. And there are, I suppose, all the other excellent things like hot springs and geysers and boiling mud. Not to mention the existential crises brought on by the constant reminder that you’re at a point at which here the earth’s crust is only four kilometres thick and the entire planet is actually just a really flimsy rock shell hovering precariously over a core of molten-death-lava, orbiting a giant ball of fiery doom in an infinite void of nothingness. But you get over that pretty quickly and go back to making fart jokes. They also have actual Kiwis there, which are awesome because they’re the most useless birds ever as they’ve never really had any predators. Apparently they sleep for about 20 hours a day, and the rest of the time just forage around for food. They are basically feathery, beaky cats and I love them.

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Seriously. Look at this country being fucking majestic.

The tour bus was nice too, they gave us lunch that came with JUICE BOXES which made me super happy, mainly because I think my last juice box was in about 2003 and I’d forgotten how much fun they are. Being the child that I am, I was doing that thing where you blow into the straw and then let…whatever forces are at work in there…suck the juice up for you. I misjudged the length of the straw and at one point the juice sprayed everywhere, getting all over the girl sitting next to me. However, she was looking the other way at the time, wearing one of those plastic-y jackets and obviously didn’t feel it, so I just kind of…left it. Am I a terrible person? I spent the rest of the ride quietly snickering to myself, but really, how do you say “oh, excuse me, you didn’t notice but I just squirted juice all over you…” to someone?

I also went to Napier, a town that was obliterated by an earthquake in 1931 and consequently rebuilt entirely in the Art Deco style. It’s super pretty, even if the beach is totally doing sand wrong. (Black pebbles? NOT SAND) and half the town is built on land that ROSE UP OUT OF THE OCEAN during the quake. Hot tip: they tell me here, in Hawkes Bay wine country, that 2013 was a REALLY good year for NZ wines because it was a really long dry summer. So, you know, get on that. (I say that, like I want to sound like I know what I’m talking about, but really I’m still a student, and pretty happy with anything that says “wine” on the label and won’t send me blind…)

There were a couple of other fuck-wit-isms. On the bus between Rotorua and Napier, the driver had been joking around about how he didn’t know where he was going, getting loads of laughs. He said, very seriously, “I need you all to make sure you have your seat belts on”. I looked around for mine, couldn’t find it, and then laughed a little too loudly in a “oh! you got me!” kind of way. Turns out, it wasn’t a joke. I was sitting on it and EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE BUS turned around to stare, shocked, at me. I also then asked someone if a shop called “Cou own” was a Maori word. It was just a sign for “Countdown”, the local name of Woolworths with a few letters not lit up. UGH.

Anyway. I’m in Wellington now, which I really like. It feels like the Melbourne to their Auckland/Sydney.  I also went to see a whole bunch of Lord of the Rings things (and had to keep very quiet about the fact that I’ve only really seen the films in bits or on planes and that my main interest is the books…)
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I am getting pretty good at putting on a Kiwi accent. The best bit of it is that they all keep pronouncing my name ‘Sirrah’, which means I get to pretend I’m being talked down to by a 16th century Lord of the Manor, or, you know, living a minor role in a Shakespeare history. It’s pretty great.



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I am sitting in San Francisco airport, being, you know, airport bored. Airport bored is different to regular bored because regular bored can be cured by books and music and hunting through boxes looking for the cable that will make your old Playstation from the 90s work so you can play Crash Bandicoot. Airport bored involves sitting, re-reading the book you finished days ago or looking at duty free things you’re totally not going to buy. (I pity the people on my plane – I have tried so many perfume samples that I am practically surrounded by an incessant travelling stink-cloud).

I have spent the last six days on the “holiday” part of my trip (no libraries!) and it has been bloody spectacular. I spent the most glorious long weekend in Vermont with my penfriend (who I’ve been writing to since we were both 12-ish) and her lovely, lovely family. That state is so pretty it makes you want to rip out your own eyeballs. My god, it’s a SILF and a half. (Do I need to clarify that one? Seems pretty self-explanatory…) It looks like Austria and is greener than anything else on earth and has Ben & Jerry’s (which I’ve just discovered OH MY GOD) and HOW CAN ONE PLACE HAVE SO MANY GOOD THINGS?

Having also really enjoyed Boston, it seems I just really like the “New England” part of America, which I suppose makes sense, as I quite like Old England too.

I suppose admitting this makes me terribly racist, but I am uncomfortable with pilots with ‘southern’ accents. (Maybe it’s not racism – there was totally a QI episode where they discussed this, and how certain accents make you trust pilots more. You should probably take your complaints up with QI.) I just think it makes them seem reckless, and the one I had flying me from Burlington to Newark seemed to be taking corners like a fully-sick-sky-hoon. (That could, of course, be because the plane was much smaller than what I’m used to – it was the weird little kind with all its propellers out on show like a tart…)

As awful as all these longs cross country flights have been, I have, in the process, discovered my new favourite thing: duty free in-flight catalogues. They are full of THE MOST ridiculous things and I want to buy them all but also, totally never will. There was a spatula with a built in torch and a contraption to turn a wine-glass into a sippy-cup and BEST OF ALL a kitchen paper towel holder/USB port/wine bottle stopper. It’s like they’ve just rammed a bunch of household items together and tried to sell whatever hideous abomination unto interior-design came out. I assume the deal is that you’ll be so deliriously tired by the end of your long haul that everything will seem like A REALLY GOOD IDEA and you’ll give them all your money.

San Francisco was also very weird. So foggy.
I got super duper drunk with an old uni friend at some bar very, very high up in the air and then played something called shuffleboard in a seedy pub. (I think it’s sort of…lawn bowls for people who can’t bend over any more and I am exceptionally bad at it and consequently also exceptionally competitive)

Anyway. There was no continuity to this. THESE ARE MY AIRPORT THOUGHTS.
I’m going to Auckland in an hour. I am going to be so tired. Even tireder. Might buy something ridiculous. Or gin. I’ll probably go buy some gin.

EDIT: I am drinking something called DEJA BLUE: Official Water of the San Jose Earthquakes.

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