The Girl Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably.

Library Random Adventure No.2:

In fact, before I even regale you with this tale (for I have temporarily forgotten it) I will regale you with a tangent. A pretangent.

Unrelated Tangent:

The pretangent in question is about how when I was quite young, probably ten or so, my mother brought home from the library a rather large and thick book of limericks for me to read, as, like all of us, I was interested in them momentarily. I had read through a few such books previously, but never on the scale of this veritable tome.

It became readily apparent, flicking through, but clearly having escaped my mother’s notice,  that although the cover of the book was quite generic, A.K.A Giant Book of Limericks, or some such innocent title, the authors/compliers of the work were clearly under the impression that a limerick was any poem in the form of a limerick that dealt exclusively with sex.

At first I was confused. Was it just coincidence that the random poem I first opened up to was about a swan and a university student? Maybe it was just a dedicated chapter. No. Every poem, thousands of them. First to last. Though they didn’t always involve swans. Actually that one was my favourite, reproduced (pardon the pun) below:

Two Semantic Limericks by Gavin Ewart (1977)

1. According to The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1933)

There existed an adult male person who had lived a relatively short time, belonging or pertaining to St. John’s*, who desired to commit sodomy with the large web-footed swimming-birds of the genus Cygnus or subfamily Cygninae of the family Anatidae, characterized by a long and gracefully curved neck and a majestic motion when swimming.

So he moved into the presence of the person employed to carry burdens, who declared: “Hold or possess as something at your disposal my female child! The large web-footed swimming birds of the genus Cygnus or subfamily Cygninae of the family Anatidae, characterized by a long and gracefully curved neck and a majestic motion when swimming, are set apart, specially retained for the Head, Fellows and Tutors of the College.”

2. According to Dr Johnson’s Dictionary (Edition of 1765)

There exifted a person, not a woman or a boy, being in the firft part of life, not old, of St John’s* who wifhed to – the large water-fowl, that have along and very straight neck, and are very white, excepting when they are young (their legs and feet being black, as are their bills, which are like that of a goofe, but fomething rounder, and a little hooked at the lower ends, the two fides below their eyes being black and fhining like ebony).

In consequence of this he moved step by step to the one that had charge of the gate, who pronounced: “Poffefs and enjoy my female offspring! The large water-fowl, that have a long and very straight neck, and are very white, excepting when they are young (their legs and feet being black, as are their bills, which are like that of a goofe, but fometimes rounder, and a little hooked at the lower ends, the two fides below their eyes being black and fhining like ebony) are kept in ftore, laid up for a future time, for the fake of the gentlemen with Spanish titles.”

*A college of Cambridge University

Defending the Swans

So there you have it – an epic volume of dirty limericks.

Then I wondered: Was my mother trying to tell me something? Was this her way of educating me in these matters? But the innocent title and the cheerful red cover with little cartoonish figures merrily dancing around the border (it wasn’t exactly dancing on closer inspection) made it quite implausible that this was the case.

[EDITORS NOTE: I have remembered what the original story was]

Turns out though, boys and girls, that the novelty of such a book soon wore off. I never made it to the end. And along the way I discovered innumerable slang terms for sexual intercourse, relevant organs and all things associated. In fact, I suspected strongly that many of them actually weren’t used widely (or at all) in society except for their brief, one-off usage in their respective limericks, made to fit the strict rhyming structure, and combined with obscure and unconvincing sexual connotations, seemed composed entirely by an elite squad of English schoolboys. Perhaps these scholars then went on to create

In any case, nothing less than paraphrasing Blackadder could describe the systematic exploration of these poems on the topic of ‘doing anything to anything, animal, vegetable, mineral.’

Make it happen.

Library Random Adventure No.2, Cont’:

And this brings us back to Doh. As stated earlier the original library tale, involving borrowing books out at random led me one fine day to a mutli-volume treatise on the history of music philosophy. A series of white books, they smelled interesting enough. I learnt two things from it. The volume I borrowed was about Ancient Greece.

Thing No.1:

The Ancient Greek Philosophers believed different modes, or rather music in different modes, Aeolian, Phrygian etc, had different powerful psychological effects on humans. One philosopher even went so far as to boast he once broke up a riot by playing music in the Lydian mode on his lyre, soothing the angry young men involved.

Standard Police Issue: Ancient Greek Anti-Riot Gear.

Thing No.2:

Lesbos is a Greek Island, home to some 90 000 Lesbians.


Today I began the one of many room cleanses – this one more severe/Spartan than most as I’m moving overseas soon – and came across an item of immense age and absurdity.

It was 2000-and-something… mid- 2007 I’m guessing…When I made a trip to the Conservatorium library, largely out of boredom, in order to borrow out a book at random. This task usually proved not particularly difficult, and a very old book without any sort of title on the cover caught my eye in the instrument section.

I immediately borrowed it out, for it was none other than William Dale’s “Tschudi: The Harpsichord Maker”, the full text of which can be unnecessarily found here.

A Living Harpsichord Specimen.

Wonderfully fulfilling my aleatoric selection requirements, this particular magnum opus was published in London by Constable and Company in 1913 (for ultimately no real financial gain I imagine) and I freely admit to numbering among the masses of scholars and musicians who, upon opening this book, failed to glean any useful information.

Tschudi’s first name was Burckhardt.

Yet it was on this particular book opening within the library that an object of apparently not insignificant value fell out from the yellowed pages, in mildly surprising good condition….

… for a 98 year old BOOKMARK!!!

Courtesy the Scottish Widows’ Fund!

Assumed Front

Presumed Back

So. Just how far removed is it from the world we live in today?

Well, you will be most pleased to know that the Scottish Widows’ Fund began in 1812 AND is STILL OPERATING TO-FREAKING-DAY – being an official pensions and investment provider.

They have a website, which I half-heartedly encourage you to visit, but in your spare time only.

What is most alluring about this bookmark is the “Series of Designs by the famous Artist Walter Crane” (who died in 1915 I might add!) of which this present subject is “April.” On yet another side note, Crane was a member of the “Arts and Crafts Movement.” Western Civilisation must be indeed grateful and even mollified that such a movement existed.

Walter Crane: Illustrator, Socialist, Radical Arts and Craftist

I digress.

April. That’s right! One of presumably twelve bookmarks! (ie: months in the year)

The alluring part is of course the invitation: “The complete set may be had free on application to head office.”

Does the offer still stand?

I initially wanted to find out.

There were three options:

1: Send the arrogant demand to the supplied addresses on the bookmark (at which the SWF no longer resides)


2: Send it to their new residences.


3: Harass Scottish widows or their descendants.

However. I feel rather bad now, for in my research for this blog I found it is actually a rare and relatively valuable collectors item.


Well I guess I have to thank the protectively mundane nature of Dale’s “Tschudi: the Harpischord Maker” that someone in the UK in 1913 tried to read it, left their everyday bookmark inside (free to be had on application), quickly lost interest, sat the book around, somehow had it donated to the Queensland Conservatorium, where it was speedily neglected by all (the treatment to which it was accustomed), with minimal disturbances even in tagging and cataloguing.

It therefore took  a completely random excursion to dislodge this artifact.

Moral: Do things that you cannot justify or account for. There is a minutely small chance it will pay off.

Monet-ary Deficit

What is wrong with this picture of the French wilderness? (Wild Poppies near Argenteuil by Claude Monet) Specifically Monet’s idea of wilderness? I will tell you:

1) Awkward Clothing: Clearly these people have not been trekking about all day in such full-bodied clothing, especially when it is ‘hot enough’ to carry a parasol. No one in their right mind would dress up so extravagantly to undertake any walk of substance. I bet they’re wearing heels too.

2) Location: As the house in the distance implies, they’ve probably travelled less than 100 metres from civilisation, whether it be from from their summer convalescence home, plush horse-drawn carriage or new shiny automobile, and will spend a maximum of three hours outside, and only fifteen minutes of this spent walking to and from the inevitable picnic spot.

"Monsieur! We had a most splendid time in the out-of-doors this afternoon. We saw a bird"

3) Accessories: Obviously they are not prepared for lasting adventure. Instead of water, maps, backpacks and other vital supplies, they have chosen miniature umbrellas, of little use in the event of rain, and hats with a minimum of sun protection – liable to follow the wind at the slightest hint of a breeze.

Myth: Adverse weather conditions do not affect fashion.

4) Lack of Predatory Animals: No such wilderness would be complete without animals, and where there are animals there are always bigger and/or poisonous animals to eat them. To me, this landscape suggests no such presence of either. It seems perfectly safe, in an unrealistic way.

It could happen to you!

5) Landscape: Despite the gently rolling hills, it is doubtful that even the smallest of the children depicted will have to climb or even step over or even around anything. It is a pleasant field. Too pleasant. Probably on someone’s estate.

Therefore I pity those poor Bourgeois souls, who have been given a false impression of what it is like to be outside. The scene is to wilderness what Nandos is to traditional Portuguese food.


Impressionist's Portugal: Oh look I am now so very culturally experienced. Why ever do you not seem impressed!?

Monet, and indeed the Impressionist movement in general – including Debussy – seem to exhibit this demented city-folks love of the ‘country,’ but this is as Ives would and did say manneristic – they don’t really get their hands dirty, instead bringing the rich trappings and comfort of the city outdoors with them.

Moral: Real life – It happens.