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November 6th, 2019

03:12 pm - Yuletide
Dear Yuletide friend,

First of all, thanks for writing for me.

Overall, I am pretty open to almost anything. Maybe no deaths, or at least not pointless deaths. Apart from that, write as you want!

Billabong – I adore these books, and, given the tiny number of fics, almost anything you write would be great. I am a big fan of Wally/Norah but obviously any fic at all focussed on the bonds of friendship between all the characters. If you want to write some kind of fic that examines the period problematic racial/servant themes that would be even cooler.

Emily of New Moon – I would love any fic in this with the exception of Teddy/Emily because I find Teddy enraging. He seems to me to be as big a talent sucking machine as Dean, just more quiet about it. What I would really like would be the continuing adventures of Perry or Ilse; or backstory on Laura, Elizabeth and Jimmy; or backstory on Emily’s parents; or one of her ancestors; or anything really. Just not about Teddy, and something that takes Emily seriously as an artist.

Zombieland – I feel like you could write anything from comedy to angst ridden drama about this group of survivors. Whether you want to write gen, het, slash or some kind of poly relationship, all would be good. I would like to see them all being competent.

Hmmmm, having written this, I see that what I like most is to read about competent people doing things together.

Any other questions, let me know.


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November 4th, 2019

07:22 pm - November
Envious Casca Georgette Heyer 1941

Unnatural Death Dorothy L Sayers 1927

Last Night I Dreamed Of Peace Dang Tuy Tram 1968

Just Like Bunter Frank Richards 1963

The Testaments Margaret Atwood 2019

Ethan of Athos Lois McMaster Bujold 1986

Billy Bunter's Bank Note Frank Richards 1948

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October 8th, 2019

08:10 pm - Tom Brown's Schooldays, the rude bits
Tom Brown’s School Days (1857) has some odd sexual undercurrents. It is a largely male world, with occasional appearances by old women as nurses, sweet sellers and matrons. However, all those youthful spirits had to go somewhere.

There was a certain category of boys at the school who were deemed inferior and/because they were feminised. As Hughes put it, boys who were ‘always getting laughed at, and called Molly, or Jenny, or some derogatory feminine nickname.’

At one point Tom and his pal East had a confrontation with a peer who had been sent to round up fags for a sixth former.

‘He was one of the miserable little pretty white-handed, curly-headed boys, petted and pampered by some of the big fellows, who wrote their verses for them, taught them to drink and use bad language, and did all they could to spoil them for everything * in this world and the next.’

I am fascinated that Hughes included a footnote here to comment that the fagging system was not necessarily bad but that he felt he had to include this obscure description of the moral hazards.

‘* A kind and wise critic, an old Rugboean, notes here in the margin: “The small friend system was not so utterly bad from 1841-1847.” Before that, too, there were many noble friendships between big and little boys; but I can't strike out the passage. Many boys will know why it is left in.’

I know I have a dirty old post-twentieth century mind, but can this be read as anything other than an oblique reference to homosexuality here? One that Hughes is assuming that ‘many boys will know why it is left in’.

I could compare this with the written description provided by a near contemporary. AJ Symonds wrote a description of his time at Harrow in 1854 (ie three years before Tom Brown’s Schooldays* was published, but left the manuscript at London Library with conditions preventing it being quoted or even paraphrased until 1977. He described his time at Harrow thus:

‘Every boy of good looks had a female name and was recognised either as a public prostitute or as some bigger fellow’s bitch. Bitch was the word in common usage to indicate a boy who yielded his person to another. The talk in the studies and dormitories was incredibly obscene. One could not avoid seeing acts of onanism, mutual masturbation, and the sport of naked boys in bed together.’

Tom, of course, is above this sort of thing – though it does cast a different light on the way he and East were tortured by older boys for refusing to fag for them, chased through the dormitories, barricading themselves in their studies, being aware that some boys would be taken for bullying each night out of the dormitories, and, of course, Tom having his buttocks pressed against the fire by Flashman.

And this also leads back to Arthur. Before meeting him, Brown worried that he might be the type of boy likely to be called by girl’s names; after meeting him, Brown is too enchanted to care. Brown calls him by the nickname Geordie or Young Un, and worries over him like a hen with one chick (as another boy observes).

Brown gets into his only serious fight at the school when defending Arthur’s honour, after another boy snickers at Arthur being moved to tears by Homer. Arthur cannot bring himself to watch the terrible violence, but instead walks up at down in the close waiting for word of the outcome of the battle.

The emotional climax of the book is when Arthur is ill and expected to die. Brown is not allowed into the sick room and instead lies awake reading the Bible. Surprisingly, Arthur does survive and Brown is reunited with him. Arthur speaks to him seriously about death and faith and Brown repents and agrees to never again use copybooks to assist in his Latin translation. This is a rather anticlimactic epiphany, but still, read the purple prose….

‘Arthur was lying on the sofa by the open window, through which the rays of the western sun stole gently, lighting up his white face and golden hair. Tom remembered a German picture of an angel which he knew; often he had thought how transparent and golden and spiritlike it was; and he shuddered to think how like it Arthur looked, and felt a shock as if his blood had all stopped short as he realized how near the other world his friend must have been to look like that. Never till that moment had he felt how his little chum had twined himself round his heart-strings; and as he stole gently across the room and knelt down, and put his arm round Arthur's head on the pillow, he felt ashamed and half angry at his own red and brown face and the bounding sense of health and power which filled every fibre of his body and made every movement of mere living a joy to him.

He needn't have troubled himself; it was this very strength and power so different from his own which drew Arthur so to him. Arthur laid his thin, white hand, on which the blue veins stood out so plainly, on Tom's great, brown fist, and smiled at him; and then looked out of the window again…’

Hughes perhaps realises he has gone slightly too far because he then introduces Arthur’s mother (come to nurse him) and has Tom fixate on her. Tom immediately wonders if Arthur has a sister he can marry, which does not perhaps resolve the homosocial desire quite as well as Hughes thought it did.

The penultimate glimpse is of Brown as captain of the cricket team, watching the play on a perfect day, while Arthur kneels at his side.

‘[Here he is], in white flannel shirt and trousers, straw hat, the captain's belt, and the untanned, yellow cricket shoes which all the eleven wear, sits a strapping figure near six feet high, with ruddy, tanned face and whiskers, curly brown hair, and a laughing, dancing eye… It is Tom Brown, grown into a young man nineteen years old, a præpostor [prefect] and captain of the eleven, spending his last day as a Rugby boy, and let us hope as much wiser as he is bigger since we last had the pleasure of coming across him.

And at [his] feet on the warm, dry ground, similarly dressed, sits Arthur, Turkish fashion, with his bat across his knees. He, too, is no longer a boy, less of a boy in fact than Tom, if one may judge from the thoughtfulness of his face, which is somewhat paler, too, than one could wish; but his figure, though slight, is well knit and active, and all his old timidity has disappeared, and is replaced by silent, quaint fun, with which his face twinkles all over as he listens to [Tom].’

That is one romantic picture.

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08:08 pm - Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays, 1857
There had been books published prior to 1857 that were set in schools; but there had not been a genre of school stories up until when Thomas Hughes published *Tom Brown’s Schooldays*.

Reading over it now, almost every convention of the genre is there in his first book, beginning with the journey from home to the school. School stories almost begin with the obligatory journey to another world, usually by train but in this case by stage. (Although written in the era of trains, the story is set a generation earlier, in the time that Hughes himself went to Rugby).

It has the new child’s awe at the fantastic buildings – Tom Brown looking at the close at Rugby; Darrell Rivers admiring the stone walls of Malory Towers; Harry Potter viewing Hogwarts. The protagonist is self sufficient, sociable, not terribly academic but good at sports. There’s the antagonist, a sneaky bully who has no school spirit. There is the emphasis on friendship and sports. There’s a god-like Head Master, Arnold, who makes even Dumbledore seem run off the mill. It contains various adventures, the outwitting of dim masters, defeating the bully, moving up through the school. The penultimate scene is of Tom in his final days at Rugby, head of the cricket eleven and respected throughout the school.

There are also a few ways in which *Tom Brown’s Schooldays* includes material not taken up by future school story writers. The book begins with an unnecessary and embarrassing chapter on how Tom would play with the little boys from the village when he was a child, even though they were his social inferiors and spoke with comical peasant accents. And there is a lot more religion than modern authors would include.

There is a substantial plot involving Brown meeting and being redeemed by his relationship with Arthur, a delicate and beautiful boy who demonstrates true Christian grit by getting on his knees to pray in front of the other boys in the dormitory. Arthur and Tom share a special bond, share a study and spend quite a bit of time reading the Bible together. (Hehe).

The final scene of *Tom Brown’s Schooldays* is Brown rushing back to Rugby, after hearing of the death of his Head Master. Overwhelmed, he goes to the chapel and pulls himself together by reflecting that no matter how magnificent Arnold was, his character was just a way of glimpsing the workings of God.

‘And let us not be hard on him, if at that moment his soul is fuller of the tomb and him who lies there, than of the altar and Him of whom it speaks. Such stages have to be gone through, I believe, by all young and brave souls, who must win their way through hero-worship, to the worship of Him who is the King and Lord of heroes.’

Hughes was taught by Thomas Arnold, the famous Head Master of Rugby. Apparently he was quite the inspirational speaker, a proponent of the muscular Christianity of the nineteenth century. Hughes does not seem to have been a special protégé of Arnold, but the massive success of this book basically set Arnold’s image up for the rest of the century – supremely wise, incapable of error, stern, basically the Old Testament God.

I find those parts of the book pretty repellent, but you have to hand it to Hughes – there was something about this novel that inspired a heap of incredibly talented authors to follow him.

There’s the Flashman chronicles by George MaczDonald Fraser. I cannot recommend them enough – basically he takes Hughes’ cowardly villain, Flashman, and writes a series of supremely funny novels about him being a coward and a villain who, through a terrible series of events, is forced into the thick of battles and the centre of politics.

The scene of little Arthur praying in the dormitories may seem familiar. It’s because Terry Pratchett took it up in *Pyramids* where a student brings in a goat and attempts to sacrifice it in his first night at the dormitories of the Assassin’s Academy. The lines ‘Garn, the little pious git’ and ‘There’s no shame in a chap being man enough to pray’ are virtually line for line from *Tom Brown’s Schooldays* but read quite differently with the addition of the pentagram.

And, of course, Hughes stands at the head of the still flourishing genre of school stories. Without Hughes, there is no Malory Towers, no Chalet School, no Greyfriars, no Hogwarts. This book is not without flaws, but if you have inspired authors ranging from Enid Blyton to JK Rowling, George MacDonald Fraser to Terry Pratchett, you have done pretty well.

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October 6th, 2019

07:09 pm - September books
Mrs Humphry Ward: Eminent Victorian, Pre Eminent Edwardian John Sutherland 1990
Cetaganda Lois McMaster Bujold 1996
Elsie's Stolen Heart Martha Finley 1875
Cyroburn Lois McMaster Bujold 2010
Komarr Lois McMaster Bujold 1998
Winterfair Gifts Lois McMaster Bujold 2004
The Documents in the Case Dorothy L Sayers 1930
Tom Brown's School Days Thomas Hughes 1857
Vor Games Lois McMaster Bujold 1990

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September 20th, 2019

03:43 pm
Things I have determined about the thieves, after cleaning up after them:

1, They were professional enough to not leave fingerprints.

2, They were extremely systematic, opening virtually every box and going through every draw, and throwing every item on the floor.

3, They did not check my books at all.

4, Although they went through my drawers, they rejected the tickets to the ballet they found there.

5, They took the time to reject my Swancon 20 badge while taking literally every other item of jewellery I own(ed).

6, They had the follow through to take the keys, wait three days for the car to be returned, and overcome the (allegedly) altered immobilier.

7, They were petulant enough to spray Pearl’s room with soft drink and break her china.

8, They did not appear to value art/craft supplies as even relatively expensive items were left.

9, Very sensibly, they did not enter the festering mess that is Ruby’s room. She was entirely unburgled because it is impossible to walk across her room.

I find their profile har

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September 18th, 2019

02:00 pm - house broken into
A few people have asked whether they could help. Most of the stuff I need to do can only be done by me - Police, insurance, getting more Ritalin for Pearl.

But it would be really helpful if anyone has any photos of me wearing the jewellery that was stolen. If any of you have photos from my 21st, 30th, 40th, Swancon or whatever that show some of my jewellery, that would be really helpful. I have photos of course but the prospect of going through them all is a drama.

I am looking for photos of:

* my gold Christening bracelet that says Emma.
* Pearl's silver Christening bracelet with her name on it (but not Ruby's which was in her room).
* the pearl necklace and earrings that belonged to my Grandmother and that I got for my 18th.
* the Edwardian moonstone set I got for my 21st.
* cubic zerconia on a silver chain for my 15th from my maternal grandma.
* Pearl's amber necklace.
* the tiny diamond ring my paternal grandmother gave me.
* the little opal necklaces the kids got from my Mum.

If anyone has some that would be great. Really regretting that I did not take separate photos.

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September 7th, 2019

06:49 pm - threatened species
We took in record amounts at the Threatened Species party! I have made the donations to WWRF for pandas and Save the Bilbies, and will take the cash in to Perth Zoo for the frogs (hopefully tomorrow or next weekend).

Pandas - $32,15

Frogs - $80.20

Bilbies - $40.50

Thank you all very much.

Also, how nice was it to have so many guests!

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September 5th, 2019

07:51 pm - handmaid's tale
I am so pleased that the season three finale of *A Handmaid’s Tale* did not involve the death of any children. Spoilers.

My fear was that the plane would be shot down.

I noticed that all the kids on the plane were incredibly obedient, quiet and willing to follow their Marthas. I can only assume that the children in Gilead with ADHD or who are oppositional or curious have by now either been killed or have been beaten into submission. The message to comply would, after all, be reinforced every time they walked past a corpse dangling from a lamp post.

Were most of the children on the plane girls? I could only spot a few boys and I wondered if this was because:

1, there is some sex-related aspect to the ongoing fertility crisis, with fewer boys born.

2, the boys are off at mini-Commander training lessons and so were not available to be rescued.

3, the boys have been trained in misogyny and would not have followed their Marthas.

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August 27th, 2019

07:30 pm - marvel
Between one thing and another, my life is quite busy and stressful atm.

Do you know what I want to read? Fanfic about the blip in the Marvel Universe. Please send me recommendations.

I want to know what happened when they put people back. I want to know about people discovering that their partners had remarried and they now have step-kids. I want to know about the housing market collapsing because 50% of the population is gone. I want to know about the terrible psychological scars that the survivors carry.

Please send me recs.

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