Monthly Archives: September 2013

An archive to mark a milestone

One year ago this week, I began chemotherapy, following an operation for breast cancer that I alluded to here.  I managed to keep my blog going for another month or so, but eventually it was just too hard, and I gave it up in early December 2012.  After I finished radiotherapy in April, I started blogging again here in May this year. That means that there is a gap of nearly 5 months during which I wrote no posts, which made it awkward to start adding a ‘This time last year’ link to the bottom of posts, as I had done in 2012.

So I’ve been meaning for some time to put together links to all my blog posts in a single file. You can now find any of my posts through the ‘All Posts’ link above the header, which takes you to a drop down menu by year.

It has been interesting going through the whole run of posts.  I’ve found a few broken links, which I have/will fix, but please alert me to any others you may find.  I realise I have a terrible enthusiasm for puns in my titles, which seem hilarious at the time, but now just mean that readers will have no idea what the theme of the post was.  Can I recommend Her Dedication and Our Sedentary Ways as examples of this?

Some of the posts are dated – who cares about Sarah Palin any more? Others made depressingly accurate predictions about the decline of the Australian Labor Party or the rise of the military in Egypt. In general, I don’t make any claim for the predictive power of history, though I stand by the quote on my header:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

My doctors, on the other hand, have been able to give a much less depressing prediction for my own future. I had various scans a fortnight ago and things are going well.


Treasures of Afghanistan at the Queensland Museum

A special exhibition at the Queensland Museum makes me realise, not for the first time, how much better the Queensland Art Gallery does these things. QAG has just closed Quilts 1700-1945.  I went at the end of June, and wrote about it here.

The Queensland Museum has just opened Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum Kabul.  A few of these items were on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City when I was there in 2010.  Although they belong in Afghanistan, and will eventually return to its National Museum, at present they are touring the world.  They have already been to Melbourne and will go on from Brisbane (until 27 January) to Sydney and Perth during 2014.

Treasures of Afghanistan

Hair pendant in gold and turquoise from Tillya Tepe

The treasures themselves are wonderful.  Continue reading

Sluttish, Sleazy and Tawdry

Godfrey Bloom, a right-wing English politician, has got into trouble recently at the United Kingdom Independence Party’s annual conference, for calling women in politics ‘sluts’ because they don’t clean behind the fridge.

It’s not the first time he has been deliberately offensive, and no doubt won’t be the last either, but what intrigued me about this particular statement is that – apart from putting most women, me included, in the slut category – his use of the word is correct, if sadly dated.

The online Oxford English Dictionary’s primary definition of ‘slut’ is ‘A woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance’ – though it also adds that ‘This entry has not yet been fully updated (first published 1912).’  I suspect the word, if not Godfrey, has moved on since then.

The first 'slutwalk', Toronto, 3 April 2011

The first ‘Slutwalk’, Toronto, 3 April 2011

Continue reading

Whose Heritage (continued)?

I recently put up a blog post, Whose Heritage? discussing the decision by the British Arts Council to ban the export of George Stubbs’s paintings of a kangaroo and a dingo, which the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra planned to buy.

After I posted I was tweeted by Rebekah Higget, Curator of History of Science and Technology at the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Our subsequent correspondence is here (and available to anyone backtracking through our Twitter feeds):

Rebekah Higgitt twitter

Clearly a good sport, she ended: ‘Ha! Everyone loves the kangaroo (poor dingo!)’ Continue reading

Teredo – worms shall devour them

We’ve just heard officially that the Sandgate pier is going to be rebuilt, this time with concrete pilings, so I’m re blogging my post about the pier. As a historian, I’m not sure how I feel about a completely rebuilt object, but there’s probably no alternative. Details here.

Historians are Past Caring

Places matter to people.  In my suburb, one of our best-loved places is the Shorncliffe pier.  Throughout the day, it is a place for tai chi and joggers, crab pots and fishing.  In the early evening, it is full of friendly walkers, with or without dogs.  People sprinkle the ashes of those they love from its railings, or use it as a backdrop for wedding photos.  It was recently used in a UK television ad available on YouTube here.

They used to say that Sandgate is 12 miles from Brisbane – or 13 at low tide.  It is a long way out to deep water, so early settlers could not get their goods – or themselves – from ship to shore without wading.  As the community grew, in 1865 they made plans ‘for the construction of a PIER or LANDING STAGE at Sandgate’.  This pier opened to the public…

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Writing v Researching: two lives of Constance Kent

On the morning of 30 June 1860, a servant discovered the body of a little boy in the outside privy at Road Hill House in Wiltshire (now in Somerset), his throat cut.

Francis Savill Kent was 3 years old.  He was the son of Samuel Savill Kent, a factory inspector, and his second wife, Mary Drewe Pratt.  Mary had been governess to Samuel’s older children, and the couple had begun an adulterous relationship during the first Mrs Kent’s lifetime.  When she died, they married, and Francis was their second child.

The mysterious murder set Victorian society aflutter.  Some murders attract more attention than others, and the murder of little Francis hit all the right buttons: the death of an innocent child; a deeply dysfunctional middle class family; an increasingly literate general public with a thirst for gossipy scandal; and a new detective unit at Scotland Yard, that was called in by the local magistrates after the Wiltshire police got nowhere with the investigation.

The detective sent from London, Jonathan Whicher, had his suspicions, as did the magistrates, but they were unable to crack the wall of silence within Road Hill House, apparently instigated by Samuel Savill Kent.

English: contemporary portrait of child-murder...

Contemporary portrait of child-murderess Constance Kent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, 5 years later, Francis’s half-sister Constance confessed, claiming that at the age of 16, she and she alone had killed her little brother. Continue reading