What’s Been Happening? Part II Sunday, May 1 2011 

Since the events of last post, it’s been relatively clear sailing.

Old friend Adam R rather nicely invited me to see Sir Terry Pratchett speak at the Sydney Opera House, and a good time was had by all and sundry. I’ve been meaning to catch Pratchett ever since I was wee lad in Canberra, and was glad to get the chance before his Alzheimer’s exacts too great a toll.

I’ve had a short story published in Issue 19 of The Unspeakable Oath, which you can pick up in PDF, or in PDF and in print. Look for Dying Sunlight at the back of the magazine. To my knowledge, it’s the only Call of Cthulhu-related magazine currently in print, so if you’re you’re a fan of the game, please give it a look.

(No word on the fate of God Wills It Thus, however. I’m not holding out too much hope, but stranger things have happened…)

I’m also bandying about an idea for Chaosium’s 2011 Halloween Adventure Contest. Hopefully, I can get something written and playtested before the July deadline. (I also have an idea-and-a-bit for one or more MULA Monographs, but they’ll be well down the track: I need to establish a regular gaming group first.)

In other gaming related news, I attended Eyecon 2011 on Easter/ANZAC Day weekend, in and around long train commutes and the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Martin Place. Not much sleep was to be had, but the games more than made up for it. Aside from my usual staple of D&D4e Living Forgotten Realms modules, I also played the vaguely OD&D-inspired Gencon 1976 and got my first taste of GUMSHOE-powered Mutant City Blues with Law & Order: Heightened Crimes Unit.

(Katana Geldar gives a good summary of the con over at Level 1 GM, incidentally. I played Law & Order and a D&D4e game or two with her, and yes, that is my shiny pate at the bottom left of her con photo. My male-pattern baldness is famous now.)

Starting from June, I’ll be helping run Living Forgotten Realms games at Blacktown Games Day. They’re running a little short of GMs at the moment, and well, it suddenly struck me that it’s been nearly six friggin’ years since the events of the Three Years of Sundays (here and here) burnt me out.

I need to hop back on that particular horse. And besides, I’d like to get a fortnightly group going. Playtest some stuff. Maybe even run an epic Warhammer FRP 2e campaign.

And that’s about it, so far. We still need to get the rest of our stuff from Young and Cowra, and now that there’s actually work available, I need to get myself a job. Mim needs to recover from her ailments. Charmaine needs to adjust to the madhouse she’s found herself in. And the cats need to settle into their new home.

I don’t know how much time I’ll have to blog in the near future, but you can always keep track of me via Twitter.

What’s Been Happening? Part I Sunday, May 1 2011 

Blue Mountains

It’s been nearly two months since my last blog entry, but they’ve been a very busy two months indeed! Entirely too busy, in fact. And by busy, I mean stressful.

It became clear that Young wasn’t working out for us, so we resolved to move back towards Sydney. For a start, Mim couldn’t get her regular prescriptions written without paying a $65 consultation fee (for a $5.60 medication on the PBS), and we wanted to be closer to Mim’s daughter Charmaine.

So whilst we looked for new digs, Mim and I stayed with an old friend of hers in Blacktown, a harrowing experience to say the least. Our host’s driving talents nearly cost us our lives, and despite our near miss, I still came away with cracked ribs—which I wasn’t allowed to mention publicly, lest it jeopardise our accommodation. (Needless to say, our host wasn’t all there.)

Shortly thereafter, Charmaine broke up with her boyfriend, and moved in with us. And shortly after that, our erstwhile benefactor had some sort of mental shortout and tossed all three of us out onto the street, leaving us to live in our car. Via SMS. Via her daughter. For 36 very tense hours, she locked our cats—without food, water or ventilation—in her back room, and we weren’t even certain we’d ever get them back.

We’d just managed to secure a place in the Blue Mountains, and fortunately—I can honestly never express adequate gratitude—our friends Chris and Nikki let Mim, Charmaine and I sleep in the lounge room in the interim. Once we’d finally retrieved them, Arthur the Rabbit graciously allowed our babies to borrow his hutch. By the end of the week, though, we were headed up into the mists.

Meanwhile, the NSW state election raged, but Mim and I were powerless to help numerous old friends who ran for office. Although many succeeded—notably the new Members for Kiama, Menai, Oatley and Coogee—their fortune has done little to assuage our guilt. Sorry, guys. Next time.

For the next week, we lived on blankets and inflatable mattresses, which our friends Ali and Samara generously lent us. However, cats and inflatable mattresses don’t mix. Try telling that to six distressed moggies: rather than have them cry all night outside our door, I spent the week sleeping on the hardwood floor in the kitchen, huddled around the oven for warmth.

Chris and Nikki once again came to the rescue, donating their old lounge. Later that night, however, Mim found her leg trapped under our car’s rear tire and was rushed off to hospital. As painkillers helped Mim explore unplumbed corners of her consciousness, Chris and I dashed to Young and back to pick up a trailer load of essentials. Including our bed, which Mim serenaded on our return. At length.

I’m beginning to worry about Mim’s relationship with that bed.

To be continued…

Blogging in Exile: The Razor in the Closet Sunday, Jan 2 2011 

My local library rocks, when it’s not full of backpackers sating their wifi needs. Not only did I pick up Cold Print and Inglourious Basterds, but also Larry Writer’s excellent Razor, a history of East Sydney’s razor gangs of the 1920s to 1940s. Not only is it a fascinating read, but it also poses a few awkward questions.

Australia never had Prohibition per se, but in 1916, around 5000 soldiers rioted, looted and drank outer-suburban Liverpool dry, before heading into the centre of Sydney to do the same. After three days of drunken mayhem, the state government instituted the Liquor Act, and a referendum later that year saddled New South Wales with what was known as the Six-o’clock Swill: until it was repealed in 1955, pubs were banned from serving alcohol after 6pm.

In the wake of this, the “sly grog” trade sprang up, serving often watered-down drinks after hours; Sydney’s sly-groggeries were somewhat analogous to America’s speakeasies. By the Depression, many Sydneysiders couldn’t afford to go the track, but would bet nonetheless, so the provision of sly grog went arm-in-arm with prostitution, illegal, off-track SP betting and cocaine traffic.

Family legend has it that my grandfather was distantly descended from English and Spanish gentry, and (aside from one black sheep) my grandmother from decent, but hard-working, Scots and Irish migrants. But genealogy shows that both came largely from convict stock, transported to Australia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

In the late 1920s to the early 1940s—records show, for much longer than I’d been led to believe—my grandfather was a talented boxer. He and my grandmother drove taxis in central Sydney. At other times, he worked as a bookmaker; family whispers suggest that my grandfather’s bookmaking may have taken place off-track. (A rumoured feud with the Waterhouse family, however, hints that he may occasionally have seen horse flesh.)

My grandfather was in the habit of concealing cash about his person—the bag with his bookmaking takings was mostly rolls of banknote-sized pieces of newspaper, rolled up with only a few small-denomination notes on top. Presumably, this was to foil standover men, protection racketeers who specialise in victimising small-time criminals. (Mark “Chopper” Read is a relatively modern example.)

My grandmother always kept a loaded rifle in the house. And she was tough, never having trouble from male taxi passengers in that relatively lawless era, and—family legends once again attest—holding her own a couple of decades later in an on-air run-in with Germaine Greer.

At one point, at least, they were wealthy enough to afford waterfront property at the western end of the harbour. But in the early 1940s, as war raged across the world, they settled down: my grandfather enlisted and became a mechanic at de Havilland‘s facility near Bankstown Airport, and my grandmother raised their daughters, renovated a series of houses and ran a fruit-and-vegetable shop. They moved out to Fairfield, then (as now) home to many of Sydney’s New Australians. Although they never discussed it, it seems that their fortunes had waned.

In Case You Were Wondering Thursday, Dec 16 2010 

Sorry for the flood of posts today. I’m still without Internet at home, but I’ve had an opportunity to borrow the local library’s wifi. In the interim, I’ve been writing away—blogging in exile—hoping to post them up when I can jump on the Net again.

There are a few formatting issues, but my laptop battery’s running low, and I’ll have to attend to them some other time. In the meantime, thanks for your patience. Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer.

Blogging in Exile: More Green Children Sunday, Dec 12 2010 

I popped down to the local library a couple of days ago for a look around, and to borrow their Internet to buy Mim’s Christmas presents. It’s not huge, but it’s certainly larger than Cowra’s; once the remaindered sportsmen’s’ biographies are taken out of the latter, the its non-fiction selection is probably smaller than my own. In general, Young’s collection is much newer, too.

I picked up a book of proverbs from around the world, a copy of Ramsay Campbell’s eldritch horror classic Cold Print, and Katharine Briggs’ British Folktales. Whilst nowhere near as comprehensive as Westwood and Simpson’s Lore of the Land, British Folktales is merely a sampler for Briggs’ magnum opus, the Dictionary of British Folk-Tales, which weighs in at four volumes and 2500+ pages.

(Incidentally, if anyone out there’s feeling really generous…)

Of course, I had to navigate immediately to a couple of favourite tales, such as Croglin Grange and the Green Children of Woolpit. British Folktales (via a series of sources) quotes Ralph of Coggeshall directly on the latter:

Another wonderful thing happened in Suffolk, at St Mary’s of the Wolf-pits.  A boy and his sister were found by the inhabitants of that place near the mouth of a pit which is there, who had the form of all their limbs like to those of other men, but they differed in the colour of their skin from all the people of our habitable world; for the whole surface of their skin was tinged of a green colour.  No one could understand their speech.  When they were brought as curiosities to the house of a certain knight, Sir Richard de Caine [sic], at Wikes, they wept bitterly.  Bread and other victuals were set before them, but they would touch none of them, though they were tormented by great hunger, as the girl afterwards acknowledged.  At length, when some beans, just cut, with their stalks were brought into the house, they made signs, with great avidity, that they should be given to them.  When they were brought, they opened the stalks instead of the pods, thinking the beans were in the hollow of them; but, not finding them there, they began to weep anew.  When those that were present saw this, they opened the pods, and showed them the naked beans.  They fed on these with great delight, and for a long time tasted no other food.  The boy however was always languid and depressed, and he died within a short time.  The girl enjoyed continual good health, and, becoming accustomed to various kinds of food, lost completely that green colour, and gradually recovered the sanguine habit of her entire body.  She was afterwards regenerated by the laver of holy baptism, and lived for many years in the service of that knight (as I have frequently heard from him and his family), and was rather loose and wanton in her conduct.  Being frequently asked about the people of her country, she asserted that the inhabitants, and all that they had in that country, were of a green colour; and that they saw no sun, but enjoyed a degree of light like what is after sunset.  Being asked how she came into this country with the aforesaid boy, she replied, that as they were following their flocks they came to a certain cavern, on entering which they heard a delightful sound of bells; ravished by whose sweetness, they went for a long time wandering on through the cavern, until they came to its mouth.  When they came out of it, they were struck senseless by the excessive light of the sun, and the unusual temperature of the air; and they thus lay for a long time.  Being terrified of the noise of those who came on them, they wished to fly, but they could not find the entrance of the cavern before they were caught.

Briggs also comments:

This story is also told by William of Newbridge, who places it in the reign of King Stephen. He says he long hesitated to believe it, but he was at length overcome by the weight of evidence. According to him, the place where the children appeared was about four to five miles from Bury St Edmunds. They came in harvest-time out of the wolf-pits; they both lost their green hue, and were baptised and learned English. The boy, who was the younger, died; but the girl married a man at Lenna, and lived many years. They said their country was called St Martin’s Land, as that saint was chiefly worshipped there; that the people were Christians, and had churches; that the sun did not rise there, but that there was a bright country which could be seen from theirs, being divided from it by a very broad river. This is one of those curiously convincing and realistic fairy anecdotes which are occasionally to be found in the mediaeval chronicles.

William of Newbridge is better known as William of Newburgh or Newbury, and although some would place Lenna in Suffolk, no town of that name seems to currently exist there. However, King’s Lynn in Norfolk—by at least one tradition, the girl’s post-marital home—has variously been known as Lun or Lenn (in the Domesday Book), Len Episcopi (when ruled by the Bishop of Norwich) and Lenne Regis (when Henry VIII took possession of the town and its surrounds in 1537).

I wouldn’t mind trying to track down Newburgh’s version of the tale.

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