Category Archives: Humour

Extreme Baking… Making Bombe Alaska.

For me, 2020 has become a year of extreme baking where I’ve broken out of my straight jacket of tried and tested caution and taken on many risks, and my family and friends have been more than willing guinea pigs.

The Epic Treehouse Cake I made last week. My friend lives in a pole home among the gum trees and the Tiny Teddy biscuits represent the cockatoos which come to visit but also chew away at his house.

Last week, I thought I’d reached my zenith with the precarious Tree House Cake I created for a friend’s birthday. Moreover, just to blow the risk out of the park, we needed to transport the cake without the chocolate house sliding off its perch. Indeed, at one point, Geoff had to slam on the brakes and I almost leaped out of my skin!! However, the cake survived, and was an amazing success.

The Treehouse Cake looked even more dramatic after we cut through the layers and it now looks like it’s precariously perched on the edge of a sandstone cliff.

Perhaps, it was that success which spurred me on to attempt this week’s total insanity. You know how it is. You take a huge gamble. Have a bit of success, and it goes to your head. Now, you think you can do ANYTHING! Indeed, you’ve become invincible.

Moreover, I’ve also been watching Masterchef Junior where you see pint-sized supremoes conjure up the most incredible and unbelievable dishes out of the weirdest and most exotic flavours and ingredient combinations. You can either be incredibly humbled, or inspired to have a go yourself. I haven’t tried to replicate their dishes. However, time and time again, I’ve seen how you can jazz up a simple dish with a few added elements and create something truly spectacular and utterly scrumptious. So, I think it’s fairly fair to say that Masterchef Junior has fuelled my courage, spirit of experimentation and my seeming passion for skiing straight over a cliff, and expecting to land on both skis. Indeed, Masterchef has turned baking into an extreme sport.

Added to this mix, there’s the coronavirus. With so many of the usual sources of excitement, entertainment and facets of simply being human prohibited, perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve turned to baking for a buzz. What else is there to do, especially for those of us who are in a high risk category and need to isolate and stay out of circulation as much as possible?

However, countering these temptations to succomb to extreme baking, there’s my mother’s tried and tested cooking advice. Indeed, I’ll call it “Mum’s Golden Rule” and that reads: “Never cook anything for a special occasion that you haven’t tried and tested at home first.” Clearly, that’s very good advice, especially when people are counting on you.

Yet, as I said, I’ve been throwing caution to the wind lately, and there’s no better illustration than my decision to bake Bombe Alaska for my friend’s 60th Birthday Party on Friday night.

After the famed tree house cake, I couldn’t just dish up a dried up sponge cake. No, it had to be spectacular. Have a sense of theatre, especially as she’s a performer and loves a lot of sparkle. So, what could be better and offer more theatre than a bombe…a Bombe Alaska? Not that I’ve ever tried baking Bombe Alaska before. Indeed, I’ve never even seen or tasted it before. So, I really was flying blind. Yet, how hard could it be? You just follow the recipe and Bob’s your uncle. Your bombe is ready to explode.

How it was supposed to look.

Well, at least, I knew I had to clear carve out a massive hole for the huge bowl of ice cream in the overloaded freezer. After all, baking isn’t just about creativity. There’s a lot of science and meticulous preparation, which can seem a bit boring and dull, but it’s just as important as the baking process itself.

And here it is lit up.

In case you don’t know much about making Bombe Alaska either, the bombe itself is made out of 6 cups of ice cream which is packed into a pudding basin. This goes back into the freezer to set, and then upended on top of a cake base, covered in meringue and baked in the oven at 200 degrees celsius. Of course, baking ice cream in the oven really goes against the grain. Doesn’t the ice cream melt into a ginormous puddle and DISASTER strikes?!! However, this is where the science comes in. The meringue is supposed to act like a shell insulating the ice cream inside while the outside forms a voluminous crust. After the meringue shell is lightly browned, you take it out of the oven, pour warm brandy over the top and light a match…KERBOOM!!!

Well, at least that’s what’s supposed to happen…

As I said, this was the first time I’ve even made Bombe Alaska, and it’s not a dessert I’m even familiar with.

Just to complicate matters further, I significantly altered the recipe. The original recipe used a combination of vanilla ice cream, frozen raspberries and lemon sorbet on a sponge cake base. However, I had a layer of chocolate ice cream on top and a mixture of vanilla and raspberries inside and I replaced the sponge cake with a gooey Flourless Chocolate Cake. After finding out the mix for the chocolate cake was big enough to make 2 cakes, I also made some Nutella Buttercream Icing and spread lashings of icing, roasted hazelnuts, Violet Crumble over both cakes and the other cake became home for the Happy Birthday candles.

Unfortunately, the chances of the Bombe working out were always going to be low. The party was being held at a friend’s place and I had to beat up the meringue at home before we left, a good two hours before it headed into the oven. Obviously, that delay was hardly ideal. The other concern was that I didn’t know whether I’d have enough meringue to seal it properly, and I couldn’t just whip up more on the spot. So, I was really taking a huge chance.

Yet, surprisingly I just shrugged off the doubt and the possibility we’d be drinking our bombe out of mugs. However, despite the obvious insanity of proceeding with the bombe, I could sense in my heart that the bombe was meant to be – whether it worked out or not. I was just following orders. BTW, taking a chance like this is very out of character for me. I’m usually quite the perfectionist albeit in a quirky, haphazard guise. I don’t like failure and usually play it safe.

Just before my Bombe Alaska went into the oven. Fingers crossed. Double-crossed.

So, without any further ado, the bombe goes into the oven and there’s a group of spectators hovering around the oven door. We’re intrigued, and rather curious to see what happens when you put ice cream in the oven. It certainly goes against the grain and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Moreover, again I’m wondering why I took on such a risk, and so publicly. What was I thinking? Indeed, was I thinking at all?

The beginnings of trouble in the oven…

All goes well for the first few critical minutes, but it doesn’t take long for trouble to brew. A hole opens up in the meringue and the chocolate ice cream pokes it’s head out. Oh no! I’m hoping it can just manage to hold itself together until the meringue has browned. However, reminiscent of the Christchurch earthquake, the ice cream begins to liquify. More meringue slides down the embankment and it’s pretty clear there’s nothing I can do to salvage the wreck. Yet, I’m still trying to brown the meringue so it’s not just a sticky moat of rawness around the base. Ever the optimist, I haven’t given up yet and I’m still hoping we’ll somehow be able to light the brandy and get the bombe to go off. However, we ended up being a bit confused about what to do with the brandy and how to heat it, and we were also doubtful it would light on the ice cream surface now the meringue had washed away. However, it didn’t work. So, we’ll end up calling this “a learning experience”.

More of a mudslide that a snowy mountain peak, but still a success.

Yet, the Bombe Alaska still tasted really good and still had a lot of theatre, suspense and it made everyone happy. Moreover, it did what it was really intended to do, and that was to show my friend how much I love and value her. It helped to make her birthday extra special, and that’s what I particularly wanted for her as Covid has hit her business really hard and she’s had to do a hell of a lot of soul searching this year. That’s what really mattered, and what’s important about my baking… seeing people smiling inside and out.

So, although the bombe didn’t light and all the meringue fell off in the oven, I still consider it a success and I’m planning to have another go fairly soon at home. See if I can perfect this spectacular dessert and possibly come up with a Christmas variation.

It’s exploding with possibilities.

Have you ever had or baked Bomb Alaska? What are your secrets for getting it to work out? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Walking With Isaac Newton…

You would expect that after going for a walk with Isaac Newton, I’d finally understand a bit of physics, and if an apple fell on my head, I  might end up with more than a bruise or an apple pie.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. A lesson in physics was exactly what I got, especially Newton’s First Law of Motion, which states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.

Indeed, as soon as I attached Isaac Newton to his lead and opened the front door, that’s exactly what I got when this mild-mannered iso-sloth was catapulted across the road and down the footpath at an alarming speed and strength and despite my concerted efforts to reign in the beast, I almost became airborne. Isaac Newton was strong, enthusiastic and while he might’ve given me the occasional backwards glance to ensure I was still attached, he never paused long enough to check if I was still alive, or might actually need a rest to catch my breath.

Needless to say, walking with Isaac Newton is an experience. I usually take him out with a Halti collar on to reign him in. However, I couldn’t find it and had to use stealth to get him out the door without the other dogs cluing in, which is pretty difficult because all I have to do is put on my joggers and I have three gun-ho, enthusiastic dogs swarming at my feet complete with sound effects. It makes it very hard to decide who I’m going to take, because I clearly can’t walk all three dogs by myself. Two of us could mage the three at once, but that would involve cooperation, teamwork, thinking outside one’s own sphere, which does occur but just not in any regular, predictable pattern. They have to be “in the mood”.

Zac & Rosie

Rosie & Zac at home

Anyway, Zac is peering over my shoulder wondering who on earth this Isaac Newton is as his sister Rosie leaves another tennis ball on my desk and his hovers in her shadow.

Isaac Newton, for those of you who haven’t met him before, is our Border Collie x kelpie who I think is now 2 years old, although another year might’ve passed. Indeed, I think it has. I’ll blame covid for that missing year, even though I probably post it long before, but I can at least blame Covid for losing much of this year…the dreaded 2020.

“Genius is patience.”

Isaac Newton – a message to Zac from his wise namesake.

Walking with Zac is an experience. He doesn’t stop the entire time, and he doesn’t slow down either. Rather, he maintains a strong, fast determined pace which is only disturbed when he sees another dog. Any other dog seems to be the devil incarnate, and Zac lunges, gnashes his teeth and is quite terrifying. So, we’ve now taken to walking off the beaten track, and avoid other dogs like the plague. Clearly much training is required and I am working on it, but with such a strong dog, prevention seems better than cure at the moment.

Lastly, as we were tearing round the block yesterday, I started chatting with an older woman (while maintaining social distancing, of course!!) and after a very short time, Zac was just like that annoying kid tugging on her hand and whingeing: “Mum, I want to go home”….”Mum, stop talking!” Zac started crying and carrying on. He liked moving at a quick pace and wasn’t happy about coming to an abrupt standstill.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

Confucius – a message from Zac.

Personally, I felt some negotiation was in order. A bit of give and take. If you take me “walking” at a flying gallop, then I can pause for a chat, check out a cockatoo, or even to take a photo if I like. It doesn’t even need to be a friend and I don’t need to get your paw print of approval in advance either. That said, I’m not unsympathetic to his plight. We’ve all been caught out waiting and waiting for someone to wind-up that conversation so we can keep moving. However, Zac also needs to understand that he’s not the centre of the universe and us humans are simply planets caught in his orbit.

Lady at Ocean Beach

My favourite photo of Lady at the beach, which was taken 5 years ago, which is a long time in dog years. 

Meanwhile, back at home, there was also much complaint. None of the dogs like being left behind, and I’m sure Lady believes it’s her ordained right to go on each and every walk, and in some ways she has a valid point. She’s the only one who walks well on the lead and doesn’t take off like a bullet train. The interesting anomaly here is that we adopted her as a two year old and she came to us fully trained (even if that did include getting up on the kitchen table to steal food!!) So, that seems to suggest we’re at fault.

Anyway, my walk with Isaac Newton at least ticked off the exercise box for yesterday, and I also managed to lure Geoff out to photograph and watch the sunset over at Daley’s Point about 15 minutes drive away. This way I managed to get my exercise and sunshine with Zac and conversation, photography and nature with Geoff. It was a win-win, especially when I got home and checked out the photos which are coming up.

How does your dog go walking on the lead and do you have any tips? Isaac Newton might be needing some expert training, especially as he’s supposed to be a support dog and not a greyhound racer. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Once Upon A Virus…

Millions are following what the coronavirus is doing, how different countries and individuals are responding and it’s sort of like a huge social and cultural experiment which jumped out of a movie set. So, I’m quite interested in checking out what’s going on out there, especially as I’m staying home and there’s not much to say about that once I’m done commenting on the kids doing school from home. So, I wanted to share this clip I came across on Facebook and it’s also been reported on the news here in Australia.

Any thoughts?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Frozen In Suspended Animation.

“All is as if the world did cease to exist. The city’s monuments go

unseen, its past unheard, and its culture slowly fading in the dismal

sea.”

― Nathan Reese Maher

Today, while I was out on my walk, there was something strangely eerie, even haunting, about seeing all these mannequins lined up in the front window of a local opportunity shop. From a distance, they even appeared strangely human, and like the rest of us,  frozen in suspended animation under some kind of a spell. Indeed, they’re even social distancing behind the glass. At the moment, they also have nowhere to go. The shop is shut due to Covid 19 until further notice.

When you take a closer look at each mannequin, you immediately sense the enormous care, attention to detail, and dare I say love; which have gone into dressing each one, especially when we’re talking about throwing together a pile of second-hand clothes. Every mannequin has also been given a pair of matching shoes, as if even they couldn’t possibly be seen barefoot, which is quite something for a beach community. Indeed, they could each be Cinderella dressed up to go to the ball. However, they each have their own personalities and different places to go. Some of the mannequins have even been positioned together…a couple, mother and daughter and a Central Coast Mariners’ supporter.  All these stories just waiting to to be lived out, once the door finally re-opens and each of these outfits finally walks out.

manniquins

Of course, not everyone is living in suspended animation at the moment. Far too many are caught in the gruelling grip of the Coronavirus, have lost loved ones or are working on the front line saving lives. For those who have lost jobs and are desperately wondering how to make ends meet, they’re also feeling way too stressed to zone out as well.

These are traumatic, strange and eerie times. However, there are also moments like seeing this window filled with quirky mannequins,  where you can crack a smile and take the edge off it all. This is what people in a host of very intense situations have always done to cope and it helps.

We’re thinking of you all in whatever situation you’re in.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Kitten Sitting.

If you know anything about our place what with three sheep dogs under one roof, you’ll know we weren’t the ones doing the kitten sitting. Rather, a friend of mine has been minding this adventurous and very hungry kitten. Indeed, it seems this kitten’s been competing with the very hungry caterpillar to see who can scoff the most food in a week. So, let’s hope that when its owner returns from her holiday, that he hasn’t disappeared inside a cocoon. I wonder how the metamorphosis of a kitten would work out? What would it become? That’s the sort of idea which might’ve inspired the likes of Roald Dahl to write another book. However, I’m going to leave that thought well and truly alone.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Jonathan Livingston Budgerigar…?

You thought you’d heard it all. However, you’ve been living in a cultural vacuum if you haven’t been introduced to this little Aussie icon… Jonathan Livingston Budgerigar.

After reading my previous post about my efforts to photograph Jonathan Livingston Seagull down at the beach, a friend put me onto Bob Hudson‘s Jonathan Livingston Budgerigar. The outcome for JLB is truly Australian, but I’m no spoiler. You’ll need to watch it for yourselves. I guarantee you’ll never see anything else like it!!

song-hudson

While you’re onto a good thing, you might also want to listen to Bob Hudson’s  The Newcastle Song. It’s a little bit rough, but funny as. Back in March 1975 when I was six, it topped the Kent Music Report singles chart.

Paul Hogan Show

By the way, this was the era when Paul Hogan had hit the big time with the Paul Hogan Show and The Newcastle Song album fitted in well.

I’ve been left absolutely speechless, but suspect my cred with the kids has suffered a beating, but it’s been worth it. I love a good belly laugh.

Do you have any funny posts you’d like to share? I’d love to check them out.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Party Ice – Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

This week, I’m applying the KISS Principle to my contribution…Keep It Simple, Stupid.

As you may be aware, I’m from Sydney, Australia and so we’re in the throws of a sweltering, sunny Summer here right now. We have just returned from a week away staying at Nureybar, located in lush green countryside about 15 minutes drive out of Byron Bay on the NSW North Coast. Indeed, I’ve sat up at night reading or writing intoxicated by a chorus of frogs, grasshoppers and even a Gecho, who is rumoured to be an Indonesian import.

This holiday has proven just how photographing doors can get under your skin and even become part of your raison d’etre. A late start to the day, meant many of the shops had shut by the time I’d finished my coffee and so I could appreciate and photograph the closed doors without needing to explain myself, which is a good thing I feel. I feel a bit awkward trying to explain doorscursions to the uninitiated, especially when most people coming to Byron Bay are smitten by the beach instead.

Anyway, as I said, I’m going to keep this post really simple and catch up on the full range of doors from my trip next week. In the meantime, given the Summer heat here, this freezer door had instant appeal. Indeed, I could’ve jumped in there.

Lastly, before I head off, I thought I’d ask you whether you’ve ever had an accidents or close calls while doing photography? Your tales of misadventure don’t need to be doorspecific. You see, while I was away, I was exploring my in-law’s garden and ventured off the path to photograph a beautiful bromeliad. However, as I stepped off the path, my foot was gripped by sudden pain as a stick jabbed me in the arch of my foot. We’d just been out for coffee and I was wearing sandals and the stick got me from the side. At first, I thought I’d cut an artery but nothing quite that dramatic but it did necessitate a trip to Ballina Hospital and four stitches, a tetanus shot and four hours later, we were on the way home. While the wound itself isn’t much, I’m hobbling around and it still hurts. I also need to work out how I’m going to wash my hair and shower for the next ten days. This is what happens when you believe in jumping in boots and all and don’t think about the safety considerations beforehand. Anyway, I’ve learned this lesson and will be wearing sensible shoes in future…or not!

How has your week been? I hope it’s been a good one.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Relief For Writer’s Block…Friday Fictioneers

Waking me up from a trance, my husband asked: “What did that poor pen ever do to you? You’ve not only chewed its head off, you’re lucky you didn’t break a tooth.”

Obviously,  pen chewing is a revolting, potentially hazardous, bad habit. I’m not stupid. However, what my husband doesn’t appreciate, is the power of pen chewing to shift even the most resistant writer’s block. Indeed, it has what I privately refer to as a “laxative effect”. The only downside, is trying to catch all the words before they run away, and holding my hand wasn’t going to help.

…..

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Priya Bajpal

Best wishes,

Rowena

Tales from University 1929…The Lad Paying for the Girl on the Tram.

What goes around comes around. While our kids are still a way off leaving school, quite a few of my friends’ kids are currently doing their HSCs or final exams at the moment. While they’re currently fully immersed in their exams and seizing hold of current friendships, they’re all about to embark into the great unknown of new beginnings.

Who knows whether any of these kids will find themselves walking along the same old path we trod into Sydney University. Catching the train to Redfern Station and then walking down Lawson Street, onto Abercrombie and into campus…albeit clutching a map and potentially loads of trepidation.

Starting anything new is such a melting pot of horrid anxiety and exhilarated excitement that it’s surprising any of us can actually put one foot in front of the other and actually emerge from the other end with that precious piece of paper in hand. All I can say to the new ones is that the paths well trod, but there have also been a lot of casualties and not to take anything for granted. That you need to carpe diem seize the day but also make sure you don’t burn up along the way. Light all your matches at once and have no story to tell.

Anyway, while some people waste their lives hunting down the mighty dollar, I live in pursuit of the story. Consequently, as soon as I found out that the archives of Sydney University’s newspaper, Honi Soit were online, I dived in and I haven’t come out. What’s added zest and excitement to this journey, is that I’m a third generation Sydney University Graduate and I also have aunts, uncles, brother, cousins who’ve also been through the place. While our names mightn’t be etched in stone in the Main Quad, we’ve definitely been part of the action. Some of us more than others.

It was only natural to want to check out the very first edition of Honi Soit and see what it was about. Then, I realized that my grandfather had been studying dentistry at the time and that he would’ve held that paper in his hands all those years ago. Been a part of the action. Born in 1910, he would’ve been 19 in 1929 and possibly in second year. I’ve got to try and nut that out.

So, when I found this fabulous letter to the editor written by a Fresher, I had to think of him. I didn’t think of him as the Fresher, but more as one of the wise owls offering this hapless young man a bit of advice.

Here it goes:

Trams 1920s

Letters to the Editor May 3, 1929.

Dear Sir,—

Now I am only a Fresher, Mr. Editor, and consequently am  not very well up in ‘Varsity ways and this is what’s worrying me. Every morning I meet one of the women of my year at the tram—she’s always there first and so I can’t dodge her—and we ride in together and I pay her fare.

Now that’s it—should I pay her fare seeing that I only met her a few weeks ago? You see it makes quite a big difference in this way: When I ride with her I don’t like to use my cram pass and as it is a three section journey that means 3d. extra plus 5d. for her—making 8d. extra altogether.

This means 3/4 a week in the morning and there’s also one afternoon which brings it up to 4/- a week. This is £ 2 a term and means £ 6 a year.

As we are both doing MED. we will travel together for six years and that means £36. Further since everyone fails in Third Year we will have to stay seven years at the ‘Varsity and that makes it £42.

It doesn’t seem a bit fair to me that this girl should cost me so much money, but as I am only a Fresher and don’t know much I would like to have your opinion as I am certain it will be a good one.

Hoping that I haven’t caused you too much bother.

I am.

Yours Very Truly,

M.T. Honi Soit, May 3, 1929 pg 3.

The Replies

Honi Soit, May 10, 1929

To the Editor,— The touching plea of a Med. Fresher in the shape of an extremely ingenuous letter to your paper, must surely have touched all hearts. Even the Women Undergraduates must have been moved to pity ere they passed judgment. My first feeling was one of intense astonishment. That a Med. Fresher would actually consider the possibility of paying someone else’s tram fare was a possibility not dreamt of in my philosophy.

The puzzled fresher would have us believe the following facts:

(a) He is very worried. (I would suggest nerve nuts at stated intervals —notably during lectures).

(b) It is impossible for him to dodge the “woman.’ (I’ve heard that one before).

(c) He has calculated expenses over a period of seven years with terrifying results. (At last we are on familiar ground).

Naturally enough the Age of Reason has little time for the Age of Chivalry.

It would seem on the face of things that the question, ”Should Men pay Women Students* tram fares?” is as fruitless as “Should women stand in trams?” But there are a few considerations which make the former question a matter for controversy.

In the first place we find it difficult to believe that the puzzled fresher catches the same tram—literally speaking—as the troublesome “woman” on every occasion. Apart from the sheer miracle of a Med. student paying someone else’s fare, the misfortune must be on the fresher’s own head. Either he is organically lazy, or he is proving that even in the tram a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. We are thus faced with an interesting psychological contretemps. As yet the innocent fresher cannot analyse the strange force which compels him to seat himself by the “woman” and bravely ignoring his shameful tram pass, to drag forth the sum of eight-pence. On the other hand the financial instinct struggles fiercely.

No wonder then the poor fresher is worried.

I think that if the fresher continually meets the “woman” in the tram, she should hand forth the plebeian coppers as naturally as she might stroll in minutes late for a nine o’clock lecture. The whole question really hinges on the problem of to show or not to show the humble pass, and my opinion is that it should be treated as an academic privilege to be taken advantage of on every occasion. And so, let the “woman” take the initiative and keep her tram pass as she does her powder puff—

within easy access. Surely then the fresher will be worried no longer when he sees “the treasured” privilege—-her

pass—”come sliding out of her sacred glove.”

A SYMPATHETIC WOMAN UNDERGRADUATE.

Honi Soit, May 10, 1929 pg 4.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Those Tramfares

(To the Editor.)

I read with amazement the piteous appeal for guidance from M.T.G. (“H.S.,” May 3). That he should even consider, let alone worry over, paying a woman student’s fare is quite beyond my comprehension. His blunder for to my mind it is an egregious mistake is all the more apparent when the reason why women come to the ‘Varsity in general, and do Medicine in particular, is taken into consideration.

Of course it is well known that women only come to the ‘Varsity to “catch” a husband. As “Med.” has the best “catches” and is the longest course, they have greater opportunities to carry out their nefarious schemes.

If, however, M.T.G. finds that, having commenced, he cannot cease paying the siren’s fare, I would suggest the adoption of any or all of the following:—

1.—Buy (a) a car; (b) a motorcycle (with pillion) ; (c) a bicycle.

2.—Miss the first lecture.

3.—Make a certain proposal to the woman.

4.—Have a row-with her.

5.—Leave the suburb.

6.—Leave the ‘Varsity.

Hoping this may clear the air for  him,

ARTS III.

Honi Soit, May 22, 1929 pg 4.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Reading this letter 90 years later, what would I advise the young man?

Probably, my greatest piece of advice to that young man is that you should only give what you feel comfortable giving. As it stands, paying for the young woman’s fare seems like more of a tax and all he’s really concerned about is how much it’s going to cost him. He hasn’t mentioned whether he likes the girl, finds her attractive, it’s just about how much she’s costing him and that’s counter to the real spirit of giving. You should give with a full heart, without building resentment. Yet, at the same time, I also feel for him because once he paid for her a second time, he’d established a pattern which would be very difficult for anyone to get out of. I’d really love to hear how the story panned out. Was there ever romance with this girl on the tram? Or, perhaps she read his letter and decided to pay her own way. After all, it was a fairly pointed letter. Indeed, that makes me question whether the letter was genuine or just a story line devised by the editors? I guess we’ll never know. However, it all made for an entertaining read and a huge sense of relief, that my fresher days are well and truly in the past.

Best wishes,

Rowena

How to succeed at University – by REALLY trying.

As you may be aware, I’ve been fully immersing myself in past editions of the Sydney University Newspaper: Honi Soit over the last couple of weeks.  I’ve really stumbled across some ripper stories and I particularly moved this one by Graham Sawyer from 1963:  How to succeed at University – by REALLY Trying . While he admits that it wasn’t entirely original and was based on an article from Esquire, I found it very enlightening and wish I’d read this before I first arrived in 1988 as a humble Fresher with my map out in front.

Naturally, the procession of students from school to university continues. Indeed, Year 12 is currently sitting for their HSC or final exams and all being well and that being their goal, they’ll be off to uni in the new year. So, who knows? Perhaps, this advice from over 50 years ago will stand them in good stead:

Honi Soit Supplement March 5, 1963.

THERE IS too much time wasted in your first few days at this sepulchral establishment in telling you how to pass exams. If you have managed to enrol, register, and in general to get into the University, then it is self-evident that you have the required ability and intelligence to graduate. You will find that study and exams are a mere formality and can be taken in your stride. It is far more important to enjoy your course, and to make your years at student level the most memorable of your life.

This means of course as much time as possible should be spent away from study. The successful student is not necessarily the one that passes. This you will realise within six months, so you may as well learn it now. The ultimate goal or criterion for success as a student is the attainment of power within the University. Now power is a nebulous concept and it can take many forms. There is political power, power of personality, power of opinion, power in talent, and even (and this will appeal to many) power in lack of talent. Only at University can a talentless bum be regarded as a somebody. Exploit it . . . So we present a few simple rules and paragraphs of guidance which if carefully followed will lead to your recognition as a person of status in student society.

_DSC6665

The Main Quad, Sydney University 2018.

  1. Arrival.

Note here that the first hundred days of your career are crucial. This is the time when foundations are laid, and it gives rise to our first rule: DONT JOIN ANYTHING YET IF YOU CAN POSSIBLY AVOID IT. Sound out which clubs are fashionable, which have the smallest membership and which you can become president of most quickly. Don’t worry if you are not interested in the Club’s activity. you will find that it mostly boils down to self-administration anyway. Don’t be afraid to go to the functions held in Orientation Week which involve afternoon tea, because the population at these is largely starving third-year students and not enquiring freshers. Some very useful contacts can be made here. In conversations, raise your age, be uncertain about what course you wish to take, be indifferent to people, be self-contained.

  1. Friends, Making and Breaking.

Don’t keep in with the friends you have made at school, you will find they’re inadequate for your progress at Uni. Seek out new friends who are rich, influential, very bright, or very talented. When going out, the rule for the student on the move is this: GO OUT WITH WOMEN WHO ARE EITHER OLDER OR VERY GOOD LOOKING. Do not waste time with any others. If you cannot attract this type of woman, mumble something about an affair with a married woman. This is as good.

For the freshettes, only go out with second-year (and upwards) fellows, this is far better for status. If you cannot get a guy, say you are being faithful to a young doctor in Melbourne. Have a picture. Don’t just go out to enjoy yourself, the luxury of this comes later. Be conscious of the impression you are making.

  1. Conversation.

There are two points which will enable you to carry on a very impressive conversation with a member of the opposite sex. Firstly make sure you have evolved a philosophy of life. Contrary to the opinion of the “world outside” students are heading back to morality. The “what’s the use — let’s do it before the bomb comes” attitude is decadent. The best philosophy for this season (and very big on sex appeal too, incidentally) is idealistic cynicism (i.e. what has happened to the moral fibre of the world etc.). Adopt this philosophy and you are sure of success. Also make the most of your background, whatever it is. Never apologise for it, no matter how squalid. Make it sound exotic. Talk about how your mother and father make love a lot. Be personal and feel free to criticise them whenever possible. Call them “oldies”. By the way, a knowledge of carracing is desirable (though far from essential) to aid conversation with the rich and social set.

  1. For Those In College.

Although a book could be written on entry into college the following hints may be of assistance.

  1. Be gracious, even when yelled at to answer the phone.
  2. Be mysterious, never take anyone (at all) into confidence.
  3. Get long distance phone calls, exciting letters . . . arrange these yourself,
  4. Rent a good painting for your room, when you have to return it say the artist was having a show, Australian art only of course.
  5. Buy from a junkyard a smashed up TR3 grille and inscribe it “September 1961, Sandra”. Put it in an obvious position.
  6. Have an affair with a girl in Sydney, and one in the old home town. Talk about it with passion, let whole college advise. Break one of the girl’s hearts, and plead guilty to the whole college.

 

5.A Note on the Academic Side.

Remember this maxim: “A friendly lecturer is like money in the bank’. Make at least one friend, preferably in the Psychology Department for they are young, generous and above all, understanding. For now, go to all Classes, lectures and do all your assignments. Do not be too smart immediately. Let lecturers think they have helped you. Preferably do your essays on time, but if you need an extension, red eyes and a plea of “family troubles” never fail. All other comments on this topic I reserve to my later paper to be entitled “How to Pass Exams, Find Religious Faith, and Have a Traumatic Love Affair Simultaneously”.

6.After the First Hundred Days . . . The Move to Power.

The primary and most important task now that you have laid the foundation is to choose the role which you must assume for the remainder of the year, unless of course you stage a conversion later in the year, which is good if done tastefully. Sportsmen are unfortunately no longer powerful student figures, real power lies in the assumption of one of the following roles and exploiting it to the full. Rule of thumb here is: Make sure your name is on it.

Different Student Types

  1. The Newspaper-Literary Complex.

Student Graffiti Artist

The home of this is the “honi” office where gather all the literary types to belt out their muses on ancient typewriters, and swap theories as to primordial excretory functions of Kerouac in 20th Century literature. It is a quick and sure rise to power for both sexes when they join “honi”, for its staff are really the elite. You merely sit in the office, think up sick or dreary jokes, find lesser people who can be sent up. All this without the need for any talent. If you have talent you should write endlessly. Be prolific; it’s fashionable. Write poetry, it takes less time. The best gimmick to assume power in the newspaper field was last year when a group got the editors thrown out and took over the paper. Don’t try this again, it has been (as it were) done to death.

The sure way to power in the literary field is as follows: Submit a very dirty fortnightly article with either your own name (if it is something like Carslaw Gardfish) or a pseudonym like Gloster or Alkie (if your name is commonplace). Never let either editor or staff see you, until you have been published three times, then boldly walk into the office and present yourself with your next opus.

You are made.

2. Student Politics Group.

At the elections in June campaign vigorously for the S.R.C. Your platform should be: More representation for freshers, and abolition of the S.R.C.. Note: only your own sex can vote for you, do not waste campaign time on members of the opposite sex. Union elections are also beneficial, but cut your teeth on the S.R.C.

Join one of the political clubs, preferably the Labour Club if you live in a blue ribbon Liberal electorate. This proves you are sincere. Join the C.N.D, (three stars) or Student Action (two stars).

Get your bloc votes from a religious group (two alternatives here) or the very helpful college Or faculty vote (especially in Engineering), When on Council, Or any semi-political committee, speak often and vigorously using big words. Go to Union Night. Resign conspicuously from small office and talk vaguely about pressure being brought to bear. Whatever you do, don’t be a Communist … it simply isn’t a good joke any more. Organise a protest . . . against anything . . .

Politics can be rewarding in ways other than simply status. There are many free trips to “conferences” and other perks which are yours for the asking.

3. The Charismatic Party-Giving Non-Joiners.

Firstly look up “charismatic” in a dictionary. Now give parties anywhere you can find, Paddington, an old ice-works, a brothel, East .Sydney Tech, (but you get the idea). Wear an impeccable suit with perhaps a bullethole in the shoulder. When people ask, give no details. Drink only Rum-and Coke (very IN). Invite the Royal George push. Spend the night in the window of a furniture store, and chunder on the display carpet. Apologise to the owner. You’ll be a legend in no time. Be a big wheel on Commem. Day. Race off women (more of this in another paper entitled “Ovals and Bars — another view of University Life”).

4.The Arty Theatre Set.

Student Theatre Type

You will find this group in the Union Theatre Foyer at any time. Go to castings for plays and make a grand entrance by slamming the door or somersaulting into the room. Try for only big parts, refuse the small ones as unrewarding. Carry a book on Becket with you wherever you go. Say you would rather read a play than see it acted. Have a successful audition with the A.B.C. and Tibor Rudas. Try to establish a Rep. Company but bow out to commercialism when you find it costs too much. Wear the hair longer than average and wear quite old clothes.

Deplore method acting and speak loudly about the corruption of the Independent Theatre. Go to lessons with Hayes Gordon even though you hate the Method but tell the set that the man is a great teacher. If you can play the piano, try to play for Revue. Compose modern jazz or perhaps a concerto for bassoon and bull-fiddle. If you are an actor have one speech that you really can do, even if it is only eight lines. Memorize the Henry VI speech (part III, act II scene 5) which goes:

For what is in this world but grief and woe,

O God! Methinks it were a happy life.

To be no better than a homely swain.

Say it very softly and sadly at any given opportunity.

5.The Intellectual or Crackpot.

Do something legendary, like in a final exam say that you disapprove of the question and answer one of your own brilliantly. Be friends with libertarians (on the way out, but still useful) or perhaps the Philosophy Department. Someone is sure to think you are brilliant. Give blood donations, steal books from Fisher, have only one set of clothes. Admit something that no one else would, like that you are illegitimate. Do bicycle presses on the Quadrangle lawns and learn the names of the Union waitresses. Shave seldom, but do NOT grow a beard (this is pretentious and only for the pseudos).

Read poetry, submit things to “honi” at a distance, Quad lounge, have many ideas and theories. Go out with the most beautiful girl around (she’ll go, don’t worry), do not shave for the occasion and wear odd socks. Change your course as often as you can. Don’t go to lectures explaining that “lecturers have nothing new or original to offer”.

So there you are. Just a few hints on how to really get down to the important issues of University life. Girls can adapt the above comments to suit themselves. Of course this has not been an exhaustive list but we really hope it may help you. Good luck! Oh, by the way, we have been asked how one tells when one has attained power. Here’s how you know . . .

  • Freshettes’ -freshers’ eyes sparkle with interest when you are introduced.
  • Jokes are made about you in student political circles.
  • People tell stories about your exploits in Manning,
  • You fail, or are sent down.

(Note: This article, though masquerading as an HONI SOIT original was actually adapted from an article in Esquire  our American counterpart. — GRAHAM SAWYER

…..

Before I head off, I just wanted to share one little anecdote from my four years at Sydney University. While I was in first year, my bag was stolen from the uni gym. Quite aside from losing my wallet, my glasses were in the bag and my clothes. So, I had to catch the train home in my gym gear and I couldn’t see. Clearly, this was one of those things which are dreadful thing at the time, but becomes funny in hindsight. Anyway, about 3 years later when I was doing my final Honours year, I received a phone call from the University’s security service. They’d found my bag. Indeed, I think it had been there the entire time.

Well, after all that time, my old bag had become quite the time capsule. There were notes in there from friends  and all sorts. What really stunned me though, was that there were two maybe three bottles of red nail polish in there. What on earth was I trying to achieve? I’ve never been particularly vain or into makeup but I felt this definitely came under the heading of “trying too hard!!!”

University Graduation

The Graduate…I must’ve succeeded at something.

So, then…I’d love to know what you thought about all of that. Do you have any advice of your own you could add? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS The sketches appeared in the original article. Artist unknown.