Saturday, 11 November 2006

Don't read this if you hate hearing about baby ducks and filth

Always at this time of the year La Trobe campus is overrun with squads of baby ducks. Sometimes there is an older duck supervising them, and if the supervisor is the type that takes its responsibilities seriously, it will waddle up to you hissing and quacking nastily and try to peck you on the ankles, if it thinks you're looking at the ducklings in a way it doesn't like.

Indications are that this summer the campus will be full of birds and animals. It is horribly dry in Melbourne but LTU is ringed by a series of moats and ponds and is right next to a very big wildlife reserve. In recent days I have seen foxes, hares and wallabies on the lawns in the early mornings. The bird population is always pretty vigorous and assertive. A few years ago Marshall Berman gave a talk in the English common room and he had to keep raising his voice make himself heard over the sulphur-crested cockatoos shouting their heads off at each other outside. He seemed a bit appalled and actually, it was slightly embarrassing.

Yesterday I had planned to stay at home and mark essays but I had left them all in the back of the car, so I cleaned the house instead. In the current London Review of Books there is a review, by Frank Kermode, of a new volume of a biography of William Empson, which I read over breakfast. The review is called 'Disgusting'; a recurring theme is Empson's outrageously squalid domestic habits. Disgusting is how an American colleague described the condition of Empson's flat: by way of evidence we're told it contained rotting oranges, dirty socks, and used tissues. Pfft. That's nothing, nothing at all. I found almost a man-sized Salada worth of crumbs inside the couch yesterday, and scraped more than enough cat fur off the cushion he currently favours to make a whole other cat from.


M-H said...

Oh, don't talk to me about the cat hair! It is at its seasonal height. I did wonder if it could be spun and knitted into something, but I think that's probably really disgusting.

Anonymous said...

& none of you have obviously ever stayed at my sister's.

Mindy said...

Just about every vacuum cleaner bag I empty has enough cat hair for another cat. With a 3 yr old, tha's a lot of vacuum cleaner bags. I even had to dig through one once to rescue a mouse that had hidden in the vacuum hose to escape the cat and gotten sucked up with a whoomp when I turned the cleaner on. It survived the experience and I released it in the garden.

Anonymous said...

Just as well it's not more decapitated bodies in the moat.

We have a plague of bunnnies here at the moment, which has roused some pretty mixed feelings in moi.

hc said...

Have you noticed that the wood ducks creche? I have seen a single mother duck with up to 20 chicks of 2-3 different age (and therefore size) categories.

LTU is - in terms of natural beuauty - one of the best places to work in Melbourne and one of the best campuses in Australia. (I think the ANU comes close).

lucy tartan said...

Yes Harry, I agree completely - when I eventually have to leave La Trobe I'll be very sad. It's not just natural beauty, either - I like the architecture as well. The ducks are excellent entertainment. The geese that congregate in the lake outside the DM building are good to watch as well. It's not a very nice day today, though - wind whistling through the buildings.