Lisa Keane Elliott on the Eve of Her 40th Birthday

As I do not have a lot of time before I have to shut up shop on all the Life-min (life administration) and stuffing about I am doing at present, I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect upon myself by answering the questions posed to and by one of the people whose blog I follow. As it is also my Birthday Eve, I feel it is another good reason for some reflection on the self, particularly as tomorrow I will be leaving behind my ‘Buggering Things Up Fart-Arsing About’ Thirties behind and entering the period my Musical Goddess Kate Ceberano assures me will be My Fabulous Forties.

To be honest, I am not that fussed about entering my forties. I know some people see it as a time of stress and disappointment, but when you consider that I am still stuffing about with a thesis that was begun soooo many years ago now, have allowed myself to get horribly fat and am still living in Perth instead of London, well, turning 40 ain’t that bad.

So, what are the questions that Tour Guide Girl answered in response to her nomination for a blogging Liebster Award? (P.S. I do recommend you have a little gander at Tour Guide Girl’s blog. She has a very exciting mini-adventuring life; the kind of life I hope to get back to post-thesis.)

What is your favourite book of all time?

Gosh. This is a bit difficult. Only one book? I suppose if I was to be stuck on a desert island and was allowed only one book, I would not feel the deprivations of no chocolate, running water and soap so much if I had Jane Austen’s Persuasion to keep me company. Spending time with Captain Wentworth is always a good thing. The book has romance, comedy, despair, exasperation… All the things one will be missing when doing a Robinson Crusoe on deserted island.

Is there any fictional character from literature or film you wish was real?

Captain Wentworth from the afore-mentioned Jane Austen novel or Lloyd Dobler as portrayed by John Cusack in the film, Say Anything.

Which five historical figures would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

I have thought about this scenario many times over the years. The two guests who have appeared on every list have been Elizabeth I and Jane Austen, although I might have to sit the ladies at opposite ends of the table as Jane Austen was not all that fond of Elizabeth I thanks to her rudely signing the death warrant that allowed Walsingham and co to chop off the Queen of Scots’ head. Maybe if I had Mozart along, he could get all riotously flirty with Her Majesty and keep the two of them apart. I would also have to say Charles II before his good living got the better of him and the chances of catching something nasty from him were increased. Yes, I would jump the saucy old devil’s bones, if he would let me. He was rather a dish before he became all dissipated from his saucy devilish ways. As for my last guest, I cannot decide whether we should have Cole Porter, Noel Coward or Dean Martin around for musical entertainment. I lean toward Mr Coward, because he also has raconteur on his resume and could be relied upon to fill any awkward silences, most likely to be caused by Mozart getting Her Majesty riled up by his over familiarity. But if Dean Martin was there, I could hear him sing ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’ in person. Tough choice.

If you could live in any period of history, when would it be?

 

Well, delving into hospital history means one gets to know a bit about the diseases that afflicted society and, quite frankly, I do not do sick that well at all. I certainly would not do sick well when there is no Panadol, Peter Alexander Pyjamas or iPads to take one’s mind off the whole sorry business. Having said that, if I could simply visit a period in time, I would definitely head back for a quick trip to the Paris Hôtel-Dieu in the sixteenth century so I could see for myself whether the poor nuns doing all the hard work of looking after the hospital’s pauvres malades were really as bad as the contemporary sources would sometimes have you believe. Were they really being saucy wenches entertaining men after hours? Some wags proclaimed the hospital to be “the biggest brothel” in Paris. Humph! I would also like to see whether Jean Briçonnet, one of the hospital’s early lay governors, was exaggerating when he said there were up to 15 people to a bed sometimes. This might sound like a lot of people in one bed, but the dimensions of the beds appear to be slightly larger than today’s king-size beds, so… The other possibility is maybe heading back for a visit to Paris in 1871 where I could attempt to stop the Communards’ arsonist proclivities, hence saving the destruction of so many historical documents, many of which I would like to still be extant for the sake of my thesis. Not that I really need any more handwritten sixteenth-century French sources to read!

Inside the hospital from the 1482 manuscript from Jehan Henry

Inside the hospital from the 1482 manuscript from Jehan Henry

Do you have any bad habits?

Oh, this is easy. Slothfulness. Procrastination, hence 7 years plus for the thesis, and it is still not finished yet. Thinking of chocolate as a food group.

Facebook or Twitter?

That one is pretty easy. While I have a Facebook account, I do so only to see photos of my Niece and Nephews, not that my sister’s post stuff very often. My Honorary Sis posts photos of Jackson and Keelan all the time. She’s a good Honorary Sis! No, I am a Twitter girl. I signed up to stalk Stephen Fry and have found so many fabulous fellow historians and mini-adventurers and procrastinators to follow and be Tweet-Friends with that I now view my insomnia more kindly as it means I have extra time in the morning for just lying in bed, in the dark, tweeting away until the alarm chimes.

Do you have a pet hate?

Well, yes and it is pets, particularly dogs who do their business on the floor, which leads one to slip in it and smack their head on coffee tables as they didn’t see the big puddle of wee by the laundry door, for example. I also hate snakes, but I am sure they hate and fear me too, so I figure that makes us even.

Has there been a song, book or movie that changed your life? If so, how?

I don’t know about changing my life, but life would certainly be pretty crap without my Musical Goddess Kate Ceberano. I first saw her in concert when I was 14. It was Her Majesty’s Theatre in Perth. Mum took me. I saw a friend from school there with her Mum. She was magical and sounded 100,000 times better live than on her albums. I have been to every concert she has graced us with in Perth since that time if the funds and geography allowed. (I move between here and London a lot.) I have had the pleasure of meeting her a few times. In fact, on the Saturday just gone, she wished me Happy Birthday in front of everyone at this year’s Mundaring Weir Hotel concert. And she gave me a hug after the show, which I returned with all the love and affection I could muster toward the lovely woman. She is the First Lady of Australian Music as far as I am concerned. There have been wonderful women before her and I know of many who are following behind her, but for me, Kate Ceberano is The One and Only Musical Goddess. #HappyMaking in Twitter speak.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

That’s too easy. As many of you already know, it’s London!

Are there any historical crime ‘fictions’ which get on your nerves?

I have to concur with my fellow historian and mini-adventurer, Tour Guide Girl on this point. The writers of historical fiction of any genre change the facts to fit better with their story, which really irritates me, because the truth is generally so much better than the fiction they make up. I do try and enjoy it for what is, creative work inspired by history, but sometimes it really jars with me. Studying history has turned me into something of a Depressive History Snob. I add ‘depressive’, because there is an element of depression that creeps in when you read of historical horrors and mistakes that we are repeating now. Split Endz sang ‘History Never Repeats’, but “as I tell myself before I go to sleep”, unfortunately that is wishful thinking and bulldust. Having said that, one thing I have noticed is if the historically-inspired creation has been really well conceived and presented, I don’t get too cranky about it because the creator has swept me up into their world and Lisa the Historian takes a back seat to wallowing in the entertainment of it all. Does that make me cheap?

What is your greatest achievement to date?

It has to be a tie between plodding through the trials and tribulations of The Melancholy reasonably intact and getting my act together enough to get myself published, and not just any old publications, serious academic publications. In case you missed it, in late 2011, my first paper on Jean Martin and his Grand Bureau des Pauvres appeared in a tome titled Governing Masculinities and my second paper on the lovely Duchess of Nevers and her charity for 60 poor girls appeared late last year in Experiences of Poverty. If you Google me, yes, this blog appears, but my contributions to these books appear on the first page too, which is very chuffing, or #HappyMaking, as I would tweet. I have a third paper that will appear sometime late this year or early next year about the huggable Nicolas Houel and his Maison de charité chrétienne in which hoped to train young orphan boys in the apothecarial sciences. Of course, it won’t get finished if I allow the fart-arsing about of my 30s to drag on into my 40s!

Can you tell us one of the goals for your future?

This is easy – GET THE BLASTED THESIS FINISHED!!!

What would your death row meal be right now?

I better not be tempting fate by answering this question. Would be bloody ticked off if The Powers That Be decided my time was up now. I will not die in Perth! Anyway… Back to the question. It would have to be a freshly made lasagne, with no accompanying salad to spoil things. A slice of garlic bread to wipe up all the sticky yumminess leftover on the plate when I have finished followed by chocolate cake and a glass of cold milk for dessert. Can I have an ‘after dinner mint’? If so, I would like 4 of the lovely Fleur de Lis chocolates from my former ‘dealer’, Casemir Chocolates. Four was the usual quantity purchased when I needed a ‘fix’.

What would you do with a $50 million Lotto win?

Set up my family and friends in their own houses, eliminating the stress of mortgages from our lives. Get the whole clan together in Australia this year for a family Christmas and then the following year, all of us head to Newcastle for Christmas with my nephew, Jackson and the UK contingent. Buy a flat for Mary and I to live in somewhere close to central London with a room big enough to house our combined book collections, although mine has been decimated in recent weeks in preparation for my Third and Eternal Sojourn in London. Invest the rest so I can live off the interest and get a job that I really enjoy, not having to worry about what they pay me. Historic Royal Palaces, I mean you!

Is there a new skill you would like to learn?

I would be happy if all my French classes actually stayed in my head instead of disappearing so quickly. It would make my thesis research move along so much quicker and make trips to Paris slightly less embarrassing, such as the following scenario that took place during my trip to the Archives Nationales in 2010. (Please note that as my French is c..p, the following dialogue from the Archives Nationales employees – ANE-Her and ANE-Him – has been translated into English as I cannot bear the trauma of trying to translate it back when it was so difficult to figure it out the first time.)

Lisa: I would like to renew my membership?

ANE-Him: Do you have your old card?

ANE-Her: [who has come over to see what is going on with the Australian struggling to parle Française] What are you studying?

Lisa: [in French, because she has the answer to this question already prepared] I am studying the history of the Paris Hôtel-Dieu in the sixteenth century for my doctoral thesis.

ANE-Her: So you are studying French history and yet you cannot speak French? [ANE-Her and ANE-Him laugh]

Lisa: Did you just say ‘So you are studying French history, but you can’t speak French’?

ANE-Him: Ah! Oui! Très bien! You can speak French!

[All laugh together. Lisa goes red with embarrassment, but also with some pleasure that she managed to comprehend the joke made at her expense.]

If you could write one book, what would it be?

I would like to write a historical novel, not sure what genre, in which I change not a jot of the truth for the sake of my story. I think that is a very achievable goal! Well, not the writing bit. I do tend to make a pig’s ear of that process. The book might be some time coming if the production of the Magnificent Octopus slash Blasted Thesis is anything to go by.

 

Well, I think that is enough self-reflection for one bloggy post. It is time to get some lunch/dinner into me and prepare for my shift at the library. Tomorrow is my 40th Birthday and I intend to spend it in the manner to which I become accustomed in my fortieth decade – feet up, pink champagne in one hand and a box of chocolates within easy reach of the other, while I am watching a film starring some saucy lad like Richard Armitage or Rufus Sewell. Pip pip to you all. Thanks for reading or skimming through this rather long bloggy post. If you have been, well, I am really sorry.

What do serious academics do when they can’t get the word flow happening?

Why they play with the effects in the Photo Booth thingy on their laptop, that’s what!

Lisa swims with the fishes

Lisa swims with the fishes

Lisa visits the Eiffel Tower. Ooh la la!

Lisa visits the Eiffel Tower. Ooh la la!

Lisa Warhols herself

Lisa Warhols herself

Lisa's distorted face reflects her distorted mind?

Lisa’s distorted face reflects her distorted mind?

Away with the fairies, or representative of her angelic disposition? Hmm?

Away with the fairies, or representative of her angelic disposition? Hmm?

In the end, I’m just a plodding historian sitting in the public library searching for the inspiration and enthusiasm needed to get the blasted Magnificent Octopus finished. Actually, right now, I would just settle for enough inspiration and enthusiasm to spit out what is left of my chapter 3 rewrite. It was not a re-draft or edit. Nope. It was out with the old draft and in with something completely new. Sigh. And it is just as tedious to write the second time around! And taking just as long!

Will she ever get this thesis finished?

Searching for inspiration. And enthusiasm.

Searching for inspiration. And enthusiasm.

 

 

Motivation? Hmm!

My friend, Mary, purchased us tickets for this event on 12 March 2014.

Miranda. My, What I Call, Live Show 2014

My thinking was that it would be motivation for getting the thesis written and my butt back to London.

Hmm.

Turns out my pathological laziness, innate apathy and melancholic disposition have other ideas.

Thesis activity since Christmas break ended on January 18th…

Well, a chapter has not been re-written if truth be told and I sit here now feeling completely disinclined to get it started. It has been planned, re-researched and thought about a lot, but actively sitting here and writing. No.

Honestly.

You would think the thought of an evening with Miranda Hart would rev me up. No. I just want to get home and watch the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory.

On the positive side, I do have another paper in production to complete my, what I call, Charity Trilogy. Readers’ comments will be delivered in person next Friday at a symposium with my peers. Apologies in advance to the person who asks the question I completely misunderstand and answer arse-about. Experience has proven there is always one. Don’t be afraid to ask me the question again. I can laugh at myself. I’m excellent at it!

There is a scratch on my laptop screen. This is distressing me. I treat my belongings with such care, so I’m a little nonplussed at how a scratch could appear. Unless it’s another cataract developing.

I had my eyes checked last year and they did this really cool scan of them that showed my cataracts have been with me since birth. Our eyes are like onion skin and any ailments can be pinpointed to a particular period in our life based on which layer they have adhered to. As a bambino who entered this world attempting to bungee jump her way out of the womb via the umbilical cord wrapped imprudently around the neck, this would have necessitated a burst of oxygen from the doctor, which would have resulted in the aforementioned cataracts, congenital cataracts to give them their proper name. The human body is so fascinating. Well, apart from the gross bits.

Speaking of which. My Honorary Aged Aunt and Mother were reminiscing on the weekend and an anecdote they were having a little gawf over got me thinking about the possible causes for my anosmia. (Anosmia being the condition rendering one without the sense of smell.) A visit to the Ear-Nose-Throat specialist was not very conclusive. He thought that whatever had caused my anosmia happened early in life, if not at birth, and my useless nose through which I can barely breath, but from which the nose gunk flows freely, will never function normally. The anecdote that got me thinking was such. I was twelve months old. The parentals, the Honorary Aged Aunt, my young self and our family pooch were in the family vehicle on a hot day making the long drive somewhere for a holiday that was aborted soon after arrival because of the slithery and lizardy infestation of the holiday bungalow. Anyway… On the drive down to the holiday destination, the family pooch got rather putridly flatulent, a condition that was rendered 100,000,000 worse, apparently, because of the hot temperature. Windows were wound down, but the green, aromatic pong within the car lingered. I am wondering whether it was the family pooch’s trumping tuchus that burned away my fragile, still developing sense of smell. I suspect it might be. My other theory is that Mother Nature/God/Yahweh/Allah/Zeus whoever realised that I had been born into a family of Trumpers, pets and people, and decided it was kindest to leave me without this particular sense.

Anyway… I am digressing. No. I am procrastinating. Instead of getting on with the re-write of chapter 3 of my Magnificent Octopus / Blasted Thesis, I am sitting here stuffing about on my blog and posting complete twaddle about runny noses and farts. Charming! No wonder my nephews love me. They are all trumps and butts, and so, it would seem, is their Almost-Forty-Year-Old Aunt. Oh well. Some of us never grow up it would seem.

For those of you who have been and wished you weren’t, my apologies, but really, it serves you right for procrastinating away from whatever you should be doing right now.