Head like insulation wadding

26 Sep

Ouch. Inside of my head like insulation wadding. I’m writing this from the Australian Historical Association’s regional conference in Armidale, New South Wales. The morning after the conference dinner last night. Just had a wonderful conversation with a few hard-core archivists, though: lovely, convivial people, one sweet gentleman in particular, dressed in old jumper and obligatory tweedy beige-grey. All of them driven by the mindboggling array of stories and objects and details they encounter every day in a way that teeters on the edge between the fascinating and the tedious. This gentleman in particular was telling me about the crime files collected at the State Records office, stuffed with the evidentiary objects produced during trials from the 1920s and 30s: weapons, letters, photographs, victims’ underpants. Plenty of scope there for the fetishism of the object. He also mentioned a paper given by Alan Ventress about an 1840s ‘registry of flashmen’, compiled by a police officer in Sydney on the activities of the flash characters of the day. Thieves and ex-convicts, most of them, living in the early tidelands of the city, who used the notorious ‘flash’ language, a kind of slang code, to share secrets and a mutual sense of identity. What a thing.

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One Response to “Head like insulation wadding”

  1. Dr Pete 26 September 2007 at 10:56 pm #

    Victims underpants huh? Curious. The flash language thing is cool. As it turns out gangsters have been using the lingo a while before the Crips and Bloods. I wonder how far it goes back? I’ve heard stories of my grandfathers about Mongolian bandits in the wilds of northern China around the turn of the century who used some kind of bizarre glottal language to a) communicate anonymously and b) freak out the locals by making them think the yeti had come to the village.
    Conferences are no places to drink. I was at a ultrafast optics conference recently that, incidentally, was chaired by my boss. Naturally, the conference dinner/party was the night before my talk and, ho boy, was that painful. I could barely stand at the lectern and my boss and his colleagues were placing bets as to weather or not I’d pass out during my talk. Didn’t thankfully, I should have bet on myself.

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