Planet Open Help

The life and work of the open help community
Join our planet

October 09, 2019

Lana Brindley Lana Brindley

Writes too much, reads too much, talks too much, thinks too much, drinks too much. Generally superlative.

Chapter 2: Adventure & Reminiscences

This is chapter two in a blog series of the book “The Curse and its Cure. Vol I: The Ruins of Brisbane in the Year 2000”, written by Dr TP Lucas in 1894. You should probably read this post first: The curse and its cure. Vol I: The ruins of Brisbane in the Year 2000

Having now learned a little about the events that lead to Brisbane’s demise, our narrator and Mr and Mrs West are back on their (singular) boat on the Brisbane River. Mrs West notices a bird …

It’s a crane.

Apropos of nothing, we are treated to a fairly long exposition about how the Brisbanites built a racecourse at Hamilton (this is a real place), and worshipped racing and its associated ills above all else. Even on Sundays! “The sabbath was sadly desecrated in Queensland”. Our narrator mourns the fact that this previously beautiful region (presumably before all the gambling and drinking) is now empty, with a little casual racism about how there isn’t even a “Chinaman” to be seen, when suddenly, Mrs West spots a tiger!

(I will note at this point that Mrs West’s character is there entirely to notice things in the environment so that the narrator has something to talk about. Mr West, on the other hand, seems to do no more than make encouraging noises from time to time.)

The tiger is promptly shot, which prompts Mrs West to ask if there was a zoological garden in Brisbane, to which the reply is that “neither science nor art flourished in Brisbane, Madam … cash and bawbees, whiskey and cigars, is a descriptive gauge of Brisbane’s ruling aspirations”. A bawbee is a Scottish halfpenny. The use of the word here is slightly weird, as I’m not aware of it being used to describe Australian money, but it does give away Dr Lucas’ British heritage. Anyway, apparently the Brisbane residents decided that it would be much better for the children to be shown pictures of tigers rather than see actual beasts, and they then went on to fire all the scientists. This does absolutely nothing to explain the presence of the tiger they just shot.

Mrs West notices some mudflats, so we hear about stupid Brisbanites buying cheap land on the mudflats and meeting untimely ends.

Mrs West notices a man on horseback! The man rides over to the bank of the river to have a chat, and we learn that he and his brother are the only two living people in the region, and they have just been granted land rights over “the district of ancient Brisbane” to use as a cattle run. The trio learn that they are currently on the river between New Farm and Kangaroo Point, and if they continue down the river they will get to the site of “the old botanical gardens” (which is in the modern CBD), where the brothers will meet them and give them accommodation for the evening. He explains that the accommodation is a “primitive humpy” (a humpy is a traditional indigenous Australian temporary building), but that he “would do his best to make the lady comfortable”. Mrs West seems unfazed. Even though the trio don’t know his name, they accept the offer, and the man rides off to prepare to meet them downriver.

As they travel downriver, we get a particularly weird story about a paddle steamer that was commissioned by the Brisbanites to have a very loud whistle. Thankfully, they then arrive at the meeting point, and we finally learn the stranger’s name: Mr Greathead! They ride to his home, which is indeed as terrible as promised, but they eat damper (an Australian bread cooked over charcoal), beef, and boiled nettles, and everyone retires for the night.

Judging by the title alone, chapter three promises lots more casual racism. Stay tuned!

by Loquacity on October 09, 2019 12:55 AM

October 02, 2019

Lana Brindley Lana Brindley

Writes too much, reads too much, talks too much, thinks too much, drinks too much. Generally superlative.

The Curse and its Cure. Vol I: The Ruins of Brisbane in the Year 2000

Everyone in Australia knows (and probably loves) Dr Lucas’ Papaw ointment, in its iconic red tub. Great for chapped lips. But did you know that Dr Lucas was also a bit of a loony? His passion for pawpaw ran deep, including running a hospital devoted to the stuff in New Farm, Brisbane. His obsessions did not end at pawpaw, though. He also fancied himself a bit of a novelist, and wrote what is widely considered to be the first novel set in Brisbane. The novel, reportedly, is set in the year 2000, after Brisbane has been destroyed in a civil war between the Australian states. How did Brisbane come to lose the war? Because NSW, the dastardly lot, sent lady parachutists up into the skies above the city, and then shot us all while we were looking at their bloomers.

Well, that certainly got my attention. I set out to read the book …

The world is upside down. Every thinker acknowledges the fact. Everybody is dissatisfied and unhappy because it is so. All intelligent observers are satisfied that the world cannot be at rest until it is again righted, right side up. The question with the multitude is, “can it again be placed right side up.” (From the Preface, dated February 28, 1894)

In this post series, I’ll be summarising each chapter for you, starting, naturally, with …

Chapter I: A Sail up the Brisbane River

The book opens with our narrator, in a yacht, sailing the Brisbane River. He doesn’t know how he got there, but it also doesn’t seem to bother him too much. There’s an interesting story about “a sailor” getting drunk and passing out, but it’s almost immediately dismissed as irrelevant, because the narrator is a teetotaller.

He guesses that he is in Australia, due to the presence of a platypus, but notes that there are no people around (“Yes, I felt sure I was in Australian waters, but where were the Australians.”). Plenty of exposition about wildlife.

He meets another boat coming the other direction, with an American couple Mr and Mrs West. They, too, are wondering where all the people are. Mr and Mrs West have sailed in a small boat from the mouth of the Brisbane River, where they were dropped off by a steamer which “carried our sailing craft as a small parcel on board”.

The trio chat casually about Christians and Jews (as one does on a first meeting in a strange land), the scourge of Lantana (a pretty flowering plant that is a noxious weed in Queensland), and go ashore for a brief lunch.

Back in the boat (they seem to only have one now?), the narrator engages his new friends with the story of a dynamite storage facility that had previously existed in Brisbane, at great public expense. Apparently some dynamite had had to be exploded to dispose of it, terribly frightening the citizens, who were fairly certain the Russians were attacking. It was not so, but it brings us to the cliffhanger at the end of the chapter: Brisbane was destroyed in the Australian Civil War, with the Battle of Lytton the site of the last stand.

For someone who can’t remember how he came to be in a boat, he can certainly remember a lot of Brisbane history.

Keep reading … Chapter 2: Adventure & Reminiscences

by Loquacity on October 02, 2019 12:41 AM


  • Anne GentleAnne Gentle Author of Conversation and Community: the Social Web for Documentation. I’m a writing fiend, technical geek, community doc nut, + Content Stacker for OpenStack.
  • Jim CampbellJim Campbell HRIS admin to the stars, and documentation writer for needy open-source projects. As a Chicagoan, I also know enough to not put ketchup on a hot dog.
  • Lana BrindleyLana Brindley Writes too much, reads too much, talks too much, thinks too much, drinks too much. Generally superlative.
  • Shaun McCanceShaun McCance GNOME documentation team lead. Programmer. Technical writer. XML expert. Community leader. Free software enthusiast.