Friday, March 12, 2004

Regency Bucks Ahoy

After my terrible defeat at the hands of the RAA and the ensuring debacle of the love affair with an exorbitantly priced bracelet, I got back on the horse and attended a free lecture at the National Portrait Gallery on Dandyism. The Regency Period, when the first dandy, Beau Brummell, lived his life, was the flavour of my March for a few different reasons. I had stayed home every Saturday from mid-February to watch Regency House Party – a show documenting 12 modern singles living in Regency costume in a Regency house with all the attendant Regency strictures and conditions. They had their social places, no access to anything other than Regency entertainment and they could only bathe once a week. It was pure heaven for me, though a bit embarrassing to admit to when you were turning down Saturday night invitations. It addition to this interactive immersion in Regency culture, I had also committed a small crime in order to obtain myself even more Regency bliss – I stole a book!

Now, much as I flippantly describe my little escapade as 'Jack's criminal indifference to the actual ownership of an unloved book', as soon as I finish it I am returning it to its uncaring owners – our local pub. Fi and I have become regular fixtures at the Foundry on a Sunday night. The Foundry appears to be a labour of artistic love on behalf of its owners – it is a building with absolutely no trimmings that is decorated only by haphazard furniture and ever-changing displays of art and installation from diverse artists. On Sunday it hosts Worm World, which starts at about 6pm and is an open mike night for poets, anchored by command performances from the Worm Lady, who recites, as her name indicates, poems about worms. The first night Fi made me sit on the saggy leopard print couch I was just bemused by the collection of weird and wonderful people, the second Sunday I joined in when the crowd recited some of the better known worm poems with the Worm Lady and the third night – well – I was hooked.

The saggy leopard print couch which is our Sunday night home is next to a bookcase of what appear to be donated books – there is a shelf of Mills and Boons that has only three titles but eight copies of each title, there are 1980's primary school text books on Australia, there are Architectural books, there was a book on the Silver Fork novelists of the Regency period ... The funniest thing is reading the children's book on Australia. If its 1970's pictures of Australian suburbia is not amusing enough, seeing a picture of Perth without half it's skyscrapers and captioned 'The mining boom town Perth' is enough to make you want to claim having being born in Sydney.

I digress. I went to the talk on Dandyism and had a fabulous evening – the panel was made up of three well known authors who kept a lively discussion going on the elements of style, the role of 'cool' in an intriguing demeanour and the place of the epigram in diverting conversation. One of the panellists became my personal favourite because he managed to make every sentence an epigram of Wildean stature – a talent not displayed often in conversation today.

Towards the end of the talk was question time, and I began to feel like I was in a tutorial at uni, so I warmed up and began to mutter cutting remarks under my breath. This prompted the girl next to me to utter one of the nicest compliments – she leant across and asked me to repeat my comment louder so the front could hear it as she thought it was amusing. Well done that girl. I lurked by the door and watched the modern day dandies filing out of the lecture theatre, straightening their cuff links and bending their dapper heads to dote upon their silk-stockinged girlfriends. A charming affair old chap.