No Roses for Harry

I made a joyous discovery at the library last Friday: a brand spanking new copy of ‘No Roses for Harry’ by Gene Zion.

Is there anything more pleasing than a dog in a jumper?

Because our local library only opened in July, all of the books are new, which means the children’s books aren’t yet caked with dried snot and the pages aren’t stuck together with smears of suspicious brown substances that could be Vegemite, could be chocolate, or could be something decidedly non comestible. And I heartily approve of their selection, having already borrowed ‘Dogger’, various ‘Hairy Maclary’ titles and ‘My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes’.

I’m a big fan of ‘Harry the Dirty Dog’, and not just because it sounds a little too risqué for children’s literature but I’d forgotten the hilarity of the canine humiliation that occurs in ‘No Roses for Harry’. Behold:

How dog shaming worked before the internet. You had to physically parade them. Even humiliating your pet was harder in the olden days.

So the gist of the story is that Harry receives a present from Grandma, which turns out to be a knitted sweater with really embarrassing roses all over it. Like any self-respecting male, Harry wouldn’t be seen dead in it. Except, of course, that he has no choice because he is a dog so it’s either wear the stupid sweater or get sent to the pound for attacking the children when they try to put it on him (and let’s not discuss what happens from there). Understandably, he chooses the former. People point and laugh. Cats snicker. Fellow dogs guffaw. Harry tries unsuccessfully to lose the sweater.

Who knew dogs were susceptible to peer pressure?

Happily for Harry, as he sullenly picks at a loose thread, a watching bird decides his sweater would make a perfect nest and literally takes the shirt (well, sweater) off his back. Birds are like that.


I don’t have a picture of this but the most perplexing moment in the book is when Harry shows Grandma and the children that a bird has made a nest out of the sweater. So here’s the thing: the bird unravelled the sweater into one long piece of yarn but when we see the nest, it is constructed in the exact same pattern as the sweater. Somehow, the bird has managed to arrange the one strand of yarn to recreate the yellow roses, presumably without knitting needles and in an entirely different structure. I’m sorry, but I just find that a little hard to believe. What sort of bird is this? Does it have a store on Etsy?

Anyway, if you feel like seeing some real life dog humiliation, visit Dog Shaming (also available in cat form). And in the spirit of despised sweaters, here’s a little something from Eskimo Joe.

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Reading: Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung

The third weirdest book I've read for leisure. The second weirdest thing I've used for a bookmark - that's a peg.

About forever ago, I started reading Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, also known as The Little Red Book. It’s the third weirdest book I’ve read for leisure (the first is A Guide to Hunting and Shooting in Australia, followed by Bhagavad Gita As It Is). I don’t like to pigeonhole myself when I’m reading. I like reading so much that I want to share the love among all books. If I always chose what interests me, I’m pretty sure I would just be reading the same types of books over and over again and I wouldn’t learn anything new (or, at least, very little). So when I go to the library, I choose a shelf and systematically work my way along it. I’ve been doing the same at home, trying to cover all the books we have that I’ve never read (hence A Guide to Hunting and Shooting in Australia). And that is how I have come to be reading The Little Red Book.

Back in the heady days of university, a fellow lefty politics student who studied in Beijing for a semester brought me back a copy as a souvenir. Cheers, Luke! But, as I imagine is the case with most tourist-bought copies, I’d only ever flicked through it, reading the occasional quote and tittering at pictures of the Chairman in bath wear.

Even Mao steals the bathrobes. It's totally okay.

But as I worked my way across the living room mantlepiece book collection, Little Red eventually presented itself as the next reading endeavour. The good thing about this book is that half of it is written in Chinese so although the total volume is technically 589 pages long, I only have to read… whatever half of that is… uh… 294.5… apparently.

And what a ride those 294.5 pages are turning out to be: alternately brilliant and hilarious (but never both at the same time).

Being a big fat lefty pinko at heart (although one who unabashedly enjoys the fruits of capitalism), so many of the quotations make me wistful about the potential greatness of communism. If only human nature weren’t so self-interested, what a wonderful world it could be. I did think that the Eight Points for Attention were particularly useful for life in general though, Communist or no. See if you agree:

  1. Speak politely.
  2. Pay fairly for what you buy.
  3. Return everything you borrow.
  4. Pay for anything you damage.
  5. Do not hit or swear at people.
  6. Do not damage crops.
  7. Do not take liberties with women. 
  8. Do not ill-treat captives.

Okay, maybe numbers six through eight are more useful to people who live on the land, men and… kidnappers… but other than that, some sage advice, Mao. Thanks.

Chairman Mao wins with scissors to Li Xiaopeng's paper.

And then there are the hilarious bits:

In another forty-five years, that is, in the year 2001, or the beginning of the 21st century, China will have undergone an even greater change.

Sure will, Mao!

She will have become a powerful socialist industrial country.

Well, kind of…

I sat down the other day to plough through a bit more but was interrupted by an eager young comrade who wanted to look at the pictures. And who could blame him?

Slip, slop, slap Mao!

Oskar spent about 10 solid minutes poring over the Chairman’s words of wisdom. It did my socialist heart good. It was short-lived however, because two days later, he brought me the Commonwealth Bank’s annual report and wanted me to read it to him. So he’s undecided at the moment on his political orientation.

And me? I have 38 pages left to go before I can make an informed choice.

I’ll leave you now with some wise words from the Doug Anthony All Stars: Take Marx. Take Christ. Take drugs. Here’s a song about dangerous sex and love.

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So Long, Sophie

Could that scratch indicate a stoush between baby and giraffe?

Sophie is gone. One minute she was there, surveying the lunch crowd on Queen Street from the safety of the Spitfire; the next she was somewhere between Lonsdale and Degraves Streets, lost amid shiny black lace-ups and towering stilettos. Sophie is gone. And I am bereft.

As hard as it is to believe, we hadn’t bought any toys for Oskar until two weeks ago. With limited space in our apartment, we figured we’d see what the new baby received in the way of gifts and let the toy library do the rest. As I very quickly found out, everyone loves a baby and Oskar has been extremely fortunate to receive a number of toys from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and sometimes people we don’t even know. But when teething hit at 4 months and the round shape of teething rings just weren’t cutting it for a tiny mouth, I decided to buy a Sophie the Giraffe.

The teething toy of choice for aspirationals everywhere, Sophie comes with a French pedigree and words like ‘natural’ and ‘phtalate-free’. I didn’t even know what a phthalate was but it sounded important not to have near my baby so, whilst picking up Oskar’s new wheels (Maclaren Spitfire), I added a Sophie to the bill. It was more the long, skinny legs and their ability to fit inside Oskar’s mouth than the lack of phthalates that sold me, to be honest.

Sophie was $34 at Parenthood. She was a little pricey for a piece of rubber but it was the first toy we’d bought for Oskar and I wanted it to be special. I had visions of Sophie going along for ‘show and tell’ when Oskar started school; Sophie hanging on to the dashboard as Oskar did doughnuts with his newly minted P-plates stuck to the windscreen; Sophie jauntily waving goodbye with one skinny leg as she and Oskar backed out of the driveway in a box-filled van to start a new life; and Sophie wearing a small pink corsage as she attended Oskar’s wedding. And, of course, I envisioned Oskar lovingly passing Sophie on to his own child one day.

And now that can never happen. Because Sophie has started a new life. One without Oskar. And Oskar seems completely unperturbed. In fact, perhaps I just imagined it but I can’t be certain that I didn’t see him giving her a little leg-up over the edge of the Spitfire. Could they have had some kind of disagreement?

With all the fervour of a first-time mother who has never lost a toy (or a sock, or a hat, or a dummy for that matter), I retraced my footsteps from Little Cupcakes on Degraves Street, through Haighs in The Block Arcade, Koko Black in Royal Arcade (can you sense a theme here?), across Bourke Street Mall, along Elizabeth Street, up Little Bourke Street and back onto Queen Street until I hit the place of last sighting: the corner of Queen and Lonsdale Streets. But to no avail. Sophie was nowhere to be found. It’s now over 24 hours later and I am still racked with irrational grief.

So, Sophie… I hope that wherever you are, you are having a good time. Whether it be relaxing in the warm embrace of another fortunate child or feasting on stinky restaurant scraps in a laneway dumpster, I hope you are well and having a wow of a time. I miss you.

Tomorrow we have to go to Baby Bunting to pick up the wheels for Oskar’s pram (that’s a whole other story) and I couldn’t help but notice that Baby Bunting now stocks Sophie the Giraffe. For $29. As much as I dread the baby superstore shopping experience, you can’t knock their buying power. Especially when you’re buying your second ‘first special toy’ in two weeks. I think 48 hours is sufficient grieving time. Tomorrow, I’m ready to welcome Sophie II.

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