Problems and Solutions
Easter Monday isn’t a holiday in New South Wales, as it is in the UK and in Canada, but not everything is open. So Patrick was surprised when a large, heavy parcel was delivered. From her reaction, he could tell that Rachel wasn’t. The package was opened and proved to contain the two volumes of the new edition of The Australian National Dictionary: Australian Words and Their Origins, gift-wrapped.
“Happy early Birthday!” said Rachel.
“This is wonderful! I know how expensive it was. And I wanted it!”
“I know. My spy at the bookstore told me you’d looked at it twice.”
“You recall, I’m Fu Man-chu’s granddaughter.”
The first edition of the AND was published in 1988 and contained about 10,000 headwords and compounds. The 2016 second edition expanded that to over 16,000. There are over 1600 pages in the two volumes, which weigh nearly five kilos.
Patrick put them on the dining table and began reading “A-L”.
“At least you won’t be done reading in a day or two!”
“Do you know how much I love you? I didn’t even say thank you!”
“I didn’t think you needed to.”
“I suppose not. But it’s strange that we’ve known each other nearly all of our lives.”
“‘Nearly’? I can recall you as a baby-to-be!”
“Not really. But we can both recall when I was about five and you six.”
“Yes.” Rachel laughed. “And you knocked that drongo down and pummelled him.”
“I can’t even recall his name.”
“Nor I. But you can look up ‘drongo’ now.”
“It says ‘A fool, a simpleton, an idiot’.”
“Well, there you are! You’ve already employed your new reference book.”
“What are we doing tomorrow?”
“Well, I thought I might get your father to take us out for birthday dinner. We’ve no one else to ‘celebrate’ with ... unless you want to fly Sarah in.”
“No. A small family dinner would be nice. Dad might even bring one of his lady friends.”
“You mean Winnie or Sandra?”
“I doubt whether either is a ‘friend with benefits’. Do you know?”
“I’d never ask. Dad took mum’s death quite hard. I doubt he thinks that way – even though he and Winnie have an ancient history.”
“Over thirty years ago. Remember Sebastian.”
“In The Tempest?”
“Right. ‘What’s past is prologue.’ More importantly, I think past is past.”
“No. Faulkner wrote: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past’.”
“That’s good. Where’s it from?”
“Requiem for a Nun. We read it in school.”
“Another difference between Perth and Scotch. We read no Faulkner.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Who knows? I still find his Mississippi unfathomable.”
“Cozzens didn’t like him. He wrote that ‘Faulkner falsified life for dramatic effect. It’s sentimentality disguised by the corncob.’ And that was after Faulkner got the Nobel Prize.”
“I think the Nobel Prize in Literature has been more political than critical.”
“Probably true. Think of the important authors who’ve been passed over...”
“And the trivial ones who’ve been lauded: name one in the past decade you’ve read! I’ve read only two ... Doris Lessing and Vargas Llosa.”
“And I can’t recall the names of the recent ones, except for Bob Dylan last year. And that was silly.”
“And they managed to overlook Tolstoy, Ibsen, Strindberg, Zola, Proust, Brecht, Hardy, Henry James, Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and W.H. Auden.”
“And Chekhov and Robert Frost and Kafka.”
“Really weird the way those things work.”
“Anyway, should I phone your dad?”
“Yes, please. I’m sure he’s in his office.”
A few minutes later, Rachel reported that it would be tomorrow and that Gordy’d call back as to venue and time.
“Can we lunch in?” he asked.
“I’ll set it up. But I’d like to do some work in the afternoon.”
“Good. I’ll browse a bit now and write a bit after lunch, too.”
Gordy called and he and Rachel agreed on Similan Thai on Pitt, near Gordy’s condo on Goulburn. [This restaurant is now closed]
Rachel spent most of the afternoon reading history of photography while Patrick browsed A-F in volume one of the AND.
Tuesday, he went off to the Gilbert + Tobin Centre, where he was taken aback to find Craig sitting in Sean’s office.
“I wanted to talk to you. Everyone’s been agog concerning your discoveries where the NNTT is concerned.”
“I’m not at all sure it’s a discovery. I followed the data, but it might be a mere discrepancy, a lack of correspondence.”
“True. But I don’t believe it. In the nearly 230 years since the First Fleet how many times has the Aborigine been shortchanged or swindled by the European? This might not be corruption of the highest levels ... or even on the mid-level ... but it’s certainly bilking the First Peoples and selling to foreign bidders willing to pay bribes that a mere trivialities where the contracts are concerned.”
“I phoned Craig last Thursday,” said Sean. “He was ready to lead a raiding party wielding waddies.”
“But where? We don’t even have good leads as to who or where this was instigated. It’s not as though someone left blatant clues.”
“I think you’re wrong, Patrick,” said Craig. “I think there’ll be a lot of clues. When there’s a real investigation, they’ll know who set up that list of claims. There’ll be a list of who’s got password access to the computer files. There’ll be a list of people who executed the cartography and another of the cartographers and the clerks in those offices. And some group in the AG’s office will correlate those lists. And then they’ll look at bank accounts and purchases.”
“You make it sound like rumor in the first act of Barber of Seville.”
“Never mind. Anyway, you think someone will have bought a fancy car or a boat or even a house.”