Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey. Lennon/McCartney

Calamity Jane, courtesy of the American Library of Congress
(Is it only me that wants to go and live in Deadwood?)

I forgot to mention the amazing knowledge of Miss Sally yesterday. We were discussing musicals, in particular a favourite to both of us, Calamity Jane and I asked Miss Sally what the name of the young officer that Calamity falls in love with was.

Miss Sally's eyes slipped sideways and far away. Then back to me.

"Lieutenant Gilmartin," she said.

Miss Sally truly is the champion of all things musical and her knowledge is unsurpassable. The Chief once challenged her to a 'Sound of Music' trivia face-off and Miss Sally didn't hesitate. She knew every single answer to every single question the Chief threw at her. We were all very impressed. Well, apart from the Chief, who doesn't really like to talk about it.

In connection with our conversation, Miss Sally and her husband, Mr Alan, shared some very interesting facts about the real-life (rather than singing) Calamity Jane:

Her real name was Martha Jane Canary, and she wore men's clothing, chewed tobacco and was extremely handy with a gun. I am most impressed with the fact that she chewed tobacco and spat because I have always wanted to learn how to spit well. My brother was an ace spitter when we were children, whereas I was always left with saliva hanging from my chin, and my spitting never made the sharp sound my brother's did as it left his mouth. He sounded like a dart being fired from an Amazon blowpipe and I sounded like a toucan sneezing.

The real life Calamity has been added to my list of aspirational heroines, who I try to carry around in my mind and whose individual persona I adopt when needed. These are the women I think of most often and whose opinion (were any of them alive to provide it) I would pay assiduous attention to. This list now consists chiefly of:

La Parker (obviously)
Sylvia Plath
Virginia Woolf
and now Calamity Jane

If you have speakers on your pc and an understanding boss (if you work at the Ministry you'll be fine: the Chief is wonderful and this is all about Culture - it's what we do), then click yourself over to the Poetry Archives, where you can hear poets reading their poems, including:

I, Too by Langston Hughes

A Blade of Grass, by Brian Patten (one of my favourites)

Not Waving But Drowning, by Stevie Smith

Let me know if you find anything you like. Poetry - it's yours, and it's free!

Today's Historical Sources - Scenes from the Museum

1. A real Captain's Log from HMS Highflyer, which yielded a very unexpected surprise....

2. The report of Sir George Collier, Commodore of the West Africa Squadron

3. A series of letters belonging to Sir Henry Leeke, Captain of HMS Myrmidon.

I know it's the researcher geek in me, but there's something very romantic and utterly absorbing about these accounts and I spent far more time on them than was necessary as a result.

Mika singing 'Grace Kelly' live on Jools Holland

1 comment:

Dill said...

Calamity would make a great first name!

S. xxx