I was discussing a weird language paradigm today with some work friends (this is the linguist's version of a water cooler moment). We were trying to classify the word "brunette" part of speech. Noun? Adjective? Consider the following:

He's blond

She's blonde (I only found out today that there's a gender distinction in the spelling. Freaking French and their pansy orthography)

She's a blonde woman

She's a blonde

As far as I can tell, all these examples are fine grammatically (we can discuss whether they're socially acceptable later), but what about this?

?She's brunette

She's a brunette

??She's a brunette woman

Given that I find the marked sentences grammatically gammon, I'm inclined to call the word "brunette" a noun in English, no matter what it might be in French. But apparently my grammaticality judgements are not representative of the universal use of this word (surprise surprise). Some people at the office found "she's brunette" fine and "she's a brunette woman" weird but acceptable. What the hell is going on here?

I had my first ever tournament level win at chess last night. I'm at one win, two losses and a draw after four rounds. Five rounds to go. I feel like I should write more, but I've got to go and find something to put my left over stir-fry in.

Far from home


Garry with 2 Rs


And so it was that, with a shout, Garry returned to the world of those with internet connections, and those with blogs. That use them. I had considered the merits of announcing my return by shouting something slightly more random (spark plug, binoculars, insulate, etc… the usual Garrylian rubbish) but in this case my usual protocols have been vastly outweighed by the fact that the Lord has, in my cyber-absence, been extremely good to me.

Before we continue; a warning: I have about two extremely eventful months worth of stuff to blog here. Settle in, this is going to be a long one. If, like many, you are currently thinking "Freak this, I'm off to watch Deal or No Deal," then allow me to summarise, in four brief arguments, the general gist of what follows:

  • I'm fine
  • Work is alright
  • Sydney is cool
  • God is awesome

Having now filtered out the less committed readers, I'll now elaborate in (vastly) more detail exactly what I've been up to since we last spoke … read… blogged, whatever we call this sort of communication. I've even gone to the trouble of dividing it into chapters. I'm not sure why.

1. The Escape or "Get Me the Hell Out of Here!"

It's been fairly clear from my previous writings that I really wasn't dealing very well with being stuck in Adelaide. As is often the case, God waited until exactly the last possible moment to wander in and fix everything (always going after our attention. As if a universe full of stars wasn't enough. Hmmm…). Just as I reached the end of my rope, the job offer comes along. Sydney seemed like a strange option given my northerly aspirations (I'll get to that later) but the speed and ease with which everything fell into place for the move (I'll get on to that later too) put the matter of God's instructions beyond any reasonable doubt. With that in mind I obediently (for once) booked my tickets and got ready for Sydney. But first…

2. The Wedding or "Getting Beaten Up by a Girl in a Bridal Gown"

It has been said of my life that I spend all my time saving up money to travel across the country every three months for a wedding. Of course, it was me who said it, and I'm inclined to exaggerate every now and then. Be that as it may, the latest in my series of wedding based excursions was to Brisbane, or more accurately Gatton, for the Robson-Hannant wedding (also known, again by me, as the Fluffy/Wobson calendar roach). I was at college with the bride and through her also spent a fair bit of time with the groom. Despite having absolutely no funds to draw on, there was no way I was going to miss this one.

This however did not stop me bending the truth ever so slightly when it came to my RSVP. The bride's parents knew I was coming. The bride herself was told that I wasn't. Apparently she was quite upset that I wasn't making the effort to come, preferring to stay in Adelaide instead. I felt a bit guilty about that, but it was all okay again when she walked in and there I was sitting at the piano playing the bridal chorus for her. Awwwwwwww. Besides, it was all her own fault. If she was stupid enough to believe I wasn't coming, then she deserved it, and I told her so at the reception. It was at this point that she beat me up, wedding dress notwithstanding.

3. Leaving Adelaide or "The Final Insult"

So I flew into Brisbane late on a Friday night, drove out to Gatton for the wedding on Saturday and spent that night out there, then drove back to Brisbane on Sunday morning and flew back to Adelaide Sunday night. After a farewell dinner with my family on Monday night I was back at the airport on Tuesday morning. I've developed quite a taste for terminal macaques. (Well, actually that's musac, but I couldn't figure out how to spell it and macaques was the best that Microsoft Word could come up with. I thought it sounded cooler anyway, so I went with it) And just as well because I was stuck there for quite some time.

Not content to let me leave without serving me one last helping of annoyance, Adelaide knew that there was only one thing for it. Realising the urgency of the situation, she teamed up with her old sparring partner, Melbourne. Melbourne obliged by filling her skies with fog, holding up flights all over the country. My half past nine flight finally got out of Adelaide at a quarter to two. But nothing could break my spirit. I was out! As we left the runway I flipped Adelaide one of the most satisfying birds I have ever flipped (at the city itself, of course, not at the cool people that I really did meet there). And, theologically implausible as it may be, I like to think God was flipping along with me.

4. Accommodation or "My Name's Garry and this is My Place"

I should say that by this time I still had no idea where I was going to live. I checked into a motel in Kirribilli for the first week and began the real estate grind. Here is where I step back into street preacher mode and say again that God is awesome. I'm kind of stupid, so at no point did it occur to me that taking off for a new city less than a week before starting a new job without having organised somewhere to live was a really dumb thing to do. However the Lord's provision transcends even my vast cluelessness. The same day I started work, I settled into an apartment just down the road from my new job. It's not fancy, but it does the trick in terms of having the appropriate number of walls, roofs and running water supplies. I'm in Artarmon and within walking distance of work, so my transport costs each week are effectively zero. This is a big deal in Sydney. If you know me and haven't received an email with my new contact details, drop me a line and I'll fill you in.

5. Finding a Church or "Ecumenical Me"

While I was in Kirribilli I wandered past an Anglican church most mornings on my way to the train station and saw that they had two evening services every Sunday. Thinking this was a good sign and having heard good things about the Anglican Church in New South Wales, I checked it out on my first Sunday night in town. The music was cool and the people friendly enough. The real clincher was that the minister preached a pulled-punchless sermon and bore a striking resemblance to the Master to boot. I've started calling in there most Sunday nights. It's called "Church By the Bridge" and is located, as the name suggests, just beside the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The next weekend, having settled in to my new flat, I tried a morning service at the Uniting Church up the road. The congregation was about twenty people and the demographic would be best described as 'aging'. Normally I would not have looked back, but it was bought to my attention that this congregation was struggling to run worship services without a musician. The organist had left because the struggling congregation could no longer afford to pay him. When I heard that, as you can imagine, I just about fell off my pew. Pay him indeed. Honestly! Needless to say they now have a musician for free, and I have two brand new congregations.

6. North Sydney Chess Club or "The Opiate of the People"

I've joined my local chess club. You might expect such a place to be full of people straight out of Weird Al's "White and Nerdy". In fact it was full of elderly European gentlemen who meet for half an hour before the chess begins to discuss the virtues of Leninist sociology. My second week there I sat down to play with one old guy and introduced myself as Garry. Without a word of exaggeration, he replied in a thick Russian accent: "My name Joe. Like Stalin." I'm playing in an open tournament starting this week, which means I'll end up with a FIDE (International Chess Federation, but in French) rating which is cool. Well, maybe cool is the wrong word, but whatever.

7. The Job Itself or "Arts Degree For The Win"

I have said in earlier blogs that my new job gave me the chance to actually be a professional linguist. That is indeed what my title is, but the reality of my situation is that I am nothing of the sort. I'm more like an assistant project manager for the numerous data collection projects my new employer runs. It's nothing like what I expected when I signed on, but whatever. I have had some rather intense discussions with God about exactly what I'm doing in Sydney when I could be elsewhere doing more relevant things, but as usual the answer was

"Stop grumbling. You're where you're supposed to be doing what you're supposed to be doing. Shut Up. If I want to turn an arts graduate into a project manager I will." There's not much you can say to that without running the risk of getting stuck walking in circles for forty years… Which brings me to the next chapter.

8. The Immediate Future or "OK, Let Us See Where Zis Goes (You Two, Get Ze Key-Maker!)"

Having chucked everything in to move to Sydney, I now intend to stay here for a couple of years at least, depending on what else happens. I've got another freaking wedding to get to in Brisbane in December, so I'm planning on Christmasing up there. Hmmm… Christmas is now a verb, but whatever. I do still have plans to visit Europe once sufficient funds and leave can be accumulated. This will probably happen some time next year. Doubtless there will be other Australian capital cities I will visit in the process. Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast.

9. The Slightly Less Immediate Future or "More training I have for you Obi-Wan".

In case you were wondering about all the direct speech I've attributed to God during this blog, I should point out that He doesn't actually communicate with me using audible speech. Normally He just lets me argue myself to a stand still, subtly inspiring a series of counter arguments inside my head. It's kind of like talking to myself, except that the refutations of my logic are much smarter than anything I'd be likely to come up with on my own. A classic example occurred just the other day:

Garry: This is dumb God. I'm starting out in Sydney, and I'm going to be here for a while. I know you've got big ideas for me in Darwin, so what am I doing here? I want to get in and start managing these Darwin projects you've put on my heart. And here You are sticking me Sydney and turning me into a… project manager… hmmm.
God: (almost audibly) Der!
Garry: Oooh look! Chocolate is on special. I should buy some.

I'm easily distracted, but the point still stands. I want to get back to Darwin, and God has promised that I will one day, at exactly the last possible moment. In the meantime the bright side is I get to keep using my signature sign-off for a little while longer. And given that I've now rambled on for almost four pages, I think it's about time that I did exactly that. Congratulations if you've stuck with me all this time. You've made it!

Far from home


Garry with 2 Rs

Those of you who read my blog regularly will have noticed a recurring theme running through my semi-regular rants. At least every second entry (I think) I make some passing comment about being discontent with my situation, geographically speaking that is. If you're in Adelaide reading this, don't take it personally. It's not you're fault you live in a city that I can't stand, and I don't hold it against you. Be that as it may, I think it's fair to say that I have made no secret of the fact that I don't really like being stranded here. My original intention was to simply find work, gather some funds together and get out again as soon as possible. However the finding work part hasn't proved as simple as I would have liked. With that in mind, some of you by now have received covert messages from me hinting that I'm looking for work in Darwin. The time has come to go public with it. I'm over being patient and waiting it out here. I'm busting out!

And now for the unexpected plot twist. I've applied for a job in Sydney. A NSW company is employing linguists to work on language related issues for software designers. If I get it, I'll be working on transcription techniques for improving the interface between computers and people who speak languages which don't use our Roman alphabet. Basically, it's as if the job was custom designed for me, except they put it in Sydney instead of Darwin by accident. I have a phone interview lined up for Tuesday morning, so if you were planning on surprising me with a job offer in Darwin, you have about four days to do it. Otherwise…

Far from home


Garry with 2 Rs

I *on't go much for flagrant generalisations, but all computer repair people are *umb.Yester*ay I broke my computer. No, I actually broke it. The "*" key came right off the stupi* thing. I *i* my best to replace it myself, but being nought but a humble stunt linguist (okay… not that humble) I was force* to accept *efeat after about half an hour. So I packe* my laptop into its trusty carry case an* took it to visit the experts.

I went to a concert with my dad last night, which is almost funny in itself. Mum bought tickets to this concert ages ago, but found out later it clashed with a retreat she was helping run up in the hills this week. So I got to sub in, which was awesome for me because the concert happened to be the music of Queen, as performed by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

It was a bit of a fancy show, not to mention 12 degrees outside, so I had my nice trousers and jacket on, feeling very … hmmm. Dad suggested we should get some dinner on Hindley Street before the show. I assumed we'd grab something in a café or something. But no, we ended up in McDonalds. Dad secretly loves junk food, but can only get it when Mum's not around to tell him off.

So there I was, all dressed up like a southerner, sitting with my father in McDonalds surrounded by a horde of 14 year old emos with a ticket in my pocket to hear the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra play Queen's greatest hits. I had to laugh at myself. Aussie culture for the win.

The concert, by the way, was awesome. There were seven vocalists, drums, keys, bass guitar and, obviously, a fairly mad lead guitarist, all backed up by a full symphony orchestra. "Bohemian Rhapsody" has never sounded bigger, and "The Show Must Go On" with a full strings section was amazing. You haven't lived 'til you've watched a classical conductor conduct a big rock finish. I was still singing my favourite Queen song on the way out of the theatre:

"Save me, save me, save me.
I can't face this life alone.
Save me, save me, save me.
I'm naked and I'm…"

Far from home


Garry with 2 Rs

P.S. I feel I should point out that that is actually my favourite Queen song; I didn't just say that because it fit my little blog signature. That was just a happy coincidence.

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