Monday, March 22, 2004

My strange former life as a junior botanist. On council orders, my fiftysomething-year-old parents have been spending their weekends working like navvies tearing down our old holiday hovel at Forrest in the Otway hinterland. It was never in particularly good nick even when I was a kid, but it had got so bad even hobos won't squat in it anymore. Anyway, my mother yesterday presented me with something she'd found in a bag of rubbish down there. It was two sheets of yellowed notepaper. The first one said: Botanical Notebook - contains secrets enough to astound Einstein. On the other side was:

Botanist Profile

Name: Prof. M. Campbell
Age: 11 and three-quarters
Speciality: Native Flora
Place of Research: Victoria, Australia
I.Q.: 124007
Achievements: Secondary scholarship, piano and ballet examinations, National Botany cert.
Standard of work: Excellent
Other hobbies: Biology, general science.

Note: this notebook is for scientific purposes only. No silly romanticism is allowed. Botany is the main science in this notebook, although paleontology, archaeology, biology, chemistry etc. are permitted.

[my signature, embarrassingly similar to how it looks now]

The second sheet of paper details a "Field Expedition" I made to the local tip at 9:51am on June 21, 1989. I shall study the plant growth in the adjacent bushland to see if the varied soil and mineral diet has affected their usual pattern of growth, I wrote. I also sketched the soil profiles and tree growth in the area, followed by some more sketches of birds I observed scavenging from the organic scraps in the pit.

I have no recollection of doing this at all, but I must have done. I was obsessed at that age with a guide to Birds of Australia or something, that was kept at my grandmother's house. I also loved Gerald Durrell's book The Amateur Naturalist, which I'd been given for my eleventh birthday.

It's hilarious how little my eleven-year-old ambitions of becoming a natural scientist have to do with my current lifestyle of being a dilettantish journalist, cultural studies researcher, superficial popular culture fiend and party animal. My life is devoted to the kind of "silly romanticism" I scorned. And it blows my mind how articulate I was back then. Maybe my mother is right and all this drinking has blunted my brain, but I was so goddamn smart. What happened???

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