13 May 2009, Comments (24)

At Home on the Cast Iron Balcony

Author: Helen

Spine of an old hardback copy of Ogden Nash's "Good Intentions" He who must not be named came home from school complaining that poetry was stupid.

He mentioned that he’d had a poem set in class by someone called “Ogden Nash” and that was the quintessence of stupid.

Reader, I did what anyone would have done in my place (i.e. obsessive Ogden Nash reader when young.) I ran to the bookcase and searched until I’d found the aged brown copy of Good Intentions, rescued from the last big cull of family books, bought by my mum, who died in the Summer of Love, 1968. I wanted to show HWMNBN that Ogden Nash wrote wacky and offbeat poetry which ought to be right up his alley.

My parents were of a generation that wrote their names and dates of purchase on book flyleaves, so I looked inside the dessicated brown cover and I found this. See over the fold: My mum must have bought this from a second hand bookshop.

Flyleaf of copy of Ogden Nash's Good Intentions, with signature by Hal Porter dated 1945

Comments (24)

  • ThirdCat says:

    that is…what is that? Amazing. Astonishing. Brilliant.

    Wow. Just totally wow.

  • TimT says:


    Also, what was the Nash poem they were studying? It’s hard to imagine that any Nash poem could be boring, though some of his poems are more interesting/better for studying than others. And did you manage to at least begin convincing him of the many virtues of Nash?

  • Chally says:

    Wow, that’s something!

  • Helen says:

    He who Cannot be Named can’t come up with anything google-able, so I’ve asked him to find out tomorrow which one it was.

  • R.H. says:

    Hal (“dear boy”) Porter? He’s a favourite of mine. I saw his happy ghost at Coles Footscray -shorts, golf shirt, not a care in the world- eating nuts from the plastic bins.

  • Helen says:

    Maybe I could give it to him.

  • R.H. says:

    He’d be delighted, he was the most sociable man on earth. And the most vain.
    A couple of years ago I thought I saw him in Coles, it was
    real enough to give me a fright.

  • Caroline says:

    Hal Porter, Memoirs: The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony. 1963

    Did you know that already? I had to wiki him. I was getting confused with Cole.

  • Caroline says:

    Has the penny just dropped for me I wonder? . . . .

  • Helen says:

    Yes! Yes!! It’s spooky isn’t it?
    Caroline, I miss Luke and Shep stories since you stopped blogging.

  • Bernice says:

    Bewdiful. Parental gifts found years after the giving are the sweetest.

  • Helen says:

    As far as I know, he was living in Bairnsdale in 1945 (didn’t go to WWII). So I wonder how my Adelaide mum ended up with it.

  • R.H. says:

    According to Mary Lord’s biography* he was teaching in Adelaide from 1941 until February 1946: Queens’s College, and then Prince Alfred College. From there he went to Hutchin’s school in Hobart where he also produced plays at the Theatre Royal which were considered “dangerously arty”.

    *Hal Porter. Man Of Many Parts. -Mary Lord.

  • R.H. says:

    The book was probably his gift to someone.

    Writing viii instead of 8 is typical Hal; everything was STYLE -and immortality of course, he was sure of it.

  • Laura says:

    That’s wonderful. Actually, what 3C said. Wow.

  • Laura says:

    Had to come back for another look. Still reeling. That book was inscribed two days after the Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

  • Casey says:

    Helen, what everyone else said. Amazing, serendipidous.

  • Casey says:

    Serendipitous, amazing. What everyone else said.

  • Caroline says:

    pssst Helen. Click on my name. Shhhhhh.

  • Helen says:

    According to Mary Lord’s biography he was teaching in Adelaide from 1941 until February 1946: Queens’s College, and then Prince Alfred College.
    The book was probably his gift to someone.

    That makes sense. So he jettisoned some books when he went to Hobart, or he gave that book to someone as a present. I wonder if he knew my Mum, who would have been in her twenties. Adelaide was a very small town then.Will do some more digging.

    …Link! :-))

    And thanks Anne O’, disclaimer everyone, I am not a Euston Manifesto type of blogger.

  • R.H. says:

    “Among the few treasures that Porter carried through his wandering life was the last letter his mother wrote to him on 10 March 1929 before she went to hospital for the operation from which she never recovered.”

    Most places he lived came with his job as a school teacher, cook, librarian…Apart from cupboards full of empty whisky bottles there were probably other things he left behind as well, or perhaps gave away.
    Mary Lord, who was a close friend (I don’t know if she’s alive) could tell you about Adelaide. Was your mother involved in amateur theatre?

  • R.H. says:

    I find lots of inscriptions in second hand books, one of them said: Happy Birthday Evelyn, and hasn’t this storm been terrible.

    Good luck with your search, I’ve found this fascinating.

  • M-H says:

    Being a higgerant kiwi I had to google. How bloody amazing!

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