As my workplace has been contacted with an accusation of stalking I have removed my last post.
Once upon a time there was a popular Sydney knitting blogger called Nora, whose blog was once fairly interesting, bright and bouncy, with funny little stories, and lots of pictures. Nora told a really sad story, too. She had a brother who had (from memory) cystic fibrosis and was frequently hospitalised. But there was an upside: she and his doctor had fallen in love and were to marry. And this was especially lovely because Nora was a medical student herself — she talked about this from her first entries in June of 2006.
But her blog soon took on another 'look and feel': the one you can see here. And it reminded a lot of people of this Sydney knitting blog, the 'look and feel' of which had been established for a while. Soon, Nora was contacting lots of people, and even started a rather exclusive, little-advertised knitting group in Sydney's Inner West. A few people met her face-to-face, and said she seemed nice. She started publishing her own designs, but at least two of these were direct copies of ones that had been designed and published by the owner of Six and a Half Stitches, the blog that Nora's blog resembled. At least one was removed from a popular Australian craft website after complaints that it was identical to an item published in a book.
Over time Nora's story progressed: she married her doctor, and there were discussions of flowers for the wedding and photos of soft furnishings being chosen for their apartment. Then, sadly, her brother died. Much sympathy ensued. Her blogging decreased, but, hey, she was now in her first year working as a Real Doctor, and, although she was loving it, she was very tired and stressed. She last wrote in her blog just over a year ago; it had morphed to a point where it was just rather 'poetic' little bits, with wafty 'arty' photos with no indication whether she took them or not. She is still posting photos to her flickr page — the last a couple of days ago — and has lots of fans there. She has over 700 friends in Ravelry. And I believe that she has a facebook presence as well, in which she recently got a lot of sympathy over the death of her mother.
But some of us saw another aside to Nora. If you fawned on her and admired her work she was really nice to you; if you questioned or challenged her she could be really nasty (I have the emails to prove it). This post of mine from four years ago (especially the comments on it) will show what I mean. In the subsequent comments on Nora's blog I was roundly abused for being 'mean' to her, which made me laugh; I roared at the suggestion that I wasn't a person of good character, and that someone should alert the authorities at Sydney Uni, where I was and am still enrolled to do a PhD, of this fact. (But I just went back and read the comments on Nora's posts in June of 2007, and they make me feel slightly sick even now — hatred and venom directed at me from complete strangers. Why would you feel the need to defend someone you've never met from some else you've never met? Ah, but that is Nora's skill, it seems: writing and behaving in such a way that she extracts extreme empathy from strangers.)
Because, in a bolt from the blue, this appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. Some simple enquiries confirm that this is indeed the woman who blogged as Black Dog Knits. She seems to be a long-term fantasist, who has committed a similar crime previously, and continues, in her real-life community, the fantasy of being a doctor, even though she has publicly acknowledged it to be a lie by pleading guilty in court. And now we don 't know whether any of her stories are true: did she have a brother? Did he die? Did she marry? If she did, is her husband really a doctor? Did her mother die?
This is a sad story. There might be some people who are experiencing Schadenfreude over this, and I can't really blame them. Nora really did steal ideas and even published designs from people whose identity and even incomes were tied up in their creations. However, the saddest thing to me is that so many people took her side unquestioningly. She was obviously a very skilled operator: several medical doctors who met her appear to have been taken in by her, even her own GP of 15 years. But other people who only knew her online smelled a rat early on — there was something about her desire to be adored that made us say things like "I'd hate to be one of her patients." This post, for example — especially the last paragraph — made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I once joked that it would be a nightmare to be prone on a stretcher in the Emergency Department and see Nora advancing toward you. Someone, very prescient, it seems, did suggest that maybe she wasn't really a medical student; that she was tapping away at night on a computer in a lonely room. Oh, how we laughed!
It can't be denied that some of her designs were good — assuming they were hers. If the photographs she publishes are really hers, she shows great skill with a lens. She has an excellent eye for design. How sad that this wasn't enough; that she had to steal others' ideas and, worse, create an indentity rooted in a "caring profession" — and thus sew the seeds that brought her whole life tumbling down, for a second time. She will be sentenced on Friday, and while I hope that she gets the help she needs, I also hope that the people she has hurt will be able to feel safe from her.
Kris has also written about this, and there are some comments.
We had an excellent trip home - we both slept for a large portion on the second leg and Sandra was even able to stretch out over three seats. But this is the first time we've attempted the whole flight without a break, and we both have the worst jet lag. Plus, I have a head cold that developed two nights before we left. None of this is nice.
It was worth it. But next time, we take a break.
Firday night: arrive, catch up with Mat. Hotel perfect - modern and comfortable.
Saturday: St Paul's, rest, early birthday dinner at the Oxo tower - delicious, walk along the river to the footbridge, walk across to Charing Cross throught the theatre crowds - magic and memorable
Sunday: shopping on Oxford St: Carnaby St – ancient mods meeting, complete with Lambrettis and Vespas, Liberty (how many ways do I love thee?) – yarn – then M&S – underwear and socks
Monday: Hampton Court - hours of wonderful wandering in my favourite architectural period, then 2.5 hours stuck on a motionless train outside Vauxhall (signal failure due to copper thieves beside the line) and then a defunct train at Victoria on the tube. Beginning to undestand Reginald Perrin's endlessly delayed journeys to work.
Blissfully happy. Dreading the flight back, and refusing to contemplate the fact that this time bext week I will be back at work.
That is all. Photos soon - the battery's flat. So is mine this morning.
This morning we pack up and leave Mallorca for London. I've uploaded the last Mallorca photos to the album here: they are of the Catedral which is absolutely amazing. At 21.5 metres it has the second highed vaulted roof in Europe – only Milan is higher – but the amazing thing is that the columns that support that roof are very narrow, at 1.49 metres in diameter. As well as being an engineering marvel it has beautiful decorative features, which continue to be developed: as well as traditional religious art from the 14th, 15th, 18th and 19th centuries there are two chapels that were decorated in the 20th century (one by Gaudi) and one that was redone in 2007 by Miquel Barcelo. Gaudi's work was very important, beucase he moved the old, ornate high altar and its fittings to the side of the church (It is presently being restored there) and opened up the sacristy to light and air with ceramics and a hanging sculpture that doesn't impede the vision. This must have been a great boon when the Mass practices were changed in the middle of the 20th century, so the priests faced the people and the old practices of secret mumbling were done away with.
We were left with the impression of a very old building (It was begin at the beginning of the 14th century, building on the mosque that preceeded it on the most stunning spot in the city) which is still a living place of worship.
We had a slower start on Sunday. We'd worked out where we could safely park the car overnight for free only a short walk from our appartamento - no mean feat when all the signs are in a strange language and the surrounding streets are barely wide enough to drive on, let alone park. I was keen to head to Valldemossa, rumoured to be one of the most beautiful places on the island, and we weren't disappointed. The dive in was winding, but the town was picture-book. Sadly, we couldn't see inside the medieval monastry (where Chopin squatted for a few months after he left Palma) because it closed at 1pm, which was the price we paid for our leisurely start. But a light lunch and a wander through the town, followed by a hair-raising drive through some of the steepest but most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. The top place for picturesque views has to be the town of Banyalbafur. Check the album if you don't believe me.The countryside, wherever possible, has been terraced, and on those terraces are fruit trees, vegetables and grapes, neatly tended and watered from huge open tanks that you could mistake for swimming pools.
Compared with the equally old towns of Alcuida and Alba yesterday, these west coast towns, only a short drive from Palma, were well-kept and felt modern, even though there was no doubt that they were old. This is no doubt due to the fact that you can drive to Palma from this area in about 30 minutes. And I bought a hat - a very smart straw fedora. I just have to replace the ribbon that is printed with the word 'Mallorca'.
I haven't been keeping the blog up, but I have updated the photo album here.
I am still so happy in this lovely city - except of course that I can't really converse in Spanish yet. Who am I kidding - I can barely read warning signs. But I've learned the necessary to get by: Hola! por favor, gracias, aqua con gas, and of course the all important cafe con leche. I can order a meal - more or less - it helps if the wait staff have a modicum of English, which they mostly do. Most menus are in Spanish, English and German. I can shop in the supermercado and not be too surprised when I open the packet.
Every week day I have worked away for four or so hours, and I am making progress on my thesis. Not as much as I thought, of course, but still further ahead than I would have been. It is tiresome how much time thinking takes. The writing is a breeze by comparison.
But you're here for the travel news, right? At the weekend we hired a car and saw much more of the island. On Saturday we drove North to Porto Alcuida and Alcuidia on the North coast. Porto Alcudia is a tourist town - hundreds of yachts in the marina and dozens of cafes. We splashed out for the local seabass cooked in a salt crust, and it was worth every Euro. Alcuida was a Roman settlement, later rebuilt in medieval times, and the town hasn't changed for many hundreds of years (if you don't count cabling and plumbing). The old Roman wall has been rebuilt, and on it you can walk around the town, looking down on the higgledy-piggledy walls and yards. It was a bit sad, on the whole, because it mostly looked overgrown and uncared for.
Then we drove out to Cap de Formentor, which was apparently a hangout for the beautiful people in the 60s (people like the Rainiers). The drive is just spectacular, with stunning views over the Mediterranean, which shows a deep azure blue in the deep and turquiose in the shallows. There isn't much when you get there, but the drive is worth the time.
We then drove back across the island to another medieval town, Arta, on the Eastern side. There we got hopelessly lost in one-way streets that are barely wide enough for a car, and eventually, in the churchyard, got mixed up with a local wedding. Sandra got a bit stuck in the tiny churchyard, and dinged the car trying to turn it. This reduced us to helpless laughter, which the incredible, sneering stares of the locals, all in evening dress ("Who are these people? Why are they dressed like that? They must be on the Groom's side!") only made worse. You had to be there.