Simply Sunday

It’s Queen’s Birthday weekend here in Tassie. And a very cool, rainy, dreary, grey lizard type of weather it is. Grey lizard type of weather is to me where one stays inside, watches a film on Netflix, reads, cooks a bit and tries hard to stay awake. I also feel a bit of relief the gym classes aren’t meeting until Tuesday/Wednesday so I can rest the body from weight training. Though I will be chomping at the bit to get back to it by then. There are only so many grey lizard type of days one can cope with.

Reading is going smoothly. Our book club met and discussed the Yield by Tara June Winch. All of us enjoyed it and thought it an important First Nations book that should be on the high school curriculum. As many have read it, especially Australians I’ll leave it at that except to say it is extremely well written, tells a good story and won the 2020 Miles Franklin award in Australia.

I have been reading The Evenings by Gerard Reve after hearing it discussed on the podcast Backlisted. Backlisted is a British podcast that discusses authors and books of the past. It is highly entertaining and I really enjoy it. You can find it here.

About the Evenings. The Guardian wrote on 6 November, 2016:

Gerard Kornelis van het Reve was born in Amsterdam in 1923 and published The Evenings: A Winter’s Tale in 1947, shortly before his 24th birthday. It follows the movements of the 23-year-old Frits van Egters in (Amersterdam) the last 10 days of 1946. If the title focuses on the evenings, it is because, for much of the day, Frits is at work, where he scarcely exists. What does he do? “I take cards out of a file,” he responds to a friend’s question. “Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again.”

But Frits never complains about his job, nor expresses any desire to change it. Those hours are at least taken care of. His problem is his evenings and days off – Christmas in particular – and his one ambition is to get through them without losing his mind. Both for its hero and its author, this novel is a tour de force of filling space, of turning tawdry emptiness into comedy of the highest order: it is up there with Henry Green’s Party Going, and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Never has the business of arriving at bedtime been more urgently and richly dramatised.

Everything takes place in a few suburban streets in Amsterdam where Frits shares a small flat with his half-deaf father and well-meaning if clumsy mother. An older brother has left home. The parents live in a state of stalled conflict that Frits is determined to ignore. Their eating and grooming habits – described with a mixture of savage fury and grudging affection – are a constant torment, their conversation so predictable that Frits takes masochistic pleasure in prodding them towards old platitudes. His only ally, between stoking the stove, feeding guilders into the electricity meter and criticising Mother’s cooking or Father’s table manners, is the radio, whose scattered fragments of news and music offer themselves to the shipwrecked Frits as life-saving flotsam in an ocean of wasted time.

The Evenings, a Dutch novel was written in 1947. I find it to be hilarious in its mundaneness (is that a word?). Fritz makes a lot of comments in his mind about what he observes with his parents, friends, work. He quite likes to stir the pot especially with his parents. It is humorous to follow him in his day to day ramblings. You might also think he needs a good kick up the backside but in the meantime…..I am really enjoying this book. I might add the writing is very good as well.

The audible book I just finished this week is One Day I’ll Remember This: The Diaries 1987 – 1995. It is written and narrated by Helen Garner. I know Australian readers are quite divided regarding Helen Garner, both as a person and a writer. I enjoy listening to diaries on Audible. It is a good way to hear the intonations of the writing. Ms Garner has certainly lived an ‘interesting’ life in her 78 years. She turns 80 in 2022. Husbands,(three) writing, literary awards, controversy, friendships that wax and wane, travel. I don’t know if she could ever be friends in my world as I find her quite erratic and moody. I think at times she is quite self destructive especially in her relationships but what the diary highlights is her dilemma – does the demands of relationships and domesticity interfere with the creative process. She seems very torn between wanting to be alone so she can think and write without interruption yet maintain her love interests and a stable family. Added to this time period she is very much involved with a married author who later becomes her husband. Another dilemma is she lives in Melbourne, while he lives in Sydney. I’ll confess I googled to see who this author was. Hmmm.

All in all I enjoyed her reading voice very much. Sometimes Audible authors have shrill voiced women narrating and I have been caught out more than once when I didn’t listen to the sample before purchase. Her diaries are also quite comprehensive so I wasn’t left dangling very often. Ms Garner has a very pleasant reading voice.

The only thing I can think about with these diaries is – If I had written them I don’t think I’d be broadcasting them to the world especially when so many of the people in them are still living. This included husbands, lovers, friends. I would be quite embarrassed and would find it very awkward. But as my life is much more mundane (more like The Evenings) I was quite happy to play voyeur into her life.

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That’s it for books, now on to photography. We had a print challenge in our photo club. The theme was a “city lights at night”. I don’t have a great deal of those in my archives but then I remembered being in Tokyo four years ago and I know I took photos there one night with our small group. I did a digital dusting off of those photos and found one, edited it enough for printing and entered it and won a $20.00 gift voucher to our local camera shop. Though I’m not sure what anyone can buy in a camera shop full of thousand dollar plus lens we all covet. I’ll have a look. Maybe a strap or put it towards a battery or a card. Who knows.

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I’ll also share an Ollie and Peanut moment. Peanut is getting big. She is lovely. Six months old now and full of piss and vinegar as my mother used to say to describe things.

We had her DNA done. Results- 25% bichon frise; 25% pug; 12.5 % miniature poodle; 12.5% toy poodle; 12.5% maltese, 12.5 percent unknown (too many generations back). The features we notice most in her are pug and unknown, maybe companion dog chihuahua.

Today I was trying out a new bluetooth speaker I bought recently and had Beethoven piano sonatas playing. This is the scenario.

PICTURE THIS: DOGS …..Racing through the house….. Jump on bed…….Then it’s quiet……music begins to play softly, softly……dogs pick up their heads, turn them towards the speaker , ears raised and five minutes later looked like this……..

Well that catches you up with what is going on here. Hope everyone is well and happy this week. I won’t get too far ahead of myself here….More later…

Sunday Catch Up…

We are trying to stop our city from building a cable car across this landscape to the top of Kunanyi (Mt Wellington). A private business wants to put a very large information center and restaurant on top of this sacred indigenous mountain. Just unbelievable. Photo by ABC broadcasting.

I haven’t been online here for a bit. Reason is I’m decluttering my online presence in several areas. It was becoming overwhelming. I have decided to really follow only a small handful of book blogs and you people will know which ones. I followed many other ones but never got a response so off they went. I only need to read so many book reviews a day.

Have also deleted many fb pages and newsletters I follow, mainly photographic ones. All they want to do is sell me classes or take my money somehow. Life feels much more streamlined now.

My reading has been slower this month as I’ve been studying photograghy and photoshop classes quite a bit this month. It’s one of those things if one doesn’t practice, important lessons are forgotten.

My personal trainer, Theresa. There are prizes at the end of the 12 weeks including a dinner on the waterfront. I’m going for it. 😍

The main activities I’m involved in lately is within the gym. I am doing a 12 week challenge that takes up three days a week. The routine is….

Take the bus into the city, walk the five blocks to the gym, do the class, chat a bit, run errands I might have in the city, then walk back to the bus. I get in an hour’s worth of fitness training plus approximately a 5 km walk by the time I get home. Two days a week I am doing weight training in a small group with a trainer. The third day I spend one hour with my personal trainer on the pilates reformer apparatus. My main goal is to continue strongly into older age.

By the time I get home each afternoon I need to rest a bit. There have been annual health checkups I need to undergo each year and so far that has all been fine. We have also had our first Covid vaccination. Things seem to be getting back to normal where that is concerned. Tasmania has just passed the one year mark without a single case in the state. Living on a small island has its benefits.

Wonderful story of a brilliant photographer

I’m listening to a book or two on audible. I had a break with the Bohemians by Jazmin Darznik, a story of the photographer Dorothea Lange who is know for her depression era photos during the 1930s American depression. It takes place in early 1900s San Francisco and has been good. I will return to it soon.

I interspersed that listening experience with a couple of essays or podcasts I also enjoy from other writers.

Book club read for June

The book I’m currently immersed in for book group is The Yield by Tara June Winch. This book has had a great deal of hype around it rightfully so. It is a very good tale of an Indigenous family that is extremely well written. It won the Miles Franklin Award in Australia for 2020. It took me a few chapters to get into it as I found the writing a bit confusing in the beginning. But I listened to a couple of interviews online with the author to get the story straight in my head and now I am sailing along with no further trouble. Our book group will meet and talk about it the first week of June.

Another book I am in the middle of is one referred to me by my very academic cousin from New Hampshire. It is called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. If you wish to know about it you can tap on this link here. My cousin used to teach it to his university classes. I am really enjoying it. Extremely well written and a very good story. I must admit I’ve read more about Indigenous Australians than Native Americans and it is nice to have another perspective from a different culture.

I have also attended a couple of book launches through our book shop in the city, Fullers. They do events almost fortnightly and my friend and I go to all of them. One hour of interesting conversations and then a quick meal at our favourite Japanese takeaway. Always an inexpensive and lovely evening out.

We recently went to the launch of James Boyce’s account of Inga Clendinnen’s writings. She was a writer and history who’s writings are worth reading. The discussion of her (of whom I was not familiar) was interesting and I look forward to exploring her writing. The event was very well attended and the book is very popular here.

A selection of her writings was read at the launch and we really enjoyed it.

We also attended the launch of the Three Burials of Lottie Kneen by her granddaughter Krissy Kneen. A memoir of sorts of her very controlling grandmother and matriarch who travelling between Slovenie, Egypt, UK and finally Australia. The author resides in Brisbane now. The story is fascinating and I am looking forward to hearing more about this unusual life of the family.

So while I haven’t abandoned books altogether I am participating in some interesting varied events.

An absolutely fascinating tale.

I also had to edit some photos for our club photography challenges and that took some time. Our theme was 1. city nightscape and 2. side lighting of a person. I dug into my travel archives for those. I will share them at the end of this post.

Speaking of the end of this post…..it is now here. Until next time the Penguin and I wish everyone well.

Busy, Busy.

A couple of assorted photos from the archives…

Spanish Busker. I really liked this guy. Give him a coin and get some movement. This photo won me a silver category at our photo club.
Moroccan bride.
Moroccan Woman

A Bit of Travel Photography

I’ve been busy with appointments, gym and life in general and the days pass by. Too tired in the evenings to write. Today we are supposed to get our Covid vaccinations but I’ve had a bad cold and although I’m at the tail end of it I’m not sure they’ll give me mine. We’ll see.

I’ve been doing a photoshop class through Udemy that I downloaded ages ago and decided I’d better get stuck into it while I’m resting at home with this cold. It has been very useful and their classes are reasonably priced.

I’ve also signed up for a drawing class for $15.00 (good value) through Domestika. I’ve looked for places around Hobart that have drawing classes but just can’t find anything I want. Domestika is Scandinavian but not sure which country. They have really fun, colourful, creative ideas and I’m looking forward to beginning the class soon.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. I gave up on Gilead by Marilyn Robinson. It was just too religious and preachy for my mood and I got bored. I managed 200 pages and gave it up. I get the idea. I see she has written the book Jack who is the young son that the old man is writing to in Gilead. I probably will pass on that too though it could be interesting too see what he thought of his father. Maybe

I’m listening to The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik on Audible. Booktopia describes it as:

In 1918, a young and bright-eyed Dorothea Lange steps off the train in San Francisco, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking Chinese American with a complicated past, gives Dorothea entree into Monkey Block, an artists’ colony and the bohemian heart of the city. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with the brilliant but troubled painter Maynard Dixon. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio, but a devastating betrayal pushes their friendship to the breaking point and alters the course of their lives.

The Bohemians captures a glittering and gritty 1920s San Francisco, with a cast of unforgettable characters, including cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and D. H. Lawrence. A vivid and absorbing portrait of the past, it is also eerily resonant with contemporary themes, as anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, and a devastating pandemic bring tumult to the city-and the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention persist against the ferocious pull of history.

As Dorothea sheds her innocence, her purpose is awakened and she grows into the figure we know from history-the artist whose iconic Depression-era photographs like “Migrant Mother” broke the hearts and opened the eyes of a nation.


She was one of the best photographers who documented people living in 1930s depression America. She had polio as a child and walked with a significant limp the rest of her life. If you’ve not seen her catalogue of photography I suggest you google her.

I am really enjoying it and Dorothea Lange is one of my top five photographers. The early days of San Francisco, a city I have always loved, are also very interesting as are the people.

Reading has taken a bit of a back seat to photography lessons in the past couple of weeks so I’ll move on to it for a moment.

I’ll leave you with some back catalogue photos of my trip to Africa in 2018. I took a large number of photos and never really sorted them. However we have photo challenges in our club and I wanted to prepare some photos for those. I shoot all my photos in a raw format (which is like a negative) and import them onto Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop or Luminar to do the final edit (develop) them. It has taken a long time to learn the tricks of the trade and I still continue to work on it. I’ll leave you with the photos I worked on today and say goodbye for the moment. We need to leave for our vaccinations in awhile and I need to get some lunch. Until then….

Botswana, Africa

I love this sign and the road/bridge it refers to. I believe this was in Botswana.
African Pelicans, a bird I have always loved.
We slept in this bush tent for two nights and were told to not go out of this tent for any reason during the night. We had wild hyenas around it at night. It was too wet for lions or elephants to come through looking for water. There was a bathroom attached and enclosed at the back of the tent but it had a trillion mosquitos.
Aren’t ostriches just the most unusual animals.
Our guide and driver. Our group was very small and everyone had their own window in the truck. Lots of fun,
.The markings of a wild dog are absolutely beautiful.
The wildebeest is a very unusual looking animal. We saw some babies but I’ve not “developed” those photos yet.

Enjoy your week and I’ll try to get back sooner next time. Stay well and hope you can get out and do a few fun things.

P.S. Ollie and Peanut are well. Peanut was spayed and is now completely recovered.

A Cold Rainy Saturday

Rain and cold today.
Photo from ABC News website

Autumn has truly set in on our small island at the bottom of the globe. 12 degrees C (51F), rainy and probably snow on the mountain. Wind out of the south is chilly.

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately as well as doing my work at the gym, and attending a few events at Fullers Book shop. Easter weekend had me working on photography for three days as several challenges were due for our club. So first things first…..

Our book club discussed Tasmanian Erin Hortle’s The Octopus and I.

We had mixed feelings about it. It is her debut novel and we would have liked the editing to be a bit stricter. We enjoyed her writing about the Tasman Peninsula which we are all familiar with as it is only about 60 kms from where we live. We knew of the places she wrote about. We wondered why she varied between first person and third person narrative. We had interesting discussions about editing of books in general, comparing modern editing to that of the past. We thought books were edited more tightly before 1970. We also thought maybe younger women than all of us older women in the group would have worried more about the body image discussed a lot in this book. The protagonist Lucy has had a double mastectomy and breasts were discussed at length. Some of us would recommend this book and others not so much. We also liked the environmental themes within the book. We’re waiting to see if and how she approaches a second novel which we’ve heard she is working on.

I finished Rosie Batty‘s book, A Mother’s Story in no time. Rosie Batty was Australia’s Person of the Year in 2015 as a domestic violence campaigner and advocate for the work she has done regarding domestic violence. If you google her you can learn much more about her. She was in an extremely on again/off again relationship with Greg, whom she never really loved, but it resulted in her son, Luke’s birth. We know from the outset Luke’s father kills him when he is 11 years old. The story is a sad one but what I thought the book pointed out was how the system fails people in domestic violent relationships. There were also so many sliding door moments for Lucy. There were bad decisions Rosie made, there was incredible miscommunication between the agencies that should have been able to help her. This is not a genre I would read often but I thought the information on how communities, in this case the state of Victoria, handled her case. As a result of her becoming Australian of the Year and publicity of her story, a royal commission was held and evidently changes are being made regarding domestic violence.

However, one woman a week continues to die in Australia due to domestic violence. If a sporting name, a politician or a celebrity died at the rate of one a week I believe much more would be done. So moving on….

Another book I finished was a bit of travel writing again. I listened to young Jake Tyler from England discuss the walk he undertook to circumnavigate the UK. He wrote about it in his book A Walk from the Wild Edge. He has a great deal of difficulty suffering from depression/anxiety. This caused his excessive use of alcohol, drugs and non employment, lying around doing nothing. He finally decided he would leave Brighton where he was living in England and start walking clockwise around England, Wales, Scotland.

I didn’t find this book was so much about his trip as it was his unending discussion of dealing with depression. Every page had him talking to people about it, regressing once more into drugs and alcohol several times as he met up with friends in various locations, pulling himself out of it again, then talking more about it.

I believe the walk helped him in many ways but until he can beat his addictions I don’t think any walks anywhere are going to put him on a complete path to recovery. I was happy to finish the book.

I read a lot of travel writing and it seems many people, especially with more current books, are dealing with a mental health issue. They seem to travel, often using unusual transport (camels, donkeys, walking, bicycling, etc) to deal with what affects them. The more travel reading I do I am now looking at the back cover more carefully to see the reason for their trips. I’ve read enough about travel and mental illness for the time being.

I am halfway through Gilead by Marilyn Robinson for our May book group. The writing is beautiful and I appreciate it but I am finding it slow going. It isn’t the type of book I enjoy the most. It is much too religious for my non believer self. I am only reading 20 pages a day to ensure I finish it in time, then reading other things I enjoy more.

I am enjoying the
Australian book Neon Pilgrim by Lisa Dempster. Described as “15 year old Lisa Dempster promises herself to one day walk the zhenro michi, an arduous 88 temple Buddhist pilgrimage through the mountains of Japan’s Shikoku island.” She spent a year in Japan as a student when she made this decision. Now 13 years later she is doing it. She, again, is not in good health. She has few interests, is overweight, unfit and begins this journey. It is more of a physical health issue and also a way to develop her confidence and self image. However she doesn’t dwell on it and instead discusses the journey, the temples, the food, the people she meets. Her experiences are really interesting and she keeps an open mind to everything around her. I’m not too far into it yet but I am really enjoying it. The walk comprises “1200 kms of mountainous terrain, a sweltering Japanese summer, she has no money and has never done a multi-day hike especially alone.” But her determination is fun to watch and I am interested in how she does.

Other books I’m dipping into are photography books and instructional methods in books, magazines and you tube videos.

Our photography club is undertaking a challenge with our sister city, the West Yorkshire city of Ilkey, England’s photography club. Each member of both clubs has been paired up, one Tasmanian photographer and one Ilkey member. A colour and a letter of the alphabet has been ascribed to each pair. My letter and colour is A and the colour Blue. An Ilkey member has the same. A and Blue. This will result in two photos for each of us to complete. Then a judge will look at the four photos and judge the winner of each category.

Each photo club member has a different letter and colour. Then a tally will be made of what club has the most wins. This time we have an independent Australian judge who will judge the photos blind. Next time England will pick the judge.

It should be fun and I will include my entries below.

A is for Agriculture. (A real Tasmanian scene)
B is for Blue. (Everything in this photo except berries are from the Tip Shop)

On a personal note (which means the dogs), Peanut got spayed this week and our job is to keep a one year old jack russell and an active 4 month old from running around like zoomie nuts for one week. That is our challenge of the week. Lots of dogs on leashes, independent yard visits and getting them to bed at night as early as possible. So far so good.

Peanut home from hospital

Mr Penguin is fixing a large pot of chilli to get us through the cold weekend today. I noticed he brought home a fairly large container of long red chillies from the grocery store and hope he is only using some of them. Mr. P is a person who drinks tabasco sauce straight from the bottle so I do need to keep an eye on things.

I hope everyone who reads this is doing well and enjoying what they can in the part of the world they live in. All the best with your walking, cooking, reading, netflixing, crafting, working…whatever you love to do. Until next time.

Moving Forward

I haven’t written lately for a variety of reasons but mainly I just didn’t feel like it. I’m working on getting my fitness back which is going well. I’m working with getting our pup Peanut trained up. She is now 4 months old. I’m meeting up with friends and cooking more. I’m just taking more time from reading many blogs and trying to keep up with comments. I only comment on a very few blogs now. As much as I love the blogging community it takes a long time to read every post and comment then follow up with more comments. So now I am commenting sporadically. Too much screen time is just getting me down so not doing it as much.

So…moving ahead….

I’ve just finished the Australian debut book by Erin Hortle, The Octopus and I. It is a story of a local woman’s journey dealing with cancer and octopi. Good reads describes it as:

“Lucy and Jem live on the Tasman Peninsula near Eaglehawk Neck, where Lucy is recovering from major surgery. As she tries to navigate her new body through the world, she develops a deep fascination with the local octopuses, and in doing so finds herself drawn towards the friendship of an old woman and her son. As the story unfolds, the octopuses come to shape Lucy’s body and her sense of self in ways even she can’t quite understand.”

Our book club will be discussing it in the first week of April. I’ll report back then.

I finished listening to Homer’s Odyssey too on audible and really enjoyed it.

The Golden Flea: A Story of Obsession and Collecting by Michael Rips

For decades, the Chelsea Flea Market on the west side of Manhattan drew shoppers seeking treasures in booths crammed with vintage dresses, ancient swords, glass eyeballs, Afghan rugs, West African fetish dolls, Old Master paintings, and more. In The Golden Flea, writer Michael Rips shares his experiences with this extremely interesting part of New York City.

I’m about to begin Marilyn Robinson’s book Gilead for our May book group read. Will read that in April. It wasn’t a book I’d pick for myself but I will see where it takes me. I know her books are popular but I don’t have any experience with them.

Heather Rose & Craig Silvey

My friend P and I went to a Fullers book launch recently. Their events are located across the street from the book shop in a large hotel conference room. There is a wine bar within the room so every time they hold an event we go along. We take turns shouting the other a glass of wine, enjoy the hour’s event from 5:30 to 6:30 and then walk around the corner to a local sitdown/takeaway Japanese restaurant for a quick bite to eat. We really enjoy our bookish evenings out. The most recent event was the launch of Craig Silvey’s book Honeybee. Heather Rose (more recently the author of Bruny and several other books) facilitated the event. The room holds 80 people socially distanced and it was a full house. I really enjoyed it,

Good Reads describes the beginning of the book as:

“Late in the night, fourteen-year-old Sam Watson steps onto a quiet overpass, climbs over the rail and looks down at the road far below.

At the other end of the same bridge, an old man, Vic, smokes his last cigarette.

The two see each other across the void. A fateful connection is made, and an unlikely friendship blooms. Slowly, we learn what led Sam and Vic to the bridge that night. Bonded by their suffering, each privately commits to the impossible task of saving the other.”

Craig is from Western Australia and as the young person in this story is a transgender person he discussed at length immersing himself into the Perth/Fremantle’s trans community. He is a very humble and gentle man and expressed his opinions to the audience who received his comments with enthusiasm. I really enjoyed the event and would love to read this book. Currently though there is a long waiting list at the library for it.

We had a sad day on Sunday when our brain injured lovely old Uncle Buck put himself to bed and did not want to move again. Our vet friend came to the house and sedated him as we said goodbye and gently put him to sleep. Uncle Buck’s death will put another bell in our Japanese maple Pet Memorial tree. We now have 8 bells for the pets of our past 30 years. He was badly injured as a three week old kitten, was quite disabled and not expected to survive his “kittenhood.” However he thrived and lived another 15 years. He had a lovely, safe and happy life and we have funny memories of him. He will live on in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Ollie does try hard to be gentle with Peanut but he often gets carried away.

Ollie continues to be selfish with his toys with Peanut. If he has a favourite toy and Peanut wants to play with it, Ollie takes it from her quite gently and tries to walk out of the back door in order to hide it somewhere safe in the yard. However Peanut has worked this trick of his out, follows behind him, takes it back and puts it in her bed or runs away with it. The two of them keep us laughing all the time. They have become the best of friends and get up to all sorts of mischief. We just love them. Eddie’s biological brother also came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Eddie lives in the Hobart area too. He was born to the same parents as Ollie but 8 months earlier. We now know Ollie and Eddie’s parents have been spayed and there will be no more litters from them. We thank them for having these wonderful boys.

As I’m taking the bus into town I am constantly chatting to people I don’t know or observing those who make me laugh, or raise my eyebrows, shake my head or just enjoy. This week I met Kaye as I sat at an outdoor cafe in my neighbourhood waiting for a very delayed dentist appointment. Kaye sat beside me. Dressed in new jeans, a crisp, ironed blouse and trainers she told me she is 88 years old. She goes to the gym each week, has coffee out and reprimands older people who won’t get out and socialise or exercise. She is a live wire and I laughed at our conversation we had about our prime minister who is Scott Morrison (nickname SCOMO) who she continually referred to as SCUMO). I couldn’t agree more. Our federal politicians are a national disgrace and the sooner they are gone the better. I’ll say no more.

I have been doing photography and spending quite a bit of time continuing my lessons with Adobe Lightroom Editing software and Photoshop. I do enjoy learning these skills though there are so many to learn I will never reach the end.

That sees me through most of this week now and I hope to be back again with another rundown of life in southern Tasmania. We have been Covid free now for more than 325 consecutive days so life is fairly normal here. The vaccine roll out is beginning but thanks to our federal parliamentarians they haven’t got that right either so we continue to wait. Stay safe and enjoy what you can.

I won second place in a print competition with this photo of Odie at the photo club challenge last week. It came with a lovely bottle of red wine. We sure miss this guy.
Until next time…

February Book Club

After a one year hiatus we began our book groups last week with a new leader at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart. 90 people are participating in several groups of twelve readers the first week of each month until December. It is lovely to see familiar faces once again and meet new ones.

Last week was a simple meet and greet group. We each talked about books that sustained us during 2020 and what we gained from them. I thought that today I would share one or two books that were talked about just so readers can see the diversity amongst our Wednesday evening group. So here goes…

Author Migeuel Syjuco

N – held up a Phillipine history book called Illustrado. She had been involved in a group of year 11 and 12 students who travelled to the Phillipines and talked about the effect of the poverty and extreme population in that country that they experienced. She said it was quite life changing for those who have had it really good living in Tasmania. We enjoyed hearing about her experiences.

Author Amy Newmark

J 1 – said she read one book entitled Life Lessons From A Cat. She told us she had to read light amusing books as she founds much about 2020 stressful.

J- (another J name) picked up Girl, Woman, Other several times but could not get into it. Then one day she started over again and really loved it. She loved the writing once she got used to it and we all agreed that the author should have won the Booker on her own and not had to share it with Margaret Atwood. A couple of others in the group had read and enjoyed this book also.

S- who is a retired teacher, said she not only read Oliver Sack’s book Gratitude again and again when she felt she needed a positive perspective, she also gifted it to several people.

H- enjoyed books by Kate Atkinson and she particularly mentioned Big Sky. She said it pulled her into the story as many of Atkinson’s book do and she definitely removed herself from 2020 while reading it.

T- read the autobiography Lioness. The story of the adoptive mother, Sue Brierley of the young boy, Saroo, who featured in Lion. Some of you may have seen the film. As most of you will remember, Saroo became lost in India while separated from his brother and eventually ended up being adopted by a family in northern Tasmania. He tracked down his family again once he reached adulthood via Google maps. It is quite the tale. I attended the Fullers event when this book was launched in Hobart awhile back. This is his adoptive mother’s tale.

V-read a Singaporean book named How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee. It is an Indian tale. She said she enjoyed the story though didn’t go too far into depth about it. Some book group members are quieter than others!

J 2- gave us a whole list of books she read. I will mention two. Where the Crawdads Sing was one of her favourites and she also enjoyed an Australian book, Flight Lines, which is about environmental issues affecting birds in Australia. It focuses on one type of bird in particular that the author is very interested in.

We were meeting in the book shop after hours. Only the morning groups meet in the pub down the road. Darn! We meet in the evenings and I enjoy the quietness of a closed bookshop in the evening. We all looked at the walls of books and picked out various books on the most recent book wall we would like to own and read.

We meet in the front of the store. Well lit, quiet and surrounded by new books.

We had some good laughs. We enjoyed our facilitator, R, who we found out studied and taught 16th century history amongst other subjects at universities in Washington State and Michigan in the States and also taught at Oxford in England. She has now returned to Australia and is working at Fullers for the time being. I guess this is not a good time to get a position in a university. She is a gifted instructor and we really do enjoy her company.

The rest of the shop.

I know we are fortunate to be able to meet face to face in a book group when so many around the world are still cancelled. I’ll just have to attend on behalf of those who aren’t able to meet and share with you what we do.

If you ever visit Hobart let me know and I’ll shout you a coffee (or tea) in their cafe.

Our March book discussion next week will be the City of Ghosts by Ben Creed. It’s a great Russian crime novel located in Moscow in 1951. I really enjoyed it. It’s graphic but in context and the story is complex, interesting and the crime unusual.

Happy reading…book group or not.

Happy Booking….

Good News in Books and Music

I have a couple of things to share today. While Mr. Penguin (who never follows sport) is off with friends watching the American superbowl Ollie, Peanut (her new name from Dolly) and I have been working outdoors a bit in our ‘lockup’. Our lockup is a patio area behind the house that we enclosed with lattice and laser light ceiling years ago in order to have an enclosed area outdoors and one in which our cats can play in without roaming. I have a herb garden and our clothesline is out there too. There is too much wildlife around here to let our cats out.

Hadley’s Hotel in Hobart is our new Book Group venue.

Anyway, once back in the house, we filled up a box for the tip shop. I keep an empty box in the hallway and as I find things in closets and drawers we haven’t used/don’t need, into the box they go. Once full the box goes off to the tip shop. I like our tip shop as they employ people who have been out of work for quite awhile. They teach job skills and offer art projects and recycling classes to the community. However recently some teenager burned down half of it but they are now up and running again.

Now it is time for my coffee and a sit down. I have the book 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die. It has been on the shelf too long so lately I have it beside my reading chair. I have a random org app on my tablet and since there are 934 pages of listed music dating from Pre 1700 to Present(2017) I use the app to randomly choose a page. Today we are listening to Domenico Cimarosa / II matrimonio segreto 1792. I am not familiar with this composer but I am enjoying the orchestral work very much. We have a subscription to Amazon Prime music and a few bluetooth speakers around the house. I find they have everything I’ve asked of them lately so am not disappointed. We also use it for gym work. So I’d say we get our money’s worth.

But back to the books. I received an email from Fullers Bookshop in Hobart that our reading groups are starting back in March. I have missed our book group so much. We are not meeting in the shop as before as the small circle of people is not Covid friendly. Instead we are meeting in an old pub/restaurant down the street from the shop. Hadleys Hotel/Restaurant. They have held book festivals there before and there is a big bar area where we can purchase drinks and there is plenty of room for social distancing. I am looking forward to it. The book list has been released for a few months and we have a new facilitator. She is a history/literature PhD who has returned to Tasmania after teaching in the USA and UK for the past 15 years. The book list is very different to book lists of the past. We have authors, both female and male, from UK, USA, Australia and more specifically Tasmania. We have translated fiction, mysteries, popular and non fiction. We are all to meet soon in February as a meet and greet. It is suggested we each provide a reading from something that kept us going through lockdown.

The March book is one I have begun as it is due first week of March. It is a Russian mystery and I am really enjoying it so far. I am reading at least 30 pages a day to ensure I get it completed as there are other things I want to read alongside it. The book is called City of Ghosts and the author is Ben Creed published by Welbeck Publishing Group, London.

The publisher’s site states:

Welbeck Publishing Group has signed a three-book deal with debut historical writer Ben Creed. (Ben Creed is the pseudonym for Chris Rickaby and Barney Thompson.)

Jon Elek, fiction publisher, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights to City of Ghosts and two sequels from Giles Milburn at the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. Welbeck will publish in October 2020. 

City of Ghosts is set in the Soviet Union in the final years of Stalin’s regime and follows senior lieutenant Revol Rossel as he investigates the discovery of five mutilated corpses neatly laid out on a railway track outside Leningrad. Rossel sets about piecing together fragments and clues from the murders, following a trail that leads to the heart of the Soviet establishment.

Creed commented: “I have always been fascinated by Russian and Soviet history, and I’m magnetically drawn to the human stories that show how people navigated the perils, terrors and absurdities of life under Stalin.”

The cover of the book states that investigator Revol Russel who was once a virtuoso violinist with a glittering future (until Stalin destroyed his fingers). The mystery takes him into the dark heart of Leningrad’s musical establishment and ultimately to the highest levels of the Kremlin.

It will be interesting to see how a book of this genre is discussed as I don’t believe we have had crime books in our groups in the past. It is quite graphic and I wonder how people will go with that. References to WWII in Russia, certainly in context. The writing is very good and I was hesitant when I first looked at this book but I sat down and read the first 50 pages and am now right into it. I’m getting my head around all of the Russian names. I’ll let you know how we go with the discussion.

I’m still listening to the Odyssey and enjoying it but I did put it on hold a couple of days to listen to a couple of Backlisted podcasts and do life things.

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My Weekly Journal

Caught up last week with a good friend at Fullers cafe for a bite of lunch, a short shop and then coffee at the beachside. A lovely day. Ollie was at the vets for a day being checked over. He is being looked at for Addison’s disease though his blood work is in the gray area. His ultrasound showed small adrenal glands and we will monitor how much cortisol they are producing. So no firm diagnosis but might or might not be later. He has picked up quite a bit living with our little Peanut. What a ittle firecracker she is.

Peanut has settled in very well.

I am starting back at the gym next week after my surgery and will hopefully get my condition back I lost during the past two months. Taking it easy at twice a week for the time being and will get some longer walks in also.

I guess this post has turned into a Monday Miscellaneous but I feel caught up now. Stay tuned to see if anything exciting happens this week. 😊🐧

It’s nice how the music puts Ollie and Peanut to sleep.

A Little Miscellany Today

Beautiful day today. We have been having a very chilly, windy, showery summer this year so far. I’m not complaining because that is better than bush fires and terrible heat. However it is nice to go outside in shirt sleeves.

I am half way through the book Nada by Carmen Laforet. I am enjoying it very much. What an unusual and I must admit very strange family tale in Barcelona just after the war. Life in the 40s in this family is not only very poor but also extremely bizarre. It is translated by Edith Grossman who I really liked as a translator having read her translation a few years ago of Don Quixote. (Bill, I will be sending this book to Perth before too long.)

The Book Tube I followed for a few days did his spin on Sunday and number 15 came up. I have two months now to read the book I listed as number 15 which is a book I am looking forward to. You can see what it is about, if you haven’t on my post Book Tube Part 3 (here). It is The Only Way Home by Liz Byron. Travel writing by an Australian female writer. In 2004 she undertakes a 2500 kms trek of the Bicentennial National Trail over nine months with two donkeys. I am hoping this is an interesting book but in any case the premise of it certainly appeals. I will start it as soon as I finish Nada.

On Audible I am listening to the Odyssey by Homer. The narrator is Charles

Purkey and I enjoy listening to him of this version. Of course we visited this in high school, back in the 1960s but who pays attention then? It all went over my head that was filled with horses and social events.

I picked up Italo Calvio’s Book Why Read the Classics and the first essay is about the Odyssey. I had a new credit and used it for this so I can read both the essay and listen to it. I am enjoying it very much. We touched on several of the characters from this and also The Iliad in our play reading class which has sadly met its demise. Once I got all the characters pretty straight in my head and heard the correct pronunciations of them I have well

and truly settled into the story. Such a journey. I think this might be a book I read like Mortimer Adler suggests in his book, How To Read A Book from back in the 1930s of a classic book. Read it, ask no questions, do not stop to look up things, just go. Then go back and reread it and then look up things if you need to but by then much of it will be in your head. I would have enjoyed meeting Mortimer Adler. I read his book twice and again here and there a third time. When one grows up in a family where I was the only one who truly loved books and reading a bit of outside direction from various learned people comes in handy.

Outside of the books, we are still working with the vet around Ollie’s medical condition. Much has been ruled out but his ultra sound has shown smaller than usual adrenal glands on his kidneys and so far he has picked up quite a bit on his anti-biotics and steroids but Addison’s disease is being looked at. He does feel good most of the time. He has lost his energetic bursts of speed though and acts more like an older dog. More tests are coming up soon and the vet is working with a specialist from Sydney university.

In the meantime we have changed Dolly’s name to Peanut. We thought Dolly would be a retiring, timid little girl puppy who would slot into our family on a quieter side. However, Miss Turbo Pants is full of piss and vinegar and has two speeds, run full on and drop wherever you are and sleep. She has been with us about 10 days and is already pulling the tennis balls out of the bushes where Ollie hid them and banging on the back door to be let in as she runs through the house chasing the cats. She has been slapped once and is now leaving Cousin Eddie, our tabby alone more. She is such a tiny Peanut little hell on wheels. We love her.

Built by convict labour in 1824.

Sunday our senior group had an afternoon tea at a heritage listed home/hotel in Richmond which is about 25 minutes from Hobart. We had nine of us, a real girls day out, enjoying a garden, a courtyard and a stately room with lovely chicken salad with tarragon sandwiches, a lovely Tasmanian sparkling Rose wine and several assorted pastries followed by a choice of assorted teas and coffee.

There is a legend that a woman named Elizabeth Buscombe his her jewels somewhere in the house in 1860, but then could not remember where she put them. They have never been found. Evidently people still look for them.

A pleasant way to spend an afternoon with friends. Tasmania has been completely Covid free now for 2 months so a safe place to hide out from the world. The Australian state leaders, no matter what one thinks of their politics have handled Covid safely in our states, no thanks to our Prime Minister who is usually more interested in getting adulation from America’s past president than helping the Australian people in any way. (No more as I don’t want to ruin a perfectly good post.)

We’ll see how the rest of this week goes. I am hoping to just finish the books I have picked out, do some more cooking and maybe experiment with some baking after watching reruns of both the Great Australian and British bake off shows. I have a Mary Berry book being delivered today that I am looking forward to. I really like her. She said in a television program her mother cooked right up until she passed away at age 105. There remains hope for us all.

Enough for today. Now I’ll go hunt out some photos for this post. Stay tuned and for goodness sakes, stay well.

Book Tube Spin – Part 4

Today I’m featuring the last five books of the list for the Book Tube Spin on 31 January. Without further adieu….. Let’s begin.

South American-Spanish- Non fiction- Travel

16. How To Travel Without Seeing by Andrés Neuman. This author was born in Argentina and grew up in Spain. Lamenting not having more time to get to know each of the 19 countries he visits after winning the prestigious Premio Alfaguara, Andrés Neuman begins to suspect that world travel consists mostly of “not seeing.” But then he realizes that the fleeting nature of his trip provides hin with a unique opportunity: touring and comparing every country of Latin America in a single stroke. Neuman writes on the move, described as a kinetic work that is at once puckish and poetic, aphoristic and brimming with curiosity. Even so called non places- airports, hotels, taxis – are turned into powerful symbols full of meaning. He investigates the artistic lifeblood of Latin America, tacklig with gusto not only literary heavyweights such as Bolaño, Vargas Llosa, Lorca, and Geleano, but also an emerging generation of authors and filmmakers wose impact is now making ripples worldwide. (paraphrased from back cover).

Netherlands- Fiction

17. Lost Paradise by Dutch novelist, Cees Nooteboom. Alma and Almut share a fascination for Australia and its ancient peoples; their ceremonies, sand drawings and body paintings. After Alma suffers a traumatic attack, they board a cheap flight from São Paulo to Sydney, and together begin their journey across their secret continent. Alma slowly recovers through a brief love affair with an Aboriginal artist, and both women become involved with the Angel Project in Perth, where actors dressed as angels are concealed around the city for the public to discover. I bought this book as it sounds imaginative and very unusual.

USA- Fiction

18. I have always been attracted to the publishers descriptions of Marilyn Robinson’s books but not yet read one. I have read reviews of this book and it sounds really interesting. Housekeeping published in 1980. This copy is a Faber Modern Classic and was picked up second hand in an op shop.

It states: Abandoned by a succession of relatives, orphaned sisters Ruthie and Lucille find themselves in the care of their eccentric aunt Sylvie in their rural home town of Idaho. Ruth narrates the sisters’ story as Lucille moves out into the world and Ruthie falls further back into her own family’s dark past. Against the stunning backdro of a bleak wintery landscape in a small desolate town, Marilynne Robinson’s first novel is a powerful portrayal of loss, loneliness and the struggle towards adulthood.

Australian Non Fiction Memoir- Animal

19. Red Lead: The Naval Cat with Nine Lives, an Australian non fiction book by Roland Perry. I have mentioned this book previously and have begun reading it but was then distracted by events at the end of last year. I had not picked it back up again but do think about it so will continue with it.

The story goes: Australia’s most renowned Cruiser, HMAS Perth was sunk by Japanese naval forces in the Sunda Strait off the coast of Java. Of the 681 men aboard, 328 survived the sinking and made it to shore. And one cat. Her name was Red Lead, and she was the ship’s cat, beloved by the crew.

However surviving shellfire, torpedoes and the fierce currents of the Strait was only the beginning of what they would face during the next 3 1/2 years. From Java to Changi and then on the Thai Burma Railway, red Lead was their companion.

It is an amazing tale of a cat who survives this ordeal and goes on to live for 24 years before her passing in Australia. Sorry, I had to read the last pages before I bought their as I don’t like surprises with animal tales.

Australian Poetry and Narrative

20. Last but not least is a book of Aboriginal Narratives and poems entitled The Nearest the White Man Gets: Aboriginal Narratives and Poems of New South Wales collected by Roland Robinson. Published in 1989, this was a one dollar bargain from a sale bin in an op shop. It is a short book and could be read in an hour. I needed one shorter book on this list. It looks a charming little book and I have not read much, if any indigenous poetry so should enjoy it.

Well….there you have it. A good list I think of 20 books from my shelves. I must say, having pulled these books randomly off the shelves does show me what lovely tales of travel, adventure, heartache and laughs await and I think I will begin on this list with or without the Spin at the end of the month.

Once read I can move them on to their place in the broader world so we’ll see how I go on this pile of books during the next two months set aside to read.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these and can remark on them. Until next time…

That’s the list folks!

Book Tube-Part 3

I read Simon’s post earlier this week from Stuck in a Book and he introduced Rick McDonnell who presents on You Tube as Book Tube Spin. I went and had a look and it is a very easy challenge. You pick 20 books from your TBR shelf, list them and on 31 January Rick will announce a number and you have two months to read your book. Two months is quite a while so I thought I’d join. I am already devoting time to my TBR shelf so I thought I would put up four posts this week of five books each that I am choosing for my spin.

Canadian- Non fiction

11. Wisdom of the Elders by North American authors Peter Knudtson and David Suzuki. This is one of those long term TBR books picked up in 1992 when it was first published. I have handled it so many times shuffling it around but time to read it.

It explores the beliefs about the delicate relationships between humans, nature and the environment held by two traditions commonly thoght to be diametrically opposed: Western science and the age old wisdom of indigenous peoples around the world.

Australian-Indigenous Non Fiction

12. The Stranger Artist by Australian author Quentin Sprague. This book is written in gouache, acrylic, blood and tears: the story of the modern frontier, where high art, for a brief, magic time was made from the trust and tension of two worlds (Nicholas Rothwell author)

I really enjoy stories about art and indigenous artists are very interesting to me.

It takes place in the East Kimberly region of australia. An art adviser he finds himself deeply immersed in the world of a group of senior Gija artists. The bonds he forms with renowned painters Paddy Bedfort and Freddy Timms backdrop the establishment of the ground breaking Jirrawun Arts.

USA-Travel- Non fiction

13. This next book is a reread that I adored. Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman. I read this book probably in the 1990s and I never forgot it. She wrote three books before she died. She was such an interesting woman. She was a journalist and author who won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1985. She lived and worked in Baltimore, Maryland.

This is her memoir of when she took a year off to explore Euro[e and rediscover what it was like to be an independent woman again. She left her job, family, friends and routine behind. The result, Without Reservations, became a bestseller and inspired women everywhere to take that leap, if not in reality, at least in their imaginations. She focused on travelling, writing and learning. This is such an enjoyable book.

Australian- non fiction-memoir

14. Number 14 is another Text Australian classic. Nino Culotta author of They’re a Weird Mob. Just off the boat from Italy- the north- Nino Culotta is in Sydney. He thought he spoke English but he’s never heard anything like the language these people were speaking. They’re a Weird Mob is a hilarious snapshot of the immigrant experience in Menzies era Australia, by a writer with a brilliant ear for the Australian way with words.

I purchased this book as coming to Australia myself from the USA and working as a speech pathologist for many years I think I can relate to much of his experience.

Australian- non fiction-memoir-travel

15. Another Australian woman writer, Liz Byron wrote the travel memoir The Only Way Home, published in 2020. On a warm day in May 2004, the author set off from Cooktown with her two companions, donkeys Grace and Charley, on a self imposed challenge to walk 2500 kms of the Bicentennial National Trail over 9 months. It was a rite of passage to mark leaving 40 years of marriage and embarking on life as a single woman at the age of 61. She foresaw that self-reliance, physical stamina and route finding would be challenges, but she couldn’t have known how the outback environment in Queensland was to test her to the limit.

I love travel writing about lone women doing unusual things. Especially in later life. I know I won’t ever have any of these experiences but I like to vicariously follow others.