Tassie Life – 22 January

I thought I’d better do a catch up here. So easy to fall behind. Our bodies get in the way of our lifestyle. We must tend to teeth, eyes, bones and whatever else starts to fall apart as we age. Lots of appointments but pretty caught up now. I am getting new reading glasses next week. I have had a year of very poor left eye vision and now it is as good as it can be, two pairs of glasses have been ordered. One for life, one for books.

So I’ll start with what I’ve read this month and what I thought of it.

First off is the Armchair Explorer book by Lonely Planet project. I spun the wheel and ended up with the country Haiti. I did a bit of exploring and travelling through google and settled on the female Haitian author Edwidge Danticat. The book I chose is called Krik Krak.

Her Wikipedia profile reads: Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, was published in 1994. Danticat has since written or edited several books and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. 

From Good Reads: At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become a celebrated new writer. She is an artist who evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti–and the enduring strength of Haiti’s women–with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people’s suffering and courage.

When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak! Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.

My thoughts: This book is not for the faint hearted. The atrocities committed by the soldiers as they sweep through villages is enough to make one want to stick your head deep into sand and not look up. Absolutely horrific. I’m talking nightmare materials. Her stories of experiences under the dictatorship of Haitian leaders and actions of the soldiers as they sweep through villages. The atrocities….are just that. I’m glad I read it and understand more of the history of Haiti but I will have a rest from exploring future books. The writing was wonderful and the author doesn’t shy away from the hard issues. Although she resides in the USA now she still considers herself very much linked to her homeland.

The other book I finished was These Precious Days by Ann Patchett. I listened to it on Audible and it was narrated by her. A series of vignettes about her life, well written but I must admit I got weary of repetition in this book. She begins one chapter about her views on not wanting to have children in her life. Okay, fine. Then it comes up again. And again. And again. And again. It made me wonder if she was as committed to her choices as she claims.

I wanted her to talk more about other aspects of her writing life and her life in Nashville with her book store. She did move on to another important story in her life. She did some work with Tom Hanks. During the interview she met his personal assistant, an Asian woman in her 60s who she was really drawn to. Long story short, when this friend she makes develops pancreatic cancer in the time of Covid and needs to attend medical trials, Ms Patchett whose husband is a doctor organises for it to happen in Nashville. (ignore the grammatical structure of that last sentence.)

The woman moves in with the Patchett family and from there the description of the friendship finishes off the last section of this book. It is quite emotional but it is also. r e a l l y o v e r d o n e in my humble opinion. I found everything she wrote about was hammered into the earth like a person driving a very long spike into the ground with a sledge hammer. I know there are many who love this book. The only book of hers I have read is The State of Wonder. I enjoyed it very much and I want to read the Dutch House. I hear so much about her books and I’m sure I’d enjoy them. I think writing fictional stories well and then changing to writing memoirs well are two different things. In this case I’ll stick to the fiction.

New Books waiting to be read: Latest Readings by Clive James and Allegorizings by Jan Morris. I have started Latest Readings and am enjoying it quite a bit however he does mention British authors who I am unfamiliar with and has discussions around them. I don’t mind this as I enjoy his writing. I will share a short blurb from inside dust jacket: In 2010, C James was diagnosed with terminal leukemia. Deciding that “if you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do.” James moved his library to his house in Cambridge, where he would “live, read and perhaps even write. ”

As he unpacks boxes of books to set up his library I enjoyed hearing him rediscovering favourites of the past and talking about his desire, or not, to reread them. I am only part way through this book so will certainly continue.

Allegorizing by Jan Morris- blurb from the cover: Soldier, journalist, historian, author of 40 books, Jan Morris led an extraordinary life, witnessing such seminal events as the first ascent of Everest, the Suez Canal Crisis, the Eichmann Trial, the Cuban revolution and so much more.

This book was not to be published until after her death, which occurred last year, age 94. She revisits key moments and talks about her travels across the USA, across Europe to trips she loved on trains and ships. She talks of experiencing the deaths of her old friends Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and also about the relationships in her own life.

I am really looking forward to reading this.

I could go on with a couple of more books I’m really wanting to get into but I will leave it now. The future looks promising. Beginning in February a shared reading will begin of Oscar Wilde at Fullers book shop. Book groups will begin there too. Fullers book shop are going to have socially distanced, vaccinated and masked book groups of 12 and also will be holding Zoom book club meetings for those who are worried about coming into the groups face to face. They are beginning poetry nights once a month and I have applied to be in one but numbers are limited so I may not be able to go. I am in a couple of their groups already and I know there are others who want to join in. (Can’t be selfish…..can I?)

I’ll leave you here as this is long enough. I will try to get back to you before another three or four weeks goes by. All the best and stay well. Get those jabs and wear those masks (whether you like it or not).

Stay Well

Labyrinths in More Ways than One

The path

I won’t talk about this wonderful book The Labyrinth by Amanda Lowry too much as there are conversations everywhere online about this Australian Miles Franklin winner. Except to say I really loved it and felt sad when I finished. I loved the characters with all their flaws. I liked the fact the author didn’t go overboard in describing them yet they were well enough drawn I could see them in my mind. I loved the pace of the book. I loved how there weren’t tied up solutions to all of the issues shared by the various characters. It is a book I would recommend to others and wouldn’t mind reading it again. It will be discussed in more depth at our February book group and I look forward to that.

But it did have me researching labyrinths. I hadn’t thought about them before. Not at all. I had to see how they differed from mazes. One can get lost in a maze and the object is to enter it, then find your way out. A labyrinth doesn’t have tall shrubs at the edges. It is a designed path, often made of rocks where one can meditatively walk and then arrive at the centre where meditation can take place. It is calm and peaceful. You would not get lost in it.

The Red Star marks the spot.

I wondered if Tasmania had any labyrinths one could visit so I googled it and found one in a council bush reserve about 45 minutes from where I live. I live in the Cascades area. Potters Hill is across the river and south.

I thought as my first project of undiscovered Tasmania for 2022 I would visit and get a photo. Yesterday was the day I chose. It was warm out with a cool breeze. I followed google directions in the car and it took me to the front door.

I parked in a pullover at the bottom of a hill and followed the sign. No motorised vehicles allowed. I walked 400n metres up hill along a tree lined path. I saw many rosellas flying amongst the trees. Upon reaching my destination a large field opened up and to the right there it lay. There were swooping swallows everywhere around the trees. I had a 360 degree view of the land and water around me. If you look at the map you can see the amount of water around this area. I hope you enjoy the photos.

The labyrinth (view towards Derwent River)

Who would have thought the first book of the year I explore turned out to be such an adventure. I have ideas of combining future books with photographic experiences if at all possible. It is something different that gives me thought. Enjoy the photos.

A bug’s view
A view in the opposite direction
Walking back to the car. A view of Kunanyi (Mt. Wellington)
What adventure will the next book bring?
Here’s to a new year of books and adventure!

Merry Christmas and All the Best for 2022!

Like everyone, everywhere, time has slipped past quickly and it has been a busy time. I’m having a technology break over the holidays and will be back in January with new books, plans and possibly a project, hahaha. Those that know me will chuckle at that.

We are having an Icelandic Christmas this year. Our family is all in North America and friends have been catching up during the month. We will have a quiet dinner on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day we have some presents for the neighbour kids and some new books for ourselves. We plan to read over the next few days.

Tasmania has opened up to the world as of the 15th Dec., and our Covid numbers, although not high, are increasing. Lovely to stay home and not run around with a mask all the time. Mr. Penguin has been enjoying the Australian author Chris Hammer and his crime books. I am reading the Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey for the beginning of February’s book group at Fullers bookshop. Looking forward to it. I am enjoying this book very much.

There are new books to open as of tomorrow, some fiction, some non fiction and a photography book.

By the way, if you love Penguin books there is a new reference book called The Penguin Modern Classics Book (just out!) edited by Henry Eliot. It lists every Penguin Modern classic ever published with illustrations of all of the covers and lists at the back of the books year by year. (Kaggsy- it is written for you). The index is extensive too. I love it!!!

The Armchair Traveller has me listening to a book of short stories by a Haitian author as Haiti is the random country selected for me. More on that later.

Keeping this brief, I wanted to say how much I appreicate my online, bookish friends and although I never get a chance to comment on all the blog posts I read, I enjoy them and I am always close by seeing what you’re up to. Let’s hope 2022 has all of us staying well and moving forward and finding much to enjoy in our world that really is full of beauty. Sometimes we just need to look for it!

I might add, this photo regarding the Find Fullers bus ad competition saw me winning a $50.00 book voucher to their 101 year old shop I love so much.

The Penguin saw the Fullers bus in town so rushed to it carrying his Fullers cloth bag.

Books our group read.Books we’ll read.

I went to our end of the year Book Club Christmas get together the other night. Fullers book shop have 9 book groups of 12 people each. The event probably had close to 50 readers who turned up for drinks and nibbles at a lovely hotel in the city. We had a raging rain storm during the event with loud thunder which Tasmania rarely hears, lightning flashing past the windows and many areas around Hobart were flooding.

We calmly ate, chatted and then we had a ten questions trivia quiz about the books we read in a power point presentation. Book vouchers went to the top three who answer$20.00 book voucher to the store. It is always welcome.

Readers also had a survey to fill out before our end of year event and first and foremost we wanted to know what books were the most popular with the group. At the end of the event we were given a list of books for next year up until June, 2022. We were all itching to get that list. I am sharing all of it here with you.

The Group’s Most Popular Reads of 2021

  1. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle
  3. Here We Are by Graham Swift
  4. A Perfect Spy by John LeCarré
  5. The Yield by Tara June Winch
  6. Collected Stories by Shirley Hazzard
  7. Gilead by Marilyn Robinson
  8. The Master and Margarita by Mikail Bulgakov
  9. City of Ghosts by Ben Creed

I laughed at this list as my favourite book was City of Ghosts, followed by the Graham Swift then the Master and Margarita. Boy, am I ever out of step.

The list for 2022 is as follows:

February: Amanda Lohrey, “The Labyrinth” (2021) – Miles Franklin Winner / Tasmania
The Labyrinth is a hypnotic story of guilt and denial, of the fraught relationship between parents and children, that is also a meditation on how art can both be ruthlessly destructive and restore sanity. It also shows Tasmanian author Amanda Lohrey to be at the peak of her powers.

March: Abdulrazak Gurnah,  “After Lives” (2020) – Nobel Prize Winner / Tanzania
In 2021, Abdulrazak Gurnah was awarded the world’s highest literary honour, the Nobel Prize, for “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.” His most recent novel, Afterlives, follows the interlinked stories of a group of friends in East Africa who live and work and fall in love in the shadow of a war that threatens to snatch them up and carry them away.

April: Niall Williams, “This Is Happiness” (2019) — Ireland
This Is Happiness is a tender portrait of a small Irish community – its idiosyncrasies and traditions, its paradoxes and kindnesses, its failures and triumphs – and a coming-of-age tale like no other. Luminous and lyrical, yet anchored by roots running deep into the earthy and everyday, it is about the power of stories: their invisible currents that run through all we do, writing and rewriting us, and the transforming light that they throw onto our world.

May: Louise Erdrich, “The Sentence” (2021) – Indigenous / Native AmericanLouise Erdrich, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author (and bookshop owner), is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant Native American writers today. In The Sentence, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted by the store’s most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls’ Day, but she simply won’t leave the store. In this stunning and timely novel, Erdrich creates a wickedly funny ghost story, a tale of passion, of a complex marriage, and of a woman’s relentless errors, and a bitter pandemic year many of us will never forget.

June: Damon Galgut, “The Promise” (2021) – Booker Prize Winner / South Africa

The winner of this year’s Booker Prize, The Promise is a taut and menacing novel that charts the crash and burn of an Afrikaans family, the Swarts. Punctuated by funerals that bring the ever-diminishing family together, each of the four parts opens with a death and a new decade. 
The characterisations are razor sharp, the dialogue dramatic, the action gripping. As we traverse the decades, accomplished author Damon Galgut interweaves the story of a disappointed nation from apartheid to Jacob Zuma.

July: Laura Jean McKay, “The Animals in That Country” (2020) – Arthur C. Clarke Winner / Science Fiction / Australia
As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed grandmother Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean’s infected son, Lee. Bold, exhilarating, and wholly original, The Animals in That Country asks what would happen, for better or worse, if we finally understood what animals were saying.

August (?): Sei Shonagon, “The Pillow Book” (1002) — Classic / Japan / Translation (depending if enough copies can be acquired).

Our Classic read of the year is The Pillow Book, a fascinating, detailed account of Japanese court life in the eleventh century written by a lady of the court at the height of Heian culture. Written at the same time as The Tale of Genji, this book enthralls with its lively gossip, witty observations, and subtle impressions of a vanished world.

Note the penguin is holding a Fullers shopping bag too.
We are really looking forward to the new books.

In a final note, Fullers bookshop has another competition going. They have a large advertisement on the side of one metro bus that drives around Hobart. If you see it, snap a photo of it, send it in to them and each week they award a $50.00 gift voucher to the lucky winner. I spotted it this past week on my way to the gym. Snapped a photo, then photoshopped the beloved Penguin onto it and off it win. Here’s hoping!

Finally……

A very happy Ollie.

Windows are open and the sun is shining. The eastern half of Australia has just been inundated with rain the past few weeks. And like everyone else I keep saying, Can you believe it is the end of the year already? Okay so getting on with it.

Books: I finished the audible book The Happiest Refugee by Anh Doh that is a biography that spans from his treacherous arrival into Australia as a small child aboard a leaky boat, attacked by pirates, hunger and all kinds of danger. It is amazing they actually made it thanks to a German ship that picked them up. He details his family’s activities, the highs and lows of life in Sydney and he really does have an indomitable spirit. He is very successful as an artist and comedian and I enjoy his tv series as he paints a portrait of his featured guests while talking to them. The guest is then presented with the final portrait at the end of the program. Anh’s Brush With Fame featured on the ABC (Australia).

I have also visited my Lonely Planet Armchair Traveller book of writings and music from the countries of the world and Random.org picked Peru for me a couple of weeks back. I downloaded a book of short stories by Peruvian author Julio Ramon Ribeyro. The book is titled Marginal Voices: Selected Stories. I am loving these stories and his writing is just brilliant. It is narrated by Kenneth Lee, part of the Texas Pan American series, University of Texas Press 1993. Translated by Dianne Douglas.

Amazon describes the book as:

Julio Ramón Ribeyro has been widely acclaimed as Peru’s master storyteller. Until now, however, few of his stories have been translated into English. This volume brings together fifteen stories written during the period 1952-1975, which were collected in the three volumes of La palabra del mudo. Ribeyro’s stories treat the social problems brought about by urban expansion, including poverty, racial and sexual discrimination, class struggles, alienation, and violence. At the same time, elements of the fantastic playfully interrupt some of the stories. More importantly, Ribeyro’s characters are culturally diverse, yet they share a common destiny—a life nourished by illusions that falls short of their expectations and invariably leads to solitude. As the characters become swept up in circumstances beyond their understanding, Ribeyro shows that the only freedom or dignity left them comes from their own imaginations.

I am enjoying these stories very much. The writing is excellent and the characters very well defined. I have also been listening to the music listed on the page of the Lonely Planet book through Amazon Music or Spotify. It is just wonderful to be able to stream music from other countries so easily. Artists: Eva Ayllon, Arturo Cavero, Bareto and Los Mirlos to name a few. I have decided to use Audible for the books I read suggested by the Lonely Planet Armchair Explorer. I can stream the book at nighttime or while driving. The same goes for the music. I am really enjoying this project and using my audible credits are useful and I also have time to read my other copies of book books.

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman- Our shared reading group finished this book last night. We applauded the end of it. Then we had a round of Vodka shots and our facilitator Ebi did a Russian phrase for Salud. We also enjoyed a table of black bread, caviar, sausages, pickled onions, blinis that someone made with smoked salmon and sour cream. A few of the members that had Ubers coming later stayed on to enjoy their shots of vodka. The vodka was packaged in a beautiful carved glass bottle with lovely foil labeling and made in St Petersburg. It was such a fun evening. Now we are on break to read other books over our summer. New events will begin at Fullers in February.

One more project I am “diving into- as the popular trend of the moment”….is a photography project I am just getting off the ground inspired by the book launched at Fullers Undiscovered Tasmania by Rochelle and Walter Dare last week. They are a couple with a young daughter who explore the hidden areas of Tasmania and put their photos up on Instagram. Instagram name is “LetsGoDare”. They were approached by someone who wanted them to turn it into a book and to make a long story short, that is what they did. None of the iconic tourist areas of Tasmania are presented but instead they visit small country towns, wildlife areas and beaches that are out of the way.

I’ve been wanting to do some photography away from the iconic areas that everyone sees when googling Tasmania and I have bitten the proverbial bullet.

I bought a Tasmanian map and a book of camping areas and places to see around those areas and am starting to explore in the southern part of the state. I have decided I will share this project on this blog but in separate posts called Exploring Tasmania or something similar. Have not decided on that title yet. I have quite a bit of bookish activity on during the year so will keep books separate from photography. That way if you’re not interested in both fields of interests you can ignore those posts.

Another area of interest I want to do in 2020 is a new bookish feature called From My Shelves or something similar. Still thinking. I have quite a few unusual books of interest on my shelf, some read, some not. I thought I’d feature a specific book from my shelf just to share it with readers. I have books on the classics, cookbooks, photography books, reference books, etc and things I inadvertently come across here and there. I know how much I like to see a book displayed. It will be more like walking through a bookshop, picking up the book and thinking….I wonder what this is about. No review of the actual story or characters, just a review or display of the book.

Tasmania

In summary for 2022 you can look for: Photography with the Penguin. The Penguin shares books on our shelves. Bookish activities and short synopsis or reviews and Lonely Planet Armchair books from other countries. I think the Penguin will need to have some new outfits made.

I’m getting a jump on 2022 as no doubt others will be doing soon and I do look forward to seeing what you will all get up to in our new year. Stay well. Get vaccinated.

Sunday 21 November, 2021

I have just begun reading this book.

Reading groups, new books, nuisance appointments and photography updates.

I know I shouldn’t say “How fast is this year going?” But now Christmas and 2022 are in sight it is hard not to think this. For not travelling anywhere it seems quite a bit has happened. Just not things we always chose.

First off family and pets are all fine. Moving right along on this turbulent river we call Life.

Lots of books have come along and I look forward to summer months without so many commitments and some reading outdoors. My favourite places to read are in a bath or outdoors in a lounge chair surrounded by Ollie and Peanut.

First off, the Russian book, Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman will probably wrap up in one more week. It has been the most interesting time. Tomorrow night we have a guest lecturer from the University in the department of philosophy visiting the group and I imagine we’ll be delving into good and evil of what happens in war. What is evil for one group appears to be good for the other. Is it innate? Do we chase after it? How do these atrocities develop between people who were once friends because of war? I’m not sure about the subject matter but Life and Fate sure gives one plenty to think of. These sessions have become very similar to post graduate tutorials and I really thrive on them. Next year we are hoping to share reading of possibly a Dickens book. We all need a bit of lighter reading.

The book group is finishing up and the 90 members of the Fullers book shop readng groups are invited to an end of year Christmas get together of drinks, book chat and nibbles the first week of December in a lovely local hotel. Fullers is putting this on for us. A chance to meet other group members and there may be a quiz over the books we read this year. Should be fun.

I had a birthday this past week and was given several book vouchers for the day. As well as chocolate and a jig saw puzzle that might be a bit tricky. It was a good week and my vouchers have already been cashed in. Here is the lovely book haul that waits for summer calm.

Gifted by a friend. Looking forward to this.

I have had na two month break from photography and all things linked to it. The you tube instructional videos, the post editing, taking photos of the same old things all the time. Just a full stop. However the break worked and I look forward to getting into it again. This coming week I am attending a Fullers book launch of a book that highlights the off beaten areas of Tasmania to visit. When living on a small, beautiful island that attracts tourists from all over the world, the same geographic places are advertised time and time again. Cradle Mountain, Port Arthur, the west coast activities of Gordon River cruise in Strahan and the wineries everywhere along the east coast. For a photographer it seems all the photographers are taking photos of the same thing. Yes they are beautiful but moss covered trees, the red rocks of Binalong Bay, the myriad of waterfalls. I need some different and more unusual places to visit so that will be my photography goal for next year. Stay tuned.

Atmospheric nocturnal walks through major cities of the world.

The good thing about this year ending is all of the various health appointments Mr. Penguin and I seem to spend time on. Often scheduled in the middle of the day they seem to go on and on and just bust the days in half. Also the five weeks of solid rain we’ve been having, with even one day of snow last week has been beyond ridiculous. I think we can see summer approaching at the end of this cloudy, dreary tunnel and in good health, with good eyes, good teeth, good feet (haha), we should begin to embrace a more interesting life. We can live in h0pe.

Well known poetry and prose to read aloud for each week of the year with information about the author.
Edited by Robert MacFarlane who’s choices I will really enjoy. I enjoy anything he is involved in.
Young, dissatisfied woman runs around Britain over 301 days, facing her fears and learning new skills.
Australian book of 49 essays that came out of the 10 year Conversations project attended by 100 world wide journalists. I attended the launch of this book last week and it really is fascinating. Extremely varied topics
I’m reading 10 to 15 pages of this every morning. It is all abou
t a scientist who travels the world discovering and writing about fungi. I know, sounds dry, but is incredibly interesting and he is a very good writer. Currently in Italy looking for truffles with a couple of experienced truffle hunters and their dog. Really enjoying it.

Well the bookish photos and as it is the time of year people begin looking forward, I look forward to hearing what plans others have for 2022!!

Stay well and all the best, until next time.

“Some words are more important than others- I learned this, growing up in the Scriptorium.” from the Dictionary of Lost Words. P Williams

A Week of Mish-Mash

This week has been insanely busy with all kinds of stuff. One of those weeks when you have no time to even chase your tail.

Monday: Hit the gym and am pleased to know with a year’s weight training my almost 72 year old body is registering 56 on their assessments. Hard yakka and all that.

That night we had our shared reading at Fullers book store continuing Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman. This is probably the most intense and wonderfully written book I have ever encountered in my life. I know, a bit statement but I can’t recommend it enough especially if you’re interested in World War II. We are now up to page 600 by next Monday. We read about 60 or 70 pages at home and 30 – 35 pages at the shared reading. This past Monday was absolutely harrowing as our experience led us on the walk to the “baths” at Auschwitz where we were happy to wash and scrub and strip off the old cloths after the weeks of hardship and starvation only to watch the older people take responsibility for young children who were alone and then realise the sweetened smell was gas. At the end of the reading we all looked at each other and felt the silence in the room. No one spoke.

Moving on to happier times….. Tuesday. While the rest of Australia got hyped over the Melbourne Cup horse race of which I abhor (at least this year no horses died after the past six or seven years a horse died each time). I wonder how those who gambled off money they could ill afford told their families that night. I’m sure you get my point but of course fashion ruled and I just went and got my hair taken care of. In jeans, no high fashion for me.

That night we had our seniors group meeting where our guest speaker was a woman who presented their photos of a bicycle their family of spouse and four children aged 7 to 11 took from western France to Budapest, camping along the way. A wonderful experience for those children and she was an enthusiastic speaker. We all enjoyed their experience of riding a 3000 miles bike trail. Australia….take note. I talked to her afterwards and learned she lives about one km up the road from us. Who knew?

Wednesday, I took this 56 year old body (ahem😳) back to the gym and then had to run up for a quick doctor appointment (just routine- no worries) then took the bus up to South Hobart and hopped off to do a couple of errands in the 40 minutes I had before the next bus came along. I went into a charity shop attached to a local church and found a wonderful succulent plant I’d not seen.

Stock Photo. Not mine.

Spring is a season for me where I gather plants that catch my eye and enthusiastically plant them only to say, “You now have a home so thrive on your own, you are now released to the wild. ” Surprisingly most of them survive if the garden guy doesn’t accidentally take his whipper snipper through them. I treat them like wildlife.

Wednesday night it was off to the Book Group where we discussed Klara and the Sun. What fun it was. The first question asked was, “Is it science fiction?” We didn’t really think so as the story is about artificial intelligence in the life of an artificial friend for a sickly girl who had been ‘lifted’ and surviving the procedure, although extremely unwell was companioned by her AF (artificial friend). Kazuo Ishiguro doesn’t give you all the details, but he does scatter clues. The book is told in the first person of the AF and readers became quite attached to her. Does the girl Josie survive her lifting procedure? We are led to believe all is well as we travel through this book but the ending is very ambiguous and the discussion the 10 of us was wild and hilarious. All kinds of issues around robots, artificial intelligence and “oblongs” (that are the rectangular screens the children all use for their schooling) arose. It is a fun book we thought but the social issues it raised were spotted everywhere. The environment, social media, loneliness in the community, spirituality. I would recommend the book if you want an easy read that has a lot in it. It may not be to everyone’s taste but hey, what book is?

Thursday I thought I’d get a reprieve from the headless chicken routine but instead we took our five year old cat, Grizzy to the vet for his follow up blood work as his liver is giving off funny blood readings. (I’m remind pet owners they seriously may want to consider pet insurance- wouldn’t be without it).

That over and done I wandered into town to pick up my new glasses that are supposed to help me see again from my left eye. However I had a really dodgy optometrist of which is a long story I won’t go into, but think ageism (“Your left eye can’t read the eye chart but your right eye will eventually compensate”) and Yes, we don’t need to check to see if you can read with only one eye. You don’t need glasses as you have “good middle vision”. Doesn’t matter I can’t read the eye chart with my left eye or road signs or read a book. The ophthalmic surgeon who is renown told me after a year’s work on that eye including surgery, “Now is the time to get glasses- off you go”. I was excited and this numbskull burst my bubble. It boiled down to “women who are retired don’t really need great vision, what do you use it for dear?”

Artist unknown as I could not locate. Let me know if yours.

I might add I made him order glasses anyway, which showed me his little temper tantrum side, went home, slept on it, then documented the whole episode (I’m good at that) and sent it off to the company he is employed by and the Optometry board of Tasmania. You don’t mess with this Old Age Woman. I kept thinking how many older, unassertive women have been his victim and left the office being told “You don’t need glasses dear, your other eye will fill in for it.” Livid does not describe my mood.

I picked up the glasses and of course they aren’t completely right and after a lovely conversation with this middle age man’s manager I’ve been referred to a competent optometrist who will redo all the tests again. Looking forward to seeng how that goes. OK….as if older pe ople don’t have enough medical issues at times.

However last night my friend and I went to a Fullers Book Launch event of a Western Australian author from Perth named Alan Carter and the book is Crocodile Tears. It is the final in a five book series (but can be read stand alone) of a detective who becomes involved in bodies, spies, Timor-Leste and the true story of Australian government spying on them in the Howard years (2004) to be exact. This book has everything. The author had a great sense of humour. The room was full of Fullers supporters and we all enjoyed the evening very much. Not sure I’ll get to this book but I sure would like to. Who knows when the mood and interest level change and you pick up books you’d not have predicted interest in.

Then when that finished at 6:30, my friend and I sat in the hotel lounge for 20 minutes and chatted to another couple who had also attended the event. They were having a drink before going off to dinner. We chatted about what a horrible prime minister we have and what an embarrassment he is to our country and the sooner he is gone, the better. You know, the type of conversation that seems to be prevalent in the circles I roam, haha).

Then we walked up to the Playhouse Theatre and watched Marta Dusseldorp and Essie Davis in a excellent, brilliant, wonderful, engaging, heart wrenching, (need I say more?) play The Maids by Jean Genet. Oh so good.

Now as I write on a rain free, sunny Friday morning my hectic week is about to end as this afternoon our friend’s memorial is being held at the Sandy Bay Yacht club where hopefully cheery stories and food and drink will be served. Drinks being the operative word. This has been a long event and quite sad. We’ve had her partner up twice for a meal in the past two weeks and hopefully the support of his friends will get him through this.

What’s on for the weekend? N O T H I N G hopefully. Sit on the porch with my Russian novel to get the 60 pages completed. Enjoy Ollie and Peanut’s company. Ollie now believe the lounge chair is for him as it makes him taller (all the better to keep an eye on the neighbourhood and get cuddles at the same time).

I haven’t decided what book to dive into outside of the Russian book. I did finish the audio book of Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink, an English author who loves books. Her experiences of working as a book seller at Harrods Dept store in London and Waterstones as they just opened was fun to hear about. Other than that is a list of books she calls out with a quick synopsis around her quick retelling of her life, marriage and the love for her family. It is a very light, enjoyable night time listening and car book. I finished it quickly as it is only around 4 or 5 hours long.

I then began Anh Do’s book The Happiest Refugee. He is a Vietnamese born Australian of wonderful talent and personality. We have seen him on stage previously in Hobart at the Theatre Royal, watch his ABC program of interviewing and painting portraits of his guests and generally admire him. One of the loveliest people one would ever come across.

Okay, now this monstrous missive has finished I’ll give you a rest, if anyone is still out there reading this. The Penguin moves on once again.

Have a happy time as much as possible, stand up for yourself, support your fellow man and read!

Stay well.

The Week of 18th October

Photo from ABC website.

This past week was full of highs and lows. We were in lockdown over the weekend of 16, 17, 18th October so didn’t do a lot. On Wednesday I happily took the bus into the gym to do the weight training. We had to wear a mask outside of our house or face a $1000 fine until the Friday. Working out at the gym (as weight training is not considered intensive) with a mask is not anything I enjoy so I skipped my second session Friday.

Lilacs are my favourite plant.

I stayed home and read quite a bit during the week. On Tuesday I had to go to the funeral of one of our dearest friends of 25 years who passed away in her sleep after being ill for sometime. When people or pets I care about die, I generally plant something in the garden that reminds me of them. She loved lilacs and my lilac tree hasn’t bloomed early this spring due to the heavy rains and frost we had this year so I just missed giving her a bunch of blossoms as I have done every year. So today I went lilac shopping and found a very nice more mature purple lilac bush to plant in the yard next to mine. I will do that on Tuesday coming up.

I was to have attended a photo club excursion today (Sunday 24th) but as it has been pouring rain it was cancelled. I was going stir crazy as I’ve been in quite a bit due to rain. We have also been dealing with very muddy dog paws now for two weeks. I am over the incessant rain we’ve been getting. Anyway, I went to the garden shop which is always fun and looked over everything.

The Austrian produced puzzle I found at the tip shop.

I have been reading a lot of books on journaling and dipping into books on illustrations and sketching etc . I love journals that people do where they draw what they see as they travel around or they collect art pictures, or whatever else interests them. So today I thought I’d drop into the tip shop and see if they had any old postcards, or things that look vintage or arty for my own big table journal where I scribble and paste pictures of things that catch my eye from magazines, events, etc.

I found art work by this French artist who lives in Paris. Murial Kerba

I found several little art papers, postcards and even a little puzzle (that had one piece missing 🤨 when I put it together and glued it in the book. However the puzzle came in a tiny box, had around 50 pieces ? Maybe not that many and the company that produced it is in Austria. Now speaking of Austria……

This postcard was one I picked up to. Tasmanian artist Curmilla.

I have been slowly reading the Austrian novel The Hotel Years by Joseph Roth as he was an Austrian author (going back to my previous Lonely Planet book post) who was listed in the book. It is very slow going. The book has many chapters in it of two or three pages. The time frame so far has been the 1920s and he jumps around from place to place beginning in the Baltic States and Germany as he travels between hotels. One chapter might be an experience within a hotel. The next might be telling a history of a village he is staying in. Sometimes it is a description of a market or the people he visits. Sometimes it is about the food he eats. I find it isn’t really a book to read straight through so I tend to read about five or six chapters then move on to something else. He is a very good writer. I just wish the chapters wouldn’t jump around so much as he travels. He was in northwestern Germany then the next chapter he had gone south. Then he was in western Poland, then back to Germany, then he was in northwestern Spain, back to Austria and now I am about 40% through it he is in the USSR. I take the episodes with a grain of salt and just concentrate on the content of the place he is actually visiting.

I finished Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. Klara is an artificial friend to a young sickly teen. It is a book of science fiction and the relationships between her and family members. It is quite believable however quick a read it is. I enjoyed it but was happy to be done with it. Our book group will discuss it in a couple of weeks. I found parts of the dialogue a bit clunky towards the end. I am not sure this is his best book. I have Remains of the Day to read soon as everyone tells me how wonderful that one is though very different to Klara.

I have listened to six of nine hours of Derva Murphy’s Full Tilt bike trip book. Really enjoying it but it is my ‘car’ book. I only listen to it when driving and with all the rain, lockdown and mask wearing I have tended to not be in the car. However I did get a good chunk of it listened to today as I drove around doing errands.

On Tuesday night Fullers held an event with Marta Dusseldorp and her husband Ben Winspear who are doing Jean Genet’s play the Maids beginning next week. A friend and I will be attending that. I have seen the Maids before with Cate Blanchett and Elizabeth Debicki in Sydney several years ago and really enjoyed it. I really like Marta Dusseldorp. Some of you will know her from the series: Jack Irish, A Place To Call Home, Stateless, Blackjack and Janet King, most of which I have seen.

She is now living in southern Tasmania and has several projects lined up. They will be producing a film of Favel Parrett’s book Past the Shadows hopefully in two years time. The setting of that book is in Tasmania and our book club read it several years ago when it came out. Marta Dusseldorp and her actor/director husband Ben Winspear are heading up projects here. I had a lovely chat to her and we talked about the refugee work she does with UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). Topics discussed during the hour long event were her work with this organisation and her visits to Lebanon, Syria and Uganda. She discussed the trauma of Manus Island too. She has also done quite a bit of feminist work and the two books she recommended people read, when asked by an audience member the books she values were Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things. She believes that is one of the most important feminist works to come out of Australia ever. She also talked about her conversations with Behrouz Boochani and his book No Friend But the Mountains. It was a very lively event with 50 people in attendance.

Fullers got permission from Health Officials that presenters could take their mask off once they began talking but it would have been a bit rude to snap photos once they started. I was in the front row.

As the event was to discuss the Maids by Jean Genet there was a lot of information of his life and the hardships he faced. All in all a very good night.

Well this post is getting long and I wish to put up some photos so will move along here. What a very active and diverse week it has been. I look forward to this coming week being a bit quieter but who knows. Rain continues to be predicted throughout the week so anyone of us might go nuts. Bring on summer.

Summer Please.

Lonely Planet’s Armchair Explorer

I thought I should pop out a post today as southern Tasmania is in a three day lockdown due to a “Covidiot” with Delta Covid escaped hotel quarantine coming from New South Wales then through Melbourne airport (sorry Lisa) and frolicked around our neck of the woods for a day before being arrested. We are fortunate though as so far our lockdown is only three days. Victoria (Melbourne) is just coming out of a 250 day lockdown. They have done it tough.

I have been thinking of reading projects for 2022. Haha, that makes me laugh as I am not one to ever finish reading projects though I generally get a good start on them. So I do get something out of them.

I had a good look at what I really enjoy reading. My own picks, not the picks of book groups, other challenges that may or may not be what I like. One day while lurking around all the new books at Fullers (my personal bookshop😁), I came across this book. The complete title is: Lonely Planet’s Armchair Explorer Discover the Best Music, Film and Literature from Around the World.

The book is divided into continents beginning with Europe then going to South America, North America, Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Middle East before hitting the index at page 282. (No idea why left off Antarctica- there must be something though no permanent residents.)

Each page is then a country from one of those continents. There are many colourful photos too of one or two iconic images from each country. Of course the book is not conclusive in any of its areas but it is a fun ‘taster’.

Sitting down recently on a very rainy day, of which we have had days and days of, I opened this book to explore it more carefully. The first country I came to was Austria. Of course it would be alphabetical.

The layout of the book is two pages as the book lies flat. The first page left column is a Reading List of five authors from Austria. They mention Joseph Roth, Robert Musli, Stefan Zweig, Elfriede Jelinek and Christoph Ramsay here.

Column two of the left hand page is the Watch List. It lists the films Sissi, The South of Music, Funny Games, Museum Hours and the Dreamed Ones.

The right hand page, left column has a lovely colour photograph of Hundertwasser House, displaying the architecture. Then there are a few notations alongside of some trivial facts about Australia related to the final column on the right of the Playlist. The Playlist consists of the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, music by Joseph Haydn, Falco, Christina Stürmer, Schönberg, Edenbridge (Heavy Metal), Schlager, some Stelar (Electric Swing) and Kruder and Dorfmeister (Electronica).

For my project (sorry, I can’t say that without laughing) I am going to pick one selection from each column to enjoy. That is, if I can find it. The Reading list and Playlist are easy to access between the library, cheap kindle books and Spotify or Amazon Music. The films might be trickier to find but I did have a look around and did find one of them on Vimeo I think it was. Unfortunately some of the streaming services only have the more arty films in their libraries in the USA or Europe which Australia is not privy to.

I did think of going through this book from beginning to end. But as I probably won’t get all the way through it I think I’ll just choose a page randomly with random.org and see how I go. The books and music interest me much more than the films so if I am unable to find a film that will be ok. But I will look.

The rest of this week has not gone so well as a long time friend of ours passed away suddenly so next week has us attending her funeral, assuming our lockdown ends Monday evening. We continued to read Life and Fate at our shared reading. We are up to page 400 now. Such a wonderful book.

I am continuing to read Klara and the Sun for November book group which I will finish soon. I am almost finished with the audio version of Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy and I finished the crime book I was reading. The Alex Cross series number 24 by James Patterson. The only James Patterson book I have ever read. I am attached to the detective’s family in this series and began the series in 1993. All of us need popcorn books from time to time.

On that note I will move along here. The sun is shining which is such a treat after two weeks of rain. Now if the temperature would only jump up about 5 degrees more I’ll be happy. Bring on summer. I hope all of you are well.

Stopping to take a breath…

The week is off to a good start so far. Although our shared reading group of our big Russian novel, Life and Fate was put off another week due to illness of our facilitator. We were assigned more pages to read in preparation for next week. We will soon be approaching the page 300 mark of this 900+ chunkster.

I have some other books on the go as well. I am reading just some light crime novels in the evenings as the Russian book is too much to read late at night. I have also begun the book by Cherie Jones, How the One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House.

The Good Reads blurb states:

A debut novel in the tradition of Zadie Smith and Marlon James, from a brilliant Caribbean writer, set in Barbados, about four people each desperate to escape their legacy of violence in a so-called “paradise.”

In Baxter Beach, Barbados, moneyed ex-pats clash with the locals who often end up serving them: braiding their hair, minding their children, and selling them drugs. Lala lives on the beach with her husband, Adan, a petty criminal with endless charisma whose thwarted burglary of one of the Baxter Beach mansions sets off a chain of events with terrible consequences. A gunshot no one was meant to witness. A new mother whose baby is found lifeless on the beach. A woman torn between two worlds and incapacitated by grief. And two men driven by desperation and greed who attempt a crime that will risk their freedom — and their lives.

Cherie Jones is an award-winning author from Barbados. Her debut novel How the One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House has been critically acclaimed by several publications including the The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post . Cherie’s past publication credits include PANK, The Feminist Wire and Eclectica. She is a past fellowship awardee of the Vermont Studio Centre and a recipient of the Archie Markham Award and A.M. Heath Prize from Sheffield Hallam University (UK).

It doesn’t take long to get into this book that was short listed for the Women’s Prize for fiction. I had to settle into the dialect of the characters but that didn’t take long. I don’t think this book will be a walk in the park but so far I’m enjoying the diversity of it from other books on my shelf at the moment.

I have also done a book shelf cull this week, as many of the books I have finished or they are ones I picked up in thrift shops and probably won’t get too as moods change over time related to what we like to read.

I have a cute photo that Kerri, my photography friend from the Cradle Mountain photography drew for my blog. She draws characters and is quite talented. She sent this photo to me after she learned about my blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. She even matched the clothes of the Penguin and the Bear to what we wore at Cradle Mountain as we hiked around the rainy terrain taking photos. I was very touched by it.

Today I’m keeping it short and sweet so that’s it for now.