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.

Focus on Dervla Murphy

How I admire this woman. Really…….admire……her.

Dervla Murphy is no doubt familiar to anyone who reads a lot. However if one reads a great deal of travel writing she is one of the very best.

I have heard of her for years. Maybe even read one of her books years ago but not sure. Maybe I just think I have read her as I have read a lot of travel writing in my life.

Another of her books

I downloaded this book as an Audible last week as I was becoming tired of books about books, readers on trains, readers in libraries and it all became a bit of a melting pot that seemed to wear thin as the quality of some of these books were less than ideal.

I have always enjoyed Travel writing or diaries the most as an audible format. I have come to the conclusion unless one sits right down and listens or is confined to a space, novels seem to be harder to follow as an audible text. That could be me though as I do get distracted much more with audible anything than written words.

So on to Dervla. I am listening to her 1965 published book Full Tilt. She buys a bicycle and names it Rozinante (Ros for short) after Don Quixote’s horse. She is Irish and living in Ireland. In 1963 she decides to set off riding Ros from Ireland to India going eastwards across Europe.

Very enjoyable

In 1963 single women didn’t do things like this. No mobile phones, no internet, no money to speak of.

Dervla Murphy grew up poor. She left school at age 14 to care for her disabled mother. At the age of 10 her parents gave her a second hand bicycle and her grandfather sent her a second hand atlas of the world (Wikipedia).

And another of her books

She later stated in life she was never afraid of her trips though she did have some pretty harrowing experience. Over the years she was attacked by wolves in the former Yugoslavia, (this happens in Full Tilt and she pulls her pistol out of her pocket and shoots one, killing it and scaring the other two away); threatened by soldiers in Ethiopia, and robbed in Siberia. In Full Tilt she awakes one night in her small accommodation and finds a very large muslim man uncovering her in bed and as he climbs in beside her, again she pulls her pistol from under her pillow and shoots into the ceiling and watches him leave the room very quickly.

She had her critics in life. She had a child in 1968 and chose to raise her daughter alone. This was not an acceptable practice in Ireland. She made enough money from her writing she didn’t care and she her daughter travelled more as her daughter aged.

And another

She was also quite political regarding activities in Ireland, women’s rights and regarding the plight of refugees.

Evidently she wrote an autobiographical book called Wheels Within Wheels in 1979 and I will certainly be following up with that one if I can find it.

The guardian featured her towards her later years once she decided to give up travel writing. She is celebrating her 90th birthday next month at the end of November. What an incredible life she has had. The link to the Guardian article is here.

And yet one more…

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Other news in Tasmania? Not much. Spring has arrived with a bit of fanfare. Lots of wind and rain. More rain expected in the next few days. Enough to cause floods I understand. The temperatures are still chilly with bits of sun here and there but not enough to get used to. So doing a lot of reading and have continued with walking and exercise.

We woke up not this last week but it only lasted an hour or so.

I have had some good news on the photography front but will discuss that later. An excursion, a competition win I hadn’t expected, a new illustration of the Penguin and a friend from a fellow photography friend. Will share that in the next post.

Will consider renting out for a weekend.

Dogs are fine but Ollie wants to go out every ten minutes to see if the sun is out and he can lie next to his fence and warm himself in the sun. He comes back to the house ten minutes later and bangs on the door to come in. He loves lying outdoors in the sun but hates the cold grass. Not a weather tolerant dog at all. Peanut seems more outdoorsy than Ollie at times. She never cares how muddy she gets and I recently submitted a photo of her to the Sydney Morning Herald Weekend magazine. They have a type of good news gallery and their email about the article happened to arrive in my inbox at the time I was looking at a photo of Peanut with mud on her face. The article was saying to people send in any photos or other items that are ‘feel good’ items. So I popped Peanut’s photo in and received an email back a couple of days later they will definitely put it in their gallery. The journalist thought it was cute so I will finish on that note.

Until next time…….stay well and keep smiling even if you do have to grit your teeth!!

A Bit of Delightfulness

There are many wombats at Cradle Mountain. Wombats have a hard shell on their rear so when in their burrows they can raise up and crush a predator if needed. They also have a pouch that faces backwards.

I edited a few more photographs from the Cradle Mountain Trip. I have a really cute dogs photo that makes me laugh and I hope you will chuckle a bit.

I have a few books to briefly write about and just some natter going on in my head. So let’s get started.

We’ll talk about a couple of books first

I am now 99 pages into Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman for the Fullers Bookshop shared reading. We read some of it in the reading group on Monday. Our facilitator, Ebi is a German man who really studied this book for more than a year and knows his Russian/German history inside out. We stopped several times to discuss features of the story or to hear some more history.

Then we had to read another section at home as it is such a large book and we have 12 weeks to finish it. I am really enjoying this Russian novel about the war between the Russians and Germans. I might add we aren’t doing too bad either with the Russian names either.

I have given up on the Shirley Hazard Collected short stories because I don’t have the patience for them. She is an excellent writer and her characters are developed well and her locations are descriptive. I do like the writing and will read other novels by her. However these stories were written in the 1950s for the most part and with all that goes on socially around women’s issues (and many other issues) in Australia, I am having difficulty going back to the time in a book at the moment.

Most of the stories have been about men lusting for younger women, boring descriptions of their wives, unrequited love. The entire book is a description of disappointment (which she does very well) but against the suffering endured in the Russian book I just want them to all go away. I made a small chart of the type of men and women described in the 40% of the book I did read.

I have been reading about the short listed Booker nominees this week too. Jason Steger who is Literary Editor for the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald has a newsletter that he sends each Friday. This week’s newsletter is about all of the problems with the Booker Prize, the criticism, the rules. I found it very interesting.

As I can’t attach this newsletter I will send it to anyone as an email to anyone who would like to read it. Email me at: travellinpenguin at gmail dot com.

So speaking of the Booker shortlisted books, you can find them online with google, (Booker shortlist 2021). I won’t go into the shortlist today though there are a few I’d like to read. I did start with Patricia Lockwood’s book No-one is Talking About This. It is very much stream of consciousness around the world of Twitter. As I don’t use Twitter and have never been interested in it I found the book bored me to tears. I actually downloaded the Kindle version. As I didn’t care for her book Priestdaddy that we read for book group a year or so ago. I didn’t want to spend a lot on this one. I read 35 to 40% of it then threw it down in frustration. I really couldn’t bear it. I looked up the reviews on Good Reads and found about 50/50 between ‘love it’ and ‘hate it’. I think I am too old for it. I’m sure she’ll find her audience who praise it but it won’t come from here. I was actually within the time period I could return it to Amazon. As I never return things to Amazon they allowed a refund which I happily accepted.

In the meantime I heard a podcast about Anthony Bourdain and as I’ve not read him before I downloaded his older book Kitchen Confidential. I began that last night and am really enjoying it. It is biographical as well as discussing the restaurant business, warts and all. The two American men on the podcast I was listening to, There Will Be Books, gave a good description of what they enjoyed about the book and it isn’t all peaches and cream when it comes to criticising the chef or wait staff. You have been warned. Bourdain has another book out recently, put together by others since his death and Good Reads reviewers pan it as an overrated grab for money on his name so I wasn’t interested. Kind of what happened to Harper Lee’s last book published after her death.

My copy of Womankind magazine arrived this week. It features the Arab world this month and I look forward to delving into it. Womankind is published bi-monthly.

That’s it on books for the moment.

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Now on to photography. I have a few other photos I edited from Cradle Mountain that showcases our wonderful wilderness areas in Tasmania.

Enjoy the photos. I was quite happy with them.

Philosopher Falls- Warratah, Tasmania
Philosopher Fall area
The wilderness area is full of these ferns. So green and beautiful.
This photo was taken by Kerri Huang, who gave me permission to post. She was a fellow
member of our tour at Philosopher Falls.
It is a truly beautiful area and there may be an elf or a hobbit who lives here. Just wonderful.

Next I have a wonderful snippet about Peanut and Ollie. I take the bus into town two or three times a week to go to the gym or run errands. Mr Penguin is often off to his gym and doing his errands so the dogs are home. As they play hard in the mornings they are ready for a sleep in the afternoon. They curl up on the bed that is under the window in our front room that is on the second story above our garage. Great views all around.

They have figured out one of us is often on the bus. The bus goes by on weekdays every 30 to 40 minutes. When they hear it, they pop up from their bed, look out the window and watch for a few minutes to see if we come walking up the drive. If not I assume they go back to sleep. If we are on it, they follow with their little faces and greet us enthusiastically at the door. No-one is ever happier to see us than our dogs. I snapped this photo with my phone last week as I walked up the driveway.

Are you on this bus?

Well, that is about all that happened this week. I look forward to seeing what others are doing with their time and their reading.

Cradle Mountain Part I

Well, I survived the Cradle Mountain photography instructional tour. We had lots of fun and our guide, Luke O’Brien did a brilliant job of organising, instructing and generally putting up with our quirks for four days.

Weather was laughable. The tour began at 7:30 am Tuesday morning this past week. There had been a very heavy wind and rain storm through Monday night into Monday morning. It was serious. We had 60 to 100 kms gusts of winds and our neighbours house had part of their roof removed. I heard later there were a few roofs that were lost in and around the state. When we arrived at the hotel at Cradle Mountain in the afternoon, trees had come down and the power had been out everywhere in the area. It came back on as we arrived.

We had all kinds of wind and rain Wednesday and Thursday we were absolutely soaked. We walked with our heavy backpacks, dressed in layers of clothes (did I mention temps of 1 to 5 degrees C?) dripping wet up and down rainforest paths. Ankle deep mid, hundreds of stairs to see out of the way waterfalls, freezing hands and had the best time. Lots of laughs, great photography instruction, scenery like nowhere else in the world and the best food back at the hotel. Friday morning we left Cradle Mountain and drove through snow that had arrived during the night. Home safe and sound Friday night just after dark and my own bed never felt so good. I thought my muscles would never recover but they did. Thank goodness for all the fitness training I have done over the past few months. I don’t think this 70+ years body could have done it otherwise.

Luke O’Brien has a webpage that showcases his photos and you can find it HERE.

I didn’t get any reading done as I was in bed early as we planned sunrise shoots that were to begin at 5:30 am but sadly the fog and clouds were ground level so they didn’t happen. Neither did the night sky photography. But we made up for it. The photos I’m sharing today are from the beginning of our trip.

On the way home I did begin listening to the book Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams on Audible. It is described on Amazon as:

The story is an absolute joy . . . A captivating and exquisitely crafted debut’ Sunday Times bestseller, Heidi Swain

Absolutely captures the magic of reading and libraries’ Louise Hare When Aleisha discovers a crumpled reading list tucked into a tattered library book, it sparks an extraordinary journey.

From timeless stories of love and friendship to an epic journey across the Pacific Ocean with a boy and a tiger in a boat, the list opens a gateway to new and wonderful worlds – just when Aleisha needs an escape from her troubles at home.

And when widower Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to connect with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha introduces him to the magic of the reading list. An anxious teenager and a lonely grandfather forming an unlikely book club of two.

Inspiring and heartwarming, The Reading List is a love letter to storytelling – its power to transport us, connect us, and remind us that a new beginning is only a page away…

I need to catch up on Shirley Hazard’s Collected stories first before I begin again on the Reading List. I should be on the 12 story and I think I’m only on the 5th one. Need to crack on to those.

I have an interesting week ahead of me. Monday night we start the shared reading of Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman at Fullers book store, the chunky Russian novel we will be immersed in during the next 12 weeks.

Tuesday night Fullers is hosting a poetry night to celebrate the Australian National Reading Hour day. PA limited number of people registered to participate and each person who wants to stands in front of the group and reads a favourite poem. The poem cannot be something that person wrote (thankfully). We are allocated 5 minutes each. If people don’t want to stand up and read, someone else can read it for them.

I thought I’d read an American poem I grew up with during my primary schooling years, Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Paul Revere was born in 1734 and worked as a Silversmith and Engraver. He was a real patriot and was best known for his midnight ride to alert the colonial militia in 1775 to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord during the American Revolution.

“The British are coming! The British are coming!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow dramatised this event in this poem written in 1860 and published in the Boston Transcript publication at the time and the following. year in the Atlantic Monthly just as the American Civil war was beginning. It is quite dramatic to read and should be within the five minute time frame. It should be fun.

As the broadcasters say….”and folks- that is the week that was.” Enjoy the photos from our beautiful state that is…….Tasmania.

This currawong followed us around a bit that day.
The peak on the left is Cradle Mountain
How beautiful are these waterfalls?
Stay Warm

September Saturday

It has been a very busy week with quite a bit of activity. On Sunday I set up the “photography” room. We have this tiny spare bedroom that was full of junk. We got sick of it so got rid of the junk, had the room painted and had a double sized wall bed installed in case overseas relatives ever get to come visit us again. I didn’t want a room with a bed in it that seldom gets used so the wall bed is perfect. It has a desk and shelves attached to it. I set up the desktop computer, printer and my Wacom tablet. I then filled the shelves next to it with cook books and photography books. I also hung some of my prints in the room, installed the orange chair that was a part of my Penguin library when I had the vintage penguins and a reading lamp. It is now a very functional room with all my gear sorted in the wardrobe closets and drawers. I really like it.

You would never know there is a full size double bed mattress against that wall.

When someone visits, I remove the computer and the desk folds under the bed once the bed is pulled down from the wall. So clever. An updated version of the Murphy bed.

Monday I went to my shared reading group at Fullers bookshop. It was a lovely evening. We finished Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and had a great discussion about it once the last page was turned. She writes so beautifully with such subtle humour. We also got a peek into the next book we are going to begin in two weeks time. It is Vasily Grossman‘s epic Russian novel, Life and Fate.

I love this cover.

Amazon describes it as: “The twentieth century War and Peace, a broad portrait of an age and a searing vision of Stalinist Russia, Life and Fate is also the story of a family, the Shaposhnikovs, whose lives in the army, the gulag, a physics institute, a power station and a concentration camp are stunningly evoked, from their darkest to their most poetic moments.

Judged so dangerous by the Soviet authorities that the manuscript was immediately confiscated when completed in 1960, Grossman’s masterpiece was finally smuggled into the West and published in 1980.

The Vintage Classic Russians Series- Published for the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, these are must-have, beautifully designed editions of six epic masterpieces that have survived controversy, censorship and suppression to influence decades of thought and artistic expression. The original translation by Robert Chandler has been updated and revised.

We will take 12 weeks to read this book with some extra reading to do at home as it is 912 pages. The copy we have is this lovely Vintage Classic copy.

On Wednesday I was reading emails and I see that Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) Listen app now has audio books persons can listen to for free. Peoople are able to download and listen to the ABC Listen app around the world. You can also follow our news, radio programs and many conversations and podcasts if interested here.

Audio books have been added.

I began Shirley Hazard’s Collection of short stories this week. I am reading one a day. So far the stories are very well written but extremely predictable. But it is hard to make a judgment because I have only read three of 28. I will reserve judgment on it for now.

I had to finish some photos to ready for our photo club challenges for our September meeting in two weeks time. I am leaving this Tuesday for Cradle Mountain in Tasmania for a four day photography tour. Our itinerary is full and includes night sky photography, sunrise and sunset, landscape, macro and a visit to a Tasmanian Devil farm plus much more. Our instructor, Luke is an experienced landscape photographer and spoke at our club a couple of months ago about his fungi collection. There are five members attending plus Luke. I should learn quite a bit. Although Cradle mountain will probably be cold as predictions are 0 to 10 degrees C with some rain. That’s about 32 to 50 degrees F for my northern hemisphere readers. Maybe it will snow.

Cradle Mountain is beautiful. You can see some photographs of it here from the web.

These are the photos I’m submitting for our photography club meeting challenges. They are prints that I had printed up with a $70.00 voucher I won at the last meeting for one of my photos. Once the meeting finishes I will put them on the wall in the “photography room”.

Japanese stage actor from a Japan trip a few years ago.

Young elephants at play in Botswana, four years ago.

THEME: FARM Photo from a big agricultural expo type place in southeast England, not far from Exeter and for the life of me I can’t remember it’s name. Big domes, agriculture research and displays. Perhaps someone from UK can remind me.
THEME: FARM. This photo was taken in Ireland on a road trip a friend and I went on about five years ago?

Book Sharing:

I’d like to share these books with you I ordered this week. It is a set of Penguin Classic Japanese Literature books and they are beautiful. I look forward to reading them as they look fascinating. So far I have seen five of the books but I ordered four of them. The Wind Up Cat Chronicles by Murakami is the one I didn’t order as I have read it already.

How beautiful are these books !! I absolutely LOVE these covers.

The only thing I have left to do this weekend is to pack my carry bag for next week’s trip and also sort and pack my camera gear and charge all the batteries I will need for my camera. I will update photos from that trip probably in two weeks time as we don’t return until late Friday evening and I’ll be busy recovering, doing laundry and sorting photos for a bit. I’m sure I will come home with a load of photos waiting to be edited and shared.

On the road again…….Can’t wait to get on the road again…

That sums up my week. I’ll probably take the Penguin with me as the last trip he was on was the one to Russia at the end of 2019. We are both more than ready to go somewhere!

Stay well everyone and get vaccinated so the world can open up sooner.

PS.. It’s spring here now and Ollie is on the trail for lizards. Whenever he thinks he smells one, he wags his tail furiously. Very funny to watch. He has the one track mind of a jack russel terrier.

Love a waggy tail. Lizard hunting. No luck today.

Simply Sunday

This Week-

I have decided to change how I write my own posts. I find waiting a week or two then doing a catch up is too much, so instead I don’t do anything. I have decided I am going to update it more like a diary or journal with day to day events. Then when the weekend comes I’ll publish the post. I’ll trial it until the end of the year and then maybe revamp the page for 2022.

Daily activities will include book events, anything read that week, a bit of photography, social events that may be of interest and anything else that catches my fancy.

UPCOMING INTERESTS-

The past week has seen me buying the book, Collected Stories by Shirley Hazzard. Our Fullers book group will discuss it the first Wed of October. It is a series of 26 short stories and so far I have read the first one today. I am enjoying her writing very much. The characters are quite visual and I like the dialogue. If all the stories share the same type of writing I will be happy.

We are focusing on A Perfect Spy by John le Carré for our September book group. I have finished more than 400 pages but have to admit I’m very bored with it and have decided to stop. When I checked reviews on Good Reads I find people are quite divided as to whether they enjoy it or not.

This past week saw our photo club going to the small village of Richmond for a photography scavenger hunt. We were given the list at 11 am and then met for a coffee/snack at 12:30, sitting outdoors at a local cafe. Richmond is quite the tourist town and it was busy with families. I kept seeing people walking little white West Highland terriers everywhere and I later learned they were part of a group of Westie lovers meeting up for a social event. They were everywhere.

The week ahead looks promising. Monday I will be participating in the final shared reading group of Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf at Fullers Bookshop. It will be our 5th meeting. I have enjoyed the group and the book very much. I am wondering what reading they will do next and how staff will pick the 12 participants in the next group. Previously it has been, once you’re in the group you stay in the group until you leave. That may change as there is a waiting list to get into the group. Fairness may reign.

On Wednesday evening I am back at Fullers and we’ll discuss A Perfect Spy. I’m looking forward to seeing what people thought especially as our group has 12 women in it and no men. I am not sure how many women are drawn to spy novels though this is LeCarre’s most autobiographical novel. Other book groups at Fullers have men. There are several groups that meet the first week of the month at the shop, 90 people in groups of 12. They do ask us to come even if we don’t finish the book. It is a misleading thought that one cannot contribute if they do not finish the book. The reasons for that are as interesting as the reasons another person enjoys it.

Thursday night I am attending the local Playhouse Theatre to see Agatha Christie’s play The Stranger. The Playhouse theatre cast are amateur enthusiasts and I have often seen plays of a higher standard than those of some of the professional shows at the Theatre Royal. Many cast members are regular actors and a night out there has always been enjoyable. I’ll let you know next week how that goes.

That will pretty much fill up my week of social events. On top of that I will have my two weight training sessions Monday and Wednesday and Friday has me participate with my personal trainer in finishing up my 12 week challenge. After that I revert back to two weeks of weight training with instructor Daniel in our small group and hopefully one day a week dedicated to a walk or a photography day outside of Hobart.

Richmond Tasmania gaol

Things to look forward to in the coming months-

* A four day photography instructional tour at Cradle Mountain in September.

** A two day stay with a new group of previous biker friends who have set up a private fb group called Half Arsed Tours and Camping. They are riding their motorbikes up to Deloraine, north of us about 3 hours to visit a distillery and do a river walk. As I am no longer riding, I will take the car and back roads, and get some country photography shots and meet them at the hotel for drinks and dinner, staying overnight at the hotel. The hotel is situated alongside a railroad track and previous experience taught us that when trains go by the beds tend to move across the room a bit. I’ve not been there for several years so looking forward to seeing if this still happens. Breakfast will be the following day with the group at a local cafe. I will then head home another route to get different photos.

Richmond Tasmania church

*** I have an eye surgeon’s appointment in October where we have been working together to restore the vision in my left eye. I can see most things okay but can’t read signs or books very well. Fortunately the right eye is compensating very well. The eye had very high pressure that has now reduced to normal and hopefully if the vision does not restore completely a contact lens might correct it. Just a wait and see. As I told Mr. Penguin, we don’t have room for a guide dog. (That’s a joke!)

There you have it for today!

Who Gets To Be Smart- Bri Lee

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and found it really interesting. Good Reads describes it as:

Bri Lee, best-selling and award-winning author of Eggshell Skull, asks Who gets to be smart? in this forensic and hard-hitting exploration of knowledge, power and privilege.

In 2018 Bri Lee’s brilliant young friend Damian was named a Rhodes Scholar, an apex of academic achievement. When she goes to visit him and takes a tour of Oxford and Rhodes House, she begins questioning her belief in a system she has previously revered, as she learns the truth behind what Virginia Woolf described almost a century earlier as the ‘stream of gold and silver’ that flows through elite institutions and dictates decisions about who deserves to be educated there. The question that forms in her mind drives the following two years of conversations and investigations: who gets to be smart?

Interrogating the adage, ‘knowledge is power’, and calling institutional prejudice to account, Bri once again dives into her own privilege and presumptions to bring us the stark and confronting results. Far from offering any ‘equality of opportunity’, Australia’s education system exacerbates social stratification. The questions Bri asks of politics and society have their answers laid bare in the response to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, COVID-19, and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

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I will add Ms Lee turns 30 this year and I applause the way she goes after injustice in Australia with her writing. It is good to see young women as she is rising to the top.

On screen- Hobart Town Hall ballroom.

I found it really depressing especially when figures are revealed of the amount of money Catholic and private schools receive from the government in stark contrast to public education. I believe that all children should have equal access to excellent education outcomes and those who struggle should receive the support they need. What is happening, as most of you know, the strong and powerful receive all the benefits our society has to offer at the complete expense of those who don’t get it.

Last week Fullers Book shop held the launch of this book in the Hobart Town Hall ballroom. It was filled to near capacity of interested readers as allowed during these Covid times.

Tim owner/manager of the 101 year old Fullers Book Shop

However the week before this event Sydney locked down due to an increase of Covid cases in the community and the event was live streamed. The event was extremely competently run as Fullers hasn’t really done much of this at the time.

A big screen was set up, Heather Rose, an author of international repute, popular recently for books Museum of Modern Love and Bruny. and a fellow Tasmanian facilitated the interview. The manager/owner of Fullers got the ball rolling and it was set to go.

Heather Rose had really interesting questions for Bri Lee, the audience was very interested and at the end many questions were allowed. The technical side of the interview flowed like a wonderful Tasmanian wine. With energy, competence and efficiency thanks to Tim’s efforts.

Heather Rose- A Tasmanian Jewel

The book is currently number 2 on the Fullers book sale list.

Here is a quick blurb I copied on Bri Lee’s web page: Bri describes herself as an author and freelance writer. Who Gets to be Smart, just came out in June 2021. It is her third book, closely following her popular book, Eggshell Skull that is a book about sexual assault and the justice system based on her own experiences. Fullers hosted the launch of this book a couple of years ago after its publication date and I also attended that. She is known for her investigative journalism, opinion, short fiction, essays, and arts criticism.

She is also qualified to practice law, but has no desire to. She has published peer reviewed research while she did practice. At times she gives lectures, keynotes, and other kinds of speeches. She lives and works on Gadigal land in Sydney, Australia.

Getting set up

I took a few points from this launch to share with you but there are many more in much more detail from the book.

One of the points she discussed was how long it takes to go from poverty to middle class. Most western countries, being educated results in two generations of schooling to get out of poverty into doing much better financially. The statistics for Australia are- four generations. A really depressing statistic.

20% of Australian children are not prepared when they arrive in Kinder. Their social skills, play, structure remains at a lesser level.

The government doesn’t encourage higher education. They raise the fees to attend courses such as arts, music, humanities, etc and lower fees for science and math. Not everyone is cut out for or wants to study science and maths. They do not seem to recognise education for the sake of education but only tie courses to jobs. I am happy I did not go through this system. In American I was able to spend the first two years of university studying a variety of courses and interests before I chose my major. I then spent the next three years in my chosen path.

Ms Lee asks, What are universities for if not to become educated?

She went into quite a bit of detail of the Ramsay foundation. Paul Ramsay established a monetary foundation that states on the website: Partnerships for Potential and Helping Australian Defy Disadvantage. However our conservative Liberal government (not to be confused with USA Liberal governments- complete opposites) railroaded the funds into programs of their own making, completely supplying the benefits to wealthy students in private institutions.

Tim making sure everything is perfect! He does a great job.

Our previous Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a Rhodes scholar (which is another interesting topic of the book) believes not all cultures are created equal thereby only supporting those he sees as important. eg White, rich Australians vrs. migrants, indigenous populations.

She also addressed the lack of transparency of governments and how tax dollar or foundation funds are used. Who knows? Not the people of the country. Currently numbers are showing functional illiteracy of males = 52% and females 47%. Do we believe this is appropriate?

I could go on for a few more pages but this is longer than I normally produce and I think you should just read the book. I might add that I don’t believe Australia is the only country in the world where this happens but it is certainly relevant to our “lucky country”.

We need to fix this !

I know. I know. A Catch Up 😊

I have had a bit of a break from keeping this little blog moving along. Focusing on actually reading books and keeping fit. On these short, cold winter days I just crash at home at the end of day, keep the dogs entertained and watch Netflix, rest or read some more. So let’s catch up here. I won’t go too far back, just starting over.

Shared Reading Group Selection

I have joined a shared reading group at Fullers Bookshop. I have been on a waiting list for this group for ages. I finally got in. Each Monday night we meet in a group of 10 to 12 people (it is capped) and are reading aloud from Chekhov’s book of short stories. As I have joined this group late, I have now attended three sessions and read six stories. We have one more Monday night (next week) to finish off the book. Then there will be a bit of a break and we are going to do a reading aloud of Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I have heard so much about this story but not read it so really looking forward to it. Also there won’t be a lot of Russian names to pronounce. We have done quite well though with the Russian words in the Chekhov book. It did include some laughter.

Our Fullers Book Group met earlier this month and we read the book Here We Are by Graham Swift. We read his book Mothering Sunday several years ago and we enjoyed this one. It was decided if one reads Here We Are it appears to be a lightweight book about a trio of friends, Ronnie, Jack and Evie who participate in vaudeville and Illusion acts in Brighton, England in the 1950s.

The book begins with the death of Jack, who is married to Evie in the late 20th century then goes backwards 50 years to the evacuation of Ronnie to the countryside as a child during the second world war. Upon a second reading several people mentioned they uncovered much deeper levels to this book and that is what we discussed. Themes of endings, death, colours (the colours white and green are used throughout as symbols), relationships, regret. Each member of the group took away various meanings from this book.

The book I am now reading for the August group is the Russian book The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I am almost 200 pages into it and must say I am enjoying it. It is on many lists of 100 or 1000 books you must read before you die. It has been on my shelf for quite awhile but I never had the nerve to open it. No excuses now and not difficult at all to get into as long as one keeps an open mind and asks no questions. I find it is a book to simply walk into and follow the story without too many questions.

In other news. I have been doing a bit of photography though the last few weeks have been very cold and rainy. Now it is simply cold and sunny. I continue with my fitness regime three times a week with trainers at the gym and enjoy that very much. I also get into conversations at the bus stop waiting for the bus that brings me home afterwards.

Peanut and Ollie are well. They keep us on our toes. We are also having a spare room redone with a new wall bed that is actually a desk when folded up onto the wall. It looks like cabinet doors with a bookshelf beside it. When company comes (that sounds hopeful doesn’t it) it pulls down into a lovely double bed with a full sized mattress.

I told you it was wet out.

We have painters coming today to work in the bedroom and hallway the next three days and then hopefully the bed will be delivered before too long from Sydney though they are in lockdown now due to the Delta strain of Covid and our Prime Minister’s incompetence at getting enough Pfizer vaccines to make our citizens safe. It is breathtaking how completely ineffective and incompetent this man is. We actually have a previous prime minister working with official at Pfizer because they won’t deal with our current one as he was so arrogant with them they ignore him. Just unbelievable.

Okay, I’ll share some photos with you now and move on. I did want to get this out today. All the best to everyone, stay cool in the northern hemisphere, warm in the southern hemisphere and safe around the world.

Our photo club went to the Terhune Airwalk in southern Tasmania a couple of weeks back to look for fungi. It is a beautiful area with a large airwalk that reigns over the trees. However we spent more time scrounging around on the ground looking for fungi. We were dressed in layers of clothing but overall we had a great day out with hot food and drink in their cafe when finished.

The swinging bridge over the river.

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…