A Cold Rainy Saturday

Rain and cold today.
Photo from ABC News website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peanut home from hospital

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

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

Moving Forward

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

So…moving ahead….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heather Rose & Craig Silvey

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

Good Reads describes the beginning of the book as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News in Books and Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

The publisher’s site states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Weekly Journal

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

Peanut has settled in very well.

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

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

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

A Little Miscellany Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Built by convict labour in 1824.

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

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

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

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

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

Book Club Spin -Part 2

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

UK- England

6. English author Jeanette Winterson’s book Frankissstein. I chose this book as my mood was taking me to books outside of the usual genre I read. I have not read much transexual lit or fantasy lit and this sounded so unusual I was attracted by it.

As Brexit grips Britain, Ry, a young transgender doctor, is falling in love. The object of their misguided affection: the celebrated AI-specialist, Professor Victor Stein. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with his Mum again, is set to make his fortune with a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.

Ranging from 1816, when 19 year old Mary Shelley pens her radical first novel, to a cryonics facility in present day Arizona where the dead wait to return to life, Frankissstein shows us how much closer we are to the future than we realise.

Australian

7. Australia Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things. I recently read and enjoyed her book The Weekend. This has been on my shelf for quite some time and though I realise it is much different to The Weekend I wanted to polish it off.

The blurb: Two Women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two insept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’.

…….the girls can only rescue themselves.

UK Ireland

8. This is Happiness by Irish writer, Niall Williams. I picked this book up at the beginning of the Covid lockdowns. Many people at this time gravitated towards books about the natural world and the cover drew me in. Though this tale seems to be more of a coming of age tale I think I’ll enjoy the location.

The blurb: After dropping out of the seminary, 17 year old Noel Crowe finds himself back in Faha, a small Irish parish where nothing ever changes, including the ever falling rain. But one morning the rain stops and news reaches the parish- electricity is finally arriving. With it comes a lodger to Noel’s home, Christy McMahon. Though he can’t explain it, Noel knows right then: something has changed.

Australian

9. I chose this next Australian tale as I love these yellow Text Classic books. I have read several and enjoyed them all. They are reasonably priced lovely books and this one remains unread.

The Long Prospect by Elizabeth Harrower. It states: Growing up neglected in a boarding house, 12 year old Emily meets Max, a middle aged scientist who encourages her intellectual interests. For this innocent friendship Emily faces scandal, snobbery and psychological torment from her elders. Sharply observed and darkly funny, The Long Prospect confirmed Elizabeth Harrower, author of the Watch Tower, as one of Australia’s most important writers.

Australian

10. Number 10 is a dog story. I hope it isn’t too sad. No explanation why I chose this is needed. Love Clancy: A Dog’s Letters Home by Richard Glover, Australian radio presenter, journalist and author.

Human beings often write about their dogs, but the dogs don’t usually get a right of reply. In this book Richard Glover has collated the letters sent by Clancy to his parents in the bush. They are a young dog’s musings about the oddities of human behaviour, life in the big city and his own attempts to fit in.

It goes from puppyhood, trips, adventures, songs, trials, all told with a dog’s deep wisdom when it comes to what is important in life. (paraphrasing back cover blurb).

Another Monday Morning

Ok. Where are we walking to now?

It’s been a fairly uneventful week around here so I did get some reading finished up. Our photography club starts up meetings this coming week so working on a couple of photos for the digital challenges. Ollie is also doing better and has a quick checkup on Thursday at the vet’s to see if his ear infection has cleared. We have had a day at the beach so he is happy. Our weather is spring like and you’d have no idea it is actually summer. Cool days and quite windy. The clouds are good for photography but not much else as every time I decide to take the camera out for a walk the rain comes pouring down or the wind is gale force.

I could not stop diving into this book. It requires a deep dive.

So let’s get started with the books. The first book I finished was Robert MacFarlane’s book Underland: A Deep Time Journey. This was a five star read for me. I really enjoyed it. The blurb from Good Reads states:

In Underland, Robert Macfarlane (British) delivers an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself. Traveling through the dizzying expanse of geologic time—from prehistoric art in Norwegian sea caves, to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come—Underland takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind.

Global in its geography and written with great lyricism, Underland speaks powerfully to our present moment. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world.

Yes, it sounds dry but I assure you it is anything but. It had so much information of which I knew nothing about, it had suspense, it had calm, isolation and beauty. It really does let you see our earth in an entirely different light and I really loved it. It is a book I would consider reading again.

The second book I finished this week was Away With the Penguins by Hazel Prior. This is what I call a fluffy book. Fluffy books are books that are comforting, easy reading and entertaining. They don’t require a lot of brain power.

Not for serious readers but great for a bit of fluff. It does have a good environmental messages though.

The story goes:

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea in Scotland. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this. (Good Reads)

I didn’t like Veronica at first when I began this book. Did not like her at all. But I don’t think you are supposed to. Then I learned about her life. She lives in Scotland and her memories go back to World War II. I almost gave this book up until….. things began to happen.

Did I mention she ends up in Antarctica?

It was fun and I know I will remember the characters for a very long time as they were very well developed. The book is one that gets much better as the writer gets more and more into it.

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I now have letters of author initials M and P completed in my TBR Author Alphabet challenge. Time to pick another random choice from the TBR.

Our photo club challenge has us choosing two photos we took in 2020 and ones we thought were pretty good. These are my two entires. The Waterfront is my favourite of the two but I’m entering the Covid sign one as I think it is important and it documents 2020.

A Sign of the Times

Hobart, Tasmania- Waterfront at Night

My new year now begins Thursday here which is the Wednesday inauguration day of Joe Biden in the U.S. I will be watching it. I will again be thankful Trump is going to be gone and I will then focus on everything else in life besides politics and Covid which have been all consuming. We are fortunate in Tasmania as we have not had any cases in the community for months now. I’m not sure when vaccinations will be available here but I have heard murmurs of March. Who knows? I do think of those in other countries who are doing it so tough. My heart goes out to you. Stay well.

I’ll be back soon.

Simply Sunday

author unknown

I’m not going to go into the events of the U.S. this week as we are all aware of them. But I admit it did take away from reading time as I was glued to the tv for a good couple of days and still checking. Not much is happening over the weekend but Monday over there may well pick up again. Will this presidency ever end??

I did manage to finish the book The Weekend by Charlotte Wood. I also listened to her on a podcast taped from last year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival on line where she talked about this book and a performance she saw at the Sydney Belvoir Theatre about Virginia Woolf. The Sydney Writer’s festival podcasts can be listened to on most podcast apps. I use Podbean.

I enjoyed The Weekend. A quick recap. The story is about three friends in their 70s who meet at the home of a friend, Sylvie who recently died, in order to clean out her house. Wendy who is one of the friends brings her 17 year old dog, Finn, with her which really gets up Jude’s nose. Adele is the third friend. She is mourning old age and her past life as a well known actress and her long term relationship with a married man that just doesn’t add up to what she would like.

The weekend shares the interactions between the women, their pasts, coping with aging, thinking about death all the while as they try and organise the emptying of this house. The dog, Finn, seems to be a metaphor for aging and impending death. The women’s relationship to the dog plays quite a large part of the story.

What I liked the most is the realness of the characters. They all have their strengths and their flaws. They get annoyed with each other yet they still retain their loyalty to each other when needed. At times I disliked all of them individually and other times I admired them. I liked the writing in the book most of the time. I’ve not read anything else by Charlotte Wood but I do have her previous book, The Natural Way of Things which won the 2016 Stella Prize and was long listed for the Miles Franklin award. It is on my shelf unread. I understand it is a much different book to the Weekend.

This week I will begin a library book I picked up on Friday. Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House. I listened to the podcast Divine in that featured Ann Patchett’s books. I enjoy the broadcasts about books by these two friends. They always make me laugh.

I have only ever read State of Wonder by this author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am looking forward to this book too.

Next, I will pull a book off my shelves in my TBR – Author Alphabet challenge. I was going to begin with the letter A and work my way to Z, one book at a time but I have decided to now randomly select an author’s initial and select my book that way.

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What else has been happening lately? As if an attempted American coup, a gutted kitchen, builders in the house, a radical surgery and recovery, Christmas and our lovely dog Molly dying wasn’t enough over the past two months…Ollie came down with a very inflamed bowel, some bleeding and a massive ear infection. He was full of beans jumping around one day and suddenly he was off his food and we couldn’t wake him up for much more than a few moments. Of course, like everything, it happened on a weekend but fortunately being Friday night, the vet did get him in Saturday morning, where he spent the day being x-rayed, poked and prodded. He had the first bad day of his lifetime.

Ollie at the dog beach awhile ago.

We were worried he had swallowed a foreign object and might need surgery. So far that doesn’t seem to be the case and he seems to be responding well to antibiotics and some prescription food he is not too thrilled about. We were worried about him though. His ear is also being treated. If we could only get him to stop eating potting soil, lizard tails, snails and possum poo I think he would be better off. If anyone knows how to do that please leave your message in the comments. below.

On a brighter note I am out of my six weeks of not being able to drive and I actually did a 5 km walk the other day and feel quite good.

I’ve decided the new year for us will begin on the 21 January when the world might change a bit for the better. Now if we could only understand why the Australian Prime Minister won’t condemn what has happened in America.

No, I’ll leave that alone for now.

I hope everyone has been safe and well and doing some things that cause happiness amongst the turmoil of the world. More later….

2021 is finally underway…

I think I have my thoughts organised around my book challenges this year enough so I can say it out loud.

2021- Stay focused

First off will I say no challenges ahead of time except to read my TBR books and library copies? However, I guess my TBR is a challenge. I am going to follow blogger Book Snob and begin reading them alphabetically by author. I need to not just read the books I am always drawn to on my shelves but to get the impulse buys I thought I’d love, then lost the mood. How many of those do we own?

Right now, I’m reading Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend. Three women in their 70s gather at their friend’s place for a weekend to clean it out after she dies. Throw in a very old arthritic, incontinent dog and the dynamics should be interesting.

I know I am probably the last reader to dig into this popular Austraian book. I’ve heard so much about it. I’m not far into it but I am enjoying the writing. I have no idea how these three women and Finn the dog are going to cope in this run down house of their friend without killing each other. For friends of long standing they sure have a go at each other behind their backs. So far it is Finn, the dog I’m enjoying the most. But it is pulling me into the story and I am looking forward to seeing how they all cope.

Once finished I will begin other books. I want to have an essay or short story read of the day. So that will be one book on the go. I will either start with Chekhov’s short stories or The Bookseller’s Tale by Martin Latham. I might rotate between them as I am looking forward to both of them.

I will also get one book at a time from the library. There are so many books I discover through fellow bloggers but I don’t want to purchase those books. I have my own extensive library but I feel it is important to always support the library and even if I don’t get to all the books I place on hold, I want to contribute to their usage statistics. I don’t trust government funding for libraries. Fortunately our library seems to be well supported and in safe hands but one just never knows.

I also have photography and magazine articles to read. I regularly read Photography magazines from the library online, own a subscription to the Monthly and Australian Book Review magazines, not to mention Womankind. I can stick those in a bag and read them while waiting for appointments or the bus.

Did I mention kindle books and the audible books I listen to nightly? Or the bookish podcasts and author interviews? (sigh)

So there you have it.

My baseline goal is to read 50 pages per day from one of the above challenges. I should not call them challenges as that is the fastest way I know of to fall off the wagon, so to speak. Anyway, that’s the plan and we’ll see how we go. I won’t mention my daily journal writing and learning to draw book. I’m making myself laugh now.

Other catch up news is both good and also sad. The good news is my health is finally settling down after major surgery. I will pass the five week mark on Thursday and can start driving again soon. Feeling better but probably won’t be fully recovered until end of January or February. I can start taking longer walks and need to get Ollie to the beach again. I’m sure he misses it but you wouldn’t know it.

The sad news is we had to euthanise our old dog Molly. She would have been 16 in March. She had a bad fall and ruptured her cruciate ligament. We knew she couldn’t have surgery at her age and with her very advanced arthritis complicating matters we would not have put her through that. She had an extremely peaceful end with both of us with her and knew no anxiety. She was more than ready to go. I like to think of her running with her old mates Odie who we lost to cancer last year and Wally who died 4 years ago of old age. I will put another bell in the maple tree for her, next to Odie and Wally’s bell. Ollie hasn’t indicated he misses her but then again he is such a little narcissist it is hard to tell. Our old cat, Uncle Buck, seems to know she is gone though. They were great mates for the last 14 years.

Our lovely three friends are all together again and their bells ring gently in the wind. L-R Odie, 2019; Molly 2021; Wally 2016.

Well, enough of that and forward we move. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens politically in America the month of January then I’m going to forget all about it and concentrate on Australia!!

Stay well my friends, especially those of you in North America and the UK. I think of you daily and am saddened by what is happening in both countries. Just stay safe. Think medical and not political. Enough said.

Until next time…

Harold and Maude

I saw this film absolutely ages ago. I never forgot it and have seen it a couple of times since. I always loved the actress Ruth Gordon who plays the 79 year old woman in this story and Bud Cort (also in Brewster McCloud which I didn’t care for) as the 19 year old boy. Ruth Gordon is the American version of the Australian Ruth Cracknell. I could see both women in these roles but that’s a personal opinion.

The story goes (Wikipedia)- Nineteen-year-old Harold Chasen is obsessed with death. He fakes suicides to shock his self-obsessed mother, drives a hearse, and attends funerals of complete strangers. Seventy-nine-year-old Maude Chardin, on the other hand, adores life. She liberates trees from city sidewalks and transplants them to the forest, paints smiles on the faces of church statues, and “borrows” cars to remind their owners that life is fleeting— here today, gone tomorrow! A chance meeting between the two turns into a madcap, whirlwind romance, and Harold learns that life is worth living, and how to play the banjo. Harold and Maude started as Colin Higgins’s master’s thesis at UCLA film school before being made into the 1971 film directed by Hal Ashby. The quirky, dark comedy gained a loyal cult following, and in 1997 it was selected for inclusion on the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. Higgins’s novelization was released with the original film but has been out of print for more than thirty years. Fans who have seen the movie dozens of times will find this a valuable companion, as it gives fresh elements to watch for and answers many of the film’s unresolved questions.

The book was originally published in 1971 by Colin Higgins. It is really more of a novella at only 144 pages. At the time it wasn’t well received and faded into obscurity and out of print. At the same time the film arrived which also didn’t do well initially but soon after had more of a cult following especially from university students. I probably saw this film originally in the 1970s too while in university.

What strikes me about this book is how much I enjoyed the black humour and much of it is quite black. But the characters are very likeable and the book does answer some questions that are left behind by the film.

As far as the film goes it would definitely be in my all time top ten favourites of my life. I didn’t know there was a book until only recently when I came upon it accidentally on a Kindle. Nostalgia reared its head and I needed to read it. I know I will reread this book again. I enjoyed it that much.

A very big catchup…

Time continues to slip away this year. I won’t mention the Covid news (all okay here and hope you are too) or the U.S. election news (I’m thrilled and relieved) as I know everyone is really over the unrelenting news of it all. So straight to what’s going on book wise on our little island state.

I started a couple of books but they were both DNF. The first one was Girt, An Unauthorised History of Australia by David Hunt. I was listening to it being read as an audible. It is a humorous version of Australia’s early history and though I enjoyed the content I encountered a large problem. After every page the sound of a large whip cracked! Louder than the narrative and regularly at the bottom of EVERY page. At first it was startling. Then it just became annoying. Interesting content was being read then suddenly this very loud cracking whip would lash through the air and crack. Whoever thought this is a good idea should have their head examined. I finally reached a point I couldn’t bear it anymore and sent it to the ‘unfinished bin’.

The next book I began was My Love Story, an authorised autobiography of Tina Turner. I don’t usually read celebrity biographies. I can count the number on one hand. But I have always been a huge fan of Tina Turner and in the 90’s I flew to Melbourne twice to attend her concerts. Anyone who can sing and dance on stage for over two hours then complete a finale of hanging upside down from a cherry picker over the audience while still belting out one of her hits at the age of 69 gets my vote of admiration. She was a wonderful performer.

However, as is often the case the book was a big disappointment. It was very self indulgent, with a continual carry on of name dropping and how she did everything except scale Mt. Everest backwards in stilettos. I got bored quickly so I think she is now relegated to my bins of history. Her performances though will always be top notch in those memories.

By then all of the news in America was kicking off full on and the last thing I was going to do was read anything that made me think so I pulled out a comfort read.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield. This book was a reread and once again it soothed my frayed nerves. It is such a fun book and would lower my blood pressure as soon as I picked it up.

Now it is November and I have always loved this month. Growing up in the United States, November was full of family fun with Thanksgiving, my birthday and looking forward to Christmas. Now, I no longer get the same excitement about Christmas as it is just too commercial for my tastes. Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Australia and family is overseas and greatly diminished. However, my birthday remains. I always begin my diary on my birthday for the following year and am enjoying the blank slate it currently contains.

Here is hoping 2021 is a much better year or at least slows down a bit for all of us. My heart remains with the people around the world who continue to be so affected by Covid. I think of you UK people in lockdown and I worry about my American friends and family who continue to dodge this disease on a daily basis. Keep your masks on people!

Until next time-

I look forward to picking up some interesting books, doing a photography post very soon and sharing what else life throws at us down here in our end of the world. Stay safe…