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…

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

Written by Steven Sherrill. USA – first published in UK by Canongate Books 2003- Edinburgh.

The blurb on the back of this book states…..

Five thousand years after leaving the Cretan Labyrinth, the Minotaur- or M as he is known to his colleagues- is working as a line chef at Grub’s Rib in Carolina, keeping his horns down, trying in vain to put his past behind him. He leads an ordered lifestyle in a shabby trailer park where he tinkers with cars, writes and rewrites to-do lists and observes the haphazard goings on around him. Outwardly controlled, M tries to hide his emotional turmoil as he is transported deeper into the human word of deceit, confusion and need.

I walked into our indie book shop Fullers when one of the staff walked up to me to say hello. I was browsing the shelves as I often do and he walked to one shelf, picked out a book and handed it to me. “Read this” he said. I took one look at the cover and thought, “This is something I would never look at twice.” It isn’t my genre but to be honest I’m tired of the genres I often pick. Non fiction and travel writing especially. I asked him what it’s about. He told me “A minotaur who lives and works in America.” Well that sums it right up doesn’t it. Then we had a quick chat about it and I thought “Why not?” and brought it home. I began it at once and found so different I was really enjoying it.

M lives in a Carolina state, probably North Carolina, though it doesn’t specify. Part of the novel does state it is a 9 hour drive to Florida which fits and they eat Tex Mex food which made me think of Texas not the Carolinas but by now I suppose most states have Tex Mex food.

M is quite sensitive and also very self conscious. Who wouldn’t be if they had the body of a human and the head of a bull. I thought this book would have a lot of bullying behaviour because of his appearance and the fact he walks around with a large set of horns on his head. But it doesn’t fall into that trap.

It is a story of his mates at work, the other people who live in the run down trailer park he lives in, the manager of the trailer park. Their daily life. The book is very well written and does pull you in. There are some rough spots in it regarding a couple of incidents and some crude language but it is all in context and I didn’t find it bothersome at all.

I enjoyed the moments described as he worked for Grub who ran the rib & steak house. M is a great worker and very handy with a knife and it was fun to see the work he did in the kitchen.

I understand there is another book out about M called The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time but Peter at the book shop told me he didn’t think that one was as good as this one.

If you’re looking for a quick, 312 page read about some very unusual people and situations you may enjoy this. The themes covered are dealing with those who are impoverished, different in society, lifestyles and difficulties dealing with those who don’t fit in. I find myself thinking about M a lot. He is such a real character and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I met him one day walking up the street.

The Guardian wrote an in-depth review of this book (here) in 2003 if you’re interested in reading more. I don’t review books, I only talk about my narrow scope of them. I leave the in-depth reviews to those who do it well.

Simply Sunday

Today is a sunny, spring like day in Tasmania. In Australia the seasons begin on the first of the month. So September 1 was the first day of spring here. However I do not celebrate it until the equinox as I don’t think you can fool Mother Nature into thinking it’s spring when there is still bits of snow around parts of the state. In my mind spring is just around the corner.

Our state still has the bridge over the moat closed to mainland Australia due to Covid 19 so we aren’t going anywhere and neither is anyone coming here without 2 weeks of quarantine. Ho hum. We are fortunate we do not have the virus in our state but I feel for people in other parts of the world struggling with it.

On to the book I just finished yesterday. Yes it is another bit of travel writing. I think I’m almost at brain capacity with travel writing as I have been immersed in it for some time. Might be time to move on to something else for awhile.

This book is called Ghost Rider by Neil Peart. Memoir in its nature and perhaps a bit overlong. I was ready for it to end at a couple of points however it continued on.

Neil was a Canadian professional drummer working with the well known band Rush. I had not heard of but that is not unusual. He was married to Jackie with one 19 year old daughter, Selina, he was very close to.

She leaves home to begin university in Ontario and is in a car accident and killed instantly. Of course he and his wife are devastated. Then a couple of months later, Jackie is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Within a relative short amount of time he loses both his daughter and his wife. Then his dog dies. His very best friend in the world is arrested for selling drugs and goes to jail for a couple of years. What does one do in this situation?

He gets on his motorcycle and rides through Canada, the United States and into Mexico.

The book is about his travels which I found really good. He is good at describing the people he meets, the accommodation he stays in and the food he eats. I really enjoyed that.

He is also a big reader and he takes a great deal of life’s lessons from the books he has read and the books he is currently reading. He always visits a book store if one is nearby on his travels

The book also deals with the grief he feels and the loss and confusion of having to begin his life all over again in his late 40’s/early 50s. He has a small home at a lake in Quebec he spends time in and writes about the nature he observes. He is an avid bird watcher and writes of the birds.

He shuns being around many people and instead concentrates on having to keep moving as he is unable to sit still for long. He also hikes, spends time watching the beloved birds and reading a great deal. He has several good friends who live in various parts of North America that he rides his bike to in order to spend time with them.

This is his journey out of grief. I really enjoyed many things about this book.

He keeps a journal regularly and writes down everything that happens to him each day. The book is developed from this journal. He also writes long letters to his best mate in prison and to several friends.

The book is a combination of what he writes in his journal and what he writes in his letters. There isn’t very tight editing in it so it does tend to ramble, especially during the last third of the book. I became weary of the repetition at this point. However by then I was invested enough in his life I did want to know how it ended.

I do wish the editor had been a bit harsher with slashing out some paragraphs.

But overall it is a very good book and it deletes deeply into what people go through with the loss of loved ones and some of his thoughts were enlightening. However I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone. He addresses what he does with the anger he feels as well.

If travel by motorbikes is of interest to you then there is plenty to keep you entertained in this but it does come with a lot of personal baggage as you can imagine.

The Blurb from Amazon:

On a journey of escape, exile, and exploration, he traveled from Quebec to Alaska, down the Canadian and American coasts and western regions, to Mexico and Belize, and finally back to Quebec. While riding “the Healing Road,” Neil recorded in his journals his progress and setbacks in the grieving/healing process, and the pain of constantly reliving his losses. He also recorded with dazzling, colourful, entertaining, and moving artistry, the enormous range of his travel adventures, from the mountains to the sea, from the deserts to Arctic ice, and the dozens of memorable people, characters, friends, and relatives he met along the way.

Published March 2003 by ECW Publishers. – 400 -pages

One More Traveller’s Tale

When the Covid 19 Lockdown started I thought, “Great! I have all of this time to catch up reading TBR books.” However I could not concentrate and from reading news items, magazine articles and other blog posts I see I wasn’t alone.

I started books. I started several books but couldn’t get past more than 20 pages or so. The mood left and I’d switch to something else. Then I just read other, shorter things. I read magazines, I studied photography you tube videos. I read articles in the Guardian. I read everything except the back of cereal boxes and books on my shelf.

For the past couple of weeks I have been revisiting those discarded tales and finishing them. Travel writing held my interest more than anything else. I notice non fiction also appealed more than fiction. It kind of feels like we’re living in fiction and I think reading non fiction makes me believe all is right with the world. Weird type of reasoning.

So I finished this little Kindle story I downloaded for next to no cost as I liked the idea of an older person (man in his 60’s) walking the Via Francigena pilgrimage in Europe. This walk begins in Canterbury, England and ends in Rome, Italy.

A Hobart couple did this walk last year and I enjoyed following their walk on Instagram very much. They have also done some talks about it in the community once returned. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to the one I had planned.

The name of the books I am referring to is Over the Hill and Far Away: Recollections of an Older Person’s Pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome written by Roger Harland.

Mr. Harland is a New Zealander who is quite religious and he had a desire to do this pilgrimage for quite awhile. He and his wife decided he would do it and she would then meet him two months later in Rome.

In my mind he is a little guy wearing a very serviceable hat with his blue backpack on his back. He carries a hiking pole. What stands out the most in this story is how often he gets lost. He almost doubles the miles of walking because he back tracks so much. He is always lost. If the trail goes to the right, he goes left. If he is to climb a hill he manages to find the down slope. It amazes me he actually makes it.

The only language he speaks is English. That creates a few difficulties in France and Italy. A few people lost patience with that.

He stayed in hostels and convents, most of the time with much younger travellers than he is. I enjoyed seeing how often the young people helped him out when he needed it.

The grumpiest people he met along the trail were the priests and some of the nuns in the convent accommodations. Their lack of patience and the amount of eye rolling they did actually surprised me. However there were a couple of nuns that were lovely and did help him when needed.

He often bought food in shops, ate in cafes and enjoyed getting his lunch and eating it in town squares with the locals (though there weren’t many he could converse with) in smaller villages.

This book is a fairly quick read. He didn’t have anything terrible that happened to him and his descriptions of the trail and accommodations were embraced by this reader. He also had quite a history of the European wars of the past and he always made sure he visited and discussed the monuments and plaques he came across. He would give a brief discussion about the history of those places and what the monument meant to the locals. I found that interesting.

He would also make a point of visiting all of the small churches and a few cathedrals he came across. He enjoyed walking around the buildings, looking at their structure and would look at photographs, stained glass windows and anything else specific to the location. He attended a few services when he happened upon them.

He always bought paper maps in every village or received them from tourist information offices. He enjoyed a glass of wine at the end of the day and he carried a tablet to use in cafes that had free wi-fi.

It is an enjoyable read and he did an excellent job of completing the walk. You could feel the pride and confidence in himself once he finished this life goal.

I would recommend it as an enjoyable read though not as heart stopping as the travel book I wrote about in my last post.

Ahhh–to be able to travel again.

Miles From Nowhere-Travel

I just finished the travel book Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage. I think it is one of the best travel books I have ever read and I have read quite a few. Barbara and her husband Larry decide to ride their bicycles around the world in 1978 and 1979. They begin from their home in Santa Barbara, California and head north to Victoria Island in Canada. They ride across Canada, down the east coast of the USA then leave for Europe. From Europe they head to Egypt, India, Malaysia and finally New Zealand before going home again

In the end they travelled 22,000 miles. What is so interesting about this book is that it was written 40 years ago. Long before the internet and looking everything up on google. They describe hardship, joy and weather as if the reader is right beside them experiencing everything.

They don’t shy away from their extremely difficult experiences travelling, especially in Egypt at the time. They go days with little food at times, get incredibly sick; they camp out most of the time unless it wasn’t safe. They ride through extreme heat, cold and even snow.

The fact they stayed together as a married couple and actually survived this trip was admirable. Several times they were in very dangerous circumstances. They shared their joy at travelling in New Zealand.

The reader is introduced to many people, places and the most interesting owners of accommodation and cafes.

It is a book that is hard to put down but the most moving part of this book (and this is not a spoiler as it was stated at the very beginning) is when, once home again, after all their experiences, Barbara is training for a marathon on her bicycle, is hit by a car and dies of a head injury. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

She wrote her book once home and sent it to the publisher just before 1983, then was killed and never saw it published. Her husband Larry made sure it was published and I later learned he remarried again in 1985. This couple went through so much together I couldn’t believe it once I finished and reflected on her death.

I would give this book a 5 star rating. There is enough history but not too much, enough suspense, enough joy balanced throughout. If you like travel writing I cannot recommend this book enough.

An August Winter Day in Tasmania

2020-08-11 16.09.49
Mt. Wellington sits behind Hobart. A winter’s day. (Stock Photo)

We have had a pretty good winter this year. A few days of quite cold weather and even some snow but not enough to stay on the ground where we live. The mountainous areas have been beautiful though.

Ollie Mackers
Ollie’s first trip through McDonalds takeaway for ice cream. I eat the ice cream. He licks the container with one spoonful left. He was most interested in the person who took our payment.

I’ve been spending time with Ollie. He is coming up on his first birthday in a week’s time which is very hard to believe.  He’s such a joy to live with

 

I’ve had lots of time to reorganise my book journal. It’s now electronic on a table that is easily accessible and I have deleted my Good Reads account. I grew tired of it. I also gave the blog page a bit of a clean up and put in some new colours and changed the masthead with one of my photos of a local beach.

Books read since I was here last are as follows:

I finished the audio book from the library of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  I was enjoying it at night before going to sleep. I really enjoyed this story and the characters will stay with me for quite awhile.

2020-08-11 16.11.14Oliver was lovely with his love of his “finally ever after family” and his love of books. What a
terrible start to life he had. Sikes was so horrible.  Dickens was so wonderful at describing life in London during the 1800s and the poverty permeated all he touched in this tale. Evil was evil and good was good. (Narrator Wanda McCaddon was excellent with all of the voices.)

I also finished off the Diary of Samuel Pepys as I probably mentioned before. His description of life in London in the 1660s was remarkable and living through the plague and the great London fire was described as though one had travelled into the pages of the book. I really enjoyed it. (Read by Leighton Pugh with David Timson; both excellent).

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Love this cover.

More currently I really enjoyed the audio version of Australian Julia Baird’s book of essays entitled Phosphorescence. Julia Baird narrates it and it is as if one is sitting down in a room with a coffee or cup of tea with her.

Isn’t the cover stunning as well. She wrote of nature, mindfulness, storm chasing photographers, her family and her battle with cancer. It is an extremely uplifting read written with honesty. I gave copies to friends and they enjoyed it as well.

Another current book I listened to, this one written by Sayaka Murata, was Convenience Store Woman. Narrated by Nancy Wu who pronounced all the Japanese vocabulary for me and translated by Editor/Translator Ginny Tapley Takemori.   A story of a young Japanese woman working in a convenience store in Tokyo who enjoys her work enormously. She enjoys the structured work place 2020-08-11 16.14.01and although she is not fitting societal norms of what a woman is supposed to be like in Japan she manages to come to terms with it, finding her own place in the world and continuing onwards.  It is an unusual story and one learns about more of the expectation upon women in Japan. She defies the traditional norms and succeeds wonderfully in getting to accept who she is and what she wants out of life, as simple as it is. I really enjoyed it.

Another surprising read I enjoyed on my Kindle (but wasn’t sure if I would) is Too Much and Never Enough by Donald Trump’s sister, Mary Trump.  I thought this tale might be one of sour grapes, maybe quite vindictive or poorly written.. It wasn’t. Mary Trump has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and works as a mental health consultant with adults in her full time job.  She didn’t so much as diagnose her family members as describe their behaviours over the years. (I bought the Kindle version as I didn’t want to spend money on the new hardcover version as I wasn’t sure I’d like it.😁)

2020-08-11 16.29.20Her description of the family and especially the patriarch Fred Trump, (Donald’s father) and the siblings of Donald are as objective as one in that position can possibly be. After reading how Fred treated all of his children it is no wonder Donald is as he is.  It certainly helps one to understand him but it doesn’t make me like him any better. He is a very damaged man and that is apparent to most people in this world. I am glad I read it and I liked the author very much.

Another book from my shelves I really enjoyed was Ten Years a Nomad by Mathew Kepnes. Raised in Boston, having finished university and not wanting to settle down with a 9 to 5 job he conquers the fear that many Americans have related to travel and goes to the Caribbean on a holiday and later to Asia.  He then decides he is going to travel and live in various parts of the world for the next eight years. This happens more as he continues to extend his travelling.  Many Americans, myself included are raised to believe America is the only country worth travelling in. My father continually had us believing we would be mugged, taken advantage of, probably killed if we travelled anywhere outside of the U.S. When actually the U.S is probably the most dangerous place to travel with all the weapons around.

This young man explains it wonderfully. Another thing we have noticed that Americans 2020-08-11 16.14.45do is that when one returns from an extensive trip nobody takes any interest in it. Questions aren’t really asked and instead family are more interested in what you had for dinner last night or have you seen such and such on Netflix.  Friends often say, “Did you have a good time?” and that is the end of the conversation. The author explains this is his experience also and he can’t get over how life just on as normal as if he was never away.

They either don’t know what questions to ask, are just happy you survived the experience that must have been traumatic at times and let’s move on.

I enjoyed this author’s comments on his entire experience and when he did decide to settle down he was well and truly ready.

I am currently reading another travel tale but will talk about that one when finished. I’m 60% through another tale, this time an older British man undertaking the pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome.

I hope this catches everyone up. I will have some photography to put up before long as I’ve spent a good deal of time watching photography lessons on You Tube and undertaking a Master Class on line from Annie Leibovitz I really enjoyed.

I am undertaking a fitness program too but more on that later as bits of it are quite unusual. More to catch up on but this post is long enough so will go hunt up some photos of the above named books and finish off with the Penguin, who by the way has a new shirt. (South American art work on a t shirt is new). All the best to my online friends. I’ve enjoyed your posts in the last month though I don’t always comment. Too many to comment on, but you know who you are and I do read them.

As my friends and I always say to each other…..cheers dears!

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A bit of South American art work.