Two books and a puppy!

👀 A Real Book

Leaving the best until last.

I have begun an interesting biography called Notes From A Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi. Alfred Knopf publisher. 2019.

I am reading this because I have become much more enthusiastic cooking not having to cook in a kitchen out of the dark ages. I have also been watching cooking shows on tv. Repeat series of the Great British Bake off and travels with Rick Stein. Not to mention a copy of Two Fat Ladies vintage cookbook I found in the tip shop. I loved them. I will probably settle down before long but for now I am enjoying many food related tasks.

Kwame Onwuachi is the executive chef at Kith and Kin and owner of the Philly Wing Fry franchise in Washington D.C. He was born on Long Island and raised in NY City, Nigeria and Louisiana. He was first exposed to cooking by his mother, in the family’s modest Bronx apartment and he took that spark of passion and turned it into a career. From toiling in the bowels of oil cleanup ships to working at some of the best restaurants in the world, he has seen and lived his fair share of diversity. This is his story.

He trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has opened five restaurants before turning 30. He has a twitter account: @ChefKwame and an Instagram account: @bastedmind

The author of this book is Joshua David Stein who is a Brooklyn based author and journalist. He was a restaurant critic for the New York Observer and has been a food columnist for The Village Voice. This book is also available on audio. (inside back flap)

👀 👀 Audio

The book I’m listening to currently on audio is Twyla Tharp- The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Simon and Schuster; Illustrated edition 2008.

I have chosen this book because after a break from my photography because of the distractions of ill health (all better now), Christmas and all the events in the United States (also all better now) I needed to get my mojo back. Our photography club is meeting again face to face as we are currently Covid free in our state and several excursions in interesting places coming up. This book talks about the way to develop more creativity in all the arts and encourages the reader to establish the routines to be productive in ones chosen field. The author gives several examples of well known dancers, artists and writers in their routines and how productive they become as a result of them. I know…. common sense….but it is nice to have a coach when working alone with any endeavour. It will also encourage me to be more consistent with my journaling and attemps at drawing.

She is one of the world’s leading creative artists, choreographers and creator of the Broadway show, Movin’ Out. She is a well known American dancer, choreographer and author who lives and works in NY city.n In 1966 she formed the company Twyla Tharp Dance. Her work often uses classical music, jazz and contemporary pop music. From 1971 to 1988 she toured extensively around the world performing original works.

The focus of her work and book is going through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work and getting out of ruts and into productive grooves. The wide open realm of possibilities can be energizing and she explains how to take a deep breath and begin. (paraphrasing from Amazon and Wikipedia)

I have always enjoyed book that are related to New York City so to have two on the go at once is great fun.

👀 👀 👀 Personal Journal– Now for the good news. (I think.)

Dolly. Born 27 November, 2020 Pug/Maltese/Toy Poodle……I know.

Meet Ollie’s new little sister…. Dolly. Since we lost our beloved little Molly, Ollie has been at loose ends. He walks around eating stuff that makes him sick, sleeps too much and generally is not himself. He has not been well and has just had xrays and an ultrasound that is backing up his illness that is still being investigated.

We brought Dolly home yesterday. Yesterday was her 8 weeks old birthday. She is a mixture of (get this) pug, maltese and toy poodle. As we get to know her we can see a lot of pug in her (without the flat nose that causes respiratory problems in some breeds). She has a little toy poodle/maltese face with the squatty body and curled up tail of a pug. She is a little feminist, not letting Ollie boss her around as he has tried to do. When that didn’t work, he has now taken all his tennis balls in the front yard and hidden them in the bushes and in the house he has hidden his favourite toys next to bookshelves and behind furniture. It has been very funny to watch. He has that “only child” syndrome. Like a couple of toddlers. We are seeing a new side to him.

Ollie Meets Dolly for the first time.

As we are probably not travelling anywhere for any length of time this year we have lots of time to train her during her first year and to give Ollie a job which he needs. I think most dogs need a job to keep them focused and stop them eating all manner of things they find in the yard. The laughs just keep on coming watching the interaction of these two. As for our indoor cats, they have just rolled their eyes, looked at each other, sighed….’Another puppy!’ and moved on to their daily routines.

What a week it has been. This coming week has the builder coming back and painting our laundry room and before too long installing the kitchen floor to finish off the new kitchen.

I have a couple of friends dropping by to visit Ollie and Dolly and sharing a cup of tea or coffee. Ollie has a vet appointment to continue his diagnosis and treatment and I will take Dolly along to get her checked out as I always do with a new dog. I imagine she will be the last puppy we get in our lifetime as we are not getting any younger and we will go into “older age” together.

They better not forget about me !

As they say in an Olympic year- “Let the games begin!’

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.

My first book finished this year.

(Yes I did begin it the end of last year but hey! I’m done now and I’m counting it.)

Happy New Year everyone. I won’t even mention our previous year. I know how everyone feels about it. Moving forward….

I just finished listening to almost 20 hours of a travel book by Alastair Humphreys. It is described as:

At the age of 24, Alastair Humphreys set off to try to cycle round the world. By the time he arrived back home, four years later, he had ridden 46,000 miles (74.000kms). across five continents on a budget of just £7,000. 

From frozen Siberia tundra to the jungles of central Africa, Alastair recounts his extraordinary adventures in two parts – Moods of Future Joys and Thunder & Sunshine – brought together in audiobook for the first time. 

Alastair lives in the U.K. He had finished university, had a young woman he loved but he was restless. He didn’t want an office job though he had very lucrative offers with secure employment guaranteed. He decided to take his 7000 pounds and ride around the world. It was the summer of 2001. He had no mobile phone, gps or any of the other technology we use so readily these days. His plan was to go from the UK to Europe, eastward through Iran, Afghanistan, to Asia, Japan, Australia, South America, the United States. He planned on being away for four years.

However, after he started out 9/11 happened in the U.S.A. and once he arrived in Turkey he was advised to not go through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Instead he went to northern Africa, beginning in Egypt and south to Cape Town, South Africa along the western African coast. From there he went to Patagonia in South America and rode north to Alaska. He then rode through Japan, Russia and westward back to Europe.

He lived on bread and jam and spent next to nothing. This is his story of hardship, severe loneliness (lots of tears), contrasting poverty and wealth, beauty and ugliness in the surrounding areas. He learned a lot and realised how privileged his life was. I’m glad I listened to the audible version as I find first person travel books the most enjoyable in this format.

It took me awhile to warm to him. The first couple of hours he carried on ad nauseum about his crying jags, missing his girlfriend, how out of shape he was, how he didn’t know why he was doing this. He hated it, he wanted to go home.

I almost gave up but still had about 17 hours to go. As I couldn’t sleep one night I set the timer on audible for 30 minutes hoping I would fall asleep. Once he took the focus off his emotional needs and began realising where he was and how much he was enjoying himself, in spite of his reservations it picked up.

To get from one continent to another he bummed rides on yachts and container ships. He was very tenacious and embraced the people no matter where he was. Some of the accommodation he stayed in made my hair curl. Filth, overflowing squat toilets, bedbugs. He rode across Siberia in the winter in deep snow. I don’t know how he managed it but he did. He had friends that flew in to various places and rode with him in certain places and then they would leave.

I have read a lot of travel writing and I think this must be the most arduous trip I have been on vicariously with anyone. But he did it. He finished when everyone said he wouldn’t. I won’t say anymore than that.

He was a good narrator and I really enjoyed his descriptions of the families he stayed with, the places he slept, ate and visited. Little snippets of history popped up here and there but not enough to make me yawn. I don’t read travel writing for extensive history. Instead I want to hear about the day to day logistics of what one does, eats and who they meet. This did not let me down.

It is the closest I can get at the moment of travelling myself.

Now going into 2021 I think I’ve had enough travel writing for awhile. This book wore me out and I’m looking foward to getting into some other books and activities. More on that soon.

I have been reading other books, mainly dipping in and out of several but more on that another time.

All the best for 2021 and I look forward to seeing what everyone gets up to this year with their books,challenges, lives. Stay well and maybe we’ll all get back to normal before too long.

Always the optimist !!

Looking forward to the weekend…

This week has ended quite well and the weekend is looking better. I’ll get the first news out of the way as I am not dwelling on this body thing anymore. I am well and truly over it. But pathology results have returned and there is no cancer. I am happy and relieved. Now onto a book I just finished.

I have been listening to a lot of audible things during the past week or so. A book I downloaded from audible.com is called, Things I Learned on the 6.28, A Commuter’s Guide to Reading by Stig Abell. Narrated by the author, published by John Murray, 2020. UK

The book blurb states:

For a whole year on his train to work, TLS Editor Stig Abell read books from across genres and time periods. Then he wrote about them and their impact on our culture and his own life.

The result is a work of many things: a brisk guide to the canon of Western literature; an intimate engagement with writers from Shakespeare to JK Rowling, Marcel Proust to Zora Neale Hurston; a wise and funny celebration of the power of words; and a meditation on mental unrest and how to tackle it. It will help you discover new books to love, give you the confidence to give up on those that you don’t, and remind you of ones that you already do.

He began in January and finished just before Christmas. His train ride was approximately 55 minutes and each month he planned a different genre.

The winter months (in the UK) were Jan- Crime; Feb- English Classics; Mar- Shakespeare

Spring had him discussing Apr-American classics; May-Historical Novels

Summer were Plays, Translated Classics and Poetry.

Autumn was Modern Literary Fiction; Autodidact Non Fiction; and December was Lucky Dip.

My reading corner on the porch. Our porch is tiny

Overall I enjoyed this book. I loved the concept and was surprised at how much he could read in such a small space of a day. He had a family with children and the time on the train was pretty much his best reading time.

He gave a good bit of information about the authors, the time periods of the books and their impact on society as he saw it. At times he got a little bit too wordy and I skimmed ahead as it began to drone a bit but not often. I must say I lost a bit of interest on Plays That Aren’t Shakespeare in June. I was familiar with a couple but some were very obscure to me only because I don’t read a lot of the classical plays from centuries past.

It was a good book to listen to during the night when sleep escaped me and the topic changed regularly enough I could concentrate on what he was doing. He seems really committed to the value of books and I enjoyed that.

So I actually finished a book this week. Progress.

I’ve been thinking about some projects for next year to replace time on my motorbike. I’ve got a few ideas but am still pondering. Hint- I have a brand new kitchen and it’s all ready to go. Also, Australia (even Tasmania) is very hot in summer so would be nice to be indoors if not under a shady tree.

This weekend is to be between 28 and 31 degrees C (approx 86 F). I have my lounge chair set up on the porch, Ollie is happy in the front yard with his assortment of bugs to stalk and places in the sun to nap and I think we will be doing some reading in the shade.

And just for fun…..This photo popped up this week on my facebook memory. Ollie as a puppy as I listened to an opera and the soprano came on. He had been sleeping and it startled him.

Enjoy your weekend everyone.

The Gifts of Reading

Our local bookshop, Fullers, my home away from home, that I mention a lot in my posts had a Christmas shopping day yesterday. They usually have a night time spree, but with so many people who buy books they have stretched it out over a day in order to have less people in the shop at one time. As Tasmania has not had a Covid case in months, due to strong lockdown of our state (take note Americans) we have bookshops and libraries that are open and thriving.

It was also double points day so I went down to see what Christmas presents I might pick up. I got distracted by the book I am going to share with you here today and bought it. It is easy to get distracted in book shops by books WE want!

The book I bought and have begun is called: The Gifts of Reading: Essays on the Joys of Reading, Giving and Receiving Books. Inspired by Robert MacFarlane (a British writer). Published 2020 by Weidenfeld and Nicholson, it was developed to give to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) which does vital work saving migrant lives at sea in the Mediterranean and the Bay of Bengal, and which relies on donations for its continued operation. It also crossed paths with Jennie Orchard, long term supported of an NGO, Room to Read and John Wood, its founder. This organisation transforms the lives of tens of million of children, especially girls, in Asia and Africa.

There are 23 essays/chapters from various authors including, Robert MacFarlane, William Boyd, Roddy Doyle, Pico Iyer, Jan Morris and Michael Ondaatje to name a few.

The last three chapters are called The Gifts, (a list of books these authors gift to others regularly); Acknowledgements of everyone else involved in this project and Room to Read, information about the organisation.

Cover painting John Craxton

Today I randomly chose a chapter with random.org and the number that came up was Chapter 1 called The Gifts of Reading by Robert MacFarlane. Robert MacFarlane now teaches at Cambridge in England. Quite appropriate I thought. I have set up a lounge chair on our very small front porch, with a cushion. I bribed Ollie to sit on it with me with liver treats and settled down on a lovely, cool, cloudy spring day to read.

This chapter tells about a time living in Beijing with a friend, the books they read and some of his travels. He was teaching there for a coupe of years and then did some walking trips into the mountains of southwest China. He and his friend talked a lot about books. The books they have received as gifts and those they gifted to others. More importantly they discussed how those books impacted on them receiving them as

His favourite two books he gives to others are Patrick Leigh Fermor’s- A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube. This book tells the story of Fermor’s legendary walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in the early 1930s, started when he was 18. However he did not write the book until the 1970s so it is stated be narrated with the wisdom of an older person of his youth.

Fermor makes it seem as if anyone could just walk out the door and keep going. He writes, “The comforting rhythm of his journey- exertion, encounter, rest, food, sleep; exertion, encounter, rest, food, sleep- rocks its readers into feelongs of happiness and invulnerability. I could do this, you think, I could just start walking and keep going for a day or two, or three, or four, or more…”

The second book he gifts is Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain. Published in 2012. Amazon describes it as: In this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.

My intention is to read a new essay every day or two and if they move me I will try to share a couple more with you. However if there is a bibliophile in your life this would make a lovely Christmas present.

…and the days keep flying by

Hobart Waterfront at night. One cool spring time night.

I know it is a cliche but I really don’t know where the time goes. Busy with the 12 week fitness challenge I’m doing, a long motorbike ride, a few photography events and lots of household planning. I’m not getting a lot of time for reading books but I am listening to a lot of books. I get a couple of hours in most nightHs while lying in bed. A very relaxing and quiet time.

I finished One Day by Gene Weingarten. I heard about it somewhere and was intrigued by the concept. The author wanted to explore the events of one day in history in America. He picked three strangers and each drew numbers out of a hat. One chose the year, one, the day and one the month. The result was Sunday, 28 December, 1986. It is the date he researched extensively to find the events of the day. He wasn’t expecting as much as he found as it was a Sunday. Not the best day of the week, he thought. It was also only three days after Christmas. In the end it didn’t seem to matter as there was no shortage of events.

That Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s turned out to be filled with comedy, tragedy, implausible irony, cosmic comeuppances, kindness, cruelty, heroism, cowardice, genius, idiocy, prejudice, selflessness, coincidence, and startling moments of human connection, along with evocative foreshadowing of momentous events yet to come. Lives were lost. Lives were saved. Lives were altered in overwhelming ways. Many of these events never made it into the news; they were private dramas in the lives of private people. They were utterly compelling.

One Day asks and answers the question of whether there is even such a thing as “ordinary” when we are talking about how we all lurch and stumble our way through the daily, daunting challenge of being human. (Booktopia site)

Gene Weingarten- Author

Gene Weingarten is an author that has won the Pulitzer Prize twice in the past. His day job has him working as a journalist for the Washing Post newspaper.

I enjoyed this book as if you think of everything that happens in a person’s live and multiply that by billions there really doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. One never knows what lies ahead. The author’s research was good and it was an interesting concept to explore.

Last night four of us from the Photo Club went down to the waterfront to teach ourselves how to get night time ‘bokeh’. For those who don’t know what bokeh is, it is the blurry lights you see behind a photographic subject. It is regularly seen in films and television and nighttime photos. The photographer finds a subject to photograph and then looks for light sources farther behind the subject. The camera lens is opened up wide and hopefully the subject in the front of the photo will be clear and the lights in the background will be blurred. It was trickier to get then we thought but some other lovely photos came out of our experimentation. It was a chilly night out, as we wandered around the fishing boats and fish and chips shops at night looking for subjects and lights with our tripods over our shoulders. It was good to get out in the fresh air with like minded fellow photographers and have a laugh and share ideas. Here are just three photos I came up with. The bokeh isn’t that great but the photos turned out nice and one had nice starbursts in the light I wasn’t expecting to get. Once I went out to get starbursts and ended up with bokeh. One just never knows.

Here’s hoping all is well with anyone stopping by this page. Stay well.

Flippers is really good.

I’m Reading Again

2020-05-22 10.42.43I am happy to say my reading slump has disappeared and I am enjoying my books again. I’m glad it didn’t last too long. I got fed up with all the screens from social media, news, t.v. and Netflix.  Quiet nights with books again and mornings with more books and blog posts are the go for now.

I just finished this wonderful travel story from Elspeth Beard from London. Elspeth was the first (known of) British woman to ride her motorbike around the world in 1982.  It is a remarkable tale and here are the details.

Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World by Elspeth Beard. Published by Michael O’Mara 2017. 320 pgs long.

In 1982 Elspeth had just finished studying Architecture in England and wanted to do the trip with her BMW motorbike she had dreamed of.  Her parents who were quite upper class gave her no support and showed no interest in much of what she did, instead deciding she just wasn’t much of a conformist. Her mother was more concerned that the curtains in the living room were matching and her father was lovely but a bit distracted with other issues.

Because she was a young woman, none of the Bike magazines wanted to hear about it, not many wanted to sponsor or support her and as this trip had not been done by a female before most thought she was mad.  But being such a strong, stubborn person off she went. (Thoughts went through my mind of how much support Ewan McGregor and Charley Borman had from BMW on their round the world trip much later)

She flew herself and her bike to New York and rode to Detroit where she stayed with an aunt for a short while. Then off to New Orleans and across the southern states to California.

From there she sent her bike to Sydney but then found out she could not get a working visa  for herself. She tried several embassies in the U.S. with no luck.  She wanted to spend time there and finish her architecture practicum for school at a Sydney firm while earning some money to finance her trip. She had a name of a well known architect there who could help her (she was assured).

Instead she decided to go to New Zealand where she met up with other relatives in Auckland. She knew her bike was on a ship to Sydney and she thought the embassy in New Zealand might be friendlier. As it turned out when she applied for her visa there, she dealt with a man who rode a Triumph motorbike and he loved the idea of the trip and stamped her passport with enthusiasm. Her boyfriend of the time met her in New Zealand and they toured the north and south islands before she went on to Sydney.

She did introduce herself to the architect she was referred to however he turned out to be a very nasty man and she didn’t last long but that’s another story.  She did find a better practice in which to work. Once cashed up she covered Australia pretty well. Her descriptions of the flooded dirt tracks she encountered especially from Alice Springs to Adelaide were harrowing. Mud up to her knees and much help from the road train drivers saved her skin.

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I was impressed with the panniers she made for this trip with the help of an old mate.

She then rode to Perth and then flew to Bali to catch up with her boyfriend, Mark again, while shipping her bike ahead to Singapore. The rest of the story is where it gets gritty.

Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and India had us holding our breath in many situations. Getting in and out of India was nightmarish with the bureaucracy and I wouldn’t have traded places with her at all. For example when she got to the Pakistani border she was told she had to go back to Delhi to get her paperwork stamp. Delhi is 500 kms away and off she went. Only to find it couldn’t be done and back to Pakistan border she went. Another form fell out of her passport by accident and the border guard at the Pakistani border thought that was the right form and let her in. Such luck she had.

Descriptions of the people, the locations and a couple of pretty hairy accidents not to mention the illnesses she contracted did make me think she was mad.

But survive she did, having met a Dutch motorbiker who she falls in love with and off they go to Pakistan and Iran and then Turkey.  Both of them contracted Hepatitis, dealt with many men with rifles and lust and she still manages to get through it all while having lost kilos of weight and was yellow with Hepatitis.

There is a quite a bit of naval gazing about what to do about getting over Alex who dumped her before she left England. who had been the love of her life. Then lovely Mark who loves her dearly, but obsessively and is the one who catches up with her in New Zealand and Bali.  She finally falls in love with him until she meets Richard. But once she gets back to London, three years later, she and Richard go by the wayside as he isn’t able to deal with everything that has happened.  There is a lot more to do with him and Mark later in the book but that would be a spoiler.

She ends up marrying one of them, was it Mark? or Richard? but that is glossed over a bit as it is the journey that is important.  She is only in her mid 20s when she does this trip and her travelling skills as well as her mechanical nous are quite extraordinary.

Once home again with her parents she just can’t believe they continue to show no interest in her trip and never really ask her much about it. She was travelling for three years and could find nobody who had an interest in it.  So typical eh?

Well I really enjoyed her and her journey and I would love to have been there when she got home and heard about every detail.

I will never stop thinking about her and remembering and appreciating her bravery, perseverance and adventures.

Her writing is excellent and I could feel the bumps, the laughs, the smells, the sounds and the excruciating injuries of her accidents as well as enjoying the food and the culture of all of the countries she visited.

This was definitely the type of travel writing I crave. If I was only 50 years younger.

Yellow Casual Penguin
Whew! I need a little drink.

 

 

A Lazy Wednesday with Books & Food

2020-05-06 13.10.04
P Fiennes writes as though he is travelling with these writers and I feel I am with him in conversations.

I have found two books I must say I am really enjoying.  The first came recommended to me by English blogger Catherine of the Read-Warbler blog. After my last post she suggested a book she was enjoying entitled: Footnotes: Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers by Peter Fiennes. Amazon describes it as:

“Peter Fiennes follows in the footsteps of twelve inspirational writers, bringing modern Britain into focus by peering through the lens of the past.

The journey starts in Dorset, shaped by the childhood visions of Enid Blyton, and ends with Charles Dickens on the train that took him to his final resting place in Westminster Abbey.

From the wilds of Skye and Snowdon, to a big night out in Birmingham with J. B. Priestley and Beryl Bainbridge, Footnotes is a series of evocative biographies, a lyrical foray into the past, and a quest to understand Britain through the books, journals and diaries of some of our greatest writers.

And as Fiennes travels the country, and roams across the centuries, he wonders:

‘Who are we? What do we want? They seemed like good questions to ask, in the company of some of our greatest writers, given these restless times.”

I downloaded it from Audible and have only listened to the first two chapters. The first is about the life Enid Blyton who I had no idea was such a difficult person with, what sounds like a lot of personal issues and the second is about the life of Wilkie Collins, author of the Moonstone and The Woman in White.  The description of his life makes me want to read the Moonstone again and also the Woman in White which I have never read.  I listen to 30 to 60 minutes at night before I fall asleep or as I lie down for a short rest in the afternoon. Peter Fiennes, the author, also narrates it and does a splendid job of it.

The other book in print I began last night is one I’m hearing quite a bit about. In this

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This beautiful little hard cover is a Virago Press UK copy. I love it.

book I am visiting a castle in Italy with four women who share the rent in the early 1900s.  Some of you may have guessed by now.  The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim.  I only began it this morning with my morning coffee and toast with Ollie (who I learned loves apple slices).  I’m not far into it so will comment later.

The rest of the day will centre on taking our 15 year old Molly to the vet later for her monthly arthritis injection.  I think running around the yard with Ollie has been good for keeping her young though observing the looks she gives him at times might disagree with this though. Molly is a terrier mixture of about 9 different breeds according to the DNA sample we sent in. She is a sturdy little dog that just doesn’t quit and is certainly in charge of this household.  Ollie has a healthy respect for her having been shaken by her at least twice since he arrived in this household. Those boundaries were established early.

Mr. Penguin has gone to the grocery store and will be picking up some ingredients for a Moroccon chicken recipe I found online that looks pretty good and also quite easy. I will print it here in case you’re interested. I’m not a big cook anymore. I cooked the first 25 years of our marriage and Mr. Penguin has cooked for the past 25 years.  Once we hit our 50 year mark I’m not sure how we will divide that up. During these days of isolation and watching the Great British Bakeoff show on reruns I feel a bit like getting into the kitchen at times.

Here is the recipe

Moroccan Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 8 ounces baby carrots with tops, trimmed, or baby carrots, halved lengthwise if large
  • ½ cup pitted dried plums (prunes)
  • 1 14 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons curry powder (I brought back some spices from Morocco when I was there last year I will use)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Step 1 In a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker combine onion and carrots. Add prunes and broth. Top with chicken. In a small bowl combine curry powder, salt, and cinnamon. Sprinkle over chicken.

Instructions Checklist

Step 2 Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Remove chicken, fruit, and vegetables from cooker with a slotted spoon. Spoon some of the cooking juices on each serving. Makes 4 servings.

I’ll have to let you know if it is good or not or of any adjustments I make to it.

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This is first thing in the morning as Ollie lies on my fuzzy robe in our reading chair with our cup of tea or coffee before the household is awake. A favourite time. I love it when he is asleep.

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Another lazy day.

A Bit of a Catch Up

victory-in-the-kitchenI’m finding the current situation in the world very weird. I’m not going to say anything more about this virus thing as I am well and truly tired of hearing about it. We are doing everything right though. Like everyone else we are trying to find things to do around the house and that isn’t too hard. For a start I have a lot of books I can read. I also have a 7 month old puppy to spend time with. So each day I ask myself- “will it be a quiet book and a cup of coffee?” or “will it be a crazy , high energy puppy to occupy my time?”

 

I have been reading a lot of photography magazines and watching you tube videos on the subject. So not reading a lot of novels. However I did start this one which I am enjoying so far at a fairly slow pace. It’s called Victory in the Kitchen: The Life of  Churchill’s Cook by Annie Gray. The blurb on the cover states, ” This is a book about Georgina Landmark. It’s about her life, her times and some of her employers, including Winston and Clementine Churchill. It’s about working class life, and women’s work and expectations, and it’s about domestic service at the highest level. It’s about British food and French influence, and the impact of war on the way we ate. Above all else, though, it’s the story of a woman who loved, loved and cooked her way through much of 20th century Britain, and, while her life is made more resonant by her relationship to her last employers, it remains Georgina’s story.

I might also add I love the cover of this book.

Other activities: 

90419399_3070627949638320_5357850227199967232_oWe have three cats and for entertainment they are quite hard on their cat tree. We replace the one in the house every few years by moving the old one outside to their enclosure and adding a new one to the living room. I ordered one online and it arrived in a flat pack package and I had to put it together. Once I sorted all the pieces and made sure everything was there I got it together this morning.  I had to spray vinegar water around it to keep little Ollie from grabbing pieces and running through the house with them. I often spray a bit of vinegar water on things I don’t want him to chew, such as the edges of furniture or power cords.  It works well as he hates the smell.

 

Our cats took one look at this tree, backed up and went, “Whoa! Check this out!!”  So far, we are getting gentle sniffing at it but not daring yet to venture onto it. I’m sure it won’t be long before they explore it properly,

Photography and bush walks with Ollie:

89828882_3055537494480699_5550781738684252160_oWe have a reserve behind our house that has trails that eventually lead to the pinnacle of Mt, Wellington.  Ollie and I took the camera out one beautiful autumn day and took some photos.  He sniffs out wallaby poo and I look for things to photograph. I thought I’d do a bit of macro work. These are the photos.

Well that pretty much sums up the week. I won’t go on too much about the cancellation of all of my activities I generally participate in. The Book group and Shakespeare group at Fuller’s book store have stopped though a Shakespeare activities is coming up soon online dealing with the sonnets. That should be fun.

The Play reading, Motorbike group rides and social events, the sketch groups at the 90047539_3055537341147381_6826748498633818112_omuseum and all photography events have been cancelled as well. Though the sketch group has a fb page and our photo club currently has a bingo game going on with our fb page.

In summary, it really is a strange time and I’m finding it quite interesting to see the progression of the government rules coming out daily. Tasmania is currently locked now. You can leave but you can’t enter without going into 2 weeks isolation though they are still working on how they monitor the caravans coming in on the ferries from interstate and driving around everywhere.  Governments are great at issuing orders before they work out how they are to be implemented and monitored.

90094922_3055537697814012_1509713474496757760_oAnd if I do get really bored there is Netflix though I don’t want to dive too deep into that entertaining activity.  Remember, I have all these books

I hope all of you out there are doing well and coping and staying well.  It is distressing to see what is happening with people losing jobs, getting sick and dying in large numbers around the world. But it is careful we balance these things out in our mind to prevent getting too depressed about it all. I appreciate all my blogger friends at this time and sometimes I don’t have time to comment on all the blogs I read, I do read most of them, most of the time. I appreciate seeing what others are doing during these weird times.

 

 

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He was so exhausted after his bush walk. Check out the spots on the belly. I love puppy bellies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

masked penguin
Stay Well.

Berezina- Interesting Travel Tale- 2015

  • Author: Sylvain Tesson – FrenchBerezina book
  • Publisher Europa Compass
  • Translated from the French by Katherine Gregor 2019
  • 177 pages
  • Berezina refers to a ‘disastrous situation’

Premise: Four men from Russia and France get three Russian Ural motorcycles and ride from Moscow to Paris in the winter following the retrear of Napoleon from Moscow in 1812.

You’ll need to wear your woolen warmies if you’re reading this book because it is cold. These guys are nuts! First off to have the Ural be the motorcycle transport of choice is crazy.

If you aren’t familiar with a Ural bike, read on:

The Soviets built them in the 1930s, modelling them on the BMWs of the German army. These machines are robotics of the Soviet industry. They promise adventure. You can never tell if they’ll start and once launched, no-one knows if they’ll stop. 

They go up to 50 miles per hour. They travel through the countryside devoid of electronic devices. Anybody can repair them with a pair of metal pliers. You. need to get used to driving them, avoid turning right too quickly on pain of lifting the basket and constantly adjust the profile towards the left. For the past twenty years, driven by a blend of fascination and masochism. (Page 35)

Did I mention two of the bikes on the trip had sidecars.

Ural tipping

These guys are history buffs and absolutely besotted with the history of Napoleon. The reader learns a great deal about the military retreat of Napoleon when he could not conquer Russia and they in turn, with thousands of troops send him back out of the country.  The descriptions of the battles, the deep snow and the stubbornness and insanity of Napoleon at times is quite interesting though I must warn  the battles can get quite graphic.

These men wanted to experience the conditions that Napoleon suffered so they are riding across Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Germany and France. Most of it in blinding blizzards, deep snow, sub zero temperatures, breaking down constantly, getting drunk on vodka most nights. It is a book I couldn’t put down because I couldn’t believe they were doing this.

I learned more about Napoleon than I needed but it is fascinating history. Two men had to leave during the trip due to other commitments but the other two kept ploughing through. I can’t believe they actually survived the trip.  Here are another couple of passages:

“A motorbike helmet is a meditation cell. Trapped inside, ideas circulate better than in the open air. (I can confirm this.) It would be ideal to be able to smoke in there. Sadly, the lack of space in an integral crash helmet prevents one from drawing on a Havana cigar, and the ensuing wind blows out the burning tip when the helmet is open.  A helmet is also a sounding box. It’s nice to sing inside it It’s like being in a recording studio. I hummed the epigraph from Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night. These lines were to become my mantra for weeks to come. (page 58)”

Our life is a journey. Through Winter and Night, We try to find our way, Beneath a sky without light.

They often referred to “a top location”. You might wonder what that means. Here is their definition.

” Is a stretch of geography fertilised by the tears of History, a piece of territory made sacred by an act, cursed by a tragedy, a land that, over the centuries, keeps echoing with hushed-up suffering or past glory. It’s a landscape blessed by tears and blood. You stand before it and suddenly sense a presence, a surge, a manifestation of something you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s the echo of History, the fossilised radiation of an event that seeps out of the soil like a wave. Tragedy has been so intense here, and in such a short space of time, that the geography hasn’t recovered yet. The trees may have grown but the Earth continues to sugar. When it drinks too much blood it becomes a to location. Then you must look at it in silence because it’s haunted by ghosts. (page 107).

And last but not least is a short insight into Napoleon.Generated by pixel @ 2019-12-21T17:33:57.381519

” Napoleon had always felt the need to strive towards an idea. Did he not profess that the world was led by imagination? He would project on the screen of the future the images of his mental constructions. Nothing must hinder the mechanics, a defeat was not conceivable. This is why the Emperor gives the impression of brushing aside the Russian disaster, minimising it, and casting it out of his mind. Sadly, the means at his disposal were never sufficient to brig his plans to a successful conclusion, and to consolidate the work he had begun in every direction and every country. He started everything and finished nothing. He wanted to redesign the world, but didn’t achieve a single local reform.

And so his reign was like the sleigh trip: a crazy pursuit. (Page 156)”

In finishing I’d like to say the Penguin suggested I rehome this book so if you’d like a copy of it email me or leave in the comments you’d like it. If more than one I’ll use the random generator. It’s a relatively small book so happy to mail it anywhere in the world.

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Who would like this book?

 

About the author: Sylvain Tesson has traveled the world by bicycle, train, horse, motorcycle and on foot. His best selling accounts of his travels have won numerous prices, including the Dolman Best Travel Book Award for the Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga (2013)