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

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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.

Screenshot 1
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) 

A Bit of Ruth Park- Australian Writer

ruth park
D’Arcy Niland and Ruth Park

My first book of 2020 is from an Australian female writer of the past, Ruth Park. The book is A Fence Around the Cuckoo, her autobiography of the first 25 years of her life. The remaining years are in a sequel entitled Fishing in the Styx, which I own but have not yet read. Bill Holloway of the AustralianLegend blog is hosting an Australian Women’s Writer week in January (here). I won’t have time to read a lot of the Gen 3 AWWs by mid January but this book qualifies.

Ruth Park was born in New Zealand in 1917 and died in 2010 at the age of 93. Part I of her biography details her first 25 years living in the north island of New Zealand with her large extended family in poverty during the war and depression years. She moved to Sydney in her early 20s where she remained the rest of her life.

She always knew from a very young age she wanted to write. Her parents struggled to ever meet her expectations because of their poverty. Her mother was one of six girls and a couple of brothers raised by Ruth’s grandmother and grandfather. They feature a lot in this story and I enjoyed hearing about their life of squabbles and affection.  Ruth lived with a couple of them from time to time when things got too bad.

Screenshot 2
1992 first published

Ruth didn’t have any access to books at all until she was in her teens. Books weren’t available and neither was paper upon which to write. She talks of one of her uncles bringing home some forms from his office job, that were blank on the back and she thought it was Christmas. She coveted the paper and wrote every chance she got. If the desire to write is genetic she certainly had the gene for it. Her desire was strong.

The book details the type of work her parents and grandparents did, the description of the homes she lived in. Her father had done pretty good until the depression came, he couldn’t work and they lost their home after declaring bankruptcy. The ensuing years were very tough. It wasn’t until WWII when things began to pick up a bit.

I enjoyed hearing about her mother’s seamstress skills and her relationships with her sisters.

Ruth was greatly influenced by one of the nuns where she attended primary school at St. Benedicts.  The nun spent a great deal of time with her perfecting her writing skills, working her harder than the other students as she saw Ruth’s potential. As Ruth approached high school age the Sister helped her get a full scholarship for the rest of her school years.  I felt excited for her at that point, but sadly the family had to move away due to their financial situation and Ruth never got to take it up. I really felt for her.  She was still trying to find books to read without success. Her mother was supportive and wanted her to continue her education but was unable to help her.

Eventually Ruth got a job for the Star newspaper in Auckland, writing in the children’s section. At that time there were sections in newspapers for children of several pages which Ruth loved in her own childhood, if she could get her hands on a paper. During her time at the Star she realises how lowly paid female copy writers were compared to male writers. Most males didn’t believe there was any place for a woman on a newspaper. She was groundbreaking on that front eventually becoming a journalist.

She also met a man from Sydney who worked for newspapers there and they began an uncomfortable pen pal relationship. I say uncomfortable as she thought him a bit arrogant and he was keener to be with her than her with him. Her upbringing was very sheltered and she was also quite an independent child and wanted to remain so because of her own goals in life.

Eventually she moves to Sydney when she is 22 years old as she is offered work on a newspaper there. She learned that women were paid the same as men in copy editing and there were more opportunities.  Her relationship with her pen pal D’Arcy Niland, also a writer, developed more and they married not long after she arrived in Sydney.

I found the book interesting as I saw another side of New Zealand indigenous life, the depression years of the 1930s as well as life during the two world wars. I admired her tenacity and independence in staying focused on her goals throughout her young life. Nothing distracted her mentally. The circumstances ruling her life then were so tough.

As far as autobiographies go I really enjoyed this one. I’d like to read more of her books of which she wrote many during her lifetime.

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I also began the diaries mentioned in the last post as it’s the first of January.  I opened my own diary and loved seeing all the blank pages waiting to be filled. What will this year be like?

I thought as I read these diaries during the year I’ll add excerpts that I enjoy from different periods of time into some posts.

From A Traveller’s Year: “…in the knowledge that no one pines for me anywhere on earth, that there is no place where I am being missed or expected. To know that is to be free and unencumbered, a nomad in the great desert of life where I shall never be anything but an outsider”  Isabelle Eberhardt, Diary. 1900. 

I’d like to know more of Isabelle’s life. Until next time…..Screenshot 1

Looking Forward to 2020- Part 2

ScreenshotIt’s to be 40 degrees C (104 F) in Hobart today. The firefighters are on high alert as a large storm is expected to come through tonight and they are worried about lightning strikes starting fires. The last time Hobart hit 40 degrees C on this date was 1897. Needless to say we are sequestered in the house for the day.

It gives me a chance to finalise my challenges for next year. I am adding two other types of reading in order to diversify the books a bit. I got a book voucher for my November birthday and with it I purchased a very thick book of comical short stories by well known authors. It is called Funny Ha Ha. Authors include the likes of James Thurber, Saki, Spike Milligan, Mark Twain, Joyce Carol Oates and Dorothy Parker to name a few. There are 80 stories in all, of a few pages each.  I decided I will randomly pick one story each Monday morning and have programmed that into my phone calendar so I will get a reminder each week.

As New Year’s Day is this Wednesday, I decided to randomly pick a story today and was pleased when my random generator app chose The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. I have read this story before, once assigned in high school and once later on. I also saw the film but didn’t get as much out of that as I did the story. I look Screenshot 5forward to reading it again.

The description of Funny Ha Ha states:

“Funny Ha Ha is the definitive collection of comic short stories. From Anton Chekhov to Ali Smith from P.G. Woodhouse to Nora Ephron, the greatest writers are those who know how to laugh. Here, award winning comedian and broadcaster Paul Merton brings together his favourite funny stories of all time. Whether it’s the silly, surreal, slapstick or satirical that makes you smile there’s a story here to tickle every funny bone. From prize-winners and literary giants, to stand up comedians and the rising stars of funny literature, this brilliant anthology is guaranteed to cheer your day. “

My second challenge is to continue with more of the books from 1001 Children’s Books You Should Read Before You Die. I started it before but it got waylaid. I’m hoping to rejuvenate that project. The only conditions I am assigning this project are I will use the Random Generator app to pick from the 900+ pages of the book and the books must come from the library.  I had a quick library search and they do have many of them. However some books are not available. There are quite a few copies that are eBooks I can download and others I need to put a hold on them.  I am choosing three books at a time and locating them in the library. I will read them once they become available or I get into town to pick them up.  Most won’t take very long to read.  I’ve not read children’s books much since I stopped working in the Education department. I like to keep up on children’s books and some young adult books.  It keeps me in the loop of what goes on with the younger generations though many of these books were classics when I was young.

Screenshot 3I also have some diaries I will try to keep up. They begin on 1 January and I will try to start my day off with the passage of the day. They are books I’ve wanted to read for awhile and if I take a year to read them I might be able to keep up. No promises on this one.

They are:

  1. The Diary of Samuel Pepys (those entries are a bit longer) Everyman’s Library, introduced by Kate Loveman
  2. A Traveller’s Year: 365 Days of Travel Writing in Diaries, Journals and Letters, compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison
  3. New York Diaries:  1609 to 2009, Edited by TeresaScreenshot 4 Carpenter.
  4. Dear Los Angeles: The City in diaries and Letters 1542 – 2018, Edited by David Kipen

Books three and four are really interesting. The editors have compiled all the diaries and letters they could find over time, in these locations, and organised the entries from centuries ago;  to current day by day of the year beginning with 1 January. So an entry might read: 1 January 1723 and the next paragraph could be 1 January 1802, and so forth. It sounds disjointed but I’ve had a read of these books here and there and they are really quite fun. Of course big events in these two cities are covered but there are also very minor characters who kept diaries and one gets a sense of what daily life’s like at the particular date.

Now I know, come 1 January, I love to take a big bite out of the book world and I am quite enthused now. But I have decided that 2020 is the year I drop way back on social media, except for my photography work and instead of wasting time looking at FB, Instagram and You Tube, I’m going to immerse myself in the books I have been collecting for decades and then moving them on.  Wish me luck.  (I know, I have an inflated sense of self and a very good sense of humour.) Screenshot 8

What I’m Reading Now…

The weather here is nasty. I can’t complain as the mainland is dealing with horrific fires so the rain, wind and cold of spring isn’t that bad. These fires happening are just awful. We have lost so many koalas due to the fires savaging their habitat. The wildlife organisations have swung into a full onslaught of revenue raising to care for the injured then eventually relocate those they save. But enough on that….

sleeping pets
Ollie and Cousin Eddie resting on this rainy, cold afternoon.

As the weather has been so bad and puppy training is relegated to the living room I am doing quite a bit of reading during his nap time. I got several books and book vouchers for my recent birthday. I’ll talk about them as I start going through them.

The one I’m reading now is The Death of (insert a photo of Hitler here). It is written by French journalists Jean-Christophe Brisard and Lana Parshina. The blurb on the back states:

On 30 April 1945 Hitler committed suicide in his bunker as the Red Arm closed in on Berlin. Within four days the Soviets had recovered the body. But the truth about what the Russian secret services found was hidden from history when, three months later, Stalin officially declared to Churchill and Truman that Hitler was still alive and had escaped abroad. Doubts began to spread like gangrene and continue, even today, to feed wild fantasies about what really happened to him. Hitler

In 2017, after two years of painstaking negotiations with the Russian authorities, award winning investigative journalists Jean Christophe Brisard and Lana Parshina gained access to confidential Soviet files that finally revealed the truth about the incredible hunt for Hitler’s body.

Their investigation includes new eye witness accounts of Hitler’s final days, exclusive photographic evidence and interrogation records, and exhaustive research into the absurd power struggle that ensued between the Soviet, British and American intelligence agencies.

Lana Parshina
Lana Parshina

Now, I’m not that far into it yet (those puppy naps aren’t that long) but Yeltsin opened up the vaults of secrecy, the archives and a skull was found. It is purported to be Hitler’s. Also a table leg from his bunker with blood on it was stored there.  The only testing done

Brisard
Jean-Christophe Brisard

has been the blood type with is A blood. Evidently 40% of Germans have this blood type.

The books is the progression of forensic analysis, interviews and document reviews.  It sounds quiet suspenseful. I’ll have to let you know what I think once I finish it.

Does this sound like something you’d like to read or hear about?  Imagine scouring the archives in Moscow, all those files that have been locked up for such a long time.  Should be an interesting read. Stay tuned…..images

Archie Roach visits Hobart

puppy in the house
Yes, there is a puppy in this house.

This week has been very windy and rainy. Every time the sun comes out and I think I can take our puppy, Ollie out it begins to rain again.  I’ve learned he isn’t crazy about the rain/wind combination. A little soul who takes after me.

Our games are confined to the house and there have been several very funny high speed runs throughout the place, much to the amusement and sometimes dismay of three cats.

The other evening I went into town to Fuller’s Book shop to attend the launch of Archie Roach’s new book, Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and Music. Archie Roach is an Aboriginal musician, in his mid 60’s who has had great success in his music career but when you read his book you wonder how it is this man is still alive. He was part of the Stolen Generation, being taken from his home by the government when he was two years old along with his sisters and brother. He never saw his parents again. He was put into an orphanage with his older sisters and then adopted by an older, Pentecostal, Scottish couple who he loved and was treated kindly by. There had another Aboriginal child they raised who ran away in his teens and never heard of again. There is a time period before this adoption where he was in foster care and treated very badly. He doesn’t talk or write about this experience. He only says he was treated very cruelly.  However when he was 16 yrs of age he learned he had biological family when his oldest sister sent him a letter at his school. It triggered forgotten memories and created a great deal of confusion in his mind. Archie 2

From there on the story becomes familiar. He goes off the rails, leaving his comfortable home, becoming homeless as he tries to discover who he is, who is family is and how he ended up where he is and why it happened.  He went to Sydney and accidentally met a woman in a pub that turned out to be his biological sister. From there he went to Melbourne and found  other Aboriginal people who knew of his family.  The book is his story.

When he arrived at Fuller’s book store the other evening he was in a wheel chair as his health has certainly suffered from his alcoholic past, the number of years he smoked both cigarettes and weed, his life living rough.  He now has several respiratory ailments and as he was wheeled into the book store he had his agent with him and a friend, Rosie Smith, who is also a writer of poetry and she facilitated the conversation with us.  He was helped into his seat and looked out at the packed bookstore. I was in the second row having arrived early to get a seat.

Archie Book Tell Me WhyHe is softly spoken and began telling us stories, several of which are in the book. He seemed tired but his smile came out during the telling of some of these stories and everyone in the audience sat spellbound. You could hear a pin drop.

He told us stories for about 35 minutes and then he tired. He was wheeled into the back of the shop where he used the facilities, then came out again and was seated before us. He asked if we wanted more stories and Peter, the staff member at Fuller’s said we could listen to him for days but he could tell he was tiring.  Archie pulled out his guitar and sang the first song he ever wrote to us.  The book describes how the songs he wrote came to be created. We would have loved to hear more but we all could see he was fading a bit.

There weren’t going to be anymore songs and we all respected that.

He couldn’t sign books either due to his poor health but there was a woman on the tour who had a stamp and ink impression of a wedge tailed eagle. Each book purchased had the wedge tailed eagle stamped onto the title page of the book. Archie explained the wedge tailed eagle had been his mother’s dreaming animal and it would be with him always. His father had the dreaming animal of the red bellied snake. He told us the snake is in his veins, the eagle is in his heart.

I purchased the book and had finished it within 48 hours. I couldn’t put it down and as the weather agreed with staying indoors and reading so I took full advantage of it.

The book is well written and we learn of the lives of all of his family members. He speaks at length about his beloved wife Ruby who was truly a soul mate and a writer, poet, singer in her own right.  They travelled the world together singing and writing songs together.

I’m not a big music follower and admit I knew who Archie Roach is but haven’t listened to his music extensively. Each chapter begins with the written lyrics to a song, then the story behind it is revealed.

Archie 1When I finished the book, I sat silently and thought, “Wow, what a tale.” I will never understand  as long as I live why the Australian government thought it a good idea to remove the children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and put them into orphanages, missionaries, run by the churches to be assimilated into white families. The ongoing tragedies of this decision continues to be ongoing and those affected by it were lucky in many cases to survive the experience.  Most of Archie’s relatives are gone now and there is a visible sadness that lives in him still. It can never be erased and he has learned to live with it, and continues to be successful.  I loved everything about this book and although I know the story of many events around the Stolen Generation and how Aboriginals have been and continue to be treated in this country this book makes it very personal. I can’t recommend it enough, especially to people who aren’t familiar with the government policies that happened in this country for several decades. Instagram Penguin