Simply Sunday

It’s Queen’s Birthday weekend here in Tassie. And a very cool, rainy, dreary, grey lizard type of weather it is. Grey lizard type of weather is to me where one stays inside, watches a film on Netflix, reads, cooks a bit and tries hard to stay awake. I also feel a bit of relief the gym classes aren’t meeting until Tuesday/Wednesday so I can rest the body from weight training. Though I will be chomping at the bit to get back to it by then. There are only so many grey lizard type of days one can cope with.

Reading is going smoothly. Our book club met and discussed the Yield by Tara June Winch. All of us enjoyed it and thought it an important First Nations book that should be on the high school curriculum. As many have read it, especially Australians I’ll leave it at that except to say it is extremely well written, tells a good story and won the 2020 Miles Franklin award in Australia.

I have been reading The Evenings by Gerard Reve after hearing it discussed on the podcast Backlisted. Backlisted is a British podcast that discusses authors and books of the past. It is highly entertaining and I really enjoy it. You can find it here.

About the Evenings. The Guardian wrote on 6 November, 2016:

Gerard Kornelis van het Reve was born in Amsterdam in 1923 and published The Evenings: A Winter’s Tale in 1947, shortly before his 24th birthday. It follows the movements of the 23-year-old Frits van Egters in (Amersterdam) the last 10 days of 1946. If the title focuses on the evenings, it is because, for much of the day, Frits is at work, where he scarcely exists. What does he do? “I take cards out of a file,” he responds to a friend’s question. “Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again.”

But Frits never complains about his job, nor expresses any desire to change it. Those hours are at least taken care of. His problem is his evenings and days off – Christmas in particular – and his one ambition is to get through them without losing his mind. Both for its hero and its author, this novel is a tour de force of filling space, of turning tawdry emptiness into comedy of the highest order: it is up there with Henry Green’s Party Going, and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Never has the business of arriving at bedtime been more urgently and richly dramatised.

Everything takes place in a few suburban streets in Amsterdam where Frits shares a small flat with his half-deaf father and well-meaning if clumsy mother. An older brother has left home. The parents live in a state of stalled conflict that Frits is determined to ignore. Their eating and grooming habits – described with a mixture of savage fury and grudging affection – are a constant torment, their conversation so predictable that Frits takes masochistic pleasure in prodding them towards old platitudes. His only ally, between stoking the stove, feeding guilders into the electricity meter and criticising Mother’s cooking or Father’s table manners, is the radio, whose scattered fragments of news and music offer themselves to the shipwrecked Frits as life-saving flotsam in an ocean of wasted time.

The Evenings, a Dutch novel was written in 1947. I find it to be hilarious in its mundaneness (is that a word?). Fritz makes a lot of comments in his mind about what he observes with his parents, friends, work. He quite likes to stir the pot especially with his parents. It is humorous to follow him in his day to day ramblings. You might also think he needs a good kick up the backside but in the meantime…..I am really enjoying this book. I might add the writing is very good as well.

The audible book I just finished this week is One Day I’ll Remember This: The Diaries 1987 – 1995. It is written and narrated by Helen Garner. I know Australian readers are quite divided regarding Helen Garner, both as a person and a writer. I enjoy listening to diaries on Audible. It is a good way to hear the intonations of the writing. Ms Garner has certainly lived an ‘interesting’ life in her 78 years. She turns 80 in 2022. Husbands,(three) writing, literary awards, controversy, friendships that wax and wane, travel. I don’t know if she could ever be friends in my world as I find her quite erratic and moody. I think at times she is quite self destructive especially in her relationships but what the diary highlights is her dilemma – does the demands of relationships and domesticity interfere with the creative process. She seems very torn between wanting to be alone so she can think and write without interruption yet maintain her love interests and a stable family. Added to this time period she is very much involved with a married author who later becomes her husband. Another dilemma is she lives in Melbourne, while he lives in Sydney. I’ll confess I googled to see who this author was. Hmmm.

All in all I enjoyed her reading voice very much. Sometimes Audible authors have shrill voiced women narrating and I have been caught out more than once when I didn’t listen to the sample before purchase. Her diaries are also quite comprehensive so I wasn’t left dangling very often. Ms Garner has a very pleasant reading voice.

The only thing I can think about with these diaries is – If I had written them I don’t think I’d be broadcasting them to the world especially when so many of the people in them are still living. This included husbands, lovers, friends. I would be quite embarrassed and would find it very awkward. But as my life is much more mundane (more like The Evenings) I was quite happy to play voyeur into her life.

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That’s it for books, now on to photography. We had a print challenge in our photo club. The theme was a “city lights at night”. I don’t have a great deal of those in my archives but then I remembered being in Tokyo four years ago and I know I took photos there one night with our small group. I did a digital dusting off of those photos and found one, edited it enough for printing and entered it and won a $20.00 gift voucher to our local camera shop. Though I’m not sure what anyone can buy in a camera shop full of thousand dollar plus lens we all covet. I’ll have a look. Maybe a strap or put it towards a battery or a card. Who knows.

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I’ll also share an Ollie and Peanut moment. Peanut is getting big. She is lovely. Six months old now and full of piss and vinegar as my mother used to say to describe things.

We had her DNA done. Results- 25% bichon frise; 25% pug; 12.5 % miniature poodle; 12.5% toy poodle; 12.5% maltese, 12.5 percent unknown (too many generations back). The features we notice most in her are pug and unknown, maybe companion dog chihuahua.

Today I was trying out a new bluetooth speaker I bought recently and had Beethoven piano sonatas playing. This is the scenario.

PICTURE THIS: DOGS …..Racing through the house….. Jump on bed…….Then it’s quiet……music begins to play softly, softly……dogs pick up their heads, turn them towards the speaker , ears raised and five minutes later looked like this……..

Well that catches you up with what is going on here. Hope everyone is well and happy this week. I won’t get too far ahead of myself here….More later…

Sunday Catch Up…

We are trying to stop our city from building a cable car across this landscape to the top of Kunanyi (Mt Wellington). A private business wants to put a very large information center and restaurant on top of this sacred indigenous mountain. Just unbelievable. Photo by ABC broadcasting.

I haven’t been online here for a bit. Reason is I’m decluttering my online presence in several areas. It was becoming overwhelming. I have decided to really follow only a small handful of book blogs and you people will know which ones. I followed many other ones but never got a response so off they went. I only need to read so many book reviews a day.

Have also deleted many fb pages and newsletters I follow, mainly photographic ones. All they want to do is sell me classes or take my money somehow. Life feels much more streamlined now.

My reading has been slower this month as I’ve been studying photograghy and photoshop classes quite a bit this month. It’s one of those things if one doesn’t practice, important lessons are forgotten.

My personal trainer, Theresa. There are prizes at the end of the 12 weeks including a dinner on the waterfront. I’m going for it. 😍

The main activities I’m involved in lately is within the gym. I am doing a 12 week challenge that takes up three days a week. The routine is….

Take the bus into the city, walk the five blocks to the gym, do the class, chat a bit, run errands I might have in the city, then walk back to the bus. I get in an hour’s worth of fitness training plus approximately a 5 km walk by the time I get home. Two days a week I am doing weight training in a small group with a trainer. The third day I spend one hour with my personal trainer on the pilates reformer apparatus. My main goal is to continue strongly into older age.

By the time I get home each afternoon I need to rest a bit. There have been annual health checkups I need to undergo each year and so far that has all been fine. We have also had our first Covid vaccination. Things seem to be getting back to normal where that is concerned. Tasmania has just passed the one year mark without a single case in the state. Living on a small island has its benefits.

Wonderful story of a brilliant photographer

I’m listening to a book or two on audible. I had a break with the Bohemians by Jazmin Darznik, a story of the photographer Dorothea Lange who is know for her depression era photos during the 1930s American depression. It takes place in early 1900s San Francisco and has been good. I will return to it soon.

I interspersed that listening experience with a couple of essays or podcasts I also enjoy from other writers.

Book club read for June

The book I’m currently immersed in for book group is The Yield by Tara June Winch. This book has had a great deal of hype around it rightfully so. It is a very good tale of an Indigenous family that is extremely well written. It won the Miles Franklin Award in Australia for 2020. It took me a few chapters to get into it as I found the writing a bit confusing in the beginning. But I listened to a couple of interviews online with the author to get the story straight in my head and now I am sailing along with no further trouble. Our book group will meet and talk about it the first week of June.

Another book I am in the middle of is one referred to me by my very academic cousin from New Hampshire. It is called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. If you wish to know about it you can tap on this link here. My cousin used to teach it to his university classes. I am really enjoying it. Extremely well written and a very good story. I must admit I’ve read more about Indigenous Australians than Native Americans and it is nice to have another perspective from a different culture.

I have also attended a couple of book launches through our book shop in the city, Fullers. They do events almost fortnightly and my friend and I go to all of them. One hour of interesting conversations and then a quick meal at our favourite Japanese takeaway. Always an inexpensive and lovely evening out.

We recently went to the launch of James Boyce’s account of Inga Clendinnen’s writings. She was a writer and history who’s writings are worth reading. The discussion of her (of whom I was not familiar) was interesting and I look forward to exploring her writing. The event was very well attended and the book is very popular here.

A selection of her writings was read at the launch and we really enjoyed it.

We also attended the launch of the Three Burials of Lottie Kneen by her granddaughter Krissy Kneen. A memoir of sorts of her very controlling grandmother and matriarch who travelling between Slovenie, Egypt, UK and finally Australia. The author resides in Brisbane now. The story is fascinating and I am looking forward to hearing more about this unusual life of the family.

So while I haven’t abandoned books altogether I am participating in some interesting varied events.

An absolutely fascinating tale.

I also had to edit some photos for our club photography challenges and that took some time. Our theme was 1. city nightscape and 2. side lighting of a person. I dug into my travel archives for those. I will share them at the end of this post.

Speaking of the end of this post…..it is now here. Until next time the Penguin and I wish everyone well.

Busy, Busy.

A couple of assorted photos from the archives…

Spanish Busker. I really liked this guy. Give him a coin and get some movement. This photo won me a silver category at our photo club.
Moroccan bride.
Moroccan Woman

Simply Sunday

author unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ollie at the dog beach awhile ago.

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

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

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

No, I’ll leave that alone for now.

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

Simply Sunday

Although a stock photo, this is what it looked like.

Another week has passed and I can’t believe Christmas is at the end of this week. I have had a quiet week at home though I finally got to get out yesterday for a brief woodland walk with Ollie and my camera and tripod. I have also been reading all week. I have noticed my concentration is returning and I can actually tune into a book now for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Throw in some cooking in our lovely kitchen and the week rounded out nicely.

The range hood was installed over our stove top Friday. We still have the flooring to be installed and the ceiling to be painted. The painting will happen Monday but I think the flooring has to wait until January.

The other night I made a big pan of enchilladas. I used one of those El Paso kits that have the tortillas and two packets of sauce but then added the cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado and sour cream at the end. Splash a little tabasco sauce across the top and it was very good. I cooked the first 25 years of our marriage and Mr. Penguin cooked the last 25 years of our marriage. August will be the 50 year mark. Now we are both cooking. It has been fun. Twenty five years was a good break.

82 % finished

The books I continue to read are The Gifts of Reading, a series of essays about gifting and receiving books. I’ve read one essay a day. I am now heading towards the finish line. Edited by Robert MacFarlane I am enjoying it very much and one essay a day is just right.

I have finally settled into the mystery that is Ann Cleeves “Vera” book called The Darkest Evening. I am loving the snowy setting of the winter scenes around Newcastle, England. I’ve not read a Cleeves book before and I must say I’m enjoying it.

56 % finished

I am also listening to My Life in France by Julia Child read by Kimberly Farr. I would not recommend this book to vegans or vegetarians as Julia Child was a serious carnivore. I can picture her sitting down, tucking into geese, pheasants and all manner of meat, with blood dripping down her chin. She was a very eccentric woman and quite arrogant at times. However she did know her French cooking. There is a great deal of reading recipes in French so if you cannot understand French you miss a bit. She seems to assume almost everyone would know what she is talking about. However I enjoy her recollection of the people she met, the school of Le Cordon Bleu she attended and the many cafes and restaurants with vivid descriptions. Much of her book involves the description of how she wrote her book French Cooking for Americans that took several years and needed to be revised many times over. She recounted one episode where she sat down and cooked two whole geese, two different ways, then sat down and ate both of them in order to write up a correct description of the recipe. Mind you, she was a large woman, height wise and large boned but to eat two geese at one sitting was a bit much for me to comprehend.

55 % finished

I have learned a great deal about her and overall am enjoying it. I should be finished with this book before too long. It is a bit longer than I think it needs be but then I think that about a lot of books.

I will now leave you with some photography I did in the reserve behind our house and finished up in our backyard. Ollie and I were standing deep in brush and leaf litter focusing on a mossy tree that had fallen and suddenly Ollie gave a deep growl. I could only think “snake” and hurried back to the main trail. I still don’t know what he was growling at but I’d had enough and went home. We only have three varieties of snakes in Tasmania but all three are very poisonous.

I hope you enjoy the three photos I did settle on in the end. Until next week.

I hope all of you have a lovely Christmas, whether in lockdown or not. Remember, it won’t always be this way and next year MUST bring better times.

All the best for 2021 ! ! !

A Quiet Simple Sunday

Photo of cockatoo Kevin is mine. Other three photos are from stock photos.

We have a lovely warm Sunday happening here. It seems quite still. The windows are open and I can hear our local neighbourhood birds twittering quietly away. I know all the pairs of birds around our yard. We have Mr and Mrs Blackbird. They are good workers and always busy doing one thing or another. We had bachelor Wattle Bird but this summer he got married and they can be seen in the birdbath quite often though he also bathes in the eaves of the house over the porch. He sure likes his baths. I haven’t seen her much lately so she may be busy with eggs or chicks. Then we have a new pair of magpies. We’ve never had magpies here before as we are up towards the base of Mt. Wellington and it has been too cold. In 30 plus years I’ve not seen them but they have now moved in. They have spent the past two weeks rolling around on the neighbour’s yard mating. Everyday they are cavorting in the grass. Surely she’ll lay some eggs soon. They moved in on the plovers who had a family of five chicks of which four survived. They are now enjoying an empty nest for awhile.

Then we have Kevin. Kevin is a dorky cockatoo that we believe was an escapee from a backyard aviary at one time and though he does stay with the flock much of the time he’ll often be found on our front porch screaming for a few sunflower seeds if we don’t put them out. He doesn’t get them a lot because I don’t want him to become dependent on us for food as these birds can live well over 100 years. If Kevin sees us in the yard he’ll fly by and give us the “eye”. It is not uncommon for him to sit on our porch railing and look in the lounge room window looking for us.

You can see I have a lot of time on my hands now.

Today I spent some time choosing some books to work my way through. I chose one Audible, one E-book, one Fiction and one Non Fiction. A couple I’ve begun, the others not yet.

I played around with the design of my blog a bit and now I’m sharing the books I chose to dig into. Once again 2021 is the year of the TBR shelves. I didn’t do that well this year so must buckle down next year. Here we go.

Progress so far–

Ann Cleeves Vera Mystery = 33%. Harold and Maude (ebook)= 28%

Julia Child-My Life in France (audible) = 25%

The Bookseller’s Tale (non fiction essays) = 0%

I’ll write more about these books as I finish them off. For now it is time to wrap this up and do something non computer related.

I hope all of you are having a nice weekend.

Staying dry in Tassie…

Simply Sunday

25 October, 2020

Ollie and I went to the beach the other day.

I hope this finds everyone well and not too stressed by world events. I must admit I’m a bit stressed about the outcome of the upcoming presidential election in the United States. I will be happy once the election is finalised but not holding out a lot of hope that everything will go smoothly. It’s getting crazier day by day but enough of that.

Simply Sunday is about the past week or so and what’s been happening on our little island at the bottom end of the Australian continent.

The book I’m listening to is The Flight by Julie Clark narrated by Patricia Rodriguez. (USA- Hodder and Stoughton).

I haven’t read much fiction and as I enjoyed the Minotaur fiction I thought I’d dive into some more.

Good Reads describes this book in part as:

Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of ten, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he’s not above using his staff to track Claire’s every move, making sure she’s living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn’t know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets ― Claire taking Eva’s flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away.

I won’t add anymore because I think it’s a spoiler. This tale begins at a ground breaking pace of suspense. It flies and really sucks the reader in. Then once the first big event happens it slows down a bit. However it’s about to pick up again soon.

I am not going to say much at all about the plot as there are many twists and turns constantly and I don’t want to ruin it. I wouldn’t google this book either as spoilers seem to be in a lot of places on the net. Suffice it to say I am finding it a fun read amongst many distractions and my lack of concentration. I’ll get back to more serious reading after the U.S. election.

I think I am going to enjoy her story.

Having said that I have just started another book in print called Olive Cotton: A Life in Photography by Helen Ennis though am only 25 pages into it so far so can’t talk about it except to say it’s an Australian biography written by an Australian author.

Other news? I have been participating in the Great Australian Bird Count this week. It runs for seven days and participants sit in their yard or wherever else they may want to go for blocks of 20 minutes. There is an app to download and as you see a bird you identify it and enter it into the app. It is a yearly event and it is easy to do. It provides a useful census of the current bird population throughout Australia. I think it is a very worthwhile event. Today is the final day of counting.

These are the birds I counted in my front yard on Day One. L to R: Green rosella, Common blackbird, Black Currawong, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. We have other birds by they didn’t show in the 20 minute block.

I also had some entertaining news last week. I ran into a work colleague from about 20 years ago recently in the book shop and she used to have Jack Russell dogs. Her last one passed away at an advanced age, she lives alone and has recently downsized her house. She would like another dog. Well lo and behold didn’t I have a photo to show her. She loved Ollie and I told her if I could chase up the breeder I would do so. I was able to retrieve the contact details from when we purchased Ollie in Nov in 2019. I contacted her and long story short, we became Facebook friends and she put me in touch with other puppy owners, one of which to my delight lives in the Hobart area. (Playdate soon I hope).

I now have photos of Ollie’s mother, father, brother and litter mate Eddie and a sister born the year before Ollie. I think her name is Magga. I’ve never bought a dog from a breeder before. We have always rescued animals from various places and I’ve never known much about their relatives. So this an enjoyable first.

Top Left: Father Jack; Top Right: Mother Heidi; Bottom left: Ollie; Bottom right: litter mate brother Eddie.
Ollie’s sister from previous year. Ollie takes after his mother and sister.

A couple of other things I’d like to share is an Australian magazine I subscribe to that is actually distributed internationally but published here in Hobart. It is called Womankind magazine and it has wonderful stories featuring various countries, photography, short stories, book reviews and assorted miscellaneous articles. If you’re interested in having a look your can find the link HERE

Speaking of links, I found this link to an interesting article on the Lit Hub (originally the Post Bulletin) newsletter about a high school student who tells why students should read bad books. He says that throughout school he has been confined to the books that teachers have chosen and they had an assignment to choose any book they wanted. He chose a book by Ayn Rand that he thought wasn’t that great of a book and he explains what he learned from reading a ‘bad’ book. He wants to be a writer and this evidently gave him some ideas of what he doesn’t want to do in his writing future. I enjoyed the article. You must answer one question in a survey though before you can access the article but seems rather harmless. The link for that is HERE.

I think this is enough news for one Sunday so I will now shut this thing down and continue with the spring clean up we are doing in our large enclosed patio area called The Lockup in the back yard. Lots of winter debris to sweep and clean and it is also our enclosure for our cats. Since Ollie has destroyed a few of their things I need to sort out what I can substitute. More later, stay well and motivated. Do something today that makes you happy.

Mental Health tip: Learn to say No.

Simply Sunday

Royal Hobart Botanical Gardens- Spring 2020

Spring has arrived in Tasmania with various bouts of gale force winds, rain and sunny days interspersed amongst it all. We are continuing to keep busy and I have also been reading quite a bit. I’m also culling books here and there too. My aim at this point is to have all books fit easily on the shelves with no flat stacking in front of the standing books on shelves. So whenever I bring in a new book to the clan, I make at least three leave and find their way into the book wilderness. So far it is working but I have a ways to go.

I am also making myself read at least 50 pages each morning before I turn my tablet on and get stuck into reading emails, blog posts, Facebook messages from family and friends overseas and the morning news. Starting with 50 pages immediately with my coffee gets me into the reading mood and lifts my spirits. People who love books will understand the feeling of the little jolts of happiness that course through a mind while reading something new.

Let’s continue with what books were uncovered since my last post.The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie– Australian- Non fiction, winner of the Finch Memoir Prize 2018 and 2019 Stella Prize and shortlisted for the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards

(From Booktopia description). When Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s elderly mother is hospitalised unexpectedly, Vicki and her sister travel to their parents’ isolated ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to help their father. Estranged from their parents for many years, Vicki and her sister are horrified by what they discover on their arrival. For years, Vicki’s mother has camouflaged her manic delusions and savage unpredictability, and over the decades she has managed to shut herself and her husband away from the outside world, systematically starving him and making him a virtual prisoner in his own home. Vicki and her sister have a lot to do, in very little time, to save their father. And at every step they have to contend with their mother, whose favourite phrase during their childhood was: ‘I’ll get you and you won’t even know I’m doing it.

It is described as “sharply funny” but I thought it was anything but. Vicki lives in Australia and flies back and forth to Canada to deal with all that is happening with her parents. Her sister lives in Canada and at times feels quite overwhelmed by being the one closest to the parents.

Their mother certainly has some issues and truly seems to hate her daughters. I thought the book is extremely well written and describes the issues of dealing with elderly parents, especially from a distance very well.

I enjoyed reading about how they dealt with everything. The story mainly deals with the present situation and then dips backwards into some experiences of the sister’s childhood with their mother. I never learned though why her mother seemed to hate her daughters so much. I would have liked to know about the family from the mother’s perspective, from her mind.

When did this attitude begin? Why was it so? Their mother was incredibly hateful, wanting them to suffer as much as possible. Perhaps that wouldn’t have been possible. Who knows how family members in these situations really interpret each other.

The next book I finished was Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship wth the First Lady by Stephanie Winston Wokoff, narrated by the author on Audible.com.

What an interesting book but what was wrong with this author!!?? Stephanie and Melania met years previously when both were involved with Vogue magazine. They became very good friends and that friendship endured for many years. So when Melania became the First Lady of the United States as part of the Donald Trump family she was able to get Stephanie to hire on as an assistant to her as she dealt with everything the East Wing of the White House involved.

However the people working in the West Wing with Donald Trump and Donald’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka and Jared Kushner never seemed to acknowledge her presence, much less her authority.

The book is a very long tale of the interminable abuse Stephanie endured while participating in the inauguration preparations of Donald Trump on 22 January, 2017. Stephanie lived in New York with her husband and children. Yet she spent incredible amounts of time in Washington DC. She was hired but somehow a contract never happened. She worked without salary. It would all be organised soon but never was. Melania is portrayed as someone who could care less about anything that happens in the USA and is more obsessed with the outfits she wears and her appearance.

I thought the information regarding the Inauguration preparations and life within the White House was interesting. The stories about Ivanka were as I expected as she and Melania do not get along and Ivanka is portrayed as being more interested in taking Melania’s position to be with her “daddy”. It was Ivanka that “helped” Melania prepare the speech for the 2016 Republican convention where Michelle Obama’s speech was plagiarised. She wanted to humiliate Melania. It worked. Melania was silly to take it on trust and not proofread it or fact check it with people in the know.

As events progress over the next couple of years, Stephanie’s health deteriorates so much she ends up doing quite a long stint in the hospital with Melania continuing to offer her platitudes through emoji laden texts. By the end of the book Stephanie is well and truly thrown under the bus based on missing millions of dollars resulting with her photo and false information plastered all over the front page of the New York Times.

Throughout the telling of this tale I could only think, “Why are you being so pathetic to allow yourself to be treated like this for such a long time?”

I can understand trusting a friend but most friendships end far before this one did if one person is harming the other.

I didn’t really feel sorry for her because she appeared to be so blindsided by the power and publicity of having her best friend become First Lady of the country she couldn’t do enough for her. She really was her own worst enemy.

On the other hand Melania is exactly as she portrays herself. Wearing a jacket that says “I don’t care” because she likes it. Wearing foreign designer clothes from foreign designers instead of American ones and forcing one designer to near bankruptcy as bills aren’t paid. The Trump family is portrayed exactly as how I think they are, incomprehensible in their actions and activities, fraud and money laundering stories. Melania was heard to speak of the Stormy Daniels episode as “that’s politics!”

Stephanie was told again and again by very well known people, her husband, her friends, “Do not get involved with the Trump family” but she ignored it to her own detriment. I think most people in her situation would have seen the light far sooner. However if you fancy a salacious tale of the nutty Trump family this is your book. It’s something right out of an amusement park.

The book I’m halfway through is about as different as a book can be for me. I was in Fullers Book store in Hobart and one of the sales people, Peter, walked up to me and handed me the book, The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break by American author Steven Sherrill. I’ll write more about this book once finished but so far it is a really interesting read with some good themes in it.

I’ll leave you with a photo of Ollie’s walk on the beach last week when we attended a Mental Health activity for National Mental Health Week in Australia. It was a dog walk and consisted of a dog walk with others along the beach, speakers by the manager of the Dog’s Home of Tasmania, a Veterinarian and some Indigenous peoples readings about the land we stood on. It was followed by a sausage sizzle that included veggie burgers and onions. The first time the event was held and they hope it becomes an annual event.

Ollie plays with another small dog who is also named…..Ollie.

Until next time….stay well.

Simply Sunday

Just some miscellaneous musings on a partly sunny Sunday. 21 degrees C (69 degrees F).

There has been a lot happening here in springtime Tasmania but all rather disjointed.

Last week I read a blog post by Lisa on https://anzlitlovers.com blog.

She reviewed the non fiction book The Application of Pressure. You can see her review here. I was interested in this book after reading her review. As I had a credit on my Audible.com subscription I thought I’d see if they had it. Sure enough they did so I downloaded it and have listened to it the past few days. I finished it last night. The book is written by Rachel Mead and the audible version is narrated by Caz Prescott who did a pretty good job. However there were times she sounded a lot like Kitty Flannagan with her intonations. (Australians will understand Kitty Flannagan). I found that distracting at times but if you aren’t familiar with her it shouldn’t be a problem.

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The Blurb From Affirm Press

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I didn’t enjoy the book as much as Lisa did but overall it turned out to be pretty interesting and I’m glad I read it. It’s just that it gets uncomfortable at times.

First off this book is not for the squeamish. There is a lot of every type of body excrement, horrible smells (yes I think you can smell stuff coming out of this book) and some scary experiences. There is also a variety of quite funny experiences and compassionate experiences. I think the author tried hard to balance things out.

Tash and Joel are two paramedics. The chapters take it turn to feature one of them. I had a harder time with Tash than I did with Joel. I felt Tash was quite jaded and came very close to inappropriate comments about a few clients, especially one with disabilities and older people. A couple of her comments grated on me but in her defence it is a job that not many people could do and I understand some of the black humour. It probably wasn’t the type of audible book to read at night before falling asleep. However as the author’s first book, I thought the topic was interesting and the writing was good. There are parts you can’t put down until you come to the chapter’s end. If you like the subject matter I would recommend it.

Other things happening this week. Well, we are getting a new kitchen. We had a consultant come from a very large hardware store here and design our 1970s kitchen into something that goes into the 2020s. It is very exciting but quite daunting. The components should be here in about 6 weeks, the builder has been hired and it will be all systems go. Other than having to clean out cupboards that haven’t seen the light of day since the late 80s, having 3 cats, a 15 and a half year old terrier and a one year old Jack Russell puppy in the house, it should be a real challenge. The cats are all house cats but if the weather is nice they will be living in their outdoor enclosure for a few days while the kitchen gets gutted.

On top of that I’ve joined a 12 week gym challenge that has me completing two pilates classes and a one hour session with a personal trainer in the gym in the city. A 5 block walk from bus to gym and then gym to bus on a time schedule keeps me pretty focused. But having seen what is going on in nursing homes during this Covid episode I don’t want to end up in one in 15 or 20 years. So staying strong and mobile is my older age priority these days. I couldn’t bear to be separated from my pets if things went downhill. Heartbreaking thoughts like that make me get up and self torture myself! No, it’s not that bad and feel wonderful after each session. End of winter blues have disappeared too.

What else is new? Well I’m dipping into some other books here and there, watching a couple of Netflix series and our photography club and senior’s group is now meeting monthly face to face. Tasmania continues to be in lockdown from Australian mainland and the rest of the world and there is not a single case of Covid in our small island state which is lovely. At least for now.

Last but not least: Today our photography club is having a day out in the Royal Botanical Gardens. I’m hoping the tulips are in bloom. I might share some of my photos in Wayfaring Wednesday if they turn out to my satisfaction.

Books I’m dipping into to and an interesting library book:

The Bedside Baccalaureate edited by David Ruben is one I bought several years ago on a trip to Sydney. It has parts in it of various topics in each section. For example Part I is: American History- General Grant’s Civil War; Economics- Globalization; Art History- The Hudson River School; Physical Sciences- The Astronomical Universe and Classics- Mythis of Ancient Greece and Rome. Each subject is rotated. So day I is General Grant, dat 2 is Economics, etc. There approximately 18 to 20 pages on each topic. If one topic’s overview is interesting enough there is a more extensive bibliography at the back. I’m not rotating the reading. Instead I flip through all the pages of the same topic. I have just finished the chapter on General Grant and enjoyed it very much. Limited to his personality, how he achieved his roles in the Civil War and his important battles.

Another book I’ve started too is one of Penguin’s Little Black Classics. No. 40, The Steel Flea which is written by Russian author Nikolay Leskov. It is short and very funny. Very similar to the Emperor’s New Clothes.

The library book that came in is: The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter. It is a literary walk through out Paris. It looks like fun and has some illustrations.

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: 0%

The Steel Flea: 18%

The Bedside Baccalaureate: 4%

That pretty much finishes up the past week. Hope everyone has an enjoyable Sunday.

Off to the Gardens today.

Two Books for Mention on a Sunday

41057294._UY2115_SS2115_After several days of absolute pouring rain we are finally having a couple of lovely winter days with full sunshine.  Ollie and I went to the dog beach yesterday and he had a lovely time.

Books:

I finished Normal People by Sally Rooney. Our book group was to have discussed it last month but we are not meeting now so I was late reading it. I didn’t really want to read it as I’ve heard both negative and positive reviews about it. It’s not a long book so I picked it up to see what all the fuss is about it since I had it. I have to say it was not a book I loved but I can see why some others loved it. The story is about Marianne who is a rich high school/college girl who lives in Sligo, Ireland then goes to Trinity college in Dublin. She comes from a wealthy family of her mother who ignores her and her older brother who is quite abusive. She lives in her own world and has no friends and states she doesn’t need them. She doesn’t care of about high school or the people in it but she is very bright.  She meets Connor. Connor’s mother Lorraine cleans for Marianne’s household. Because Marianne is so ostracised at school Connor does not let on they know  each other much less see each other.  They develop a very long standing intimate relationship but nobody knows about it except Connor’s mother who likes Marianne and leaves him to it.

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There are two sections to dog beach separated by a thin stream of water. However we have had so much rain there was water everywhere.

The story continues. Both are well read and exceedingly bright and though Connor comes from a poorer background he gets a scholarship to go to Trinity and their saga continues in Dublin. Then we get new boyfriends and new girlfriends although the two of them always seem to love each other.

I grew very weary of this relationship.  Some of the positive points of the book to me were I liked Connor’s character and his mother Lorraine. I think they were the best developed characters.  Marianne annoyed me beyond belief.  We begin to see her mental instability as the book continues and even understanding that I didn’t feel anything for her. I could say the book is plot driven because all of the other characters including friends at Trinity and back in Sligo were not really developed.  It becomes more apparent as we continue Marianne wants to be physically and mentally hurt by her boyfriends and then by others as well. She doesn’t have much self esteem by the end.

The main things that bothered me about this book:

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This is the far end of the dog beach. I like all the rocks. This beach is on the Derwent River that runs out to the Tasman sea on the east side of Tasmania.

The writing in the first half of the book was poor. I kept thinking “where on earth was the editor” with these sentences?   I thought the writing became stronger towards the last of the book. It settled. There were so many inconsistencies with the book. Marianne seemed strong in herself at the beginning. By the end she is like an entirely different person. I know everyone changes during that age group but her basic nature wasn’t the same.

The store of the relationship of Marianne and Connor drags…..and drags…..and drags….. It is very repetitious. It is very predictable. I was going to give it up about 60 or 70% of the way through but I was curious how this book would end. When the ending came it is incredibly unsatisfying and open to interpretation as to how one feels about the entire story. I kind of thought, “right, they have left the way open for a sequel.”  That was my first thought. My second thought is if there is a sequel I won’t be looking at it.

A series has evidently been made of this book and some viewers in the United States have viewed it. I haven’t seen it here on any thing I have access to but I don’t think I could bare to watch it.

My other thought was if I was in the ages between 16 and 25 I’d probably have loved the angst of this story and the relationship and wondering about all the options available to them and how it would work out. I wouldn’t have cared that the writing wasn’t that great. There are a couple of vloggers I came across on You Tube that are in their 20’s and they rave about it. In fact three of them got together and had a Normal People day where they all sat down in their respective homes one day and read it together then talked about it that evening.

But as an older person I found the book tedious and done before a hundred different ways and I expect and enjoy better writing these days. I guess you could say I’m much more discerning as you might expect a person to be who’s been reading more than 60+ years.

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We are at the far end of the beach. In the distant horizon is where the location of the first photo I posted is. In the sun. A lovely sandy beach.

Would I recommend this book to others?  No. There is plenty more out there to read that’s enjoyable unless you’re 16 and having boyfriend problems as there are many lessons one that age could learn as to what a relationship should be about. As there are so many examples in this book about what a relationship shouldn’t be about.  If that makes sense.

I was going to share a second book with you today but I won’t as I think this post is long enough and I don’t like to make them too long.

Instead I will post up a couple of photos from Ollie and I at the beach yesterday. I’ll write about the second book I received from the library this week in a day or two. I hope everyone is having a good weekend.

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Now! Off to find another book to read.

Simply Sunday

Molly
Our old Molly-Monkey. She sorts Ollie out every chance she gets.

I haven’t checked in for a couple of weeks or so as it’s been very busy here lately. Mr. Penguin is in hospital having a knee replacement. Our old dog Molly is in hospital with a bad case of colitis, dehydration and just all the things that come with being 15 years plus.

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Now what have I done. Actually this is his resting look on our bushwalk.

I have been doing quite a bit of watching You Tube photography videos trying to increase my knowledge base, especially in landscape photography which is an area I don’t do much of but would enjoy it I think. Street photography is my first love.  I’ve ordered some filters and will learn how to use those to be a bit creative. Winter light in Tasmania is the best (I think) of the year so would like to get out and enjoy it.Keeping up with Ollie’s training continues to be fun if at times challenging. He is a very bright little spark and also very strong willed. We argue at times but I need to make sure I always win. He is 10 months old tomorrow.  

2020-05-29-15.59.59I have been reading a bit but mainly continuing to listen to The Diary of Samuel Pepys (Selections from). I am enjoying it very much. It is 37 hours long on audible. He kept his diary from 1660 to 1669 and I am currently in 1665. 1665 is the year the plague hit London. Such a scary thing as medical treatment back then was very different and also very unforgiving. In 1666 the great fire of London will hit and that’s going to be challenging for him too, I’m sure. He was quite a character and he got up to all kinds of stuff, quite a bit of it naughty. He is quite taken with himself and I’m not sure I would like him as much in real life as I do reading about him in his diary. I just find all of it interesting.2020-06-14 20.12.52

I also receive one Shakespeare Sonnet from Fullers Book Shop with an explanation from our facilitator Tim each weekday. That is going along fine. It will take several months to get through 120 of them. I am enjoying it though and it is a good way to become familiar with them. Tim sources information from several different books and shares that information with us and we are able to write comments back to him.

 

I finished culling about 3 boxes of books and as the tip shop opened up again off they went. So much stuff there to look at.  I dropped in today for a bit just to see their reorganisation.  I picked up a couple of Australian books while there. Two of the three book trilogy by Henry Handel Richardson. I found number 2 (Ultina Thule) and 3 (The Way Home). Now I just need the first one.   I also snagged Peter Carey’s copies of the True History of the Kelly Gang and one I’ve been wanting to read, Oscar and Lucinda.  I also found an Australian book I have never heard of called Lady Bridget in the Never Never Land (Australian Women Writers Literary series by Rosa Praed.  Australian bloggers who have grown up in Australia might know more about this.

I have taken Ollie on a couple of good walks and taken photos as well so will share a couple below as a sign off.  Hopefully once everyone is picked up from hospital I will be homebound and settled. Did I also mention Mr. Penguin opened the car door into traffic and another car hit it? Ruined the door so our little Honda Jazz (Fit) was towed away and replaced with a really big SUV which I do not enjoy driving as our city roads are not freeways. Hopefully we will get our car back Tuesday afternoon. What is the saying? “When it rains it pours?”

Back with more books and photography soon I hope. Until then….enjoy the photos.

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These two landed on the porch and looked in at us through the window. I put a handful of sunflower seeds out every few days and they thought they should have them that day. I believe these birds were once captive as not as wild as the flock they hang out with.

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Australian Photography Magazine has a Mono competition closing today so I popped this photo in it.  I took this last year of the Sydney Opera House. Just for the experience, doubt anything will come of it.

While out walking I came across these brothers and they were happy for me to take some photographs and even happier when I sent the photos to them.

This is the fire track at the base of Mt. Wellington that Ollie and I walked up. Very pretty on a lovely day.

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Stay well everyone.