September Saturday

It has been a very busy week with quite a bit of activity. On Sunday I set up the “photography” room. We have this tiny spare bedroom that was full of junk. We got sick of it so got rid of the junk, had the room painted and had a double sized wall bed installed in case overseas relatives ever get to come visit us again. I didn’t want a room with a bed in it that seldom gets used so the wall bed is perfect. It has a desk and shelves attached to it. I set up the desktop computer, printer and my Wacom tablet. I then filled the shelves next to it with cook books and photography books. I also hung some of my prints in the room, installed the orange chair that was a part of my Penguin library when I had the vintage penguins and a reading lamp. It is now a very functional room with all my gear sorted in the wardrobe closets and drawers. I really like it.

You would never know there is a full size double bed mattress against that wall.

When someone visits, I remove the computer and the desk folds under the bed once the bed is pulled down from the wall. So clever. An updated version of the Murphy bed.

Monday I went to my shared reading group at Fullers bookshop. It was a lovely evening. We finished Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and had a great discussion about it once the last page was turned. She writes so beautifully with such subtle humour. We also got a peek into the next book we are going to begin in two weeks time. It is Vasily Grossman‘s epic Russian novel, Life and Fate.

I love this cover.

Amazon describes it as: “The twentieth century War and Peace, a broad portrait of an age and a searing vision of Stalinist Russia, Life and Fate is also the story of a family, the Shaposhnikovs, whose lives in the army, the gulag, a physics institute, a power station and a concentration camp are stunningly evoked, from their darkest to their most poetic moments.

Judged so dangerous by the Soviet authorities that the manuscript was immediately confiscated when completed in 1960, Grossman’s masterpiece was finally smuggled into the West and published in 1980.

The Vintage Classic Russians Series- Published for the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, these are must-have, beautifully designed editions of six epic masterpieces that have survived controversy, censorship and suppression to influence decades of thought and artistic expression. The original translation by Robert Chandler has been updated and revised.

We will take 12 weeks to read this book with some extra reading to do at home as it is 912 pages. The copy we have is this lovely Vintage Classic copy.

On Wednesday I was reading emails and I see that Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) Listen app now has audio books persons can listen to for free. Peoople are able to download and listen to the ABC Listen app around the world. You can also follow our news, radio programs and many conversations and podcasts if interested here.

Audio books have been added.

I began Shirley Hazard’s Collection of short stories this week. I am reading one a day. So far the stories are very well written but extremely predictable. But it is hard to make a judgment because I have only read three of 28. I will reserve judgment on it for now.

I had to finish some photos to ready for our photo club challenges for our September meeting in two weeks time. I am leaving this Tuesday for Cradle Mountain in Tasmania for a four day photography tour. Our itinerary is full and includes night sky photography, sunrise and sunset, landscape, macro and a visit to a Tasmanian Devil farm plus much more. Our instructor, Luke is an experienced landscape photographer and spoke at our club a couple of months ago about his fungi collection. There are five members attending plus Luke. I should learn quite a bit. Although Cradle mountain will probably be cold as predictions are 0 to 10 degrees C with some rain. That’s about 32 to 50 degrees F for my northern hemisphere readers. Maybe it will snow.

Cradle Mountain is beautiful. You can see some photographs of it here from the web.

These are the photos I’m submitting for our photography club meeting challenges. They are prints that I had printed up with a $70.00 voucher I won at the last meeting for one of my photos. Once the meeting finishes I will put them on the wall in the “photography room”.

Japanese stage actor from a Japan trip a few years ago.

Young elephants at play in Botswana, four years ago.

THEME: FARM Photo from a big agricultural expo type place in southeast England, not far from Exeter and for the life of me I can’t remember it’s name. Big domes, agriculture research and displays. Perhaps someone from UK can remind me.
THEME: FARM. This photo was taken in Ireland on a road trip a friend and I went on about five years ago?

Book Sharing:

I’d like to share these books with you I ordered this week. It is a set of Penguin Classic Japanese Literature books and they are beautiful. I look forward to reading them as they look fascinating. So far I have seen five of the books but I ordered four of them. The Wind Up Cat Chronicles by Murakami is the one I didn’t order as I have read it already.

How beautiful are these books !! I absolutely LOVE these covers.

The only thing I have left to do this weekend is to pack my carry bag for next week’s trip and also sort and pack my camera gear and charge all the batteries I will need for my camera. I will update photos from that trip probably in two weeks time as we don’t return until late Friday evening and I’ll be busy recovering, doing laundry and sorting photos for a bit. I’m sure I will come home with a load of photos waiting to be edited and shared.

On the road again…….Can’t wait to get on the road again…

That sums up my week. I’ll probably take the Penguin with me as the last trip he was on was the one to Russia at the end of 2019. We are both more than ready to go somewhere!

Stay well everyone and get vaccinated so the world can open up sooner.

PS.. It’s spring here now and Ollie is on the trail for lizards. Whenever he thinks he smells one, he wags his tail furiously. Very funny to watch. He has the one track mind of a jack russel terrier.

Love a waggy tail. Lizard hunting. No luck today.

Simply Sunday

This Week-

I have decided to change how I write my own posts. I find waiting a week or two then doing a catch up is too much, so instead I don’t do anything. I have decided I am going to update it more like a diary or journal with day to day events. Then when the weekend comes I’ll publish the post. I’ll trial it until the end of the year and then maybe revamp the page for 2022.

Daily activities will include book events, anything read that week, a bit of photography, social events that may be of interest and anything else that catches my fancy.

UPCOMING INTERESTS-

The past week has seen me buying the book, Collected Stories by Shirley Hazzard. Our Fullers book group will discuss it the first Wed of October. It is a series of 26 short stories and so far I have read the first one today. I am enjoying her writing very much. The characters are quite visual and I like the dialogue. If all the stories share the same type of writing I will be happy.

We are focusing on A Perfect Spy by John le Carré for our September book group. I have finished more than 400 pages but have to admit I’m very bored with it and have decided to stop. When I checked reviews on Good Reads I find people are quite divided as to whether they enjoy it or not.

This past week saw our photo club going to the small village of Richmond for a photography scavenger hunt. We were given the list at 11 am and then met for a coffee/snack at 12:30, sitting outdoors at a local cafe. Richmond is quite the tourist town and it was busy with families. I kept seeing people walking little white West Highland terriers everywhere and I later learned they were part of a group of Westie lovers meeting up for a social event. They were everywhere.

The week ahead looks promising. Monday I will be participating in the final shared reading group of Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf at Fullers Bookshop. It will be our 5th meeting. I have enjoyed the group and the book very much. I am wondering what reading they will do next and how staff will pick the 12 participants in the next group. Previously it has been, once you’re in the group you stay in the group until you leave. That may change as there is a waiting list to get into the group. Fairness may reign.

On Wednesday evening I am back at Fullers and we’ll discuss A Perfect Spy. I’m looking forward to seeing what people thought especially as our group has 12 women in it and no men. I am not sure how many women are drawn to spy novels though this is LeCarre’s most autobiographical novel. Other book groups at Fullers have men. There are several groups that meet the first week of the month at the shop, 90 people in groups of 12. They do ask us to come even if we don’t finish the book. It is a misleading thought that one cannot contribute if they do not finish the book. The reasons for that are as interesting as the reasons another person enjoys it.

Thursday night I am attending the local Playhouse Theatre to see Agatha Christie’s play The Stranger. The Playhouse theatre cast are amateur enthusiasts and I have often seen plays of a higher standard than those of some of the professional shows at the Theatre Royal. Many cast members are regular actors and a night out there has always been enjoyable. I’ll let you know next week how that goes.

That will pretty much fill up my week of social events. On top of that I will have my two weight training sessions Monday and Wednesday and Friday has me participate with my personal trainer in finishing up my 12 week challenge. After that I revert back to two weeks of weight training with instructor Daniel in our small group and hopefully one day a week dedicated to a walk or a photography day outside of Hobart.

Richmond Tasmania gaol

Things to look forward to in the coming months-

* A four day photography instructional tour at Cradle Mountain in September.

** A two day stay with a new group of previous biker friends who have set up a private fb group called Half Arsed Tours and Camping. They are riding their motorbikes up to Deloraine, north of us about 3 hours to visit a distillery and do a river walk. As I am no longer riding, I will take the car and back roads, and get some country photography shots and meet them at the hotel for drinks and dinner, staying overnight at the hotel. The hotel is situated alongside a railroad track and previous experience taught us that when trains go by the beds tend to move across the room a bit. I’ve not been there for several years so looking forward to seeing if this still happens. Breakfast will be the following day with the group at a local cafe. I will then head home another route to get different photos.

Richmond Tasmania church

*** I have an eye surgeon’s appointment in October where we have been working together to restore the vision in my left eye. I can see most things okay but can’t read signs or books very well. Fortunately the right eye is compensating very well. The eye had very high pressure that has now reduced to normal and hopefully if the vision does not restore completely a contact lens might correct it. Just a wait and see. As I told Mr. Penguin, we don’t have room for a guide dog. (That’s a joke!)

There you have it for today!

Who Gets To Be Smart- Bri Lee

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and found it really interesting. Good Reads describes it as:

Bri Lee, best-selling and award-winning author of Eggshell Skull, asks Who gets to be smart? in this forensic and hard-hitting exploration of knowledge, power and privilege.

In 2018 Bri Lee’s brilliant young friend Damian was named a Rhodes Scholar, an apex of academic achievement. When she goes to visit him and takes a tour of Oxford and Rhodes House, she begins questioning her belief in a system she has previously revered, as she learns the truth behind what Virginia Woolf described almost a century earlier as the ‘stream of gold and silver’ that flows through elite institutions and dictates decisions about who deserves to be educated there. The question that forms in her mind drives the following two years of conversations and investigations: who gets to be smart?

Interrogating the adage, ‘knowledge is power’, and calling institutional prejudice to account, Bri once again dives into her own privilege and presumptions to bring us the stark and confronting results. Far from offering any ‘equality of opportunity’, Australia’s education system exacerbates social stratification. The questions Bri asks of politics and society have their answers laid bare in the response to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, COVID-19, and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

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I will add Ms Lee turns 30 this year and I applause the way she goes after injustice in Australia with her writing. It is good to see young women as she is rising to the top.

On screen- Hobart Town Hall ballroom.

I found it really depressing especially when figures are revealed of the amount of money Catholic and private schools receive from the government in stark contrast to public education. I believe that all children should have equal access to excellent education outcomes and those who struggle should receive the support they need. What is happening, as most of you know, the strong and powerful receive all the benefits our society has to offer at the complete expense of those who don’t get it.

Last week Fullers Book shop held the launch of this book in the Hobart Town Hall ballroom. It was filled to near capacity of interested readers as allowed during these Covid times.

Tim owner/manager of the 101 year old Fullers Book Shop

However the week before this event Sydney locked down due to an increase of Covid cases in the community and the event was live streamed. The event was extremely competently run as Fullers hasn’t really done much of this at the time.

A big screen was set up, Heather Rose, an author of international repute, popular recently for books Museum of Modern Love and Bruny. and a fellow Tasmanian facilitated the interview. The manager/owner of Fullers got the ball rolling and it was set to go.

Heather Rose had really interesting questions for Bri Lee, the audience was very interested and at the end many questions were allowed. The technical side of the interview flowed like a wonderful Tasmanian wine. With energy, competence and efficiency thanks to Tim’s efforts.

Heather Rose- A Tasmanian Jewel

The book is currently number 2 on the Fullers book sale list.

Here is a quick blurb I copied on Bri Lee’s web page: Bri describes herself as an author and freelance writer. Who Gets to be Smart, just came out in June 2021. It is her third book, closely following her popular book, Eggshell Skull that is a book about sexual assault and the justice system based on her own experiences. Fullers hosted the launch of this book a couple of years ago after its publication date and I also attended that. She is known for her investigative journalism, opinion, short fiction, essays, and arts criticism.

She is also qualified to practice law, but has no desire to. She has published peer reviewed research while she did practice. At times she gives lectures, keynotes, and other kinds of speeches. She lives and works on Gadigal land in Sydney, Australia.

Getting set up

I took a few points from this launch to share with you but there are many more in much more detail from the book.

One of the points she discussed was how long it takes to go from poverty to middle class. Most western countries, being educated results in two generations of schooling to get out of poverty into doing much better financially. The statistics for Australia are- four generations. A really depressing statistic.

20% of Australian children are not prepared when they arrive in Kinder. Their social skills, play, structure remains at a lesser level.

The government doesn’t encourage higher education. They raise the fees to attend courses such as arts, music, humanities, etc and lower fees for science and math. Not everyone is cut out for or wants to study science and maths. They do not seem to recognise education for the sake of education but only tie courses to jobs. I am happy I did not go through this system. In American I was able to spend the first two years of university studying a variety of courses and interests before I chose my major. I then spent the next three years in my chosen path.

Ms Lee asks, What are universities for if not to become educated?

She went into quite a bit of detail of the Ramsay foundation. Paul Ramsay established a monetary foundation that states on the website: Partnerships for Potential and Helping Australian Defy Disadvantage. However our conservative Liberal government (not to be confused with USA Liberal governments- complete opposites) railroaded the funds into programs of their own making, completely supplying the benefits to wealthy students in private institutions.

Tim making sure everything is perfect! He does a great job.

Our previous Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a Rhodes scholar (which is another interesting topic of the book) believes not all cultures are created equal thereby only supporting those he sees as important. eg White, rich Australians vrs. migrants, indigenous populations.

She also addressed the lack of transparency of governments and how tax dollar or foundation funds are used. Who knows? Not the people of the country. Currently numbers are showing functional illiteracy of males = 52% and females 47%. Do we believe this is appropriate?

I could go on for a few more pages but this is longer than I normally produce and I think you should just read the book. I might add that I don’t believe Australia is the only country in the world where this happens but it is certainly relevant to our “lucky country”.

We need to fix this !

I know. I know. A Catch Up 😊

I have had a bit of a break from keeping this little blog moving along. Focusing on actually reading books and keeping fit. On these short, cold winter days I just crash at home at the end of day, keep the dogs entertained and watch Netflix, rest or read some more. So let’s catch up here. I won’t go too far back, just starting over.

Shared Reading Group Selection

I have joined a shared reading group at Fullers Bookshop. I have been on a waiting list for this group for ages. I finally got in. Each Monday night we meet in a group of 10 to 12 people (it is capped) and are reading aloud from Chekhov’s book of short stories. As I have joined this group late, I have now attended three sessions and read six stories. We have one more Monday night (next week) to finish off the book. Then there will be a bit of a break and we are going to do a reading aloud of Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I have heard so much about this story but not read it so really looking forward to it. Also there won’t be a lot of Russian names to pronounce. We have done quite well though with the Russian words in the Chekhov book. It did include some laughter.

Our Fullers Book Group met earlier this month and we read the book Here We Are by Graham Swift. We read his book Mothering Sunday several years ago and we enjoyed this one. It was decided if one reads Here We Are it appears to be a lightweight book about a trio of friends, Ronnie, Jack and Evie who participate in vaudeville and Illusion acts in Brighton, England in the 1950s.

The book begins with the death of Jack, who is married to Evie in the late 20th century then goes backwards 50 years to the evacuation of Ronnie to the countryside as a child during the second world war. Upon a second reading several people mentioned they uncovered much deeper levels to this book and that is what we discussed. Themes of endings, death, colours (the colours white and green are used throughout as symbols), relationships, regret. Each member of the group took away various meanings from this book.

The book I am now reading for the August group is the Russian book The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I am almost 200 pages into it and must say I am enjoying it. It is on many lists of 100 or 1000 books you must read before you die. It has been on my shelf for quite awhile but I never had the nerve to open it. No excuses now and not difficult at all to get into as long as one keeps an open mind and asks no questions. I find it is a book to simply walk into and follow the story without too many questions.

In other news. I have been doing a bit of photography though the last few weeks have been very cold and rainy. Now it is simply cold and sunny. I continue with my fitness regime three times a week with trainers at the gym and enjoy that very much. I also get into conversations at the bus stop waiting for the bus that brings me home afterwards.

Peanut and Ollie are well. They keep us on our toes. We are also having a spare room redone with a new wall bed that is actually a desk when folded up onto the wall. It looks like cabinet doors with a bookshelf beside it. When company comes (that sounds hopeful doesn’t it) it pulls down into a lovely double bed with a full sized mattress.

I told you it was wet out.

We have painters coming today to work in the bedroom and hallway the next three days and then hopefully the bed will be delivered before too long from Sydney though they are in lockdown now due to the Delta strain of Covid and our Prime Minister’s incompetence at getting enough Pfizer vaccines to make our citizens safe. It is breathtaking how completely ineffective and incompetent this man is. We actually have a previous prime minister working with official at Pfizer because they won’t deal with our current one as he was so arrogant with them they ignore him. Just unbelievable.

Okay, I’ll share some photos with you now and move on. I did want to get this out today. All the best to everyone, stay cool in the northern hemisphere, warm in the southern hemisphere and safe around the world.

Our photo club went to the Terhune Airwalk in southern Tasmania a couple of weeks back to look for fungi. It is a beautiful area with a large airwalk that reigns over the trees. However we spent more time scrounging around on the ground looking for fungi. We were dressed in layers of clothing but overall we had a great day out with hot food and drink in their cafe when finished.

The swinging bridge over the river.

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

A Bit of Travel Photography

I’ve been busy with appointments, gym and life in general and the days pass by. Too tired in the evenings to write. Today we are supposed to get our Covid vaccinations but I’ve had a bad cold and although I’m at the tail end of it I’m not sure they’ll give me mine. We’ll see.

I’ve been doing a photoshop class through Udemy that I downloaded ages ago and decided I’d better get stuck into it while I’m resting at home with this cold. It has been very useful and their classes are reasonably priced.

I’ve also signed up for a drawing class for $15.00 (good value) through Domestika. I’ve looked for places around Hobart that have drawing classes but just can’t find anything I want. Domestika is Scandinavian but not sure which country. They have really fun, colourful, creative ideas and I’m looking forward to beginning the class soon.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. I gave up on Gilead by Marilyn Robinson. It was just too religious and preachy for my mood and I got bored. I managed 200 pages and gave it up. I get the idea. I see she has written the book Jack who is the young son that the old man is writing to in Gilead. I probably will pass on that too though it could be interesting too see what he thought of his father. Maybe

I’m listening to The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik on Audible. Booktopia describes it as:

In 1918, a young and bright-eyed Dorothea Lange steps off the train in San Francisco, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking Chinese American with a complicated past, gives Dorothea entree into Monkey Block, an artists’ colony and the bohemian heart of the city. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly falling in love with the brilliant but troubled painter Maynard Dixon. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio, but a devastating betrayal pushes their friendship to the breaking point and alters the course of their lives.

The Bohemians captures a glittering and gritty 1920s San Francisco, with a cast of unforgettable characters, including cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and D. H. Lawrence. A vivid and absorbing portrait of the past, it is also eerily resonant with contemporary themes, as anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, and a devastating pandemic bring tumult to the city-and the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention persist against the ferocious pull of history.

As Dorothea sheds her innocence, her purpose is awakened and she grows into the figure we know from history-the artist whose iconic Depression-era photographs like “Migrant Mother” broke the hearts and opened the eyes of a nation.


She was one of the best photographers who documented people living in 1930s depression America. She had polio as a child and walked with a significant limp the rest of her life. If you’ve not seen her catalogue of photography I suggest you google her.

I am really enjoying it and Dorothea Lange is one of my top five photographers. The early days of San Francisco, a city I have always loved, are also very interesting as are the people.

Reading has taken a bit of a back seat to photography lessons in the past couple of weeks so I’ll move on to it for a moment.

I’ll leave you with some back catalogue photos of my trip to Africa in 2018. I took a large number of photos and never really sorted them. However we have photo challenges in our club and I wanted to prepare some photos for those. I shoot all my photos in a raw format (which is like a negative) and import them onto Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop or Luminar to do the final edit (develop) them. It has taken a long time to learn the tricks of the trade and I still continue to work on it. I’ll leave you with the photos I worked on today and say goodbye for the moment. We need to leave for our vaccinations in awhile and I need to get some lunch. Until then….

Botswana, Africa

I love this sign and the road/bridge it refers to. I believe this was in Botswana.
African Pelicans, a bird I have always loved.
We slept in this bush tent for two nights and were told to not go out of this tent for any reason during the night. We had wild hyenas around it at night. It was too wet for lions or elephants to come through looking for water. There was a bathroom attached and enclosed at the back of the tent but it had a trillion mosquitos.
Aren’t ostriches just the most unusual animals.
Our guide and driver. Our group was very small and everyone had their own window in the truck. Lots of fun,
.The markings of a wild dog are absolutely beautiful.
The wildebeest is a very unusual looking animal. We saw some babies but I’ve not “developed” those photos yet.

Enjoy your week and I’ll try to get back sooner next time. Stay well and hope you can get out and do a few fun things.

P.S. Ollie and Peanut are well. Peanut was spayed and is now completely recovered.

A Cold Rainy Saturday

Rain and cold today.
Photo from ABC News website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peanut home from hospital

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

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

Moving Forward

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

So…moving ahead….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heather Rose & Craig Silvey

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

Good Reads describes the beginning of the book as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February Book Club

After a one year hiatus we began our book groups last week with a new leader at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart. 90 people are participating in several groups of twelve readers the first week of each month until December. It is lovely to see familiar faces once again and meet new ones.

Last week was a simple meet and greet group. We each talked about books that sustained us during 2020 and what we gained from them. I thought that today I would share one or two books that were talked about just so readers can see the diversity amongst our Wednesday evening group. So here goes…

Author Migeuel Syjuco

N – held up a Phillipine history book called Illustrado. She had been involved in a group of year 11 and 12 students who travelled to the Phillipines and talked about the effect of the poverty and extreme population in that country that they experienced. She said it was quite life changing for those who have had it really good living in Tasmania. We enjoyed hearing about her experiences.

Author Amy Newmark

J 1 – said she read one book entitled Life Lessons From A Cat. She told us she had to read light amusing books as she founds much about 2020 stressful.

J- (another J name) picked up Girl, Woman, Other several times but could not get into it. Then one day she started over again and really loved it. She loved the writing once she got used to it and we all agreed that the author should have won the Booker on her own and not had to share it with Margaret Atwood. A couple of others in the group had read and enjoyed this book also.

S- who is a retired teacher, said she not only read Oliver Sack’s book Gratitude again and again when she felt she needed a positive perspective, she also gifted it to several people.

H- enjoyed books by Kate Atkinson and she particularly mentioned Big Sky. She said it pulled her into the story as many of Atkinson’s book do and she definitely removed herself from 2020 while reading it.

T- read the autobiography Lioness. The story of the adoptive mother, Sue Brierley of the young boy, Saroo, who featured in Lion. Some of you may have seen the film. As most of you will remember, Saroo became lost in India while separated from his brother and eventually ended up being adopted by a family in northern Tasmania. He tracked down his family again once he reached adulthood via Google maps. It is quite the tale. I attended the Fullers event when this book was launched in Hobart awhile back. This is his adoptive mother’s tale.

V-read a Singaporean book named How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee. It is an Indian tale. She said she enjoyed the story though didn’t go too far into depth about it. Some book group members are quieter than others!

J 2- gave us a whole list of books she read. I will mention two. Where the Crawdads Sing was one of her favourites and she also enjoyed an Australian book, Flight Lines, which is about environmental issues affecting birds in Australia. It focuses on one type of bird in particular that the author is very interested in.

We were meeting in the book shop after hours. Only the morning groups meet in the pub down the road. Darn! We meet in the evenings and I enjoy the quietness of a closed bookshop in the evening. We all looked at the walls of books and picked out various books on the most recent book wall we would like to own and read.

We meet in the front of the store. Well lit, quiet and surrounded by new books.

We had some good laughs. We enjoyed our facilitator, R, who we found out studied and taught 16th century history amongst other subjects at universities in Washington State and Michigan in the States and also taught at Oxford in England. She has now returned to Australia and is working at Fullers for the time being. I guess this is not a good time to get a position in a university. She is a gifted instructor and we really do enjoy her company.

The rest of the shop.

I know we are fortunate to be able to meet face to face in a book group when so many around the world are still cancelled. I’ll just have to attend on behalf of those who aren’t able to meet and share with you what we do.

If you ever visit Hobart let me know and I’ll shout you a coffee (or tea) in their cafe.

Our March book discussion next week will be the City of Ghosts by Ben Creed. It’s a great Russian crime novel located in Moscow in 1951. I really enjoyed it. It’s graphic but in context and the story is complex, interesting and the crime unusual.

Happy reading…book group or not.

Happy Booking….