This n’ That

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The bus shelters have been painted to prevent the graffiti vandals in town from getting them.

This week has been a pleasant week. I have decided to resurrect our friend the Penguin that went with us to Great Britain. Both my friend and I have been missing travelling out of the house with him.

On Wednesday we caught the bus into the city for my writing group. Mr. Penguin had the car for the day for his weekly work on a farm with his friend. They work with sheep, cutting wood and storing cheese that his wife makes from the sheep milk.

We headed for our writing group at the Writer’s centre in Salamanca market. I have mentioned this group before. We are eight members of the Domain Writer’s Group. We meet Wednesday afternoons except for our break on the third Wednesday of the month. We range in age from late 50’s to low 90’s.

The assignment for today was to write a piece similar to an Aesop’s Fable. I had great fun with my piece the Fox and the Dog. Others wrote similar pieces of different styles. Each piece had a moral to the story. Everyone seemed to enjoy the session. For next week we each have a newspaper headline and need to incorporate a story around it. I will need to get onto that this weekend.

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Penguin enjoyed using his brain with the writing group.

The Penguin sat silently on the table and listened to the ‘tabled fables’ as we called them.

The following day I met a good friend at Fuller’s Book store for a coffee. Penguin also enjoyed the morning coffee chat and then spent some time with one of the staff members who is a lovely guy. He got right into the spirit of things and photos were taken. We have so much fun in this book store. They are coming on to their 100th anniversary in 2020 and I will be interested in seeing how they celebrate this long term family business.

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Nothing better than a cappuccino in a lovely cup.

As for books. Our book group met this week and we all enjoyed a nibble or a bit to drink at the Grand Chancellor hotel on the waterfront where we meet. The Penguin and I shared a light beer as I just wasn’t in the mood for anything else. We talked about the Good People by Hannah Kent. We all enjoyed it very much though some people thought a couple of loose ends weren’t sufficiently tied up and the ending might have been a bit unrealistic. Others disagreed. All who had read her first book, Burial Rites liked that one better. I have not read it yet. Typical book fare conversation. We all rated it 4 or 4.5 out of five.

Next month’s book will be Songs of a War Boy. The April book is going to be the Mothering Sunday. I have just begun listening to the audible version while in the car.  More thoughts on that much later.

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Tim is completing his PhD and working here. He keeps us all entertained. A lovely young man who is very bright.

I am currently reading Mothering Sunday, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi and dipping into I, Allan Sealy; The China Sketchbook. More on each of those as I finish them. The Allan Sealy book is a sketchbook he completed on a trip to China.

Mr. Penguin and I have a 17 day trip planned to Japan. We leave the 3rd of April. The Penguin is quite excited. I might make him a kimono or something. Photos will be put on the blog. I want so much to make a sketchbook journal of this trip but I draw like a three year old. However, being of an older age and not caring so much what people think anymore (the benefits of older ages) I might just do a journal anyway with my Crayolas. It isn’t for anyone else to think about anyway and my

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We both enjoy a cold beer among friends.

three year old neighbour kids might really enjoy it. They are so non-judgemental.  I will never forget the time I drew something in my job with a group of five year olds and one of them laughed so hard at a picture of an animal I drew he had tears running down his cheeks. Then all of us lost it because he couldn’t even breathe he was laughing so hard. It was such joy to laugh as hard as these five year olds did. Well that sums up the last few days of the week. I hope your week is going well and that you enjoy the photos of the Penguin and me.

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Allan Sealy sketches like a young child too so there is hope. Love this book. (more photos of it with a review later)

Carson McCuller’s Centenary

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Carson McCullers

I subscribe to the newsletter from Library of America and enjoy it quite a bit. Each week they send a short story on Monday morning. The one  I received last week was The Great Eaters of Georgia by Carson McCullers.

The southern author (of USA) Carson McCuller’s was born 100 years ago Sunday. As a very young person I had not heard of her. Then I saw the film The Heart is a Lonely Hunter  (1968 when I was in grade 12) with Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke. I have never forgotten it. It moved me greatly.  I then read the book and loved it as much. The book had a great deal more information in it as we have come to expect. Once read, seen and thought about it then disappeared from my mind. Last year our book club read it and all those memories came to the fore.

I read one of her short stories yesterday on her birthday.  The Great Eaters of Georgia is a memoir of her returning to Augusta, Georgia in 1953 from Paris when her marriage was breaking up. (Her husband soon died afterwards while she was in Georgia of alcoholism.)  She was raised in Georgia and revisited her childhood haunts. The old Victorian house she grew up in had been razed. When we move away from our childhood homes and revisit them many decades later there is seldom anything left that we remember. This was true of her too. ‘Memory ghosts’ haunt the streets.

She was able to meet her mother’s best friend Lillian Smith again. Lillian and Carson’s mother were like sisters. She  ran a girl’s camp on a remote mountain. They chatted about memories of her mother and the times they knew in younger days. snip20170220_2

She also mentioned Fort Benning, Georgia. Some of her memories included the black Americans picking cotton in the fields, eating watermelon outdoors and gathering pecans. The paragraph on how to anticipate the eating of a watermelon was mouth watering. She quotes,

“Some of the dearest memories of childhood concern the watermelon. It demands a special opera- tion and procedure. Ideally, it should be opened and eaten on a cool back porch with newspapers on the table. It should be frosty, cold to the touch on fevered summer days. When the man of the family is poised with the knife there should be a hush around the table, a breathless and pleasant anxiety. Then when the knife plunges there should be a faint crack of the splitting fruit, then the anxious craning to see if it is properly ripe. The inside should be round with delicate white frosting and the seeds quite black. After the pink part has been eaten the white part can be continued a little longer and the rind saved for pickling.”

When I was 11 years old my father went to military training in Ft Benning, Georgia and took our family with him.  We lived near the base for six months. She mentions looking for pecans. I remember my father driving us into the country when he had free time. We saw cotton picking, poor shareholder houses and yes, people sitting on the steps of the front porch eating watermelon. I found those times really interesting as life there was much different to fairly well off farmers in middle Michigan. I also remember when watermelons had big black seeds and great joy was had from spitting them at each other. My grandmother always told us if we ate the seeds they would grow in our bellies. We used to laugh so hard we would fall off the stoop we sat on.

My mother took us out in the car when my dad was working and we gathered pecans. Once playing with other children we caught a small snake and showed it to our parents. Michigan didn’t have poisonous snakes when we were children. We had heard not to touch black widow spiders we might see in window corners in Georgia but we didn’t know much about the poisonous copperhead or rattle snakes in Georgia at the time. We wondered why the tin can we had the small snake in was quickly thrown a good distance when we showed it to adults. It was a small copperhead.

She wrote of the manners and etiquette of the dinner hour and how much they ate. I heard about the table cloths of pure linen and the way the table was set. They used to have three large meals a day with the lunchtime meal being the largest. They ate all of my favourite southern foods. Grits, chicken, vegetables, pie.

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Stock photo

She referred to the Annie Dennis cookbook. I had not heard of it. She said she could never find one again. I had a look on abebooks.com as I thought it would be fun to find one. I found an old reprint of the cookbook from 1905 selling for $395.00. I don’t think I will own one though it is still in a reprint mode and one can buy it for much cheaper. Somehow I thought having the very old copy would be nice.

Carson McCuller’s went on to write several novels, short stories and essays. I don’t think I will ever forget her or The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. It is one of those books that get reread every few years and form part of a childhood.snip20161121_4

If you are interested in receiving an American short story a week you can sign up here.

http://storyoftheweek.loa.org

Have you read Carson McCullers? What did you think?

More Bikish than Bookish Today

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The Penguin and I had a really wild weekend. It was the three day Regatta Day holiday weekend. There was much going on in Tasmania this past weekend. The big Regatta with boat races and swimmers plus sideshow alley. The three day Wooden Boat Festival was in full swing. The big food festival, Festivale, was on up north. I did not attend any of these because our Ulysses motorbike group (for riders over 50 who have a motto of Growing Old Disgracefully) hi tailed it up to the northwest coast.

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Edge of the World

Was the weather beautiful and serene? Nope. Not a chance. Day I saw us doing about 480 kms through the middle of the state. The weather was : mild, gusty windy, fog to ground level, gale force winds out of the west into our faces then pouring rain, opening into sunshine during the last hour of the ride. Did we enjoy it? Oh yeah, lots of fun.

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That is my bike in the front. I am digging something out from under the seat.

 

We had twelve bikers and surprisingly seven of them were women and five were men. We now equal the men in participation in this group.

We stayed at a caravan park in little cabins. I booked myself a single cabin. It was like something out of Winnie the Pooh. Little living room, kitchen and a very tiny bedroom but it was quiet and allowed me to have a good night’s sleep.

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Arthur River

Day 2 saw us riding to the west coast of Tasmania to the Arthur River. The west coast of Tasmania is wild and wooly. The wind comes sweeping across the southern ocean and there is no land mass until you reach Africa. So nothing to delay or stop those winds. We felt them at full force. I was hanging on so tightly my friends almost had to pry my hands off the grips. It also rained. We went through the Tarkine Wilderness area. We also visited a lookout site called The Edge of the World. Beautiful and wild. Riding through rainforest we got a lot of rain. There were several trees down on the road we negotiated our way around. It was beautiful and soggy tourists we saw along the way waved at us or photographed our group of nine. Again 5 women, 4 men.

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Rest Stop

That night after enjoying a BBQ in the cold night air we all slept well. The night air was so cold our teeth shattered and our legs shook as we told one after another hilarious story or joke. What a fun time.

Day 3 saw us heading down the west coast to Queenstown and then across to Hobart. We left at 9:30 am and arrived home about 6:00 pm. We were exhausted but stopped to take several breaks, warm up. The lowest temperature was 7 degrees C and the highest was 14 which felt like a heat wave. (40’s to 50’s in F).

motorbikerThe spirit of the group was wonderful, the riders were sensible and considerate of one another and nobody broke off from the pack and took off on their own.

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Tourist Stop

Tuesday dawned in my own bed and I did not move much yesterday at all. My muscles were sore, my bike is in dire need of a good wash and my clothes lie in a heap in the laundry pile. Did we have a really good time? We sure did.

The Travellin side of the Penguin really came to the fore.

Total Kms:  1200 (750 Miles)

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Edge of the World (trying to capture it)

Tuesday Trivia-To The River and Other Life Doings

snip20170129_3I don’t usually do this. Start off loving a book so much and then throwing it all in with the towel.  Yes, sadly I am referring to To The River by Olivia Laing. The beginning held such high hopes for me. I loved it. Here are a couple of examples of her writing:

“There is a mystery about rivers that draws us to them, for they rise from hidden places and travel by routes that are not always tomorrow where they might be today.
Unlike a lake or sea, a river has a destination and there is something about the certainty with which it travels that makes it very soothing, particularly for those who’ve lost faith with where they’re headed.”

and…

“I’d barely seen the Ouse all morning and now I could hear water running low under the nettles, a tributary trickling to the valley beneath. A couple of wood pigeons were entreating one another to take two cows, Susan, take two cows, Susan. Behind or above them I could hear a train passing, calling with its horn as it reached the massive viaduct that vaulted the river. The wind was sifting the leaves and the passing sun cast strong cloud shadows across the countless grasses. There was only one more field ahead, and then the path would meet the water.”

The author is getting over a broken relationship. She decides to spend a week walking the Ouse River. The river that Virginia Woolf died in. She booked her pub rooms for the week and began her hike following the river banks wherever she could. The beginning of the book was about nature and how rivers affect natural settings.

She then goes on quite a few tangents most of which I enjoyed. She talked of geology and the geology of the area but not so much one gets a bit sleepy eyed. She had really interesting tales of Virginia Woolf and Iris Murdoch and her husband. She discusses her writing and her dementia later in life. I felt interest and compassion. She talked a lot about Kenneth Graham and The Wind in the Willows. He was such a disappointed man and things just never worked out for him but he wrote a beautiful book. She talked of the sequels written later by William Horwood. (I have the first copy hardback of everything William Horwood has ever written. I recently got an email from his page telling me the Duncan books are all to be brought in eBook format this coming year. I know, trivia.)

Just when I’m thinking this is one of the most interesting and beautifully written book she goes off on a tangent about the Battle Of Lewes.  Everything she had written to this point I feel would be of interest to worldwide travelogue buffs and readers. Maybe not the geology but that is short. Then she begins this obscure English history of smaller areas. The world would probably not be familiar with this. Who the players were, what it meant and on it went. I did feel too that it just would not quit. No more nature, no more books or authors based on rivers, just a sudden change. Yes, she was walking through the area so it is probably relevant but there was just too much. (or so I thought.)

The description and experiences in the pubs stopped. Although to be fair I just couldn’t take another page.  Maybe I didn’t read the whole book quickly enough. Maybe next to the story of Kenneth Graham the battle of Lewes just bored me silly. Maybe it is because it is due at the library this week and I can’t renew it because there is a hold on it. Maybe, if, maybe.

I had enough. My mood changed? Maybe my underwear was too tight and I couldn’t get comfortable in my chair. Who is to say. It was just one of those things.

I would definitely read something else by this author of the beautiful passages. But I don’t want to read anymore obscure English history. Maybe it isn’t obscure to the British population. I had heard of the battle of Lewes but didn’t need any further information on it.

motorbikerAnyway, the rest of the week went well. I have a 1200 km motorbike weekend over three days coming up so I have been out riding quite a bit this week getting ready for it.  Our motorbike group will be riding to the northwest of the state. I have booked myself into a single, small cabin as I know I will be extremely tired after riding the 480 kms there on very twisty hilly roads. No freeways or motorways here. Then the second day we will be 350 kms through the Tarkine wilderness  forest area. The most beautiful part of our state that everyone fights the government tooth and nail to not log it. Pristine wilderness. It has been listed as World Heritage in recently years and when the previous Prime Minister tried to have that status overturned to log it the World Heritage committee said “Absolutely not!” as it meets all five criteria for listing.snip20170206_2

You only need one or two criteria to get it in the first place. So I am hoping I’ll be able to see it. Then Monday (Regatta Day holiday in the south of the state) is the 480 kms ride home.

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I will take some photos and try to get them up for next week’s Tuesday Trivia but here is a photo I found online as a teaser.

Enjoy the rest of the week. Drop a line and tell me what you’re reading, what you’re doing when you’re not reading and generally what’s happening in your neck of the woods.

The Good People- Hannah Kent

snip20170202_8I was scheduled to do a lovely, summer motorbike ride today but as the wind is trying to uproot giant trees across the road I wonder what it might do to my scooter. So now I am at loose ends. I actually found myself staring at the map on Book Depository of who bought what books around the world. Actually it was interesting. The Scandinavian countries were being sent novels and lovely stories, as it evidently is such a lovely place to live. South American buyers bought books on civil war.  American readers were buying books to do with politics or mental health and Australia had one lonely colouring book which made me laugh. Are we so simple these days or what?

I needed to do my review on The Good People by Hannah Kent and today is as good of a day as any. (Spoiler free I might add)

The story opens with Nóra Leahy having suddenly lost her husband. The shock and wake seem to go on for days. She has now lost her daughter who left behind a little boy and her husband.

As we progress we learn that her grandson is quite disabled with what I would describe as very autistic symptoms. Of course there was no such term at this time in history which takes place in 1800’s Ireland.

Nóra hires a 14 year old girl, Mary, to help her with the child, housework and a bit of farm work. Nóra doesn’t cope with the young boy, Micheál at all. He screams most of the time, cannot speak, walk or control his bowels. Mary has great compassion for this young lad and develops the closest thing to a relationship with him that he’s had to date.

Enter Nance Roche, a superstitious old woman who lives in a cabin at the edge of the forest She prescribes cures through natural remedies guaranteed to work.

Does it fix Micheál. This is the basis of the story. She diagnoses him as a changeling. That means another worldly source has entered his body, probably the fairies and taken over his soul. The trick is to find the right combination of treatments to rid him of such and make him whole, as he supposedly was when his mother had him. Before she died she told her husband that the boy in front of her was no longer her son. She believed he had been switched. Once grandmother Nóra learns of this she remains more than convinced this has happened.

I can’t stay more than this as I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone. I really enjoyed this story. The book is full of superstitions as you might expect from 1800’s rural Ireland , about ten miles from Killarney. There are stories about Nora, the boy and almost everyone else’s life from the community women who meet at the well each morning for water. Mary is the most sensible one of the lot.

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The talented Australian author  Hannah Kent

 

Having grown up in the 1950’s midwest of America I remember hearing my grandmother and mother to a certain degree remind me of various superstitions that were definitely “relevant” to our life. Most involved birds in the house or birds tapping at the window being the cause of death to someone close by. I have never been able to shake those memories and when a bird hit my window one day in 2004, killing itself and then learning the next day of my father’s death…well that didn’t really erase those memories.  No, I don’t believe in superstitions but it does cross my mind once in awhile.

Hannah Kent is a young Australian author whose first book was published to critical acclaim, Burial Rites about the last woman in Iceland who was hanged. Friends have told me they enjoyed this book more than The Good People but I have not read it yet.

I think Ms. Kent is a very talented writer and I enjoyed this book immensely. I listened to it from Audible.com and it had a great narrator whose Irish accent really brought the story to life. I might also add as the story progresses the drama increases quite a bit.

If I had any criticism it would be I thought it was a bit too long. I would have shortened it a bit but I couldn’t have written something this in-depth so it is rather a moot point.

My book group will discuss this book at the end of the month and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of tcoffee-shop-penguinhem may not appreciate it as much as I did. But I am not sure. I will let you know.

I still think about these people. I wonder about their lives and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since I heard it. The sign of a good book? I think so, at least it was for me.

I’d love to know what others thought of it if it has been read.

This is my first book towards the Australian Women Writer’s group that I have just joined. They are having a focus this year on classic Australian Women writers so I need to download some older works but I think this was a great book to start with although it was more to do with Ireland than England. Happy Reading from the Penguin and I.

 

 

Tuesday Trivia: Literature as Constellations

For those of you who subscribe to Lit Hub snip20161225_16weekly you may have seen this. There are several articles, most this week about writers or literature linked with Trump. I skip over these. I get enough news on him. One minute’s news about him is too much for me so as I read down the page I came across a more upliftin heading that read:

“Nick Rougeux has diagrammed the iconic opening lines of famous books to create Literary Constellations. | WIRED”

My first thought was, “What is this?”  When I opened the article to read it my second snip20170129_2thought was, “This guy has too much time on his hands.”  But it was fun so I thought I would share it. You can visit the page here.

Other trivia happening?  Well Australia just celebrated Australia Day this week. Many people refer to it as Invasion Day as it was the day that white man arrived in Australia and destroyed the lives of the Aboriginal People. Each year a large group of people lobby the government to change the date so it is a more pleasant day for all Australians not just white Australia.  I don’t see that changing the date would be any great sacrifice but you know how politicians can be. Everything is such a drama to them.

The past week has been pleasant enough here. We are enjoying summer weather . A good time to be outside with my dogs playing frisbee and fetching stones. img_0955Odie loves his frisbee and Molly, 6 kg terrier that she is has had a goal to bury or play with each stone in our yard during the past 12 years. We put stones down in the back to counteract the mud. That worked but now we have a stone obsessed little madam. She makes me laugh. Mr P is the softie in the house when it comes to the dogs. When Molly is called inside by me she runs in, dropping the stone outdoors. She knows they are not allowed in the house. When Mr. P calls her in she runs in, stone in mouth and drops it on the couch and looks at me as if to say, “What are you going to do about it?”

snip20170129_3I am currently reading To The River by Olivia Laing. A story of one  English woman’s walk along the River Ouse (the river that Virginia Woolf died in) in the UK. She discusses the countryside, the pubs she stays in and people she meets. There is also a bit about Virginia Woolf’s life and books. I know one of the bloggers reviewed it but I read so many blogs I forget who it was. So if you read this, thank you, as I am enjoying the gentleness of this book. More later.

So until the next time, enjoy the trivia in your own life. I hope it makes you laugh.

 

Margery Sharp day a day late…

snip20170126_2Wonderful Jane of Eden Rock in Cornwall has hosted a Margery Sharp day. Several bloggers read a book by her and then posted a review for 25 January. I have just slid in by the seat of my pants to make it the 26th here but I am sure it is the 25th somewhere in the world. Hawaii?

I had never heard of this author but now I am glad I have found her. The book I read was The Eye of Love published in 1957.

Miss Diver lives in an English house with her orphaned niece Martha. She is a somewhat eccentric woman who is in love with Mr. Gibson. Mr. Gibson has doted on her for the past 10 years although he still lives with his mother. Twice a week he visits and the two of them cuddle and coo each other. She is his Spanish rose (sometimes referring to her as Old Madrid, which made me laugh.) She is his big King Hal who is her protector. Their world verges between fantasy and reality.  When Miss Diver’s brother died she begrudgingly took on her pre adolescent niece Martha whose only interest is being left alone to draw the shapes she sees in every object. She is a very peculiar little girl, who does not attend school and lives completely in her own world with the art in her mind.

The book opens with Mr. Gibson having to say farewell to Miss Diver and Martha because his furrier businsnip20170126_1ess is in trouble and he must marry Miranda Joyce who is the daughter of the top furrier in the city Mr. Joyce, in order to keep a job.

Miss Joyce is quite privileged, spoiled and very shallow. He does not want to marry her but feels he must. Miss Diver is devastated and at loose ends without her big King Hal.  Martha is not fussed either way.
One day Martha meets  a man who is in need of accommodation. Mr Phillips returns home with Martha and becomes a border in Miss Diver’s home. Over a bit of time he weasles himself into Miss Diver’s life. His aim is to marry her as he thinks she owns the home, with all of the valued items in the sitting room Mr. Gibson has given her over the years. If he becomes her husband he can get rid of Martha, have a home and reign supreme over this resience and Miss Diver’s life. He really is a sleazy, creepy little man.

That is where I will leave you. The questions remain: **What happens to Martha and her increasing talent? **Will Mr. Gibson marry the insipid Miranda? **snip20170126_4What happens to the friendship that has developed between Miranda’s father and Mr. Gibson. **Will Mr. Phillips succeed in his plan? **Does Miss Diver find happiness, find the money she needs to keep her home when her income runs out? **Who lives happilon’s wedding day approaches.  There is humour in it. The writing is descriptive enough without being over bearing and the characters came to life for me. I still think of them.

I really enjoyed this book. A quirky tale, concisely told with enough subplots to keep me interested and believe it or not quite a bit of suspense as Miranda and Mr Gibson are pretty obscure characters.

There is a sequel to this book about Martha in Paris as she becomes an adult enmeshed in the world of art.  This book is certainly on my list to read. I liked Martha. She is a funny child and not all roses and buttercups. She has a mind of her own and is eccentric and quite uncaring of the rest of the world in her own mind.

If you wsnip20170126_5ould like to know more about Margery Sharp you can find a biography of her on Wikipedia here.

I will certainly be looking out for her other books.