Off to Sydney for a Week

The Penguin and I are going to hit the road, or better still air space, to get off this island for a week. A good friend and I have a tradition of a week in Sydney each year to give their theatre circuit a workout. We have three performances to attend. Not bad for a full five day visit.

I see the Spin Book has been selected by the Classics Club blog and it is number four which is:



I will pop my little Penguin classic into my bag and read it on the way up. More on that later. The book that has been picked is an essay from a writer I have no knowledge of so I will be doing a bit of research before doing the post once I read it and return home.

I might get some Sydney pics up for you as my camera is packed in my carry on and I will see what we dig up. We always visit bookshops, the beautiful fountain pen shop on the third floor of the Queen Vic building and want to explore the Tram Sheds area. Evidently home of the trams that were previously all over Sydney in the past, they are now shops and restaurants. As anything trendy, no doubt pricey but hopefully some of the history remains that might present some photo ops.

And of course there is always The Museum of Contempoary Art and roof top cafe overlooking the beautiful harbour.

So don’t go too far away as I’ll be back with more who knows what. Looking forward to it.


The Trauma Cleaner

Snip20171113_1Once again I find a book that is hyped up sensationally by a publisher in order to get sales only to find, in this case, it is much, much  more. The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein is another example.

Peter is a young boy raised in a very poor, abusive family in Melbourne.  He was adopted and when other natural siblings came to the fore his life took a nosedive for the rest of his childhood. It wasn’t that good to begin with but the abuse he suffered from his parents, especially his alcoholic father was shocking.

As Peter grew older he really struggled with his gender identity. This young boy sought support from other family members, his school, his neighbours, and the nuns who lived nearby in a convent. None was forthcoming.

He eventually married Linda and had two sons. The story still has a very long way to go.

The book then discusses the ever growing feelings he struggled with as he eventually dealt with becoming a woman.  The story continues through the days related to his gender reassignment surgery, his downfall with drugs and alcohol. Society’s non acceptance of everything about him especially in 1960’s and 70’s Melbourne.

But Peter, now Sandra, is like a phoenix.  I think the revealing of how she came to overcome every situation thrown at her, and believe me it is not pretty, is very much a credit to this beautiful, compassionate person.

Sandra has a series of relationships and jobs and we delve into every one of them. Yes, the book does open when she is in the last half of her life and her job is as a trauma cleaner.  People who die, hoard, get murdered are all of her clients. This side of the book is also quite a psychological study of their  lives too.

The chapters swing back and forth from Peter’s life and then to Sandra’s life and as one life is told from now to then and the other comes up to meet it from childhood the reader really feels like they know this beautiful human.

The compassion Sandra has for the underdogs in her life is remarkable. Especially considering how terribly abused she was by every aspect of society.  I was amazed at the story of this one human being and how she kept getting up again and again and continually moved forward.

I didn’t think the story was at all sensational though her life probably would seem so to many readers. I also think many people could struggle with reading this book as it isn’t pretty. There is violence, filth, psychological disorder, rape- yes- everything that is ugly in the world. But there is more resilience, compassion, truth and honesty about Sandra and the life she endured.  The reader also becomes aware of the scars Sandra has and how she comes to terms with everything as she approaches an older age and continues to look for more comfort than what she has known.

The bureaucracy she dealt with over the years as a gay- transgender- married person, both as a man then as a woman highlights even more why all Australians need equal rights under the law no matter who they are.  As usual there is quite a lot of very inept bureaucracy in this country regarding the rights of children, marriage, lifestyle and relationships.

I would say to the Text Publishing company that I think you did a disservice to this author and Sandra in sensationalising the cover of this book. It is not about the gruesomeness of the  job she did. It is not about cleaning blood splattered walls of those who have met their end in violence.

It is much, much more.  Her story is so different to what we regularly read and struggle with in our own minds.  It teaches us to understand how a life such as this can not only survive, but succeed. Sandra not only contributes to society in such completeness but does so with a compassion many of us could only hope to achieve in our  own lifetimes.

I think it is an important book and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Peter and later on,  Sandra.

(The author spent three years working with Sandra and learning about various aspects of the law and stories related to transgender people in our society. There is a bibliography of resources at the end as well as acknowledgements of thanks)gardner


Classic Club Spin and Little Black Penguins

Snip20171110_1In 2015 Penguin Books published a series of 80 Little Black Classic Books to celebrate their 80th anniversary.  I bought the original set but see now more books have been added to the set. I believe they number 127 books. You can see the complete list here.

Of course I have looked through them but not read any of them.

This week the Classic Club 16th Spin has been announced and I thought I would use this set of books to get started reading them. I have picked the first 20 books of the series for the list. There are some I look forward to more than others but I will read the book chosen by the spin number and post a review of it, as required by the end of the year.

The list is as follows:

  1. Mrs. Rosie and the Priest by Giovanni Boccaccio
  2. As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins
  3. The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue by Anon
  4. On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas DeQuincey
  5. Aphorisms on Love and Hate
  6. Traffic by John Ruskin
  7. Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling
  8. A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
  9. Three Tang Dynasty Poets
  10. On the Beach at Night Alone by Walt Whitman
  11. A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees by Kentō
  12. How to Use Your Enemies by Baltasar Gracián
  13. The Eve of St Agnes by John Keats
  14. Woman Much Missed by Thomas Hardy
  15. Femme Fatale by Guy de Maupassant
  16. Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls by Marco Polo
  17. Galigual by Suetonius
  18. Jason and Medea by Apollonius
  19. Olalla by Robert Louis Stevenson
  20. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

Snip20171110_1I don’t have firm favourites or ones I am dreading BUT …. if I had to choose I think my best pick might be no. 7 or 11 and the ones I might hesitate at would be no. 13 and 20. They sound a bit dry but hey! Who Knows!

The Spin will occur on Friday, November 17th.  Stay Tuned.Snip20171031_6





Great Expectations

Snip20171031_4Great Expectations is Charles Dicken’s thirteenth novel and only the second one after David Copperfield that is written in the first person -according to Wikipedia.

I am listening to the audio version of it in the car and must say I am thoroughly enjoying it. More so than most books I have read this year.  According to academic sources it includes  themes of wealth, poverty, love, rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil.

I have not read Dickens before and have felt guilty for many years. It wasn’t emphasised in American high schools in the 1960’s.  Then life got in the way and I never made time for these very long books.

The version I am listening to is performed by Martin Jarvis and I love his interpretation of it. (

Dickens paints pictures with his words. The swamps with the convicts hidden, Miss Haversham’s old dilapidated house. Pip’s sister and brother in law are exceptionally well spoken.  The characters are three dimensional and I expect to look over in the passenger seat of the car and see Pip or Joe sitting there.  Sometimes if I get distracted by traffic I will rewind the chapter and listen to it again.

Other news:

We have planted several native bushes this past week for the birds & bees.

I have been reading several magazine articles from Womankind and Philosopher magazines that are published in Hobart.  There is a brand new book shop in Hobart connected to the publishing establishments of these magazines. I went in for the first time the other day and talked to the staff. They let me take some photos. I will do a separate post on this wonderful new shop.

I am also reading the blogs listed on my post regularly.  Although I don’t always have the time or strength to comment I do enjoy them.

I have been seriously decluttering the house. I have joined a fitness centre and am working on ‘getting old gracefully.’  Stretching, balance and weight bearing are the goals. I have lost a few pounds and am working on strengthening my upper body and torso muscles as I get achey while riding my motorbike.  It is like riding a horse. I hobble the day after.

I have a week coming up in Sydney beginning the 19th of this month but more on that later too.

Our photo club challenges are taking up a lot of time. I watch countless videos on You Tube to learn all the settings of my Canon 5D Mark III.  It is like learning to fly a plane. Lightroom and Photoshop are also extensions of that.

I will leave you with a happy honey bee I photographed this morning as I practised various camera settings.

How is your week going?

Honey Bee


Tuesday Trivia

ceriseLots of bits and pieces happening during the past week or so. The biggest news is that I have taken the rest of  my Penguin Book Collection to auction. It will be auctioned off on Friday. I did keep the vintage Illustrated Classics that comprise the wood prints and I kept the collection of cerise (pink) Penguins. They are the travel and adventure books mainly from the 1940’s to 1960’s. I also still have the 37 boxed sets.  I will probably keep the above lists on this blog as a reference for other people who collect Penguins.

As I drove away from the auction house I was near tears but then remembered the Buddhist principals of impermanence and stopped at McDonalds for a large Orange Juice and an Egg McMuffin.  I then felt okay. I was beginning to worry a lot about who was going to take this house apart if I depart this earth first. I don’t want Mr. Penguin worrying about it. I still have so many adventures on the shelves to keep me happy.Snip20171031_2

I decided to treat the whole collection as the Penguin Journey. As if it had been  a holiday that had to come to an end. I visited England on the book hunt. I made many friends. I learned a great deal about the Penguin Publishing history. I gave several community talks. I visited the Bristol University Archives. I had a great time over almost 10 years and now that holiday is over.

Time to move on. I  have never shied away from moving on in any capacity.  I am getting deeper and deeper into photography and enjoy the new friends I am making in the arena of the Hobart Photo Club and the challenges through the Cannon Collective. Learning Photoshop is exasperating and fun and hopefully will keep dementia at bay. It is really like learning a foreign language which is supposed to be great in fighting off dying brain cells.

My photography equipment doesn’t take up as much space either as 2000 books did. In many way it is true that decluttering helps de-stress a mind. It wasn’t ‘sparking joy’ as it once did.

I still have five rescue pets under my roof to keep me stressed and happy with their worries, recklessness and happiness.

He is all grown up now but I still love this photo.

I might take up Wordless Wednesday with photographs. I picked that up from “O” of On Bookes blog. I enjoy her classics blog, life with rescue hens and budgies as well as her photographs of northern England.  I am in the midst of three books at the moment.

Snip20171031_3A crime book by Robert Crais, The Promise,  is currently on my phone kindle. I have followed his characters of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike for years.  He lives in the hills of Los Angeles and I enjoy his antics.  I read that when I am out of the house waiting for people and appointments.

A wonderful version of Great Expectations is on the car bluetooth speakers through I am loving it. Dickens was wonderful in character descriptions and dialogue and I am loving this story I have not read before. I look forward to driving and listening to another chapter.

Snip20171031_4.pngIn print I am continuing walking The El Camino in Talking with Cats by W. Lee Nichols.  I love the philosophy he thinks about, his experiences in cafes and hostels and his mind is always turning over. Meaning of life stuff and history.

Speaking of long walks. I am still playing with the dogs but thinking I don’t get as much exercise as I need. I have signed up for swimming and senior exercise classes at a local fitness centre. Having grown up within the cornfields of mid Michigan I wasn’t exposed to a lot of swimming. Paddling around a lake or fishing, yes, once in awhile. But the Australian childhood puts growing up in other countries to shame when it comes to swimming.  I am enjoying being in the water and getting out of breath from lap to lap. I do mean lap to lap too.  Swim one lap. Rest. Swim another one. Rest. My goal at the moment is two without the rest. Small steps.

Great Journeys Collection

I forgot to mention I also have hung onto the more modern Penguin smaller books. English Journeys series. Great Journeys series. Great ideas. I am toying with the idea of saving these for weekend reads. Now I need an alliterative title for post on weekend Penguins. Though it may just be called Weekend Penguins. I am planning on making some minor tweaks to my blog’s focus. It is coming up on about 7 years and we all need changes from time to time.

Looking ahead to 2018 I see travel. We have a big trip coming up for the month of March and there will be much walking. I need to be more fit. More on the later. I see more reading of the TBR. I see more Penguin books posted. I see better health (2017 was a wipe out). I see photography. I see food. I am cooking more. I might share one of the Great Foods books Penguin puts out.

More to come.  Are you as ready to finish off 2017 and start a new year as I am?

New Outfit…

A Fuller’s Book Voucher on a Rainy Day

Tassie has been very dry lately. This morning the rains have come and the temperature is high enough to have the window open so we can hear it. A favourite kind of a day. While the cats are doing high speed runs through the house the dogs are a bit quieter. Molly, our terrier has gone back to bed. Odie sits with me every morning. 20171019_102341

This morning is a good time to talk about new books. Fuller’s. An independent book shop.  I talk about this shop a lot. It really is my home away from home with their lovely books, friendly, family like staff and a good cafe to boot.

Whenever I need a gift for someone (or myself) I usually get it here from their wide range of books, beautiful stationery or cards and calendars.  As  a result I get these wonderful book vouchers sent out every so often throu th their rewards program. Yesterday I had a big one and put it to good use.

I generally use it to buy reference books of some sort but since I have been in a book reading slump I thought I would put it towards some novels that might make me curious enough to inspire me to put down internet articles and magazines.

Here is the loot!

Bill Bryson makes me laugh and I have always wanted to read this one. I have read several of his others but somehow this has escaped me over the years. Having done several road trips through the UK I know I will enjoy this.


I have no idea who this is but the cover drew me in. The book blurb states, in part, “Yasmin Abdel-Magied is a young Muslim dynamo offering a bracing breath of fresh air-and hope. As a 21 year old she found herself working on a remote oil and gas rig: the only woman.”  This is her story. It includes being a third culture kid, growing up migrant and Muslim in Australia post 9/11.

It sounds really interesting and comes from an interesting perspective. 20171019_102407

Then there is this. I had a friend who died a couple of years ago. He was a hoarder. Like the ones you see on tv reality shows. It is a psychological illness that I have been fascinated by. I am also a BBC First TV addict of British forensic crime shows. This book might be gruesome but it is a part of our society that does exist and I admit, I am curious. Sometimes we need a change of genre in our reading selections. I think one of these in this subject will be enough.


Last but not least I wanted another bit of non fiction. The Organised Mind by Daniel Levitan supports to help us weed the wheat from the chaff with so much media and internet overload in society. It discusses our daily processing limits and claims to help organise our memory, attention span and improve our memory.  It is supposed to be based on neuro-scientific principles. We will see how evidence based it is.

As it is continues to rain and I have nothing else planned until my photo club meets this evening seems my day is off to a good start.  How do you spend a rainy day?

coffee shop penguin