Ponderings of a retired Tasmanian, photographing, animal loving, book reading, travelling, motorbike riding penguin, growing old disgracefully, who still loves old Penguin books and sharing our world with others.
First off I’d like to thank the weather gods for sending us rain overnight. It’s not all we need but it sure sounded lovely on the roof this morning. I hear it’s raining over the fires as well but that’s a mixed bag. Lightning can start more fires, but cooler conditions and rain can help extinguish the fires that are still going.
It’s been a silly old day today. I took Ollie for a walk today and of course he got into the burrs. Burrs and a rough coated Jack Russell are not at all compatible. Especially when one has very short legs and the burrs get on the puppy tummy as well. Trying to comb anything out of a five month old puppy is a challenge but we finally got through it.
Then I thought, “Now what can I do to entertain myself when Claire’s meme came through from her blog. Several of my blogger friends have participated in this little exercise so I thought I’d have a go. However, one is supposed to use the names of books read in 2019. I didn’t keep track of what I read in 2019. As I am focusing this year on the books currently unread on my shelves I decided to use those TBR books instead. So here goes. I revised the rules for my page.
THE RULES: Using only books you have not read on your shelves, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Let me know below, if you’ve joined in too
How do you feel? Happy Returns by CS Forester
Describe where you currently live: In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Outback and Beyond by Cynthia Nolan
Your favourite form of transportation: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Rob Pirsig
Your best friend is: The Literary Dog by William E. Maloney
You and your friends are: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
What’s the weather like: Rain-Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison
You fear: The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
What is the best advice you have to give? Get an: Accommodating Spouse by Elizabeth Jolley
Thought for the day: Browse The World in Bookshops by Henry Hitchings
How would I like to die? Central Mischief by Elizabeth Jolley
My soul’s present condition: Autumnal Tints by Henry David Thoreau
I’ve read a couple books this week plus a short story. It’s quite hot out so nice to stay inside where it is cool. Southern Tasmania is probably the only place in the nation without smoke in the air. It’s really been terrible for people.
I read The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton for my upcoming book group meeting in February at Fullers Bookshop. Edith Wharton was the first female author to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1921. It was originally serialised in four parts in a magazine the previous year and then published and sold as a book. I’ll be interested to see what the book group thinks about it. Last year they hated the period piece of Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield which I loved. I enjoyed this book once I got into it. It’s one of those books I wouldn’t start unless I had a good block of time to get into it so I’d want to pick it up again.
Newland Archer is engaged to May Welland and looking forward to his wedding very
much. Then her cousin the Countess Ellen Olenska arrives from Europe where she has left her brutish Polish husband and does not plan to return. It is the end of the 19th century, New York, so of course there is a great deal of discussion about her upcoming divorce and will she be accepted into society or not. She is a bit Bohemian, wears scarves, loves the wilder side of life and is very independent. Newland falls in love with her and that sets up the plot for the rest of the story.
However the beauty of this book is how it defines social class in the later half of the 1800s in New York. The requirements of proper society ladies and gentlemen are very clear and heaven help you if you break one of them. The scandals, the gossip, the theatre, the interactions between the extended families of both Newland and May come into the tale very much. It was an important piece of literature in America in the early 1900s because of the impact World War I had on society. Values were changing and that impacted on New Society and pretty much the entire way of life. Events such as the war, the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the depression changed the face of America. This book defined how life was previous to all of that and you could see the beginning of those changes as the year rolled over into the new century from the 1800’s. There is also the theme of balancing what is responsible in one’s life versus what one wants. Does one forego a life, hurting many people in exchange for only thinking of oneself to attain what is wanted. As predictable as the story was the ramifications of how it addressed an important part of American history stays with the reader. I enjoyed it.
My second book of the week was randomly selected from 1001 Children’s Books You Should Read Before You Die. The first couple of selections were not available in our local library but this book was. Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom is a book I’d never heard of. Mr. Morpugo was born in 1943 in Hertfordshire, England. He has written many books and our library seems to have most of them. I would think the reading age for this book would be about 9 or 10 upwards. It is the story of an 8 year old boy who moves onto a yacht with his parents after they lose their job when the local factory closes down. They sail to various places in the world and one day while the boy is on watch with his dog, they fall overboard. His parents are asleep below deck and have no idea this has happened. He and the dog manage to stay above water but when all is lost and he becomes unconscious and the dog has floated away, he awakes and finds himself on an island. Only one other person lives on the island, a 90 year old Japanese man who has been there since Nagasaki was destroyed in World War II and he cannot go home again.
The man eventually works out the boy is not an enemy and he takes him under his wing.
They care for the gibbon monkeys and the orangatangs. They live in a cave fitted out with items from a sunken ship nearby. While there, evil men arrive in a sloop with rifles and their aim is to kill the adult gibbon monkeys so they can steal the babies for the tourist trade. There are a lot of environmental messages in this book. They talk about the animals and the extensive clearing of land. At the end of the book there is a page about all the illegal and governmental land clearance around the world and the impact that has on the wildlife. The message it portrays is very pointed. I didn’t think I’d like reading a book for such a young audience but the main characters were enjoyable and developed enough that I cared about them. I worried about the monkeys and orangatangs too. I finished it in a couple of hours as I was interested in how they would all end up. If I had children in my life I would recommend these adventure stories to them. There is enough adventure that the educational value of it does not become overwhelming.
I’ve got another couple books on the go but I’m not far enough into them yet to say anything. I have a very funny short story from the book Funny Ha Ha to share too but will do so later.
Until next time…
This book counts for the Century of Books Challenge: 1920.
For people who read a lot they will probably know this was an important short story in
American Literature. It’s first inception was not a film though two films have been made of this story, neither kept to the plot.
It was written by the wonderful author James Thurber. I love his tales. I have read him off and on for years and he had such a creative, humorous imagination. He was born in 1894, the same year my maternal grandparents were born though they were a few months older than him. He was a cartoonist, humorist, journalist, playwright, children’s book author and wit. He was best known for short stories and cartoons published in the New Yorker. (Wikipedia).
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was first published in The New Yorker magazine March 18, 1939. It is a story about a man who day dreamed his life away. How often do we do that? I was a great day dreamer especially as I sat in school classes and it never really disappeared much into adulthood.
The story begins in Connecticut with Walter driving his wife into the city to do the shopping and have her hair done. Walter doesn’t pay much attention to the real world, but instead lives in a dreamlike state of heroic antics.
As they drive into town his wife tells him to quit driving so quickly. He goes into his imagination and sees himself as a pilot of a US Navy flying boat in a storm. There is a brief description of this episode of heroism. As they drive past a hospital he suddenly turns into a wonderful surgeon performing the trickiest of operations to save the life of his patient.
Once past the hospital something else catches his imagination and he becomes a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom. Soon afterwards he is a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dumb.
Once the trip into town is complete he sees him self standing against a wall facing a firing squad. Each imaginative event is inspired by some detail of his hum drum life.
James Thurber’s stories and cartoons often displayed meek mannered men dominated by overweight, domineering wives. It seems to be a joke repeated often over time, especially in cartoons.
I remember the discussions of the story as far back as high school as his short stories, this one as well as The Catbird Seat were often taught in high school English classes. I wonder if they still are. I loved him and his stories.
This story begins the exploration of the book, Funny Ha Ha, I talked about in a previous post.
It’s to be 40 degrees C (104 F) in Hobart today. The firefighters are on high alert as a large storm is expected to come through tonight and they are worried about lightning strikes starting fires. The last time Hobart hit 40 degrees C on this date was 1897. Needless to say we are sequestered in the house for the day.
It gives me a chance to finalise my challenges for next year. I am adding two other types of reading in order to diversify the books a bit. I got a book voucher for my November birthday and with it I purchased a very thick book of comical short stories by well known authors. It is called Funny Ha Ha. Authors include the likes of James Thurber, Saki, Spike Milligan, Mark Twain, Joyce Carol Oates and Dorothy Parker to name a few. There are 80 stories in all, of a few pages each. I decided I will randomly pick one story each Monday morning and have programmed that into my phone calendar so I will get a reminder each week.
As New Year’s Day is this Wednesday, I decided to randomly pick a story today and was pleased when my random generator app chose The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber.I have read this story before, once assigned in high school and once later on. I also saw the film but didn’t get as much out of that as I did the story. I look forward to reading it again.
The description of Funny Ha Ha states:
“Funny Ha Ha is the definitive collection of comic short stories. From Anton Chekhov to Ali Smith from P.G. Woodhouse to Nora Ephron, the greatest writers are those who know how to laugh. Here, award winning comedian and broadcaster Paul Merton brings together his favourite funny stories of all time. Whether it’s the silly, surreal, slapstick or satirical that makes you smile there’s a story here to tickle every funny bone. From prize-winners and literary giants, to stand up comedians and the rising stars of funny literature, this brilliant anthology is guaranteed to cheer your day. “
My second challenge is to continue with more of the books from 1001 Children’s Books You Should Read Before You Die. I started it before but it got waylaid. I’m hoping to rejuvenate that project. The only conditions I am assigning this project are I will use the Random Generator app to pick from the 900+ pages of the book and the books must come from the library. I had a quick library search and they do have many of them. However some books are not available. There are quite a few copies that are eBooks I can download and others I need to put a hold on them. I am choosing three books at a time and locating them in the library. I will read them once they become available or I get into town to pick them up. Most won’t take very long to read. I’ve not read children’s books much since I stopped working in the Education department. I like to keep up on children’s books and some young adult books. It keeps me in the loop of what goes on with the younger generations though many of these books were classics when I was young.
I also have some diaries I will try to keep up. They begin on 1 January and I will try to start my day off with the passage of the day. They are books I’ve wanted to read for awhile and if I take a year to read them I might be able to keep up. No promises on this one.
The Diary of Samuel Pepys (those entries are a bit longer) Everyman’s Library, introduced by Kate Loveman
A Traveller’s Year: 365 Days of Travel Writing in Diaries, Journals and Letters, compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison
New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009, Edited by Teresa Carpenter.
Dear Los Angeles: The City in diaries and Letters 1542 – 2018, Edited by David Kipen
Books three and four are really interesting. The editors have compiled all the diaries and letters they could find over time, in these locations, and organised the entries from centuries ago; to current day by day of the year beginning with 1 January. So an entry might read: 1 January 1723 and the next paragraph could be 1 January 1802, and so forth. It sounds disjointed but I’ve had a read of these books here and there and they are really quite fun. Of course big events in these two cities are covered but there are also very minor characters who kept diaries and one gets a sense of what daily life’s like at the particular date.
Now I know, come 1 January, I love to take a big bite out of the book world and I am quite enthused now. But I have decided that 2020 is the year I drop way back on social media, except for my photography work and instead of wasting time looking at FB, Instagram and You Tube, I’m going to immerse myself in the books I have been collecting for decades and then moving them on. Wish me luck. (I know, I have an inflated sense of self and a very good sense of humour.)
Glenyse Ward was born in 1949. She was removed by the Australian government from her parents as an infant and put into the St Joseph Orphanage in Perth, Western Australia. Once she turned two years of age she was transported to the Wandering Mission (St Xavier Native Mission), a Catholic missionary and raised by very strict, controlling German nuns.
She lived there until age 14 when she went to the Bigelow family to work as a domestic slave. Mrs. Bigelow was the wife of the Lord Mayor of the town and always referred to Glenyse as her slave and worked her as a slave. She was made to eat and drink out of the tin dishes reserved for the cat and she slept in a tiny attic room above the garage. She showered in the same area Mrs. Bigelow washed the dogs.
Growing up in the orphanage she had her friends who she continued to miss the rest of her life. Two of the friends turned out to be her biological sisters. That surprised her greatly. She was told her father had died in an accident and remain surprised as she already believed he was dead. She had knowledge of where her mother lived but wasn’t allowed to see her. Her mother visited her once at the missionary but the nuns turned her away because she was apparently very drunk.
This book is her story working for the Bigelow family. They lived in wealth in a beautiful farmhouse. Mrs Bigelow would not acknowledge Glenyse’s name or speak to her.
Life at the mission was hard as all the children were expected to work hard at their
chores and study their lessons. When she approached her teen years a new teacher arrived, a man who separated the girls by colour. He would teach the lighter skinned girls as he believed they had the ability to learn but the darker skinned girls weren’t believed to be capable of learning.
This is a very slim book of her domestic years, 157 pages long. I picked it up in a second hand bookshop and will pass it on. If anyone in Australia would like this book I’m happy to post it to you. Let me know in an email at psbparks at ymail. dot com.
The story is very appropriate for young adults also and I think the reality of her life was crueler than what she wrote about in this book. That’s why I wondered if it was written for a younger audience.
There is a lot more information about the author here and here if you’re interested.
You can hear her testifying about her experience related to the Stolen Generation here.
I would be interested in reading more about this woman’s life as an adult. The book described here takes her through her teenage years.
It’s been a very hectic week but more pleasant than the previous week. Readers will know we lost our lovely Odie last week. We were going to adopt another puppy as our older dog Molly is missing him. We wanted to get one from the Dog’s Home but they seldom have puppies that are small breeds. As we’re getting older we need a dog we can lift if needed. Odie needed to be carried a lot and we struggled with his weight. We saw a lovely litter of Jack Russells that needed a home. I checked it wasn’t a puppy mill turning them out and it wasn’t. A lovely family with six children had a pair of pedigree Jack Russell puppies. The mother is from Queensland and the father is a Tasmanian. A good gene selection.
Ollie came home on Thursday this past week. Molly has taken over keeping an eye on him. As she’s 15 years old in March she is an old hand at raising a couple of puppies and a few kittens. She seems livelier since he has joined our family and has cheered all of us up immensely though he will never be a replacement for Odie. We named him Ollie as it is a combination of the names of our past two dogs, Wally and Odie. He seems to be getting used to it. So he will continue to feature on this blog in future posts here and there.
As we’ve been so incredibly heartbroken over the past couple of weeks I needed to find a book to read that offered comfort. I downloaded the audible book of All Creatures Great and Small read by actor Christopher Timothy from Audible.com. I have been listening to the wonderful stories of the Yorkshire practice before World War II in England. The family of characters, the country folk, everything about the series is lovely. Christopher Timothy played Mr. Herriott in the series that aired on television in the 1980’s. The series was wonderful and I have seen it a couple of times. It is my go to comfort watching/reading.
Mr Penguin and I went to Yorkshire in the 1980’s and were lucky enough to be in the town of Thurso while James Herriott was still practising. Known as James Alfred (Alf) Wight, not Herriott we were told in the local bookshop we visited that he would be in his practice the following day talking to visitors. With a newly purchased book in hand, we trotted over to his practice and waited with a handful of others as he turned up from a day’s work and invited us into his parlour. He chatted with us and autographed our books. It was a lovely day and we enjoyed meeting him very much.
The other book I’ve started as a hard copy is one Simon of Stuck in a Book (see his review here which I agree with) discussed awhile ago about a family who moved to Hay on Wye in Wales and decided to raise their family there. It was when Hay on Wye was in its heyday of bookshops in the early 2000s. The title of the book is Sixpence House: Lost In A Town of Books by Paul Collins.
I’m only about a quarter of the way into it but am enjoying it very much.
I also realise several bloggers are doing the Non-Fiction November readings this month. I haven’t joined in this month but it turns out I have only been reading non-fiction lately so I guess I’m participating despite my plans not to actively join in.
I’m looking forward to the new year of 2020 and am making some bookish, photography and dog training plans. I’m hoping it will be a more uplifting year than the past couple of months have been. I know life is cyclical so we can only continue to go up now.
As I have previously lost one book per puppy. (You cannot leave them unattended- books that is); I am hoping Ollie does not continue the tradition. I will let you know how we go.
Who can believe we’re in the middle of November already? Until next time….
It is with a heavy heart I must tell readers that we lost Odie this week. He was doing well while we were away and then this past weekend he began to deteriorate. It was as though he waited for us to return before saying goodbye. By Thursday he was in pain, couldn’t stand and had stopped eating. We knew it was time to act. He went peacefully in my arms with a loving staff of veterinarians and vet nurses. He was happy up to the last minute. Everyone was fussing over him and he seemed relaxed.
It is lovely we can show such kindness to animals in their last moments but not so humans yet in this country. The time is coming but it is not here yet.
I have a Japanese maple tree in our front yard. When we lose a loved pet I hang a bell in it as a memorial to that wonderful animal. When the wind blows I can hear the small tinkling sound of the bells. Odie and I used to sit on the porch every night in the dark after he did his business. He would come up the stairs and sit with me for a moment and often we would hear the bells. Now he has his own bell hidden in the green leaves of summer.
I can sit in my reading chair in the bedroom, with the window open and often hear the bells. It causes me to pause and remember some funny memory from the pets we have loved over the past 30 years. There are now seven bells in the tree.
Before long we will contact the Dog’s Home and offer to foster any puppies they may have that are not old enough to be adopted, with a view to giving one a home. If that doesn’t work out we will wait for a puppy to become available. We have given many animals who needed rehoming new lives and this will continue as long as we live. We are looking forward to new adventures with another goofball. We miss Odie so very much but he had everything a dog could ever want and he would want this for future pets. Our work was finished. His kindness always shone through above all else to other animals. So, don’t feel sad. This is all part of life and all any of us can ever do is be kind to the animals we meet and the people that await introduction.
We returned from our month long Moscow to Prague trip last week. I have photos from Moscow, St Petersburg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic to sort through. As this blog has been dedicated to travel photography for the past month I thought it was time to get back to reading and books.
However I have grouped some photos together that I think readers of these posts might enjoy and will post them up in upcoming weeks for Travel Thursday. But first things first.
One the home front:
Odie is doing well for the time being and was great while we were away. Our house sitter kept us posted. However this week he is quite under the weather and he will be spending time with the vet. We are keeping him pain free and as happy as we can.
On the photography front:
Our photo club has our big exhibition opening Thursday night, on 1 November and will run until 12 November. There will be more than 100 photographs on display, of all genres, at the Waterside Pavilion on the Hobart waterfront. I have four photos being exhibited. As it is my first exhibition I am looking forward to it. However I will be working quite a few two hour shifts so will be busy with it until it closes. Then hopefully things will go back to normal. I’ll let you know how it goes.
On the book front:
I have actually been reading and enjoying it. My airplane read was the newest Michael Connelly book (Bosch series), The Night Fire.It’s exactly as one expects from his books, a mystery to solve with an interesting detective who now has more freedom to bend the rules now he’s retired.
I am up to the last chapter of Emilie Pine’s Notes to Selfwhich I have enjoyed very much. It is a retelling of many chapters of her life that she discusses with a great deal of honesty that doesn’t hold back any punches. She grew up in Ireland with her sister and mother with an alcoholic father lurking in the background (a tale we’ve all read before) that influences them greatly. The first chapter is about his ageing and illness in Greece, where he now lives, as they are called to attend his bedside in a very under-resourced hospital. How do you care for your father’s bodily functions when you barely have a relationship with him? He is a person who they both love and hate. Growing up with alcoholic parents in my own family I could really relate to the emotions that surfaced. The next chapter is her quest to have her first child in her late thirties. To say more would spoil this story.
The third story explains the divorce laws in Northern Ireland (with the first divorce granted 17 January, 1997. Her parents split when the sisters were quite young but the laws of the country really reverberates throughout their life. Her father, of course plays a role in this story quite a bit and how the sisters dealt with their emotions related to him throughout their early lives.
The book is well written and quite a quick read but it expresses some powerful emotions and I got taken right into their lives while reading it.
The audio book I’m listening to is one I began at the start of our trip to Moscow. Thomas Keneally’s book Schlinder’s Ark.As we visited many places where Arthur Schindler lived and worked in Poland I thought it would be beneficial to finally address this book. We also visited the museum dedicated to his life in Krakow of which I will write about in a later post. I am sure I’m the only person in the world to have not seen the film, Schindler’s List, but I have been waiting to read the book beforehand. Despite the horrific events within the story it is a story that all should be familiar with. We were immersed in so much history on this past tour between Stalin, Hitler and the events of Jewish cleansing it did become a bit much at times. Stories of the impact of life under the Soviet Union in the Baltic countries also filled our heads. Our group visited Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps but as Mr. Penguin and I have gone through it previously we chose to not attend again. It is certainly not a tourist attraction as much as a sobering memorial to the six million people who perished. Not only the Jewish population, but homosexuals, intellectuals, gypsies and the list goes on.
We only had 11 people in our group and it was good to have discussions with some of them as we toured the museums and we visited the atrocities in stories and photographs around us. There were a couple of days we did need to debrief.
Well I guess that catches everyone up for now. Today I am going to see Downton Abbey,the film, for the second time. I loved it so much, I cannot let it pass by without seeing it again on a very large commercial screen. My friend who is going with me hasn’t seen it yet so we should have a good time. Then off to my favourite spot in town, Fuller’s Book store for afternoon tea break. Until the next time.,,,, all the best.
4:30 am start today. Train from Moscow to St Petersburg 7 am to 12 pm. Then a city bus tour then several hours at the Hermitage Museum with a million tourists. Then heavy traffic to hotel and finally a meal out. Very tired tonight so am sharing a few photos from museum.
From top to bottom:
*Can’t remember, just liked the horses
*Titled the Three Graces
*View out the front through window
Sorry not more info but time to bed. Penguin is already asleep❤
We are currently in Dubai waiting for our flight to Moscow. One must go through a comprehensive visa application to get entry in Russia. The application is long and arduous especially if you have travelled a lot during the last 10 years. They want to know all the places you have been and what dates you arrived and then left. Then the application gets sent off with your passport. When approved you end up with a copy of your passport page, details and photos all added as another page in your passport. It is also in Russian. If you have any medication that is a controlled substance then that needs a letter from the doctor, the original prescription, the original packaging and the letter also needs to be translated into Russian. Mr Penguin is on pain medication for his osteo-arthritis so he had to acquire the forementioned information. We’ll see what happens when we go through entry to the country.
We are only visiting Moscow and then take a bullet train to St Petersburg.
On the flight to Dubai I had a man seated behind me who got up every five minutes to get something out of the overhead locker. My first annoying traveller. Melbourne to Dubai is a 14 hour flight and we were trying to rest. All I heard was, ‘Slam, slam, slam.’ He finally settled down.
When we stood to disembark the plane the same man had piles of brochures and paperwork all with Salvation Army letterheads everywhere. I heard him mention he was going to some conference or other. He also had an armful of religious material, also with Salvation Army material. I did wonder if he was with that organization why he was in Business Class. I do hope he was paying his own way. You hear about all the administrative costs so many international charities spend. Was this one of them? Who knows.
Well time to move soon, so stay tuned. Once I learn what can be photographed and what can’t in Moscow I’ll try and put up a picture or two.
Bookwise, I started an autobiogtraphy of Graham Greene, forget the name, that I am enjoying in an old vintage Penguin I had on my shelf. More on that later.
For those of you who follow Odie, he has settled in with the housesitter and is doing well for now. More later…