The Weekend Wander – Jane Harper in Hobart

I know a few of you have read the Jane Harper books. Those are the books I keep meaning to read but haven’t got around to.  On Friday night a friend and I went along to the Fuller’s Book Shop launch of her most recent book, The Lost Man.

Snip20181111_6As there were quite a few people expected to come it was held in a conference room at the RACV Hotel across the street from Fuller’s. It was very flash sitting in reception with our drinks waiting to enter the room. The event had a good turnout but wasn’t mobbed.

I really enjoyed hearing her talk about how she writes and the research she conducts for her books. I love research and this sounded like so much fun.

Jane is a journalist who lives in the city of Melbourne. Very urban. However her books, of which there are three, all take place in the outback.  She talked for quite awhile about her experiences researching the isolation of the outback, the people she met, the pubs she visited. She also spent time with organisations such as the Royal Flying Doctors. She said she enjoyed it so much she didn’t want to leave. She spent most of her time in western Queensland.  Australia’s drought ridden country plays a role in all of her books so far. She stated her journalistic background was instrumental in succeeding in the research she did for these books.  She talked quite a bit about how she had to get the dialogue right as the country folk of rural Queensland speak differently than those urban dwellers of Melbourne.Snip20181111_7

She also mentioned The Dry has been optioned for a film by Reece Witherspoon’s outfit so look out for it in the future.  One audience member asked her about who would be cast as Aaron. She couldn’t tell us due to confidentiality clauses but stated she was happy with the person chosen if it goes ahead.  It will also be filmed in Australia and not America.

She presents as a really down to earth author and everyone in the audience seemed to enjoy her.  I came home and began to read the copy of her first book I have, The Dry. It features a federal policeman, named Aaron Falk. He returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler. Luke and he had hung out as part of a group of four, including their girl friends when they were young.

Luke Hadler killed his wife and son, then shot himself. The younger daughter was spared.  There was a history that involved a death of one of the girls. The classmate from years gone by and the town people still think he killed her. His reception in his home town after 20 years doesn’t go that well.

I am enjoying this book and now Aaron and the local town cop are beginning to think things just don’t add up around Luke’s family’s death when they visit the scene of the crime…well… let’s say, the plot thickens.  The Dry is Jane’s first book and I am right into it. I think I am not alone in thinking this is a very good book.

Since then she wrote a second book with the same protagonist called Force Of Nature.

Snip20181111_5The launch I attended was about her third and latest book that is a stand alone novel that doesn’t include Aaron Falk.   It is titled The Lost Man.

During question time one of the audience members asked if Aaron would come back in the future.  She stated she didn’t see a long term series as she didn’t want to do that, but she felt she owed him quite a bit, so don’t be surprised if he reappears in future. That got a laugh from the audience.

It was a lovely, fun way to spend an evening with a friend and I plan on reading her other novels once finished with The Dry.

If you’ve read any of her books what did you think?

Published by Pan MacMillan
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Weekend Wander- A Day Early 3 November, 2018

I know, I know….where does the time go? Can’t believe I’m looking at Christmas decorations in the shops.  (sigh). Why don’t they just leave them up all year so we get used to them and then don’t feel so stressed when we see them?

This is a catch up post and to make it easier I’ll stick to categories. That’s how I think.

Snip20181102_3First off I’ve been reading lots of your blogs out there. Probably why I neglect my own. I get wrapped up in yours.  Having heard about “three things” on Bookjotter’s post I decided to knick part of that and come up with my own headings.  I’ll work on them and hopefully have more of a template by 2019.

I always feel if you haven’t written to someone you should just write about what’s happening today.  That way if I do that I don’t feel overwhelmed by having to think of everything that’s gone on for the past month.  I like it when people write to me too and just tell me what they’re up to on that day.  It means they’ll write more often if they only have to tell me about one day and over time I stay in touch.  I might think about that too for the new year.  Okay, let’s have a go-

Reading:  I just finished more than half of Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan. One of his earlier works, I enjoyed the writing but not the topic. He is drowning in a river and the entire book is about his thoughts while he drowns. The majority of the book has his memories circling his mind.  I enjoyed the stories he remembers but found the drowning disturbing and claustrophobic.  I read enough and just couldn’t finish it.  The world is sad enough without my free time being taken up by a slowly drowning man. The book was chosen by the Bushwalking Book Club which meets this Sunday….

….However,

My Brain Activities:  I can’t attend as I’m enrolled in a two day writing workshop by Rosie Dub through the Tasmanian Writer’s Centre.  I lifted the description of her from the Writer’s Centre.Snip20181102_5

“Rosie has worked as an editor, a mentor and a teacher of creative writing for more than fifteen years. During this period she has edited and assessed manuscripts ranging across many genres of fiction and non-fiction. Her creative writing teaching has been conducted through the writer’s centre in Hobart, UTAS, TAFE, Adult Education and private workshops.”

The Great Outdoors Experience:  I took my Odie for a bit of a bush walk this morning. We went up the fire trails, stopped when tired, ate our breakfast banana and drank our water, then headed home.  We saw a young woman walking her gorgeous greyhound, two young fathers with toddlers and infants strapped to their bodies chatting to each other and one very energetic runner that came up from behind very quickly and startled us.  After watching so many crime series on Netflix lately I turned around and was ready to hit someone with my walking stick as I heard fast moving footsteps.  I don’t know if Odie would protect me or if I would protect him.  But all was okay.

Listening:  I am currently listening to A Gentleman in Moscow on audible. Enjoying it very much. No doubt, many of you may have read it okay. It is by the author Amor Towles.Snip20181102_4

Fuller’s Book Shop Book Club:  We discussed the inaugural novel of The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen last night.  All of us, for the most part enjoyed it. The story that takes place during the time of the moon landing in 1969. It tells the story of two families living in Western Australia. Trials and tribulations with each other all narrated from the point of view of the Galah who lives in a cage.  I thought it was a great story and loved the location and the time period.  But I didn’t grow up in Australia, so much of the nostalgia talked about was lost to me.

The others in the group enjoyed that part of it very much.  We talked about those little round onions on toothpicks, dinner parties, frocks, etc. We also discussed what we were all doing on the day of the moon landing. I didn’t enjoy reading it as much because of the cruelty around the Galah’s life.  She pretty much symbolised the lives of women in that time period and how constrained/abused they were at times.  It was also linked to the novel, The Lucky Country, written 50 years ago by Donald Horne. Tracy mentioned in an interview on the ABC radio that women were mentioned in his novel only three times. This book is meant to be an answer to the lives women find themselves in from a female point of view, even if it is from a Galah.

For a first novel by a young author I thought it was very well written and look forward to more from her.  One interesting comment from another was she thought it was too similar to Cloudstreet by Tim Winton. Ms. Sorensen wrote about Western Australia very much as Tim Winton does.  The two families who are at times friends and then at times falling out was very similar to the two families who shared the house in Cloudstreet.  We also saw similarities to the film, The Dish.  If others are familiar with these two books and the film I’d love to know what you think.

Play Reading Class: We just finished The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde. We loved it. We read it a couple of years ago but we have new members in the group that weren’t familiar with it and it really is such a laugh. We are currently finishing up the year with the play Peter Pan by JM Barrie.  Great fun to read the lines of the pirates.

Photography Group:  Getting ready to turn in our digital challenges for the November meeting coming up. The task is to have at least three layers in the photo designed on photoshop. I had great fun with this and managed to insert the Penguin into it. It made me laugh while I played around with You Tube videos trying to work out how to do it and get inspiration.  I put the Penguin in and then liked it so much kept him there. Will be interesting to see how it scores on the night.Snip20181102_8

Pets:  All are in good health only because they have such good medical care. Dogs, Odie and Molly, are on medications. (Ear medicine and heart & arthritis medication respectively). Cats Grizzy on his every other day eye drop for herpes virus in his eye. He had it when we adopted him but didn’t know it and now we’ll be caring for that for the rest of his life. Uncle Buck is on Beta Blockers for his heart twice a day. Terrible tasting liquid med I am told. Cousin Eddie is the only one that doesn’t stand in the queue each day for a dose of something.

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Something to Look Forward To:   Hopefully something Fuller’s related for a birthday present coming up soon and we’re in the air again. This time flying to Sri Lanka for a couple of weeks the end of November. More on that later. Of course the Penguin will be going.

I guess that’s it for today.  Now- your comment for the day. What did you do today?  I only need to hear about today.

New Wardrobe Item:

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A Weekend Wander through Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

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We also wondered what the significance of this cover was.

The Penguin and I are members of two separate book groups now.  One group is a monthly meeting at Fuller’s Book Group. Today I am writing about the October meeting with Fuller’s Book Shop in Hobart. We meet the first week of each month, February through November with a Christmas get together involving all their book groups in December.  Everyone in all the groups reads the same book each month.

The October book was Priestdaddy by American author Patricia Lockwood.

Wikipedia describes her career as:  “She married at 21, has scarcely ever held a job and, by her telling, seems to have spent her adult life in a Proustian attitude, writing for hours each day from her ‘desk-bed,'” according to a profile in New York Times magazine. During that period, from 2004 to 2011, Lockwood’s poems began to appear widely in magazines including  The New Yorker, Poetry and the London Review of Books.”

Good Reads comments indicate that:   “The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, (she was born in Indiana) the poet dubbed “The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas” by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the future Pope Benedict XVI – despite already having a wife and children.

When the expense of a medical procedure forces the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she must learn to live again with her family’s simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Told with the comic sensibility of a brasher, bluer Waugh or Wodehouse, this is at the same time a lyrical and affecting story of how, having ventured into the underworld, we can emerge with our levity and our sense of justice intact.”

First off all of the major publication reviews I read are glowing about this book. Mostly American sources, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker all glow about her work.

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This is one of her poetry books I have not read.

However in the everyday life of our six (or seven) book club members our views were vastly different. Our book group had different views about this book. One member loved it. She laughed at the family, enjoyed the quirkiness of it. (Of course I find quirky is a description of something that you don’t know how to accurately classify).  Patricia’s father had been a Lutheran Minister. Over time he became more and more interested in Catholicism and eventually was able to exploit a loop hole and become a Catholic Priest. Although he was married with five children he seemed to live in his own world that not many others could penetrate. Being a Catholic priest with a large family is not a situation we see often, if at all.  No one in our group liked this man. He could be crude, crass and cruel.

I must note I listened to this book through Audible.com.  It was a painful listen and may very well have clouded how I felt about the whole story.

My notes:  Patricia Lockwood’s narration could be loud and brash at times. I thought it was like fingernails on a blackboard.  Her narration reeked with sarcasm which annoyed me to no end. I wish she had simply read her book. This may have affected how I reacted to the book.

I could not connect with the family no matter how hard I tried. Neither could most of the others in our book group.  It is a family we did not enjoy being involved with at all. The mother would pipe up and say the most ridiculous things at time.
The siblings didn’t seem to do much. The father walked around the house scratching himself in very old, transparent underwear no matter who was visiting. He would often start playing his guitar when things got rough. Family members would ignore him in exasperation.   When he entered a room we just wanted to leave. There were many wisecracks about him from his children but no one really talked about any emotional connections they had with him except those that were negative.

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Source: Wikipedia

The book consisted of activity after activity as though it was a list of events. No laughter or other emotion was attached to much of it.  It was as if they were caricatures.

Now, I did not enjoy this book much but there were parts of it that did make me shake my head and laugh a bit. But not enough.   I did find the writing very good. She has a very creative mind and some passages I listened to again as they were clever and often funny.

However many critics in mostly American publications gave this book rave reviews. It could have been the narrative on Audible was so irritable it tainted my overall view. I’m sure that clouded my perspective of this book. Perhaps if I had read it in hard copy I would have appreciated it more.

I think it is a reasonable book for book clubs because it does polarise readers. There are many issues that caused discussion.  For example the church, how people should act as a Priest… or shouldn’t. What are our expectations?  Moving back home with parents after leaving home and being independent and finding yourself home again.  How we deal with family members we don’t feel connected to.  There is also mention of a rape Patricia endured a decade earlier, however that doesn’t seem to play a very big part and I almost forgot about it until someone in the book group brought it up. Not a topic I normally forget.  Maybe my reaction of it is because I am getting tired of Memoirs that seem to be in bookstores from everyone and their dog lately. I think I need to move on with my reading choices.

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Advertising more of her work.

I would suggest if this is a book that has a subject matter you find interesting then read some of the other reviews, that are better written than my little comments. You will also find they are quite positive.

Here are some links.

The guardian:     https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/27/priestdaddy-by-patricia-lockwood-review

NPR Book Review:     https://www.npr.org/2017/05/10/527629781/priestdaddy-shimmers-with-wonderful-obscene-life

The New York Times:    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/09/books/review/priestdaddy-patricia-lockwood-memoir.html

I will talk about the other book group I belong to in my next post. It is a very unusual book club and I think people will enjoy hearing about and may even want to start one up in their own communities.  I will post the information up in the next day or two.

That’s it for now.  I would love to know if anyone else has read this book and what you thought of it. It is certainly unusual. That’s never a bad thing.

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I won’t need this scarf for much longer. Spring has sprung.

Weekend Wander- What a mess…

Snip20180527_1I really don’t like to get behind with my posts but so much has been going on with everyone around me I haven’t had the energy to put up much. Bear with me, this may be long. I’ll try to put in photos for interest.

Books read, either finished or not-

I have been reading a lot with both the real thing and listening to audio. No reviews, will just give you a blurb- I’m sure that’s enough anyway.

Snip20180819_3Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood by Nikki McWatters.  No I don’t have kids, I have animals. The choices we make, but I do feel for single mothers and am very interested in how they cope. This young woman’s husband walked out leaving her with two young boys. She’s Australian and lives in the Sydney (Bondi Beach Junction) area. Trials and tribulations. A lot of joy, a lot of poverty, a lot of gumption and success and some very real heartbreak. The writing is good and the story really packs a punch with surprises. A bit of name dropping too re: the Australian music scene. I really enjoyed this and Nikki will stay with me for a long time.

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Dancing Home by Paul Collis-  I read a review by one of the Australian bloggers, think it was Lisa? Sorry if wasn’t you but I loved this book but it is a tough read. Aboriginals and the police are not a happy mix in this country and the drug use, alcoholism and really tough lives of these good people was a tough read. I will never forget them.

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Don’t you love this cover.

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner (1942) on audible. Simon of Stuck in a Book talked about this American author and actress who lived from 1899 to 1979. I had never heard of her and so needed to remedy that. This was the only book I could find by her on audible so I’ve listened to her. It’s a memoir of the trip she and her friend took in their twenties to France via New York, the St Lawrence Seaway, London,  across the Atlantic on a ship in the 1920s. Although I found the two young women very tedious, especially when they bought two little dogs in a pet shop as fashion accessories, their trip did have some very good humour.  It is what I refer to as a ‘fluffy’ book. Lots of natter and nothing that will keep you awake at nights.  I was happy to finish it off though. I tired of their silliness.

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I have started Educated by Tara Westover, the American woman who escaped from her family who lived as a cult against all government authority in Idaho.  Joanne reviewed it on Lakeside Musing (here).  I must agree with what she said about it. I have taped an episode of Insight on the ABC tv here about people who deal with aloneness and I noticed this author is on theachael  panel but I have yet to finish the book. I will probably read more but I’m not in a hurry.

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More interesting is the story Australian journalist Rachael Brown from Victoria has written about a cold case death that happened in Melbourne in 1980. She launched the book Trace, at Fuller’s a couple of weeks ago and my friend and I went along. Fascinating. We bought the book and I have just begun it. It involves some very corrupt Victorian police from that time and the protection at all costs of a group of extremely dodgy priests from the Catholic Church. I continue to be amazed at what crawls out of the woodwork about priests and bishops these days.  A gripping story. What a professional journalist with bucketloads of integrity this young woman possesses.

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The following week my friend and I went to the launch of The Nowhere Child by Christian White. It was a smaller group of attendees than Trace but we had a fun discussion of this book. The story is fiction but the events throughout the book are based on fact. Like the Pentecostal church members who have ceremonies around rattle snake handling. Australian Kim Leamy is the protagonist and she is approached by a stranger from Kentucky in America who is investigating the disappearance of a child 28 years ago.  He believes Kim is the missing child. I have not started this book yet but am looking forward to it. It goes back and forth between Australia and Kentucky.

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I will also mention  Priestdaddy: A Memoir (memoirs seems to be everywhere these days) by author Patricia Lockwood.  I have just rejoined Fuller’s book club after a couple of years break and this is the book for October. I will talk more about it after the group meets in the first week.

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We also finished  final play of the term in my U3A play reading class, A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney. Set in the 1950’s in North West England, it tells the story of Jo a 17 year old working class girl, and her mother, who is a very crude and sexually indisriminate difficult mother. The things they get up to…. Very much enjoyed by our class reading aloud about a slice of poverty in 1950s England.

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Oh Yeah, I’m also listening to A Diary of a Provincial Lady by  E. M. Delafield (1890 – 1943) now when I am in the car.  I’m getting through it quite quickly and it is gently amusing.  It was the August book for the Fuller’s book club so I decided to listen to it with one of my audible credits. It will go towards my Century of Books challenge (1930). It is largely autobiographical told through the pages of a journal, which is a format I dearly enjoy.  I heard there were mixed opinions of this novel in the book club group. I’m not sure if I will follow up with the sequels of her story.

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For those of you suffering heat waves I thought I’d share a photo of what Mt. Wellington looks like this week. Beautiful snow.

This kind of catches you up on the bookish side of life in South Hobart.  I have three overseas trips coming up between now and May of 2019 and have been spending time wrapping up payments and paperwork for those. The first begins in two weeks when I am heading to the San Francisco area of California to spend three weeks with my sister.  I’m hoping photography and books play a part in this trip as well as maybe a short road trip or two.  The penguin is going with me and…..wait for this….he may be taking a couple of friends of his…..the Bald Eagle and the American Robin.  So stay tuned for that.

I have done some fun photography also and am looking forward to sharing the visit to the Raptor Refuge over the weekend with you.  We were trained in what Tasmania has to offer regarding the beautiful raptors and what to do or how to handle if finding an injured one. More on that later and I’ll share the photos of the release we observed of a rehabilitated Peregrine Falcon that is just too stunning for words.

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Whew!! I hope this didn’t get too boring.  I’ll try to post up again soon and the next six weeks should have a bit of fun as well as some more books, arts, travel and photography.

Have you read any of these books?  I’d love to know if you enjoyed them or not. Back soon…gardner

Weekend Wander- 7 July, 2018

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New Jammies

 

This has been a hectic week so today Mr. Penguin and I are having a Pyjama Day. It’s cold out. There’s been a lot of rain with more to come. It’s winter in Tasmania. Pajama Day is a day where you wear daggy clothes, stay home, read books, put a roast in the slow cooker and drink hot drinks…all…day…long.

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Stamp commemorating the Berliner Ensemble Production

Tuesday our play reading class made good progress on Mother Courage and Her Children by the German dramatist and poet Bertolt Brecht (1898- 1956).  It is an anti-war play rated as one of the most important plays of the 20th century. It takes place over a period of 12 years in 12 scenes.  The class is enjoying it very much.

Wednesday had our Writing Group admitting a new member. This week’s topic was “about a walk”. It could be a walk in nature, a walk you’d like to do, a walk you’ve done.  It has been a popular topic and we had a variety of perspectives.

I am also reading an interesting little book I found in the South Hobart Tip Shop. It’s called Circuit and is written by Francisco Jiménez. He was born in Mexico in 1943. He was the second oldest of nine children. When he was four years old his family escaped into the United States. The family worked as migrant farm workers. He started working in the fields with his family when he was six.  They would move with the seasons of crops and he missed a lot of school.  When he reached grade 8, his family was deported Snip20180707_1back to Mexico but they legally returned a few months later. His father developed back problems not long after and that caused them to stop moving and he settled into school. He went onto Santa Clara University getting his B.A. in Spanish in 1966. He then became a U.S. citizen. Throughout school he and his brother supported themselves working as janitors.   He went on to attend Columbia University to get his Master’s and Ph.D. in Latin American Literature. He later married and had three children.

He wrote a series of books about his life as a migrant worker. I thought the book is relevant to what is happening in the United States now.  It appears to be written for a younger audience and I can compare it to a simpler version of The Grapes of Wrath but from a Mexican view point.  It raises important issues and details the hardships that migrant workers face between escaping a poorer, more dangerous life,  trying not to get caught by U.S. immigration officials. Mexican migrants work incredibly hard and American agriculture wouldn’t survive without migrant workers. 

I picked this book up because I was drawn to the cover. I am really enjoying it and will be finished with it very soon.

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Uncle Buck and Odie are the best of friends.

On a personal note we had a bit of trauma with our brain injured cat, Uncle Buck (aged 12). We’ve had him since he was three weeks old.  He came home with me as a kitten from a veterinary practise I was working in at the time. He had been badly injured and wasn’t expected to live but 12 years later he is an important member of our family. He has neurological damage and as a result of that he only chews on the left side of his mouth. That means the right side gums and teeth need to be watched. He was to undergo a general anaesthetic but he crashed on the table so the procedure was aborted. This hadn’t happened before but our lovely veterinarians and their nurse got him back after a good five minutes and he survived. It was described to me by one of the vets as “controlled panic.”  We have been keeping a close eye on him. It turns out he reacted negatively to the anaesthetic and after Friday’s ultrasound we learned he has been diagnosed with cardio-myopathy. It pays to have health insurance on your pets. He begins medication next week and we are happy to report he is back to his purring self.

Thursday was a lovely day. I mean lovely. Sunny,  16 degrees and no wind. That’s 60 degrees to my North American friends and relatives. Mr. Penguin dropped me in town with my camera for the afternoon on his way to the gym. I spent the next couple of hours meandering through Battery Point and Salamanca as well as the waterfront for the next couple of hours. Both of us needed a very stress free day after the previous activities and events.  Battery Point is the oldest section of Hobart. The original settlement began here.  I include a few photos here.

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Arthur’s Circus is the name of this circular street. The cottages are lovely.

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Old and New
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View of the Derwent River from Princess Park

When I got home my friend rang me and said she was looking forward to us going to the theatre on Friday night. I said, “What?”.  We booked Sweeney Todd at the Playhouse some time ago and I hadn’t put it in the diary. As both of us laughingly state, “If it’s not in the diary it doesn’t happen.” So last night was a meal out and a three hour (including intermission) of Sweeney Todd. It was a musical and very gruesome. The story goes (in a nutshell). English man married with child. He gets transported to Australia for a crime and returns after 15 yrs. He meets the pie shop owner who falls in love with him. She tells him his wife has died. But a daughter remains and is holed up in a mansion with a lecherous judge who adopted her at a young age but now wants to marry her. He wants his daughter back but can’t get past the judge. The pie shop isn’t doing well.  The man is a trained barber but has competition. He ends up killing the competition and when trying to work out what to do with the body, they decide to bake him in the pies. The pie shop takes off because the pies are so delicious. To keep business going the barber continues to slash the throats of those in his chair if they are strangers or loners (no one will miss them) and keep the pie business booming.  I won’t give away anymore but the trend does continue with a few surprises.  We enjoyed the play but after three hours in a hot theatre we were glad to get out in the winter’s night air at 11:00pm. Snip20180707_5

This pretty much brings you up to date on last week’s wandering. I’m hoping for a quieter one next week. Snip20180527_1

Weekend Wander- 25 June, 2018

Snip20180625_10Although it’s Monday morning here it’s still the weekend in some parts of the world.  The past two weeks have been busier than usual.  Mr. Penguin has been housesitting a friend’s house the past six weeks and that means the care of our five animals has been busier than usual.  Vet appointments, three cats using a litter box that needs cleaning four or five times a day. Feeding and exercising the dogs.  I did get a book read though.  A friend of mine started the Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I had started it when it first came out but got distracted by something and put it back on the shelf.  Since I’m trying to read books I own I thought it was a good time to start again, finish it and move it on.

 

Generally, I enjoyed this book.  For those who haven’t read it (though I think everyone I know is ahead of me on this book) it begins with Harold hearing from a work colleague of 20 years ago telling him she is dying of cancer and wants him to know.  There is a commitment he feels towards her though we don’t know that story until the end.  He walks out the door to post a letter he wrote back to her and decides to keep walking. He plans to walk the length of England to visit her because he gets it in his head if he achieves this task she will not die.  The book is about his walk, the people he meets and more than that, the reflection of his life since childhood.  During his long days of walking he is confronted with the way he lived his life, the things he felt he didn’t achieve, his relationships with his son and his wife, Maureen.  There is a secondary storyline of Maureen. Since Harold left so suddenly she is now confronted by her aloneness and thoughts of her marriage. As she faces her own demons she begins to come out of her self imposed shell and you can see where this might be going.

There are revelations along the way that help us understand these two dysfunctional people.  I enjoyed the book for the most part. I did think it was too long though. There were a couple of story lines I thought were unnecessary.  As he walks he gains fame in the British press and hangers on start surrounding him on his walk. I found this section tedious and annoying, as I felt this section wasn’t as well developed as the rest of the story between him, Maureen and Queenie, the woman he was hoping to meet up with at the end.  A young boy is thrown in the mix as well as a dog and a man who follows along as part of a group of strangers, trying to take notes of the excursion dressed in a gorilla suit.  I found that was just annoying.

I am happy I can finally move this book off my shelves and move on.

I might add the past few weeks had me seeing several films.  Tea with the Dames featuring Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins was a brilliant film. They spend a pleasant afternoon talking about their lives, their careers and their families. Some great clips of their career history are also included.

Lost in Paris is a pleasant Belgium produced film with a Paris setting.  It is filmed in the tradition of some of the old silent films of early history including those of Charlie Chaplin.  The actors are almost caricatures and I loved it. Charming, quirky, with a fun story line and some very good humour.

Last night I saw The Bookshop.  I found it a film that passed the evening pleasantly enough but not earth shattering. Bill Nighy is in it and that’s what made me want to see it. The story was a bit of a non event, predictable and I even figured out the ending. However having said that, the young actress who plays her child assistant in the film who works in the bookshop is worth the ticket price. She was charming and the scenery was gorgeous.   I wouldn’t drive cross country in heavy traffic to see this movie, but if you’re home alone, tired of having five animals sitting on you every chance they get and need a bit of respite it was pleasant enough.

I rounded out the week with some time out at Cornelian Bay, which is a dog park and sports oval on the River Derwent in Hobart. The dogs had a great time for the afternoon. Then when the cold settled in that night Odie got to sleep in his new warm jumper once the heating was turned off for the night.  Hopefully Mr. Penguin will be home in a few days and things will return to a bit of normalcy.

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Odie feels most trendy in his new jumper.

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Weekend Wander – 9 June, 2018

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My copy is the 23rd edition published in 1926. Published by then PF Volland Co.

Beloved Belindy by Johnny Gruelle

For our writing group we had to write a paragraph or two about one of the oldest objects we still own.  Of course I thought of my childhood books and decided to introduce the group to Beloved Belindy.

I own quite a few very old books. Although I don’t have many left over from my childhood this is one that has travelled with me whenever I moved. I don’t remember how I acquired it but it has been with me for more than 60 years.

As a child I loved the Raggedy Ann and Andy series of books written and illustrated by Johnny Gruelle.

Johnny Gruelle, according to Wikipedia, was born in Arcola, Illinois, in 1880. He died in 1938.Snip20180609_8

He began his career as a painter and cartoonist but then went on to illustrate books. He was friends with James Whitcomb Riley who wrote Little Orphan Annie.

The story goes that his daughter Marcella brought from her grandmother’s attic a faceless doll on which the artist drew a face. But this story was evidently a myth according to his biographer, Patricia Hall. In reality, Gruelle’s wife Myrtle told Hall, it was Gruelle who retrieved a long forgotten, homemade rag doll from the attic of his parent’s home sometime around the turn of the 20th century. There was something he was looking for in the attic when he found an old doll his mother had made for his sister. He thought it would make a good story.

 

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You can see how many friends she had to care for.

What he was most famous for was his series of books about two rag dolls called Raggedy Ann and Andy.  I read everyone of those books from the Grand Ledge, Michigan library in the 1950’s.

All of the dolls in the Raggedy Ann and Andy series came to life at night and played in their mistress’s playroom upstairs in an old house.  They had big adventures and got into much  mischief.  Not only did Ann and Andy come to life but they had quite a few friends. Readers never knew if they were brother and sister or husband and wife. We never thought about it.

There was Beloved Belindy who was the black nanny who took care of everyone.  I know Beloved Belindy isn’t politically correct but back in the 1950’s I adored her. She could cook large meals, gather eggs from the hens and organise garden parties.  One night she cleaned up Percy the policeman when he got covered in flour from some misadventure they encounted when they ventured into the kitchen. Beloved Belindy could also stitch their ragdoll injuries, sew button eyes back on if they fell off or mend their britches if they were snagged while climbing trees. 

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There was always a moral message in American children’s books.

They represented the best that friendship had to offer. They were kind to each other and worked together so they would enjoy the adventures they set out on each night. 

I used to think it would be wonderful if all of my dolls and stuffed animals came to life at night. I would have given anything at that time to hang out with the Raggedy Ann crew and share the events they organised.

Are there any American readers out there that loved these characters as a child, or dressed up as them on Halloween night?

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I laughed that Percy has to serve the plates because he is a man doll.
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As a child you know nothing about stereotypes.

 

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Raggedy Penguin