The Penguin is in Tokyo

Three Days of Tokyo

Enjoying the cherry blossoms.

As I write we are on the bus leaving Tokyo on the way to a shrine (can’t pronounce the name) that has a very large Buddha in it. It is south of Tokyo according to the guide, Sue.

For you Australians we are on a Bunnick’s tour out of Adelaide. No more than 20 people. We have all been having an excellent time and everyone is friends. The Penguin has been welcomed to the group with one member patting him on the head every time she sees him. Others ask if he had a good sleep and someone else told me I should confine him as we tour the fish market so he doesn’t act up.

So far he has learned to make Sushi, enjoyed several lunches, listened to and watched enormous Sumo wrestlers doing demonstrations and answering our questions. We have had so many laughs.

I went up against the wrestler in the white loin cloth.

We saw a Sumo wrestler’s demonstration yesterday as we ate lunch in the upstairs of a restaurant. Those guys are big! After their demonstration they asked for volunteers. Three men volunteered. They had to wear the funny Sumo wrestler costume.  It was very funny. However the women needed representation and I climbed into the suit. The big wrestler had me imitate the Sumo moves. We then faced off. We went straight for each other.  The goal is to push them out of the circle. I pushed hard into his chest. He had so much fat and muscle and sweat it was like pushing into a hard, wet sponge. He backed up. I had him going. I then poked one finger into his chest and out of the circle he went. He admitted defeat.

The suit the volunteers wore. This is another traveller in our group. It was extremely funny.

There was another Sumo in the room too. The next thing I knew each one had taken my arm and lifted me right up into the air as though I was a feather. There is a photo but I do not have it yet as another traveller in our group took it.

There is hardly time to breathe before we are whisked away to another destination. The cherry trees are in blossom and once I get those photos sorted we will share them with you.

This is one of those experiences that you want to sleep because of exhaustion but don’t want to miss anything. We hit the ground running. The day before yesterday we walked 12,000 steps, ate three enormous meals of Japanese food and hit the bed so hard at night we have slept on an ice flow with no sleeping bag.

Penguin LOVES sushi.

We are currently on our way on the expressway to another interesting night in a Japanese hotel. We will sleep on the floor for two nights, (I assume on futon type beds) and dress in kimonos when we meet for dinner. We have been ordered to relax near the hot springs.

I doubt the penguin will enjoy the hot springs but you just never know.

The Penguin at a Buddhist Shrine

Absolutely no time for reading. Last night we went to the night district of Tokyo to see the lights and it was pretty amazing.

I will leave you with a few photos.







The Penguin is Packed


Monday, around lunchtime we fly out of Hobart for Tokyo, Japan. Mr. Penguin and I have always travelled to various countries on our own. Busses, Trains, Planes and have taken us through many countries. For Japan, because of the language neither of us speaks (though there will be lots of English there) and the masses of people, we decided to relax with an organised tour from a company in Adelaide, South Australia. We chose it because it has small groups. There is not supposed to be over 20 people on this 17 day journey (a “taster journey” as we think of it). We’ll see what area we enjoy and then perhaps go back in the future on our own. I love the fact they organise for us but my experience has shown me on every tour whether it be for days or minutes there is always one person. That one person who is in your face, talks all the time, gets lost and doesn’t get back to the bus on time. The general pain in the backside. I am looking forward to seeing who that person is. I know, a bit negative but it is a little game I play. The others will all be wonderful I am sure.

The cats have been taken to a cattery for the time we are away and the dogs will stay home with a house sitter who loves them. She works so we need the pet door open for them to come and go into the back yard. As our cats are not allowed to roam, living mainly in their home and outdoor cat enclosure they get boarded out. We tell them they are going to camp and leave it at that. They, of course are completely, unimpressed.

Snip20170402_4We will be in rural areas half of the time and in the cities half of the time. Three nights in each place pretty much. We fly into Tokyo and visit other cities. I thought if I am not too exhausted at night from the early breakfasts and the long hours of walking I will have the Penguin contribute to this post a bit. So hang on tight, here we go.

In preparation, I must admit there is little except clothes in the suitcase. My own ‘capsule’ wardrobe where everything goes with everything is rolled and bagged.  I do not read everything about a country before I visit it. I tend to get on the plane or in the hotel for the first night and then cram. Much like I did in university when something was due the next day. Quite often, I skid through life by the seat of my pants.

Snip20170402_5I picked this book up about two years ago when I saw it in a book shop in Sydney. I bought it because I love drawing and sketching. I would love nothing more than to be an excellent drawer and sketcher. I have decided I will take a small book and some pencils and sketch a few things as I go. I have had two lessons on You Tube and feel I am ready to hit the world. Haha, the circles will not be round, the cubes will look like they are about to collapse and the squares and rectangles will not have equal sides, I am sure. But I am going to do it. It will be fun. The pictures will make me laugh and no one needs to see them but I might share some of them to make you laugh. Go ahead, laugh all you want. I have always believed one should get out of their comfort zone and try whatever they love whether they succeed or not. Besides I know each and every one of you has something you can’t do so I stick out my tongue and say, “Nah, nah, nah? nah, nah.”


Tokyo on Foot by Florent Chavouet. Florent is a young French man who is in Japan for almost a year with his partner who is doing an internship. From June to December, 2006 (I believe it is) he gets a bicycle and a lawn chair and explores the neighbourhoods (his term, not mine) of Tokyo. He is very detailed in his sketching and there are lots of colours. I really love looking through this book. From temples to the cockroaches that infest his apartment.

He takes each neighbourhood, one at a time and begins each chapter with their local ‘boba’ (police station or service.) He has various poses for the policeman who introduces the chapter and they can be quite humorous.

From the back flap of the book:  Florent Chavouet is a young graphic artist and author living in Paris. When he returned from Japan, he realised that all the observing and sketching he had done had helped him develop his own visual style, so his stay there led not only to his discovery of a certain Tokyo but to his evolution as an artist. This is his first book. He is at work on his next one.

Snip20170402_1If you are interested in Japan, travels by bloggers, hilarious drawing by someone who does not know what they are doing or just following a little stuffed penguin who I now refer to as Penguino, then stay tuned for the next 17 days.

If you are completely bored and want nothing to do with any of us that’s okay too. I’ll be home again on the 19th.

For those spammers who sometimes read this blog and leave stupid messages the house will be inhabited by a determined house sitter and two rottweiller/doberman cross dogs who used to work for the police force. Go ahead, I dare you.

Snip20170402_8Wish the three of us luck and good weather and lots of scrummy Japanese food.

Life is a Bit of a Mish-Mash right now

coffee-shop-penguinWhen it rains it pours as the saying goes. We are leaving for Japan on 3rd of April for 2 1/2 weeks. I can’t wait to get on the plane and fly out of here. Life has been chaotic. Rule no. 1 in this household. If there is a three day holiday weekend or a trip coming up you can bet one of the pets will get sick. True to form we took our wheezing, lethargic 12 year old terrier Molly to the vet to find out her mitral valve in her heart is leaking. The beginning of heart failure.  Over several visits of x-rays and ultra-sounds it has been sorted out and medication prescribed. So far so good. Thank goodness for pet insurance.Snip20170324_7

One of our members in our senior’s club died suddenly due to complications of a long term illness and his funeral was yesterday.

Then the photo club I belong to opened their big exhibition down at the wharf last night and we all have two hour shifts to man the exhibit in upcoming hot weather in the glass building it is housed in.

At this stage I takeSnip20170324_4 a deck of cards and throw it in the air. Did I mention I slept on my hip wrong and am hobbling around the house with a pulled muscle? Okay, whinge over.

I just started Robin Dalton’s book Aunts Up the Cross an older Australian book published by Text Classics. It is most entertaining but more on that later. This will be a tick against Australian Women Writers challenge.

Our book club will be meeting next week to discuss Songs of a War Boy another Australian story of a child soldier in Sudan who eventually came to Australia, learned English, finished school and became a well known lawyer and a 2017 nominee for Australian of the Year.  An amazing tale.

I threw my hands up (I was out of cards) over the book The Underground Railroad by Col Whitehead. I know, everyone loves it but me. The story irritated me to no end and the violence was increasingly sickening and I thought a bit gratuitous at times. After reading War Boy then moving onto this was just too much. When I was younger I was fascinated about the horrors of slavery in the United States (in that I couldn’t believe how bad it had been) years ago and I read everything I could find about it and the Civil War. I just can’t read anymore about it now and the fictional train that actually goes underground but you can look up out of it and see buildings was the last straw. I know metaphors and symbolism but I am just over it. Maybe I’ll pick it up again but I am so sick of cruelty to everyone I just quit!

Disarm House, Kempton, Tasmania

I will scatter a few photos through here and suffice to say this blog may be erratic for the next month. I will post up some things of the trip after all the Penguin will be travelling and that is what this blog is about. Either traveling through countries or books.

I do have a lunch to attend today in a historic old town up the midlands of Tasmania today. Whisky tasting begins at 11:30 but I am not a whisky drinker and being on my motorbike it probably isn’t a good idea. Lunch should be nice

Our Play Reading class finishes Waiting for Godot this next Tuesday. I have enjoyed the reading of this play very much.

So enjoy the scattered photos, be kind to one another and I’ll be back before long.  I must run now, the dog just came out of the kitchen with kitty litter on his nose.

The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis

A French Translation

Snip20170314_1The Guardian says:

From his earliest childhood, Eddy exhibits all the classic symptoms of his stigmatised condition; his hands over-gesture, his voice is too high and he instinctively loathes the food, sexuality and clothes of his peers. In consequence, he is beaten, abused and terrorised. As a “faggot” or “homo” he is the lowest of the low; lower than women, lower than even an Arab, Jew or Algerian – everyone in the book, young Eddy included, is casually racist. Nothing equips him to protect himself from the shame and terror that are his constant companions, and – not surprisingly – he lives and breathes unqualified self-loathing. He makes repeated attempts to assume the proper masculine role that his culture requires of him, and every time he fails, he assumes the fault is entirely his.

The author is a 28 year old French man who has based this book on his own experiences. It is sometimes a difficult read because Eddy just puts up with so much.

I loved this book. I really loved it. I think it is the best book I have read this year. This boy has such a miserable family and school life and there is absolutely nothing he can do about it but survive. But Eddy does more than survive. He eventually escapes this life but his childhood makes one wonder what on earth is wrong with people. Why can’t they just open their eyes and their mind and quit being so damn ignorant all the time . This book will create rage in the reader. I think it should be required reading in every high school in the world.

The book is extremely well written. A point is never belaboured, the facts are simply told. It is interesting to see how he copes with everything. I don’t think I could watch a filmcoffee-shop-penguin of this book. The reader is always on the side of Eddy and we always want what is best for him. I am not going to say anything else about him.

If you want more information about this book before you read it you can read the
Guardian’s review of it here.   I think this is what literature is all about. Suspending ignorance in the name of love for the character. The real boy who exists behind the story and others like him.

This Sweet Sickness- Patricia Highsmith

Snip20170314_2I really enjoyed this book. It was not really a thriller but the suspense kept me turning pages. David Kelsey is a scientist. He used to date Annabelle but he moved in order to get a higher paying job and she married someone else. But…David is obsessed with Annabelle. Although she is now married he completely ignores that tiny fact and behaves as if they are engaged.

I don’t want to say too much about this book because I don’t want to spoil it.  David keeps a house outside of the town he works in. He tells people at the boarding house he is visiting his mother in a nursing home each weekend but he is really going to the house he built for Annabelle. He takes on another name and lives as another who is married to Annabelle. His fantasies and conversations with her in his weekend house keep him going. It is beginning to tell she has little interest in him.

The entire story is how he becomes more and more obsessed with her, the conflicts with several people that arise from his obsession and how it is all resolved at the end.

He becomes sicker and sicker with this obsession. The suspenseful part of the book is how other people, namely his friends, Wes (who has a wife he can’t stand to be with) and Effie ()who is completely in love with David) interfere in his plans. Every time he plans something one of them seems to crop up.  David begins with his fantasy life with Annabelle and then a particular event happens. This changes the entire direction of the story and the continued interference of thSnip20170315_1ose around him cause the suspense. You are always wondering, ‘how in the world is this going to end?’.

I think Patricia Highsmith is a brilliant story teller and I have not yet come across another author who can weave a story into the knots that she does. Last year I saw the play The Talented Mr. Ripley but have not read the book. I also saw the film Carol but have not read the corresponding book Ms. Highsmith wrote. Mr. Penguin read Strangers on a Train and I have yet to read that but I do remember the Alfred Hitchcock film. I wish this was a movie because I would love to see how they do it.

I would love to know what others thing of this book. I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday Trivia and A Quick Review

coffee-shop-penguinThis week has been a lovely movie going and reading week with a bit of other stuff thrown in. I have seen two movies since I last wrote. Hidden Figures, the story of the three African-American mathematicians who worked at NASA at the time of Alan ShephSnip20170227_3erd’s first orbit around the earth.  I remember those days so well. They were exciting times and I enjoyed this movie very much. I thought it was well done and I loved the actors who played the main characters.Though Kevin Costner looked so old.

I went to hear Rosalie Martin, Tasmania’s Australian of the Year speak on International Women’s day about her voluntary project she has been doing at Risdon Prison teaching literacy skills. As a speech pathologist I have known Rosie for many years as a colleague and she spoke of ways to establish ‘kind communication’ when speaking to others or teaching her autism students and prisoners. Speech pathologists have a great deal of knowledge of phonological awareness and meta-linguistics related to literacy development. Many teachers have yet to realise this and I remember my own struggles with teachers over the years about their students who weren’t developing communication skills or literacy developments.  The speech was Snip20170314_3motivational and inspiring. Rosie has now completed a criminology degree and combines the two areas very successful. Most interesting.

Saturday I took myself to the State Cinema in North Hobart to see the film, David Stratton, A Cinematic Life. If you are an Australian you will most likely have followed film reviews by David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz  over the years on SBS Snip20170314_4and later ABC. David Stratton has viewed over 42, 800 plus movies since he was 12 years old and has card catalogue files and notebooks with reviews and comments about everyone. His personal archive in his home was stunning. I could have watched an entire film about that. If you are a follower of Australian film then run, don’t walk to see this film. I could easily sit through it again and the clips of so many Australian films were wonderful. I was also proud to know that Australia produced the first feature length film in the world in 1906. It was about the bushranger Ned Kelly.  Hollywood did not exist at the time and the clip was shown at the film. Just so interesting.

Snip20170314_1Books I am reading or have finished:

I finished the End of Eddy by Edouard Louis. It is a French translation of his growing up in poverty in France as a gay boy and having no idea what is actually happening and why he is the way he is. I will write separately about this book. I loved it very much and so far it is the best book I have read this year. It should be required reading in every high school in the world.

I finished Patricia Highsmith’s book This Sweet Sickness which I also loved. I will do a separate review on this book quite soon also. I  loved it. She writes very well of one man’s obsession with a woman he loves and how he descends into complete madnes. A very complex love story.

Snip20170314_2Today I am off in our 31 C degree heat to my play reading class where we continue to read Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. 

I am enjoying the story very much. One of my classmates taught at Sydney University and he is very experienced in literature and drama. He supplied us a wonderful introduction to this play. I hadn’t realised it was part of the plays of the absurd. It really is very funny. So many truths in it also told in a very circular fashion.

Last week was most comforting with books and films. I always get a great deal of satisfaction from these two areas of my life. I didn’t follow the world news anymore than to listen to the headlines each morning on the ABC radio just to see if our seven continents continue to exist. They do, so I continue to distract myself with more pleasant things.

I’ll be back soon with another Tuesday trivia and the book reviews of the previously mentioned books.

What do you do for comfort in these politically turbulent times?



Classics Club Spin No. 15

The Classics Club has announced it is time for the 15th Spin (here). I did one early last year but have not done one since. Each blogger lists 20 books and numbers them accordingly. The book must then be read and reviewed on your blog by 1 May, 2017.

However I am going to change one little thing this time. I am only going to list 10 books. They are ten books I have had on my shelf for quite awhile. They are also quite short books. I want to get all ten of them read quite soon so I can either pass them on or sell them. They are TBR books I want to exit the house. I am trying to get the number of books off my shelves.  I know it is an impossible task as I then buy ones to replace it but believe it or not I am slowing down. I am going to concentrate on these 10 over the next few months.

I will be travelling in April and as they are short I can read them and leave them behind with the Book Phantom note in it with its email address. I think that would be fun too in order to see where they end up.

So here are the books:


1. and 11.     Fly Away Peter by David Malouf:   For three very different people brought together by their love for birds, life on the Queensland coast in 1914 is the timeless and idyllic world of sandpipers, ibises and kingfishers. But the WWI is beginning. Two of the young men are drawn to the war. It is a story of the continuities of nature vrs. the obscenities of war. I have not read this before and it does sound interesting.

2.and 12.     The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers:  An American gothic tale of love and betrayal in the deep south of the USA. The story of Miss Amelia, a very unconventional woman. 6 feet, 2 inches, strong and self reliant, married to Marvin Macy, the meanest and most handsome man in town and then she threw him out after ten days. Her tale running a store alone when a strutting, hunchbacked dwarf, comes to town, steals her heart and transforms the store into a buzzing cafe. When her rejected husband returns a bizarre love triangle ensues and the battle of the sexes begins.  Need I say more? I hope to read this soon. Sounds like fun.


3. and 13. Mozart’s Journey to Prague by Eduard Mörikes  Mozart is on his way to Prague for the opening of Don Giovanni. He steals an orange from a Bohemian family’s garden on the way and gets caught by a furious gardener. When the gardener’s family discovers who he is he is forgiven and welcomed by the family who have adored his music. Sounds like fun.

4. and 14. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn


5. and 15.  On Listening by Martin Flanagan:  Part of the Curiosity Lecture Series, Penguin Special, non – fiction. A poetic and eloquent edition on the power of listening.

6. and 16. The Village By The Sea by Anita Desai:  A small fishing village near Bombay is still ruled by age old seasonal rhythms. Hari and Lila have lived in Thul all their lives, but their family is now desperately down on their luck. Their father drinks; their mother is seriously ill and there is no money to keep them fed and clothed. This is their tale. A tale from India.


7. and 17.   The Guilty Party and Other Stories by O. Henry:  I have always loved O. Henry so looking forward to this. A book of 11 short stories.

8. and 18.  The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin:  I have been reading a great deal in the media lately that 1984 by Orwell and this book by Baldwin are more relevant than ever regarding the political climate in the world. The blurb on the back states, “Reviewing this short but powerful study of the Negro problem in America.”  A good book to revisit.


9. and 19.   How I Came to Know Fish by Ota Pavel:  This is one of the Central European Classics published by Penguin in a set. Written in 1974, it is Ota Pavel’s magical memoir of his childhood in Czechoslovakia. Fishing with his father and his Uncle Prosek- the two finest fishermen in the world- he takes a peaceful pleasure from the rivers and ponds of his country…until the Nazi’s invade.

10. and 20. The Railway Station Man by Jennifer Johnston:  Published 1984, The railway station had been abandoned and decaying since the line was closed. But when the strange Englishman arrived, the war hero with a ruined body and scarred mind, he and young Damian Sweeney began to restore the old station with meticulous care, believing it could live again. Helen Cuffe, widowed, desultory and detached from his disapproving son, looks on…. hmmm.

Well you have the list. After writing out those descriptions I want to read all of them right away. So different from one another. I like the idea of the various countries these stories represent over a considerable span of time.

Stay tuned for Monday is the day that the Spin Number is announced.  I, for one, am looking forward to it. snip20170126_5