More Bikish than Bookish Today

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

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Edge of the World

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

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

 

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

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

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Arthur River

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

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Rest Stop

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

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

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

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Tourist Stop

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

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

Total Kms:  1200 (750 Miles)

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Edge of the World (trying to capture it)

Tuesday Trivia-To The River and Other Life Doings

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

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

and…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good People- Hannah Kent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The talented Australian author  Hannah Kent

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tuesday Trivia: Literature as Constellations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Margery Sharp day a day late…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will certainly be looking out for her other books.

Tuesday Trivia on a Saturday

snip20170121_3Okay, I like to shake things up once in awhile. Before Christmas I came across this book in my local independent indie book shop, Fuller’s.  I saw it on the shelf and made a beeline straight to it. A young woman was holding a copy in her hand and said to me, “Somebody had better get this for me for Christmas!” There were three copies in the shop.

1001 Ideas That Changed The Way We Think.  I do enjoy these 1001 compendiums and have the ones that relate to both books and children’s books. They are great fun to dip into and read a few pages here and there.  I find them both motivating and fascinating.

This one is no different.  I asked for this book for Christmas but of course the people I asked did not rush down to the shop and get one of the three copies. I got a wonderful book voucher for Christmas but alas, the book itself had disappeared. Enter book depository and about three weeks after Christmas my book arrived. (Mr. P should have bought it before because now I still have the book voucher and the book. He could have saved a bit by getting this and foregoing the voucher.)

How does one read such a book? You can’t read it page after page because the information will go in one brain cell and be filed away by another to that forgotten data base in the back of our head. It may or may not ever be seen again.

I decided to go to random.org.  I put in 1 to about 950, the number of pages and came up with: number 866.  I could feel a little wave of anticipation as I thumbed through the pages of this heavy tome looking for the magic number. There are actually two selections on this page.

 

1. Rap Music: United States– I learned that the word “rap” as a verb or noun meaning to talk,  actually dates from the sixteenth century, but its application to a form of music began among African Americans in the 1960’s.  It goes on to explain the various styles of rap music, its structure and uses. There is also a large black and white  photo of ‘Grandmaster Flash’  who is considered to be the grandfather of rap music in the USA. He was a Dee Jay in the 1980’s.  So close the file folder on that bit of trivia and put it into my data base storage unit of brain cells.

2. The second item of trivia relates to Social Networking Service. It states the earliest way people connected to others  (beyond snail mail and telephones) were email and chat programs. They appeared in the 1970’s.  I remember when we immigrated into Australia in 1988 how hard it was to keep in touch with family overseas. I was excited because I bought a new word processor that made writing letters so easy.  When email appeared I thought all of my Christmases had come at once. Instant communication at once. Then Facebook with instant photos of what was happening with family and friends. I do love social media for that reason alone.   The paragraph says that USENET was our first instant messaging system and it developed  as a system between Duke University and the University of North Carolina and went from there.

Okay that was fun. Tomorrow morning when I have my coffee I will have random.org choose another page number for me. Just think, in about 950 more days I will have an encyclopaedic mind of trivia for casually entertaining at dinner party conversations. (Not that I attend many dinner parties, I take comfort in knowing I will be ready.)

Other topics to name just a few from randomly exploring pages are:

*Symbols      *Reformed Epistimology    *Astrology          *Robin Hood          *Islamic State

*Sewer Systems          *Mathematical Function          *Many Worlds Theory (Universes)

*Skepticism        *Expressionism in Music      *Six Thinking Hats     *Beatrice Potter

snip20161225_16If I come across some interesting information about books or authors  I will put them up on Tuesday Trivia.

Next time you are attending a dinner party make sure you are not sitting too close. Unless you are a trivia person like I am.

 

 

American travel book-all population and weather?

snip20170117_2Travel writing is one of my favourite genres of books to read. Especially if the authors have walked across a country, ridden a bicycle, motorcycle, donkey or horse. I love  the different ways people see the world.

I came across Old Man on a Bicycle: A Ride Across America on a Kindle special deal so decided to give it a try. It was a pretty easy read and the style of it made me laugh. The book is in a combined paragraph to journal format. Don was 71 yrs of age when he decided to ride his bicycle from New Hampshire to San Francisco, California.  The journey itself is amazing. Unfortunately he gets tied up not so much in the trip itself but stating what Australian people always tell me about Americans. “They love the weather and they love to know the population of various cities.  While attending a conference once in Brisbane, Qld, we had a keynote speaker from a university in Maine, USA. My Aussie friend sitting beside me said, “You wait, her power point presentation will have initial photos of the state of Maine, where it is on the map, what the population is of her state and city and what the weather is like. They always do this.”  I, of course said, “No they won’t.” Her reply was, “Yes she will.”

The speaker is introduced, the lights go down and the large screen in front of us lights up with a huge picture of Maine. She introduced us to her university (photo 2) and then told us the population and showed two more photos. Maine in summer and Maine in winter. Well of course my friend and I were paralysed with silent laughter.  She whispered, “I rest my case.”  Over the years I have watched for this and I have to admit that is what American speakers do when visiting here. I find it highly entertaining.

So I was not surprised when 71 year old Don stated on almost every page of his journal, the population of all the towns he went through and gave me detailed weather updates.

I did enjoy this book but was glad it wasn’t any longer than it was. He described the roads in detail, the winds and what their measurement was. He would start riding about 5:00 am and finish about noon to 2:00 pm. I admired his stamina. I admired his determination. I also admired him when he was wiped out by an inattentive driver in Utah (She was reaching for her coffee on the floorboard when she veered to the right and wiped him out on a freeway) and returned to the same spot a year later to finish his journey to California.

What I found tedious was the health information. Whenever he mentioned something to do with his training he might say he didn’t smoke, he ate well, all the things you would expect a 71 yr old man to mention while training for a cross country ride.

snip20170117_4However, if smoking was mentioned he would then go into a long page or two lecture about the physiological things that happen to a body when one smokes. That would include statistics (another American favourite).  Then he did the same thing to nutrition, African politics (more on that later) as well as aging complaints and illnesses.

There were several topics he mentioned while continuing with the story that the lecture began. I found it tedious and skipped over those bits.  The one paragraph or two I did agree with him on was the aging factor and how society views and talks about the elderly.  I have always maintained the elderly are their own worst enemy as they continually pass cartoons and jokes around about incontinent, brain dead, droopy breasted, technologically phobic oldies.  They complain with one hand how the elderly are treated but then go on to absolutely denigrate the whole range of elderly in the same conversation.

When I produced the regional Senior’s Association newsletter I put a stop to the aged cartoons and jokes. I received several and I said I would not be continuing this practice. I do feel strongly about it so don’t feel too left out if I never post one here.

I wondered why this book was written like a military manual. Then as the ride progressed he began telling us about himself. First thing is he was an ambassador to Somalia in Africa in the early 1980’s. Then he talked about being a congressman for the state of New Hampshire.  That is when everything fell into place about my thinking. A retired politician. No wonder the writing was so vague.

When I read travel writing I like to hear about the people, the quirky places, the conversations in the various places they visit. The only conversations this guy reported on were those of people in diners telling him how “awesome” he was for undertaking this trip.  Many Americans don’t seem to realise there are people doing these things all over the world and we barely hear a thing about it unless it involves the moon.

So get over yourself and read a couple of Anne Mustoe’s incredible bicycle journeys (the British woman who truly was awesome).

Would I recommend this book?  I think it would be good to read by a person contemplating this journey because of the detailed weather reports, wind speeds and how one must adjust their mileage to better find accommodation in a country that has vast spaces and none available.  Though had he begun in San Francisco and gone eastward to New Hampshire he wouldn’t have spent half the book talking about the head winds. They almost always come from the west.screen-shot-2013-05-22-at-16-40-48

To the armchair traveller there is more exciting travel writing.  I do admire his undertaking and his perseverance.  There were a lot of bits I did truly enjoy reading but over all I would say it was pretty average writing.  And being an American-Australian I did enjoy hearing about the population, weather and statistics.