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:

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

If you are young and love horses….

(A review for Storey Publications.)

I requested a few books from Net Galley for young people and a couple for adults. It is quite fun to see what the publishers are offering.

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I was accepted to review the book Wild for Horses compiled by Storey Publishers. When I was young I was one of those girls who was horse mad. We all know of them. I adored them and had pictures of horses all over my bedroom wall. My parents finally bought me a horse when I was about 12 or 13 because they wanted to keep me away from boys.

Little did they know when I reached 9th grade I met my future husband in a saddle club. We still love horses but don’t own any.

I would have loved this book.

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Storey publishers has this blurb about the book.

This one-of-a-kind book of horse posters and flash cards is packed with stunning images and essential information. Two dozen posters of all-time favorite breeds like Arabian, Shetland Pony, and Lipizzan show off the beauty of these majestic creatures, and kids can show them off, too: these pull-out pages are ready to hang on a bedroom wall, with two additional 12 x 30 posters that capture horses’ grandeur. Finally, each of the 24 punch-out flash cards include a pocketsize photo and fun facts. With both magnificent, ready-to-hang images and portable breed profiles, this unique package offers total immersion for horse-loving kids.  (Children’s non-fiction)

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I think young horse lovers, from maybe age 8 or 9 to about 12 or 13 will love these posters and pages. The photography is beautiful featuring various breeds of horses. The horses also feature in various jobs that they perform.

At my age I still enjoyed the photos as they are beautiful. Horses are stunning animals.

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The information pages are short blurbs of facts scattered within geometric covered pages of bright colours. I think in this age of short text messages and attention spans the kids are probably more likely to read these snippets than a long narrative on the various breeds  of horses and their uses. (Which of course is sad but hey knowledge is good in all its forms.)

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If you have a horse mad child in your family I think this book might be an addition to the collection of books and magazines about horses I know they already own.

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o be published 3 March, 2017 Price around 12.98 US.

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“Love my horses.”

Tuesday Trivia and a Quick Review

snip20170227_2This year seems to be sailing by. I had hoped it would be slower than 2016 but it doesn’t seem that way.

Last night I finished this book. I read it quickly because I could not put it down. This man can write. This man can think and his education through literature, science and medicine was astounding.  Paul Kalanithi trained for 10 years to become a neurosurgeon. Just as his career is to take off he dies of lung cancer at age 37. The pages of the book cover his journey to the point of diagnosis (Part I) and then the journey of the illness (Part II). His wife writes the final chapter.

He studied literature and talks about the relation between literature, death and science and how he applies it to his own life. I reread several passages. He gets married to another doctor and they have a daughter. His life ends eight months after hers begins.

The book I am referring to is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I sat in my chair a few moments after I closed the last page and just could not move. A lot has been written about this book so I won’t add much to what others have written. Suffice to say I loved it.  Whoever coined the phrase, “Only the good die young” knew what they were talking about. This man did so much with the 37 years given to him.

After all of the education, training and work he did for the good of human kind why on earth did this have to happen to him?  He said himself the chance of a 37 year old man getting lung cancer is less than .001 percent. Why him? The injustice of the situation just does not make sense at all. I watch the news in the evening and see the people who murder, maim and make life a misery and they seem to live forever. Again I ask why him?

The cover states when one finishes this book the reader will be left thinking about it for a long time. It is almost traumatising. I loved this book.

It seems this week will be busy. Tuesday I am celebrating the birthday at the cafe at the Tasmanian Museum cafe. A nice quiet cafe we will sit on the deck surrounding the courtyard.

snip20170227_3Wednesday night we are joining friends at the State Cinema to see the film Hidden Figures about the three African American women mathematicians that worked for NASA in its early days.

I will not watch the Academy Awards. It is all politics and I find it most exasperating. In my humble opinion it isn’t based on the stories told but the people who are known. I prefer the independent films to the Hollywood blockbusters most days.

The weather is looking good for the week. The mid to high 20’s C for the entire week (70’s to 80’s F). Hopefully the Penguin will join up with a motorbike ride going on.

Saturday night we are riding in a leukaemia fundraiser beginning at 6 pm and ending at a pub arousnip20170223_2nd midnight. (Don’t worry, I never drink alcohol when I know I’ll be on my bike). The bikes will be decorated with lights and ridden through town. I think there will be a lot of bikes. Stay tuned for that. It’s part of the Light Up the Night Leukemia Fundraiser.
So again I think this week is going to sail by before I have even adjusted to Monday. Hope all of you have a great week. Let me know what you are reading this week and what are your week’s plan?

Oops, I pushed a wrong button so guess this is a Monday Trivia review instead of a Tuesday one (before any of you wise crackers jump in ).

This n’ That

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The bus shelters have been painted to prevent the graffiti vandals in town from getting them.

This week has been a pleasant week. I have decided to resurrect our friend the Penguin that went with us to Great Britain. Both my friend and I have been missing travelling out of the house with him.

On Wednesday we caught the bus into the city for my writing group. Mr. Penguin had the car for the day for his weekly work on a farm with his friend. They work with sheep, cutting wood and storing cheese that his wife makes from the sheep milk.

We headed for our writing group at the Writer’s centre in Salamanca market. I have mentioned this group before. We are eight members of the Domain Writer’s Group. We meet Wednesday afternoons except for our break on the third Wednesday of the month. We range in age from late 50’s to low 90’s.

The assignment for today was to write a piece similar to an Aesop’s Fable. I had great fun with my piece the Fox and the Dog. Others wrote similar pieces of different styles. Each piece had a moral to the story. Everyone seemed to enjoy the session. For next week we each have a newspaper headline and need to incorporate a story around it. I will need to get onto that this weekend.

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Penguin enjoyed using his brain with the writing group.

The Penguin sat silently on the table and listened to the ‘tabled fables’ as we called them.

The following day I met a good friend at Fuller’s Book store for a coffee. Penguin also enjoyed the morning coffee chat and then spent some time with one of the staff members who is a lovely guy. He got right into the spirit of things and photos were taken. We have so much fun in this book store. They are coming on to their 100th anniversary in 2020 and I will be interested in seeing how they celebrate this long term family business.

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Nothing better than a cappuccino in a lovely cup.

As for books. Our book group met this week and we all enjoyed a nibble or a bit to drink at the Grand Chancellor hotel on the waterfront where we meet. The Penguin and I shared a light beer as I just wasn’t in the mood for anything else. We talked about the Good People by Hannah Kent. We all enjoyed it very much though some people thought a couple of loose ends weren’t sufficiently tied up and the ending might have been a bit unrealistic. Others disagreed. All who had read her first book, Burial Rites liked that one better. I have not read it yet. Typical book fare conversation. We all rated it 4 or 4.5 out of five.

Next month’s book will be Songs of a War Boy. The April book is going to be the Mothering Sunday. I have just begun listening to the audible version while in the car.  More thoughts on that much later.

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Tim is completing his PhD and working here. He keeps us all entertained. A lovely young man who is very bright.

I am currently reading Mothering Sunday, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi and dipping into I, Allan Sealy; The China Sketchbook. More on each of those as I finish them. The Allan Sealy book is a sketchbook he completed on a trip to China.

Mr. Penguin and I have a 17 day trip planned to Japan. We leave the 3rd of April. The Penguin is quite excited. I might make him a kimono or something. Photos will be put on the blog. I want so much to make a sketchbook journal of this trip but I draw like a three year old. However, being of an older age and not caring so much what people think anymore (the benefits of older ages) I might just do a journal anyway with my Crayolas. It isn’t for anyone else to think about anyway and my

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We both enjoy a cold beer among friends.

three year old neighbour kids might really enjoy it. They are so non-judgemental.  I will never forget the time I drew something in my job with a group of five year olds and one of them laughed so hard at a picture of an animal I drew he had tears running down his cheeks. Then all of us lost it because he couldn’t even breathe he was laughing so hard. It was such joy to laugh as hard as these five year olds did. Well that sums up the last few days of the week. I hope your week is going well and that you enjoy the photos of the Penguin and me.

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Allan Sealy sketches like a young child too so there is hope. Love this book. (more photos of it with a review later)

Carson McCuller’s Centenary

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Carson McCullers

I subscribe to the newsletter from Library of America and enjoy it quite a bit. Each week they send a short story on Monday morning. The one  I received last week was The Great Eaters of Georgia by Carson McCullers.

The southern author (of USA) Carson McCuller’s was born 100 years ago Sunday. As a very young person I had not heard of her. Then I saw the film The Heart is a Lonely Hunter  (1968 when I was in grade 12) with Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke. I have never forgotten it. It moved me greatly.  I then read the book and loved it as much. The book had a great deal more information in it as we have come to expect. Once read, seen and thought about it then disappeared from my mind. Last year our book club read it and all those memories came to the fore.

I read one of her short stories yesterday on her birthday.  The Great Eaters of Georgia is a memoir of her returning to Augusta, Georgia in 1953 from Paris when her marriage was breaking up. (Her husband soon died afterwards while she was in Georgia of alcoholism.)  She was raised in Georgia and revisited her childhood haunts. The old Victorian house she grew up in had been razed. When we move away from our childhood homes and revisit them many decades later there is seldom anything left that we remember. This was true of her too. ‘Memory ghosts’ haunt the streets.

She was able to meet her mother’s best friend Lillian Smith again. Lillian and Carson’s mother were like sisters. She  ran a girl’s camp on a remote mountain. They chatted about memories of her mother and the times they knew in younger days. snip20170220_2

She also mentioned Fort Benning, Georgia. Some of her memories included the black Americans picking cotton in the fields, eating watermelon outdoors and gathering pecans. The paragraph on how to anticipate the eating of a watermelon was mouth watering. She quotes,

“Some of the dearest memories of childhood concern the watermelon. It demands a special opera- tion and procedure. Ideally, it should be opened and eaten on a cool back porch with newspapers on the table. It should be frosty, cold to the touch on fevered summer days. When the man of the family is poised with the knife there should be a hush around the table, a breathless and pleasant anxiety. Then when the knife plunges there should be a faint crack of the splitting fruit, then the anxious craning to see if it is properly ripe. The inside should be round with delicate white frosting and the seeds quite black. After the pink part has been eaten the white part can be continued a little longer and the rind saved for pickling.”

When I was 11 years old my father went to military training in Ft Benning, Georgia and took our family with him.  We lived near the base for six months. She mentions looking for pecans. I remember my father driving us into the country when he had free time. We saw cotton picking, poor shareholder houses and yes, people sitting on the steps of the front porch eating watermelon. I found those times really interesting as life there was much different to fairly well off farmers in middle Michigan. I also remember when watermelons had big black seeds and great joy was had from spitting them at each other. My grandmother always told us if we ate the seeds they would grow in our bellies. We used to laugh so hard we would fall off the stoop we sat on.

My mother took us out in the car when my dad was working and we gathered pecans. Once playing with other children we caught a small snake and showed it to our parents. Michigan didn’t have poisonous snakes when we were children. We had heard not to touch black widow spiders we might see in window corners in Georgia but we didn’t know much about the poisonous copperhead or rattle snakes in Georgia at the time. We wondered why the tin can we had the small snake in was quickly thrown a good distance when we showed it to adults. It was a small copperhead.

She wrote of the manners and etiquette of the dinner hour and how much they ate. I heard about the table cloths of pure linen and the way the table was set. They used to have three large meals a day with the lunchtime meal being the largest. They ate all of my favourite southern foods. Grits, chicken, vegetables, pie.

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Stock photo

She referred to the Annie Dennis cookbook. I had not heard of it. She said she could never find one again. I had a look on abebooks.com as I thought it would be fun to find one. I found an old reprint of the cookbook from 1905 selling for $395.00. I don’t think I will own one though it is still in a reprint mode and one can buy it for much cheaper. Somehow I thought having the very old copy would be nice.

Carson McCuller’s went on to write several novels, short stories and essays. I don’t think I will ever forget her or The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. It is one of those books that get reread every few years and form part of a childhood.snip20161121_4

If you are interested in receiving an American short story a week you can sign up here.

http://storyoftheweek.loa.org

Have you read Carson McCullers? What did you think?

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.