Week I- Robin Dalton at Koh Samuii

Aunts Up the Cross by Robin Dalton- Text Publishing 1965

I must say I am about 100% better than I was a week ago. It is amazing what a week in the heat, sun and light can do for someone when winter is taken away. We are in Koh Samuii, Thailand, eating everything in sight, reading, swimming and resting. Lots of resting. From what I am not sure but we are doing it.

I have just finished the Australian book (Text- first published in 1965) Aunts Up the Cross. This is a bohemian memoir of growing up in the 1920’s and 30’s through to about 1945 in Kings Cross, Sydney. It is the most wonderful read and extremely entertaining.

Sacred in 93 F or 37 C weather


When a book begins as this, one must keep reading:

My great-aunt Juliet was knocked over and killed by a bus when she was eighty-five. The bus was travelling very slowly in the right direction and could hardly have been missed by anyone except Aunt Juliet, who must have been travelling fairly fast in the wrong direction

The introduction to the book is by writer and humorist Clive James. He also does a wonderful job introducing this story. He writes his intro in 1996:

Here at last is the living proof that a civilised, unpretentious, fully evocative prose style had been available in Australia ever since the young Robin Eakin (her maiden name) handed in her first essay. All we had ever needed to do was look in the wrong place. And so often happens, the true art was filed under entertainment.

Robin writes of the eccentrically large house they lived in (though in later life she said it wasn’t as large as she remembered it)

Her father was a doctor in the area and everyone seemed to know him. Her mother entertained anyone who came to the door. They always had relatives, friends and completely unknown people staying with them. She fed the entire community. Her parents had a loving, sometimes volatile relationship and the tricks her father played on people were laugh out loud funny. Her ancestry of all of the aunts plays an important role though she never met half of them. Death came frequently to her house over the years but in such a way it is hard not to read bits out loud to your partner. Is there such a term as “ludicrous deaths?” This book certainly has it in abundance.


I won’t say a lot more as Mr. Penguin is reading this book now and I don’t want to spoil it. If you are Australian and have not read this book then you must remedy the situation.

If you are not Australian you must read it in order to learn we do not all live in the outback with hats and corks on our heads.

The history of Kings Cross from the 1920’s up to the time of WWII is fun and enlightening. It was a very different place to how it is now. I loved it and the people inside this book will be with me forever.

I promise if you leave a towel on a lounge then disappear and want to reserve it for the day I can guarantee it will not be there when you return. I will happily be sipping a mango crush or a lime smoothie in its place. Get over your rudeness and find another spot.

Now for the “travellin’ part of the Penguin.  We were out by the pool the other day. A couple sat reading in the chairs beside us. I could see the woman was nearing the end of her book. I crane my neck around deck chairs and posts to get a glimpse of what people are reading when I am on holiday. Does anyone else do this?

She threw down the book and burst out, “Well!!!  He didn’t make it in the end.”

When she put the book down on the little table beside the chair and headed for the pool I had to get up and follow her lead, also into the pool. By then I HAD to see what the book was. Blast the spoilers.

This guy walks up and down the beach all day. As soon as he sells one floatation device he blows up another.Enter a caption


The Chamber by John Grisham. Popular holiday reading by many people. I quite like the occasional John Grisham courtroom drama.

It turned out they were a couple from Melbourne and we have made ‘Holiday Friends’ with them. We chat to them at breakfast in the morning. Complain about our noisy neighbours and squabbling children. Last night as we walked to dinner the smell of marijuana was very strong down our outside hallway. What fools. Thai authorities do not smile upon drug use in this country. My worst nightmare, outside of being dragged off a campsite by a saltwater crocodile in the Northern Territory, is a long stint in an Asian prison on drug charges. I wouldn’t even pack tobacco for being so paranoid.

The vendors walking home in the evening.

Thursday we leave for Singapore for about 5 or 6 days.  I think I am getting ready to face chilly, windy Tasmania again. I always thank the powers that be for having an Australian life and the blessings that are.


I have scattered a few photos through in case you want to see how hard we all have it this week.

There is always someone trying to hog the sheets.



The Penguin and I hit the Road Again…

20160914_133958 copyI am in the middle of a big winter shake up. WINTER= Beautiful sunny days. But by the end of it I am fed up with the short days with dark coming too early. I am tired of the cold. I am tired of the damp. I think many people who live in the southern regions of Australia feel this way in winter and head for warmer climates if only for a couple of weeks.

We are leaving this afternoon for 8 days or so to Koh Samuii in Thailand. We are going to lie on a chaise lounge between the beach and the swimming pool. Picture me at the bottom of the pool, long snorkel and a drink in hand. I might sit there for 2 or 3 days. The hot sun beats down.

Then we are going to Singapore to  be around people for a week and celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary.

There have been family issues back home,(Michigan)  including my very old mother who is probably in her final year. It all makes me sad and winter is not a good time to be sad.  When I seek refuge in a book I am reminded I am reading War and Peace.

I have finished five parts out of ten. I have enjoyed it for the most part but it dawned on me the other evening I do not care about these people.  I enjoyed the strategy and conversations during the war scenes. Those were the scenes I thought I would dislike the most. They weren’t. It is the domestic part I get so impatient with. The society rules, the silly women who are presented again and again. The men who prance around. They are either silly or weak. I am tired of them. I want to get back into the books with strong women, modern women. Yes, women with smart phones and important jobs.  I can’t take anymore of it. I am, yes, quitting.

I have SO MANY tbr books on my shelves that look like adventure. They look like fun. They have beautiful covers. I don’t care if the stories are new or old, they are books that I want to spend time with.  When one is older, one is conscious of how little time may be left in the scheme of things. Even 20 years is not a great deal of time considering how fast the years go by.

I always wanted to read War and Peace. I wanted to be able to say, “Oh yes, I read that.” Am I comfortable not being able to say it? Yes, Absolutely. I get the gist. I will, however continue to follow the others who are reading and writing about it.   I have partial interest in hearing what might happen. I might pick it up again but when winter depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder has left me. When family issues overseas don’t occupy so many of my thoughts. When politics are better?  Ha!!

I am going to take a couple of copies of ‘real’ books with me. For the poolside. Something interesting or fun. I have many books on my Kindle and I can access the eBooks from the library.  I am going to work on my photography. I am going to take walks along thSnip20170808_1e beach. The camera is packed. The Penguin is ready. Mr. P. has his things ready.  The housesitter comes tonight. The cats are at camp (cattery).  As one person, name unknown, once said.  “Elvis has left the building.”   Out of the way. “We are leaving the building.”

Stay tuned.


Robert Dessaix- Part 2 (Books of)

The week before last I went to an author interview in the city. I posted up Part I and said I would post up the main books of Mr. Dessaix this week. They have been reissued, as some were out of print, by Xoum Publishing.  You can view Part I here.

Be sure to notice the flashy new covers. I quite like them.

When we talk of Robert Dessaix we most commonly think five main novels he wrote. Most are autobiographical or linked to history. In the talk I attended he talked briefly to each one. There are other books one can read that are not mentioned below. I thought I would give you a brief explanation of what he said as he referred to them.


My Mother’s Disgrace-  This is  his most autobiographical book. He talks about growing up in Sydney to adoptive parents. He discusses the relationship he found later on to his biological mother. The difficulties of coming out ‘gay’ during that time period and his family’s reaction to it.


Night Letters – In this novel he writes of his visit to Venice, Italy. He is coming to terms with his recent diagnosis of HIV. The books discusses much history of Venice and how he incorporates his thoughts of his illness into this holiday destination. He writes in his hotel room every night as he comes to terms with where his life is heading.

He mentioned the first two books are often taught in the school curriculums. He told a funny story of a Marist College in New South Wales where these books were on the reading curriculum. He asked the representative at the school how does a book with the content of homosexuality and AIDS make it onto a curriculum in a Marist school? The reply was, “The Brothers don’t know what they are about.”   (More audience laughter)


Corfu – He mentioned he likes this book quite a bit more and thought it a good starting point for those who haven’t read him. Although he stated the critics didn’t seem to appreciate it much and he will always remember some of the cutting remarks he read. He begins to explore in more depth the ordinariness of people around him. He decides what is important to observe whilst travelling. He ties that in with what he also feels about himself.  He discusses how intimacy in all its different forms makes up your life.


Twilight of Love: Travels With Turgenev – This is a non fictional account of his love for Russian literature. He attended Moscow University and taught Russian language. His favourite was Turgenev. He decided to learn more about him and visited his homes in Germany, France and Russia. He was interested in his love life around the married opera singer Pauline Viardot and the triangle of love she lived in. There are themes of love, sex, theology and eventually death. I have read it and think it a book one reads once without asking questions and then needs a re-read to consolidate all that is in it. This is especially true if one is not familiar with Russian literature.


Arabesque – This book was not discussed in quite the detail as the others as we only had one hour and then questions. I have taken the synopsis from Amazon below:

One Sunday afternoon in a secluded valley in Normandy, Robert Dessaix chanced upon the castle where the famous French writer Andre Gide spent his childhood. Recalling the excitement Robert felt when he first read Gide as a teenager, he set off to recapture what it was that once drew him so strongly to this enigmatic figure. On a magic carpet ride from Lisbon to the edge of the Sahara, from Paris to the south of France and Algiers, Robert takes us to the places where the Nobel Prize-winning author, in ways still scandalous to modern sensibilities, lived out his unconventional ideas about love, marriage, sexuality and religion. Featuring meditations and conversations with fellow travellers on such diverse subjects as why we travel, growing old, illicit passions, and the essence of Protestantism – and illustrated with over 100 stunning illustrations and photos – Arabesques is Robert Dessaix and travel memoir at their absolute finest.

He did go on to talk about the different selves people seem to live in. He believes everyone has more than one self and if you live in a small town/city sometimes it is hard to live out all those selves. He enjoys travelling because he can let some of his other selves come to the fore. Being gay and a well known writer he made a funny remark, “How does anyone have an affair in Hobart?”  A woman from the audience called out, “Get a different car!”  The room erupted into laughter.

We covered a great deal of Dessaix territory in this single hour at the bookshop. I have read his books, My Mother’s Disgrace; Night Letters and Twilight of Love. I have Arabesque and Corfu sitting on the shelf.  I think sometime I will have to have a Dessaix month and reread the books I have read as it has been a long time, and get into


the ones I haven’t. I feel I have a better understanding of what he is saying.

It certainly was an evening of enjoyment and our heads swirled afterwards with


so many topics.







The Reissue of Robert Dessaix’s Books (Part I)

Snip20170717_3I had the pleasure of visiting Fuller’s Book Shop the other evening and hearing an interview with author Robert Dessaix. The shop was packed with people. This Hobartian (moving here from Melbourne) author is a very popular man here it seems. I have always loved his work. Adam Ouston is a Fuller’s employee and is currently working on a PhD about Robert Dessaix’s work and the rapport between the two of them was entertaining. They have obviously spent a great deal of time together.

Mr. Dessaix began his talk discussing writing for the ordinary person. He said it is relatively easy to write about famous people such as (pause…..)  Napoleon Bonaparte but it is to ordinary people he shares his writing.   He has always appeared to me a man who stops and thinks about things. I have seen him at a social gathering as he stood in a large backyard alone staring into the valley below.   His mind never shuts off. His past books have taken place in Europe and Australia but he is now more connected to India which he visits regularly in the Tasmanian winters. He stated the Indians seem to dance, sing, celebrate and not spend a lot of time talking about the truth of their religious teachings. They appear to treat religion as a form of play rather than always searching for the truths of it.  They simply live. The Europeans he mentioned,  write a lot about mortality. Always trying to verify their teachings especially in religion. What really is true, what is not. The Indians simply believe.

Referring to travel he said that if  home life is very good (he described ‘home’ as being anywhere his partner Peter Timms and his dog are) then travel is good. I think it is knowing you can experience the world yet look forward to coming back.   He stated that when one travels one must ‘zig-zag’. If you go through your travels, as well as life in a straight line you will hit a wall and die.  It is better to ‘zig-zag and see what you find. Who do you meet, what do you see, what do you learn?

In his earlier career he hosted the Book Show on Radio National, ABC. He said when he was first employed his supervisor told him ‘don’t talk to Australia’ but rather talk ‘to the individuals’ listening in radio land. He believes that he writes to the individual, not to the amassed crowds.

He was diagnosed with HIV two decades ago and was told by a doctor he probably wouldn’t live beyond another five years. With the advances in medical research he continues to thrive in 2017. He then had a significant heart attack. These events changed him greatly. He has defined his ‘world’ of life. This includes travel, home and books. Outside of this he largely leaves  life events to others. I asked him afterwards as he is such a thinker and analyst how does he resolve the issues of the depressing political events in his mind. He said he follows politics but then lets go of it.  He leaves it to others who know it better than he does . “There are people out there who know a lot about politics and I leave it to them.”  Maybe I will take up this mode of thinking. I tend to dwell on it at times, become depressed and of course it gets me nowhere. I am still thinking about this.

I particularly enjoyed his comments, “Everyone lives in a splodge….(he pauses for thought, then again…) Everyone lives in a splodge.  Enjoy the splodge you are in.” (Laughter from the audience.)

The interviewer, Adam, was responsible for helping get his out of print books reissued. He noticed the earlier ones weren’t being published anymore and he wanted that changed. In working with Xoum publishers the first five major works of Dessaix have now been reissued with splashy new covers within the last month.

PreppyIn the next post I will share with you his five major books with a blurb of how he described each of them.

I was reminded how much fun it is to listen to an author talk about his/her writing. I never leave without a new idea to think about or some insight into their life. It is interesting to see how those thoughts transfer into books.  It is also fun to share thoughts and laughter with others in the room who are all interested in the same things.

Winter Weekend

Dog Beach  Sunny and 8 degrees C (46.9 F)

Where else can a person with two happy dogs go to the beach in winter?  We just had a couple of sunny days and I decided to take the dogs to the beach. They have been pretty goofy and needed a good run.  So off we went. They love a day at the beach with a side trip to Mc Donalds to share a few fries afterwards. They only get three each.

What else happened over the weekend? Well, I am almost finished with part II of War and Peace. It will be a long haul but I am enjoying it. The narrator of the book is very good speaking several voices in various tones. It must be a job to read this book out loud perfectly.  He does an excellent job and I keep up okay with the kindle version.

I haven’t started reading anything else yet but will do. I can’t just have a life of W and P.

We did get to see the film Kedi about the street cats in Istanbul.  It is a lovely film. The photography was excellent and much of Istanbul was shown from various angles. The personalities of the cats was caught on film and we enjoyed getting to meet them.

The week before us will see the play The God of Carnage on Wednesday. I have no idea what it is about.

I am in this shop so much that the owner calls out to me, “See you tomorrow” when I leave. I can’t wait for the 100th year anniversary in three years.

On Thursday Robert Dessaix is being interviewed at Fuller’s Book Shop. I will be attending this.


Evidently all of his books are being reissued.  The interview later in the week will see him discussing why he wrote them and other information about them.  I have read several of his books and enjoyed them all. I also ran into him once in the grocery store with his partner Peter Timms and helped them pick out some yoghurt. My claim to fame.

Monica McInerney was at Fullers the other day and the book shop decorated their window with her new book. I was going to see her but then I heard her interviewed on ABC Radio National for an hour so I decided not to go. The authors tend to repeat themselves as they do their book blurbs around the country. I have only read one of her books and I did enjoy it. I would like to read more of her.


Fuller’s Book Shop just won a national award for Best Independent bookshop of Australia beating out contenders in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Such an honour for them and their manager Catherine Schultz took out the best book seller award nationally. They were stoked as they should be. A trip to Hobart is not complete for the wild and wooly bookish people out there without a visit to Fuller’s. They have a lovely cafe too.

She truly is the best book seller of the year. Well done Catherine.

I guess that wraps up the weekend for another week. I’ll be back before long. In the meantime enjoy the Kingston Dog Winter Beach photos. (There aren’t many.)

46 degrees F today  :  8 degrees C
We don’t need to worry about snakes in the winter.


They love this place . (excuse the blur, they don’t hold still for long)
Winter haircut brings on winter clothes.


coffee shop penguin
Stay Warm



Time for a Catch UP


This week has been pretty busy. Our Play Reading class on Tuesday continued with our Oscar Wilde theme. Not having been exposed to a lot of his work I have been enjoying it. We finished the play The Importance of Being Ernest which we all enjoyed. Then we watched the DVD of the play. It has so much humour in it. We are looking at the various types of writing Oscar Wilde produced. Serious, biblical, children’s writing to very funny and entertaining. We are really having an Oscar Wilde fest this term. We are currently reading Salome’.



I have begun War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. What a genius this man was.  I downloaded the audible version of it from audible.com and as I had a vintage Penguin Classics copy I thought I would read a long. However the two translations were very different with the Penguin Classic being much wordier.


I found the same translator on Kindle books and downloaded that copy for 99cents. Now we are in sync.  I must say I am enjoying it quite a bit.  Although I am only into Part II.  The Napoleonic wars have just begun. I didn’t expect the humour from some of the characters and it hasn’t taken me long to jump into and start caring about everyone. A long ways to go yet.



(Narrated by Frederick Davidson, translated by Constance Garnett)


Wednesday was our writing class. I took the bus into Hobart and walked down to the Tasmanian Writer’s Centre where our weekly (except the third Wed of each month) group is held. It is school holidays, it was sunny and a very pleasant day, though chilly, down on the waterfront. People everywhere.  The best thing about the winters in Hobart is the sun shines almost every day. Really puts a different perspective on things. I noticed the big ice breaker Aurora Australis ship was in port. It is a large orange ship that goes regularly to Antarctica taking people and supplies. It is such an icon on our waterfront and I always enjoy seeing it when it is in port.



I finished the Australian novel of The Golden Child by Wendy James. It is for our end of July book club meeting and I really enjoyed it. I will be looking forward to what the others thought of it. Lots of points for discussion.  I had not heard of it before. It is about the bullying done online in a high school setting between so called friends. The ending really packed a wallop so I will say no more.  It touched on many social issues that young people must deal with today and having read it I am glad there was no social media when I was in high school.  I thought the book was well written, the characters very believable and as I said, I loved the ending. If you get a chance to have a quick read I can certainly recommend it.



The weekend ahead is looking a bit quiet at this point. There is currently a documentary called Kedi, about seven cats in Istanbul whose lives are followed around the city. It is playing at our local State Cinema in Hobart. Having visited Istanbul not that many years ago and seen all the street cats I am looking forward to seeing how this film goes. We ate outdoors at many restaurants while there and often ended up putting half our plate of food on the ground under the table for the cats while the waiters backs were turned. I hope to see this very soon.

The documentary Kedi takes place in Istanbul, Turkey

Winter continues here. I am planning to keep reading War and Peace at least an hour a day until I finish it. So far so good.

How did your week go?  Any good books happening this week?

Until next time, the Penguin and I wish you well. Snip20161117_4

Salinas, California-John Steinbeck Country

20170603_112506When I was overseas visiting family I finally got to Salinas to the John Steinbeck Centre. It isn’t as large as the Jack London Ranch north of San Francisco but it was every bit as interesting. I thought I would share some of the photos.

The museum is set up with little nooks and crannies one can walk through. Each area represents one of his major books. There is information to read about the publishing of the book, a screen with the film version screening with benches to sit and watch parts of them. Photos, quotations and trivia.

House Steinbeck grew up in.

I enjoyed passing through The Grapes of Wrath section, East of Eden and Travels with Charlie. Travels with Charlie and the Grapes of Wrath are my favourite books by Steinbeck. I remember I went on a Steinbeck kick in the early 70’s and read five or six of his books in quick succession. It is time to revisit those books again I think. The museum certainly inspired us to do so.

The gift shop was full of Steinbeck memorabilia but the only thing I bought was the T shirt with a list of all of his books on the back.  Enjoy the photos.



The route he took in his book Travels with Charlie. Charlie was his standard poodle.


This is the pick up truck and camper he lived in during Travels with Charlie. Can you spot the silly Penguin?  He thought we were going to take off in this. (Just a dream)


A picture of Steinbeck with Charlie



We had to eat lunch at the diner next door as there was a sign in the window that said this is where Steinbeck hung out.  I can see him sitting here having a smoke and a coffee. 

What Steinbeck books have you read?  What is your favourite Steinbeck book?

If you get anywhere near Salinas this is a happy way to spend an hour or so.