Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A book, A play, A Cat...

I feel like I am back with the living. Loss of my little dog really knocked us around. People who don't love dogs won't understand that, others will. To lose a loving creature who was never more than a metre away from me for over 15 years old makes me feel like I lost a limb.  But life goes on and he is now safely within my memory where he will stay forever.

Onwards and upwards to books. Our book group is reading
A Little Life. I was looking forward to it because the hype around this book has been intense. But my word it is long. Too long. This author is so wordy. I think the story is interesting. We follow the lives of four boys, one of which was badly abused by the brothers as he grew up an orphan. Jude is a very bright boy and goes on to study law as an adult but he is extremely emotionally damaged due to childhood abuse. JB is a friend who grows up to be an artist of renown. Other friends Malcolm and Willem are also featured. The friendship begins in their teens and through adulthood we go. I admit I am only 35% of the way through this so I continue to read this book on my kindle as well as listen to the narrative on audio. The editor in me wants to slash and burn. The author makes a point. He then goes on to make it again....and again.... and again.  Then the point is explained. I am finding it a tedious read but I do want to know what happens to them.  I enjoy hearing what these boys get up to in their life but the writing does drive me mad at times. I will persevere for another few days. I can't promise to finish it but I am giving it my best as we discuss it on the last Wednesday of the month.

On a happier night our play reading class through U3A (University of the Third Age) has our group reading Juno and the Paycock. A wonderful Irish play by Sean O'Casey. The Irish woman in our group chose this play and we are learning a lot about the author and the time and location in Ireland. We have a lot of fun trying to do an Irish accent. Reading the words out loud help us to slide into the accent quite easily at times but the vocabulary of the country and the time period trips us up sometimes. We have a woman in the class who is German, some Aussies, some English and Scottish and of course we follow that up with my American accent.  We have many laughs. I never appreciated plays until I started up with this class and our teacher, Marlene, in her 80's with years of drama experience is wonderful. We love her sense of humour, her enthusiasm and her knowledge. I think we finish up this play this afternoon.

On the animal note in our house, life has begun again for Griswald or Grizzy Bear for short. Tasmania has a glut of cats at the moment. We await the day when the legislature governing cats comes into place. The government is slow. Feral cats in Australia are a huge problem and kill much of the wildlife here. Wildlife that can only be found in Australia but that is another story.

We have problems in our house between Cousin Eddie and Uncle Buck. You see, Uncle Buck or UB to his friends, is neurologically impaired due to severe abuse as a three week old kitten (before we got him). I saved him from a vet office when working as a vet nurse at the time.  I was asked to bring him home for the weekend to try and get food into him. We did not expect him to live. Ten years later he is a big round fat long haired grey cat. Loving. Very loving. Not very bright. He tries.  Cousin Eddie is a two year old kitten from the RSPCA who has worked out there is something wrong with UB.  Bullying has ensued.  It hasn't gotten better but worse.

Enter my bright idea of bringing in a third kitten. Grizzy. He is 16 weeks old, pure black with the exception of white chest hairs and his behaviour at the Cat Centre was placid. In fact I was told he sleeps most of the time. Likes cuddles, his food and warmth.  Sounded perfect. Cousin Eddie would have a playmate and leave UB alone. That was the plan. The reality?

Grizzie is like a bullet shot from a gun, ricocheting off every thing in the house. He slides across the room as easily as he leaps to the highest spot in the house. He eats like a horse and Cousin Eddie is so dazzled by him he had airplane ears for several days every time he looked at him. It took him three days to put the fur down on his back. I was worried.

But the rush is over and they are all getting along fine.  UB is being left alone and he is happy. The dogs think the cat skirmishes are good fun to watch and leave them all alone. Casual interest now.  Eddie and Grizzy seem to love chasing each other, playing and having meals together. The plan has worked.  Fortunately we have a large outdoor enclosure to put the two of them into when their jets need cooling. We do not let them roam at will as Tasmania has too much precious wildlife and it will not be killed by these goofy guys.

As I said, life goes on. Books are being read and placed on hold at the library. Discussions around them occur regularly. Animals give us peace and the autumn weather here has been delightful.

We still miss Wally but have come to terms with what a wonderful life he had with us and we are feeling better. As long as there are live animals who need homes we will do our little bit here in our part of the world. We do draw the line though at five. Our family is complete.

Looking forward there is the Sydney Writer's festival coming up when I fly to Sydney on 16 May and stay a week.

My sister arrives from California in mid June for awhile and we will see parts of Australia we have not seen. I have a trip to England and Ireland planned for mid September to mid October with a friend of mine from Florida. We will meet at Heathrow and rent a car. We plan on driving around the Cornwall area, Wales and then spend two weeks in Ireland by car. There is a lot to look forward to and I plan on sharing all of it here with anyone who is interested.  There will be books involved. The Penguin and I are ready to travel and read.

Until next time.......

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall....

Rest in Peace Old Boy, we really loved you.
It was October of 2000. A small brown puppy was born in a suburb north of us. We hadn't met him yet but we would. We had no idea how our life would change.

November 2000 I was diagnosed with MS. I was 50 years old and to say the least I was surprised. Being the pragmatic person I am I decided to milk it for all it was worth.  We had an older dog, Bluey. He was lovely. He was 12 years old and after spending years doing dog obedience and agility, having beach days, loving this dog, he was slowing down.  We needed a puppy to get him feeling young again. Enter Wally.  The day I went looking for puppies there were none to be found. The dog's home didn't have any, the
RSPCA didn't have any.  I did what I would probably never do again, I turned to the classified ads.  I read "10 puppies for sale. 8 Female- 2 Male. Call 1-800-xxx-xxxxx." I did. A used car dealer answered the call. I had heard of him and he was a bit shoddy. However I was determined.  I went to see the puppies on my lunch hour from where I worked at Disability Services. It was very nearby.

Wally at 8 weeks. A stuffy body, dachshund legs and a jack russell head.

As I walked into the car dealership I saw a box in the corner. One puppy had his head sticking up. The other 9 were asleep. I told the man I wanted a boy. I think boy dogs are smoochier. What kind of dogs are they?  Well, the father was a staffordshire terrier crossed with adachshund. The mother was a full Jack Russell. There were 8 small puppies who didn't stir much from sleep. But there was one big fat tummied puppy ready for life.

I didn't have to think twice as I picked the squirming bundle up, paid the man and took him back to work.

Our old dog Bluey taught Wally a lot and Wally loved him.

Life for him was to be very full, lots of fun, with lots of jobs he made for himself and he was like the chefs on the Bake Off shows when it came to food. He loved his food then and he never stopped eating his way through life.

Wally thought Bluey was the wisest dog on earth and they
doted on each other.

Fifteen and a half years have now passed and I am sorry to say Wally departed from his life, in his own bed, with his fuzzy blanket and with everyone he loved surrounding him.  The grief has been solid and we are only now coming out of it.  I know, people say "he was just a dog" but we don't have kids, we don't have family in Australia and our animals are our family.
Once Bluey passed away Wally became the "dog of the house" and
he took his responsibilities seriously. He decreed the beach
was the place everyone should hang out the most.

Fortunately we still have Odie and Molly, our other two dogs and our two cats, Uncle Buck and Cousin Eddie but all of us are a little bit lost because Wally seemed to manage the household in his own way and we sure miss him.

We are happy though we were there for him in the end and he never suffered any pain. He went downhill one sunny morning in a matter of hours and we didn't let him linger. This post is for you Wally.
He loved Christmas. Bluey had taught him how to open gifts and he
was good at it.
When the dog's home gave us a litter of very young puppies to foster for 
a few weeks Wally took over and taught them manners. They loved him. That is
our little Odie at the back of the picture on the mat.

The puppies went back to the dog's home when they were 
old enough for adoption.  We kept Odie. Wally accepted Odie from the start and
tolerated his questions, his playfulness and hours of being silly together.
He taught him to eat as much as you can, play with every toy and love the
beach. Get along with others and always be good. You're family now, be respectful.

Wally in his final years. He turned into a grand old master and we won't
ever forget him. His ashes are with us now and one day maybe we'll all 
be together again. 

Saturday, 19 March 2016

A Penguin - ing We Did Go......

Life has been moving along quite well lately. I can't believe how fast the year is moving though. Already we are heading into April. I never remember the days moving this fast before I retired. Remind me.....

I have done some interesting Penguin things over the past couple of weeks.  First I was invited to do my Penguin Publication History talk to a group of Seniors as their guest speaker. This is the third time I have loaded up my suitcase on wheels into the car full of various series of Penguin books.
I figure the seniors will either love this talk to pieces or they will be asleep within ten minutes. I had to laugh as a couple of the men at the back of the room who would not move forward did fall asleep. They obviously weren't ready for this. I had barely started. The women and couple of other men could not get their hands off these books.  

I take a bit of ephemera with me too and I had to keep an eagle eye on everything.  After the talk I let everyone come up and handle the books, see the publications from the Penguin Collector's Society, play with the little orange truck, then I give them each a Penguin postcard to take home from the box of postcards that came out a few years ago.
The interest they show is really heartening.  I do the suspense part of the talk how all of these books are heading into landfill. I build that part up. Then I tell them how I visit all those landfill sites and op shops and rescue them and take them home to live with me.
We spend a bit of time on the stories of the Lane brothers and some of the disputed theories that have recently been published.  I then tell them nobody really knows the truth about the brothers. I don't know if the recent book about the Lane Brothers is sour grapes or otherwise so I give both sides of the story. They get a laugh of how the three brothers used to hold meetings in their bathroom.

They are very interested about the stories of Penguins during WWII. The paper shortages, how books needed to be pulped to get more paper, the lack of dust jackets due to paper shortages.

They enjoyed the bit published on the books to return them to a post office so they could be sent to the soldiers in the front line.  It is fun to paint the picture in their mind of soldiers reading these old books in the trenches while they wait for the action to start up again. 

They loved the King Penguins and exclaimed over the various colours Penguins are published in. They enjoyed the Penguin Handbooks, especially the one about Dogs. (Of course I would take that one with me). 

They ALL exclaim over the small print of the Penguin books and how on earth does anyone read them anymore. We talk about the differences in publishing big vocabulary words and few pictures decades ago and how much bigger the print is, simpler vocabulary and the general dumbing down and looser editing of books. That triggers a lot of discussion.
This group want to come visit my library. I did invite them then came home and told Mr. P we would probably be having a group of about 10 ladies, aged 80 to 93 come to the house for tea, bikkies and a tour through the front room to see all the books. He said he'd go to his friend's farm that day and work.  No guts.

The Cat Centre's Op shop. Lots of crazy cat ladies in here. 

I love the enthusiasm all three groups have shown over these books. I plan the talk to be about 45 minutes, like I said a couple in the back were asleep. But the questions go on and on and I had to stop this group after an hour and a half.  You  might be asking yourself, "I wonder if she takes payment for these talks."  No, I volunteer my time but I must say I have been given a bottle of nice wine for my efforts and Mr. P and I enjoy that later in the day.  
The view from the Margate Tip Shop

Over the past couple of weeks I also took my big scooter out one sunny day and rode to a couple of tip shops to look for books. The Margate tip shop which is south of me about 25 minutes used to just have junk books. There have been staff changes and I was told there are quite a few books now and one case that has a sign on it in scrawled handwriting that states Penguin Books.  Many of those turned out to be more recent ISBN books but I did find a few I didn't have. Also Cracked and Spineless Second Hand Books sent me a Facebook message that said, " Get your butt down here... we have Penguins." That made me laugh. Sure enough he had some nice Penguins in good condition.  I got about 5 of the main series, a couple of Penguin classics and a lovely first Puffin. 

Looking the other direction from the Tip Shop

It has been a fun week for these lovely old books and again I do appreciate the people I meet and the experiences I have had by collecting these.  It continues to be great fun even after so many years. 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Catching Up A Bit

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler
Translated Fiction: German
Our Fuller's Book store Reading Group read and discussed this book this month.  I see today it has made it to the Man Booker Long List for 2016. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I found it simply wonderful.
The writing is exquiste and many paragraphs I reread. It is only 150 pages. It really shows the skill of the writer to tell one man's life in that amount of space. There are no wasted words. Unlike a lot of contemporary books it is tightly edited. It really was a joy to read.
The book was originally published in German. The translation was conducted by Charlotte Collins. 
When I am not buying books at Fullers, Cousin Eddie and I
are playing with their bags.
It is the story of Andreas who lived his whole life in the  Austrian Alps. He had a rough childhood, grew up working for a cable car development company in his working years. Married and there was joy and tragedy in his life. I don't want to say much about it because I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone.  The mountain plays as much of a character as do the characters. It is definitely a character directed book. People really cared about Andreas. He was an extremely likeable character and the reader feels everything he does. The time period is between WWI and WWII. Happy reading.
Playing with gum leaves in Photoshop.
Changing their colour. 
I haven't been blogging much. I have several things to catch up on. Mr. Penguin had hip replacement surgery. As he is on crutches for 4 weeks and hasn't been overly ambulatory I have been doing a lot of his jobs while he recovers. Our old 15 year old dog had to have surgery as well as we thought a tooth was broken. His gums were infected and the tooth looked like it had broken off to both the vet and me. But luckily it wasn't though the gums needed attention.  We were worried about how he would cope with a general anesthetic.
The writing group I  belong to has been compiling papers from 2015 to put into a published book for our members and that has taken a fair bit of typing, culling and organising.
The Play Reading class has started again for Term I and we are reading Irish plays this term. More on that later.
Wally came through his surgery okay. He is 15 1/2 years old.
I finished my Photoshop course and my Photography class and I am trying to consolidate some of that so I don't forget it all. I must post up some of my photographs before long.  
I have discovered Bullet Journalling and loving it. There are lots of examples on Instagram and the nickname for it is BuJo.  Google it to see how much fun it is.
Hopefully my Bujo journal will organise me to a finely organised human being. haha. But it is fun.
A bit more sorting of the Penguin Library, new finds to catalogue and photograph and another public presentation is happening tomorrow morning. I have my suitcase with the wheels full of various Penguins from different series to display for the School for Seniors on the other side of the river. I will try to get some photos so I can share it with you.
I need to take a few of the things I've been doing, break them down into smaller activities and then I should be able to post about them.
Also I might add it has been summer here and the weather in Tasmania has been glorious so lots of bike riding has been happening. One weekend we completed a 900 km ride over three days. That had me crawling for my bed once it ended.
Oh well, what is life, if not for lots of activities that are fun but maybe cause one to be a bit discombobulated over a few days, weeks or months. 
I'll scatter a few photos through this post to liven it up a bit. I look forward to hearing what others have been up to. I have been reading your blogs. All the ones on my blog list in my blog as well as quite a few new ones. Just not commenting a lot. I do so enjoy all of them. 
I'll be in touch again, soon. Promise.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Weekend Wrap Up

Putting the bikes to sleep after a long day.
Okay, it's really Monday here but it is still a weekend in other parts of the world (Hawaii?) so I can hang on to its tail.

This past week was busy but all I said would happen did, plus more.  I did do the 900 km (540 mile) bike ride last weekend. We took three days and it was blazing hot especially wearing all that protective gear (that the silly people in the rest of the world don't/won't wear). It was filled with adventure. We had two bikes fall over in the petrol station, one was being filled up and petrol was spilling out of it very quickly until several men jumped on it and hoisted it up. I got out of the way.

Another man in our group was riding just a bit too fast (the ego of some 70 year old men is not much different than some of their 20 year old counterparts). He slipped off the edge of road, over corrected and flew through the air to the other side, completing a 180 degree spin and landed in a ditch opposite wrapped up in barbed wire. A horse stood nearby thinking this was a bit crazy.  (By the way. you motorbike riders in the USA who think helmets are a violation of  your civil liberties....yeah right.) I have had two friends in serious accidents and it was only their armour and helmets that saved their lives and both are happily riding again. But as this blog is not political in anyway (you fools) I digress.

Smoke along the west coast from the massive bush fires here prevented us from going into the wilderness areas on the Sunday but six of us lady bikers (all geared up) managed to get to two markets and a lovely bike show.  We had a great time even if we sweltered in the heat.  The cold beer and showers at the end of the day were only appreciated more.

Then I pretty much crashed (oops no pun intended - on the couch) on the Tuesday after the 400 km ride home.  Our roads are not straight divided highways either. They are up and down mountains and they often turn back onto themselves so 900 km here is not at all like an interstate although great fun I might add.

This week saw me leave the house only for groceries, a dinner out with friends and reading three books.  I have not read three books in one week in ages and I must say I really got the momentum going.

Here is the information about the books.

1.  The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman saw the Penguin and I living on a small island with Tom and Isabelle, off the coast of southwest Western Australia.  We really enjoyed this book but what a dilemma they faced. They are a young couple. Tom manages the light house and I really found the information about the structure and record keeping of the light house interesting. I could see the fountain pen writing in all the details into the log with a sharpened nib. The year was just after WWI.

Isabella wanted a family so bad but after three miscarriages and still births hope was fading. Then one day a dinghy washes up to shore. In it is a man who is deceased and a baby who is crying. Yes, the baby is very much alive. Well, I don't need to tell you what happens next. Isabelle is ecstatic and wants to raise the little girl as their own as she has just lost her baby and no one knows yet.  Tom is much more hesitant. He feels guilt from the death of his brothers and mates in WWI and now feels guilt over this decision. He doesn't know if the baby has a mother who is grieving or did she die overboard?

They decide to adopt the baby and the rest of the book are the consequences of that decision.  Don't worry I won't give away any spoilers but they do discover there is a woman who is grieving the loss of her Austrian husband and child. The town's people harassed him endlessly believing he was a German and he jumped into a dinghy with his daughter and rowed away to get some space.

What would you do after raising this child in isolated bliss on the island when you find out there is a mother pining for her child and husband who has no idea what happened to them?  I kept going back and forth on what I thought they should do. This book is being discussed at our book group in another week or two and I can't wait to see what others think.

2. The next book was a debut crime book by Ruth Ware. It is excellent. No gore, nothing too graphic but a monster of a mystery. I thought I had it worked out but I didn't, though the ending did not surprise me. In A Dark Wood is the name of it.  The Penguin and I attended a Hen Party in the middle of nowhere in a very modern glass house in the English countryside. It has no curtains because it sets out in the country with only very dark forest around it. It is winter. Clare is having her Hen Party weekend there organised by a very needy friend of Clare.   Flo is really disturbed. She even dresses like Clare. Nina a doctor and the protagonist, Nora,  gets an email to attend this Hen party. She has not seen Clare since ten years previously and can not figure out why she is invited. The others at the party are Tom, a gay man happily married to his partner; Melanie who has a six month old infant at home and she is leaving him for the first time. So we have these six people. Nina and Nora decide that if each other goes to this weekend then they will go together.

It gets really creepy after that. Flo seems quite normal but then you see how haywire she starts to go.
The Penguin and I sat out in the car and watched the rest of the book because it was just a bit scary. But we did want to see what happens.  This is a great mystery.

It starts as Nora wakes up in the hospital and is trying to remember what has happened. She over hears the police guard talking at the hospital door about it "is definitely a murder." Why does she have a police guard and why is she in the hospital.  The characters are really well developed. I had really strong feelings about the ones I liked and didn't and I could not read this book fast enough. In fact I spent yesterday reading this book in one (almost- had to stop for dinner) sitting. 338 pages in one sitting. I even read it while the local news was on. It is psychological and not gory so a safe read for those who don't like graphic stuff.

3. The third book I read is also for my book club meeting coming up. It is the Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett.  I really enjoy his writing and his sense of humour. The book is only 100 pages long and as my husband is working on a friend's farm today, the dogs were quiet as it's cool and rainy out, I read it in the bath.  What a pleasant little book. The Penguin took a nap but I told him about it and he thought it was something he would really like. I hadn't realised it is a true story.

Alan Bennett has an elderly street type, homeless? almost; woman hoarder living in a van on his property. (You grammar Nazi's ignore that last sentence structure).  She stays there for a number of years and it is interesting as to how he goes about his normal business with such eccentricity outside his window. As he writes at his table he can see her dilapidated van. She is a true character and I really liked her.  The main reason that our book club chose this book is the film begins with Maggie Smith here in March and we're all going to see it.  I believe we're scheduled for the 15th of the month.  I am really looking forward to it.

It amazes me how cruel some people can be to the older less fortunate people in our world yet the goodness shown by others is incredibly heartfelt.  You see both sides of the human race in this small book.  I like to think I am in the latter category. I never pass a homeless person on the street without making eye contact and smiling at them. If I can help them with food or simply kindness in the  moment I will. I am not silly enough to know I can give them all money and a better life. But I do what I can.
Just recognising that they are people and need to be treated with respect is all we should do minimally.  It is only chance that we are not in their shoes.

Well, my goodness, aren't I doing a lot of pontificating today.  I love that word. I was writing an email to my friend earlier and I used it there. I challenged her to use that word in her vocabulary today.  It's good to pontificate sometimes.

What are you reading this week and also what issues do you pontificate about?

May the Penguin watch over all of us.