Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Days 1 and 2 in Sydney


Excuse the crumbs, I am eating a wagon wheel I picked up from the bakery down the road.  I have just returned from the Opening Address with Kate Tempest at the Sydney Writer's Festival. The Roslyn Packer theatre was sold out with people looking forward to this event.

The opening of the Sydney Writer's Festival, like most openings in Australia was started with acknowledgement of the true owners of the land. Then a young Aboriginal man played a new piece he composed for the didgeridoo. It was a sort of tribute to the cockatoos, the kookaburras and other fauna of this region of Australia.

Then of course a politician had to come on board. I thought it was quite entertaining. This theatre was packed with probably the most avid readers of the country and most would be into quality literature. The pollie talked of bibliotherapy which seems to be a catch phrase lately.  He mentioned the value of reading and the books that inspire him, those he enjoys. I heard the names Dan Brown and James Patterson. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind what people read but knowing this audience I am sure there were more than a few book snobs amongst it. Because once he left the stage and the facilitator came back on the stage she and the audience erupted into laughter. I think it had something to him naming airport reads and nothing of serious quality. Knowing some of the Australian readers I am sure the politician thinks we are just some little lady book worms who read gentle fiction. He obviously hasn't read A Little Life.  

Kate Tempest is a young, (30) British poet, playwright and performer who entertained us with her poetry. She believes in story telling and the importance of literature. Her poem encourages everyone to take care of others. Forego greed, busyness, selfies, craziness and see what the reality of life that is around us. She is deeper than deep, a serious story teller with great humour thrown in. I was not familiar with her and her latest book is now out. It is called The Bricks that Built the House. It is her first novel. I really enjoyed her presentation and she gave us all lots to think of.


I arrived in Sydney yesterday and the first thing I did was visit the large
Kinokuniya book store. I love the books and all of the Japanese stationery in this store.  I also visited a large camera shop to upgrade my camera. I am going to concentrate on writers, books and photography this week.


After that I treated myself to lunch in a lovely Japanese restaurant. I am still not certain what all of it was but I loved it. I love tasting new food. I will eat almost anything, especially when I am hungry.

Last night I saw the play produced by the Sydney Theatre Company of Hay Fever, written by Noel Coward. It was being held in the drama theatre of the Sydney Opera House. Any excuse to go into this exquisite building. I love this place. The play was hilariously funny. As I booked at the last moment I could only get a seat in the middle of the very front row. I felt as though I were on the stage as the play progressed. I could see crows feet around the actor's eyes as I was that close.


I had to laugh as in Hobart I often attend things on my own. I easily chat to people on either side of me and never feel lonely. Hobart audiences are always friendly. Last night I sat beside a Sydneysider of middle age.  I said Hello to her. She adjusted herself in her chair with her back to me. It was quite obvious. The woman on my other side was much friendlier. When the intermission came I wanted to ask this woman if she was enjoying herself. That is always a good way to start a conversation. I was alone so once again I tried to get contact but she never shifted. Her back was as far to me as she could possibly get it the entire time.

"What!"  "Are you too rich or something to speak to me." I thought. Then I suppressed a giggle as it could not have been that. After all we didn't have the best seats in the house. We had to look up, like a baby bird just to see the floor of the stage.  Maybe she was just shy.  Anyway I was completely entertained trying to get her eye.

Today was a hot day and I had planned to go to the zoo before the Writer's Festival opening this evening. It was too hot for the zoo so instead I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art at the wharf. I walked around the Rocks area, which is the oldest area of Sydney and has art galleries and expensive shops. I window shopped and shared my cinnamon toast and cappuccino with a one legged pigeon.

Then I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the grass down at the Harbour photographing people. I got some great shots.  There was one shot I must share with you when I download my film. It was a couple of middle aged people eating an ice cream cone. No big deal but beside them a busker was getting dressed for his performance as a stationary tree. He was putting on clothes covered in branches and leaves and it was a huge outfit. The couple beside him never once looked at him. They just sat licking their ice cream.  How could they miss him!? So comical.

Tomorrow evening I have another presentation to attend and then Wednesday, Thursday and Friday picks up a bit more. I signed up for 8 sessions. So as I have all day on my own tomorrow I have booked a tour that goes from 8 am to 6 pm to the Blue Mountains. I have not been to the Blue Mountains before so it might be fun. In any case as there are 50 other tourists on this bus I should get some good pictures of people doing things.

What a busy couple of days.  I'll add more tomorrow if I can find the energy.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Five Days in Sydney and A Festival.

Tomorrow morning I am off to Syydney, crossing the big ditch that separates Tasmania from the mainland. I am attending the Sydney Writer's Festival. I have left time though to visit my favourite second hand bookstores, see a play at the Opera House and work on my photography.

Since I lost my wonderful old dog Wally, I have been quite flat and teary. However after a couple of weeks we did adopt a small black cat from the Cat Centre. Tassie always has a glut of cats needing homes. We had a space available and Cousin Eddie, our tabby, needed a playmate to stop him harrassing our older cat, Uncle Buck.  Enter Griswald, or Grizzy for short. He is beautiful, sweet natured and cheeky. We love him.

Life is getting back to normal and I hope to talk to you a bit more as I find I miss your company when I don't write.

I have been reading. Right now it's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I thought I would like it more than I do. The cover was promising and the title sounds old fashioned. However I do get annoyed with the characters. Our book club read is Cold Comfort Farm which I have read and loved. Rather than read it again I am listening to the play that I downloaded on Audible.com. I am thoroughly enjoying that.

I continue to study Photoshop tutorials and attended a great workshop by an Adobe rep at our Photographic club.

It's been too windy to do much scooter riding and has poured with rain which we really need as we have been having drought conditions here.

I finally saw the film, The Lady in the Van which I enjoyed, though I love Maggie Smith. I enjoyed the movie more than the book which is unusual for most book related films I see.

I have discovered Flow magazine from the Netherlands and I love the articles, paper, stationery and art work within its covers. It's a little pricey but I do devour it. It is one of those publications that has little surprises throughout and makes me happy.

I am looking forward to going into Tasmania's winter. The colours here in the winter are beautiful, not too much snow and quite a bit of sun makes this island state a fantasyland.

I hope to get online to tell you about what goes on in Sydney and include some pictures over the next few days. After all the Penguin is happiest when reading and travelling. Stay tuned and here is a picture of Grizzy I put together in Photoshop. Isn't he beautiful.


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.