This morning, when I saw the ocean, I remembered how excited we used to be to see the sea – the Indian Ocean. The long, long drive of over 2,600kms (1,600 miles) from the farm in Zimbabwe, south to Fish Hoek near Cape Town. Some years there were four children in the back seat. My mother would be in the front next to my father who did all the driving. This meant the car was quite squashy. Sometimes one of us was allowed to sit in front. The journey took three or four days because, not only was it a long journey, but not all the roads were sealed.
The first overnight stop would be in Louis Trichardt (now called Makhado), not far from Beit Bridge – the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa. I can’t really remember the other stops, although we usually stayed in the same places each trip. I do remember Parys because, apparently, that is where I managed to push over a massive wardrobe looking for Father Christmas. The crash was heard throughout the old hotel. Of course, my parents came running. Thinking I was in, or under, the wardrobe, they struggled to lift it. I was hiding under the bed knowing I was in deep trouble. Fortunately, I’ve forgotten what happened next, I was only about five years old.
If he could, Dad would bypass Johannesburg but would stop in to see friends in Pretoria.
Once we were in the Western Cape, past the surreal landscapes in the Karoo, we would start to recognise the landmarks. The countdown had begun. The Hex River Pass; De Doorns in the Valley of the Vines (do you remember the book by Joy Packer?) then Paarl, named for the huge pearl-shaped rock above the town, meant we were not far off. We were never allowed to climb around on Paarl Rock. There was the sad story of a young boy who slipped down in one of the fissures in the rock and could not be saved. How true it is I don’t know.
Coming from a landlocked country, the ocean was the most wonderful thing for us. The first view was cause for much shouting! “I saw the sea first!” But it was usually Mum or Dad who saw it first.
All my life I wanted to live within sight or sound of the sea and now I do. Yes, still the Indian Ocean but on the Australian side. I live walking distance to the beach and can hear the breaking waves when the wind is in the right direction.
Ring neck parrots are also called‘twenty eights’ because their excited call sounds like ‘vingt-huit’ – French for 28. I don’t think it does, but then again what do I know.
The first time I saw one of these birds we had just crossed the Nullarbor from East to West in our little blue Ford Laser. The hatchback loaded up with all our worldly goods. The stuff you carry when you migrate between countries for whatever reason.
“Stop the car!” I yelled out when I spotted the parrot. Roland was concerned, “What’s the matter?” “That bird, sitting by the side of the road, it’s emerald green.” And so they are! Bright green. I still, after all these years, get a thrill when I see them, even when a flock of them decimate the apricots on our tree.
To be honest, I did not want to read this book and I did not want to write this review. However … it was the last book I had to read while our library was closed (due to Covid 19). I did start a few times before I buckled down and read the whole book.
In Scratched, Elizabeth Tallent has exposed herself with such intimacy and candour it is difficult to read more than a few pages at a time. There is complexity in the autobiography that makes for demanding reading. Occasionally, I found myself asking, ‘who was she married to then?’ or, ‘when did her mother allow her back into the family?’ Things like that. Yes, her story advances but in a turned way – linear it is not! So, my usual (bad) habit of reading a book backwards didn’t work at all.
In the event, I had a clear view of Elizabeth Tallent: her physical appearance, her complete desire for perfectionism – to the detriment of her happiness for much of her life, and that she sees as ‘home’. Her personal narrative of depression made me weep. Her experience of psychoanalysis, and how she bares her soul right there.
I discover, on finishing the book, that, if I could write like her I would write a lot more than I do.
At first I thought there were echoes of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts. In fact it is nothing like Fermor’s book. Benjamin Myers uses copious amounts of adjectives and likes to show off his expansive vocabulary. Sometimes the writing verges on purple prose, “It was a dark and stormy night …” and this nearly put me off reading past the first few chapters. Nevertheless, I persisted and I’m glad I did.
This story of a young man from the coal mining town of Durham is a gentle read. Robert sets out on his travels and finds that post-war England is more than the grimy, soot covered home he’s always known.
My call is that this is a good book to read on holiday.
One thing I do know is that I will have to update MSWord sooner or later. I keep getting reminded that mine is out of date. They’re always thinking of ways to do something new, and being on a Mac, I will have to buy the new edition.
This has been a cold winter. I don’t know if it is because I’m getting older but the winters seem to be getting colder. Here is a photo of the winter ocean at Falcon Bay. I think it looks like molten lead. Mind you, today was a beautiful day and I was able to soak up the sunlight.
Dr Michael Mosley is a motivated and professional health practitioner. In this book he draws on scientific research to support dietary suggestions for those with diabetes mellitus. Therefore, the underlying trope is to improve health for those who have tried many other means of solving this and other health problems. His own experience with Type 2 diabetes (and pre-diabetes) set him on the path to discover ways to improve the prognosis. On the way, he uncovers some interesting (and innovative) science regarding dementia, PCOS, hypertension, and other diseases so prevalent in the industrial world and modern society.
Mosley’s writing is informal but every claim he makes is backed up by real science.
The recipe section is comprehensive with some illustrations to show the reader what “800 calories” looks like on the plate.
The story of Káre Gíslason’s search for identity segues with the Viking sagas of Iceland. Instead of the vicious and horrifying physical violence that underpins the Viking culture, Gíslason’s personal saga is psychological. The impact of his father’s denial of him as his son haunts him. Richard Fidler accompanies Gíslason to Iceland, and motivates him to take steps to ascertain his Icelandic identity.
The Icelandic sagas are there, told in the context of the places the authors visited. I found the quantity of characters and their names confusing. I had to resort to keeping a list. Many of the names are similar, many starting with ‘Thor’ as in Thórd Sturluson, Thórdís Snorradóttir, Thorfinn, Thorgerd, Thorgrim, and so on and so forth. There is a list at the beginning of the book that is helpful.
My main issue with this book are the black and white illustrations. Really, they could be omitted without disadvantaging the book in any way. Imagine, if you will, the blurred CCTV pictures of hooded criminals with the Police caption, “Have you seen this person?” Well, that is the quality of most of the black and white photos in the book. Pathetic. The colour plates are reasonable but I’m not sure what they pertain to – thereby irrelevant.
I finished Spinning Silver last week. I can’t bring myself to take it back to the library just yet. Such a wonderful story, so well written. There are a lot of characters and sometimes I was a bit confused as to who did what to whom – but I puzzled it out in the end!
Naomi Novik is an amazing storyteller. I’m not sure how she keeps track of all the plot lines. Ursula K. Le Guin says of Naomi Novik that her writing is “vividly believable”. I don’t know if she’s talking about this book Spinning Silver in particular or another title – it doesn’t matter because it is true of this book and also Uprooted.
I would recommend Spinning Silver to any reader who enjoys fantasy. So good.