Monday, 30 April 2012

What Can I Possibly Read at Hogarth Falls??

Yes, my sister and I are still on the road, though I think tonight may be the last night. In keeping with making sure I read something every day I had to be a bit more creative.

Enter Hogarth Falls on the wild west coast of Tasmania.  We left Strahan heading for Cradle Mountain. We had gone less than one km when my sister saw the sign Hogarth Falls and said, "let's' walk there." Being extremely hesitant as I was keen to be on the road I agreed.  The sign said the return walk was only 45 minutes.

Nothing is only 45 minutes where the two of us are concerned. The ' short' walk to Hogarth Falls turned into at least 90 minutes as we became completely absorbed in the fabulous Tasmanian scenery. What was really nice is that the local school children had become involved in the forest descriptions with their versions of the plant descriptions and their matching illustrations.  They were utterly charming.

I thought, " Right, this is as good as a book and I will read while I walk and enjoy the illustrations worthy of any children's book.

Unfortunately (for photographic purposes) the photos were safely protected behind glass so there is a bit of glare but never mind, we all get the gist of it.

The things I learned from today's readings.
** The man ferns are so ancient in the forest that dinosaurs once nibbled them.  Now only the Rosella parrots chew on them.
**Dogwood trees are the first to replenish themselves after a fire.
**Fossilized fern spores have been found to be more than 150 million years old. (I don't know about you,  
    but I cannot comprehend earth that long ago)
**The fish bone water fern has leaves that look like fish skeletons.
**The beautiful superb blue fairy wrens are found in the forest. (in fact we saw several of them)

No one knows for sure why Hogarth falls was such  named, however there are many theories, none of them ever confirmed. (Coturtesy of Parks and Wildlife)

The only thing I know for sure is that this part of the world must be the most beautiful place anywhere a person can visit. The forests are  magnificent.   

One other thing I remembered is ..... I enjoy children's art work very  much.

Travellin Penguin bird
 watches at Hogarth Falls

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Travellin' Penguin Travel Read- Special Issue

Is someone there?
Quite frequently Travellin' Penguin leaves his comfortable habitat to visit another place. Today he is travelling with a relative around Tasmania. 

When in this mode he must report on a read that is found along the way. The first time this happened was when he went camping at Wyatinah on a motorbike trip. 

Tasmanian Tiger by E Guiler &
Phillippe Godard
Yesterday we drove to Strahan which is in a more remote part of Tasmania on the west coast. It is a small fishing village and many tourists come here to ride on the Gordon River cruise's day trip aboard the Lady Franklin II to Sarah Island.

Sarah Island was where many of the first convicts transported to Tasmania ended up in the 1830's. They had one set of clothes as they worked waist deep in freezing water building the first Huon pine jetty. They then spent the rest of their time in their soggy clothes in miserable conditions amidst gale force winds.

Cave art from tens of thousands of years ago have been found
all around Australia from the Aboriginal people.

Sarah Island  lived up to its name today with everyone huddled in slightly warmer but still chilly temperatures with rain and wind whipping around us. People stood like plastic bags in their makeshift ponchos from the boat, blowing and billowing while listening to a riveting tale told by the female guide who gave such life to the story we all forgot about the weather. It was fun!

On board the boat I perused the library the guide mentioned in her introductory speech.  She told us how to put on our life jacket, where the life boat is hidden and informed us there is a library of books to borrow whilst on board.

I picked up the most well worn book on the bench top of books. It was the story of the Tasmanian Thylacine, better known as the Tassie Tiger that is now extinct...........or is it?  The authors of the book believe it is.

However locals in some of the wilder areas of Tasmania swear it still exists and they have stories to prove it. However a true local would never reveal where they saw it. The Tassie Tiger is too sacred to reveal to the outside world. We all like to believe that perhaps in some remote rainforest where no man has ever stepped lives a family of these most unusual carnivores and that man did not wipe them out in their fear and greed of such a wonderfully magic animal.

It continually amazes me how Australia has records going back more than 60,000 years related to the Aboriginal population living here including all of the magnificent animals and yet white humans wiped out most of it in only 200 years. Really makes one think.

The book's cover is extremely faded from lying in the sun on the boat and the spine has come loose from its pages. Many have come before me to scour through the poetry, narrative and photos within this lovely informative book.  However I passed quickly over the photos of the hunting season on these animals.

 There are many myths and much folklore around these wonderful animals. I have also lived here long enough now that if I ever see a Tassie Tiger on some of the more remote roads I travel on I would never reveal its location either.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Muriel Spark Penguin Book Covers by Terrence Greer

Penguin No. 2235 published 1965
I thought I would share these old Penguin Muriel Spark covers. I really enjoy the contrast of pink, blue and orange on the front cover of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The cover was illustrated by Terrence Greer.

Penguin No. 1912 published  1963
The Go-Away Bird and Other stories has a delightful little bird in black ink and as I love birds so much I enjoy this cover also by Terrence Greer. The cover to the Bachelors seems to sum up the book and it is interesting how so many of Greer's characters resemble each other so much in the various illustrations completed.

Penguin No. 1910 published 1963

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Enjoy Muriel Spark week

As my sister is visiting and we are touring Tasmania and very busy having fun I read and reviewed my Muriel Spark book, The Comforters earlier last month. I didn't want to miss out. I am currently reading The Bachelors but it is not likely to be finished this week. I am enjoying all of the other postings of Muriel Spark happening out there through Simon's blog Stuck in a Book.

Enjoy your week. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Alice in Wonderland in the Trees

Travellin'Penguin discovers
the Mad  Hatter

Oh My!
While my sister is visiting me for 3 weeks from California I am not able to do a lot of reading but keeping in line with the book theme I thought I would share the Alice in Wonderland carvings we came across.
We had driven south in the car, stopping at Tip Shops, Op shops, going down back roads to get photos of kookaburras, finally ending up at a sheep farm and sampling beautiful Tasmanian ewe cheese with a mild pinot dip whilst settling down outdoors on the verandah to enjoy a coffee and a hot chocolate.

On the way back to Hobart my sister wanted me to pull over on a hill overlooking the marina at Kettering below so she could get a photo of the yachts parked below as well as Bruny Island in the background. There is a hotel at the top of the hill with a long drive of trees. We drove to the pub at the top and pulled over under the trees to get our photo.
Tea anyone?

Off With Their Heads
As we got out of the car we noticed the short tree limbs that had previously been cut off had been carved into Alice in Wonderland characters.  They were quite good if a little old.  It was one of those experiences one has when they travel and find something
completely different.

I am happy to share the carvings with people as they are quite clever. However once photographed we searched long and hard for the Cheshire cat but sadly did not find it.

We have no idea when these carvings were completed and why the Cheshire cat is not amongst them but certainly enjoyed the other ones.

Writings on this blog will not get back to any normal regularity for at least another couple of weeks especially related to Penguin books however I may find some other literary gems as we travel around Tasmania in the car next week searching out the odd and unique.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

It is a beautiful autumn day in Tasmania today and predictions are that we will have quite a few more days like this.  So what does one do on a day like today? One goes Penguin Hunting.  As I had quite a few errands to run today I headed into town.  Finished my real jobs (posting a letter, having coffee with a friend) and then headed to three of my favourite haunts.

First stop was the Red Cross bookshop.  I read on a travel blog that a particular traveller thought this shop is the best book store in the southern hemisphere.  I don't know if I would agree with that but it is very nice and turn over is quick. Also the elderly women volunteers are great fun to listen to. They really do have the problems of the world solved and their laughter is quite infectious at times, that is when they aren't gossiping about the volunteer that didn't show up today.

Three lovely first published Penguin classics in excellent condition.
I am always able to find Penguins and they are seldom over $2.00 each, generally only $1.00.  Next on my journey was the Vinnie's shop.  I had some things to drop off as I am trying to do a big clean of my library/Penguin room before my sister arrives Monday from California and we need to turn it into a temporary bedroom.   There were slim pickings today there but the book I did find was only 20 cents so can't complain about that. Also had a chat to a good friend who works there.

Three more titles I didn't have in first published. 

Then off to the Collectables shop. I always get twitchy in this place because the inventory is stuff rescued from landfill and the tip shop that is on site at the landfill in South Hobart.  Supposedly anything of value (no idea of their criteria used) is too good for the Tip Shop. Instead some 'expert' bags it up and hauls it into the city centre to the "Collectables" shop. At least they have not progressed to calling it "Antique" shop.  Everything is overpriced but if you are not afraid to speak up deals can be done.  I love to place a stack of books on the counter, tell them what I will pay and casually mention that I'm happy to take it for that price or otherwise they can take them all back upstairs and reshelve them.  It always works and many of the workers there think it is all just a bunch of junk anyway and are happy to see the back of it.

I have even been known to take a pencil eraser with me, rub out the ridiculous price and tell them, "Sorry I don't see a price in this, could you please tell me how much it is?" Now mind you I've only done that twice but the markdown is quite significant.

I had to laugh as previously they had the book Marching on Tanga (Penguin) marked up to $20.00 because they told me how rare it was. "Why is it rare? " I asked.  "Because it is printed in an orange cover and Penguin should have printed it in a blue cover."  I looked at this absolutely filthy, smelly book, all pages very browned, tears and writing all over it and said "I think it should be a cerise one as it is a travel and adventure book. Blue is biography"  

My copy of  Marching on Tanga
 in My Library Thing
"Whatever" the man replied, "It is still rare".  Upon checking with my VIP penguin source in the Penguin Collector's Society he told me it is not rare as just as many were published as the others at the time. Yes there is a mistaken cover colour but the book itself is not rare.

"Back I went to explain this to them, just to be ornery I think as I already had a good copy of it"  Once again, "Whatever. "  A very common reply.  I then forgot about it.  Penguin collectors can be so pedantic!

Visiting today I came across several Penguins, fortunately I already had all of them and there in the midst of them all, out of the glass case they had kept it in, was Tanga on the shelf.

Marked down from $20.00 to only 50 cents.  I laughed out loud and left it there.  The copy is in such a very poor condition any collector would have to be absolutely desperate to even pay 50 cents for it. So it remains there for anyone who may like a copy of it.

My find of the day was at the Red Cross shop. Not only a lovely old King Penguin entitled Ackerman's Cambridge, No 59 published in 1951 with a dust jacket but a copy of Kangaroo Tales: Australian Stories for Children.

It is a first published Australian Puffin, No. AU2 and published in 1963. There is a short inscription to Rupert from "Grandfra" Fay dated 7-6-63. I don't think Rupert ever looked at it because it is as new as it once was. Only $1.00. I had not realised there were Australian Puffin books as I have never come across one so I was most excited to find one in such a great condition. I wonder where Rupert is now.

Finally I was home bound again to put the beautiful copies of books that I did find up for display and hopefully the rest of the afternoon can be spent reading.  Books are so much fun.

p.s. to   apenguinaweek -  one of the books I bought is replacing a reprint I had so will see if you need it and send it on if you do...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

No spoilers here......

Tasmania has had a very cold, blustery Easter weekend and there has been nothing to do except to find a very good book and curl up with it surrounded by hot drinks,  fuzzy dogs, a cat and a warm doona.

Fortunately I had a good library haul and have several TBR books within arm's reach.  I read an excellent review on another blog of Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth.  The blurb on the front cover states , A true story of the East End in the 1950's.  This is the book I chose to sit down with and began reading.

Once I began this book I could not put it down.  I could say the characters are real, of course, because it is a non fiction book but the stories of the families living in London at that time amidst poverty were incredibly tough yet  harrowing.  I grew up reading many books of American immigrants living in New York  in the early 1900's and I always enjoyed learning about their lives of coming to America.  I am not sure if those books had been censored and cleaned up a bit as they seemed to have happy endings. 

I was not prepared for the conditions the people in this book endured.  

The stories of the inhabitants in the  condemned dockside tenements next to bomb craters  in the east end in 1950's London ranged from hilarious to absolutely dire. 
The author's descriptions of the nuns she lived with in the convent where she trained were interesting and I grew quite attached to all of the nurses and the nuns in particular.

Sister Evangelina who presented as a very difficult dour old nurse was my favourite. The way her personality changed when she was with her patients and how she got onside with them was fascinating and often hilarious.  She was strictly a no nonsense type of person so the following description of how she dealt with a very old difficult mentally ill woman who lived in a condemned property with no roof was surprising to say the least.  Jen had been unable to get any response from Mrs Jenkins at all so she asked for Sister Evangelina's help.

Sister Evangelina took over the case;

"You're a tiresome old lady, we'll see what this does." Slowly she leaned over Mrs Jenkins and as she bent down she let out the most enormous fart. It rumbled on and on and just as I thought it had stopped it started all over again, in a higher key. I had never been so shocked in all my life.

Mrs Jenkins sat upright in her chair. Sister Evangelina called out; "Which way did it go, Nurse? Don't let it get out. It's over there by the door- catch it! Now it's by the window- get hold of it quick."

A throaty chuckle came from the armchair. "Cor that's better," said Sister Evangelina happily; "Nothing like a good fart to clear the system. Makes you feel ten years younger, eh, Mother Jenkins?"

The bundle of clothes shook, and the throaty chuckle developed into a real belly laugh. Mrs. Jenkins, who had never been heard to speak apart from obsessive questions about babies, laughed until the tears ran down her face.

" Quick! Under the chair. The cat's go' it. ge' it off him quick, e'll be sick."

The story of old Mrs Jenkins who Jen originally was repulsed by because of her mental health habits, her poverty and dirtiness was heartbreaking. Sister Evangelina taught her how to really know and understand this amazing woman and the absolute incredible tragedy she had experienced whilst living in the workhouse for 19 years. The stories that evolved after Sister Evangelina's first visit were hard to imagine. 

Travellin'  Penguin
I have never thought of myself as a sheltered  or naive person but the stories in this book truly opened my eyes to a way of life I could not comprehend.  

Never again will I complain about anything.  I think someone could pull my fingernails out and I would be grateful that I only had to experience that and not the many travesties the women, children and men experienced simply trying to survive at this time in this place. 

I will never understand how society could have allowed some of the practises it did especially in the workhouses where children were separated from their parents and husbands from wives, quite often,  never to be seen again.

The student nurses also had some great times when they were off duty. One weekend had  a small group of them deciding late one night to get the communal car that belonged to friends, " Lady Chatterley" and drive it to Brighton to swim at midnight. This after an evening of eating , drinking and partying. 

"Lady Chatterley was not a family car, but an obsolete 1920's London taxi. She was magnificent and huge, and on occasion actually achieved a speed of forty mph. The engine had to be coaxed into life with a strange starting handle, inserted beneath the elegant radiator. Considerable muscle power was needed and the boys usually took it in turns to do the cranking. 

The front bonnet opened like two huge beetle wings when it was required to get at the engine and four majestic coach lanps shone on either side of the fluted radiator. There were running boards from front to back. The wheels were spoked. The capacious interior smelled of the best leather upholstery, polished wood and brass. 

She was their pride and joy. The boys garaged her somewhere in Marylebone and spent all their spare time coaxing her frail old engine into life, and titivating her majestic body. 

But there was still more to Lady Chatterley. Chimney pots had been added and flower boxes attached. The windows were curtained, which meant that the driver couldn't see out of the rear window, but noone bothered about little things like that. The car also boasted brass door knockers and letter boxes. 

Her name was painted in gold across the front, and a notice at the rear read: DON'T LAUGH, MADAM, YOUR DAUGHTER MAY BE INSIDE.

...a crowd of about 15 climbed into Lady Chatterley and she set off amid cheers, at a steady 25 mph down Marylebone High Street"

I won't divulge any other anecdotes in this book because it is one that truly unravels as one reads it. I do guarantee though that one minute you will be laughing and the next big tears will roll down your face and if someone interrupts you in the middle of it you might want to throw a cushion at them and tell them to go away.

The author is a genius at describing her many memories in a direct yet very personable, compassionate way. She truly respected her clients and no matter what their circumstances she appeared able to rise to any occasion to deal with them.

Evidently the BBC is producing this as a series 2012.
Will be awhile before it gets to Australia
These nurses really did live and work on another plane.  The words angels and saints may be cliched but I cannot think of any other way to describe them. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

PATROL by Philip MacDonald - Penguin No 13 - 1935

Patrol by Philip MacDonald: originally published in 1927.

I have not read anything by Philip MacDonald so when I selected to read the book Patrol  I came at it with enthusiastic curiosity.

Mr. MacDonald wrote a long list of books, screenplays in Hollywood, even writing for Alfred Hitchcock at one time.  His main genre was thrillers and suspense.  He wrote under several different names, was married to a writer (F. Ruth Howard)  and spent his spare time breeding Great Danes. 

He had served in World War I stationed in Mesopotamia, assigned to the cavalry.
Patrol also known as The Lost Patrol was published in 1927. It is about a small group of men stationed in a North African desert during WW I. 

The book begins immediately with the patrol’s leader being killed in battle. Suddenly there is a small group of men stranded in the desert. Their main problem is the leader who was killed did not get around to telling anyone else where they were located or where the larger patrol they were planning on meeting up with is positioned.

From that point the slow suspense of the tale begins. The one favourable event is an oasis in the distance that the small band of men discover.  Believing they are safe for awhile they happily settle into it. Tying their horses, having fresh water and many trees as well as a small cabin, buoys their spirits a bit.

However when they wake in the morning all of the horses have been stolen. They know it was Arabs who stole the horses because only the Arabs are familiar enough with the desert to approach and take the horses so soundlessly.

Within the patrol are men from different areas of Britain and religious backgrounds all with strong personalities.

 As the men are slowly picked off by an unseen sniper tempers rise, the wounded increase and there are a few deaths that impact directly on their morale and their situation.
A decision is made by the sergeant, now in command to draw lots to see who will leave the haven to find help. The sergeant chooses two people to walk out with a few supplies of bully beef, biscuits and water that is the food of the day. They also have unlimited access to dates growing on all the trees which turns out to become their main source of food.

Questions arise as to which way they should go? Will they meet the enemy or find their separated patrol? If they find help how do they locate the oasis again to rescue those left behind? Will they survive?  None of the men know the geography of the country they are in.
Once the two leave tensions rise when yet another sniper attack occurs. Racial prejudice, religious practices and mental madness begins to tear the remaining men apart. Some become sick and all of them are weakening.

 I will stop at this point as I don’t want to ruin the ending. Most of the story is set up in the opening chapters and one can predict there will be many difficult days ahead for this small group of soldiers. At times the cockney and Scottish accents that are written out quite specifically can be difficult to read and understand but I was able to work it out without too much trouble.

I enjoyed the book very much. Once it gets going it moves right along.  The suspense is low key but always present.  Whenever I was ready for another situation to occur it always seemed to be there.  The characters are well defined and I cared very much about what was to become of them.

 I would certainly recommend this old Penguin Book. 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Handbags and Gladrags--What a Nightmare of a Book!!

Have just returned from three days and two nights of camping in the Upper Derwent Valley of Tasmania with a friend.  We took our bikes up for a good ride and some rest and relaxation.

Rode to Wyatinah which is a hydro town now pretty much closed up. The plan was to establish cheap hydro electricity for residents of Tasmania.  However we currently pay the 6th highest rates for power in the world thanks to our wonderful government. However I will not get into that as this is a pleasant column.

I decided that Travellin Penguin would have to read something found on this camping area in quite a remote spot and see what I ended up with. Might be fun. Might be excellent. Might be awful.  Turns out it was awful.
We set up our tents in a wonderful spot on a lagoon and enjoyed a meal cooked outdoors.

The next morning we rode the 65 kms farther north to Derwent Bridge for lunch at the Hungry Wombat cafe.

 I had no idea if I would find a cheap read up there but turns out I did.

The choice was limited and I chose a book by author Sally Warboyes. I had never heard of her but I must say next time I see her name I will run a mile. I chose this book off the limited shelf selection because it took place in the east end of London in the 1950's.  That appealed to me.  

There are three main characters.  Nathan who is a very fat pimply faced Jewish adolescent boy who is continually bullied by Kenny.  Stay with this because the story is so bad it is funny.   Charlotte is the Christian girl who has befriended Nathan and sticks up for him when the bullies pick on him.  

Nathan is completely besotted with Charlotte but knows she will never be his girlfriend because she is beautiful as a lovely doe in spring and she is Christian. He knows he must marry a Jewish partner in life. 

Although Charlotte spends a great deal of time with tears welling up in her eyes because she is so incredibly sensitive to the beautiful things in life.  She cries when she seems an autumn leaf or a young bird.

Yet time and again she buoys Nathan up by distracting the bullies as they are getting ready to once again pound Nathan into the ground.  After one such incident they hide in the game keeper's hut in the nearby park.  Kenny and the bullies have lost the chase.  As they sit together talking about their lives in East London Charlotte lets the cat out of the bag by telling Nathan she and her family will be moving out of East London in another three weeks to a new housing estate that has been established in a small village a couple of hours away.  

Nathan is devastated to lose his young love and does not know how he will cope. She advises him to go to the theatre classes he loves and pour his angst into the characters on stage. This is what he does and eventually it becomes his life.

Chapter ends. Next chapter begins and it is now 5 years later in the small town Charlotte lives in.  Her father is in the local pub having a drink one night when he recognises Kenny who is now 20 years old.  Kenny is still spelling trouble with some low down gangsters trying to wheel and deal some criminality. They in turn know he is the jerk he portrays himself as.
Long story short.... Charlotte's father recognises him and is worried.  He knew the kid was never any good and never would be.....   As I am boring myself stupid writing this I am going to finish it up.

 Charlotte hears rumours about Nathan and decides to contact him after all this time.  He is now tall, thin, handsome and smart. He is still in love with her. (Of course, we knew that)

She takes a train to London where they meet up, fall in love and live happily ever after. Everything we know would happen, does.

There is also a murder in her flat that turns out to have been committed by Kenny. Turns out Kenny has an issue with women and has turned into a serial killer.  There are bodies hidden everywhere.

He longs to kill Charlotte because he has fantasized about it for such a long time.  Of course it does not happen.   Charlotte refuses to move out of the flats though on principal because she wants to be treated as an adult and needs her independence.

Eventually she marries Nathan, whose parents have decided that Charlotte is such a lovely young woman she does not need to be Jewish.

Kenny has now been captured and put into jail for life and everyone lives happily ever after.  I can't ruin the ending for anyone because it is so incredibly predictable there are no surprises.

After I had reached the half way point of this book I was using my finger to trail down each page, reading only three or four words on a page.  This was enough to see what happens to everyone. 

On the positive side, I always enjoy the very occasional terrible book because it makes the great ones all the sweeter.

Next time I go camping and travelling I am not sure if I will use the strategy of reading whatever I come across or not. This was truly painful. I left the book behind in the camp ground loo and no doubt someone else might think it is a great find.

I really do wonder how books such as these get published.  It must take a lot of money to publish a book and I can't imagine there would be much return on this.

Out of curiosity I  googled the author and seems she is a renowned British author of good standing. I found a site that has reviews of several of her books and the ones with higher reviews are East End Girl,  White Chapel Mary and East End Bow.  I see that this book I have read is rated just slightly over 2 stars which is very low.  I have obviously hit upon one of her real lemons.  

However once burned I will not be looking this author up any time soon.

As this review is so dismal I do hope you enjoy the photos of the camping side of things as camping in Tasmania is always stunning.

On my way home to find a better read.