Not peace, but not war #blogjune


Nothing significant today. So hwre are two of our cats. ‘ScuseMe (on the left) is a new member of the household. His owner  (across the road) has new housemates, who have children and dogs.

Purrkins is still having none of it. Meanwhile, Loki was sunning himself out the front.

Significant Ending #blogjune

This weekend has mostly been listening to the ABC Classic 100 and trying to get my final assignment done. I’ve been doing an Advanced Diploma in Professional Writing at TAFE (which is also my employer) since the beginning of 2011. It was four years part-time (I’ve taken a little longer because I’ve had a few semesters where I’ve only done one subject (and one in which I did three).

I say ‘was’ because the longer course is being taught out (but there are still short courses on offer). One of the good things about it has been the variety. I’ve written short stories, short film scripts, poems, short biographies.  I’ve met some excellent writers, like Bill Marsh, Jude Aquilina, and Ashley Mallet (who also happens to be Australia’s best off-spinner since WW2). I’ve edited a couple of biographies. As a result, I’m researching two historical novels set in the later Roman Empire and turning my short biography (about cricketer Jim Kelly) into a book.

It’s been a fantastic experience, full of highs, and it’s coincided with some terrible lows. But yesterday I handed in my last assignment for my last module. So, assuming I pass, it’s all over. It’s not as big a moment as finishing uni, but it feels significant to me.

Audio books and reading #blogjune

So, apart from semantics, is listening to an audiobook the same as reading? The question is only important to me because I set myself a Goodreads target each year, and some of those are audiobooks. Given that I do about 15-16 hours of commuting per week, at also means a lot less time to kick back and read with my eyes.

As you might expect reading with the eyes affects the brain slightly differently to reading with one’s ears. According to Eric Jaffe, we are more easily distracted when we listen. Indeed, it seems that if you’re eye-reading, you concentrate better when you read out aloud. I don’t especially like ear-reading while doing other things so that I don’t get distracted. This includes driving in traffic – I’d much rather listen to the radio.  Most of my driving is on country roads with little traffic, so really it’s a case of watching out for the odd kangaroo.

I had a cassette recorder as a kid and can remember borrowing things like Kipling’s Just So Stories, plugging in an ear jack, and listening away after it was time to turn out the lights. So I find something quite comforting in being read to. And, while eye-reading lets you imagine speech, intonation, and so on, a masterful reader can spice things up wonderfully.

And our stories once were told orally. These guys have a short podcast on what the differences between ear-reading and eye-reading, and why the former isn’t a short-cut.


Tonight I start first-time ear-reading of an old favourite.



#blogjune – A “#classic100 weekend

Today was the final part of ABC Classic FM’s Top 100. This year it was the baroque and before. As always, listeners got to vote for 10 pieces. I had decided not to vote for pieces by Bach or Handel because:

1) they would be popular anyway

2) one could easily pick 10 pieces from just either of these composers

I was pleased to see two Hildegard of Bingen pieces, though I was disappointed not to see Gaudete, by Anon, that most prolific of composers. It was the first piece of music that I ever heard Steeleye Span perform, and they have been my favourite band now for nearly 30 (?!?) years.

We didn’t get to hear as much of it this year with various family events, so it didn’t have quite the intensity for us that previous years have had. One of the events was my father-in-law’s birthday, and we have justr returned from there having had a couple of very nice wines. One was a Tim Adams Clare Valley Pinot Gris. The other was a fundraiser vintage made from 11 different grape varieties and was absolutely delightful.

Mixed Blessing 2009

I hasten to add that I don’t admire Churchill’s politics. However, having visited the Churchill Museum in London late last year, I got an appreciation of the breadth of his interests.

The annual Classic 100 selections make me realise how grateful I am that we have an excellent public broadcaster that has helped broadened my cultural horizons. I didn’t grow up with classical music, and the ABC has enriched my life in more ways than mere words can express. There is a quote doing the rounds that Winston Churchill opposed cutting arts expenditure during WW2 which unfortunately is inaccurate (though the sentiment behind it may not be). But he did say in 1938 that:

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

Of course, I don’t love every program that graces SBS or the ABC, but I don’t expect it to, and don’t begrudge funding things that I myself am not interested in. But the arts and culture seems today to be unimportant, even though wee can spend huge sums of money locking up asylum seekers, and keeping them away from our shores by cloaking such efforts in ANZAC garb by calling it Operation Sovereign Borders. It seems to me that we have become a very mean-spirited people. Encouraging people to produce art and music and encouraging fine food is infinitely more useful than encouraging a nation of property and financial speculators. Art and food and culture can bring people together, even in difficult times. Indeed, this is when they are most at need. I hope that in the future we don’t have our Top 100 cut to a Top 80 or 90.

#blogjune Downtime and Rugby

I had thoughts of comparing a very ordinary and cheap pub dinner with a good quality lunch today and then tie it in with what I love about France and the importance they place on good quality food. But I haven’t. We had a nice relaxing day, and I think that we both needed a bit of downtime.

As much as I do like France though, I was pleased by tonight’s rugby result. 50:23 looks comprehensive, though I wasn’t sure that the Wallabies were quite as brilliant as the scoreline would indicate. But an encouraging start. Maybe this year the Bledisloe Cup returns to Australia?

#blogjune D-Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings – still the largest amphibious landing in history to date.invasion.

We’ve just had dinner with some friends of ours, and a few people came up in conversation that have had very difficult lives for one reason or another, but have managed to stay resilient. There are all sorts of things that, if we had foreknowledge of them, we would run from. The people who scrambled ashore on D-Day had trained for months, but nothing that I can imagine could come close to what those on both sides went through.

Shelley and I had another lovely trip to Normandy in January. We stayed in Bayeux, which we love very much. We managed day trips two D-day related trips. The first was to Arromanches-les-Bains, which was the centre of the Gold Beach zone. It was absolutely quiet, apart from some locals at the pub. The museums were shut, but we just wanted to have a wander about. The tide was out and we could get up close to some of the surviving Mulberry harbour caissons. These were built in the UK, sunk in the Thames to hide from the Germans, then towed over to Normandy and assembled. Absolutely amazing structures.

Mulberry Harbour, Arromanches les-Bains

Mulberry harbour caisson interior

One of the nice things about the day was that we also had dinner with a very nice American couple who live in the area. The second trip was to Omaha Beach with an Australian couple who were staying at our hotel. The museum and cemetery was simply awe inspiring.

Overlooking Omaha Beach

American Cemetery, Omaha Beach

American graves, Omaha Beach

Looking back towards the cemetery from the Omaha Beach

On Omaha Beach

Waiting for the bus back to Bayeux, American cemetery, Omaha Beach

The second Mulberry was built here, but only lasted a few days before storms destroyed it.

I cannot imagine being caught in something like D-Day. It would be better of course if no-one did.