Australia · books · in my garden · Mount Warning · Tweed Valley · winter

During a Study Break

I’ve spent most of the day today at the computer, reading, and feel just a tad cross-eyed tonight. It’s been a long day with uni today, what with reading, an online quiz, and preparing for an assignment. At least the assignment is fairly small, but it’s due by Sunday night.

Around 2pm I took a break from my computer and went for a wander down the back garden. I thought it might be a nice change to take a photo of Mount Warning from further down my yard, where I can look up to the mountain towering above me and the cane fields are closer. It was a dull day again today, and I could see rain in the valley. It didn’t reach my house though.

On my way back to the house I took a detour into our pool area. We haven’t been spending much time in that area lately, but the hibiscus hedge that I pruned about a month ago has quite a lot of new growth on it already. We plan on making a few changes to the garden in the pool area before summer, so that will be a section of my garden that I’m sure I’ll be sharing photos of over the coming weeks. The only flowers near the pool just now are a few day-lilies, which I thought look quite pretty.

I’m heading off to bed now. I have a Mills and Boon romance novel to read for one of my units, Popular Genres. It’s not my usual choice of reading, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever read a Mills and Boon before now. There are only just over two-hundred pages, so hopefully it’s an easy read. I’m not expecting it to be a book I will highly recommend others read! I also have to read Dr No by Ian Fleming, which I’ve started reading and it seems like a pretty good read. After that, I’ll be reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – my first Harry Potter book, which I’ve borrowed from my daughter, who has read all the Harry Potter books three times! She’s very happy that I’m finally reading a H.P. book, even if it’s for uni. After that I’m reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

If everything goes to plan over the weekend, I’ll have time for some reading, gardening, and have my assignment finished in plenty of time before the deadline. 🙂

Australia · gardening · Mount Warning · photography · Tweed Valley · winter

Cane Fires at Dusk

I spent some time in the garden today, weeding a few flower beds, as well as reading some more of a lengthy novel for one of my university units. It was easy completing the set tasks this week, being the first week of semester. Next week I expect will be more challenging, but as long as I don’t get behind in my weekly work the semester won’t be too difficult to keep up with.

Taking photos every day of Mount Warning will force me to take some time away from study during the next few months. I know from past experience that while it’s temping to keep plugging away at tasks, especially when assignments are due, I am far more productive if I take a break. Keeping a daily photographic journal will force me to take at least one break every day.

It’s worth taking some time out to admire the valley every day at this time of year because there are so many fires now down in the cane fields of the Tweed Valley. Today there were several cane fires, with plumes of smoke billowing then receding throughout the day.  Then later in the day, just before dusk, I heard the crackling of a fire starting close to home. Just past the rear boundary of our land the earth drops away suddenly into the valley, so I knew I would have difficulty seeing the flames of the fire with it being just beyond the drop. But just before nightfall I did catch a tiny glimpse of the flames glowing amid the foliage of some trees, which can be seen – taken on full zoom of my camera – between the trunks of two tall palm trees.

Seven minutes later, at sunset, the smoke had dissipated slightly. The sky lit up in pinkish-orange tones and frustratingly, as usual, my camera did not duplicate the intensity of the magnificently coloured sky! I still think it’s a very pretty picture of the sunset though.

book review · books · fiction · reading

Book Review – The Sewing Machine.

 

When my blog-buddy Nicki at the Secret Library Book Blog posted that she intended reading The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie, it reminded me that I wrote a review of the book last year for a university assignment. When reading through the review today I had to make a few changes to remove evidence of it once having been an assignment, but I’ve left the basics intact.

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There’s a great deal to like about Natalie Fergie’s debut historical fiction novel The Sewing Machine. The inter-generational weaving of lives, and the social context of various time periods intertwining events spanning over one-hundred years form a complex narrative of intrigue.

In March 1911, Jean and her fiancé Donald, both workers at the Singer sewing machine factory in Clydebank Scotland, become embroiled in a strike at the factory. When Donald loses his job, the couple relocate to Edinburgh, where the story begins to weave its way through several fateful events in the lives of four generations of two families.

The catalyst, a message written by Jean and wrapped around a bobbin before she left the Singer factory is discovered by Kathleen after she purchases a new machine. This message, and the part the machine plays in the lives of each owner as it passes through the generations remains the focus of the story.

The last owner of the sewing machine, Fred, who we meet in 2016, is an unemployed blogger. He is the great-grandson of Kathleen, and inherits the sewing machine as part of his grandparent’s estate. After his fateful meeting with the great-granddaughter of Jean, the two descendants unravel the mystery of the message written in 1911.

I have just one criticism to make regarding the structure of The Sewing Machine. As captivating as the story is, I found the emotional connection between character and reader hindered by the introduction of three protagonists within the first nineteen pages, with each living in a different time period. In the beginning, the plot was difficult to follow. Further preventing intimacy with each protagonist, little is mentioned about their appearance. In an interview with Anne Bonny, Fergie claims she “painted each character’s appearance with a light brush” to enable the reader to form a picture of the person through their personality, avoiding any “long-winded physical descriptions”.

Unfortunately, descriptions of a nurse dressing for her shift on page 178 are long-winded. The paragraph begins with “she assembled the uniform in stages, fixing the collar on to the dress with three studs”. After a detailed fifteen-line commentary of a nurse dressing, complete with accessories, the nurse “gathered her red woolen cloak around her and set off, past the discreetly signed mortuary and up the steps to the long surgical corridor”. With similar detailed narrative of the characters lacking, I formed mental images of faceless people while reading.

At times, it is difficult to foresee how all elements of the story will come together. By the conclusion, however, the connection of every significant event occurring within the two families over one-hundred-and-five years is cleverly explained.

I read The Sewing Machine over four days during April 2018 and my rating for the book on Goodreads is four stars.

reading

BerkelouW

???????????????????????????????With ideas of putting my self-proclaimed title of “Most Inconsistent Blogger in The Universe” behind me, I’ve decided to take you for a look around one of my favourite book stores. (I hear a collective gasp of “what, two posts in the one week?”) Of course, I cannot leave this shop without being poorer of pocket yet richer in knowledge, but hey, what is a great bookstore for, other than to go into them and buy books?

Reading nooks, so private, so peaceful...
Reading nooks, so private, so peaceful…

This place has atmosphere, it’s inviting, there’s even a coffee shop right next door. Comfy couches are in abundance, as are ladders and stools. The staff is friendly, helpful, and somehow manage to keep track of the ca-zillion books in the place. I browsed for hours in search of a book, any book, by Rumi. A couple of days later I returned and approached a helpful person who walked straight up to the shelf where Rumi could be found. (Hadn’t I already looked there?) These Rumi’s were new books. You may, she suggested, look in the used book poetry section (yes, they stock both new and second-hand books!) but she felt quite sure that any second-hand Rumi’s that came through the door were grabbed almost before they hit the shelves. I looked. She was right. Of course.

Shelf after shelf of books...
Shelf after shelf of books…

Some of the books are so valuable that they are displayed behind glass doors, under lock and key, behind the front counter. Other books are valued by their age, the price-tag being irrelevant to book lovers (like me!)

I love the matching series of books so often found here, in the second-hand section.
I love the matching series of books so often found here, in the second-hand section.

The Jane Austen series of five books that followed me home  (or I may have just purchased them, blind to the asking price) are a third edition hard back series, published in 1933, with each book selling individually at that time for the princely sum of seven shillings and sixpence. I’m not brilliant at maths, but according to my calculations, (and some help from Google,) taking into account the basic wage of the day, conversions of pounds, shillings and pence to dollars and cents and the inflation rate, I estimate the books to have cost the equivalent of $125.00 AU in today’s money, each. Which leads me to a further thought, just how accessible were books back in those long-gone days, if the cost was so high? Or perhaps Jane Austen had reached a pinnacle in her popularity, increasing the value of her work?

My Jane Austen finds, safely tucked up on one of my book shelves at home.
My Jane Austen finds, safely tucked up on one of my book shelves at home.

Adding to the character and the atmosphere in the store is the polished cement floor throughout all the main area, reading rooms and comfy book viewing nooks.

Characterful, polished cement floors.
Characterful, polished cement floors.

Did I mention where these rooms of beauty, warmth and indulgence are? Just twenty kilometers inland from Noosa Heads (the destination of my very recent holiday) sits a sleepy little village by the name of Eumundi. The whole village comes alive every Wednesday and Saturday with a huge market-place, making Eumundi a must-visit area for those who prefer the non-commercialized village markets any day over a huge, ritzy shopping centre.

I may have written something about Eumundi way back in the archives of time. Let me check…..here ’tis, and it goes way back to the early days when this blog was just a baby in August 2010. I aptly named the post “The Town that Time Forgot”.

Surrounded by books, books high, books low, books everywhere.  :)
Surrounded by books, books high, books low, books everywhere. 🙂

I’ve lost track of the number of books I have read during this year, so I really must be more organised next year. (Note to self ~ add a Currently Reading tally into the side column of my blog. Further note ~ remember to read this note!) Currently, I’m reading “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is the follow-up to her earlier book and travel diary, “Eat Pray Love”. I swear that whilst reading the first third of the book, every mouthful of food I ate tasted better than ever before! (You’ll know what I mean if you have ever read the book!) Prior to that, I read Yann Martel’s “The Life of Pi” and before that I became inspired to read an Australian novel turned mini series, “Cloudstreet”, written by Tim Winton, when my son brought it home from school, being his novel to read during second term of school. I’ll have to think about what I read before “Cloudstreet”, that’s why I need to keep tally….

(no, wait, it was Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal Dreams”!)

enchanting · happiness · new beginnings · photography

A year in which I shall remain enchanted.

down to the sea

“They left the path, and clambered down the olive terraces, down and down, to where at the bottom the warm, sleepy sea heaved gently among the rocks. There a pine tree grew close to the water, and they sat under it, and a few yards away was a fishing boat lying motionless and green-bellied on the water. The ripples of the sea made little gurgling noises at their feet.” ~ From the book “The Enchanted April”.

A whole week has passed by and here we are, already ensconced in another new year.

I began contemplating my new year’s resolutions during the first couple of days of this year but my thoughts were short lived. New Year’s resolutions are a habit, I have resolved, a habit which I wish to break. Every year, without fail, I plan. Plans for blogging, plans for being organised, plans for healthy eating, plans for my garden, plans to alter the fact that my work takes over my life, that family takes over my life, chores take over my life. Why must we fill our brains with such negative thoughts, concentrating on everything that is wrong, planning ways in which we can change these wrongs into rights? (As I am writing, both of the two telephones I have at home have rung…another “non New Year’s resolution” springs to mind….why must I always be the person who my family have to ring when they have a question? I shouldn’t be so accessable. I’m writing, family!!)

dandelions

So here we are, a whole week into the New Year, and I haven’t written one single blog post. “Why not?” I hear you ask, when all of my blogging friends have surged on into the New Year with the same writing momentum as they had during last year.

Here, I can correct the error of my ways. I have had, perhaps, between five and ten blog posts running around in my brain during the last week, none of which have ever made it to actual, physical, on-the-computer words. I do that often, you know. All of my posts, to my mind, have to have some form and structure, they need to be heading somewhere, have a point to them, and a tangible point at that. Well, that is one aspect of this year which is about to change! Why must every blog post have a point to it? A definite point or a message?

I don’t believe it has to! If it is a simple shared pleasantry, a special moment to be remembered, photos I have taken that I am pleased with, I can share them all here.

Sometimes, (make that often) my mind simply wanders around in a very orderly circle, with words that I should be writing down. If I were to write down those thoughts and read those thoughts back at a later hour, I may just find out that I have written something brilliantly profound.

Or perhaps not. But my words have been drifting off into the earth’s atmosphere, unanchored, never having been written, never having been read, never knowing whether they held any kind of significance to anyone. Forgotten words; forgotten moments.

frangipanis

Every single day of every year I have a book that I am reading, and there are many times when I read a passage in a book and think to myself, “I really should share those words”, yet I rarely do so. And when I do share the magical words with someone who is physically here with me, they usually do not understand the magic in the words, so the moment somehow seems lost. My reasoning for not sharing a few meaningful words from a book here, where my blogging friends “feel” words that my family somehow miss, is that no one would understand the significance of what I have written, unless they had already read the book.

I ask you, do the words have to have total and absolute significance, for another person to feel the joy of reading those few words? I don’t believe they do, so I will share a beautiful moment, a moment which made my heart sing, as I lost myself within the pages of imagination…

Yesterday, I read these words in my latest book that I started to read just this last week. I re-read those words, then re-read them again, for to me, the words held so much joy and the promise of happy, mindless days ahead. The book I am reading is “The Enchanted April”, written by Elizabeth Von Arnim and first published in 1922. I have seen the movie, but can barely remember it as it was so many years ago. Books tell the story so much more completely than a movie does though, don’t you think?

white

To set the scene, Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot have escaped England and their husbands, each with a different reason for wishing to escape, and have finally arrived, after an extremely harrowing journey (during which they had thought they were about to be murdered)  at the small, medieval castle in Italy, which they have leased for the month of April.

“And there they were, arrived; and it was San Salvatore; and their suitcases were waiting for them; and they had not been murdered. They looked at each other’s white faces and blinking eyes very solemnly. It was a great, a wonderful moment. Here they were, in their medieval castle at last. Their feet touched its stones. Mrs Wilkins put her arm round Mrs Arbuthnot’s neck and kissed her. “The first thing to happen in this house”, she said softly, solemnly, shall be a kiss.” “Dear Lotty,” said Mrs Arbuthnot. “Dear Rose,” said Mrs Wilkins, her eyes brimming with gladness. “

As I read this passage of words, the whole scene to me was brimming with gladness. Such a simple story, such a simple speech, yet so profoundly beautiful. So I share it with you today, in the hope that you too can feel the anticipation felt by Rose and Lotty, as the friends begin their enchanted April in Italy.

Just as I begin my “Enchanted 2013”.

ocean

As 2013 opens its doors even wider, and I travel along the path of the days, wishing for change, yet not sure yet what those changes will be, wishing for a “word of the year” yet no word seems to encompass the entirety of the changes that I do know I wish to take place, I will write down my random thoughts, publish random photos I take, and not expect excellence and total clarity of mind before I write these thoughts down and click on the “publish” button, sending my thoughts out for the world to read.

If I have just a few words, simply to accompany a photo I have taken, I will add those. If I seem to be overflowing with words, as I seem to be today, I will write for a longer time.

I will try not to edit my words as I write, wishing always for my words to come straight from my heart.

And as 2013 draws to a close and I reflect back on the year that has been, if I have made some progress through the year and I can see an advancement, some change that has taken place, then it will have been an enchanting year.