THE TEMPTING LIBRARY BUMPER BOOK SALE


As is well known, I need more books in my house like I need the proverbial hole in my head, but nonetheless, I succumbed. After all, I’m doing a good deed by adding to Library funds, aren’t I? My book buying, on this occasion is a public good deed. So stop raising your eyebrows, and rolling your eyes. Yes – I did eat my Kryptonite for breakfast  – I can see you from here.

I had wonderful success on the Oldies But Goldies Table. A banquet of tattered treasures, old and battered, and costing R2 or R5 each. How could I resist? This is what I carted home:

Biggles & the Black Peril – Capt W E Johns  – boys’ adventures (see review below)

A Book of Poetry – W.M. Smythe   – dipped into;all those classic poems I should have read and didn’t; but  I can see this one is going to make its way back to the Library Sale tables.

The Bonfire of the Vanities  –  Tom Wolfe – still brooding heavily in my TBR pile.

Thus far I have only read Biggles and the Black Peril  by Capt W E Johns.  What a nostalgia fest!  I read as many of the Biggles books  as I could get my hands on when I was somewhere between the age of 9 and 12 years old.  I loved them.

Reading a Biggles book some 65 years later I polished off the book speedily.  They tend to be short on pages and even shorter on plot, but I say! What adventure, what thrills – chasing the baddies and/or being chased by the baddies (chief baddy in this epic is called Blackbeard – of course he is; and no, he’s not a pirate he’s a devious scheming Russian Up To No Good on British soil – the cheek of it!).

Flying all over Northern Europe in pursuit of the baddies in a flying boat – have you ever heard of such an aircraft? If you were born 1960 onwards, then probably not.  The page containing the publication date has been torn out of my battered copy, but the references are post-WWII , so I assume  the book was published in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

It’s all good clean fun, and the chaps are strong-jawed and courageous. The heroic Major Bigglesworth dramatically exclaims at intervals:”Hark! I hear an approaching machine!” I promise you, he does. “Hark!” – isn’t this delicious?  You can see him cupping his ear for the drone of the engine, while he turns his noble profile skywards and keenly scans the skies for the enemy aircraft. Wonderful. They don’t make heroes like this any more.

Our modern heroes rely heavily on Armageddon style weaponry and electronic wizardry, not to mention jaw dropping supernatural powers. Not so the brave band of Major  Biggles & Co. No no. Not for them. It was all down to courage, grit, determination, pluck and jolly good dash of luck thrown in. My vote goes to Biggles and not to Batman. You think I’m too old fashioned and hopelessly out of touch? Hard cheese,  dear reader.

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*(JAP)MY LATEST LEXICAL TREASURE


*(JAP)MY LATEST LEXICAL TREASURE

Dictionary.com has introduced me to a wonderful new word which I’m about to share with you.  I love it! Both for its comical aspect, and for its meaning. But I’m going to preface my discovery with a few general remarks on the topic of the right to free speech. Theoretically, we have this right in South Africa. But oh! the tsunami of outraged howls when a prominent person dares to voice a personal opinion.  It would seem that free speech is fine, so long as it doesn’t contradict political correctness.  Anyway, I will prudently say no more, and I will leave you to join the dots regarding my latest lexical treasure:

THROTTLEBOTTOM noun [THROT-l-bot-uh m]
1. a harmless incompetent in public office.QUOTES
If there was one function that any vice president, even a Throttlebottom, could be expected to perform it was to represent the president and the country at funerals of notables abroad.
— Carl Solberg, Hubert Humphrey: A Biography, 1984
ORIGIN
The term Throttlebottom was formed after the character Alexander Throttlebottom in the musical comedy Of Thee I Sing (1932).

 

*(Just a Paragraph:  when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph’: random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

 

 

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THE GRAND PURGE


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Not of my body, let me hasten to add. Maybe I chose a misleading title for this piece.

No, no, dear readers: of my overflowing cupboards.  A blitz on the dreaded STUFF, which I have written about before. I’m not a hoarder, but it’s astonishing how stuff accumulates. Gifts, raffle prizes, sale bargains, retail madness. Regardless of the source, my cupboards are overfull.

My friend Emily inspired me to phone The Guys – she used them when she had a mega-purge of her very large house. Result : ruthlessly tossed mountains of STUFF – ornaments, bric brac, travel souvenirs, you name it –into the pile it went . The Guys arrived in their bakkie, armed with cartons, crates and ready cash (yay!) packed it, loaded it, and drove away.

I spent a hot, sweaty Sunday extracting unused item – you never know, one day I might … Sound familiar?  Out came the pristine manual typewriter, in its metal case, that I’d been keeping for the day when I retreated to the Karoo to a farm cottage sans electricity, and sans electronic aids,  to write my award winning novel. Dream on, lady. Never going to happen. Out it went.

Extra flower vases  acquired from florists’  arrangements, sent by daughters. You can always send me flowers for a birthday, I love them  – but what to do with the vases afterwards? You sell them to The Guys, that’s what!

Old, chipped ornaments, which I was definitely going to repair one day . Truly, that is the deadliest phrase in my life: one day I will …   Complete the sentence. The One Day tasks sink below a wave of accounts to be paid, vet appointments, medical appointments, meetings. No to mention the craft projects. Not even going there!  And so it goes. As you well know. And one day  is yet to arrive.

Out went my once prized collection of stone eggs. I went through a phrase when I was intrigued by gemstones, and it was fun to collect them. That phase has passed. Now I’m bewitched by postcards and Postcrossing. Lotsa fun. Can you see the butterfly mind effect at work here?

I assembled the rejects on my dining room table. There was the gigantic electric wok which was so big it wouldn’t fit into any cupboard, so has been sulking, unused, in the garage. Out it went. Here was a box with a new light fitting for the bathroom. Never installed, for technical reasons. And here – a real blast from the past: a box of stiffy disks. Remember those? PC’s are no longer manufactured with a slot in which to insert them, so …

The box of silver Apostle teaspoons that you can’t put in the dishwasher? Sorry. Bye bye. No longer of use.  But the wad of money The Guys gave me is definitely of use. Time, effort and sweat well spent. I plan to spend the cash on theatre tickets. I am definitely not buying any more STUFF.  That’s a promise!

 

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MARCH 2017 UPDATE FROM CHOCOLAT


 

 

I am happy to report that I am now able to resume my normal routine of sunbathing and napping. My Personal Assistant is back on duty and has stopped lounging around on our bed. About time too.

However I must admit the Junior Substitute  PA did a good job. My meal schedule was uninterrupted and she certainly brushed me more often than my PA does.

All in all, it’s a relief to be back  to my  usual routine. Nurse-maiding a human is terribly time consuming and frankly, not my designated occupation.  I’ll leave you now, I have a date with my favourite cushion on my veranda chair.

 

(Thanks to Regine Lord for her superb pics; all pics copyright RL)

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A FEBRUARY 2017 UPDATE FROM CHOCOLAT


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I have to report  that my Personal Assistant is not performing her duties as per her job description i.e. undivided attention to me, 24/7.

It seems that she is going to be absent from our home for 48 hours, and when she returns, will require bed rest. I have never understood why humans can’t be like us .To remedy digestive upsets, or troublesome hairballs, we  eat grass, which solves the problem.  Aches and pains are cured by prolonged sunbathing. Wounds respond well to gentle licking. And sleep, as we all know, cures everything. Which is why I’m always working on my zed’s.  Why can’t humans be more like us?

I will be supportive, of course, cuddling up to her in bed, and purring gently. She seems to like that. So until you hear from us again you can rest assured I’m keeping a close eye on her and will update you later.  Chocolat.

P.S. Don’t you think the pink blanket sets my fur off to best advantage? I feel the contrast enhances my appearance.  Always important to look one’s best, don’t you agree?

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THE SEED COLLECTORS by Scarlett Thomas


Book Review

One of those novels with a large, confusing cast of people who are all related, but in complex ways.  Even the Family Tree before the prologue, and the amended Family Tree after the Epilogue, didn’t help much.  I’m not sure I ever really grasped who’s who at this zoo – or maybe I should say greenhouse.

To describe the novel as a Family Saga is true, I suppose, but it is by no means your run-of-the-mill FamSaga. Because much of the narrative is chopped into small, and sometimes even tiny, sections, the story skips merrily to and fro, thus adding to the dense thicket of the plot. Using a plant simile is entirely in keeping with the novel; the family surname is Gardener and there is a Family Tradition of naming progeny with whimsical botanical names like Quince, or Oleander, or Holly – you get the idea.

Most of the men are either deeply unpleasant or tiresomely  ineffectual. We are party to their graphic sexual fantasies. Yuck. Some of the women are just plain awful: anorexic pre-teen tennis fiend, Holly and her drunken shopaholic Mum, Bryony, for example. My favourite female character was 75 year old  Granny Beatrix, who has discovered the thrill of the Internet Stock Exchange Trading and on-line porn.

So: there’s a rich compost of participants mixed into a seething brew of botany, incest (between consenting adults, let me hasten to add),transcendentalism, New Age Celeb hideout,  psychotropics, deadly poisonous seeds, Lost Islands, the Outer Hebrides which are not THE Lost Islands, but have a connection.  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

An outstanding feature of the novel  are the 3 or 4 pages of superb writing, where Scarlett Thomas takes us into the consciousness of a stoned Robin Redbreast, inventing a brilliant bird style vocabulary to convey the bird’s feelings and experiences. And it does not result in a series of disconnected, hectic tweets.  For me, these pages justified reading the book.

Altogether one of the most unusual novels I’ve read in a while. Recommended.

 

 

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SMALL TOWN’s HEART


 

 

imagesSouth Africa is not an easy country to live in.  The challenges are enormous,  ranging from the ever present threat of crime, to rising cost of living due to the drought, to our desperate water shortage here in the Western Cape.

So  I am delighted to share   a heart-warming story  from the  tiny town of  Phalaborwa, situated in Limpopo Province. Phalaborwa is small – population approx 13 500 ,  close to the famous Kruger National Park . It’s bushveld terrain. Hot, dry,  and thorny.

My sister and her husband recently drove up there  to attend her father-in-law’s funeral and help her mother-in-law sort out the paperwork and business affairs that are the inevitable result of a death. . Her in-laws   have lived in Phalaborwa for over 30 years. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalaborwa

Oom* Koos was old, well into his eighties. I never met the man, but always relish  the story of how he opened up his garage early one morning, and was literally bowled over by a leopard charging out, desperate to get back to the bush! A true  Bushveld story. How or why the leopard spent the night in Oom Koos’ garage, I don’t know. But you get the picture.

My sister told me that the town was unbelievably  supportive of the newly widowed woman. Apparently her car needed fixing urgently, and the local garage repaired it, but refused to charge her, saying “repairs were on the house”.

Likewise, when my sister and Mrs Fourie went to the local SPAR to order plates of sandwiches and snacks for the after-funeral tea, there was the same generosity. “No charge”.  Let me be clear – the family did not in any ways ask for discount or assistance, this was the spontaneous response from the SPAR Manager. “No charge – it’s on the house”.

During the week that my sister was in Phalaborwa, she told me that neighbours arrived daily, with cooked meals, forfour people,  three times a day! Not just the next-door neighbour, but different women on a daily basis.

Now that’s true, old fashioned neighbourliness. Wonderful  to discover that generosity and kindness are alive and well in the far North of South Africa! Finally some good news. Let’s all celebrate the notion of neighbourliness, sharing and kindness.  Our country needs it.

 

*Oom – respectful title bestowed on older men . Afrikaans origin

 

 

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RAZOR GIRL by CARL HIAASEN


 

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

 

Book Review

I’m not crazy about crime novels. The bleak Scandi crime novels leave me stone cold – well, they would, wouldn’t they? All that snow, ice and long dark winters are bound to produce that effect. Obviously.

And the Pathologist-cum-detective genre make me queasy. If I’d wanted to minutely investigate human anatomy I would have studied medicine. Which I chose not to do. Probably last on my Career Choice list.

Therefore, it is with a sigh of relief that I dive into the sun kissed frolicsome  pages of Carl Hiaasen’s novels. Any novel set in Florida is allowed to have the word frolicsome  in the review – sun, sand, bikinis, East Coast winter fugitives, retirees, oranges, hurricanes … clearly the setting is bound to be jollier than sub-Arctic Norway.

In Hiaasen’s semi-mythical world of the Florida Keys, there is a profusion of criminal low-life:  scammers, insurance fraudsters,  adulterers, gold-diggers, (all that sand encourages the pests), drunks, burglars, weed pushers, cold beers, rattling palm leaves, the Mafia, crooked property agents, lawyers (a.k.a. scum of the earth in Hiaasen’s world), muscular heavies, fishing and more cold beers, disgraced but noble ex-detectives, mistresses, car-crashes … it’s all fun, fun and more fun still.  Oh – last one: the odd murder or two, but that’s in passing. And the deceased deserved it anyway.

Hiaasen’s latest romp has the added entertainment of a truly terrible red-necked TV Reality Show , the patriarch of which sorry series is the catalyst for a seemingly never-ending chain of events involving a deranged, semi-brain dead fan of said dreadful TV garbage,  abduction, kidnap, ransom;  the TV show’s   scheming  Agents and Execs, their private jets, suspect contracts, deals and deception,  etc. etc. And the cherry on  top is that Hiaasen is laugh-out-loud FUNNY. Yes, you heard me. In a crime novel, nogal* .

If you think I’ve given the plot away, relax: I haven’t. The plot in Hiaasen’s latest criminal caper has so many wonderful colourful stories tangled up like nylon fishing line, that I couldn’t possibly be writing a spoiler.

Thank heavens for Mr Carl Hiaasen, and his cheerful, clever crime novels.  He’s a prize-winning journalist with a regular column in the Miami Herald ; a born and bred Floridan, still resident in that sunny State. I suspect many of the outrageous incidents and  bizarre characters in his fiction originate from  his  life as a  working journalist. You can’t make up some of the incidents in his novels,  you really can’t.

Thank you, Mr Hiaasen, from a jaded reader. Thank you for a marvellous series of novels that provide pages of sparkling entertainment. In fact, now that I think about it, I do believe I am going to start collecting his crime novels. If you’ve never had the pleasure of reading  Hiaasen, do not wait another minute, run  to your nearest Library &/or book shop. Start reading. Immediately.  Enjoy!

*nogal – South Africanism =  yet.

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FROM LONGFELLOW TO LONGMIRE


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While tidying my bookshelves, I found  my copy of the poet, H W Longfellow’s epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha. Donkey’s years ago, when I was probably between the ages of 5 and 9 , my Mother introduced me to Hiawatha. My Mum enjoyed poetry, and had a copy of the book. She read aloud to me, and I loved the rhythmic sing-song cadence of the poem, especially the lines:

On the shores of Gitche Gumee,

      Of the shining Big-Sea water.

Stood Nokomis, the old woman,

Pointing with her finger westward,

O’er the water pointing westward,

To the purple clouds of sunset.

For years I mistakenly thought the poem was written in rhyming couplets, but after re-reading, I discover it is not. In fact, the metre of Hiawatha is borrowed from a Finnish collection of poems that Longfellow had studied. The lines are unrhymed … notwithstanding this, the lines have a simple flowing rhythm.  This explanation is from the introduction by D C Browning, to my 1960 J M Dent & Sons (London) edition, in The Children’s Illustrated Classics series.

I picked up my copy 6 years ago, while on a tour to Matjiesfontein, of all places! Matjiesfontein is a tiny, quaint , restored Victorian village in the middle of the South African Karoo. The little village came to prominence  during the Anglo Boer War, but these days it is a prime tourist destination for history buffs, and travellers seeking a jolly good lunch en route up the N1 to Johannesburg. In the souvenir shop there were two bookcases, which I dived into, and to my joy, there was Hiawatha.

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The paper jacket is remarkably intact, given that the book was published in 1960. Insects have nibbled a few holes in the jacket, but all in all, for a 50+ year old book, it’s not bad. The pages are foxed, and there’s a musty smell, despite my airing the book in the sun on a  windy Cape summer’s day.

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It’s a ‘proper book’ in that it has a hardcover, which has a repeat woodblock print pattern of an Indian brave in feathered war bonnet on the inside.  And best of all: there are two-colour line drawings on every page of the text, drawn by Joan  Kiddell-Monroe.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Kiddell-Monroe. As you can see from the photos in this post, the drawings are simple and elegant.

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I think it must have been my early introduction to Hiawatha that led to my interest in the American West. Which was odd, considering I was a child with a British Colonial heritage and lifestyle, growing up in Central Africa. Or possibly it was the influence of the exciting black and white spaghetti Westerns that I was very occasionally taken to see; but only if I’d been good.

In my teen years I devoured every single Western that Zane Grey wrote – and he wrote over 90 of them*. I loved every page. Men were men, and women were glad of it. The horses were magnificent and the villains were real baddies. Nothing complicated. You knew where you were. Right would triumph after tests and trials, and the lone ranger would ride off into the sunset. *His book sales numbered 40 million ! (thanks, Wikipedia).

My Western phase petered out after my Zane Grey teens, but was revived with gusto with the advent of Sheriff Walt Longmire onto our TV screens about 4 years ago. This time we were looking at the modern West – murder and robberies, Indians on The Rez (reservation) gambling casinos, domestic dramas,  and Lou Diamond Philips as the impassive Standing Bear, sidekick and  friend of said Sheriff.  I’m hooked all over again.

Quite what H W Longfellow (an American poet and academic in the Victorian era) would make of the modern shenanigans in the West, I shudder to think. No more exploits of hunting, fishing, physical prowess, warring,  battling with the winds,  wooing the fair Minnehahha . Modern Westerns are much grittier, and far less mythical.  It looks as if childhood discoveries  through poetry have influenced me at different stages of my life. I’m glad Mum introduced me to Hiawatha!

 

 

 

 

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*(JAP) IT’S OFFICIAL – I’M BATTY!


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*(Just a Paragraph:  when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph’: random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

 

Recently I filled in one of those Facebook quiz thingys, to find out my animal equivalent . I slogged through the questions and waited with bated breath. Bet I‘m one of the cats, I thought. I fancy being a leopard – or  a Margay ?  Hah! Wrong. Very wrong.  The most unlikely creature: according to their algorithm, I’m a – wait for it – I’m a BAT.  Noooooo. Uh-uh. No way. It’s the polar opposite of my everyday life. I’m the irritating person who rises at 05.00 (nagged  by my cat),  and leaps into action, with a smile on my dial, headed towards the day’s To-Do-List.  Everybody hates me. Must admit, I can see why. In short, I am a morning person, de luxe. As the sun goes down, so do I. A night-time person I am not.  Flitting around at all hours has no appeal whatsoever. Never mind the insect diet and the unsavoury blood-sucking aspect –  yuck.  Either I ticked the wrong box in a short-sighted moment, or else they need to dust off their algorithms. At heart,  I’m  still a leopard!

 

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