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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BOOKISH VOWS, PROMISES & OPTIMISM


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January 1st has no sooner  dawned than hordes of eager, hollow eyed bibliophiles a.k.a. book-nerds or read-a-holics, whatever you want to call us, are blearily tapping out their hopes, and dreams for 2017 onto their blogs. It’s infectious. I, too, am about to unleash my modest  To Do Reading Vow  List into the Blogosphere.

I’m fully aware that not all my followers are book addicts.  We’re a vast, myopic tribe , populating bookstore, Libraries and the dusty corners of the Web while other folk are  busy  working, playing, socialising, exercising (we’ve dimly heard of this strange activity), sleeping , etc, while the Book Tribe has its collective nose buried firmly in a book, or is adding to its TBR list (To be Read). Turns out many dedicated readers are keen list makers. We have to be, you see.  So many books, so little time, groaning shelves of our latest purchases – we need to try to establish some control over our addiction.

I’ve been surfing the many Bookish Blogs to which I subscribe (how do I ever find time to read real live books? It’s tough, but I make the effort) and I’m amazed at the plethora of tasks that readers set themselves . For example, during the coming year they promise to :

  • Read more than 100 books (last year they only managed 70 odd, and are mortified)
  • Enter a minimum of three Reading Challenges by 31 December
  • Join a Ulysses (James Joyce) Reading Group (no thanks: pass on this one)
  • Only read novels written by women
  • Read national literature for 365 days e.g. Australian, South African
  • Read translated novels and nothing else for a year
  • Restrict their reading to Award Winning Novels

And so it goes.  I’m alternately impressed and depressed by the tasks readers set themselves.

My own goals are much more modest.  Hesitantly I publish my own feeble promises:

#1        Read 12 books from my TBR pile by 15 December. It’s only one a month. Easy.

#2        Read 2 books a week. I’m aiming for that Gold Star 100.

#3        Not to buy any new books between now and 31 March. My credit card has smoke coming out of it. This should probably be in #1 slot.

#4        Watch less TV.

And that’s enough to be getting along with. Bye for now – back to my current book.

P.S. Don’t you love my Book Brick?  Painted by Steve, at the Milnerton Library, Cape Town.

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MY SURVIVAL STRATEGY FOR CHRISTMAS 2017


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I can hear my readers screaming: Gag that woman! Christmas 2017? Noooooo – we’ve just staggered away from December 2016. Please!  Enough already!

Keep calm. Don’t panic. Make a nice cuppa tea and when you’re feeling calmer, continue reading. Okay. Everybody  take a slow deep breath and we’ll  analyze what makes (most) Festive Seasons less than ideal.

There’s so much to do isn’t there?  The shopping, the  decorations, the enormous lunch, the gifts, the hordes of relatives; the washing up; the clean-up; the family rows that sometimes last for decades. And, last but not least, Uncle George. Every family has one. I can see you nodding your heads. The awkward relative  your conscience prods you to include. And then you wish you hadn’t.

Where to begin?  Here’s my #1 tip:

  1. Shopping: start now in January at the January Sales. I’m pretty sure every country has them. Big money-saver. Bung your bargains into a plazzie bag, write the names of the recipients on the plastic with Magic Marker, and stow in a dedicated, secret  carton in your garage.
  2. Failing the January Sales, make a big diary note around September to start attending monthly Craft Markets and keep a sharp eye out for Church Bazaars. You will discover unique handmade items, often at very reasonable prices.
  3. Immediately after Christmas scoop up markdowns of  gift wrap, tags and bags . Pop into that box in the Garage. Ka Ching! Saving money!

#2 tip : Decorations.  Buy a Christmas wreath, attach to the front door and when somebody moans about the lack of decorations, tell them firmly that if they want more decorations, then they’d better get cracking and provide some, because this is the year you’re on strike. Trust me, the world will keep on turning without tinsel.

#3 tip:  The Enormous Lunch.  Announce around October that this is the last year you will be hosting The Christmas Lunch, and furthermore, this year,  it will be a Bring & Share Banquet.  Circulate  the menu and insist that the diners commit , in writing, to one major item e.g. the turkey. You will provide the venue, crockery, cutlery, one edible item,  plus  coffee/liqueurs/choccies afterwards.

AND, the cherry on top – once assembled around the festive board, hold a lucky draw , the winner of which will be the host of next year’s Bring & Share Banquet. Propose an enthusiastic toast to the lucky winner.

#4 tip: Buy a dishwasher.  Yes, you do need one. Don’t listen to anybody telling you they use a colossal amount of water, they don’t. Or that they will ruin the family silver : actually, yes, they will, which is why you will use perfectly good stainless steel cutlery. Ditto the same dire effects on the bone china. Take that heirloom 60 piece Royal Albert dinner service to the nearest antique shop and flog it. You have other crockery, for goodness sake.  The proceeds will help pay for the dishwasher.

#5 tip: Secret Santa : Hold a draw around October where your Xmas Lunch  guests will draw the name of one person, for whom they will bring one gift, to the value of …  Fill in the magic number:  not more than X.  End of story. Your garage trove of gift bargains is for your nearest & dearest, or people like your hairdresser. You cannot live without a good hairdresser. So give him/her a prezzie.

#6 tip:  Uncle George/Aunty Maud:  Using part of your loot from flogging the heirloom silver and the  EPNS gravy boat, cunningly book a table for the old fossil for a slap-up Christmas dinner at a local hotel. Naturally you will book taxi transport. You will of course break the good news in the form of a fictitious Raffle prize? Anonymous Benefactor?   This way he/she  can’t possibly totter through your front door on December 25th. Fingers crossed.

#7 tip: Buy a large diary now, yes, on 2 January, and map out your Defense Plan for the next Christmas jollies. Work out your strategy, diarise, execute, and relax. Oh, and a P.S. Don’t think you can get away with running your diary system on your mobile phone. Bad idea. They tend to get lost, stolen, dropped and broken. But your hardcover diary stays safely at home, and the Magic Strategy is preserved.

#8 tip: One last essential pointer. At the next mammoth bottle store sale, stock up on a couple of bottles of your favourite relaxant – sherry? (very seasonal), brandy? (warming and cheering) gin? (good for  cooling G&Ts for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere) . Hide your haul in the Garage Box, and start medicating around 15 November.  You should be in a relaxed frame of mind for the upcoming festivities.

Finally: for mercy’s sake,  do not lose that Diary!

 

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DIGGING FOR DINKIES by A M Smith ©


morrisPeriodically I post my short fiction; here is a Christmas story – not so short, but enjoy!)

I was digging in the garden when my spade struck something metal.

Hello, I thought, what’s this?  I knew the allotments had been checked and cleared by the Bomb Squad years ago, once the War was over. I leant on my spade and looked down. Saw nothing.  But there’d been a definite  clunk, and it was a metallic clunk, not a rocky thunk. I’ve done enough digging  in my 75 years to know the difference.  Okay. I slowly scraped the earth away, gently dug down and after a while, there it was. Whatever it was. Actually, I knew what it was.  I mean a trapdoor is a trapdoor, innit? Even if it is painted dark green with a pattern of … bells – bells?? …round the border and two twisty handles. How come the paint looks fresh? Buried under a good eight inches of muck. Not possible. But there it was.

 

Now what? I looked around. Dusk was falling, the allotments were deserted. I wanted to know what lay under the trapdoor. I grabbed the handles and tugged.  Bet you would’ve done the same. The trapdoor flew open.  Just like that! Amazingly easy.  And would you believe, there was a metal slide, like you get at WaterWorld for the kiddies, but it was wide, not kiddy-sized. So, obviously, I stepped down and whoosh! Away I went. Down, down, down through the darkness, round a bend and thump! I landed on my bottom inside a wide, sandy tunnel.

 

Further down the tunnel  I could see a bright yellow light, and hear the sound of, well, it sounded like a – a – workshop, I suppose, hammering and banging and clanging.  You know, like people working, making stuff. I dusted off my trousers and crept down the tunnel. Luckily the rocky wall bulged out, so I could hide in the tunnel and  peep round the rock to see what was what.

 

It was a workshop all right. Hammering, and sawing, painting and sanding, cutting and grinding, a real proper workshop, but  – and I rubbed my eyes and squinted hard: why were the workers all so short,  and wearing red caps with bells  on? And green jackets with brass buttons, and green and white striped tights, and their shoes! No workboots here – Health & Safety would’ve had a field day: no yellow hard hats, no boots – pointy red soft shoes, ending with curled up toes, and  bells on the curly tips. Bells on your shoes – well, I never!

 

And then I noticed the slanty eyes, and .. omigod … the pointy ears … Mr Spock had nothing on this lot!  I clutched the rocky outcrop, and took a deep breath. Where was I?

 

I inched cautiously round the rock, just a little closer, so I could see what the … the .. umm …  elves, I suppose , were making. Toys, that’s what they were busy with. You name it, they were making ’em. Toy trains, dolls, and doll-houses, rocking horses, teddy bears, and I don’t know what all. Even some of those modern X-box thingies.  And then I spied them: they were making Dinky cars!  I collect Dinkies. I’ve loved them ever since I was a kid. Just love ‘em. But they’re hard to find these days, they went out of production years ago. But not down here, apparently.  I looked around, and worked out that if I sneaked under the workbenches I could get right up close to the dinkies. I was dying to get a good look, and see if they were real Dinkies.  So I did. Holding my breath, quiet as a mouse, a bit of scientific crawling, and  there I was. Crouched under the  workbench opposite the Dinky  makers. Luckily I’m a skinny little man, take after my Dad, who was a Jockey.

 

Anyway, I spied a blue Morris Minor Traveller that I’d been after for years. The car came out in 1953. I think it was the English answer to those huge American station wagons, only being British, ours was more modest  – utilitarian, even.  My Dad had a green one, and I thought it was the smartest car, ever. Nobody else in our street had one. Only us. I’ve always admired the shiny yellow wood trim along the sides. It complimented the classic bull-nose of the front view.  And there it was, a beautiful, shiny new Dinky. Could I? Should I? Oh – what the hell : why not? There’ll never be another chance like this , that’s for sure.

 

I took a deep breath, popped my head and shoulders out from under the workbench, closed my fist over the Dinky, and was preparing to whip back my arm and slither away as fast as I could, when: “What’s this then?” bellowed a deep, bass voice. An angry deep bass voice.

 

I craned my neck and saw a huge pair of black shiny boots next to the bench, and two red-clad legs, big as oak tree trunks, but my view upwards was blocked by a vast red bulge.  A massive hand, decorated with a white fur cuff on a stout red sleeve grabbed my arm, shoulder and then the rest of me. I was hauled out  and held up, eye to eye, facing  very irate bright blue eyes under bushy white eyebrows.  The round red apple cheeks glowed red with rage.  Dimly I notice the silence. The hammering and banging stopped.

 

“Well? “  roared Santa.  “Explain yourself! You miserable little shrimp!”  he shook me hard, but I hung onto my precious new Dinky like grim death. I wasn’t letting  it go, not for anything.

 

Santa’s popping blue eyes narrowed a fraction, “Oh, I see”, he growled. “This is all about that Christmas when you were nine, isn’t it? No presents, no money for the gas meter, no Christmas Dinner. I’m right, aren’t I? Of course I am, I’m always right!” He plonked me back on my feet and glared down at me from his gigantic height.

 

“Errm”, I began, had to clear my throat, my voice wasn’t working.  All that shaking must’ve rattled my voice box loose, I reckon.

 

“Save your breath, you miserable little man.  I’m too busy to worry about you and one little green Dinky. Look at our production line – down to a standstill. Back to work you nosey lot!” he bellowed. An  immediate  salvo of hammering and drilling  broke out. Somewhere in the background I heard what sounded like neighing – what? horses, down here? Surely not? Then it dawned on me: oh, the reindeer, of course. Fleetingly I wondered what they ate, so far underground, but maybe they were taken up-world to graze. My dazed thoughts were jolted rudely when Santa scooped me up in a meaty paw, swung  back his arm and hurled me upwards … into the blackness.

 

When I came to, I was lying flat on my back, next to the  hole I’d dug, and  Debbie’s shrill voice was berating me:

“Grandpa! Just look  at you! Flat out in the muck – in the dark, on your own – bet you’ve been at your dandelion wine again, Granny’s going to give you what for, I can tell you. Good thing she sent me to fetch you home for supper. What’re we going to do with you?  And what’s the big hole about, then? I thought you were planting leeks? Looks like you were digging down to Australia more like it! C’mon, upsadaisy, on your feet. Put your arm around my neck, let’s get you  home. What’s that in your hand? Lemme see – wherever did you find that? It looks brand new – going to add it to your Dinky collection, I expect. Funny place to find a new Dinky, I must say.”

 

 

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A HOT FURRY DECEMBER BLIZZARD


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My dear cat, Chocolat, has welcomed our hot, windy summer by shedding her winter fur coat. So when I tell you that our entire home, bedding, furnishings, the works, is smothered in a fine coating of chocolate coloured fine cat’s fur, you will understand the title of this blog post. It’s a very good thing that I’m not an asthmatic, because if I was, by now I would be the late, great Mrs Smith. Demised, due to giant fur-ball would appear on the death cert.

Luckily the famous Cape Doctor, a.k.a. the South-Easter wind has been hurtling around Cape Town at gale force, which swept some of the fur, and all the carelessly littered  plazzie bags, out to sea. I’m amazed there haven’t been sightings of a giant UO (Unidentified Object) viz a fur covered plastic blob floating out on the Atlantic. You get the picture.

But despite these hazards, spirits are high, along with the summer temperatures, and it remains for me to wish my good friends and faithful readers a merry Festive Season, and a PEACEFUL, happy,  healthy New Year.

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MY 2016 READING YEAR


 I haven’t ticked as many books off my TBR list as I’d hoped, only 9 out of 12. More effort required  in 2017. And my  cataract op slowed me down somewhat, but this said, here are  the highlights  of my 2016 reading year.  Looking forward to your comments.

BEST READ OF THE YEAR

The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marra 

BEST SOUTH AFRICAN NOVEL

Recipes for Love & Murder – Sally Andrew 

BEST TRAVEL BOOK

Lost on Planet China – J. Maarten Troost 

BEST CLASSIC

Pale Fire – Vladimir Nabokov 

BEST SUSPENSE

The Martian – Andy Weir 

BEST BIOGRAPHY

The Invention of Nature – Andrea Wulf 

 BEST WAR MEMOIR/HISTORY

The Call of the  Litany Bird – Sue Gibbs

(Surviving the Rhodesian Bush War)

 

BEST TRANSLATED NOVEL

From the Mouth of the Whale  – Sjon

BEST SPECULATIVE FICTION

Station Eleven – Emily Mandel 

BEST SHORT STORIES

Brief Encounters with Che Guevarra – Ben Fountain

FUNNIEST NOVEL

A  Match for Dr Koekentapp – Allan Kaye

 

MOST UNUSUAL CRIME NOVEL

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon

MOST UNUSUAL MEMOIR

The Undertaker’s Daughter – Kate Mayfield

MOST UNUSUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY

South of Nirvana – Sue Randall

 

TERRIFIC READS

Between the Woods & the Water – Patrick Leigh Fermor  (beautiful prose)

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff  (modern life & marriage)

The Penguin Lessons – Tom Michell (fresh & quirky)

Unaccompanied Women – June Juska  (memoir)

The Shaman in Stilettoes – Anna Hunt (memoir)

The Mouseproof Kitchen –  Saira Shah  (contemporary novel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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