Tuesday, December 31, 2019

So Long to the 2010s

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Bingo early December

I really can’t complain about the 2010s as I have been retired from work for  9/10ths of the decade, but globally the world is a different place to what it was in 2009.

Actually, in my humble opinion, the world changed for good on 11 September 2001 with the fall of the two towers and has been going downhill ever since.

Anyway, to see out the old year here are some of my highlights for this year.


Though as usual I reread several old favourites, a number of new titles impressed me this year, notably two books by previously unknown authors – Diane Setterfield and Sarah Tolmie.

An engaging ghost story set on the river Thames, Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield gripped me from the beginning. It’s a sort of old fashioned tale that you comfortably settle into and follow delightedly to its satisfying conclusion.

ImageHandlerThe Little Animals by Canadian writer, Sarah Tolmie, is the book I loved the most this year; an unremarked gem of a novel about Dutch scientist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, known as the Father of Microbiology. He was a contemporary of the famous artist Johannes Vermeer who is also a character in the book. Another main character, who haunts the book and lends an otherworldly vibe to it, is the goose girl, transported from a Grimm fairy story to 17th century Delft to become a strange collaborator in van Leeuwenhoek’s scientific investigations into animacules (Little Animals). 

If like me you are weary of books banging on about modern social issues, The Little Animals is a welcome escape from these troubled times and a pleasure to read.

I also enjoyed new books by favourite authors – The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, The Secret Commonwealth by Phillip Pullman and two new books by the wonderful American writer John Crowley, And Go Like This, a book of short stories, and Reading Backwards an illuminating, exquisitely written collection of essays and reviews covering an astonishingly wide range of topics.

Alas John Crowley’s 25th Anniversary edition of Little, Big was not published this year – no surprise really. Hopefully I get to finally hold it in my hands next year after a 15 year wait.

Next year I’m pleasantly anticipating Agency by William Gibson in January,  The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel in March, a new David Mitchell novel, Utopia Avenue, in June and after a 16 year hiatus Susanna Clarke (author of the magical Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel) has a new novel titled Piranisi coming in September.

We’re not doing anything special this New Year’s Eve and will be asleep by midnight, possibly awakened by fireworks, but more likely the cat Bingo.

He’s now three years old and just as mischievous as ever, not to mention noisily vocal. But he is a beautiful looking animal and a dear little fellow most of the time.

Let’s hope summer is not too trying. A few 40C+ degree days is normal in Melbourne, and luckily the few we’ve had so far  have only lasted 24 hours with a cool change following in a timely manner and lingering for days.

The hot weather has affected the horse racing industry. Several recent race meetings have been abandoned due to the heat, which is to be commended. Hopefully when the Group 1 racing resumes in early February the weather will be kind, though that’s unlikely. We wait and see.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the new racing season as I enjoy my Saturday afternoon outings to the track. It’s also pleasurable to speculate on the emergence of new stars of the turf in the Magic Millions two year old competitions in early January at the Gold Coast.

Whilst awaiting the new racing season I’ve been playing computer games, the current one on the go being Blade Runner, a 1997 game recently rejigged for modern computers by GOG.

Despite it’s 80s retro visuals, I recently  enjoyed a very well made game called Detective Di: The Silk Rose Murders.  The game is based on a real life ancient Chinese judge and investigator Di Renjie, who was also the hero of a series of novels by Robert van Gulick, quite few of which I have in my personal library.

As support for Windows 7 expires mid January, I’ll be obliged to either update my current computer to the dreaded Windows 10 or purchase a new one.  Despite this Windows 7 computer still going smoothly, I’m favouring getting a new computer for Windows 10 for several reasons. Firstly the SSD C: drive on this computer is running out of space, and secondly it being close to  five years old, the bios is pretty ancient and is probably not up to date or updateable.

I intend to buy another desktop with all the bells and whistles, ie a good graphics card, a fast CPU with lots of RAM. Hopefully my favourite old software will still work on a new machine and in Windows 10.

Windows 7 in my opinion has been the best version of Windows I’ve ever used. It’s stable, fast and problem free in the main and runs all my old beloved software programs.

This is turning into a marathon post, so I’ll end here, wishing my readers, whoever you are, a Happy 2020 and a more enlightened world.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Pictures & Pages–Elise Hurst Signing in Coburg

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Pictures & Pages Bookshop in Sydney Road Coburg

I would not normally venture out to the north western suburb of Coburg - in fact I can’t remember the last time I was there - but the special occasion of local artist  Elise Hurst signing copies of her recent collaboration with famed writer Neil Gaiman, an illustrated edition of his novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane, drew me thence.

Illustrated edition of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

It was actually quite easy to get to Coburg from Ivanhoe via public transport, the convenient 510 (Ivanhoe to Essendon) Bus allowed me to alight at the corner of  Sydney Road and Moreland Road and take a short tram trip north that got me to the venue, a specialist Children’s Bookshop called Pictures & Pages, in a little over 30 minutes.

Elise Hurst is a remarkably talented Melbourne artist whom I first discovered in December 2017 when a friend gifted me with her 2018 Calendar for Christmas.  I’ve been a great fan since and have met Elise several times at the Brunswick Sisters Market and purchased her cards, books and prints.

As well as being dazzingly talented, Elise Hurst is a lovely person, sweet, unaffected, friendly and easy to talk to.

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Elise Hurst signing books at Pictures & Pages

Naturally I bought a copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane and got Elise to sign it. She also had prints of illustrations from the book for sale, but I resisted the temptation to buy the perfectly composed skulking  Fox  print. I may yet cave in and buy a copy before they sell out.

The Fox – an illustration from The Ocean at the End of the Lane

As I haven’t previously read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I’m looking forward to reading this beautiful edition, a handsome hard covered book that is highly collectable if you’re a bibliophile who appreciates beautiful books.

It was an interesting excursion to Coburg,  a mini adventure of sorts for a Sunday afternoon.