Monday, April 30, 2012

Big Scary in The Cross

Police patrol the streets as biker gangs and a crime king-pin ramble through Kings Cross last Friday night.

The same king-pin justified his presence with this comment in the newspaper the next day: "The Cross is in safe hands … It's disorganised crime that's the problem."

Scary stuff!

What wasn't scary was the band I reviewed in The Cross that night - Big Scary. With their impish grins they appear awfully approachable and as a two piece they aren't very big either! But their name isn't a complete misnomer; their sound is so big, board and lush - it’s spine tingling scary. Also on the bill were Mosman Alder (this week's Tunesday pick!) and Geoffrey O'Connor - a modern reincarnation of Spinal Tap

Check out my review to find out what zoolander would look like if he were in a band and why I feared I would pulled up by the police on patrol that night.  

Tunesday #9 Mosman Alder

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A fraction of the process

I adore this book cover. However it got pulled before it went into print. You can find out the reason why here in this short interview with book designer Nathan Burton. 

The Legacy

My journeys through Australian literature are on par with the success of Burke and Wills expedition up the centre of Australia. They always start with excessive amounts of enthusiasm, big claims that I can conquer the literary landscape and unearth new sources of inspiration. I belittle those who don’t step off the well-trodden tourists pathways of literary landmarks of Carey and Winton, beseeching them that they should support the cherished underdog. However I always fall by the wayside, stumbling dizzy and dehydrated into a ditch, distracted by disillusions of my own great intentions without actually properly planning to follow through on them.

I’m making amends and moving beyond the stock standard swag of Australian authors that grace the bestsellers list, I’m heading into Australia’s uncharted territory and this time I’m doing it with the aid of Gleebooks - who are less likely to spit at me than a camel.

Gleebooks in Sydney’s suburb of Glebe has a long established book club featuring Australian literature. This month’s book was “The Legacy” by first time novelist Kirsten Tranter.

I arrive early, keen to make a good impression. The blue plastic chairs are soon filled with a brigade of baby boomers, swigging down glasses of white wine and cheekily chortling through false teeth. Despite their older age, everyone avoids the front row with shy schoolgirl graces, not wanting to be picked out by the flame haired mediator or worse by special guest Kirsten Tranter. I wonder how having the author at a book club will effect the meeting, self-censorship is sure to be rife as I overhear a few ladies moaning about how they struggled to get past the first hundred pages. Once the mediator warmly welcomes us, the ladies hush up and predictably pretend that their homework has been completed.

Typically you attend high school within your postcode and inherit strong opinions about the social nuances of people occupying the other points of the compass. Tranter unimaginatively uses these long established stereotypes to contextualize her characters Ralph and Julia. Lay-about Ralph hails from North Sydney - nuclear family intact and pockets overflowing with cash. Narrator Julia, deserted daughter of a hippie Mother, lives alone Sydney’s inner west juggling jobs and loose change.

Then bam you hit University. Your world opens up. The ability to drive dissolves the boundaries of distance and you actually meet people from the other side of the bridge. 
It’s clear that Tranter remembers her school days well, with “The Legacy” revolving around the lives of three students studying at Sydney Uni.

Ralph and Julia become firm friends. Ralph’s beautiful half-cousin Ingrid soon joins the fold, subtly altering dynamics. However the trio are inseparable, whiling away their hours boozing at Ralph’s harbor-side mansion, watching videos at Julia’s job at a video shop or playing endless games of Cluedo in typical arts students style at the uni bar. Conversations are interspaced with “witty” [insert: poncy] remarks about Shakespeare or Casablanca and the next piss up they’re going to attend.

Tranter explores the theme of haves and have nots. This isn’t just mediation on money, it delves beyond the pocket and into the pants, as the trio’s complicated friendship is singed with affairs of the heart, with each not able to have the one they want.

Ingrid goes on to marry the much older American Art dealer Gil Grey – father of child art prodigy Fleur – signaling the end of the friendship. It is when Ingrid goes unaccounted for after the September 11 attacks that Ralph resumes contact with Julia, convincing her to go to New York to learn more about the life Ingrid’s New York life before her untimely death. It is there [many, many pages later] that Julia discovers that Ingrid’s life may not have been as super fantastic as they all thought.

The cover totes it as an “unputdownable mystery” - in reality the book lacks any mysterious intent until the final quarter of the book. The achingly slow pace of the book is dictated by the introspective yearnings of Julia. Wallowing in self-pity and low self-esteem, Julia continually compares her self worth the seemingly flawless Ingrid - hardly suspenseful stuff. I preserved waiting for the storyline to form. The self absorbed characters sapping me of my will to read – like Bruke and Wills – I should have turned back when the going got tough. But I kept soldiering on, sure that there would be a flourishing spring of poetic phrasing up over the next ridge or a sprout of intrigue as I rounded the bend. No such luck. Tranter tries to string tension through the story with staccato style sentences. Tranter references Raymond Chandler as an inspiration for creating “hard-boiled” atmosphere– unfortunately using pared back sentences and short, sharp phrases when there is no mystery to speak of leaves the reader cold. Julia’s narration comes off bland and one dimensional, the reader feels no empathy for any of the characters therefore making it difficult to muster up any interest in their activities. Furthermore readers are unable to understand Julia’s motives and actions. At one point Julia learns that she has been sleeping with a married man, there is no consequence or suggestion to how she feels about this. It’s as if she’s a robot. Though apparently this is just normal behavior for youngin’s of today -

“But all young women are the same! They never think about anyone, they just have affairs as they please.” My breath catches in my throat. I’m shocked. I quickly assume that I’ve misunderstood the intent of the bespeckled, graying lady outburst. But no, she reiterates her comments with extra gusto once she realizes that she has the attention of the group. Clearly she feels jipped that her fellow typing pool compatriots cavorted with smooth Don Draper types in office romances, while the only action she got was winding up the typewriter.

At the time I wanted to throw a book at her – I still do – by the ebb and flow of time has lent me some retrospect. I’m now glad that she said that, not that her comments have any merit, but because it spiced up an otherwise drab book.

What I took away from this book wasn’t any particular insight (though I finished it a few days ago it has sunk into the damp recesses of my mind) but that all books warrant discussion. I flippantly decided that I didn’t like the book, I went to the meeting determined that I would not be swayed away from my opinion. After a solid hour of discussion I now know for certain that I don’t like the book – however there is a possibly that you may enjoy it – as there were people at the meeting who genuinely considered the book to be the bees knees. I’m almost certain that they weren’t sucking up to the author. So to be fair – I would recommend the book to you if you enjoy introspective mediations on ones self worth set to a backdrop of Sydney and New York.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Punch drunk for pens and paper

'Alcohol' in Iran

'You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.'  Ray Bradbury

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The room in which you sleep

The Result of writing exercise #3:

If I were to die tomorrow and my possessions were pillaged & plundered, what would be found? 

A substantial collection of spare buttons. A bookshelf of dog-eared novels haphazardly arranged like a frustrating game of Tetris. Food stained university lecture notes and anatomy textbooks reeking of formaldehyde. A stack of 90’s sewing magazines and a dusty sewing machine. Unused clusters of crockery, teapots, table runners and Indian cotton quilt sets, strewn between piles of clothes. The space under the bed would reveal unhung art and creepy one-eyed dolls from a reckless youth.

There is no real system of organization. Spare socks plug empty spaces of the bookcase. Books wander into the wardrobe. My room is my home. Many people experience the choke and congestion of clutter. I’m fairly content to live with my things luxuriously lounging about the place.

Did I fare any better living out of a backpack? I can give you a resounding no. In fact I was far worse without four walls to confide my belongings.

That is NOT my suitcase

Travelling in a twenty-ton truck leads to all sorts of false ideas of spaciousness. In fact, travelling light is nonsense when driving around the world. You do tend to forget a minor detail - how much it is humanly possible to carry.

At every border crossing the truck was inspected. We had to be responsible for all our personal possessions. I had to be able to shoulder all my things and walk across the border whilst the truck was separately inspected. Some borders had more thorough inspections then others. I can remember a Nepalese border guard bounding up the steps and calling out a cheery hello before waving the truck on. At the Turkish border the guard was more concerned with a passenger’s “stylish” bandana. We stood in subzero temperatures for hours whilst they tore the truck apart at the Chinese border.

At the Chinese border, after I had posted a 12kg package home from Kathmandu, I still had a 25kg backpack, two overflowing plastic boxes, a day back, a handbag, a jumbo sized environmental plastic bag. The seams of every single bag groaned. But not as loudly as me, as I lumbered through the security checkpoints. Trying not to look suspicious. The only people who would have carried more things travelling would have been the first pioneers. And they were going into the unknown for indefinite durations.

In fact I had so much luggage, at one point I unwittingly became an international smuggler. I slipped whiskey into Malaysia. Why whiskey is contraband is beyond me. I happened to chortle at the sign also outlining eggs, sugar and rice as restricted items. I then confidently crossed the border, assured I was following the letter of every law.

Looking back on it I wonder why I had some much luggage. I suppose it comes back to my panache for cumbersomely shaped or weighty objects. Otherwise known as home wares. Since leaving Australia I developed a raging nesting instinct. After only two months in London I posted home an 18kg package. Of home wares. For a house I do not own. I have an unfailing sense of optimism that I will, one very distant day, own a house. It’ll perhaps be wise to also invest in a garden shed as well, to house my heaving collection of eclectic keepsakes.

I’m still re-discovering all the stuff I bought whilst away. I procured a couple of things “for the house” in every country and mailed a bundle home every so often. ‘Bundle’ may be a misleading word. During the nine months on the road I mailed home five packages totaling a whopping 56kilos. My backpack weighed in at a sterling 24kg at my last border crossing.

I became very friendly with postal staff worldwide

I suppose the only thing I can say is that this future house of mine shall require a good many rooms, as I’m doing a daily decathlon to get out the front door.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Writing Exercise #3 Dropped Dead

Mountains of Rubbish, Glastonbury 2011

I think that this writing prompt from 'Naked, drunk and writing' is particularly poignant given my inability to find things in the roaring rumble and rift-raft that is my room. 

"You dropped dead suddenly and your house is cleared out. What do they find?"

I almost miss just having all my possessions fit into a backpack.But then again I am and always will be a book hoarder. Well that's a half-truth, I hoard many things. From mountains of clothes to broken yo-yo's, christmas cards and CD's that are scratched beyond play. After travelling I have also learnt that I've got quite a penchant for objects of stone or exceptionally fine fragility...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lessons in how to be dumb

There are seven days in a week. 

Not earth shattering news for most, but it still rocks my world. My weeks are now bookmarked with work, study, coursework, daily commutes and washing my hair*. Free time is fleeting and fought for.

It's been a painful adjustment after almost a year of traveling, when my time was wholly and luxuriously my own. Nap time was mandatory, as was listless daydreaming. I felt a heady sense of accomplishment if I backed up my photos or got a load of laundry done.

Needless to say I have a bit more to pad out my day. I need to push and prod responsibilities around to fit my writing in. I had originally anticipated I would have a first draft of my novel completed by May/June. After all I wrote reams whilst on the road, all I had to do was retype it and add a bit of flowery language, right? I can safely say I think that this sweetly naive and almost laughably so. That's not to say I haven't been working hard to make it happen, but I fear that it will not be enough, so my revised deadline is August.

You can see with my self-imposed deadlines that I'm trying to create goals to ensure I keep writing a priority. Without goals I fall into a slurry of whimsical distractions.  

My current dilemma is how to set goals that set action in motion. I know I need time pressured goals but at the same time I falter if set too firm. My recent attempts of establishing writing goals has left me floundering & overwhelmed.

Just in the past month alone I have oscillated between wild and varied word counts goals - then I abruptly realized I don't really count words. In fact word counts added a sense pressure, not the ra-ra motivating kind, the straggling kind.

I decided to focus on a country/region per week. This worked somewhat well for Tibet and Iran. But found that this approach had me nit picking sections I had already written and didn't propel me into creating new material. It also had me hopping between chapters and leaving some ideas unfleshed. I know if I skip on and leave these ideas half formed, they will become rotten and unworkable by the time I return to them.

I've toyed with fixed durations - two hours per day. Or even setting times of the day - write whilst commuting, but as drool drips onto my iPad and my head lolls towards the shoulder of a stranger most nights I am just too tired.

Basically I have set many goals. Many dumb goals. I need SMART goals. Yup, this is starting to sound like every work related professional-development course ever run - except without the cheap instant coffee and stale biscuits. I offer no biscuits.

So I need to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

It hasn't been all miserable failures. I am keeping my goal of completing one writing exercise per week. My inner critic berates me that I should do one a day, but I am firmly ignoring that bitchy whine. I'll review and increase the number of exercises based on what's achievable in the upcoming weeks.

I just need to figure out a series of SMART goals to achieve my August deadline. As that deadline is just like a floating pie in the sky at the moment. For more info on goal setting check out this and this.

* yup, since getting back to Sudney I can safely reassure everyone that I do wash my hair on a regular basis.  Thanks to irregular shower access, irate plumbing and corrosive water, a gnarly matted nest was starting to take hold of my scalp.

Tunesday #8: Muppet Show. Scooter and Electric Mayhem

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reader's Bill of Rights

Bookshop in Bucharest, Romania 

Reader's Bill of RightsDaniel Pennac

1. The right to not read

2. The right to skip pages

3. The right to not finish

4. The right to reread

5. The right to read anything

6. The right to escapism

7. The right to read anywhere

8. The right to browse

9. The right to read out loud

10. The right to not defend your tastes

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The hot heart and cold eye

The other day I mentioned I was on the hunt for a book. It still remains a sight unseen. Though in my half-hearted attempted to find it, I happily rediscovered another book. I abandoned the search and whittled away the afternoon re-reading ‘Naked, Drunk and Writing’ by Adair Lara.

I bought the book last year because of the title* and it’s promise to help the reader ‘craft a compelling memoir or personal essay.’ At this point I was half contemplating writing a travelogue about my impeding journey from London to Sydney. I was also starting to get steady requests to pen opinion columns in SpitPress.

On the first read I gobbled the book up. The pages are dog-eared and annotated with flashes of green highlighter and scribbles in the margins.  Adair Lara’s guide is personable and informative.  Lara addresses structure, subject matter, tone, narration, scene with a firm hand and wry wit.  Even Lara, a writing teacher, admits, “structure is not sexy”, yet I would consider her own book as delightfully playful. She blends anecdotes of working as a columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and teacher, throughout the book. Thereby giving each lesson or writing task depth and relevance.

Lara also liberally quotes other writers including Chekhov - “Tear your story in half and start in the middle” or Marilynn Robinson’s description of writers starting out “At first less in love with structure or pattern and more in love with words in a foolish but sweet way.”

Lara herself is also full of quotable titbits (hence the heavy-handed green highlighting) “Apply part A (Butt) to part B (chair)….Don’t vow to write. Vow to show up at the desk.” Or “You must work. You start with your hot heart, spilling truth any old way onto the page. And then you bring in your cold eye.”

There is a plethora of writing exercises in the book. In all honesty I have completed few. I read the book quickly and with immense joy. Then I packed it in a box with 18kilos worth of other goods and shipped it from London to Sydney.  

Some of the writing advice stuck like glue throughout the rest of my trip and inferred astounding impacts on my journal writing. Lara recommends that you collect sensory rich images as well “those cranky, eccentric details that could come only from a frontier where no one else has been: your life…the most neurotics details resonate like a tuning fork”. So I wrote my journal with a hot heart. Now I just need a cold eye.

* The title itself is a cute story in itself “somebody at a party once remarked to me over sushi that books with ‘naked’ in the title always sell”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nightly nightmares

Prayer flags in the wind

I'm on the hunt for a book. I bought 'The Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama' whilst in Kathmandu & gave myself a crash course in Tibetan history, philosophy and religion. There was a sense of urgency to learn as much as possible. Stories about China's strict border control and contraband reading list were in equal parts frightening and frustrating. I wanted to be informed about the Tibet/China situation before crossing over. I speedily read and posted it home, hoping for a chance to revisit the book. Particularly now given that I am writing the Tibetan chapter of my book.

This book gave me nightmares.

Tibetan philosophies and history is not all fuzzy hugs, hippie karma and rainbows. Well, rainbows feature fairly frequently in folklore as denoting the birth of reincarnated spirits. Tibetan history is awash with bloodshed, treachery, hostile invasions, political turmoil and poisoning. Reaching thousands of years before the 1949 invasion. Their history is deeply embroiled with scripture describing the plateau's spiritualscape of demons and portals to the many layers of hell.

I would suddenly bolt upright in the middle of the night, gasping for air. A showreel of images dancing in my mind. Spirits with claws and multiple eyes. The stench of rotting flesh. The feeling of feet stomping on my chest and dead men on horseback. I would flick on the light, casting ominous shadows on the damp hotel room walls. I would listen to the gurgle of water trickle through rusty pipes, trying to catch my breathe. The smoggy streets of Tamil silent. Strict nighttime curfews, enforced by stick swinging police, meant only the foolhardy would wander through the labyrinth of lane-ways after 11pm.

This became a nightly routine. Fal
ling back to sleep difficult. My head failing to find a comfortable position on the lumpy concrete sack of a pillow.

In retrospect, there were other reasons why sleep eluded me during my 3weeks in Kathmandu. I drank countless cups of coffee, indulged in sugar infused snacks, hung out in reggae bars drinking cheap vodka, became addicted to Twin Peaks, contorted my body under the tutelage of hardcore yoga junkies, became feverous with the flu - so it was almost no wonder I woke in col
d sweats from the most vivid dreams.

Yet the impeding unknown caused my he
art to grip in fear. Once we crossed into Tibet anything that could go wrong could be disastrous. The region is twice the size of France and virtually cut off from the world due to geographical and political obstacles. We would be ascending altitude at rates unadvisedly by medical professionals and camping in sub zero temperatures.I doubted I was physically prepared for the challenge (hence the half hearted attempts of yoga. I dread to think how my favourite pose, the corpse pose, would have 'prepared' me).

Road to Everest

Once I was in Tibet I fell in love with the rolling tundras, soaring mountains and searing sunlight.

But I also complained bitterly the whole time! The physical discomfort of extreme temperatures and altitude was & remains like nothing I have ever endured. Unless I don't find this book soon gosh darn it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tunesday #7: Miike Snow

Bleeding Knees Club

"A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence." Leopold Stokowski

There was little silence on Friday night. I was back in business and writing my first gig review since being back in Sydney. Though it wasn’t strictly business, in fact I had my dancing shoes on and hot shoe shuffling up a storm.

And what a gig to whet the appetite for live music! Bleeding Knees club, Dune Rats and Sures - three Aussie bands who pack a punch with their swaggering surfer/garage rock.

Gig reviews were something that I dearly missed whilst on the road. I attended a slew of gigs in Europe, but there is nothing like having your name on the door list and revelling in live music for free (prefect for a pauper like me!).

You can check out the review here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Potty over Potter

I saw this over at Inkygirl and had to chortle as I seen many people pull similarly pained expressions over the end of Harry Potter. But never fear! J.K. Rowling has just announced she is releasing a new book in September called 'The Casual Vacancy'. This one is directed towards an adult audience -

"When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?"

I can already sense that it'll be nominated for the September/October meeting of my bookclub!

Photo inspiration. Prague.

This is what I came up with for writing exercise number 2:

If Europe were a beehive come June 1st, rain or shine, it gets mercifully hacked open. Everyone is on holidays and keen to get out and about.

Great swarms of people swoop onto anything that has been vaguely labeled as a tourist landmark. The calamity of foreign languages creates a heady hum in cobblestone streets across the continent.

Even if you’ve run marathons, walking five hundred meters saps your stamina. There’s the constant threat of getting sideswiped by a stroller, struck by a wayward elbow or suffocated by a swarm of tourists unexpectedly rounding a bend. The constant stop-start flow of foot traffic burns the calves,buckles the knees and causes cheeks to flush.

Crafty footwork

Big-ticket cities are like this all year round. Even in snowstorms Piccadilly Circus is literally a circus, Paris is packed and Rome is overrun. But there seems to be a round robin of popular alternatives.


Through the magic of cheap airline tickets, reams of overt and covert advertising, these alternatives sink into the collective conscious as 'The' destination to visit that summer.

This summer it was Prague and we were in the heaving heart of it.

Like any run of the mill travellers, we were keen to capture it all on camera. Though even Olympic level gymnasts would have struggled to contort themselves to obscure strangers from the photo frames. Yet we all valiantly gave it a shot. Ducking, weaving, kneeling, lying down on cobblestones or straddling lampposts, wildly angling the camera lenses.

Random on the Right. Aidan and I posing fountain side.

We gave up. Huffing and puffing we would mutter the now commonly thrown catchphrase 'photoshop. You can definitely erase them all.'

Sounded like a great plan.Yet even if you actually blissfully swipe strangers away with the click of the mouse, you wouldn't to be able to erase the haggard drag of your shoulders and sheen of sweat across your brow. You can’t help but look absolutely spent.

Though you'll get a hundred odd people in your photos, it's worth snapping away, Prague is truly picturesque. Simply stunning. Yet, it's not the Prague I imagined at all. For lack of a better description it was all a bit too...clean.

Through a strict plan of restoration and gentrification that facades are freshly painted and flawless. The cobblestone streets smooth. Even statues appear almost ageless.

Sculpture in Prague

I expected a bohemian ragtag attitude or a poetically caviler indifference. Perhaps an accordion player sitting on a street corner. Soft cap dragged rakishly low. Gypsy music slyly slinking out of bellows. Yet it was all too shiny. Too new looking. And absolutely exhausting.

Writing Exercise # 2 - photos

Cameras on the ready! Prague

I have started flicking photos from when I was aboard, stacking and sorting them for a photobook. A decent share of my photos are out of focus, stark or dim depending on terrible lightening, cluttered with distractions or momentums obscured by hordes of tourists.

Basically I realized most of my photos are crap.

But then I started thinking maybe they aren’t completely terrible after all. Stay with me on this thought, I promise this isn’t me just massaging my fragile ego.

Perhaps my dodgy photos don’t just represent my lack of photography skills but maybe they highlight the atmosphere of each place. It is near on impossible to get a photo of anything in Europe with at least half a dozen people loitering in the frame. Or the out of focus pictures of the fire festival in India was due to the push and crush of the swelling crowd. Or poor lightening in the Vietnamese photos was secondary to monsoonal weather. The off kilter photos of the Himalayans was due to the heady nausea of altitude sickness.

I will heartily admit that someone with skill could easily overcome these challenges, but I intend to make lemonade from these lemons of photos and create a writing exercise:

This week’s writing exercise was to write a short piece based on photos taken on the trip. I wanted to focus less on the obvious aspects of the location and more on the atmosphere captured on lenses.

The quirky photo above inspired me to write about the crowded streets of Prague.

Out of focus (tick), Red eyes (tick), Light Flare (tick). Countless memories of running around Cappadocia (tick). Plus evidence of a Kombi with an attached beatle - seriously too cool for school

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Year In Provence

I suppose this is further proof of my lack of commitment to finishing book trilogies. I wrote this book review about two years ago and I have as yet to finish the third book. I throughly enjoyed the first book, in fact my mouth salivates at the very thought of it - cheese, chocolate and wine oh my! I suppose I'll eventually get around to finishing it. Though it'll probably take me another two years.

A Year in Provence is a book to lunch with. An undemanding companion, the novel unfolds in a casual undulating fashion, with each chapter devoted to a different month of the year. So enraptured by the countryside, it’s food and people, you learn little about the author (Peter Mayle).

Besides possessing all the qualities of an ideal lunch companion – it is essential to be in the process of eating whilst reading the book; otherwise to you are at risk of gnawing off your own foot.

The Provencal menu is dictated by the ebb and flow of the seasons – muddy truffles, lashing of golden olive oil, crusty bread and of course gallons of wine - Mayle’s descriptions of mouth watering gastronomic delights feature in nearly every chapter.

Not content to merely recount the menu, Mayle makes Food a prominent character equivalent to a Prima-Donna, bristling for attention when not centre stage and full bodied with sensuality. Even humble fruit melons are equated to tasting like a young woman’s lips.

When not tucking into a meal, Mayle cheerily recounts the bizarre bureaucratic process of purchasing the 200 year-old farmhouse, dealing with a band of cheeky renegade builders and entertaining a endless stream of “friends” turning up at their door.

My edition also features the following two books in the Provence Trilogy – “Toujours Provence” and “Encore Provence”.

Without pausing for a breath, I launched straight into book two. Unfortunately Mayle seems to be more self-conscious as he awkwardly acknowledges the international success of the first book has impacted upon his life in the Provence. Though three years on, Mayle still retains the wide-eyed enthusiasm for the Provence, however the novel lacks structure and substance. Mayle seems to be scrapping the barrel for ideas by including a whole chapter on a choir of toads.

Just like never being able to leave the table without feeling stuffed, perhaps I just had a Mayle overload. That’s why I’m leaving “Encore Provence” unread for a couple of months, so I avoid indigestion.

The sheer joy of food can also been indulged in:

- Like Water for Chocolate

- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

- Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand

- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

The terrible threes

One, two, three

I think I'm developing a dreadful pattern. I've discovered I'm terrible at reading trilogies. It appears I start a trilogy of books great gusto. I lap up the first book, lose pace and plod through the second then completely run out of steam by the third.

I have started three trilogies this year, each of wildly different genres (LOTR, Fifty Shades and The Hunger games) yet I've come to a grinding halt with all of them.

In fact The Hunger Games has almost become an

albatross around my neck. I continue to lug it around, hoping that I'll feel inspired to finish the bloody book. You see that I've somewhat fallen out of love with the series. The protagonist is just dreary and clueless that it's become almost painful to read. Yet I'm determined to finish it! Along with the other two trilogies.

Now that I think about it, I suppose this isn't such a new pattern, after all I have never finished the 'Year in Provence' or 'Girl with the dragon tattoo' trilogies. Is this steming from some deep seeded psychological issue? Perhaps or perhaps I simply get distracted. Either way after reading this top ten list - I’m keen to sink my teeth into a new trilogies and actually finish it.

After I finally finish those three trilogies first *sigh*

Friday, April 13, 2012

The weekend that was so long ago

I’ve never been a fan of the abbreviation TGI Friday – but jeez I’m literally hollering it out today! Two public holidays has meant I’ve had to play catch up at work this week.

Whilst I’m still eating Easter eggs*, it feels like an age since Easter. I’ve been dreamily reminiscing about my trip away to the beach house. Including the fine wine, cheese, afternoon tea, girly chats over cider, beach walks, antique hunting, mint tea and Sunday markets.

A seaside cider

Fresh Mint tea

All the delicious beverages last weekend actually reminded me of some horrendously horrible drinks I had whilst on the road. In particular some truly nasty European wines. Now that may sound like an oxymoron. After all European wines have so many highfalutin connotations of decadence and moorish qualities; in fact the phrase la-di-da springs to mind. I can confidently say that we sampled few with any genteel standards. Then again we weren't so much doing Europe on a shoestring as doing it on a scrap of twine and a tent peg!

If there was a cheaper option we leap wholeheartedly at it. The wine we drank was out of plastic bottles. Which is sold in great quantities - why buy one liter when you can buy 2.5 liters for only a euro more? I am ninety percent positive what we were drinking was wine. The labels had green squiggles that resembled grapes, though the wine generally tasted less like fermented fruit and more like lighter fluid. It had to be diluted with a generous dash of soft drink otherwise it'll burn your taste buds and give you the most vivid nightmares. Still it was an absolute bargain basement price.

Whilst I’m poorer than I was in Europe, I’m pleased to be back in the land of cheap but highly drinkable vino. In fact I think after the hectic week I had a glass of wine would go down swimmingly!

Juice that packed a punch (carrot, apple, ginger, orange)

* This has nothing to do with portion control or slow eating – it’s more like an abundance of delicious egg shaped chocolate
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...