January 6th, 2014

On the 100th anniversary to the day

That Marcel Proust’s first volume of “In Search of Lost Time” was published, I decided I would start on it, as there was a good chance it would stay unread otherwise. There was never any question that I would finish the full 3000 pages of the 7 book work, but the first, “Swann’s Way” seemed achievable.


In many ways I was quite charmed by the book and it’s famously long sentences. I immediately recognised it as something Gerald Murnane must have been heavily influenced by, though when I Google the two names now, I discover more crossover between Samuel Beckett than the Frenchman. Apart from mild irritations about a boy’s obsessive wish for nightly kisses from his mother, and the overly long and repetitive jealous episodes of Swann when seeking to know the whereabouts of Odette, it was really quite a good read. The parts about small town French life, the eccentricities of Aunt Leonie, maid Francoise and the social life of the Verdurins were such fun. 4 stars.


Hot on the heels of this I found a charming little volume at Alice’s Bookshop recently. My version, published in 1929, “A Short History of Hampton Court” by Ernest Law (which I now see is an e-book if you’re into them) was a quick read with many quaint drawings of the rooms, the cupolas, the Great Hall and the many splendorous windows. Surprisingly, the history started with Cardinal Wolsey’s occupation at around 1514, with only a line or two about its former use by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. It seems odd to me how quickly the info drops off before the late 1400′s, since the value of a nationwide census was shown with the Domesday Book of 1086. I guess religious orders are boring.


If you didn’t know English History, you’d be frustrated by this book, as it really only deals with who stayed at Hampton and what happened there – the masques / plays – Shakespeare’s visits, and numerous stories of haunted rooms. The sheer size and opulence of the Palace was just staggering, and it was considered the finest in all Europe at the time – 1200 rooms, kitchen fireplaces that were 7 foot tall by 18 foot long, capable of roasting entire bulls within. All throughout is made mention of Wolsey’s exquisite taste in furnishings, artwork and precious stones and how he lived in finer splendour than Henry VIII, which may have even brought about his downfall . I’d just love to visit it next time I go to London.

by dfv | Posted in Books | Comments Off |
November 26th, 2013

Well, Chloe’s costing us $2800 this week

She was pfaffing about, darting in and out, and pecking Fergus when we heard a small yelp and then the back left leg limp began. But it didn’t abate overnight and she was unable to bear weight, which pretty much reduced her to a 2 legged dog over the weekend since her front right is completely stuffed also.

The cat flap for toilet breaks was out of the question, so before we went back to work, I got her looked at to find my 13 year old has a footballing injury, and has torn her cruciate ligament and needs immediate reconstruction surgery. Then they said it would be like an 85 year old having a new hip and she’d be in for 3 days “just in case”. So, I’m working from home on Friday in a nursing role and hoping it doesn’t go downhill as quickly as it can when your dog loses its independence. I’m hopeful though.


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November 26th, 2013

More books – quite a mixed bag

They’ve been on my desk for months awaiting a fair hearing, or a night when I could be arsed, and now that I’m getting DC’d playing WoW, the time has come for the shortest of summaries.


Koch’s “The Dinner” first captivated me with it’s Lobster cover, and then infuriated me with it’s ending. A provocative and calculated attempt to goad anyone with a sense of justice, and like The Slap, provide fodder for lacklustre dinner party conversations, if anyone has them anymore. I couldn’t believe how angry this book made me, so 4.5 stars for trolling me so comprehensively.


Next up, the book that cemented Australian Patrick White’s Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, “Voss”, which won the Miles Franklin and a book whose enigmatic title I’d long wondered about. Probably the 4th White book I’ve read, but one of the best. An imaginative remake of the failed 1849 cross-Australia trek by Ludwig Leichhardt, the utterly impenetrable Voss, driving further and further into the desolate interior, his mind awash in a cool, spiritual relationship with a tortured Sydney schoolmistress. It was a great contrast between their circumstances and in White’s sparse hand, it was a memorable exchange. 4 stars.


Last up, a populist map book by Simon Garfield “On the Map”, full of pics and oddities and chapters that explored everything from Ptolemy to Harry Beck’s London Underground map and Sat Nav. systems. Extremely readable, and had me searching Ebay and Abebooks.co.uk for a nice fresh 1908 copy of Baedeker’s “London and its Environs”, where I’ve since unfolded it’s delicate maps and read all about the beheadings in and around The Tower. 3.5 stars and great fun.


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September 25th, 2013

Sometimes little things make you boil with rage

It’s quite simple. I wanted to buy a $1.99 game on the Google Play store for my phone, to replace the wonderful Ingress. Purchase failed: Error Code blah blah etc…

I look it up, and it turns out my Google Wallet account is apparently suspended, pending verification that my credit card is actually mine.


Only, what they want me to do is scan my drivers license, AND a utility bill and attach them to an online form, and then wait 5 days for a response. Online I read of plenty of people saying that this was not enough and that its taken months of generic template replies and guff, and they are no closer to being able to purchase anything.

So, goodbye Google Wallet – I refuse to give you more than I need give any other vendor in the online market place. From a customer who’s never once failed to make a payment, or had anything less than a perfect financial history of bill paying etc.

I am astounded and angry. I guess Ebay and PayPal are the winners, but I still don’t get my game. Oh well.





by dfv | Posted in Games | 2 Comments » |
July 20th, 2013

On rainy days like these, I am still reminded of when..

As a boy of maybe 10 or 11, on a miserable day like today, in the middle of a crime fighting mania that would last 3 months tops, I confounded my parents by sitting under a rug beneath the Melaleuca on our nature strip, sheltered from the gentle rain. I had cut out a small snippet of The Sun which from memory was called Stolen Cars and listed maybe 50 car registration plate numbers in a small table.

My main aim was to do my bit as a citizen and call the Police when one of these cars drove past, which was once every couple of minutes; I was sure that being so close to the crime centre of Reservoir meant my strike rate would be decent, but I never did make that phone call.

I only lasted two weekends in those pre-Walkman days before a new mania took hold of me. I don’t remember if it was Astronomy, Bird Watching or Biggles books, but they were all around that time and were equally exciting and life changing.


by dfv | Posted in General | 1 Comment » |
July 14th, 2013

Books I managed to read when not playing on my phone recently

I am back to my usual self and habits now, so that means sneaking in a beer whenever I can (ha, that sounds so furtive), and to procrastinating with my reading by playing on my Samsung Note 2 at all times of the day and night. There’s just no way a book can hope to compete, so after I’ve checked Tour de France live comments on the Skoda Tracker, and browsed Twitter, RSS feeds and my guild website, the book gets about 5 mins of attention before I crash. On the way to work I play Ingress – that’s another post I suppose.

emigrants rigobertovoyage














So, it’s no surprise that the most recent books read all get a lacklustre rating from me – they barely stood a chance. The Emigrants by Sebald was what I call “my sickness book” as it tainted my growing interest in history to the point where the association with nausea meant I thought I would have to throw it away. I felt physically ill looking at the cover. Remarkable! Although the critics would disagree (it won the Berlin literature prize) I thought it was his worst. 3 stars – and mainly for the Ambros Adelwarth story. I hope a dud Gall Bladder hasn’t ruined Sebald for me forever.

After that, history and war books lost their appeal, so I sought the ribald sensibilities of Mario Vargas Llosa’s “The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto” which was just what I needed. The Peruvian has quite an intellect and imagination, but read superficially the book is still quite an erotic blast, and I got an education about the works of Egon Schiele in the process. 4 stars.

Last was The Voyage by Australian Murray Bail, which I found both frustrating and contrived but continued to turn pages nonetheless. I have since read a very favourable review by John Banville who pointed out the uniqueness of the writing and the unpredictable elements, but I’m not convinced. 3 stars.

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June 10th, 2013

I’m better now, but boy was I sick

Really can’t be bothered writing a proper synopsis of some recent pancreatitis problems, and since I’ve told my sorry story 20 times, I’m just going to say I’m back to 66 kilos from 61 and I’m feeling fine and am already bored of being back at work after an 8 week absence. Have even snuck in a couple of pots of stout this past week with no adverse effects, though I don’t feel I’ve quite got my past liking for it back yet – tasted slightly odd to me.

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March 3rd, 2013

What happened after 1603? I’ll tell ya!

Driven by an unexpected urge to read about English history, I found myself at the end of Tudor Queen Elizabeth 1st’s reign in 1603 wondering about the possible future of a Catholic or Calvinist England and the origins of Great Britain, and genuinely not knowing the answers. It felt like the ultimate whodunit really. When  the “virgin queen” Elizabeth allowed Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution, she pretty much signed over the English crown to the young James (Stuart) VI, King of Scotland, as she was the last Tudor.


I was dying to know what happened next, and it can be crudely summarised like this:

James VI (Scotland) became King James I of England (you know – the King James bible? Yeah that guy!). He was a great talker, but not much of a doer, and was much unprepared on entry into England for the complexity of the English Parliament and governmental Administration.

Succeeded by son Charles I, who was quiet and economical with his words, and who ruled for 24 years before a Civil War between an increasingly hostile Parliament (steered by Pym) and Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army and the King’s Loyalists began. He was eventually captured by the Scottish army and was handed over for trial and execution.

Oliver Cromwell took over as Lord Protector (wisely refusing to be named King) for 11 years before the “Restoration” began, and Charles’ son in exile Charles II was restored to the position on Cromwells death.

Charles II was a popular and at times ruthless King who restored the Anglican Church to it’s former glory (from Cromwell’s Puritans) and ruled for nearly 25 years before suffering a stroke, and was on his death bed received by a Catholic priest.

His son James II didn’t last long – was Catholic and sought to place fellow Catholics in high positions in Parliament and in the Church.  Was attacked on English soil by William of Orange (the Dutch husband of his sister!) and  forced out of England into exile in Catholic France.

William and sister Mary Stuart ruled as King and Queen for 13 years before he died in a horse accident and the Stuart lineage ended in James II’s daughter Queen Anne.

And that takes me up to 1714. Time for the Hannovers.




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February 12th, 2013

Oh and there’s the genetic condition

I’ve been having blood test after blood test for significantly odd liver readings and they have finally found it. I have Alpha-1! Sounds like I won a prize or something, but it’s really not quite the boon, or shrug-off moment I figured it might be.

There’s not a lot more to say just yet – I am bracing myself for the Spirometry test results on my lungs for genetically derived Emphysema and for a liver biopsy procedure. I have been wheezing a lot lately and using my asthma pump a bit. Apparently sufferers can have either just liver damage or lung damage or both.

The Wikipedia bit that still rings in my head is “but it usually produces some degree of disability and reduced life expectancy”

Let’s just see what happens I suppose. I have been feeling a bit down and out about it tbh but what do you do? Retire early? Woohoo!!


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February 12th, 2013

Essendon Stamp Fair

I walked into the Ukrainian Hall in Aberfeldie recently, expecting a Computer Swap Meet-sized crowd, only to find more store holders than customers. There was literally 20 people in the place at 11am on a Sunday morning. I baulked. I’d never been to a Stamp Fair before. I had no understanding of what to bring, how to discuss my revived hobby, or what was allowed between buyer and dealer.

I stumbled forward nervously – there was barely anyone in the large room, and no cars out front. The local teens were smoking on the footpath outside – only a small sandwich board down the street gave any indication that anything was going on. At other fairs, I’d become used to standing and browsing from a distance before being forced to interact when about to buy. BUT THERE WAS NO GETTING PAST THE UTTER INTIMACY OF A SUBURBAN STAMP FAIR – to even look at the books you needed to be introduced or accepted somehow. An overweight and lonely trestle-table owner was eating a sandwich at the rear – it seemed the natural place to go to when each other stall already had a seated pensioner in front leafing through books. I was familiar with some stamp acronyms, but even then I faltered when I mumbled about an interest in KGVs (see pic below) and he didn’t understand me properly.


Both dealer and customer appeared to know each other intimately – for the last 20 years or more. It felt like a hobby that was dying really – and it probably is.

I walked out with about $250 worth of stamps I had been wanting to fill out most of  the remaining chunks of my collection of 1930 to 1965 pre-decimal Australian stamps. By then I’d earned the trust of a few sellers; they let you remove the stamps on your own, and write down the prices on a sheet (at least for the sub $30 stamps) – that felt nice. And boy can they gossip and gasbag – I guess they get bored sitting there for 4-5 hours each time. Now I’m hanging out to get back there next month where I have some of the tougher KGV and Kangaroos to source. The game gets a lot more serious at 50-100 a pop, but I feel a lot safer at the Fair than bidding on an unknown watermark or hinge mark on Ebay.

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