April 29th, 2016

Some easier 2016 goals knocked over

I don’t know what it was about this year which made me write down some Post-It note goals and want to actually do some of them. I’ve read about people hitting middle age and sensing the tightening of time they have left, which leaves them feverish till the end; ambivalent years in their 20s seeming wasteful in hindsite. Maybe I’ve become one of those people.

 

Ommegang

 

Finished a 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle which took me about 5 months in the end. It only cost $1 – a shrewd buy from Kim at an Op shop up north. Choosing a 1615 Belgian civic parade or “Ommegang” ticked all the right boxes (historic, low countries, and fine detail) which generally draw me to a picture. At one point it sat untouched for 6 weeks around Christmas, when I’d done all the easier bits (top 3rd) and had to identify maybe 2000 single pieces and place them in their spots – never connecting them all till right near the end. That was exhausting, and the lighting and uncomfortable seating didn’t help. But I’m really pleased I did it in the end – many cups of herbal tea (and dry biscuits) later. Now I want to go see a real one!

pg-38-war-and-peace-1-bbc

Then War and Peace got read. When I heard the series was coming on TV this year, I knew that my 2013 purchase needed to come off the shelf, and at first I was worried with all the French phrasing interspersed amongst the Russian to English translation, but it was quite a pleasure to read really. Apart from a tedious Epilogue which I think Tolstoy intended to prove his rigour but to a modern reader seemed like the same argument twisted 20 ways to fill pages, it was surprisingly breezy and fun. I didn’t really know what to expect, not an anti-war piece; Tolstoy at pains to point out the fate of the naive, seeking glory or the blind worship of the Tsar, and scornful of those wishing to summarise the result as a series of won or lost encounters. General Kutuzov seemed to be the anti-hero, unpopularly retreating again and again to save the Russian Army, at the risk of being un-Russian but in doing so, gaining eventual victory but lifelong ignomony amongst his peers. Loved the 6 part series on the BBC too. 4.5 stars.

by dfv | Posted in Books, General | Comments Off on Some easier 2016 goals knocked over |
January 30th, 2016

So, with a bung knee..

dfv-finishing-Parkrun

I’ve been running a bit more over the past 12 months thanks to my TomTom watch and it’s auto-upload to Strava. Been really fun seeing the maps and stats and I even started using some of the social features to put me in touch with other locals, since it’s nice to have a running partner on those days you’re less motivated. So, I wanted to log it here that I did my longest ever run a few weeks back after (I think) shrugging off the curse of lifelong shinsplint issues and am able to go around three times a week. I joined a MMM group session around Princes Park and stayed with the slowest runner Jessie for 15k before heading out for quicker 4k to finish off. Such a confidence booster. But I fell awkwardly on some sand on the bitumen and twisted my foot and long story, injured my knee the following week in another 15k run – I will have to start from scratch after 2-3 weeks complete rest. Ah well. I am not too disheartened, even if I had to cancel the 1/2 Marathon planned for Portarlington on 13th Feb. I feel really good about this year though:

Aims for 2016: Coburg (or any) Parkrun 5k in under 20 mins (best so far: 21:35). Multiple 1/2Ms this year, going to try for 1 hour 35 mins. Both are sizeable stretch targets.

Last year I did 93 runs (logged) for 700k, but ramped up significantly in October onwards, so I expect to see a lot more than that for 2016.

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February 15th, 2015

Solid progress

Rupert Thomson’s teenage years and events after his father’s death, plus a decades long estrangement from one of his brothers in ‘This Party’s got to Stop” was light relief after that Bach book.

party

I don’t know why, but I’d taken some comments in the reviews a little more literally than I should have – anticipating a hostage / life threatening situation, I was on edge the whole time I read it. Surprisingly, it ended with some gentle reconciliation. The thing that set it apart from any old recollection was Thomson’s fearless honesty about his feelings towards his siblings, perhaps motivated by guilt at his own behaviour. An easy read – 3.5 stars.

 

I’ve read a fair bit of history since the last volume of The History of England by Peter Ackroyd, so this time, with “Civil War” (volume 3) I was curious as to how his style holds up. Luckily it wasn’t a struggle – the early section on James I and his miscomprehension of the workings of the English parliamentary system was really interesting, and it was only the rhythmic drudgery of the continual popery accusations and plots in the time of Charles II and James II that it became a little tiresome. Will our current political battles appear similarly when written with sufficient distance? Probably – but with less blood spilt! The constant back and forth battles between Parliament and the king, the need for royal funding, the diplomatic marrying of enemies daughters for peace, but which then gave source to gossip about sympathisers and the possible spread of their religions. It was an exhausting time.

civil war

This history shows Oliver Cromwell as the most competent of the lot, trying many governing options in his new republic, but after a decade, losing out to popular sentiment and a certain melancholy for a royal figure – hence the Restoration. Growing up a Catholic myself, until a few years ago, I’d been largely oblivious about the historic distrust of my kind in Britain – all over a little thing called transubstantiation, which I find completely ridiculous, especially when compared to the more radical Calvinist or Presbyterian faiths of the time. Let’s not forget the Levellers too!

I like how Ackroyd wrote a few small chapters to give context to the times and provide relief. The design of Inigo Jones for the lavish masque sets. The observations of Samuel Pepys about Charles II’s mistresses. The self experimentation of Isaac Newton and the growth of the evidence-based Royal Society in 1660. The small chapter about how people walked, talked, drank and pissed. The observations that Worcester and Oxford were the most royalist of cities.

The book ended with the flight of James II to France, and with most of his men defecting to William (of Orange) and Mary. I really have to read about the Georgians soon, as apart from a mad king, I know nothing about them really. 4 stars.

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February 12th, 2015

I need to stop mumbling or something

So, I arrive at my hotel in Perth at 8pm after a slog of a work day which started in Melbourne at 7am.  I’m eating dinner at the equivalent of 11.30pm so it’s a simple room service Fish and Chips.

I wait 35 mins and a lovely tray with a silver platter arrives..wearily I thank the porter(?) and ready myself. It’s been 11 hours since I ate on the plane and I’m famished. A lift of the lid reveals a plate of French Fries.

I eat the fries and rush to blog about it before I neck myself. It isn’t the first verbal misunderstanding I’ve had lately. I would call my wife to whine about it but she’s amidst her REM sleep right now.

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August 24th, 2014

Oh god it’s time to go back to work

I’ve decided that holidays in July are the way to go; to stand any chance of getting reasonable doses of vitamin D and keeping a smile on my face, I should do gardening and dog-walking in the sun. Plus some reading, and a few more books were read on my hols; not perhaps the Moby Dick or War and Peace I originally had in mind, but some smaller works that were more achievable without me becoming a social pariah in the Lakeside Caravan Park.

Invasion

 

 

The Great Invasion by Leonard Cottrell (1958) was good because it focused purely on the fighting and establishment of a Roman presence in Britain from 47AD up until Agricola’s time in 87AD. Some great pictures and analysis of the battles themselves and speculation on the likely leaders of each legion. It was quite a pleasure to poke through with a cup of tea. 4 stars.

 

secrecy

 

I had booked in to see Rupert Thomson at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival and so I figured beforehand that I should read his latest (Secrecy), which was not subject-wise something I’d normally pick up, but it was interesting enough (and it should be – the guy admitted to writing 10 drafts of it) and in particular the scenes where wax-sculptor Zumbo is being stalked in a remote and deserted village in Italy got my heart pounding. 3.5 stars.

I was waiting at the festival bookshop, trying to work out what I would say to Gerald Murnane if I bought his latest book “A Million Windows” and lined up to have him sign it, when I noticed that Bob Carr and Malcolm Fraser were sitting right next to him. I am poor at most things visually, and have never really spotted (on my own) any public figures previously, so I had a small moment of celebrity worship and gushiness and couldn’t help but tell a festival volunteer nearby what a thrill it was to see them in person. She of course was mildly nonplussed. Stupid, blase generation Y.

by dfv | Posted in Books, General | 2 Comments » |
April 21st, 2014

Been awhile I know…

So, the pancreatic episodes continue, and Kim needed to rush me in to Emerg in January and March (on my birthday) – both times I stayed less than a day (3 hours for the first, and 12 for the second). Both times I needed no painkillers as the intense pain simply subsided after an hour of agony. On both occasions I had a glass or two of red wine the night before, so my latest theory is that mild alcohol levels are triggering things and I’m now 6 weeks into a lull in that regard, and things seem fine. Still too scared to go far from home for the moment though.

In more positive news, I started running again – beginning at a low base and working my way back. Doing 20+ minutes around the Tan was humbling, and after 8 runs I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to 15’s, but it’s slowly coming back to me. I’ve been offered membership in the Dad’s Army Running Team at work, which is humiliating since I’m not yet even 50, and I’m not ever going to be a father of a human, but I accepted since the pain is lessened listening to the stories of other runners. I even had a great conversation about the Roman Empire and the conquest of Britain whilst tottering around the MCG last week in my lunchbreak.

Our neighbours are selling up their Pascoe Vale cafe and house and heading over to Greece for a year, so have been tidying up their highly abandoned front yard, and generally are home a lot more. I’ll miss Yoda and her mother and their gregarious warmth, and think about their open future. I still think of former neighbours and wonder about their health – Betty (who is surely dead by now), Bill the TAB-loving Taxi driver with angina, and his strident, forthright Yugoslav wife Zora, who seemed to do everything around their place, and who wanted me to acquiesce to her views on plants to put in my garden and colours to paint the house. I bet they are still bickering in Coburg somewhere.

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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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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 » |
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.

Stuart

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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