Weekly catch-up: escaping

It was Mr S’s 60th birthday earlier this year. We didn’t do much because I was helping my mother move and, with the COVID restrictions we couldn’t plan a big do.

Younger son wanted to do an escape room together. He suggested both boys pay for the four of us Dad’s birthday gift. Last weekend was the day.

Younger son cooked dinner for us at his flat, making a fine chicken tikka masala.

While he was cooking, we enjoyed a few beers on the roof of his flat. After the week of rain, Sydney turned on a sparkling afternoon.

The walk along the harbour to the train station, just as the sun was setting, had the magical twilight feel.

It’s only a short walk to the station from younger son’s flat, but it was dark by the time we got to the platform. Nearly full moon before Easter. (Both my boys were born on Easter Sunday, so the full moon before Easter is theirs!)

The only spot left in the escape room was the last shift in their hardest room. Luckily, older boy has a brain for number puzzles. We solved it with minutes to spare. (With a few hints from the operators.)

This was my first escape room. Mr S enjoyed it but said he wouldn’t do another. I would like doing another, maybe one that was less maths-y and had more physical puzzles. The boys and I agreed we all will do one together again.

It is great to have such fun as a family.

What I’ve been reading: Honeybee by Craig Silvey- a kind of Aussie transgender The Outsiders. And Ikigai: the Japanese secret to a long and happy life. Not really a secret but still an interesting read. Basically, keep busy doing what you enjoy, keep moving, eat well and surround yourself with friends.

What I’ve been watching: more Escape to the Chateau and Fisk and Gogglebox and Space Invaders and Vera.

Exercise: I’ve gone back to the gym. I knew I had to break the hiatus and just go or I’d keep not going. Obviously. I still watch the clock in classes and I was dog tired the first class I went back to after work so I repeatedly yawned which didn’t endear me to the instructor. But hey! At least I was there. And I have been walking everyday. Just a short walk. But still: moving!

Weekly Catch-up: Dutiful Daughter

Last year, we all learnt that plans have to change and do change quickly. My goals for February quickly were tossed aside when Queensland opened their borders to NSW residents from February 1.

For readers outside Australia, I live in the capital city of NSW. Sydney was hit first with COVID. One of the first things the other states did was shut the borders. So we couldn’t cross into other states!

The first time the borders opened between Qld and NSW, I planned my trip north to visit my mother in the upcoming term break.

Then another wave hit in the southern part of Sydney and Qld closed its borders to people from that part. I thought I was safe – I’m at the very north of Sydney.

Then Qld blocked one more local government area (LGA).

Everyone was asking me if I was going north. I said I’d wait until they did one more LGA.

Ha! They went: one, two, all.

Borders reopened just before Christmas so I had everything booked to go up in January. Perfect timing as my mother was going through a sticky patch and I could help her with decisions and selling and getting rid of stuff in preparation for downsizing.

And then Sydney got another outbreak. I ummed and ahhed whether I should jump on a plane, miss Christmas with my family or or risk waiting a fortnight.

Waited and yep, borders closed.

Unexpectedly, the second day that school resumed, Queensland announced it was allowing people from Sydney in. So, even though school had not been back a full week, I took carer’s leave and hightailed it to Qld. I couldn’t risk the borders slamming shut again.

Anyway, perfect timing, except for missing Mr S’s 60th birthday. Mum’s house had sold in record time – it was on the market for less than a week. The removalists were coming the week the borders reopened.

I spent the first five days packing, helping my mum get rid of more stuff, taking that stuff to the op shop, directing removalists, dealing with electricity and phone/internet suppliers, connecting the internet, buying the needed connection to get the phone working. Exhausting. But what a dutiful daughter! Really, they would have struggled without my help.

Then I set up the mobile my sister had bought our mother. Now my patience started wearing thin. Possibly not quite errant, but not the most dutiful of daughters.

Now to explain the need of internet access for banking! They don’t have an active credit/debit card so couldn’t pay the removalists. I paid it and they needed to repay. Like the removalists, I don’t want cash. “What if we get a debit card? Can you use that to take money?” No, I’m not a business. I don’t have a card reader.

How will they pay the rent of the house they are in while waiting to buy a new, smaller property? “We don’t want this internet banking thing. Can’t we just get the bank to send the owners money?” You can try but I don’t think they will. You need to transfer yourself via online banking.

OK, I did become a bit sharp. Still, internet access established (by me) and once money is in the bank it will be my job to pay the rent regularly. DD, again.

But we are still not finished with dutiful daughter jobs. Signing my parts of enduring power of attorney. A visit to my mother’s doctor with her to get him to sign his section on the enduring power of attorney form and discuss my concerns about my mother’s health.

Add in a visit to my aunt who lives nearby and who had a stroke last year. All round it’s been a fortnight of adult offspring care tasks.

I did get to do several rainforest walks. I wish I could share some photos but the camera on iPhone is dead.

Here’s one from an earlier visit:

If I was closer, and the borders didn’t keep closing, I’d be able to spread these tasks out. But then, possibly if there wasn’t a sense of urgency with the move, my parents wouldn’t have accepted my help?

Copying Laura from The Occasional Nomads, I am going to add a regular bit below.

What I’ve just read: The Blue Zones: lessons for living longer by Dan Beuttner. This has invigorated my health goals. Adding drinking water and working on better sleep (again) to my goals. Worth a read. The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan. Interesting style but too too depressing story about adult offspring who won’t let them mother die and forced on her painful, invasive medical interventions. Strange choice for my week with my elderly parents. Lol!

What I’ve been watching: too much shit on tele. I need to be more selective. Turning the Tv off will help me with my goals of sleep and home routines. I watch too many American home makeover shows. My favourite is the husband and wife couple on The Fixer-Upper. I also watched the first episode of the new series of Wife Swap. The Australian version. And Hughsies, We have a problem. And repeats of Would I lie to you and QI. Think I should go cold turkey and not turn the TV on after dinner.

Steps to my goal

  • Sleep – I’ve been sleeping well here. No stress of work to keep my mind rolling over.
  • Water – will start tallying my water consumption again.
  • Exercise – four days of rainforest walks in a row.
  • Decluttering – leaving a pair of sandals in Qld. Old and worn. Goal was to wear them out this summer. ✔️
  • Main thing for the year – I have a major goal I am too embarrassed to share until it is finished. But for now, know I haven’t done anything for it this week as my focus was helping mum move.
  • FIRE: I’m starting to think about the FIRE movement – Financially independent, retire early. Thinking but not doing much. Actually becoming more aware my purchases are working against it. $55 for lace bunting? Why? Jeans with beading for $250. I don’t really need them. Anyway, thinking and awareness are the first steps.

Winnowing books

The ease with which I have abandoned books astounds me.

Three books … out. Didn’t get past thirty pages. One I didn’t even open.

Okay, I didn’t buy any of them. So I had no original desire to read them. They were actually all gifted by the same man. (There’s a novel in the man but privacy precludes me from telling the tale. Though one day ….)

Anyway, this man is German and feels a connection to me because of my German heritage. He’s a strange fish, with a strangeness that comes from being oh so German. Possibly autistic. And basically just strange. actually, maybe a sociopath.

Let’s call him Hans, cause he has multiple names anyway. (Did I mention there’s a story in there?)

Hans gave me Book 1 and Book 2 of Goethe’s Faust. I opened Book 1. Read the autobiographical notes. Skimmed the introduction. And faulted on page 2 of actual Goethe. Nope, not going to try.

Given the introduction said Book 2 was heavier, out with that too.

I thought I may as well try the adventure book Hans gave me. He said the author is a well-known writer of adventures in the Wild West, as in the American Wild West. I thought it might be interesting to get a German perspective, after all, there were quite a large number of German settlers.

With the first dozen pages, I knew this wouldn’t be for me. The central character is a perfect shot, the best rider, breaker of horses that no one else can do, the hardest worker, the strongest man, a great hunter, a clever engineer, best ever teacher, the only …. You get the picture. Thank god for those Germans! The Wild West would never have been settled, no railways built, no work done.

The translation reads like they’ve used Google translator. So poorly done. Dialogue lacking in natural rhythm and idiom. Tenses all over the place.

Luckily, I will never have to tell Hans I haven’t read the books. (The reason I won’t tell him lies at the heart of the tale about him which I will tell in about 10 years.)

For now, I am happy in clearing space on my shelves. These books are not going to sit on my shelf, challenging me, making me feel guilty at not reading them.

Out, out, out.

(But I must admit there is no space on my shelves. I have bought a dozen books from the second hand book store – had to help out local businesses in the COVID Shutdown, didn’t I? And then a friend gave me some books. The Reading Down the House isn’t going too well.)

Rainy day and a litany of moans

Last weekend I was moaning about the heat. These last few months, the east coast was alight and blanketed in smoke haze.

This weekend?

Heavy, flooding rain.

Perfect for cake baking and eating; red wine drinking; book reading. All of which I did.

It was Mr San’s birthday. So I bake him some chocolate brownies. I also baked a fiddley cake.

I’m not a fan of baking cakes that require rubbing butter into the flour nor ones that requires layers of fruit and batter. Why does there never seem to be enough batter for the top layer?

This cake had both. Turning butter and flour into breadcrumb texture and layers of batter and tinned plums.

I was nervous. My oven is shite. It cooks too quickly. I am sure it is hotter than the now rubbed off knob use to say it was. It also burns every cake on the back right side. How can a tiny space not heat evenly? Brownies can have the burnt bits cut off. Not so cake.

I think I was a little preemptive in taking the cake out. This cake was for colleagues at work. Two birthdays. Fearing a gooey mess in the middle, I had to try a bit.

Quite good. But not the done thing to bring in a cake with a slice missing. Should I blame my sons?

I will make this cake again. Despite having to rub the butter and flour. But I won’t layer. I will just mix in some stewed apples. Or grated apple – even easier.

In honour of Mr S, I also cooked up a bowel of chilli. (He loved it in the States.) It was to be for Monday night but it is so stormy here that we won’t venture out for the traditional birthday dinner outing. Much of our suburb is without power and roads are flooded so best to stay at home.

Our pool and gutters are overflowing. Trees, exhausted and dried out from the heat and drought, can’t bear the weight of wet branches so are dropping them. We have a liquid amber in the front yard. They are renowned, after gums, to be branch droppers. Luckily it has only dropped a small branch. Thus far.

We also have a repeatedly leaking roof. Several plumbers couldn’t find the problem. One fixed it. And it stayed fixed for about two years.

Until now.

It is pouring through again. Quite depressing. So I sit elsewhere. I don’t want an internal water feature.

On the first day back at work I caught my foot in a piece of furniture. As usual, I was in a rush. My foot twisted, and I went down like the proverbial sack of potatoes. (Thank you, Evelyn for letting me know the proverbial sack wasn’t full of shite but root vegetables.)

Two weeks later and, while the bruising that coated my foot like a sock has gone as have the several more noticeable bruises, and the swelling has subsided, my ankle is still very sore.

I have finally decided to heed he advice of all and sundry and make an appointment to see a doctor. I think I have bilateral tendon damage.

It is most annoying. I can’t wear high heels. Not even little heels. I can’t walk my usual walks. I clop along like an Igor. I can’t sit cross legged. And it randomly hurts.

On the day I fell, I had some reaction to something and my eyes went red like a vampire. A few people suggested conjunctivitis. Me??? No way. I wouldn’t get something manky like that. Had it once when I was ten. I remember feeling aghast then.

Twenty four hours later I agreed to try the eye drops. (I can’t stand drops in my eyes.) Turns out I probably did have conjunctivitis. But also turns out you can get it from allergic reaction to cosmetics or dust. Plenty of dust here two weeks ago. And I used a new eyeshadow. (I thought conjunctivitis was up there with ringworm – a sign of unclean practices.)

As I said, a litany of woes.

But what I’m really upset about is, this weekend I found out Billy Bragg is coming to Australia for a special three night show. But it’s sold out. I hate that I’m missing out. I wish I never found out. Then I’d never have this deep feeling of disappointment. I saw him at his first tour of Australia, and then about three other tours. Maybe he’ll be performing in 2021 when I’m in the UK?

Thank god for cake, tea, red wine and books.

And buckets. And towels. Thank god for those this weekend.

And also for Mr Towles. Who wrote the book I’m loving.

Decluttering: the pendulum has swung

Soooo…previously, I had to read a book I bought or it had to remain on the shelf until I read it. No avoiding what must be completed.

Now I have given myself permission to stop reading if I don’t like the book, I’m worried I may have a whole new issue.

Don’t love the book? Out with it.

Book’s only OK? Out with it.

Meh! Out with it.

I’m reading a book I recently bought in the US. By an African-American author who is apparently a YouTube star and a TV actor/director.

I like reading books that give me different perspectives, books by the marginalised, by minorities, by outsiders. Hence my attraction to this book.

But besides learning about African hair, I didn’t feel this book gave me a new understanding. It was good, better than OK. But didn’t sing to me, didn’t resonate with me. I definitely didn’t laugh “freakishly hard” as it said I would on the cover. Didn’t laugh at all, actually.

I was tempted to abandon the book. Enough already.

But then I realised I was becoming too quick to move on. Breaking my rules is a slippery slope.

See what happens when you break rules! This is why things have to be done in a certain way, Why standards must be maintained.

But it is too late. The horse has bolted. The gate is open. I’m becoming a cruel reader.

[As the book was a series of unrelated chapter, I suppose I could have taken my time but I want to declutter. I also wanted to get a sense of the author that comes from reading all at once. But mostly I want to declutter.]

Decluttering books

Did not finish!

I’ve told you how hard it is for me to stop reading a book when it is, by all reviews, a great book.

I don’t start every book I pick up.

But once I’ve started a book that is well-written or literary or intellectually challenging. I feel I must persevere; must not let the book beat me.

It’s like a central thesis of mine: get into a book, it must be finished.

But I’m going to break my own internal laws.

I’ve stopped reading this:

It’s beautifully, lyrically written. I love the sense of place. The concept finding self in a fishing town in Tassie; the conflict between helping dad on the fishing boat or being consigned to the horror of working in a cannery or moving to the big unknown, this all has the potential to be original and insightful. The author is a surfer and it shows in her descriptions of surfing – she gets surfing.

So why am I not finishing the book?

It’s not a hard read. I could finish it in a weekend.

It’s the abuse that I know is coming. And one of the sons dies. That’s obvious to me. And confirmed by reading reviews and questions on Goodreads.

Why did the author have to go to melodramatic extreme? It’s like all those books that came out a decade or so ago about child abuse. Those Cathy Glass ones.

OK, Past the Shallows is much better stylistically. It has a better plot, not formulaic. Sense of place is strong.

But it’s not the book I want. I want it to be a book on identity, on coming from a small Tassie fishing village with low employment options where allowing self-expression is actively crushed, where options for masculinity are very limited to hard-drinking, gruff monosyllabic utterances. But the character wins out. The dad may have hit a kid once but doesn’t routinely abuse his children and doesn’t force his child to leave school early.

I want what the blurb on the back says isn’t enough, to be enough. Brotherly love. Secret friendships. Small treasures. I want their power to be enough.

So I’m not finishing it. And I’m giving the book away.


Shhh! Don’t bother me. I’m reading.

It’s my latest challenge to declutter my house and rid myself of things.

I know! How good is this? I am actually tidying up and ridding myself of stuff by reading, by sitting here and reading.

I rarely hold onto books anymore. I know with all the new books being published and referrals to, or discovery of, old jems, there’s just too many books to read to spend time reading ones I’ve already read. So if a book isn’t one I would re-read, I donate, give away or exchange it. I only keep “keepers”. Oh and I keep reference books. And there’s my box sets of Little House and Famous Five. And all of Mr S’s books; he never parts with books.

My problem is: I buy more books than I read. And I borrow books. And friends lend me books, saying they think I’ll like it. And I’m in a book club. And I like keeping books.

I have several books on the go at once.

So, I have piles of books everywhere.

The two sides of the book shelf behind “Mum’s spot”. Where I sit and read and watch tele and muck around on the ‘net. Of course, I have more books than this. All around the house.

Now before you comment, “Hey Lucinda, books aren’t clutter,” or, “Hi, you might want go start with all the other paper clutter around your house before you start reading,” know that I really enjoy reading and decluttering by reading strikes me as an enjoyable task.

A few years ago Dar inspired me to Read Down the House. I picked twelve books that had hung around my house for too long and aimed to read them. I didn’t get through them all. Pout! One is still on my shelf. A worthy book. A book I searched for for years. A book I craved. And now I’ve owned a copy for years. And haven’t read it! (And when I tried, found it a little boring.)

So to this year’s reading challenge:

Read from my house.

1. If I get to page 100 and am not enjoying it, out with the book.

Do you know how hard it is for me me give in and not read a book once I start? Let alone one that I have bought and have had sitting on a shelf for months and years!? A little frizzon of anxiety, like I am breaking a core rule of being, hits my stomach. I can’t let a book defeat me. I have to win by finishing it.

But as a fellow bookclubber says, “I just need to learn to let it go. Life is too short to read things you are not enjoying.”

I will persevere!

2. If I find I am just not in the mood, I can put the book down but I must try again within the month. Or Out With The Book.

I thought about adding a rule to not buy more books until I have freed space on my shelves but that is just silly. Who can NOT buy books? I realised that wouldn’t work anyway when I read a recommendation by Jennifer. The book wasn’t at my local library so I had to buy it. The online seller upsold me another book by recommending one by the same author. I just had to accept the offer. What if the book wasn’t available in the future? Or I forgot it’s title or author?

I was going to also add a rule that I can’t take books from friends who want me to borrow the book. But that’s just mean and anti-social.

I’m not going to set a number or a theme or a topic. I’m not stop borrowing from the library. I am just going to try to dive into some of the book I have at home.

Anyway, shhh, I have to finish this chapter.

But wait! There’s more Richards

I’m still reading around my latest obsession: Wars of the Roses. (And still finding it unnatural to say Wars.)

Digging for Richard III by Mike Pitts, gives us another Richard! On page 1!!! The chief archeologist is a Richard. And there was another Richard on the team.

Pitts sums up the really confusing nature of tracking and remembering the “characters”. It’s not just that there are so many with the same names – he writes RICHARD III in capitals to clarify when writing about that Richard – but that family tree is a thicket. He provides a tree to help.

It did help. Better than any of the simplified ones provided in other books. Except the font is so small I had to use a magnifying glass.

Still, as Pitt says, it’s a mess genealogically.

I really enjoyed this book. It explained the science behind archaeology in a way I understood without being too simplistic and didn’t treat the reader with condescension. Just as Pitt doesn’t give a simplified family tree, he doesn’t brush over scientific details, nor the historiography of Richard III.

OK, we know it was Richard III that was uncovered but this book is compelling reading, and informative.

I’m putting Leicester on the “to be visited list” for 2021.

Too many Richards*

*that’s not a euphemism.

There are also too many Edwards, Edmunds and Henrys (and many of them are Richards by nature – and that is a euphemism) in my current obsession: Wars of the Roses.

It all started with my first Philippa Gregory novel, The Lady of the Rivers. (Just as my Ned obsession started with a novel.)

Then I read the next book.

Then found the TV series on DVD based on the two Gregory books. Oh, and the fabulous, must-see, BBC series The Hollow Crown. Series 1 is Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V. Series 2 is the Wars of the Roses with Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3 and Richard III. Absolutely brilliant.

And then I borrowed some non-fiction, including one with contribution by Philippa Gregory.

More non-fiction followed.

I bought a T-shirt on my recent cruise trip because it had a red rose on it. (Although I am a Yorkist, so white rose is really the one for me.)

Mr S bought me a piece of costume jewellery, a bracelet with charms from the novels.

I’ve found a tour I want to go on when we go to the UK.

But you know, there’s just too many people with too few names. I found the same problem when reading Wolf Hall, except then it was Thomas and Henry.

To complicate the matter, they nearly all have other names, their Lord of or Earl of name; their nickname; and worse, their duke of name AND their earl of name AND the name they took after they became king.

This year I am going to see one of the oldest English crowns, that of Margaret of York, sister the first Yorkist king. The crown is in Äachen. (The other oldest surviving crown is also in Germany.)

Back to all the Richards. Look at this paragraph. The York who is worried, is Richard, Duke of York. And his allies, share the same first and last name. I mean really?!?

But I can beat that. On another page they mentioned four Richards, all of whom also have other names: the two Richard Nevilles, Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also called the Kingmaker; Richard, Duke of York; and Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers.

But what would an obsession be if there weren’t things to fume over?

And who knew it was the Wars of the Roses not the War of the Roses? I mean the Hundred Years War is called one war, yet these skirmishes are given the “honorific” of wars.

But is it really reading?

Last year, I discovered that I quite enjoyed audiobooks. Since July, I have listened to 17.

I started with memoirs, read by the author. Hearing the author pronounce names, put accents on family and friends, sing bits, brings the memoir to life.

Jimmy Barnes’ Working Class Boy and Magda Suzbanski’s Reckoning hooked me. Listening to comedians Kitty Flanagan and John Cleese read their memoirs was like being in a stand-up gig. I moved onto non-fiction and fiction.

I spend a large part of my morning in traffic. A trip that takes 12 minutes without traffic, normally takes 35 minutes and can regularly take 40 minutes. I was sick of trying to avoid ads and find songs I liked on the radio. Listening to dumb comments by commercial radio presenters and talk-back made me angry and tense.

With the audiobook on not only do I not care about the traffic, I actually want the lights to go red and the highway to be crowded. I get to hear more of my audiobook.

But there’s the rub! Audiobook. Is it really a book? Can I really count it as reading?

Mr Sans says no, it is not reading. And I haven’t read the books.

I feel like a fraud adding these to my Goodreads account.

What do you think?