The Classics Club


I discovered this book group today. Here are my 20 books.

1. Gone with the Wind

2. North and South

3. Death in Venice

4. Cloud Atlas

5. A Little Boy Lost

6. The Mystery of the Hansom Cab

7. Middlemarch

8. Anna Karenina

9. The Human Machine

10. Wessex Tales

11. A Group of Noble Dames

12. Northanger Abbey

13. Wives and Daughters

14. The Iliad (oh woe is me!)

15. Ivanhoe

16 The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights

17. The Belton Estate

18. Little Dorritt

19. Paradise Lost

20. Brighton Rock

Now if I can fit all these in along with three Theology at University this semester plus three different subjects nexts semester then I will once again revert to childhood and believe in miracles?



A few weeks before Christmas Eldest Daughter informed me that she and her two sons were planning on seeing The Hobbit on Boxing Day when it would be shown for the first time. On Monday a week before Christmas, the tickets went on sale at 5.00 PM, daughter and I were there at 5.10 PM for our tickets. Just as well we were.

Come Boxing Day, we got to the cinema, in plenty of time, to discover that not only The Hobbit but two other movies opened that day.

We joined the queue – the long queue, that seemingly never moving queue! Needless to say, the tickets had sold out and the cinemas were packed.

My two grandsons and I are huge fans of Lord of the Rings. I love the book they love the movies – all three movies. So it was with some excitement, and, it must be admitted, a little trepidation, that we sat down and waited for the movie to begin.

Almost three hours later we walked out, our heads full of dwarves and speculation on what will happen in the next two movies. Yes, for us, Peter Jackson has definitely done it again. The cinematography is once again brilliant. Whereas Lord of the Rings was sombre in places, The Hobbit provides humour. I defy anyone to not laugh at the double takes on the face of Martin Freeman as Bilbo or the antics of James Nesbitt as Bofur. And if Richard Armitage’s Thorin sometimes appears to share his fight choreography with Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn in Lord of the Rings then who cares. He is still Richard Armitage and still very on the eyes – and an excellent actor!

Will I go and see it again? Definitely. Will I see the next two movies? Another definite.

Incidently, we saw the 2D version. And that is the one I will see again.

Another plus for us was Jackson’s use of familiar music. We know from the music when the elves are about to appear. The beautiful music also alerts us to the entrance of of Elrond and Galadriel. Another tick for Peter Jackson.

Photo from:


imageChristmas is over and the New Year is here. I know everyone else has already beaten a path to their blogs to ring in the New Year. OK. So I have to be different and wait a while!

I discovered just before Christmas that my children have entered a conspiracy to kill me. Payback, they might say, for the miserable childhood I inflicted on them. Although I do vehemently deny sending them out in the snow to sell matchsticks! Or of beating and starving them. No Matter. The fact remains . . .

Now before I go any further, I should tell you that I am a diabetic with out of control sugar levels. With me so far? Also overweight but we won’t mention that here.

I first became aware of their dastardly plot on the Sunday before Christmas when Eldest son and D-I-L gave me a gift basket full of biscuits (cookies) and CHOCOLATES – lots of chocolates.

And loads and loads of lovely food that simply couldn’t go to waste.

Christmas Eve I simply had to eat another dinner of ham and goodies with youngest som who would be working Christmas Day.

And then the Big Day arrived. And another gift basket of, yes, you guessed it, chocolates and biscuits. And a box of chocolates, and tiny Mars bars.

Now I can hear some of saying, so what, give them all to the needy but I am greedy (typo – NEEDY) and it is the gift that counts, blah, blah, blah.

So I did what any sensible person would do, cut off  another hunk of ham from the bone, got out a book and sat and read and ate.

And a Happy New Year to All of You.


A New Year is fast approaching, much too fast for me I must say. 2012. An unbelievable number for someone born back in the good old days of the 19s!

So with the New Year comes another challenge. No! Not resolutions. I never manage to keep them past the 2nd January anyway. So a challenge it is.

2012 will be the year of Australian women writers.

For the full challenge: Australian Women Writers 2012

I am a Dabbler so I will source more than one genre and, for my Challenge level, I think I will go for the Franklin-fantastic (read 10 books, review four). I know this sounds optimistic but what is a challenge without a little optimism?



Bruno Chief of Police


by Martin Walker

“It’s market day in St. Denis, a small town in the Périgord region of south-west France. The locals are on the alert because inspectors are about to make a ‘surprise visit’, hoping to enforce the unpopular and bureaucratic EU hygiene rules. But for Captain Bruno Courrèges, St. Denis’ Chief of Police, this particular market day turns into something far more serious.”

And you can bet your life that the “secret” inspections are far from secret as Bruno and his fellow townsfolk have their own method of determining not only when the inspectors will arrive but who they are well in advance of the visit.

Any sign of them, Marie?’ he asked. ‘They hit the market at St. Alvère yesterday, so they are in the region.’

‘Not last night, Bruno Just the usual guys staying from the museum project and a Spanish truck driver,’ replied Marie, who ran the small hotel by the station. ‘But remember, after last time they were here and found nothing, I heard them talking about renting a car in Périgueux to put you off the scent. Bloody Gestapo!’

Bruno, whose loyalty was to his local community and its mayor rather than to the nominal laws of France, particularly when they were really the laws of Brussels, played a constant cat-and-mouse game with the inspectors from the European Union who were charged with enforcing EU hygiene rules in the markets of France.

Hygiene, thought the locals of St. Denis was all very well but they had been making and selling their cheeses and foie gras for centuries before the EU was ever dreamed of and didn’t take kindly to foreign bureaucrats telling the what they could and couldn’t sell.

The inspectors don’t have an easy time of it in St. Denis when their car tires are slashed and a small boy puts a potato in their car’s exhaust pipe. Mayhem, all round.

Adding to Bruno’s troubles is the fifty year old feud between two old men in the village. And then another old man is murdered. An old Arab into the bargain. And a decorated war hero. Or was he? The mystery deepens as Bruno attempts to solve them murder which quickly deepens into accusations of racial intolerance, demonstrations, small riots and other mysterious goings on, all solved by the devious and unflappable Bruno.

That is, when he isn’t cooking up a storm (which made my mouth water), describing wine as the nectar of the gods, and falling in love.

This reader definitely fell I love with Bruno, St. Denis, and all that delicious food. Oh yes, and with as delightful a set of supporting characters as you could possibly desire in a small French village.

“Bruno had never counted, but he had probably kissed a hundred women and shook hands with at least as many men each morning on market day. First this morning was Fat Jeanne, as the school-boys called her. The French, who are more attuned to the magnificent mysteries of womanhood than most, may be the only people in the world to treasure the concept of jolie laide, the plain or ugly woman who is so comfortable within her own ample skin and so cheerful in her soul that she becomes lovely.”

Oh yes, I definitely like Bruno (and his creator Martin Walker)!

Martin Walker has created a purely delightful character in Bruno. I can’t wait to read more about this creative policeman and his unorthodox approach to keeping the law in a small French village.

Title: Bruno Chief of Police

Author: Martin Walker 2008

Publisher: Quercus

ISBN: 978 1 84724 977 7

popeye never told you

popeye never told you

by Rodney Hall

Popeye is, of course, Popeye Doyle who eats his spinach is as strong as strong.

The Popeye in this case is a memoir of the author’s early childhood in England during the Second World War. The story is told from the little boy’s point of view with spelling and punctuation to match.  The breathless tone of a five year old narrating his day to day existence is extremely well written and comes across with a veracity that make you feel like you are in the room with him. The war is almost incidental, an afterthought in Rodney’s story that almost, but not quite, belays the danger and anxiety that beset the small boy.  But it is always in the background and provides the narrative for the way Rodney and his Mother, brother Michael and sister Diana lived. So, although we have an account of a long-gone childhood in England, we also have the Hall family hiding under the piano during a bombing raid, a trip to the theatre interrupted by an air raid, an incendiary bomb scoring a direct hit on the shed in the garden and setting it alight, barrage balloons, American soldier, rationing and billeting.

“Mike heaves the window down to slam it shut, and Di comes running across the carpet just in time to see the whole town change into black chimneys and glass flashes and this one WOW! comes so close i duck and the windows rattle and i see weird rooms over there like bright toilets and rooms with cupboards and enormous shadows flicker on the wallpaper, but im not afraid because Mikes here and im going to be a sailor anyway! and a puff of smoke drifts past in front of everything but i press my nose against the mesh,

‘BKHHHURR!’ i shout back at the explosion,

and the din is terrific with the air raid sirens wailing as well,”

So begins Rodney’s tale at age five. What follows is a mad rush to close the blackout curtains, push the sofa over towards the piano to create a shelter where they huddle until the raid is over and the all clear sounds.

The voice Hall uses is a little disconcerting to begin with but once you begin to get into the book, it ceases to annoy and becomes enchanting. The breathless excitement of a small boy recounting his story sweeps you along until the reader no longer notices the punctuation and writing style. What unfolds instead is an little boy facing life’s challenges that are far more daunting than an air-raid: beginning school, making friends, handling bullies, a first attempt at stealing and the guilty feelings and terror that are a consequent of the act of daring do, the excitement of first tasting an orange at Christmas, and the many adventures around his immediate environment that can delight and terrorise a small boy.

Rodney and his older brother Mike and sister Di have a large amount of freedom to wander at will as they explore their town and the surrounding countryside. They find forbidden adventure in an abandoned flour mill knowing full well they shouldn’t be in there as they demonstrate the complete lack of danger that is apparent in young children. That the rusty old staircases in the silo could collapse as they play their war games simply doesn’t occur to them.

“are we allowed? i ask,

‘shut up and stay in the shadow of the all’ Mike whispers ‘so no one can see you!’

but im already squashed right up close to it and squatting under the TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED sign,

‘whats prosecuted, Mike?’

‘chased and caught’ he says,

and the terror jumps out at me, like theres big men in hats all rushing to to catch us,’

Who can ever forget the terror and bravery of a forbidden childhood  undertaking?

And yet, when caught outside while bombers fly over, their sense of danger is apparent. even when Rodney argues with Mike and wishes a bomb would fall on his bossy big brother!

Hall’s extended family includes  Gran.

and Gran tells me the big picture in her room is an oil painting but i reckon its a few cows flopping in the shade under a knobby tree.”


“so Gran complains about money all the time but when she wants us kids to run errands or when she wants us to give her kisses she bribes us with pennies and sometimes threepences and she gives the best hugs because of the way she catches hold of you to squeeze you against her and her cheeks are soft and puffy and i like kissing them and i can smell cooking smells…”

Gran may be an irascible old lady to the rest of the family but Rodney has her worked out.

But for the young Rodney, a place called ‘Kangaroo Valley’ holds all the mystery and mythology a young boy can dream of. Rodney’s dreams encompass a time and place to go to to escape the war, it offers a dream destination for a small boy feeling miffed with his family and harbouring a desire and intention to run away from home.

(Rodney’s description of what he imagines Kangaroo Valley to be like has a particular resonance with me as I do, in fact, live near there and have know  it well.)

Popeye never told you is a story of childhood innocence – not that Rodney and his compatriots were innocent little darlings by any means. It was a time when childhood innocence could watch a stricken bomber go overhead in a crash drive and marvel at the the sight but with a total unawareness of the consequent destruction. It was a time when you could revile the enemy at large but the enemy closer to you, and  with a greater impact on you, was that of twin bullies you encountered on a day to day basis.

It was a time when adults told you what they thought you should be told but not what you wanted to hear and wanted to know. For instance, why was Uncle Ralph handed a white feather by a strange lady?

Author: Rodney Hall
Title: Popeye Never Told You: Childhood Memories of the War
Publisher: Pier 9, (Murdoch Books)  2010
ISBN: 9781741967593