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HaydninVienna (Richard) calls for another round ...

The Green Dragon

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1haydninvienna
Edited: Jul 19, 2019, 4:13am Top

I think it's time for a new topic, since I seem to have solved the image-posting problem (thanks to YouKneek for suggesting Imgur).

These are the images I was trying to post in the last thread, plus a couple of extra ones.

The roof of the foyer of the national Gallery of Canada:



Torso, from The Rock Drill, by Jacob Epstein (National Gallery of Canada):



I took this pic because I'd been reading the Wikipedia page on the Vorticist and sometime Nazi sympathiser Percy Wyndham Lewis, and an image of that sculptuure is on that page.
ETA Now I'm puzzled. I looked at that Wikipedia page and the image isn't there. Epstein certainly had an association with the Vorticists, briefly, but he isn't even mentioned on that page. Moreover, the original is said to be in the Tate in London. But I had certainly seen a pic of the piece before seeing it in Ottawa, I just don't know where.

Portrait (by John Singer Sargent) of Joseph Joachim, the great 19-th century violinist and friend of Brahms:



The Roundhouse, Toronto, including an old Canadian National steam locomotive:


(as you can see, there's a way to go yet before this is a proper museum)

View out of my window at Chateau Laurier, Ottawa (stayed here for a night just to give The Kid a thrill):



View from the outdoor bistro at Chateau Laurier:



A previous occupant of my room at the Nicholas Street Jail Hostel:



Oscar Peterson:



This is supposed to be a temple bell (Royal Ontario Museum), but guess what it really is in disguise (Hint: Exterminate! Exterminate!):



Niagara (including The Kid):



2pgmcc
Jul 19, 2019, 4:24am Top

Great pictures.

3haydninvienna
Jul 19, 2019, 5:17am Top

Thanks Peter. The best view of the Roundhouse is actually from CN Tower, as seen here. I saw that view but like a mug didn't take a photo of it.

4hfglen
Jul 19, 2019, 6:14am Top

>1 haydninvienna: Is that locomotive a Mountain type? If so, it shares its wheel arrangement (4-8-2) with dear old Wesley of the Umgeni Steam Railway, who is evidently somewhat smaller than the Canadian behemoth.

5YouKneeK
Jul 19, 2019, 6:36am Top

>1 haydninvienna: Great pictures. I’m glad Imgur worked for you.

6haydninvienna
Jul 19, 2019, 8:05am Top

>4 hfglen: I wasn't canny enough to get anything when I took the pictures (being at the time in urgent need of beer), but according to the Toronto Railway Historical Association's website:
No. 6213 was built in August 1942 by the Montreal Locomotive Works. It was part of an order of 35 identical locomotives built for the Canadian National Railways during World War II. It is a U-2 class Northern-type steam locomotive with a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement and was used to haul both passenger and freight trains well over a million miles during its 17-year career based in locations that ranged from Halifax on the east coast to the prairies of Saskatchewan.

The web page page for no. 6213 gives its location as "Exhibition Park, some two kilometres west of the John St. roundhouse". The Association home page correctly shows it at the Roundhouse.

I discover that 6213 has her own Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_National_6213!

7clamairy
Jul 19, 2019, 8:11am Top

Wonderful! I can see all, and the resolution is excellent! Your daughter is lovely.

8haydninvienna
Jul 19, 2019, 10:04am Top

I posted this one in the old thread but I like the joke enough that I'm going to inflict it on you all again.

9haydninvienna
Jul 19, 2019, 10:12am Top

>7 clamairy: Thanks Clam, from myself and Laura.

10pgmcc
Jul 19, 2019, 12:31pm Top

>8 haydninvienna: Hopefully there will be a few more extensions. :-)

11haydninvienna
Edited: Jul 19, 2019, 12:41pm Top

>10 pgmcc: I thought I saw that Boris wanted to suspend parliament. Didn't that sort of behaviour get Charles I a rather drastic haircut?

And that's probably close enough to the edge of Pub rules that we had better stop right there.

12MrsLee
Jul 19, 2019, 10:01pm Top

Terrific photos! Looks like a great trip with a lovely companion.

13haydninvienna
Jul 20, 2019, 3:25am Top

Thanks MrsLee, from both of us.

14haydninvienna
Jul 20, 2019, 3:38am Top

A bit of actual reading on my supposed DNBR weekend: Adventures in Immediate Irreality by Max Blecher. This was the token Romanian book I bought in Cărturești Carusel. I have to admit, I have no idea what to make of it. The narrator seems to have no shell between himself and "reality", and he seems never certain of what "reality" actually is. Reminiscent of Anna Kavan in a kind of way, except that in Adventures in Immediate Irreality almost nothing actually happens. Not a book for action fans then. I'm not sorry I read it, but it was only 100 pages or so. I will say though that the Introduction, by Andrei Codescu, was an interesting exercise in non-explanation: I found that every single word was an English word, and the sentences were put together in a grammatical English way, but the whole conveyed almost no meaning to me: "colourless green ideas sleep furiously", perhaps. Obviously I'm not smart enough for this.

15haydninvienna
Edited: Jul 21, 2019, 1:58am Top

A bit more DNBR reading: I finally took up and finished Soulless. This is the first in a series called "The Parasol Protectorate", set in an alt-history version of Victorian London. English society has managed to more or less integrate the Undead—basically vampires and werewolves, although there are ghosts and a golem as well. Alexia Tarabotti is a preternatural—that is, if she touches one of the Undead, the touched party becomes human for as long as the touch lasts. She is the daughter of an English woman and an Italian who died before the story starts, and her mother has remarried a wealthy Englishman. Her mother and stepfather have two other daughters, Alexia's half-sisters.

What I liked:
A decent take on a Victorian alt-history and how the Undead fit into English government and society. A reasonable model for the internal politics of the two main kinds of Undead
Even though I think the book suffers from Austenitis (that is, attempting to emulate Pride and Prejudice), I thought the verbal sparring between Alexia and Lord Maccon was well enough done (not "rapier-like" but good enough).
Some quite well done action (in the ordinary sense, not hanky-panky, for which see below).

What I didn't like:
I mentioned before that I wasn't seeing the rapier-like wit and I'm still not. ETA Ms Carriger depends quite a bit on polysyllabic humour; some people find that amusing, apparently. She also gives her characters absurd names: "Loontwill"? "Floote"? Seriously? Maybe this is Dickensitis, as in "Charles Dickens did it so I can too". But Dickens' made-up names are usually plausible—"Pickwick" sounds almost like a real name, and "Twist" is close to "Twiss", which is a real name.
I think that Ms Carriger could have used a decent copy-editor. One that jumped out at me: "Lord Maccon interrupted them all by issuing forth a series of orders, which, with only minor dissembling, the assembled gentlemen took in hand" (p 340). Dissembling ("to put on a false appearance: conceal facts, intentions, or feelings under some pretence") should probably have been dissent, which would also have avoided the clash of dissembling and assembled.
A lot of description of clothes and interior decoration. These people are rich, rich, rich, I get that. But I could have done with less.
A lot of description of Alexia's parents' and sisters' social views, part of the Austenitis.
I thought the plot was a bit thin, basically not much more than an excuse to get Alexia and Lord Maccon introduced to us and together, and get Alexia the interesting job that she is offered at the end, which will be what the subsequent books are about

What I'm not committing myself about:
A surprising amount of the book is taken up with the efforts of Lord Maccon and Ms Tarabotti to do, or avoid doing, what comes naturally, and the complications that spring from him being a werewolf and her being a preternatural. It gets pretty physical and detailed. I'm not going to buy an argument over this, particularly given that the author is a woman and the description is from Ms Tarabotti's point of view.

I probably sound like a curmudgeon in places. Well, I really find it hard to understand the chorus of praise for this book. But overall, I liked it well enough that I wouldn't avoid the next book in the series, although I probably wouldn't work too hard to find it either.

16haydninvienna
Edited: Jul 23, 2019, 4:39pm Top

Well now. I’ve mentioned another Adventure in prospect. I’m now (it’s 11:30 pm Tuesday here) in the lounge at Doha Airport waiting to board a flight to Helsinki. My wife will join me there tomorrow, and on Thursday we train to Savonlinna in the far east of Finland. You can almost spit into Russia from there. In Savonlinna there is a well preserved 14th century castle, Olavinlinna, in which an opera festival is held every year. Basically they just put a roof over the castle courtyard and some seats, and use the rear of the courtyard as part of the set. This will be the 4th year we’ve been. This year we are seeing Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” on Thursday night and Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” on Friday. Saturday back to Helsinki and Sunday off to Australia.
This visit to Finland won’t allow for much book shopping but inshallah I can visit Academic Books in Helsinki tomorrow. It’s close to our hotel at least.
I have some books in my luggage, even a Flavia in the backpack, but I’m scared that if I start reading now I’ll fall asleep and miss my flight.

17haydninvienna
Jul 24, 2019, 6:58am Top

I’m now in the hotel in Helsinki. I went out to Suomenlinna this morning—beautiful day, the place looked gorgeous. Pics to follow. pgmcc really needs to investigate it on his next secret mission. Who knows what he may turn up? Prospect of some decent beer at least. I had a post written on the phone but it seems to have disappeared into the ether.

The point of that post was that I went to Academic Books this morning and spared myself the horror of a no-bookbuying visit. They were having a 4 for the price of 3 promotion and I ended up with:
The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley
The Story of Kullervo by J R R Tolkien
and because I’m in Finland
The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi
and just for giggles and because I love them
Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson.

I bought The Fractal Prince by Rajaniemi a few years ago in the same shop. The cover of that is gorgeous but weird and the book made even less sense. Maybe I should read it again.
Anyway now I’m waiting for my wife. Last time she was stuck on the tarmac at Heathrow for about five hours in a broken aeroplane. This time she’s just delayed a bit, which is not unusual out of Heathrow. I’m having a rest so might read a bit of Moomintroll.

18pgmcc
Jul 24, 2019, 7:27am Top

Enjoy your Finnish adventure. I shall take your advice about Suomenlinna on advisement.

I note your proximity to Russia with interest.

19Sakerfalcon
Jul 24, 2019, 7:43am Top

I hope you have a great time in Finland. Enjoy the operas!

20Bookmarque
Jul 24, 2019, 8:16am Top

Wow, that sounds like such a great place. Enjoy!

21clamairy
Jul 24, 2019, 8:49am Top

>17 haydninvienna: You're on another adventure! Enjoy.

>18 pgmcc: I hope you're keeping detailed notes. Encrypted, even.

22pgmcc
Jul 24, 2019, 11:57am Top

>21 clamairy: Attending a concert indeed. Sounds like a cover story to me. Meet up with his controller, or he is a controller meeting up with his agents.

Oops! He met me when he was attending a concert in Dublin.

23Busifer
Jul 25, 2019, 6:02am Top

OK, so, very late to anything as this only is the second time I brought out the laptop in the past 12 days... on Bovington (your previous thread) - yes, the one in England. I'll check Monkey World.
We go by public transport when in the UK as no one of us wants to drive on the wrong side of the road. We're in danger of getting run over every time we cross a road (and all bus stops seems to be on the wrong side, too, lol) so driving is not high on the to do list ;-)

I hope you're enjoying your stay in Helsinki. Have you read Summerland? I enjoyed Hannu Rajaniemi's Jean de Flambeur books, but haven't gotten around to that one yet.
I found his fantasy quite quirky!

24haydninvienna
Jul 27, 2019, 2:47pm Top

Here I am again, in Finland now. I’ve been in Helsinki and Savonlinna, in the latter in a hotel with no internet and a phone with an apparently deceased SIM card. I’ve seen some comments about heat in Europe. We had temps in the high 20s in Finland and people are complaining! My wife doesn’t handle heat at all well and found it particularly trying.

Opera in the castle! First one was Rossini’s The Barber of Seville which was fabulous. You got the message that we were in for some laughs when the overture was played by 2 orchestras—the real one in the pit and a mock one miming on the stage. The mock one culminated in a kind of seated can-can by a couple of exceedingly attractive young lady bassoonists. Figaro in tight trousers and a punk hairdo. Rosina a couple of flashes nude except for bikini knickers. The performance as a whole energetic and the whole lot of them obviously having a whale of a good time, and communicating it. Savonlinna tends to treat the comedies fairly lightly but the performances are first class.

Second night was Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio. This was less successful. It was an even hotter night and my wife got distressed to the point that we had to leave at interval. But although the performances were fine technically the spark wasn’t there. Maybe it was just the heat but something was lacking, especially after the Barber the night before.

After that we went down to a restaurant in Savonlinna town which we go to every year and encountered a young waiter who wanted to know all about Australia. We’re not hard to recognise on first hearing.

Tonight we were in a soul food restaurant in Helsinki. Sounds weird but really no weirder than a Japanese or Thai one, and there are both of those in Helsinki. The food was good although I have no idea how “authentic” it was, and really don’t much care. Encountered another waiter who wanted to talk about Australia, and about Canadian ice wine.

In the course of a hot morning while my wife was hiding from the heat I read A Red Herring Without Mustard By Alan Bradley. Flavia is just as terrifying as ever.

Savonlinna has one bookshop which I browsed in, but found nothing of interest in English.

I’ll post some pics of Savonlinna the town and Olavinlinna the castle when I can.

25haydninvienna
Edited: Jul 28, 2019, 8:05am Top

>23 Busifer: see above re Finland. I love the place to bits, but this hasn’t been the happiest visit. I went out to Suomenlinna on Wednesday morning and it was just as beautiful as ever, but too hot to walk around much.

We feel much the same about driving on the “wrong” side in Europe, but I live in a left-hand-drive country. Rather than being helpful it’s just confusing. I never know where I am.

We are now at Helsinki airport on the way to Perth. I started The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle this morning. So far I’m just confused.

ETA re Hannu Rajaniemi: I went into Academic Books looking for The Quantum Thief, which I don’t have, but it was out of stock. I didn’t know about Summerland but will investigate.

26-pilgrim-
Jul 28, 2019, 5:01pm Top

>23 Busifer:, >25 haydninvienna: Ouch. I just got hit by the ricochet. I am now looking for a copy of The Quantum Thief too.

27haydninvienna
Jul 28, 2019, 8:56pm Top

We are now in Hong Kong Airport waiting for a flight to Perth. I had The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle in my carry-on bag and have read both of them.

Flavia is still Flavia and is just as terrifying. She is wonderful as fiction, but as a real child she really would be frightening.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle tells me one reason I’m not a writer. I could never keep all the threads straight. It’s far more complex than anything I ever have to do in my professional life, in which the aim is simplicity. As one of the quoted reviews says, it’s an astonishing debut. The question is, of course, what on earth is he going to do next?

>26 -pilgrim-: Academic Books just said that The Quantum Thief was out of stock, rather than unavailable, so it shouldn’t be impossible to get.

28haydninvienna
Jul 30, 2019, 2:57am Top

We are now in Cable Beach Resort at Broome. It’s a series of cabins around central facilities, and the wildlife visit. We have 4 kangaroos outside now staying out of the afternoon sun.

Hugh: I’ve already seen a couple of small baobab trees. Pictures to come.

29hfglen
Jul 30, 2019, 5:16am Top

>28 haydninvienna: In Oz? Wild? Then they're Boabs, Adansonia gregorii -- IMHO much more special and harder to find. The Little Prince wasn't entirely wrong in treating (African) baobabs as weeds on his home planet.

30haydninvienna
Jul 30, 2019, 8:14am Top

We are in a very nice, quite expensive resort in Broome and have a problem I have never encountered before in a hotel.

...

...

There is a frog in our toilet bowl. Quite a big frog. I have phoned reception and they assured me they will have him removed harmlessly.

Update. The guy showed up and commented that he was scared of frogs, but by then the frog had crawled up under the S-bend. So I flushed it and hoped that would send him out.

31haydninvienna
Jul 30, 2019, 8:36am Top

>29 hfglen: I don’t think the boabs are wild but they probably still are A. gregorii. What do you need to see pics of to identify them—leaves, flowers, seed pods, bark?

32clamairy
Jul 30, 2019, 1:50pm Top

>30 haydninvienna: Sweet cheeses! That is a new one to me!

...by then the frog had crawled up under the S-bend. So I flushed it and hoped that would send him out.

But, well... then didn't you kill it by flushing it? :o(

33hfglen
Jul 30, 2019, 2:29pm Top

>31 haydninvienna: Leaves and flowers would help tremendously. Pods and bark tend to be the same for all baobabs. Many thanks.

34haydninvienna
Edited: Jul 31, 2019, 5:43am Top

>32 clamairy: I hope not. There’s an air space just above the s-bend, otherwise he couldn’t have got into the bowl in the first place. I hope and believe that all that happened was that he ended up back where he started.

I gather that one of my relatives in Brisbane gets frogs in the toilet fairly regularly. There has to be an open-air path into the toilet for the frog to get there to start with.

>33 hfglen: I’ve spotted one flower on one of the boabs, and what looks like an inflorescence on another. It looks like the broad-leaved ones have large single white or cream flowers and short fat rounded pods, and the narrow leaved ones have a fine spray of small yellow flowers and long thin pods. A tour guide who took us around today said that one species was a Madagascar species imported by Lord McAlpine when he was developing the resort.

ETA re the frog: I’m not scared of frogs but if I had scooped him out, what would I then have done with him? Also, the risk of hurting him.

35haydninvienna
Jul 31, 2019, 8:03am Top

We have another frog, only not in the toilet. This one was sitting in the middle of the wardrobe floor. So I picked him up as carefully as I could and put him outside, under the cabin. Hopefully it will be cool there and safe from birds.

36clamairy
Jul 31, 2019, 8:23am Top

As long as they don't try to share your bed you should be good.

37AHS-Wolfy
Jul 31, 2019, 10:50am Top

>35 haydninvienna: Maybe they just want a quick kiss. You weren't a princess in another life, perchance?

38pgmcc
Jul 31, 2019, 3:56pm Top

39MrsLee
Aug 1, 2019, 12:30am Top

Perhaps this is a new technique of spying? Have you mentioned the frogs to your contact?

40haydninvienna
Aug 1, 2019, 5:17am Top

>37 AHS-Wolfy: after the The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which I read last week, I’d just about believe it.

>39 MrsLee:. Can’t be. They didn’t know the passwords.

41haydninvienna
Aug 1, 2019, 6:50am Top

In the lounge at Perth Airport facing a bookless flight, I bought Infinite Powers by Steven Strogatz, which was the only book that WH Smith had that I didn’t have already and felt like reading. I have been fascinated by mathematics ever since high school, despite finding it beyond me. I doubt that Strogatz is going to make a mathematician out of me, after Ian Stewart and Rudy Rucker and Alex Bellos and Douglas Hofstadter and Eugenia Cheng and probably others have failed, but I try anyway.

I’ve actually started reading Strogatz’s book. Up to chapter 6, I actually do understand it.

42haydninvienna
Aug 1, 2019, 8:22am Top

I mentioned in my last thread that I was going to places where books were not sold, earning a shocked face from 2wonderY. I can now confirm that Broome is not such a place. In Kimberley Books this morning I bought
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
A Pirate of Exquisite Mind by Diana and Michael Preston
and
King of the Australian Coast edited by Marsden Hordern.

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind is about William Dampier, a former pirate who was exploring the western coast of the Australian continent almost a century before James Cook arrived on the eastern shore. The back blurb describes him as one of England’s forgotten heroes, but I clearly remember him from my high school history courses in the early 1960s.

Broome is a fascinating place. It’s the winter (dry) season now, and the temperatures are in the low to mid 30s but the air is dry. Summer (wet) season begins in a couple of months, and Broome becomes more or less of a ghost town as the tourists disappear. That’s also the cyclone season. I first visited Broome in February 1987, and the climate was for me then uniquely unpleasant: temperatures in the mid to high 30s (95 and up for those used to Fahrenheit) with humidity approaching 100%.

Broome now is an export centre for cattle and a support base for the offshore oil and gas industry, but for more than a century its wealth depended on pearls. Terrifying: the “fishing” was done by a man in a heavy canvas suit, with heavy boots and a helmet, supplied with air down a pipe by men furiously hand-pumping an air pump on the deck of the pearling lugger. It was hard and very dangerous work. Many divers died, and no doubt many more were crippled by the “bends”. It all fell apart when a Japanese named Mikimoto invented the process of culturing pearls. Broome is still a major centre of the pearling industry, but “no more Japanese diver, no more little brown man”, to misquote a line from the Australian poet “Banjo” Paterson. (You can read the poem here: https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/paterson-a-b-banjo/the-pearl-diver-000400... ).

If you walk down Dampier (see? Not quite forgotten) Terrace in Broome, you can see how much Broome still runs on pearls. The pearl dealers are all along both sides. Millions of dollars worth of pearls being sold from what look almost like sheds. And the biggest dealer, Paspaley Pearls, isn’t even in that street.

And the sunsets!

For anyone who feels able to stand it, here’s some Aussie country music: Neil Murray singing “Good Light In Broome”: https://youtu.be/6cf18mM7kCw.

43haydninvienna
Aug 4, 2019, 1:56am Top

We are now in Sydney. While DW was chilling this afternoon, I visited 3 bookshops.

Dymocks in George Street produced Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Kinokuniya shop, also in George Street, produced The Quantum Thief, also by Rajaniemi; and Abbey’s, in York Street, produced I Am Half-Sick of Shadows—yup, another Flavia.

44Karlstar
Aug 6, 2019, 10:03pm Top

What great travels! Thanks for the pictures.

45haydninvienna
Edited: Aug 8, 2019, 2:42am Top

>44 Karlstar: Thanks. Pics of Finland, Broome and Nabiac to come, when I get back to a computer. As of now, I’m in the world’s least luxurious motel and I finished reading Infinite Powers this afternoon. I suggested in #41 that Professor Strogatz probably wouldn’t make a mathematician of me, and he didn’t, but the book would be a useful intro to calculus for anyone who had to study it formally without ever having been exposed to it—if such a person exists. (Edited to fix touchstone.)

Off to Port Macquarie and slightly more salubrious quarters tomorrow morning.

46haydninvienna
Edited: Aug 8, 2019, 2:40am Top

We are now in Port Macquarie in the more salubrious quarters, but have company again. There was one of these: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_water_dragon#/media/File:Eastern_Water_... beside the swimming pool. Not afraid of the people around it at all.

It might not be green but it is a dragon. (Edited to get the right subspecies.)

47haydninvienna
Aug 9, 2019, 6:22am Top

Finished The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi and Preincarnate by Shaun Micallef. I now need to read The Fractal Prince by Rajaniemi again—it might make sense now.

Micallef’s novella is a bit like a distillation of his TV sketch shows. Anarchic, full of jokes, but will really not advance the art of fiction by much. Still, an acceptable time-passer of the same general kind as Robert Rankin, and (perhaps mercifully) fairly short. It may be worth mentioning that it seems now to be available only as an e-book formatted for the reader app from Booktopia, the Australian online bookseller.

Which reminds me that this afternoon I packed up 6 of the books that I either had read or didn’t expect to read on what’s left of this Adventure, and posted them to myself in England. For 6 books, total weight under 3kg, the postage was A$75 or thereabouts. Ouch.

48haydninvienna
Aug 11, 2019, 11:55pm Top

Woohoo! The Pub is back in business! Things went a bit quiet there for a couple of days. I was wondering if the ale had run out or something. In the world of another great Australian poet, Slim Dusty:

There’s nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear
Than to stand in the bar
Of a pub with no beer.


Anyway. Port Macquarie was pleasant enough, and we had the companion by the pool mentioned above. Now I’m off the chain at my sister in law’s place on Bribie Island near Brisbane.

Waiting for me were
The Mine of Eternal Spring by my former colleague Alan Pierce
A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
and
The Image of a Drawn Sword by Jocelyn Brooke.

A quick visit to the Bribie Island Book Exchange produced
Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovich
Half-Sick of Shadows by David Logan (which I bought partly on the strength of the coincidence of title with one of the Flavia stories, and partly on the strength of a recommendation by Sir Pterry on the cover)
and
The Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud. (This turns out to be the second of the Bartimeus series. Please series publishers, give me an indication of which book in a series I’m looking at.)

49Busifer
Aug 12, 2019, 4:44pm Top

Going back somewhat in time - aren't some Australian frogs venomous to humans? I guess that would be a reason to be scared of frogs and toads, but in Sweden it would make no sense.
That someone could be afraid of frogs surprised me.

50haydninvienna
Aug 12, 2019, 5:06pm Top

>49 Busifer: I know Australia is supposed to be the land where everything is trying to kill you, but it’s not true (at least if you ignore the snakes and spiders on land and the venomous fish, sea snakes and jellyfish in the water). No venomous frogs. (Cane toads are another matter, but they haven’t got to Broome yet.) I think the guy must have just been a wuss.

51Busifer
Aug 12, 2019, 5:15pm Top

>50 haydninvienna: A wuss indeed!

It's hard to ignore the snakes and the spiders and the fish and the sea snakes and the jellyfish when you're, like me, from a place were one snake and one plant and a couple of mushrooms are as dangerous as it gets (ignoring the ones that aren't venomous or poisonous but would rather kill you by eating or attacking you, so I can see your point, heh).

52NorthernStar
Aug 12, 2019, 11:58pm Top

>46 haydninvienna: love the water dragon!

53haydninvienna
Aug 14, 2019, 5:31am Top

>52 NorthernStar: They’re kind of cute. You might notice that a good many of the pictures in the Wikipedia article on them were taken in the Brisbane botanical gardens. I can personally vouch for them being everywhere in those gardens.

Final book purchase for this Adventure: The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book. I finished this between Sydney and Hong Kong. As you would expect, it follows the original novel pretty closely, but adds Gaiman’s thoughts and reflections as he wrote the script.

54haydninvienna
Edited: Aug 14, 2019, 5:36am Top

And a thought for hfglen: my sister in law has a boab tree pod that was carved with a turtle design for her by a a young Aboriginal man in Broome on her trip right around the continent three years ago. (At the age of 68, she drove a motor home around Australia—tough lady.) Picture to follow.

55Busifer
Aug 14, 2019, 9:03am Top

>53 haydninvienna: I don't often buy that kind of book but has actually contemplated getting that one. Was it fun and/or meaningful, as in adding insights or dimensions, or just to make time go during fx a flight?

56haydninvienna
Aug 14, 2019, 4:49pm Top

>55 Busifer: To be honest, I bought it at least partly because it was the only thing on my Wishlist that the shop actually had. It made the time pass pleasantly enough on the flight, but I’m not sure that Gaiman’s comments on what worked and what didn’t, and what had to be cut for budgetary reasons, justify the price. Gaiman’s intro shows that he and Sir Pterry were still best mates right up till Sir Pterry’s death.

It was on my Wishlist because of this post https://www.librarything.com/topic/305661#6850878 by bragan. I haven’t seen the show, incidentally. I will have to find out if I can stream it here.

57-pilgrim-
Aug 14, 2019, 6:02pm Top

>56 haydninvienna: IIRC, Gaiman's introduction to A Slip of the Keyboard, as well as some of the articles therein, was very illuminating about their relationship.

And I really do recommend the show. One of the rare occasions when, IMO, the adaptation is better than the original.

58Sakerfalcon
Aug 15, 2019, 3:56am Top

>56 haydninvienna: The BBC will be airing Good Omens in the autumn, so you might be able to catch it then.

59haydninvienna
Aug 15, 2019, 6:08am Top

>57 -pilgrim-: I have A Slip of the Keyboard and you're right, Gaiman's introduction sheds a good deal of light on some points in Sir Pterry's books, and on their relationship as well.

60Busifer
Aug 15, 2019, 8:09am Top

I happen to think that both the book and the show is very good. The show is more up to date with present times - the book was written in the late 80's, if I remember correctly, so no widespread use of commercial mobile phones or internet, and so on.

61haydninvienna
Aug 15, 2019, 11:30am Top

I've just watched the trailer on my Mac at home in Doha. Now I know one thing I'll be doing over the weekend.

62haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 1:34am Top

Well, another Adventure is over. I saw one and a half operas, bought 17 books (counting the 3 that were waiting for me in Brisbane, mentioned in https://www.librarything.com/topic/304548#6870110, but not counting 3 more that are now waiting for me in Bicester), visited 8 cities and towns (visit = stay overnight in), and encountered some adventurous wildlife. All good clean fun. I'm getting the pictures sorted out now and some of them will appear later today. But one morsel I will pass on now just so I don't forget it later: I mentioned in #42 that I bought a book about the 17th century navigator William Dampier, who seems to be regularly described as "forgotten", although I remember him from high school. Now I find that he has another claim to fame: as a food writer. While browsing Atlas Obscura when I should have been working, I found this article.

63haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 5:06am Top

And now the pictures.

I've been banging on a bit about Suomenlinna. It's very hard to convey in a few pictures how beautiful the place is, but here are my best attempts.

and

And a rock and a tree (a linden, I think):

and

It fascinates me how, all across Helsinki, the hard rock is so close to the surface.

64haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 5:10am Top

Next, on to Savonlinna.

This is the castle through the train window. I always look for this view as the train gets close to Savonlinna.


and the castle from the causeway back to Savonlinna town:

65haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 5:17am Top

Savonlinna itself is pretty nice. Here is the little street leading down towards the castle:



and this is the view across the lake from the spa-hotel:



and the marina at sunset:

and
I snapped the second picture at the sound of bagpipes. Although you can't see it in the picture, the fellow with his back to the camera was playing bagpipes as his mate rowed.

66haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 5:24am Top

Broome from the air (north to the left):



Broome was where things got interesting wildlife-wise.

Here are the frogs:

and

ands the kangaroos around our bungalow:

and

67hfglen
Aug 16, 2019, 5:37am Top

>63 haydninvienna: Small-leaved Linden, Tilia cordata, as ever was. The European Linden (Tilia × europaea) I first thought of is common further south (London, France etc.); it has asymmetric leaf bases and tufts of hairs in the angles of leaf veins.

68Busifer
Aug 16, 2019, 5:46am Top

Thanks for the pictures. It is no surprise that Savonlinna castle looks just like it did when I visited, in 1996.

I love the green frog. Ours are more like this -

69haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 6:00am Top

>68 Busifer: Cute frog!

Now for Hugh's especial benefit, some baobab trees. There seemed to be 2 kinds: this one:

70haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 6:02am Top

And this one:

71haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 6:06am Top

And here is the carved boab pod:



with Marcia's hands for scale.

72haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 6:10am Top

For connoisseurs of small towns, here is the World's Least Luxurious Motel with our rented Subaru at the door:



and a general view of Nabiac (there isn't much more of it than this):


73haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 6:21am Top

And I said we encountered some adventurous wildlife. Here is the actual water dragon mentioned in #46:



At Marcia's house there were some fairly adventurous magpies (the Australian magpie, which is not the same as the European bird of the same name). This is a young one:

and

(same bird, same glass and same chair). The bird seems to be a juvenile, not yet having its adult plumage. There were 2 of them, same apparent age. And here's Mum coming to see what the kids were up to:



Australian magpies adapted well to living around people, and are generally reasonably fearless, but I've never seen one this bold before! Marcia doesn't feed them but it's not unlikely that someone in the neighbourhood does.

74Sakerfalcon
Aug 16, 2019, 6:44am Top

Love the frogs but I wouldn't want them in the toilet! The carved baobab pod is lovely, as are the trees themselves. Thanks for allowing us to travel vicariously with you!

75haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 7:22am Top

>74 Sakerfalcon: Thanks, my pleasure. Incidentally, "boab" in #71 wasn't a mistake: that's what the native Australian species is usually called in Oz. As Hugh will tell us, there are about 10 species of baobab, 1 of which is native to Australia. I think the one with the large flower in #69 is the Australian species. That was the only flower on that tree as far as I could tell.

76hfglen
Aug 16, 2019, 8:02am Top

Ah! The one in >69 haydninvienna: is an Australian Boab, to be sure. But the tree in >70 haydninvienna: isn't related at all: it's Moringa drouhardii from Madagascar. About all it shares is the swollen trunk. But any minute now I'm going to beg copies of the pictures in #70, as I have a suspicion I may need them in the foreseeable future.

77haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 12:18pm Top

>76 hfglen: That explains something. I remember you saying that pods were fairly generic. The tree in #70 had pods but they were long and thin, very unlike the round pods on #69. I was told that the tree in #70 had been brought in from Madagascar, but not specifically that it was a baobab.

If you want copies of the pictures, you could download them from my Imgur page—I’ll give you the link. All the pictures were taken at Cable Beach Resort at Broome between 30 July and 1 August just past.

78hfglen
Aug 16, 2019, 2:28pm Top

Well of course Moringa pods are long and thin, or possibly dagger-shaped. Many thanks, I shall copy the pictures probably only on Sunday -- it's Railway day tomorrow!

79haydninvienna
Aug 16, 2019, 3:07pm Top

And as I promised in #61, I've watched the Good Omens series. Aren't David Tennant and Michael Sheen wonderful, separately and together!

80-pilgrim-
Aug 16, 2019, 3:30pm Top

>73 haydninvienna: That water dragon is incredibly cute.

81haydninvienna
Aug 17, 2019, 1:54am Top

>80 -pilgrim-: as I mentioned above, there are lots of them in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. One afternoon many years ago, when the kids were still small, I was in Brisbane with them and they were grumpy and cranky and I was looking for something to do so I drove up to the gardens (on a hill a little away from the centre of town) and got them walking around there. They started spotting water dragons and it turned into a game. The dragons showed no fear--probably they are well used to people, since the gardens are a popular picnic spot.

82haydninvienna
Edited: Aug 17, 2019, 2:13am Top

Something I forgot in all the excitement over wildlife. Here is the unusual vehicle that we did a tour of Broome in:



It's a Harley-Davidson front end mated to some sort of 1930s-vintage Ford, with a custom body and interior. I didn't get to explore the engineering details. The interior is pretty comfortable but not surprisingly it's pretty noisy. Still an interesting way to tour the town and the local points of interest. We sat in the rumble seat at the back of the cabin:

83Bookmarque
Aug 17, 2019, 8:50am Top

how bizarre.

84MrsLee
Aug 17, 2019, 11:14am Top

Great photos, and narrative. Thank you for letting us share in your adventures!

85haydninvienna
Edited: Aug 19, 2019, 2:01am Top

>83 Bookmarque: Absolutely. It's supposed to be unique in Australia and possibly the world.

>84 MrsLee: My pleasure!

You may have noticed that I go back to Bicester in England pretty frequently. My wife lives there and we own a house there. I also happen to be a huge fan of the online comic xkcd, and have Randall Munroe's first book, What If?. He has a new book, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems, out shortly. He is doing a book tour to promote it and will be in Oxford, about 10 miles from Bicester, on 11 October, which conveniently is a Friday. So I bought 2 tickets and a book package.

As an example of the advice: how to shoot down a drone by having a world champion tennis player hit balls at it.

Edited to fix touchstone.

Edited again to add: read his introduction here. Maybe there's hope for our species yet.

86Sakerfalcon
Aug 19, 2019, 6:23am Top

>75 haydninvienna: The new Randall Munroe book was already on my wishlist. Now it goes to the top having read that blog post. Hope you enjoy the signing; I am very envious!

87-pilgrim-
Aug 19, 2019, 9:27am Top

>85 haydninvienna: Thank you, I enjoyed those links.

88Busifer
Aug 19, 2019, 3:37pm Top

>79 haydninvienna: They are! I think they are delightful, as is the show. It's not often that I feel that the show or film do the book justice, but in this case I do, wholeheartedly.
Tennant and Sheen are perfectly cast, and the script carefully updated to the 21st century. I missed some things from the book, of course, but not every written scene work on screen, and I respect the choices that Gaiman made.
All in all well done!

89haydninvienna
Aug 24, 2019, 1:05am Top

Back in Bicester this weekend to pick up the books that I referred to previously. These were:
Carrying The Fire by Michael Collins (his autobiography)
First Man by James Hansen (bio of Neil Armstrong)
The Lost Carving by David Esterly.

I caught a BB about the Esterly book from Esterly’s obituary in the Economist recently. The other 2 I bought on the account of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

And of course a quick visit to the British Heart Foundation shop netted me:
Galactic Cluster by James Blish (contains 2 of the all-time-great SF short stories, “Common Time” and “Beep”)
Nine Princes In Amber by Roger Zelazny.

The Methodist Church was having a jumble sale (this is the church with the poster in #8–the poster is still there). For the grand sum of a quid I bought
The Origins of the Second World War by A J P Taylor
The Greatest Show Off Earth by Robert Rankin
The City and the Stars by Arthur C Clarke.

90haydninvienna
Aug 29, 2019, 1:46am Top

We need to be careful—the roombas are mutating.

91MrsLee
Aug 29, 2019, 9:24am Top

>90 haydninvienna: Ya know, I saw someone scooting around downtown the other day on something very like a roomba. If I were 30 years younger and still had my balance, I would be tempted to try it.

92pgmcc
Aug 29, 2019, 10:26am Top

>91 MrsLee: I did not know you loved vacuuming the carpet so much.

93littlegeek
Aug 29, 2019, 11:37am Top

>Again??

94haydninvienna
Aug 29, 2019, 9:40pm Top

Did anyone notice that yesterday was apparently LT’s 14th birthday? I find it kind of charming that the only place I’ve seen it mentioned was in a thread about the recent spam attack, in the bug tracking group.

95YouKneeK
Aug 29, 2019, 10:03pm Top

>94 haydninvienna: Haha. :) If you get the newsletter, it was actually mentioned near the top of the August newsletter. I got it on August 23.

96haydninvienna
Aug 29, 2019, 10:11pm Top

Well, there ya go. I did get the August State of the Thing and even read it. Short term memory loss, obviously.

97YouKneeK
Aug 29, 2019, 10:24pm Top

>96 haydninvienna: LOL, I know the feeling. One can only retain so much!

98haydninvienna
Aug 30, 2019, 9:34am Top

The Greatest Show Off Earth by Robert Rankin. Holes in the Earth, demonic worship, space warfare and chickens. Terry Pratchett crossed with Flann O'Brien.

99-pilgrim-
Aug 30, 2019, 10:53am Top

>89 haydninvienna: I am looking forward to reading your review of Nine Princes in Amber.

I reread the entire Chronicles of Amber in last year and felt that they aged well. It was an interesting experience, as the first time through I had read the 'Merlin' sequence first, and initially experienced Corwin's history through his son's perspective, only subsequently reading his own version.

100Darth-Heather
Aug 30, 2019, 2:05pm Top

>98 haydninvienna: oh wow, you got me with that one. I always seem to take a hit or two when visiting this thread :D

101haydninvienna
Aug 31, 2019, 6:00am Top

>99 -pilgrim-: I read Nine Princes in Amber this morning--it was a quick read.

Sorry, but I don't really think it's for me. What unpleasant people! I don't insist on all the characters in my reading being worthy people, but most of this lot are so unrelievedly treacherous and often cruel. I'm not sure about Corwin himself at this stage. History tells me that royal dynasties are often like that, of course. But what really put me off is the style. Corwin, both as narrator and in his own speech, shifts back and forth between "epic" language and 70s slang, often within a sentence. Of course he has lived on Earth, in the Shadow, for centuries, and mixed in some pretty rough company, and no doubt that has affected his speech and even his thinking, but it still puts me off. I wonder if it's Zelazny telling us something about Corwin because I don't recall the other characters talking like this, but then most of them don't have very large speaking parts. Also, I don't remember the same quirk in A Night in the Lonesome October, which I enjoyed.

I might think of more later, but that's a first impression.

102-pilgrim-
Edited: Aug 31, 2019, 8:24am Top

Yes, it is explaining why Corwin is different. (Actually he is not the only brother like that - there is another who has been hanging out on Earth for a while, and been affected by it.) By Amberite standards he is a dropout and the whole amnesia thing of not realising he was not human has made him "go native" to an unusual degree; most Amberites just visit the further Shadows, like ours, as tourists "for kicks". You are watching Corwin trying to reaclimatise

My impressions are rather different, perhaps, because I started with the Merlin cycle ( with Trumps of Doom, when it first came out), and met Corwin's son - who has ambivalent feelings about his dad! - before I met Corwin as narrator. Merlin has gone to school at an American university, and is a mix of American college CS graduate and Amberite. You might like his tone better - he certainly does have people that he cares about.

103haydninvienna
Aug 31, 2019, 10:44am Top

>102 -pilgrim-: The ruthlessness certainly put me off. Corwin isn't entirely indifferent to the sufferings of the troops he indices to follow him, but he comes pretty close.

104-pilgrim-
Aug 31, 2019, 6:52pm Top

>103 haydninvienna: Thinking of non-royals as people is not the way he was raised. But his time in Shadow has affected him. That was the first book of five; he changes over the course of them.

105haydninvienna
Sep 1, 2019, 12:38am Top

>103 haydninvienna: Fair enough. I’ll cut him some slack until I see the next book.

106haydninvienna
Sep 1, 2019, 12:45am Top

Incidentally, I’m still going (slowly) on Goethe: Life as a Work of Art, which I bought in Livraria Lello. It’s pretty dense, of course, and the subject is one of the most interesting human beings ever, but there isn’t a lot of excitement. Also I’m always worried that I’ll come upon a reason to start disliking Goethe.

107haydninvienna
Sep 3, 2019, 3:23pm Top

Still haven’t finished with Goethe, but on a whim started Carrying The Fire by Michael Collins, who was command module pilot on Apollo 11. I first read this 40-odd years ago, and I’m pleased to find that it holds up well.

108haydninvienna
Sep 6, 2019, 3:40am Top

Finished Carrying the Fire. It does indeed stand up 50 years later. Collins (the Apollo 11 command module pilot, who didn't get to walk on the moon) writes clean, efficient engineer's prose. No big revelations and no dirt-dishing, just a straightforward account of his career as Air Force officer, test pilot and astronaut. Not much about his family, although one gets the clear impression that that's protective rather than out of indifference. He is clearly proud of what he and Armstrong and Aldrin did, but equally proud of all the other many thousands of people who contributed.

One minor complaint that has nothing to do with Collins himself: the production values of the book really aren't adequate. The cover proclaims it to be the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, but the paper is rough pulp and there is no index.

109-pilgrim-
Sep 6, 2019, 4:14am Top

>105 haydninvienna: Re Amber:

There is a concept that I don't think is elaborated in the first book, but explains a lot about Corwin's attitude. Only hit this spoiler tag if you are feeling tempted to give up on the series:Since Amberites walk through Shadow by manipulating images in their heads, they believe that all Shadows of Amber are not really real - in some sense they are figments of the imagination. If you imagine yourself a follower, should you care for it as if it was real?Finding out how all this really works is one of the joys of the series. All these rather overpowered characters are getting it wrong a very large proportion of the time! Don't take anything anyone says at face value: they may be a) lying or b) sincere but wrong.

110haydninvienna
Sep 6, 2019, 9:47am Top

>109 -pilgrim-: Without prejudice to my possible reading of The Chronicles of Amber I read your spoiler ... I understand what you say, and that did emerge pretty clearly. I also accept that it may be unwise to rely too much on anything we are told. Anyway, I'm reserving judgement for the time being.

Finished another half-read book: this was The Travels of Ibn Battutah, abridged by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (the touchstone goes to the right work, but there seems to be no touchstone for this specific version). This version, according to the introduction, represents about two-fifths of the full text. I'm mildly miffed that Ibn Battuta apparently didn't make it to Qatar (at least so far as this version admits), although he did get to Bahrain. I think the book actually suffers somewhat from being abridged; one skips from place to place far too quickly. Ibn Battuta seems to have been generally a reliable reporter, and can often be verified on the ground now. He doesn't seem to have been much changed by his adventures though—he began as a provincial minor official in Morocco and remained pretty much in that mindset. It's sort of amusing to read how outraged he was at the misbehaviour of men and women in Mali in West Africa: men! consorting familiarly with womenfolks! as friends!—and his attempts to impose more decent behaviour on the women of the Maldives when he served briefly there as a judicial officer. But it clearly emerges how different travel was in the 13th century, with its constant need for protection from robbers and pirates.

111Busifer
Sep 6, 2019, 3:05pm Top

I've been somewhat interested in Ibn Battuta's travel stories, so I thank you for sharing your thoughts on reading some of them. What you say makes me think that I should find an unabridged version if I finally decide to take him on. I'm also starting to think that I maybe should put it on the list for what to read once I retire, ie hopefully gets more time for reading.

112haydninvienna
Sep 7, 2019, 2:20am Top

>111 Busifer: There are certainly unabridged English translations. The Gibb translation, from which the Mackintosh-Smith selection was taken, is around--it's 4 volumes of text and a fifth volume of index, and the prices seem to run $30 to $50 per volume on Abebooks. That still looks like quite a time and money commitment. Tim Mackintosh-Smith has apparently written a trilogy about following Ibn Battuta's travels, which might also be worth finding.

113Busifer
Sep 7, 2019, 5:09am Top

>112 haydninvienna: That's why I'm thinking of it as retirement reading, and the possibility to get it from the library. We have a nation-wide ILL system that includes most research libraries, open for everyone, so I'm counting on that.
No need to hurry, I think - the books won't go away, not after all this time.

114haydninvienna
Sep 7, 2019, 9:03am Top

Another one down: First Man. It makes a complement to Carrying the Fire, and there are (not surprisingly) quite a few quotations from Collins's book. Hard to know what to say about this. It's authoritative, approved by Armstrong himself, but it certainly doesn't appear to be embellished in any way. It's a warts and all account, not that Armstrong had many warts. He seems to have been born for the role of commander of the first human landing on the moon, and Collins's account bears that out. One minor quibble, but one to be expected—it's described as a "life" of Neil Armstrong, and it does describe his ancestry, his early life and his death, but of course most of it is to do with his time as an astronaut. The text is 363 pages long. It is divided into 7 parts, of which 3 deal with Armstrong as astronaut and moon lander. Those 3 parts take up over 200 pages, even though the events dealt with in those 3 parts took up only about 10 years of his 82-year lifespan. But of course if it hadn't been for those 10 years, Armstrong would have been just another navy pilot who became a test pilot, like his fellow X-15 pilot Scott Crossfield. Granted Crossfield is famous enough in certain circles, but he was never asked to do a world wide goodwill tour.

115haydninvienna
Sep 7, 2019, 11:17am Top

Yet another one: Goethe: Life as a Work of Art. A big book, and slow going because it takes concentration. But what a fascinating man Goethe was! Reading him (not a thing I've done a lot of, unfortunately) or about him gives me the impression of him being larger than life in the sense that he didn't quite fit into normal space and time--that there was some part of him that didn't belong in our universe. The only other person I can immediately think of like this is J S Bach. I'm nowhere near being a Goethe scholar, but this book made me wish I was.

116haydninvienna
Sep 7, 2019, 3:03pm Top

And finally (and about time too):Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. This was one of the unfinished books that was on my coffee table on 20 October last year, when I decided to plunge into Talk and start my own thread. The copy that I had then got left in a cab, and I bought a replacement which didn't have the distinctive yellow and white cover (the yellow glows in the dark, you know), and then in Toronto I bought another one with the "proper" cover, and now I've read it. I loved it. I'm still looking for Robin Sloan's follow-up Sourdough, and I gather he now has a prequel to Mr Penumbra out.

I wonder if Robin Sloan took a hint from the strange story of the Doves type face? See the Wikipedia article on the Doves Press if you don't know the story, and Atlas Obscura. Note that it mentions the Dove pub at Hammersmith—far too nice a pub to be associated with such a dark deed. I am prepared to bet that few other people than myself would visit a pub specifically because of its association with a type face.

117hfglen
Sep 7, 2019, 3:35pm Top

>116 haydninvienna: If I had the ready to get there, I'd happily join you in sinking a pint there! One of the Atlas Obscura pictures indicates that the beer might be decent, too.

118NorthernStar
Sep 7, 2019, 4:59pm Top

>116 haydninvienna: - thanks for the reminder about that story, I'd heard something about it before, but was inspired to look it up. One of the pages I found had a nice little video done by the BBC.

119haydninvienna
Sep 8, 2019, 5:44am Top

>117 hfglen: I drank cider when I went there, but I have no reason to doubt the quality of the beer. The pub website mentions its literary associations, particularly with A P Herbert of Misleading Cases fame, but not the one with the Doves type.

I looked at the Wikipedia article on Herbert and found this quotation in one of the footnotes:
(Uncommon Law, Rex v Haddock: Is it a free country?, 5, pp. 24–29. Haddock is arrested for jumping into the River Thames from Hammersmith Bridge. When questioned to motive, Haddock replies, "For fun". The judge sums up: "The appellant made the general answer that this was a free country and a man can do what he likes if he does nobody any harm.... It cannot be too clearly understood that this is not a free country, and it will be an evil day for the legal profession when it is... and least of all may they do unusual actions 'for fun'. People must not do things for fun. There is no reference to fun in any Act of Parliament."
Having read many of the Misleading Cases in my younger days, and having fond memories of the TV show with Alastair Sim and Roy Dotrice, I'm now adding the volumes to my wishlist! And having found an online bibliography of the Cases in an unexpected place (on Ansible, of all places, by David Langford of all people), I discover that the first volume has an introduction by Lord Hewart, then Lord Chief Justice of England.

120haydninvienna
Sep 8, 2019, 6:06am Top

Final thoughts on Ibn Battuta. I said above that he began as a provincial minor official in Morocco and remained in that mindset. In his current thread in Club Read, thorold says, when talking of a book about a tour around some small towns in the Netherlands by a Frenchman:
The reason for the success of the book isn't hard to find, though: Havard may have been a heavyweight intellectual with a vast stock of historical facts at his disposal, but he was also extraordinarily good at communicating the pleasure (or occasionally, irritation) he took in the things he saw on his trip. From pretty girls in traditional costume (invariably kitted out with large blue eyes and a bashful smile) to sunsets over the Zuiderzee, from church towers to the eccentric and often dubious collections of paintings and artefacts shown off by town-hall caretakers, from disruptive boys to sudden rain showers, he is totally engaged with what he is experiencing, and he makes his provincial tour, on which he's never more than two days' sail from Amsterdam, into something as exotic and surprising as an expedition into central Asia. (https://www.librarything.com/topic/308638#6914066)
This is exactly what I didn't find in Ibn Battuta. I have to be a little fair though. Ibn Battuta kept no notes (as far as the book shows anyway) and the book was compiled well after the event by being dictated to a scribe. Who knows what was lost along the way? But still, "He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies with him."

121Busifer
Sep 9, 2019, 1:51pm Top

>116 haydninvienna: I had never heard of the Dove Press type business - thanks for making me aware of it! I'm definitely one who would visit a pub based on its association with a typeface. I'm from a family of typographers and printers.

I have made a note of the Dove pub, so that I can pay my respects next time I'm in London.
(I'm still irked that we couldn't fit a visit to the Linotype Estate in our schedule when we visited Manchester the other year.)

>120 haydninvienna: You have discouraged me. I first found out about Ibn Battuta as part of my quest to gain more knowledge and understanding about periods and aspects of history that I don't know so much about: his "writings" was cited as a source. I had gotten the impression that he would be a bit more interesting, and maybe he is, if one is a specialised historian. Me, on the other hand, just want to fill in the blanks school left me with.

122haydninvienna
Edited: Sep 9, 2019, 2:15pm Top

>121 Busifer: I didn’t intend to be discouraging. Tim Mackintosh-Smith knows a lot more about him than I do and thinks he’s wonderful. Maybe start with the abridged version, which is a pretty quick read and not too hard to find, and go from there?

ETA: the Dove pub is in Hammersmith, and is a walkable distance from the Hammersmith Tube station. It’s right over the Thames. I thought it one of the nicer London pubs I’ve been in.

123Busifer
Sep 9, 2019, 2:52pm Top

>122 haydninvienna: Advice taken.

On the pub: I saw that, and we don't ordinarily get out that way - only time we pass Hammersmith is when we go (on the tube) from and to Heathrow - but it seems like a nice pub, and the pedigree makes it worth the trip, I'd say!

124haydninvienna
Sep 10, 2019, 5:58am Top

Something a little unusual that I've just ordered from Amazon thanks to a deadly accurate BB from LibraryCin: The End of Night by Paul Bogard. If we had a LibraryThing group called "Dark Sky Tourism" I'd be in like Flynn. I've been interested in the night sky since I was a child (daytime sky too, but we're not talking about that now). Where I grew up in Brisbane the night sky was still fairly dark but a few trips out into the country showed me what it could be like, and then I moved to Canberra (which was a smaller town with a drier climate), which had better night skies. But the most utterly wonderful night sky I have ever seen was in Egypt, in Sinai. We were staying at the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh in the south of the Sinai Peninsula, and my wife booked us on a tour to go up Mt Sinai in the dark so that we could watch the sunrise from the peak. It's a tough walk in the dark up a track eminently suitable for mountain goats, but the night sky was worth every stubbed toe.

It was an interesting tour in other ways. We weren't right in the tourist season and the "tour" was me, my wife and my younger daughter (in fact the same daughter who has already figured in this thread), plus an Egyptian guide and driver. The guide was a Muslim and the driver a Christian but they were the best of mates. The end of the walk is at the St Catherine monastery which is one of the oldest functioning Christian monasteries in the world, and has a shrub which is supposed to be the original burning bush out of which God spoke to Moses. There is a mosque within the monastery, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) is supposed to have placed the monastery under his special protection. Our guide told me that even as a Muslim he found the atmosphere of the monastery very congenial. Unfortunately the Islamists have been active in the area and it's now regarded as dangerous.

And as to the night sky here in Doha? Don't bother. Between dust, air pollution and light pollution, the Moon and an occasional bright planet are the limit. You did know that there is an International Dark Sky Association, of course.

125hfglen
Edited: Sep 10, 2019, 7:28am Top

Sounds like my experience. In Pretoria we were indecently close to the freeway to Johannesburg, and so had both the noise and the light spill. Moving to Durban I thought we were decently far from major roads ... and found that most nights here are overcast! But fortunately we're a hard day's drive from the Kruger Park (dark skies, except when the camper in the next-door site insists on leaving lights on all night) or three half-days from Sutherland in the Northern Cape, one of the world's top astronomy destinations. Of course what the link won't tell you is that Sutherland is among the coldest places in southern Africa, frequently hitting -9°C in winter.

126Bookmarque
Sep 10, 2019, 7:20am Top

The other day I stood on my deck and marveled at the stars. In southern NH it's hard to really see since there's so much light, but here is easier. I'm 10+ miles from any town in any direction. If it weren't for the mosquitoes I'd lay on the couch and wonder if any other being is looking back at me from her own couch.

127pgmcc
Sep 10, 2019, 7:44am Top

>126 Bookmarque:
It is a long time since I saw the sky without a lot of light pollution. There is one night that sticks in my mind; I was driving back from a client in the Irish midlands. I had just left the small town I had been in and was passing a field that was used as the local Gaelic football pitch. There was not a light around and I noticed it was a starry night. I pulled the car over, stopped and got out to just gaze at the sky. It was beautiful.

128haydninvienna
Sep 10, 2019, 8:49am Top

>125 hfglen: Another place that has wonderful night skies—the Atacama Desert. One of the most fascinating places on earth is the small town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. It's base camp for a lot of astronomy. It looks like a Wild West movie set—boardwalk streets and all—except that every second shop window has a sign in it advertising astronomy tours. On the tour I went on (on my own for this one), the lecturer was a Canadian who said he had moved to Chile to get away from clear nights maybe once a month to clear nights 330 days or more a year.

129NorthernStar
Sep 11, 2019, 10:49am Top

>124 haydninvienna: I'm lucky to live in a small town far away from any big cities and their light pollution. I don't have to go far to see amazing night skies, plus we are in a great area for aurora watching. The only downside is that it is far enough north that we get very long summer days without enough dark for good sky watching during the warmest months. Not so nice to stay out looking at the stars or northern lights at 30 below!

130haydninvienna
Sep 11, 2019, 11:43am Top

>129 NorthernStar: I envy you (i've been to Whitehorse so I have some idea). There's a sky brightness map that shows the relative darkness of the night sky around the world—the sky here shows at the same brightness as in Manhattan.

131Bookmarque
Sep 11, 2019, 11:49am Top

Where I am is in the green zone - right in the middle of the gradation.

132haydninvienna
Sep 11, 2019, 12:00pm Top

Re Sinai: You just knew there were going to be photos:

Sun coming up:


Laura drinking the world's worst cup of tea:


Ahmad, our guide up and down the mountain (local Bedouin—lovely bloke):


133hfglen
Sep 11, 2019, 12:03pm Top

We're red-orange, which is a spot academic because of the cloud cover.

134haydninvienna
Edited: Sep 12, 2019, 3:37am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

135pgmcc
Sep 12, 2019, 3:28am Top

>132 haydninvienna:
Nice pictures. Great for storing memories of places and people.

136haydninvienna
Sep 12, 2019, 4:52am Top

Thanks Peter. Do I seem to have touched a chord with the dark skies?

137pgmcc
Sep 12, 2019, 5:03am Top

I noticed the lovely sky in one picture but the terrain in the "cup of tea" photograph struck me as interesting. Is the rock granite? Without an image of a freshly broken surface I can only go by the formation of the rocks in the picture.

138haydninvienna
Edited: Sep 12, 2019, 6:07am Top

>137 pgmcc: I forgot you were a geologist! Ahmed's English, though pretty good, wouldn't have been up to that question. Wikipedia says this:
Mount Sinai's rocks were formed in the late stage of the Arabian-Nubian Shield's (ANS) evolution. Mount Sinai displays a ring complex that consists of alkaline granites intruded into diverse rock types, including volcanics. The granites range in composition from syenogranite to alkali feldspar granite. The volcanic rocks are alkaline to peralkaline and they are represented by subaerial flows and eruptions and subvolcanic porphyry. Generally, the nature of the exposed rocks in Mount Sinai indicates that they originated from differing depths.
So yes, in some places.

Wikipedia also reminds me of something that the tour guide (whose name also was Ahmed, confusingly) said: there are 2 routes up. "The longer and shallower route, Siket El Bashait, takes about 2.5 hours on foot, though camels can be used. The steeper, more direct route (Siket Sayidna Musa) is up the 3,750 "steps of penitence" in the ravine behind the monastery". I think we went up the first way and down the second.

Laura's comment afterwards was that if Moses had carried the Tables of Stone down from the summit, he must have been pretty buff.

ETA a quick calculation shows that 2 tables of stone of about the traditional dimensions would have weighed about 160 kg or say 350 pounds.

139pgmcc
Sep 12, 2019, 8:59am Top

>138 haydninvienna:

Laura was obviously correct.

140haydninvienna
Edited: Sep 14, 2019, 1:22pm Top

Friday, so the weekend.

First reading: Knight of the Air by Maxwell A Smith. I bought this at Ike's Books in Durban when I was there with hfglen in April. Not quite what I was expecting. It's billed as a "life" but much more is it a "works". I discovered that there is much more to Antoine de St.-Exupéry than I knew. Certainly he wrote several well-regarded books on flying, and The Little Prince, but it seems that he is regarded in France as a moralist rather than just a writer on aviation. I liked this (quoted from his posthumous book The Wisdom of the Sands):
To build the peace is to build the stable large enough for the entire flock to sleep there. It is to build the palace vast enough so that all men can be joined there without abandoning any of their baggage. It is not a question of amputating them so they can fit in. To build the peace is to obtain from God that he lend his shepherd's cloak to receive men in all the extent of their desires.
I have no idea who Maxwell A Smith may have been, but he writes somewhat unusual English. For example (of Saint-Exupéry's practice with the manuscript that became The Wisdom of the Sands):
Jules Roy, his comrade in the Air Force, remarks in Confluences that Saint-Ex always carried with him in his plane even when he made visits to Algiers the blue suitcase which contained this manuscript.
True, a couple of commas would fix it but they are missing.

ETA The mysterious Maxwell A Smith seems to have some sort of presence as a writer on (relatively) modern French literature. An Amazon seller has a volume about François Mauriac in the Twayne's World Authors Series by him, for example.

141haydninvienna
Edited: Sep 15, 2019, 2:37am Top

Saturday: Started The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis last night. Lightweight but fun. One of the reviewers on LT calls it a fairy tale. That's true but also irrelevant. Nothing wrong with a good fairy tale. To quote one of C S Lewis's essay titles, "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Best Say What's To Be Said". My major problem is that this is apparently the first of a trilogy, and I'm not sure how his endearing but accident-prone protagonist can survive for two more books.

Incidentally, I'm a huge fan of that Parliamentary library building in Ottawa despite never having been inside it. I believe that it's also true, as Fallis's unusual and unwilling MP says, that the the real power in the House of Commons resides with those who have mastered the rules of procedure. This is at least certainly true of the Houses of Parliament in Australia, and I have no reason to doubt that it's equally true in Ottawa (or Washington for that matter).

142haydninvienna
Sep 20, 2019, 7:17am Top

I’m in Waanders in de Broeren in Zwolle in the Netherlands. Some English books, but 2wonderY, they had The Ten Thousand Doors of January. So of course I bought it. The woman who served me said she had just put the copies out this morning. I did a sales job on LT as well.

143Sakerfalcon
Sep 20, 2019, 9:22am Top

>142 haydninvienna: I stumbled upon Waanders in de Broeren when I was in Zwolle this January. What a wonderful place it is! Zwolle is a lovely little town and that was just the icing on the cake!

144haydninvienna
Sep 20, 2019, 12:05pm Top

As I said, I gave LT a boost as well. She was very interested because English books is her department of the shop.

145haydninvienna
Edited: Sep 22, 2019, 2:46am Top

My weekend reading so far has been The Lost Carving by David Esterly. I’m finding it hard to describe this book. On the surface it’s an account of the restoration of the Grinling Gibbons carvings in Hampton Court Palace after the fire in 1986, and Esterly’s frustrating but ultimately successful campaign to hold the first ever Grinling Gibbons exhibition. (If the name Grinling Gibbons means nothing to you, look at his Wikipedia page now. Be ready to be amazed. Worth looking at Esterly’s page as well. The “conversion experience” mentioned there is described in the book.)
I first heard of this book in Esterly’s obituary in the Economist earlier this year. At the time I had vaguely heard of Gibbons from my dad’s Woodworker magazines, but knew little about him. The book tells us a good deal about Gibbons and a lot more about Esterly, and a lot about carving, mostly woodcarving and specifically carving limewood. It’s philosophy, biography, aesthetics, and a good deal more. The subtitle is exactly right, and I have no doubt that the ambiguities in the three nouns were intentional.
A lovely, fascinating and I dare to say profound book.

ETA: The obituary that I mentioned is in the issue of the Economist for 29 June 2019.

146haydninvienna
Edited: Sep 22, 2019, 4:04am Top

It's been, as you might say, an interesting weekend. I passed through 4 airports (Doha-Hamad; Copenhagen- Kastrup; Amsterdam-Schiphol and London-Heathrow), walked in 3 cities (Amsterdam, Zwolle and London), missed several meals, and missed a lot of sleep, but generally had a pretty good time.

>143 Sakerfalcon: I agree, Zwolle is gorgeous. A couple of pictures to come. I wandered around Waanders for quite a while before I found the English books, cunningly concealed behind a large shelf full of non-book things, but the selection was decent. When I'm in bookshops outside the Anglosphere I try to buy a book by an author of the country. I didn't know of any Dutch authors but I lucked on The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83¼ years old. The idea of a secret society of Old but Not Dead is of current interest to me ....

When I went to pay for the two books, I told the lady who served me that I was buying The Ten Thousand Doors ... because of a recommendation on LT. She hadn't heard of it but showed interest so I showed her the app on my phone and gave her the URL. I now tend to ask bookshop staff routinely whether they know about LT, and distressingly few do, but they all seem to know about Goodreads. I often can get signs of interest in LT by saying it's Goodreads without the links to Amazon.

Then back to Amsterdam for a quick side trip to the American Book Centre, which turned out to be mainly for the exercise of walking through a tourist-filled street on a Friday afternoon. I didn't see anything that I would rather have than money. Then a frustratingly delayed flight to LHR and finally to bed at the Hilton at T4.

On Saturday morning I went into London for a breakfast with some members of Clarity, a society for plain legal language. They do breakfast meetings in London every month, but this one was the first on a Saturday. The secretary of UK Clarity, who was the organiser, wonders if Saturday meetings have a future because only 3 people responded. Never mind, it was a pleasant little group--the speaker was Professor Peter Butt, retired professor of law at Sydney University, author of a number of standard textbooks in Australia--and a former boss of my present boss here. The only jarring bit was that I got off the Tube at Liverpool Street Station and walked straight into the vast building site that is Crossrail. I don't know that bit of London and had a couple of anxious moments before I found the venue.

Then down to Foyles, where I found one of the books I has been looking for in Waanders—The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith. This was a BB from kac522 here. It was the "oh, and werewolves" that got me. This is a new turn for McCall Smith, I thought. Well, there are werewolves, but not as I expected. Enjoyable anyway. I never took to Precious Ramotswe, and McCall Smith is forbiddingly prolific (5,000 words a day, for gosh sakes), but I may have to give some of his other books a go.

As kac522 notes, the blurb calls this book "Scandi blanc", but in looking at the Amazon page for Hendrik Groen I see mention of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, which looks like it might be Scandi blanc also. Just added the latter book to my wishlist, and might have to finagle a trip to Sweden.

At Foyles I also bought David Spiegelhalter's new book The Art of Data. I remember Spiegelhalter from when he used to write statistical commentary for the BBC website. This book is yet another one that hasn't made a mathematician out of me, but it shines some light on the vague memories of Statistics 101 from 40 years ago, and goes to some places that I wasn't expecting, like training AI systems (just this morning I was reading an article on Science News about an AI system to predict earthquakes and found myself nodding in recognition of the training techniques, having read about them in Spiegelhalter's book last night). Overall, a pretty good book. Not a textbook, of course, but I wish someone had given me this before I did Stats 101.

Yes, I read both the McCall Smith and the Spiegelhalter on the flight back to Doha.

Edited because I hit Post too soon.
Edited again to add the bit about "Scandi blanc".

147haydninvienna
Edited: Sep 30, 2019, 10:22am Top

Another trip to Bicester this weekend to go to a concert in Oxford by Aled Jones and Russell Watson, which my wife persuaded me to do. I’m not exactly a fan but I enjoyed it more than I expected. They have fine voices and their choice of material is less tedious than Il Divo’s.

I picked up some books that were waiting for me, and in odd moments got to Waterstones in Broad Street, Oxford, where oh joy! I found Sourdough, by Robin Sloan, and on the way back to Heathrow stopped at Foyles for Are Some Languages Better Than Others? by R M W Dixon, and The City and the City by China Miéville. (Dixon is at James Cook University in Townsville, where our erstwhile GDer Choreocrat was based, but he hasn't been around in a good while.)

Waiting for me in Bicester was The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller. Much thanks are due to stringcat3 (see here) for this BB. It’s a marvellous book, about C S Lewis’s Narnia books and her own experiences with them, and relevantly about Lewis’s opinions and even his life. I think I’ve read almost everything Lewis ever wrote for publication except his fiction, and I think Miller gets closer to the man Lewis than most other writers on him (certainly closer than the “Lewis industry”). I particularly appreciated her mentions of how good Lewis’s prose is, but that’s just me—for me, the description of a book as being “beautifully written” is an active turn-off. Interestingly, she quotes both Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman as appreciative of the clarity of Lewis’s prose. Miller’s book has, among its other great virtues, given me some understanding of what Owen Barfield’s book Poetic Diction is about. Seriously, if you love the Narnia books, The Lord of the Rings, and even Philip Pullman’s books, Laura Miller has insightful things to say about them, and much other fantasy as well. It’s one of those books that gives you a little shock of recognition every few pages. And I note with pleasure that her list of books that are “like” Narnia (for some value of “like”) includes China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun—I sometimes seem to be the only person who liked that book. And Finn Family Moomintroll too!

I can't resist quoting a couple of sentences from stringcat3: "Never mind 'wish list' - just buy it already! You won't be disappointed. The breadth of Miller's learning is impressive, but her writing is so heartfelt, so accessible, so resonant, that you don't get any of that 'look at me being smart' feeling that is typical when reading many of her contemporaries ...".

One minor criticism: to describe Lewis’s volume of The Oxford History of English Literature as being “mostly about Spenser” has to be regarded as exaggeration for conversational effect. Certainly there’s a lot about Spenser in there, but there’s a lot about other 16th century writers too.

I tried to post this mid-flight, but the in-flight wifi proved uncooperative. Not unusual.

ETA Unfortunately, the website www.themagiciansbook.com referred to in the notes at the end, appears to be defunct.

148Sakerfalcon
Sep 29, 2019, 8:57am Top

>147 haydninvienna: You hit me with a book bullet for The magician's book! Good shooting!

149haydninvienna
Sep 29, 2019, 9:05am Top

>148 Sakerfalcon: Just passing it on ...

150-pilgrim-
Edited: Sep 30, 2019, 10:08am Top

>148 Sakerfalcon: Like you, I have read (almost) everything Lewis wrote,except for some of his fiction. I am not sure that I am ready for another Lewis analysis yet; but you have hit me with that oh so casual dropped remark about Un Lun Dun.

151haydninvienna
Sep 30, 2019, 10:24am Top

>149 haydninvienna: Well, I liked Un Lun Dun, but it seems to be widely regarded as one of Miéville's less satisfactory books.

152hfglen
Sep 30, 2019, 11:33am Top

>151 haydninvienna: Un Lun Dun was my introduction to Miéville, and it is still the one of his that I like the best.

153-pilgrim-
Sep 30, 2019, 12:46pm Top

I have never read anything by China Miéville, except maybe in a short story anthology; this definitely sounds like a good place to start. Thank you both.

154haydninvienna
Oct 1, 2019, 3:07am Top

>153 -pilgrim-: I gather that Perdido Street Station has a certain amount of gore and general nastiness, but others of Miéville's books are just weird and I'm fine with that. The trouble is knowing which is which.

In other news, I found this in the Wikipedia front-page article (on Simon Hatley, an English pirate or privateer of the 18th century) this morning:
"Hatley was ... transferred to the Duke. Thus, for a time, Hatley, who would inspire Samuel Taylor Coleridge's albatross-shooting Ancient Mariner, Selkirk, probably the original for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Dampier, possibly the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's Lemuel Gulliver (of Gulliver's Travels), shared the same vessel.".

155Sakerfalcon
Oct 1, 2019, 5:09am Top

I liked Un Lun Dun although I felt that Mieville was rather consciously "writing for young people" in style. But the plot and imagination are excellent.

156haydninvienna
Oct 2, 2019, 3:33am Top

An unfortunate (maybe) encounter with Wikipedia and the Amazon Kindle store: for no particular reason I was browsing Wikipedia's list of SF and fantasy detectives and found the reference to Sir Kay (one of the Knights of the Round Table). I thought Huh? The book is called The Idylls of the Queen, by Phyllis Anne Karr. There's a few copies on LT and the reviews are decent. I find it's available on Kindle for £1.83, so bought it. This is too easy!

157pgmcc
Oct 2, 2019, 4:21am Top

Between on-line shopping and contactless payment it is becoming a very hazardous world.

158-pilgrim-
Edited: Oct 2, 2019, 5:13am Top

>156 haydninvienna: You got a direct hit with that one. Idylls of the Queen is now duly installed on my phone.

159haydninvienna
Oct 2, 2019, 5:57am Top

>158 -pilgrim-: No responsibility accepted for the quality of the book though. I bought it (at that price) simply because of the weirdness of the setting.

160Sakerfalcon
Oct 2, 2019, 7:37am Top

>156 haydninvienna: I've not read that one but I really enjoyed Karr's At Amberleaf Fair. A relatively gentle fantasy about mostly ordinary folk that just captured my imagination.

161haydninvienna
Edited: Oct 3, 2019, 5:49am Top

>160 Sakerfalcon: I wonder what we did before the Internet? Here am I wandering about on Wikipedia and I went down a rabbit hole marked "books". It led me to this page, which is about a book that I have actually read, though I don't own it. But do you see the link to a site called MathFiction? Which led me in turn to this page. As I've mentioned before, I'm no mathematician, but come on, a fairy tale about a completely symmetrical butterfly? Anybody out there who knows who Emmy Noether was? (I did, and do.) More info about the book here. Thirteen copies on LT, but no sign of an English translation. I better see about getting out the German grammar again.

ETA See also here, where the same author apparently "explicitly addresses the question of a link between insanity and mathematical brilliance". The page goes on:
To appreciate fully appreciate this work of fiction, one should be aware of the fact that, towards the end of his life, Georg Cantor was indeed obsessed with the question of whether the plays of Shakespeare were actually written by Francis Bacon. (See, for example, this biography which goes into some detail about this interest of his.).

162haydninvienna
Oct 4, 2019, 2:18pm Top

Friday reads while the washing is doing.

The End of Night by Paul Bogard—I had to give up on this one; it made me too angry. It told me a good many things I already knew, and a good few more things that I didn't, and few were pleasant. All in all, depressing, and something that a good many city planners need to read.

But next: Sourdough. I thought this was in fact better than Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. I laughed out loud when the bio-engineered Lembas explodes all over the island. I'm not sure I can approve of the idea of a robot doing kitchen work, except maybe along the general lines of "doing the boring, repetitive dangerous stuff". Prep work in restaurants is all of those and not well paid either.

163MrsLee
Oct 5, 2019, 10:53am Top

>162 haydninvienna: Glad you enjoyed Sourdough, I thought it a simple joy, and I agree, I liked it better than the first book. Agree also about the mixed feelings on the robot in the kitchen. :)

164clamairy
Edited: Oct 6, 2019, 7:46am Top

Love all of your travel photos. Thank you for those. (Especially those toilet frogs.)

I'm also glad you enjoyed Sourdough. As for robots in my home, they'd better be cleaning my (frog free) toilets, and vacuuming and dusting, etc. They won't be cooking for me. Though I would gladly let them wash up after I cook.

165haydninvienna
Oct 6, 2019, 3:53am Top

>164 clamairy: Thanks Clam, my pleasure.

166Busifer
Oct 9, 2019, 5:37am Top

Late, as always at the moment, but I had to do a double-check when you mentioned Zwolle. I haven't been in a long time, but it is a very nice place indeed and I am glad that you enjoyed it.

167haydninvienna
Oct 13, 2019, 2:14am Top

I took a BB from Nickelini in the form of Imagined Lives. This book was published by the National Portrait Gallery in the UK—they have a significant number of 17th-century portraits of unknown persons, and had the brilliant idea of commissioning a number of well-known writers to write mini-biographies or whatever about each one. And one of the well-known writers was Terry Pratchett. Pratchett writes a mini-biography of an unjustly forgotten Elizabethan adventurer named Sir Joshua Easement, whose biggest achievement was discovering England again after having discovered somewhere else. There's one by Alexander McCall Smith as well. I haven't read all of them yet, but some of the others are a bit more serious. The book isn't listed on the Gallery's website now, but copies seem to be readily available.

168haydninvienna
Oct 13, 2019, 4:43am Top

I'm doing my best re to get the GD up to the magic 400,000 posts.

As some of you know, I admin the Bookstore Tourism group. This is basically an excuse to travel to visit bookshops. Next one, at the end of this month, is Leakey's Bookshop in Inverness (Scotland), which is yet another bookshop in an old church (and a highly regarded shop in general, it seems). A used book shop this time rather than a seller of new books. The trip to Leakey's involves a train trip from Edinburgh Gateway station, near Edinburgh Airport, to Inverness—which gets me a crossing of the Forth Bridge (woohoo!—remember, I'm a bridge nerd as well). I will probably have time to go into Edinburgh city on the Saturday. I like Edinburgh.

169-pilgrim-
Oct 13, 2019, 6:29am Top

>168 haydninvienna: If you do get into Edinburgh, let me know if South Side Books (South Clerk Street, near Blackwell's) is still in existence. The last time that I was in Edinburgh, and passed by, it looked the sort of "closed" that made me fear it was permanent.

170pgmcc
Edited: Oct 13, 2019, 7:17am Top

>168 haydninvienna:
The Forth Bridge is my favourite bridge of all time. I have been at both ends of it but have never crossed it, well, not since "The 39 Steps", and that was 1935.

I have a friend from my Geology college days who was working on the new Forth bridge. I took perverse pleasure in saying I was delight to know someone who was working on the Third Forth Bridge.

171haydninvienna
Oct 13, 2019, 8:51am Top

>169 -pilgrim-: I think you probably mean South Bridge, which becomes South Clerk Street a bit further down—there's a "South Side Books" and a Blackwells on South Bridge. Of South Side Books, Google Maps says "permanently closed". And I've stayed at the Ibis just down the street, and seem to recall noticing a closed bookshop about there. I certainly do remember the Blackwells. Edinburgh Uni law school is just across the street and I went to a CALC conference there a few years ago.

172-pilgrim-
Oct 13, 2019, 9:08am Top

>171 haydninvienna: Yes, you are quite right. It has been a while since I was there. I am sorry to hear that the shop has closed; the owner would probably be of retirement age, but I always had the impression that the shop was a labour of love, rather than merely a job.

173pgmcc
Oct 13, 2019, 1:50pm Top

I love Edinburgh too. The only person I met who did not like Edinburgh was a lady attending WorldCon in Glasgow in 2005. She was a life-long resident of Edinburgh and said she hated it because it had a festival every bloody month and was too busy for the locals. :-)

She appeared sincere in her opinion.

174haydninvienna
Oct 13, 2019, 11:23pm Top

>173 pgmcc: I can understand that attitude. As you know, I lived in Dublin for a couple of years and love the place to bits. But I didn’t always find it easy to cope with the tourists.

175Busifer
Edited: Oct 14, 2019, 4:21am Top

Edinburgh, and the Forth Bridge, is high on my list of places to go. Next trip will, however, go to Munich (not my choice), because we as a family decided not to gamble on Brexit.
(Not that it had been Edinburgh anyway: son want to visit Bovington and I want to go to York. But.)

Living in Stockholm I certainly feel the pain of that Edinburgh lady. I tend to stay in my corner of town Thursdays to mid-day on Sundays, when the weekend tourist crowd takes over. As I myself like to travel I'll just have to accept that others do, too.

Imagined Lives sounds like a nice read.

176haydninvienna
Oct 21, 2019, 2:12pm Top

If I do get to hang out in Edinburgh a bit this weekend, I'll try to get a picture of David Hume that doesn't cut his head off. I have several pictures of the statue on the Royal Mile from previous visits and every bloody one cut his head off.

177haydninvienna
Oct 24, 2019, 5:04pm Top

Now in Doha Airport on the way to Edinburgh and it suddenly occurred to me that I never finished Idylls of the Queen. -pilgrim-, did you read it? I was fairly so-so about what I read. Is it any good?

178-pilgrim-
Oct 24, 2019, 5:18pm Top

>178 -pilgrim-: I read it and I oved it. It had a real sense of immersion in the world that Malory's readers believed had existed, and a rather lovely portrayal of a believable personality for Kay that was much more than the buffoon of T. H. White's version. I also really liked the psychological state ascribed to Mordred. A lot of characters in Malory behave in rather contradictory ways at times, due to their roles in separate traditions that were later drawn together; Phyllis Ann Karr did an excellent job of producing a version where the apparently contradictory behaviours were self-consistent, rather than seeming like a personality transplant.

And the red herrings on the way to the solution were all plausible, so it worked as a murder mystery - My last read ofMalory was sufficiently long ago that I didn't remember who poisoned Sir Patrise.

I know that you warned me that you weren't going to take responsibility for the BB discharged, but you can consider that one a direct hit.

179haydninvienna
Edited: Oct 25, 2019, 11:03am Top

Just been to Leakey’s Books in Inverness. The results of this visit were:
Miscellany-at-Law by R E Megarry QC
Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm
Maurice Baring: A Postscript by Laura Lovat
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Archy & Mehitabel By Don Marquis
The Needs of Strangers by Michael Ignatieff
We of the Never-Never by Mrs Aeneas Gunn.

Some reasons for some of these:
I first read Miscellany-at-Law more than 50 years ago after borrowing it from a public library. Yeah, I was an odd kid.

I went to a Commonwealth Law Conference in Vancouver in 1996 and Michael Ignatieff was the keynote speaker. As far as I know he hadn’t then taken any active part in Canadian politics, but anyway I thought he was the best thing on the program.

We of the Never-Never figured in another thread on LT fairly recently. This copy appears to have been used as a school text and has a folded sheet in it with handwritten notes about words like “lubra” (a married aboriginal woman).

I’ve been for a bit of a walk around Inverness, taken some photos and had lunch in the pub opposite the bookshop. All good.

ETA it’s cold here.

180haydninvienna
Edited: Oct 26, 2019, 4:37pm Top

I’m now safely in the BA lounge in Edinburgh Airport and I feel a certain need to have a rant. It’s been an entertaining weekend.

{rant}I’ve had 2 of the most trying railway journeys ever, and Scotrail can’t be blamed for any of it—both trains ran on time and were sufficiently comfortable, etc. But the people!

On the way to Inverness, I had crossed the Forth Bridge on a train; been in the Highlands of Scotland; and spent most of three hours on the train trying not to listen to an Important Person making Important Phone Calls in an Important Voice. Judging from what I unwillingly heard he does this quite a bit.

What made it worse was that I was in the first class compartment which has only 9 seats in it. Before he showed up there were only 3 other people in there. He occupied one of the other seat-pairs having (I assume) upgraded his ticket so he could make calls in a quieter space than the general hubbub.

British trains often have a quiet zone (no phone calls, no music etc) but the first class wasn’t it. There are stories of people who ignore the quiet zone being told quite forcefully to shut up or leave.
Come to think of it, the first I saw of this jackass was him bumbling into the compartment and looking around. He wasn’t well dressed and I wondered what he was up to. He left and then came back with his stuff, spread everything out and started being a royal pain.

On the way back it was a woman with 4 bratty, whiny kids. On balance I preferred the guy on the phone. She was constantly telling them to be quiet, to sit still, and not to kick her, and making dire threats which the kids couldn’t have taken seriously. i don’t really blame the kids. Seriously, what parallel universe did this woman live in where 4 active kids would sit still and quiet on a three-hour train journey with nothing to entertain them?

When the train stopped in Perth I had a decision justified. Two decisions in fact. The first was to spring for first class. This was partly in the interests of being sure of a seat, which is a bit chancy on British trains in busy routes. The second was to travel by the direct train rather than one that involved a change in Perth. Crikey, the people who joined in Perth! There were some real bogans. Some of them were kitted out as (I assume) zombies and there was one girl who quite literally had her bottom hanging out of her very brief skirt. As in, her bare buttocks were on display. Did nothing for me at all except needing brain-bleach.

The woman with the kids got off at Kirkcaldy and the chavs moved in. They were actually okay other than being noisy, and there was no apparent risk of being an unwilling witness to an act of child abuse.

Then on the tram between Edinburgh Gateway and the airport, I saw the conductor walk past with a couple of partly consumed bottles of Buckfast that he had apparently confiscated. He put them on a shelf near the drivers door, and a couple of yobboes went and got them when the tram stopped at the airport. I thought with relief that they were unlikely to be on my flight.

Look, I get that some people have different standards. But having to listen to one end of an Important Phone Call seems to be universally agreed to be annoying, and the oblivious ones who force it on others should be added to the Mikado’s Little List. And the woman with the kids was just an idiot.

Anyway I’m now safely checked in and in the BA lounge recovering with a glass of Oz red ink.{\rant}

Incidentally, I hadn’t realised that from a train, if you are on the correct side, you can see the first, second and third Forth Bridges all at once.

181-pilgrim-
Oct 26, 2019, 9:33am Top

>180 haydninvienna: Ah, Buckie - the universal signifier.

182MrsLee
Oct 26, 2019, 2:34pm Top

>180 haydninvienna: The Great Public is best seen from afar. Preferably another planet.

I wonder if people who have loud conversations on their phones in public places would stop if we all joined in on the conversation?

183haydninvienna
Oct 26, 2019, 4:33pm Top

>181 -pilgrim-: I’ve never tried the stuff. Maybe I should. It’s on Gastro Obscura so next time in England I might buy a half so I can click “I’ve tried this”.

184haydninvienna
Oct 26, 2019, 4:37pm Top

Actually, I’m on the flight home now (the free on-air Internet is working for once). I have a little girl next to me but she is pretty ok—better behaved than the brats on the train anyway.

185haydninvienna
Oct 26, 2019, 4:49pm Top

>182 MrsLee: As to your first point—the further the better.

As to your second—in this case it might have been better to start a really loud, weird conversation of my own. I don’t know if my imagination is up to doing so unless I were actually talking to someone, and nobody I know is weird enough. Hm, wonder if I could ring pgmcc and start organising a social function in the Green Dragon, with roombas, Rosagra, pool boys, smurfs et al? Make it sound real? Trouble is, he is so much better at piffle than I am.

Incidentally, a thought for Clam. Piffle parties seem to be happening often enough that maybe they should get mentioned on the GD home page.

186-pilgrim-
Oct 26, 2019, 5:28pm Top

>183 haydninvienna: I believe the monks of Buckfast Abbey had genteel elderly ladies in mind as the market for their tonic wine. However I have never heard of it actually been drink by anyone other than Neds seeking the fastest route to total inebriation.

If you do make the experiment - purely in the interests of science, of course - be sure to report back on your findings. Will you acquire an instant ability to speak Doric?

>185 haydninvienna: nobody I know is weird enough
Shame on you! With an entire pub full of Dragoneers to call upon...

187Bookmarque
Oct 26, 2019, 6:40pm Top

I hereby volunteer for emergency phone conversation counter-measures!! PM me for #.

188pgmcc
Oct 26, 2019, 7:24pm Top

>185 haydninvienna: and nobody I know is weird enough...Hm, wonder if I could ring pgmcc...

It struck me that perhaps I should take offence at you mentioned me just after saying you knew nobody weird enough, but that would have been disingenuous because as I read "...and nobody I know is weird enough..." I thought, "What about me?". Then I read, "Hm, wonder if I coudl ring pgmcc..."

Having felt niffed at your not thinking of me as being weird enoubh I can hardly complain when you imply that I am weird enough.

As @Bookmargue say, I volunteer for emergency conversations.

By the way, Thank you for the piffling praise, but to be honest, I think you do yourself a disservice. You are an excellent piffler.

189haydninvienna
Oct 27, 2019, 3:16am Top

Thanks all! >187 Bookmarque: The logistics might be a bit complicated because of time zones and so on, but thank you for the offer! I shall bear it in mind. Fortunately I'm not intending to be on a British train for a while.

I read a good deal of Miscellany-At-Law on the flight. Megarry was an interesting man in some ways: according to Wikipedia he was a former solicitor who became a barrister and achieved high office as a judge. (English judges are usually drawn from the ranks of barristers.) He was also the author or joint author of a number of other books including some highly regarded textbooks. He either had a lot of free time or was an absolute tiger for work. The introduction to Miscellany-At-Law notes that most of it was compiled during law vacations (that is, the annual periods when the courts were not sitting). I'm not going to recommend the book for general reading. It's more than 50 years old now, and a lot of the anecdotes look dated—more so as some of them go back to the 14th century. There's also a good few quotations in law-French. Did you know that until about the end of the 17th century, law in England, Wales and Ireland was carried on in a strange language which was a kind of lawyers' pidgin (not going to dignify it by calling it a creole), based on Norman French? A surprising amount of law-French survives into modern legal and even general usage, including "mortgage" and "tort".

I found the book fun 50-odd years ago and I still think it's entertaining now. But that's me.

190haydninvienna
Oct 27, 2019, 3:54am Top

How times do change—not. In reading Wikipedia's article on law-French I discover that in 1362, during the reign of King Edward III, an Act was passed requiring the proceedings in the King's courts to be in English rather than French and Latin so that the ordinary people could understand what was going on. "Plain language" has a long history in the law.

Ironically, the Act was in French. (The English translation quoted from and linked to in Wikipedia looks 17th century or later. There were at least three collections of historical statutes published during the 18th century.)

191haydninvienna
Oct 27, 2019, 12:46pm Top

In the interests of science I did a bit of googling about Buckie. Apparently it's not all that easy to get in Southern England. But I had to share this delightful post on one of the Gizmodo sites: https://thetakeout.com/buckfast-tonic-wine-1798219495.

I found an on-line vintner wanting £7 or so a bottle for it. On the same page it lists "Wincarnis Tonic Wine", a similar product which doesn't seem to be nearly as popular.

192-pilgrim-
Edited: Oct 27, 2019, 3:36pm Top

>189 haydninvienna: Do you know how legal French compared to Jèrriais?

193haydninvienna
Oct 28, 2019, 12:14am Top

Since both originated in the language of the Normans, there’s probably a similarity, although Jèrriais is still in use and law-French isn’t, and allowing for the specialised vocabulary and so on.

194haydninvienna
Oct 28, 2019, 2:07am Top

In my assiduous attempt to get the GD to 400,000 posts, a note on another of the books I bought at Leakey's: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. I bought it mostly because I remembered seeing it mentioned in another LT thread (not in the GD: I lurk in a lot of places). For no particular reason I looked Elizabeth von A up in Wikipedia. Crikey, what a life! Born in Sydney in 1866, moved back to England; married into the Prussian aristocracy; widowed; became a mistress of H G Wells; married into the English aristocracy (Bertrand Russell's elder brother yet!); lived in France, Switzerland and the United States; wrote (I count) 22 novels and other books. So she became a Countess twice (once in Prussia and once in England). How can one lifetime be enough for all that? To top it all off, Katherine Mansfield was her cousin.

195hfglen
Edited: Oct 28, 2019, 7:00am Top

>194 haydninvienna: Interesting surname there. I can't help wondering if she's an ancestor of Achim von Arnim and hence his son Takuan von Arnim, winemakers at Haute Cabrière overlooking Franschhoek. Achim von Arnim is (or maybe was; I think I saw a report that he popped his clogs a year or 2 back) the doyen of makers of MCC wine. MCC is champagne in all but origin and name: it's South African, but the same technique and grape cultivars. Oh and somewhere between 1/2 and 1/10 the price, at least here. Achim von Arnim also achieved local fame as one of the two or 3 South Africans who could open a champagne bottle by sabrage (where you hold the bottle in one hand and the sword in the other, and decapitate the bottle with a single neat blow).

196haydninvienna
Oct 28, 2019, 1:00pm Top

Not impossible that there's a connection. Elizabeth got to be a von Arnim and a Countess by marrying a Prussian aristocrat named Henning August, Graf von Arnim-Schlagenthin, in 1891. Henning August's estate was in Pomerania, in a place that's now in Poland. But they lived in Berlin at first. They had five children, whom Wikipedia does not name. But it does say that Graf von Arnim (etc) had money troubles and did some time for fraud. He died in 1910.

In an earlier generation there was another Prussian family named von Arnim, that of the poet Achim von Arnim (and his wife Bettina, described by another LT-er as a poet-stalker). Achim's claim to fame is as one of the compilers, with Clemens Brentano, of the anthology of folk poetry The Youth's Magic Horn, some of which was set to music by Gustav Mahler. I don't know if there was a connection between Achim and Graf von Arnim-Schlagenthin, but both came from the same general area so it's plausible. The point of that, apart from enabling me to work in another musical reference, is that there were probably a good few von Arnims knocking around and it's not impossible that one of them made it to South Africa. I think the sharing of the first name is a strong hint.

And after all that I googled the name "von Arnim". There's a lot of them even today! There's a family website. Portraits of all of the people I've mentioned except Graf von Arnim-Schlagenthin are on the site. Maybe they read him out of the family after he went to prison, but they let Elizabeth stay in. In view of all that, I'll revise my first sentence: it's very likely that there is a connection.

About things that aren't champagne but ought to be—same in Oz. I know of at least one winery in Victoria that is or was making a wine that lacks only the word "Reims" on the label to be called champagne. Be at least slightly fair to the French though, they do the same to their own winemakers. A wine that would be champagne if grown around Reims has to be called "vin mousseux" or "cremant" if grown anywhere else in France.

There's a lot of videos on YouTube demonstrating sabrage, but I found one by the "Geordie Wine Guide" where he demonstrates it with a bottle of cava and a fish-slice.

197Busifer
Oct 28, 2019, 2:16pm Top

Going back a bit, to >180 haydninvienna: and >182 MrsLee: I think people who make loud Very Important Calls in public do so to make them look like they are important. Possibly because they feel very unimportant otherwise, and are of the misguided belief that it is important to Be Important.

I've had plenty of experience of the type, enough to always bring headphones and something to listen to, such as a book or a lecture series, when I travel. Even if it is only for a short commute.

I must admit that I sometimes has to take and make calls in public. I try to be quiet, and to not talk about anything that could be confidential, though.

198haydninvienna
Oct 28, 2019, 2:24pm Top

>197 Busifer: one of my late second wife’s brothers was a senior manager for what was then the government owned telephone company in Australia, with responsibility for the then very new cellular telephones. His word on the people who talked loudly on them in public was that they were mostly ringing themselves anyway.

199hfglen
Edited: Oct 28, 2019, 2:39pm Top

>196 haydninvienna: How fascinating. Knowing how first names are inherited in Afrikaans families and presumably north-German ones, and observing that Achim is not exactly the world's commonest given name, I'd suggest that Achim-the-winemaker is almost certainly descended from Achim-the-poet. All we have to do (the hard bit) is to prove it.

200haydninvienna
Oct 29, 2019, 12:29am Top

>199 hfglen: putting a toe into unfamiliar water here. Afrikaners are Dutch originally, right? But Prussians are German? And “von” in a German name means something different from “van” in a Dutch one? I don’t really know, beyond knowing that Beethoven (who was “van”) embarrassed himself by trying to pass off his Dutch “van” as a sign of nobility in a Viennese court, and having it pointed out that it wasn’t, but it seems to me that your winemaker was actually of German ancestry rather than Dutch. Which supports at least the possibility that he really was a descendant of the poet.

Proving it shouldn’t be hard if the winemaker’s family doesn’t object. As I said, there’s a website. It’s a huge family tree but Achim-the-poet is certainly in there. I checked quickly to make sure that he and Bettina had some issue—they did, 7 of them.

201-pilgrim-
Oct 29, 2019, 2:55am Top

>200 haydninvienna: Actually, ethnically/linguistically Prussians are not Germans, but West Slavs.

Normally this is only of interest to Germans who want to disavow the militaristic tendencies of the German Empires (2nd & 3rd) as being a "foreign" Prussian import. But in something as ancient in origin as names, the language difference may actually be relevant.

202haydninvienna
Oct 29, 2019, 4:24am Top

>201 -pilgrim-: Might have known that I would get shot down for saying that Prussians were German! However, Graf is a German word and Achim von Arnim was of the old nobility, whose ancestors would probably have been part of the German migration to the east in mediaeval times. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing this might be another situation where the nobility and the commoners were ethnically and linguistically distinct, as in England during the 13th century.

Anyway, we were speculating about whether Achim-the-winemaker was descended in some way from Achim-the-poet. It still seems plausible to me.

203hfglen
Oct 29, 2019, 6:05am Top

>200 haydninvienna: and >202 haydninvienna: Quite correct. But AFAIK aristocratic German given names tended to be inherited the same way. And when I was an undergraduate at Wits, there was a striking example of the same being true of West Slavs, pace -pilgrim-. The head of the Zoology Department was a(n) Ukrainian by the name of Boris Ivanovich Balinsky. The head of the Biochemistry Department was his son, John Boris Balinsky, born in South Africa. I don't know if the biochemist ever had offspring, but I'd expect the first son to be called Boris John B.

204Busifer
Oct 29, 2019, 10:51am Top

(I honestly thought the natives of the Prussia region prior to the Germans were Baltic, kin to the original Latvians and Lithuanians, both Baltic languages. The Germans generally came in as a result of granted fiefdoms under the Teutonic order. Then, of course, they were all driven out at the very end of WWII. BTW I'm not talking of the Kingdom of Prussia or anything such, but the region as such, with cities such as Stettin/Szczecin, Danzig/Gdansk and Königsberg/Kaliningrad now being Polish or Russian, ie Slavic. Not to mention the complex legacy of Poland-Lithuania, but I digress - it was later nonetheless.)

205haydninvienna
Oct 29, 2019, 11:13am Top

Good lord, how I love the GD. In the space of a dozen or so posts we've gone from early 20th-century fiction via a South African winery to the history of the Baltic region, and it all seemed to make sense at the time. Who needs piffle parties?

Clam--how are we doing towards 400,000?

206Busifer
Oct 29, 2019, 1:05pm Top

Isn't this piffling?!?!

Marching on towards 400,000!

207pgmcc
Oct 29, 2019, 1:38pm Top

This appears to be high-octane piffling with highly intellectual content.

208haydninvienna
Nov 1, 2019, 11:43am Top

Quiet weekend at home (after 3 consecutive weekends away) catching up with the domestic stuff. I've finished Miscellany-at-Law. Started on Zuleika Dobson, and I may or may not continue with it. Best taken in small doses, perhaps. I've never quite known how to describe this book. Part of its charm is Beerbohm's style—there never was another like Beerbohm for describing trivialities in epic terms. But it's obvious from the very first paragraph that a huge change has come over Oxford since 1911:
That old bell, presage of a train, had just sounded through Oxford station; and the undergraduates who were waiting there, gay figures in tweed or flannel, moved to the margin of the platform and gazed idly up the line. Young and careless, in the glow of the afternoon sunshine, they struck a sharp note of incongruity with the worn boards they stood on, with the fading signals and grey eternal walls of that antique station, which, familiar to them and insignificant, does yet whisper to the tourist the last enchantments of the Middle Age.
Oxford railway station now does not now whisper enchantments of any kind. The very next sentence begins "At the door of the first-class waiting room ...". I'm not even sure there is a waiting room, let alone a first-class one.

209haydninvienna
Nov 2, 2019, 6:30am Top

Another bit of weekend reading, and an unexpected one: Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis. I knew about the 'set up" of course (that archy is a cockroach who is the reincarnation of a free-verse poet, and types secretly at night by jumping on the keys of a typewriter) but had never read any of the actual verses. Well, now I have, and I know why the book has stayed in print for 90-odd years. "archy" is a profound philosopher as well as a poet. His outpourings would be endlessly quotable except that the peculiar structure of the verse makes it difficult to separate a quotation cleanly. "archy's" rhymes are sometimes as good as Ogden Nash's:
the quite irrational ichneumon
is such a fool it s almost human

And I love this little vignette about the ghosts in Westminster Abbey:
one of the most pathetic
sights however
is to see the ghost of queen
victoria going out every
evening with the ghost
of a sceptre in her hand
to find mr lytton strachey
and bean him it seems she beans
him and beans him and he
never knows it

When that was written, Lytton Strachey would still have been alive, and his notorious book Eminent Victorians with its "elegant, energetic character assassinations" still fresh.

Just in case anybody doesn't already know and can't guess, I've put the reason for the odd orthography inside spoiler tags.Since archy is a cockroach, and types by jumping on typewriter keys, he can't use a shift key, so no capital letters

210haydninvienna
Nov 9, 2019, 2:39pm Top

On my way back from another weekend in Bicester and on a whim this morning in Paddington station I bought Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman. That was my reading on the flight. Pub rules mean I won’t say much about it, but I earnestly recommend any GDers who can vote in the United Kingdom to read it. A lot of it probably also applies to the Parliaments descended from Westminster, in Canada and Australia. Certainly a lot of it looks familiar to me from the Australian political system.

I also picked up a couple of library books while I was in Bicester. More on them later.

211haydninvienna
Nov 12, 2019, 5:42am Top

Yes, the library books. Two historical books, both by Alastair Hamilton:
The Appeal of Fascism, which is said to be about the response of intellectuals to the rise of Fascism in Europe;
The Family of Love, which is said to be about a mystical religious sect in Europe during the 16th century.

I've started the first one. The book has a general introduction and then chapters on Fascism in Italy, Germany, France and Great Britain. "Said to be about" because it seems to spend rather more time on the history of the Fascist movements than on their intellectual camp-followers. This may well be appropriate, particularly because the history of the original Fascist movement, in Italy, is not necessarily well-known outside Italy. I admit that my knowledge of the early history of the Fascist movement in Italy was pretty well nil, and of what came after not much greater. One thing I've discovered is that originally Hitler admired Mussolini and sought to emulate him. That changed pretty quickly, of course. The intellectuals who were associated with the Fascist period in Italy are mostly just names, or even less, for me, with the exception of D'Annunzio (because of my attempt at reading The Pike earlier this year), and Pirandello.

I'm now through the chapter on Italian Fascism and into the one on the Nazi movement in Germany, and more particularly on Heidegger. Hamilton seems to be taking a somewhat kinder line on Heidegger's Nazi connections than some others do. One reason I'm interested in this general area is the problem of what to do about people like Herbert von Karajan and Elisabeth Schwartzkopf who were party members, possibly not out of conviction. Fortunately Richard Strauss, one of whose works I will be hearing in Dublin in a couple of weeks, never joined the party and refused to disown his Jewish librettist Stefan Zweig. (Strauss wrote an opera with a libretto by Zweig, which was premiered in Dresden in 1935. Strauss refused to remove Zweig's name from the hoardings, and the Nazis banned the work after three performances. Zweig left Austria in 1934 for England, then the United States, and finally Brazil.)

I may possibly be being a little unkind in describing some of the intellectual followers of Fascism as camp-followers. For some of them, it seems that the choice may have looked like one between Fascism and anarchy. Perhaps they also bought into the nationalist myth that both Italian Fascism and German Nazism had. I'm now looking at the choice from the wrong end, in that I know what happened. I haven't reached the chapter on British Fascism yet.

The other book is about a religious sect called Familia Caritatis. They appear to have been somewhat like proto-Quakers. The Wikipedia article is interesting: "... {They} were said to assert that all things were ruled by nature and not directly by God, of denying the dogma of the Trinity, and repudiating infant baptism. They held that no man should be put to death for his opinions, and apparently, like the later Quakers, they objected to the carrying of arms and to anything like an oath; and they were quite impartial in their repudiation of all other churches and sects ... They felt no need to spread the message and risk heresy; members were usually a part of an otherwise established church, quietly remaining in the background, confident in their elite status as part of the Godhead". I have a vague recollection of seeing a suggestion somewhere that Erasmus was linked with them, but can't document it, and given that Erasmus died in 1536 he was probably too early.

212haydninvienna
Nov 15, 2019, 1:54am Top

>212 haydninvienna: I have now finished The Family of Love. That probably is all I want to know about that particular rather minor heretical 16th century sect, even if they were kind of proto-Quakers. Something I noticed in passing is that the book, an academic work with notes and a bibliography and index, published in Cambridge in the 1970s, was annoyingly badly proof-read. Shows that it’s not a 21st century phenomenon exclusively.

213hfglen
Nov 15, 2019, 5:05am Top

Wot? By a certain academic publisher with that city's name, noted for its high prices?

214haydninvienna
Nov 15, 2019, 5:26am Top

>213 hfglen: I should have specified “but not by the University Press”. No, by a firm called James Clarke & Co Ltd, of 7 All Saints Passage, Cambridge. And that is all I know about them.

215haydninvienna
Nov 15, 2019, 5:40am Top

Well, back to slightly more central GD fare, with The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. I’ve seen this compared to Jasper fforde and with The Third Policeman, and I could add Malcolm Pryce’s “Aberystwyth” books; although it plays with some noir tropes, it doesn’t have the real hard-boiled feel of Dashiell Hammett. Also The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, which I’ve got somewhere and never finished. It exists somewhere inside a geometrical figure of which those are the corners

I enjoyed it. It makes somewhat more sense than The Third Policeman, and you can decide for yourself whether that’s a good thing.

216haydninvienna
Edited: Nov 15, 2019, 7:33am Top

Yet another Friday read, and this one could count as a sort of alternate history: The Flying Visit by Peter Fleming.

The Flying Visit supposes that in 1940, Hitler made a "flying visit" to England. His intention was just to fly over it for purposes of propaganda, but there was this time-bomb in a flask of vegetable juice, wasn't there, which failed to kill him (shades of Georg Elser's unsuccessful attempt on Hitler's life in Munich in 1938, the anniversary of which took place this past week) but destroyed the aircraft he was flying in, so he landed by parachute in Oxfordshire and was taken for a Hitler impersonator at a village fancy-dress ball. Of course a British agent spots him as the real deal and he is taken prisoner, but then what are the British to do with him? The problem is that the Germans had foreseen the possibility of something happening to Der Führer, and had had a double ready to take his place. They were therefore in a position to denounce the one held by the British as an imposter. So what were the British to do? They sent him back.

Fleming's foreword is dated 13 June 1940. The book is a comedy, which sets out to make Hitler ridiculous. It was still possible to do so then.

In the curious way that Life imitates Art, Fleming's little book tells a vaguely similar story to that of Rupert Hess's supposed peace mission to England almost exactly a year after Fleming's book was published. Fleming imagines that Hitler, after realising that he was on English soil, conceives the idea of negotiating a peace settlement with the British and attempted to contact a pro-Nazi local grandee. This was supposed to be exactly what Hess had in mind. (For some further story on Hess, see Ten Days That Saved the West by John Costello. There certainly were some pro-Nazi grandees about: Unity Mitford is now only the best-known.)

It also just occurred to me that Elser's attempt on Hitler's life failed because although Elser's bomb and its timer functioned exactly as intended, Hitler left the beer-hall—the one where he had begun the Beer-Hall Putsch in 1923, now demolished—half an hour early. Fleming's fictional bomb goes off at an unexpected place because Hitler arrives at the airfield three hours late.

Peter Fleming was Ian Fleming's elder brother. The brothers came from a banking family, and Peter had a career before WWII as a journalist and travel writer. He was also an Oxfordshire squire and a backer of Rupert Hart-Davis's publishing ventures.

217haydninvienna
Nov 15, 2019, 7:37am Top

Speaking of pro-Nazi grandees: I forgot the Duke of Windsor, who was believed to be sympathetic to the Nazis. Somewhere quite recently, I remember seeing somebody quoted as saying that Mrs Simpson had done a great service to the English people: she had saved them from being ruled by a nitwit (or words to that general effect). I wish I could give a source.

218haydninvienna
Nov 16, 2019, 4:25am Top

Zuleika Dobson.
I suppose this is a black comedy. It's certainly a comedy, and given that the whole body of undergraduates at Oxford commits suicide for love of the eponymous semi-competent stage magician, it would appear to be fairly black. Like P G Wodehouse but with doomed love and suicide, perhaps.

219-pilgrim-
Nov 16, 2019, 7:58am Top

>217 haydninvienna:
Certainly the Nazis thought that he was a sympathiser. Hence their suggestion of putting him on the throne once they had conquered Britain.
c.f. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/20/winston-churchill-nazi-telegrams...

220clamairy
Nov 17, 2019, 5:59pm Top

>185 haydninvienna: "Incidentally, a thought for Clam. Piffle parties seem to be happening often enough that maybe they should get mentioned on the GD home page."

I'm not sure we want to be known for our propensity to piffle.
Or do we?

221hfglen
Nov 18, 2019, 1:45am Top

>220 clamairy: On the whole probably not, but it is a major, character-giving activity of this pub.

222-pilgrim-
Nov 18, 2019, 4:11am Top

>220 clamairy: Better piffling than political pontificating.

223pgmcc
Nov 18, 2019, 4:13am Top

>222 -pilgrim-: Hear! Hear!

224clamairy
Nov 18, 2019, 8:30am Top

>222 -pilgrim-: Too true.

225haydninvienna
Nov 18, 2019, 8:50am Top

>222 -pilgrim-: Seconded (or thirded or whatever), most definitely.

226suitable1
Nov 18, 2019, 2:13pm Top

>220 clamairy:

We are WAY too serious to stoop to piffling!

227pgmcc
Nov 18, 2019, 3:54pm Top

>226 suitable1: Do not judge others by yourself, Riley!

228haydninvienna
Edited: Dec 21, 2019, 9:43pm Top

If you've seen the weekend thread for this weekend, you'll know that I've been to Dublin again. Pint or two (or three) with pgmcc, which was good craic, and then a concert at the National Concert Hall—the RTÉ Symphony playing Brahms' First Symphony, absolutely fabulous—and of course books were involved.

Chapters in Parnell Street produced:
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, which I read many years ago but I was prompted to buy a copy of the newer translation by Olena Bormashenko, favourably discussed by -pilgrim- here
The Second Rider by Alex Beer, which was a BB from somebody
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, which I wouldn't have taken an interest in but I've seen some love for it here lately.

Then on to Hodges Figgis, when I connected with pgmcc and with his assistance on Irish matters bought
The Graveyard Clay by Máirtín Ó Cadhain (this is an Irish classic, Cré na Cille, also translated as The Dirty Dustpgmcc views the one I bought as better in that it's more in the spirit of the Gaeltacht west of Ireland)
Heroic Failure by Fintan O'Toole. I fired a BB for this one from Paddington (see #210) and got pgmcc with it, so I thought I'd better buy it as well
• and an impulse buy—Appeasing Hitler by Tim Bouverie. This kind of fits with some other things I've been reading more or less recently. We tend now to get a story about how the United Kingdom was united behind Churchill against Hitler, but it may not have been quite that way. After all Churchill didn't become Prime Minister until 10 May 1940, and there certainly were those in the Tories who regarded him as a dangerous warmonger. Anyway, we are getting near the age of Pub rules, even though this is history.
Then off to London and a quick trip to Foyles produced
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde. I'm a big fan of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes books, but Shades of Grey didn't do much for me. I remember seeing Early Riser in hardback in Townsville a couple of years ago and not buying it, but now I've got the paperback so we'll see.

Re Fintan O'Toole: he is an Irish Times journalist who has written a good number of books about current affairs. (The Irish Times is a newspaper I respect: I think it's one of the better newspapers of Europe and certainly better than most British ones.) I first became aware of him years ago when I was working in Ireland, but of course then we were on opposite sides of the biggest issue of the day—I was working for the Government helping implement a policy that he disagreed with. The issue now is Brexit, and given that he describes the Brexit vote as a national act of self-harm, I suspect that we are on the same side this time. And no more of that in the Pub either.

Edited to fix parentheses!
And again to correct the title of the O’Toole book—thanks, >261 !

229-pilgrim-
Nov 24, 2019, 5:06pm Top

>228 haydninvienna: I look forward to your opinions of the differences between the two translations. You already know why I value your opinion rather more than that of Michael Andre-Driussi!

230haydninvienna
Nov 25, 2019, 12:48pm Top

A bit of minor weirdness. As noted in #228, I bought a copy of The Graveyard Clay in Hodges Figgis last Friday. pgmcc was with me at the time, as I also noted. He hadn't spotted that the 2 translations of Cré na Cille (as The Graveyard Clay and as The Dirty Dust) had both been published by the same publisher, Yale University Press. I'm now reading the introduction to my copy, and find that not only were both translations published by the same publisher, they were even in the same series (the Margellos World Republic of Letters Books). To top it all off, they were even published in the same year, or at least very close together. I've never seen this happen before, that the same publisher has put out 2 quite different translations of a work in such quick succession, without any apparent intention that the one should supersede the other.

231pgmcc
Nov 25, 2019, 2:00pm Top

>230 haydninvienna: Curious indeed.

232haydninvienna
Nov 28, 2019, 10:07am Top

Hey, it's Thanksgiving in the US! Happy Thanksgiving, USians!

233haydninvienna
Nov 29, 2019, 3:45am Top

I need to stop “just having a quick look” at W H Smith shops in railway stations.
In Marylebone Station just now I did exactly that and somehow came out with 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson. There’s enough gush on the cover to make me very wary, and it’s supposed to be a “multi-million copy bestseller”, which makes me even warier. But I looked at his list of rules and it isn’t exactly what I expected. Plus he’s Canadian, which is a good thing. So I what-the-helled and bought it.
BTW nice bright morning in London.

234haydninvienna
Dec 1, 2019, 2:56am Top

As implied by #233, I was back in Bicester this weekend. No book-buying though, other than the book mentioned in that post.

However, on the flight back I started reading Graveyard Clay, which comes strongly recommended by pgmcc. (Note that the touchstone calls it The Dirty Dust, which is a different translation of the same book. Peter prefers Graveyard Clay, and I'm happy to accept his recommendation.) Well ... interesting. I'm not aware of any other novel that uses the setting. In case you missed it, that setting is the graveyard of a village in the west of Ireland, some time in the 1940s. The book is almost entirely made up of conversations between the corpses buried there. They are not ghosts, so no wandering revenants or anything like that—their only source of information about what is going on above ground is new burials, and the burial of a new corpse starts off a flood of questions about what's going on. Most of the conversations seem to be about matters like: did I get laid out and buried properly; am I buried in the half-guinea plot, the 15-shilling plot or the pound plot (that is, respectively, the cheap, middling or expensive part of the graveyard); have they given me a proper cross; what is my widow or widower up to; and general back-biting and village gossip. There's even an election, which I must go back and re-read for its current relevance. It's often very funny, but the humour is as black as the ace of spades. The corpses are now unremittingly awful people, whatever they may have been like while they were still walking around.

I have to agree with pgmcc that it's much better than Ulysses. Ulysses is often funny, but it's far too pleased with itself. Graveyard Clay is also much shorter, if that matters. It seemed to help reading it that I lived in Ireland for some while, although Dublin in the Oughties is a very different world from the Connemara of 60 or so years earlier. It also helped that I'd read a good deal of Flann O'Brien, although not The Poor Mouth, in which O'Brien ridicules the poverty literature that was all over the place in his time. I noted also that Máirtin O Cadhain's characters say from time to time "he had drink taken", where we would say "taken drink" (there's a lot in there about drinking—one of the corpses tells us many times that he had drunk "two-score and two pints" on some unspecified occasion, but I'm guessing that it was the reason that he was in the Graveyard Clay), and I've heard people in Dublin say that.

I haven't quite finished it, but it's been a fun ride so far, in its own dark way.

235haydninvienna
Dec 2, 2019, 12:31am Top

236pgmcc
Dec 2, 2019, 3:01am Top

>235 haydninvienna: It must have a flavour one would never forget.

237pgmcc
Dec 2, 2019, 3:21am Top

>234 haydninvienna:
Máirtin O Cadhain's characters say from time to time "he had drink taken"

This is the form of words that would be used, often humorously but also in official reports, of an incident/accident. It could be a Guard giving evidence or reading from his notebook when reporting what had happened. "The vehicle crossed the white line and collided with a garden wall on the far side of the road. Drink had been taken."

My memory is telling me it has also been used in some old English movies with a bobby reading from his notebook. I seem to recall the policeman in Mary Poppins using the phrase when Mr. Banks was found and was acting rather peculiarly.

It would have been a way of indicating that drink may have been the cause of the trouble without referring to the quantity taken. Even if the person of interest had only had a tiny drop of alcohol the phrase could be used as an innuendo that perhaps there was more to the matter than meets the eye.

"The two gentlemen involved in the disturbance used irreverent words to one another and exchanged blows. Drink had been taken."

I think it can be put down as part of the strange language used by policemen in their reports, e.g. I was proceeding along the canal when I perceived a..."

I am glad you are getting some fun out of The Graveyard Clay. What I found great about it was the sense I had at the end of the book that I was now familiar with life in the village and all the petty jealousies and secrets of the people living there, both dead and alive.

238hfglen
Dec 2, 2019, 7:09am Top

>235 haydninvienna: Some years ago National Parks shops used to stock (and maybe still do) notepaper made from elephant dung. In case you're wondering, it's wonderfully absorbent and not at all suited to writing on with any kind of ink pen.

Anyhoo, it gave rise to a story (quite possibly an urban legend) of a German couple who visited a national park as tourists shortly after CITES tightened up regulations on international trade in elephant products, and bought a pack as a souvenir. When they got home, they encountered a customs officer who fulfilled to the letter the stereotype of the species as officious, unimaginative and pedantic. He asked them (as threateningly as possible, naturally) what part of the elephant was the dung?! It is reported that he did have the good grace to look embarrassed at the graphic explanation he was given.

That somebody is making gin out of the substance doesn't surprise me all that much. Apparently it's not all that difficult to get a distilling licence here these days -- formerly only certain farmers were allowed to make mampoer for their own consumption. If you've ever read Herman Charles Bosman's story of "Willem Prinsloo's Peach Brandy" you'll get the picture. Now, however, it seems that almost every craft brewery in the country has a distillery attached, and they all make gin, and each tries to outdo the others with the strange botanicals they use.

239haydninvienna
Dec 2, 2019, 7:42am Top

>238 hfglen: I think I knew about the elephant-dung paper. However, I think your story of the customs official probably is an urban legend. It's just too good to be true.

And of course I've read Herman Charles Bosman's story about peach brandy—hasn't everyone? Craft distilleries have latched onto gin for sound economic reasons, mainly that it doesn't need to be aged, although aged gin seems to be the new hotness. But I wonder if "elephant gin" still answers to what I think is the basic definition of gin: "a distilled alcoholic drink that derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries (Juniperus communis)", unless their base gin is flavoured with juniper.

And in related news: Cheers! You can now buy anti-ageing gin.

240haydninvienna
Dec 2, 2019, 7:50am Top

>237 pgmcc: I have certainly heard people in Dublin say "Had there been drink taken?" or "Had drink been taken?", but it's not impossible that the speaker was being ironic.

"Petty jealousies and secrets", yes, in great heaping sackfuls. But of course there wouldn't be a lot else to do.

241MrsLee
Dec 2, 2019, 6:16pm Top

>235 haydninvienna: I won't say I would never try it, never being a big word, but I would no seek it out. Just as I do not intend to seek out coffee which has gone through a civit cat's digestive system, though I have been assured that it is divine.

I will say that I enjoy Rooibos tea, even though it smells like wet barnyard to me.

242haydninvienna
Edited: Dec 3, 2019, 12:32am Top

>241 MrsLee: I absolutely agree about the coffee—I mean, coffee beans picked out of piles of you-know-what?! And at that price? Pity the poor people who have to do the picking though.

ETA The Wikipedia article on kopi luwak is quite illuminating. For US$700/kilogram, you too can drink coffee excreted by a force-fed animal kept in conditions that are "worse than battery hens". And even then it may be fake—apparently fraud is rife.

243MrsLee
Edited: Dec 3, 2019, 9:51am Top

>242 haydninvienna: Stories like that remind me of "The Emperor Has No Clothes."

244haydninvienna
Dec 3, 2019, 12:46pm Top

Finished Graveyard Clay. My, what an ... interesting ... bunch of ... people .... Just as well I don't do ratings, since I have no idea about how I'd rate this one. As I said above, it was a fun ride, in its own very dark way.

>243 MrsLee: Indeed yes.

245pgmcc
Dec 3, 2019, 1:09pm Top

>244 haydninvienna:
As you say, The Graveyard Clay is quite an experience.

246haydninvienna
Dec 8, 2019, 3:55am Top

Now it's eastern Australia's turn to burn. Fires are pretty common in Australia during the summer and autumn, but the fire season seems to have started unusually early this year. Son Who Cooks has sent me some pictures of Canberra shrouded in smoke, which is apparently coming mainly from a big fire near Braidwood, about 100 km east of Canberra. No fires near Canberra yet, but who knows? Other relatives around Brisbane and near Port Macquarie on the NSW coast are also OK for the time being.

247MrsLee
Dec 8, 2019, 10:21am Top

>246 haydninvienna: So sorry. I know the worry and hurt of that scenario very well. Right now we are having a lovely soaking rain. It feels wonderful.

248haydninvienna
Dec 8, 2019, 10:32am Top

>247 MrsLee: Thanks. I remember in 2003, when the fires came right into the suburbs of Canberra, I was in a management-level job in a Government department and I spent most of that week sitting at the desk with the ABC radio going, listening to the fire news and wondering who wouldn't be at work tomorrow.

It actually rained here in Doha this afternoon!

249hfglen
Dec 8, 2019, 11:03am Top

>246 haydninvienna: Strength to Australia! Either the Western Cape is blessedly free from fires right now, or the news isn't bothered to report them. And it's school holidays, therefore raining in KZN.

250haydninvienna
Dec 8, 2019, 12:47pm Top

>249 hfglen: Australia thanks you, Hugh! I understand that there are some Canadian firefighters in NSW at the moment. The trans-Pacific swapping of firefighters seems to have become a fairly regular thing in the last few years.

251haydninvienna
Dec 12, 2019, 2:18pm Top

Back in Bicester for one specific purpose—to vote. It’s personal. Not saying how or why but a couple of Dragoneers can probably guess.

252pgmcc
Dec 12, 2019, 3:33pm Top

>251 haydninvienna: As we used to say at home, "Vote early and vote often!" :-)

253haydninvienna
Dec 12, 2019, 4:03pm Top

>252 pgmcc: I can probably tell the story of my vote without breaking any Pub rules...

Some months ago, it became obvious that there was going to be an election in the UK pretty soon, and coincidentally I found out that even though I’ve been living overseas since June 2008 I am in fact still eligible to vote. So I duly registered as an overseas elector giving my wife’s address in Bicester (which is a house that we both own). Overseas electors can vote by giving a resident elector a proxy so I gave my wife a proxy, with careful instructions about how to exercise it. Then the UK slid even further into the Land of Unreason and I decided, stuff the proxy, I’m coming back to vote in person.

After one of my overnight flights from Qatar we showed up together at the polling place this morning (in pouring rain) and produced our voting cards (these are actually not necessary but they’re convenient). She is on the roll alright, and got her ballot paper, but I’m not even though I have my evidence of enrolment in my hot little hand. After some back-and-forth the clerk wrote a phone number on a slip of paper and I spoke to a chap at the electoral registry in Banbury. After a bit more back-and-forth I handed the phone to the presiding officer and there was more conversation (11 minutes in all, by the phone’s call log). Apparently there were some pages missing from the list that the poll officers had. They wrote my name in on the list that they had. So I got my ballot paper and all was well.

Having done our bit to return the UK to the path of righteousness, my wife and I repaired to the pub for lunch. But ohmygawd! If after flying back specifically, I had been turned away, I would have been a trifle annoyed.

254pgmcc
Dec 12, 2019, 4:22pm Top

>253 haydninvienna: Well done! You deserve credit for the effort you went to.

255-pilgrim-
Edited: Dec 12, 2019, 6:48pm Top

>253 haydninvienna: My hat is off to you! This is the first election that I have missed. I am duly registered, but I have been too unwell recently to remember to post my vote in time. You make me feel ashamed.

256hfglen
Dec 13, 2019, 5:07am Top

>253 haydninvienna: There's a different interesting point you raised there. "repaired to the pub for lunch". Here that might have been an exercise in frustration, in that most if not all licensed premises are required to close while the polls are open.

257haydninvienna
Dec 13, 2019, 7:06am Top

>256 hfglen: That would be depressing, but I suppose passions might rise a bit on election day.
As a distraction from the outcome, I picked up my library book: Clean and Decent by Lawrence Wright. This is a sort of social history of the bathroom. It was a BB from Thorold here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/311719#6980153. His description of it is better than any of mine would be.

258haydninvienna
Dec 13, 2019, 7:09am Top

>255 -pilgrim-: No need to feel ashamed. We know you had other matters to deal with. Thanks for the hat!
>254 pgmcc: Thanks Peter.

259haydninvienna
Dec 15, 2019, 1:37am Top

Another "I'll just have a look in here" book (again in W H Smith at Paddington Station): Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman. Apparently the author (who is Dutch) is at the forefront of the movement advocating a universal basic income. I'd not heard of him or the book, but picked it up because it had approving quotes from Tim Harford and Steven Pinker. I'm adding it to my "things are not quite the dumpster fire that they seem" shelf. Despite the subtitle (in the UK edition, it's "And How We can Get There"), the book is a trifle light on how we can actually get to Utopia, but on balance I'm better off recognising that getting there wouldn't be easy. One odd little sidelight: he discusses the Speenhamland experiment in the UK in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and is influence on President Nixon. But the experiment led to the Poor Laws, and the Poor Laws led to an inquiry by a barrister named George Coode, and Coode included an appendix to his report critical of the state of the drafting of the Poor Laws. That appendix, later republished as Coode on Legislative Expression (not surprisingly, no touchstone), is generally agreed to be the seed of the modern style of legislative drafting.

I'll give Bregman at least this much credit: although he borrows the word Utopia from Sir Thomas More, he doesn't seem keen on the idea of an ideal society based on an infallible Plan. There are far too many infallible Plans, and without exception the ones that have actually been implemented have been disastrous.

260haydninvienna
Dec 21, 2019, 12:23pm Top

Having already posted in the weekend thread about my doings in Helsinki and Copenhagen, I'll just mention what I read on the flight back: Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford. I bought this back in June in Carturesti Carusel in Bucharest, and have been reading it ever since, never (till now) more than a page or two at a time, I'm not sure why. It's a bit like a P G Wodehouse Christmas country house party without Jeeves or Aunt Dahlia, but with a good deal more acid to the humour. Not a bad read, but not the pure bliss one reviewer asserts—at least not to me.

261jillmwo
Dec 21, 2019, 1:33pm Top

First of all, I'd like to alert you to a bad link up there in #228. The title Heroic Failures by Fintan O'Toole is not what shows up when one follows the link. Different author altogether. I actually couldn't bring up the right title at all when I tried to put the touchstone in here.

Secondly, I thank you for the reference early on in the thread to the cheap Kindle edition of Idylls of the Queen by Phyllis Karr. I recall the author's name from an earlier period in my life, but can't recall if I actually read this particular title.

There was a third thing, but it's now gone from my tired brain. But never let it be said, that I don't thoroughly review these lengthy threads in the Pub. I did see the stories about the frog in the toilet and the photo of the water dragon.

262haydninvienna
Dec 21, 2019, 9:49pm Top

>261 jillmwo: Fixed the dud touchstone, and thanks—in fact I had the title ever so slightly wrong.

I seem to have fired a couple of BBs with the Karr book, but haven’t finished it myself. I’m a third of the way through and nothing seems to be happening.

263haydninvienna
Dec 22, 2019, 11:25pm Top

Has anyone in the Pub read This Is How You Lose the Time War? I’ve just seen it recommended on Ask.Metafilter, but I know I’ve seen it mentioned elsewhere on LT. This book looks to be so far out of my usual comfort zone that it’s practically on Mars, but the reviews here and on Goodreads include a lot of raves. And I’m curious. A time travel romance between two women on opposite sides in a time war, who communicate by letter? And, er, it’s “beautifully written”—oh dear. But the quotations on Goodreads justify the description. So, again, I’m curious.

264-pilgrim-
Dec 23, 2019, 4:39am Top

>263 haydninvienna: I have a copy on my Kindle (bought in a flash sale) but have not actually read it. Your query has prompted me to promote it up my TBR pile (once I actually have a functioning brain again).

265haydninvienna
Dec 23, 2019, 5:01am Top

-pilgrim- and I were chatting on her thread about attitudes in the past, but neither of us mentioned money. The time value of money has just been shoved under my nose in a startling way. Up in #260 I mentioned Christmas Pudding. The boring and pompous but goodhearted suitor Michael is a Marquis and is said to have "fifteen thousand pounds a year". He is acknowledged to be rich. I took it into my head to find out how rich. I tried a couple of online calculators to get some idea. Assuming that the book is set in 1925 (it isn't specific as to the year), one calculator gave me a present value of £637,580; another, £895,893.

266hfglen
Dec 23, 2019, 5:57am Top

>265 haydninvienna: Golden Age often gives salaries of directors and mine managers in this period. The managers of Crown Mines and ERPM (the richest gold mines in the world at the time) earned barely 1/10 as much as your Marquis. The members of the Corner House board made rather more, mostly from investments.

267haydninvienna
Edited: Dec 25, 2019, 3:26am Top

I’m now in Vienna with my wife, and it’s all very decorated. I love Vienna. We had a good dinner last night (which was our wedding anniversary) and we are going to the opera tonight.

Peace and joy to all. If you celebrate Christmas, have a wonderful one; if you don’t celebrate Christmas, have a wonderful day. Same for St Stephen’s Day. I’m feeling under his influence a tiny bit: Stephansdom is just up the street.

268pgmcc
Dec 25, 2019, 4:32am Top

>267 haydninvienna: Congratulations on your anniversary. I hope you have a lovely time in Vienna.

Merry Christmas.

269hfglen
Dec 25, 2019, 6:04am Top

>267 haydninvienna: Lots of happiness!

270haydninvienna
Dec 25, 2019, 5:39pm Top

Thanks guys. Christmas night in Vienna, so off to the State Opera. La Bohème. Italian opera isn’t really my bag despite what Peter has called my musical proclivities, but I fully expected that my wife would enjoy it, which she did.

Once again, joy to all. I hope you have had, are having or will have the best possible Christmas.

271haydninvienna
Edited: Dec 26, 2019, 2:05am Top

Only one book bought in Vienna so far. Frick, in the Graben, was closed on Christmas Eve afternoon, so I nipped up to Shakespeare & Co and they had a stack of Flavia de Luces. In an act of self-denial I bought only one—The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place—and I’ve read it already. Flavia seems less terrifying somehow.

I now have 7 out of I think 10.

272Sakerfalcon
Dec 26, 2019, 6:32am Top

Christmas in Vienna! I am very envious! I hope you have a wonderful time.

(It's probably a good thing that I didn't know there was a branch of Shakespeare and Co. when I was there in May!)

273haydninvienna
Dec 26, 2019, 8:10am Top

>272 Sakerfalcon: I’m not sure it’s a branch of the one in Paris, it may just share the name. It presents as an English-language bookshop, and has a lot of interesting stuff in philosophy and politics, but its organisation seems to be close to random. Never mind, it’s fun to visit and you’ll get a nice walk through the northerly parts of the Innere Stadt.

I bask in your envy! I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas too.

274haydninvienna
Dec 26, 2019, 11:06am Top

I finished The Second Rider by Alex Beer, set in the decayed Vienna immediately after the First World War. Smuggling, war crimes and murder, in a Vienna very unlike the cosy and affluent city of 2019. I mentioned it in the discussion on anachronism in -pilgrim-‘s thread. It ended being pretty good, despite a rather clunky translation that has the Viennese of a century ago speaking in modern slang.

275haydninvienna
Dec 31, 2019, 2:11am Top

Just realised I didn't say anything about the opera: it was La Bohème, which neither of us had ever seen before. Italian grand opera isn't really my thing, but my wife adores it. We agreed afterwards that La B and Madam Butterfly* are musically pretty much interchangeable—you could swap arias from one to the other and a listener who didn't understand Italian probably wouldn't notice. As you would expect from the Vienna State Opera, it was a totally competent performance, beautifully sung and beautifully played. I don't see myself going to any lengths to see La B again any time soon though: if I were going to another Puccini opera, it would be Tosca (which I actually do kind of like, even allowing for the improbable story), or Turandot. "Improbable story", heh. They all have improbable stories. Anyone who has seen Madam Butterfly, or even listened to a recording: did you ever wonder what the home life of Lieutenant and Mrs Pinkerton was like after they returned from Japan?

* Yes, I know that it's becoming conventional to call it Madama Butterfly, but I think that looks silly.

276haydninvienna
Dec 31, 2019, 3:46am Top

I'm probably going to start a new topic for 2020, but I need to think of a vaguely clever pub- or tavern-appropriate title first.

277-pilgrim-
Dec 31, 2019, 4:54am Top

If you are in the mood for thinking up clever thread titles, could you come up with ones for me too please? I am feeling all our of witty ideas!

278hfglen
Dec 31, 2019, 5:38am Top

"A Pint of Bitter", perhaps -- not that comment in the GD is ever bitter; maybe "Stout" would be better ...
I first thought of "Time Gentlemen Please!", but then the GD never closes.

For -pilgrim-, that leads on to a thought borrowed from the self-definition of Padua
(Saint without a name, Meadow without grass, Cafe without doors) ... so how about
"Pub without Doors"?

279haydninvienna
Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 11:35am Top

>278 hfglen: or indeed walls, floors, roof ...

>277 -pilgrim-: Sorry, I got nuthin' so far. I thought of using something from Samuel Johnson ("There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.") but while the sentiment is spot-on the form is a trifle awkward for use as a title.

Johnson also said that a tavern-chair was the throne of human felicity, but one feels that a title like "Haydninvienna is on the throne of human felicity" might excite ribaldry.

280haydninvienna
Dec 31, 2019, 11:50am Top

I think I've got one: "Haydninvienna keeps on keeping on". -pilgrim-: if you want it you can have it, and I'll think of another one. I was going to use it but it struck me that it might also fit the theme of your thread titles.

281haydninvienna
Dec 31, 2019, 11:53am Top

Got it!

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