Fiona and Bert Burless are Sharing the Shallows – a She Reads/He Reads special edition!

Fiona and Bert Burless are my in-laws. I first met them in 1994 when I started dating my husband, John. My first impression of them was that John was in a share-house with his sister and her husband at a time when most people were moving out and away from their families. What was instantly evident was John’s  deep affection for them. This continues to endure and has always been extended to me, too. Fi and Bert live in wine country on a farm with their son. They are involved in their community theatre, in their community school, they regularly drive long distances and aren’t afraid of snakes (they are both amused at my careful scanning of my surroundings when we go to the farm in my active avoidance of snakes. One slithered over my legs while I was sleeping back in 1998!!!!).  Our sons get on really well, with my younger son for years spending a good part of most of his school holidays up at their farm – because Fi and Bert are so fabulous and welcoming to all that way!  And yet, despite our distance (over 2 hours away), out of all our collective 7 siblings, we see Fiona the most (which is saying a lot as I live in the same ‘burb as one of my sisters and just another ‘burb over from another and I see them a lot too). Fi and Bert share with John and me a similar sense of humour,  we are all total sticklers for fact-checking with a very low tolerance for crackpot “science” and, not surprisingly, both of them are really big readers.

Nephew and his big black dog on his verandah reading his book while overlooking a lush, green farm.Fiona and Bert Burless

Bert Burless is a propmaker for the film bizniss. Theatre and TV and Ads included.

Fifi: I am short for my weight: I am young for my age; I enjoy being a mother…mostly; I enjoy being a wife…moistly; I stick my nose into other people’s business; I stick my business into other people’s noses; I am sometimes very passionate about the things I like; I am very passionate about sometimes disliking things. I am known as Fiona, Fi, Fifi, Fifi La Boom, Lucy, Darling and Muuuuuum!

What is your main reading medium (books, blogs, games, news, etc) and how much time do you spend reading a week?

Bert: My main reading medium. It is a device. I read in order- news, blogs, research and books. That is priority, not hours spent. In terms of hours used it would go- blogs, research, books, news. Essentially, I first read the news every morning from a variety of sources. Then I read blogs I enjoy that comment on the news. Then I fact check on what I have read [often, not nearly enough]. Then I go to work where a fair amount of time is spent reading about materials and processes. That can be nothing at all to almost a whole day. Mostly close to nothing. Because I know everything. Then I get home and chase the funny little corners of my days reading and send unilluminating emails to uninterested people. Then I read, books. Or watch television, while reading and cooking. I have gone orf paperbacks. I will happily read any hard bound book. Or an ebook. Paperbacks are a pain to manipulate. Ebooks are easy. This might be a technology prejudice.

Fifi: As is the nature of the health industry, my main reading medium sadly consists of seemingly endless “Policy and Procedure” e-documents for my work as a midwife. Like Bert, I find that “device reading” comes all too readily. I somehow feel guilty stripping snippets from the ether and pretending I know a little about a lot. I do like a good book, but I am neither a fast reader nor a dedicated reader. I have up to 5 unfinished books on the go at any one time – in my “To Be Finished” (TBF) pile. I do, however, love to read aloud from books to my son, a pastime we began when he was merely days old. Even though he has been able to read prolifically for some time now, we still snuggle up regularly for some verbal delight.

Mark Steyn book coverWhat or who is your joyful reading (guilty or otherwise) pleasure? 

Bert: Joyful Reading. Anyone who writes passionately and beautifully in support of something I profoundly hate. That is the essence of civil discourse. re: Evelyn Waugh, Ayn Rand, John Pilger, Mark Steyn, Hemingway, Graham Greene et al. [Showing my age here]. I so enjoy the mental dialogue. It translates into real world discussions.

Fifi: I find that laughing out loud is undeniably cathartic and so I find myself regularly seeking out reading material that threatens to make me guffaw in a most unseemly manner. If a writer claims to be witty and comical, I challenge them to make me laugh. I also take pleasure in seeing people watch me cry and snort with laughter while I am simultaneously doubled up with concentration trying not to wet myself (thank goodness for my trusty nurse’s bladder). Their palpable discomfort and embarrassment for me is worth every crack I make in the facade of social etiquette.

Do you have a favourite storyline or plot? And do you have one you will not read?

Bert: Favourite plot. No. Surprises are more fun. Even if I guess what will happen, not really knowing is more important than a favourite plot.

Fifi: Anything that makes my laugh…or cry. A plot has to make sense though. I lose interest if a plot loses its way (unless that just makes   it funnier…intentionally or otherwise).

Why do you/don’t you use a public library?

Bert: I love public libraries. They are not Google. They are much more fun. Happenstance works better with a collection of books. The resources they have now means they are actually better research bases than the cheek chewing, home alone, world of laptop reading.

Fifi: Like Bert, I love public libraries. I like the observed silence (even though I often break that convention with my laughing out loud). I like the smell (except the smell that exudes from certain internet-browsing library members). I like the librarians (they seems to take pride in the fact that people want to be in their libraries). I like the books (even if I rarely borrow any…and if I do, I often “forget” to return them until the fine exceeds the value of the books as they sit in my “TBF” pile).

Do you RUI*. If so, what?

Bert: RUI. Yes. Anything. It just means you have to reread, with a weird load of odd nuances.

Fifi: Is sleep deprivation considered an “influence”? If so, my answer is yes. Shiftwork and frequent insomnia provide me with that influence in abundance. I do not recommend it. I blame it for my “TBF” pile.

Fave reading spot on an outdoor bed under a tent next to a dam.Do you have a favourite reading spot?

Bert: A verandah. With a table and a comfortable chair.

Fifi: I do like to read in a bed or a hammock. Unfortunately, I do then tend to fall asleep all too easily, thereby adding to my “TBF” pile.   

Toilet reading: 

    a) Never do it

    b) Only my own books/phone/tablet/ereader

    c) Anything goes – library books, friends books, cornflake packets.

    d) I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that I may incriminate myself.

    e) Other _________

Bert: Toilet reading. Only my own books. I  get impatient though. It is flibbertigibbet reading. My body and interest finish at about the same time.

Fifi: Yes. Absolutely. Ablutionary. My parents were toilet readers. My siblings are toilet readers. My husband is a toilet reader. My son was toilet trained with books. I even read printouts of my hospital’s Policy and Procedure documents in the loo at work (but I also take a red pen to correct all of the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors that threaten to make the policies incorrect or – even more dangerous –  ambiguous). At least I tend not to fall asleep on the toilet.

Romance fiction of the Happily Ever After (not the love tragedy) kind – are you a Lover or a Hater and why?

Bert: Romance fiction. Not a fan. See favourite plot.

Fifi: I don’t think I am very romantic. I sometimes push the envelope into literotica, but I find that spelling mistakes or grammatical errors are an instant killjoy. Then they don’t even make it into the “TBF” pile.

What would you give up reading for**?

Bert: Give up reading. Nothing, ever. Except maybe bad writing, but there is enough good to make that an unlikely issue.

Fifi: I would not stop reading for anything…except maybe world peace or a cure for cancer. Despite my TBF pile, I could never give up reading completely. I sometimes wonder why I choose certain books to read out of for…Yeah bad spelling and grammatical errors make me stop reading…temporarily.

Can a romance/crime/super/etc hero be the driver of a hatchback?

Bert: Hatchback. Maybe. But not a Barina. Maybe I am wrong there. Barinas tend to be driven by people on a mission to save the world. According to their hatch stickers. I know they are screaming to get to Aldi for pizzas and chips so they and their friend can watch Suicide Squad in a chaos of SO MEism. So maybe.

Fifi: i know lots of super heroes who drive hatchbacks. I used to drive one myself. Enough said.

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