Trying to read and my verandah: Observation Notes 89-90

Observation Note 89: Trying to Read. I spent a few hours today reading on my verandah. Or at least trying to read on my verandah. The activity on the street was more interesting than my books on the go. The neighbour across the road was telling my neighbour from a few houses away how the lockdown suits her. I squinted, trying to look through the christmas bush that obscures my view, and I noticed that she was no longer using her cane. That’s nice. It’s good that she isn’t struggling to walk anymore.

I hear a car gently beep and I knew before I even looked to the West that my courteous neighbour with the kickass four-wheel drive must be leaving his driveway. He always beeps as he leaves. I used to think it was sweet that he was signalling to his wife and kids that he was going but then my husband pointed out to me that he does that even when they are in the car with him. He beeps to warn pedestrians that a car is pulling out of the driveway. I think that is even sweeter.

Two kids on a bicycle whiz past incredibly fast and a few slow moments later, four more young cyclists follow them with an adult who looked to be a mum coming from behind. My road is quite busy with traffic lights just six houses away that lead onto a busy(ish) thoroughfare. No big trucks traverse that road but there is constant traffic. I realise that I was a fearful parent, not allowing my oldest son to travel on that road and insisting he take the back roads to the bike track that would take him to school, and that it was not for me to judge the joyful and free parent giving her kids the opportunity for confident riding. Nope. I will not judge. In my defence, my oldest son one day ran into a telegraph pole and injured himself enough that I had to go and get him from school and deal with all the blood running down his neck. My youngest son has not ridden a bike since he was twelve when he was riding around his aunt’s farm, lost control on a downhill trajectory and catapulted over a six metre cliff, his fall being broken by a sole tree which, fortuitously, only just missed impaling him with a sharp scary looking branch which left a massive welt across his chest. I guess I have reasons to be a fearful parent.

The pony man comes past with his pony, of course. He rides his bike on thee footpath alongside his pony which has a brilliant rainbow coloured bridle. My dog Bo who has been rather bored with today’s passing traffic became rather animated. He started barking and barking. He does this every time the pony man comes past. It’s as though he can’t believe that any dog could be as big as this weirdass (pony)dog.

There were maskless joggers huffing and puffing which made me feel creeped out. Can’t they get themselves to a park and then huff huff huff? I had the misfortune yesterday to step onto the footpath as a huffing jogger exhaled on me. I want to shout at him “The Covid Bondi case was a 5 second exhalation and the chance person passing them got sick case! Can you just take care”. Once again, I feel like I am catastrophising.

A helicopter is hovering over my suburb. My husband checks the local FB page and everyone is speculating – are they searching for the mega-weddings which have been given exemptions or are they searching for queues outside the shops. They won’t find queues in this very proper suburb. Even the local supermarket is fully stocked with toilet paper where all across Sydney people are panic buying again. The people I live amongst show such restraint.

I hear a beep. My courteous neighbour has returned and this time he is reversing into his driveway yet people walking past are ignoring him and walking directly into the path of his massive car. Really???

Observation Note 90: Verandah. The thing about being in a lockdown (again) is that despite having a huge TBR, people watching on my verandah is infinitely more interesting than reading a book. When we were looking to buy a house back in 1999 one of our absolute must-have feature our home had to have was a verandah in the front of the house from where we could watch the street. This has continued to be one of the best ideas we had as we watch so many interesting people come and go.

We used to have a neighbour a few blocks away who had a fridge, a television and her sewing machine on her front verandah and she would work and watch, her sons often watching football, he husband tossing his worry beads. I envied her. I wanted her verandah too. I don’t have a powerpoint on my verandah but that certainly can be rectified. I do have my table and chairs.

My aunts in Greece have front verandahs. In Greece, the backyard is for your vegetable garden. The front yard is for family and friends. My aunt in my mum’s village had benches and chairs for all who would come and visit. Cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, godchildren, pappous and yiayias. I recall eating the most scrumptious avgolemono soup on her verandah. Years later, after she had passed away, her daughter-in-law and I were sitting on that same verandah when she called out to my uncle who was three houses away. She wanted coffee and he had the coffee machine. He brought it over with good cheer and we drank our morning coffee until another uncle called out that lunch was ready. Of course, we all gathered on his front verandah to eat.

When we first bought our house it was where we had our BBQ with our neighbours often joining us with beers and drinks. They were uni kids, with a revolving door of friends, parties and pet rats. They were polite and fun and helpful neighbours, fastidiously clean due to their severe dust allergies. They’d bring Thomas the Tank Engine videos over for the boys, and when they had parties they were annoyingly polite as when it would get late they would turn down the music only to then turn it up again when we complained that we couldn’t hear it well enough.

For a long time, my verandah was a dumping ground for sports gear – muddied shoes, stand-up boards, kayaks, oars, footballs and all the recycling collections. The entrance to my house was embarrassing. A rubbish tip in the making. “Close your eyes as you enter” was my wished for instruction for friends coming over.

However, last year’s lockdown gave us the time to clear the sports gear, get rid of the piles of unused shoes, and we went back to that gorgeous dream of a social front verandah. Just like my neighbour. Just like my aunt in Greece. On my verandah I have had friends for lunches and coffees and cakes and beers and cocktails. The perfect distanced place once restrictions were relaxed. Four chairs separated by the table. Supping and distancing. Early this year, I bought a whole lot of potplants to make the verandah prettier. We had a neighbour come in and do some long-overdue repairs including pulling out a hardy flower that had found seed in the gutter that needed replacing. It is now in a pot lushishly flowering.

We’ve watched people come and go, cars rush by, emergency vehicles rush past and any number of dogs, cyclists and of course our local pony. It is the Inner West after all. With all that going on, how on earth can I be expected to read.

Another Storytime for the Apocalypse

It’s been a frantic year my friends. However, in a week’s time, I will officially be under examination for my doctorate as I will be submitting it in the coming days. To mark my submission, I am doing a reading about reaching a destination at the final 2020 Storytime for the Apocalypse. Dr Tilly Hinton, a “river enthusiast” whose scholarship is on the social history of the LA River, is a dear friend with whom I shared my doctoral space at university. So it is apt that I mark my last weeks of doctoral study in her virtual space of revelatory storytelling.

I know that my post here is very last minute, but I do hope that you are able to attend the reading. It is on Monday 30 November 7:30 -8:30 pm, LA time or Tuesday 1st December 2:30-3:30pm.

Here is the Zoom Link. us02web.zoom.us/j/85170824839

Thank you and hopefully I can start writing to my blog again very soon!

Vassiliki

(silhouette of Los Angeles)

Text: 
Storytime for the Apocalypse #13

Librarian Scholar Vassiliki Veros reads about setting out for your destination.
Actor, writer, director Toni Robison-May reads about the weather.
Art historian Meredith Lancaster reads about reaching further shores.
Ediotr and permaculturist Jessica Perini reads about what to do in dark times.

Storytime with the Storytime for the Apocalypse crowd

I’m popping in to let you all know that I will be doing a short reading at Storytime for the Apocalypse. Described by its wonderful host Dr Tilly Hinton as  “your monthly respite from all the complexities of life” and “that stories and community are the ballast we need when life gets rough”.

I have been grateful for her calm resolve in organising these readings since the pandemic began. I have been absent from my blog as I have found the world’s struggle with the outbreak of Covid-19 deeply upsetting. I spent the first two months completely unfocused and anxious about the situation at hand. This storytime has been a balm for me especially as it has Tilly’s thoughtful and kind touch in the way it is organised and presented. I feel honoured that I am on the guestlist for the next session where I am doing a reading alongside Dr Wade Kelly, Eames Demetrios, Richard Sanderson and Chris Schwartz.

The reading is on Monday 27 July at 7:30pm Pacific time/Tuesday 28 July at 12.30pm Australian Eastern Standard time. To attend you will need to join the mailing list to receive the link to log in: Go to  http://goodisbetter.net/storytime-for-the-apocalypse/#count-me-in to be added to the mailing list.

My teaser is that I will be doing a bilingual reading….

Image:Poppies in a field Text: Librarian scholar Vassiliki Veros reads about the earth's embrace; Actor and animal advocate Richard Sanderson reads about a parallel world; Community engagement proselytiser Wade Kelly reads about safe passage; Film aficionado Chris Schwartz reads about earth’s big reveal.

Tropes, Fire, Empire: Reading Notes 8-12

It has been a while since I have written about my reading, so here are some reading notes from this year’s reading selections with a particular bent towards settings. Just be warned, there are spoilers galore.

Reading Note 8: Tropes in cities. I really love a surprise baby trope as well as a one-night-stand-turn-up-to-your-new-job-to-discover-you-have-already-slept-with-your-new-boss trope. So icky in real life, so absurdly compelling in fiction. The Bachelor’s Baby Surprise is my first Teri Wilson book and I loved her writing style. The premise of the book is that heroine Evangeline Holly goes directly from a bad break up to a one-night stand with Ryan Wilde – a man who has just been voted the hottest bachelor in New York City. Though she gives him the brush off after their hook-up, six weeks later she finds herself employed as a sommelier at the hotel he jointly runs with his cousin. Continue reading

Food, Impulse and the Queen of the Castle: Reading Notes 1-7

As SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge topic for this month is Series, I have decided to list a series of reading notes on romances and other reading that has been sitting on my TBR shelf for many months.

Reading Note 1: Impulse Reading. There is too much impulse reading in the world. Just because a book is a new release, or has just hit the bestsellers list, this is no reason to dive straight into reading it. Sometimes, a book needs to wait. This is why I love SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge. I don’t think of books that have been on my TBR as languishing, as much as they are maturing while I get to them. There are many books that I have read long after their publishing date that have not aged well due to their time on the TBR, or due to the long wait until I have come to the end of a reservations list. I have become accustomed to waiting for books. As a librarian, I never feel that I can read a book that has reservations on it before the actual borrowers who have been waiting in line. This inevitably means that I need to wait until the reservation list diminishes (not a particularly easy thing). I also do not like the pressure of reading to a deadline. This also means that I miss the review flood, and I often find myself writing about books long after they have been released. The subsequent notes are all of books that have been waiting on my shelves, or that I have waited for patiently through library reservations.

Reading Note 2: Cry laugh. Over the years, I have found myself moving further and further away from reading male authors. They don’t appeal to me. I love my fiction to be filled with heartfelt emotion and somehow – and this will be a gross generalisation – men’s novels feel cold and observant, removed from the joy and exhilaration of emotional writing that I love reading. The authors whose works I have tried to read in the past year seem to be more about how clever they are as a writer rather than how well they can tell a story and I feel as though I am being talked down to as a reader. Is this the author as mansplainer perhaps? The exception though is David Sedaris. His writing fills me with emotions. I don’t know if it is partly due to our shared 2nd generation Greek diaspora experiences, his absurd sense of life, elves, language, family and Summer. All contribute to my love for his writing. After 42 weeks on reserve, I finally got Sedaris’s Calypso on audiobook from the library. The first time I listened to Sedaris on audiobook, I was laughing so hard that I had to pull over from driving as I couldn’t see the road from my tears. With Calypso, I had to pull over and park the car as once again, I was crying. But this time, it was in sorrow. Sedaris’s slow revealing of his sister Tiffany’s life and suicide and his own relationship with her, cut me deeply. Calypso. Such an innocuous story in his series of essays of life unravelling with his surviving four siblings. To quote him upon discovering the turtle he would feed was being fed by many others: Continue reading

My 2018 year of reading

It is a sad state of reading affairs when the books that stand out the most for 2018 are the ones that annoyed me. I may have waxed lyrical in my previous post, unfortunately they were but 12 books out of my total reading. Unlike most annual wrap up, this is not a “Best of” list, instead I am going to write about the standout books that left a mark on me.

But first my annual reading statistics:

Books read: 94

Fiction: 37  including Romance fiction: 21

Books DNFd but counted: 10 (this means I threw in the towel after tolerating 100 pages of shite)

Audiobooks:  31

Children’s: 9 (this is abysmal as I usually will read 30+ picture books in a year)

Graphic Novels: 4

Non-fiction: 53  including Memoir: 13  Design: 15  Library/Reading Theory: 20

This last stat, my theory reading, is an indication of where my time was spent this past year. I am finding it harder and harder to sit and read print for leisure as I am so tired after leaving work and/or the study cave. Audiobooks saved my reading year as I listened on my commutes. Continue reading

Finally – my fave 2016 titles

It is summer here in Australia and I absolutely adore spending time on the beach which, of course means hardly any motivation to blog. But I finally came up with a very short list of my 2016 favourite reads:

When a Scot Ties a Knot by Tessa DareFavourite Novel 2016

When a Scot ties a Knot by Tessa Dare – I love epistolary romance, I love kindness and vulnerability. This book had both. I have to say that Logan and Maddie were my absolute favourite hero/heroine of the year. A definite keeper and rereader.

 

Favourite Series

Chance Sisters series by Anne Gracie: In order of preference (though there is little room between them as I really enjoyed every single book):

The Winter Bride by Anne GracieThe Spring Bride by Anne GracieThe Winter Bride

The Summer Bride

The Spring Bride

The Autumn Bride

The Autumn Bride by Anne GracieThe Summer Bride by Anne GracieThese were such delightful stories despite the 4 sisters harrowing circumstance that brought them together and having them choose to present themselves as sisters. There is lots to be said about class, women’s lack of agency and worries for their future both within society as well as their interpersonal relationships. It also throws a strong light upon the bonds we make not only with our blood sisters but the women we befriend. My only complaint was the lack of continuity in Freddy’s story (Winter Bride) from the first book to his story.
That said, Freddy and Damaris’s story was my absolute favourite, starting out all sweet banter into a heartbreaking story.

Favourite Picture Book(s)

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito – A child seeks silence in the busyness of a loud city when he comes across a wise man that teaches him how to find it. As someone who has tinnitus and a frustration at libraries with a ra-ra-let’s-get-loud agenda, this book has stayed with my everyday actions where I am now seeking the silence in the gaps. Gorgeous!

Pirahnas don't eat bananas by Aaron BlabeyThelma the Unicorn by Aaron BlabeyPirahnas don’t eat Bananas and Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey – How can I go past a book that has a child belly laughing over and over and over again (thank you lovely nephew of mine). Nothing like the word “Bum” in a story. And also Thelma who is pink and sparkly and famous. Everyone should meet Thelma. I had to read this book to my niece four times back-to-back because that is what Thelma does to all of us. Pink Sparkle dust to all of us.

My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and James FoleyMy Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen – Zombie pet rabbits terrorising a family all said in verse. I cannot describe how I felt on first reading this book. Kudos to the publisher for taking a risk on this book. It was just something else and I love it.

 

Favourite Non-Fiction

The good greek girl by Maria KatsonisThe Good Greek Girl by Maria Katsonis – I cried and cringed and related to so much and then didn’t relate but certainly empathised to all the rest. I try to avoid caught-between-two-cultures stories as this theme was constantly thrown at me when I was at school (ugghh! Teachers othering you and that awful patronising “let’s help you deal with the weirdness of your culture” Bull Shit) so I kinda take a big step backward from those stories. But this one grabbed me, was candid and I read it in 12 straight hours no sleep just crying. Exhausting and excellent.

Favourite Absurdist fiction

Lynne Graham's The Sicilian's Stolen SonThe Sicilian’s Stolen Son by Lynne Graham

Good/Evil Twin surrogate baby and stolen identity story that gave me my As-if-o-metre. Seriously soap opera-ish. Seriously crazy. Seriously good.

Lynne Graham’s 99th book was absolute excellence!

 

Favourite Game

ShallowreaderBingo! was just a whole lot of fun. I will be launching a different reading game (though rather similar) in a couple of weeks….keep watching for it!

 

If you would like to look at the whole 180 titles, here is my Goodreads link (unaffiliated) in order of star ranking. I am also not going to do a blurb for each book. They were all good for many different reasons.

My at-a-glance reading statistics for 2016 were:

180 books or 32, 174 pages

73 novels

4 audiobooks (3 of which I sought out the print copy to finish the book at my own pace)

56 picture books

40 non-fic books including 14 interior decorating books

4 Junior fiction

1 Young Adult

1 Graphic novel

I haven’t done a break down of female/male authors because the men lose out big time – at least with my novel reading – I read 1 by a male. Though there is a lot more balance in the female/male authored Picture Books. I also have only counted the DNFs that I progressed beyond Chapter 6.

To be honest, my aim for 2017 is to read fewer books. I found myself reading to escape rather than to enjoy. In the second half of the year, I found myself feeling flatter and flatter after every book I read through (including picture books). This does not make a happy reader. So for 2017 I have chosen to detach from needing to read all the things. I’m just going to let things languish on my TBR. Some books need to mature before being read. Here’s to fewer books for me! Happy 2017 reading. Meanwhile, here’s to happy swimming!

Fairlight Beach, Sydney.

Fairlight Beach, Sydney

ShallowreaderBingo! September

The September card is here and it has (not so subtle) subtext *cough*!

Any reading goes – novels, letters, lyrics, news, captions, blogs – the lot! And remember that I encourage cheating and that we all love the most ludicrous reading-to-bingo-square justifications best. Play Bingo with one text or have a text per square.

Join in and play!

Row 1: Christmas Gifts *wink wink nudge nudge*, Do you remember?, September, A woman in her prime, Balance; Row 2: Where there's a will, Taming of the Shrew, Birth Day, You complete me, Twenty-fifth; Row 3: Coupling, Gush, Swooning, Naked Truth, You're History; Row 4: 69, Somewhere around the corner, Ravish, HATE, Cool Dude; Row 5: Flip Back, Home Cooking, Pillow Talk, Subtle, Gamma

On reading for wellbeing

Earlier in the year, I thought that doing a PhD, working in 2 casual jobs as well as doing home-family things wasn’t enough so I enrolled my self in a 6 week MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offered through Warwick University by FutureLearn called Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing. The course was on how reading can be a balm, a salve for a variety of mental health problems. Each week addressed a different condition – stress, bereavement, trauma, heartbreak, depression and ageing. The hosts Jonathan Bates and Dr Paula Bates interviewed famous people like Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen as well as not-so famous people (well to me anyway – they might just be UK famous) and there were also set readings (which were not compulsory). Most of the readings were poetry or excerpts so these were easy to get through.  Continue reading