The Wind in the Willows: randomly excerpted

Some of my favourite lines:
'Hold up!' said an elderly rabbit at the gap. 'Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!' He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. 'Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!' he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then they all started grumbling at each other. 'How STUPID you are! Why didn't you tell him----' 'Well, why didn't YOU say----' 'You might have reminded him----' and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is always the case.
It was the Rat, and he was evidently laughing--the Mole could FEEL him laughing, right down his arm and through his paw, and so into his--the Mole's--neck.
'I DON'T talk about my river,' replied the patient Rat. 'You KNOW I don't, Toad. But I THINK about it,' he added pathetically, in a lower tone: 'I think about it--all the time!'
It seemed, as the Mole remarked to the Rat, like some one walking in carpet slippers that were too large for him and down at heel; which was intelligent of Mole, because that was exactly what it was.
As he hurried along, eagerly anticipating the moment when he would be at home again among the things he knew and liked, the Mole saw clearly that he was an animal of tilled field and hedge-row, linked to the ploughed furrow, the frequented pasture, the lane of evening lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot. For others the asperities, the stubborn endurance, or the clash of actual conflict, that went with Nature in the rough; he must be wise, must keep to the pleasant places in which his lines were laid and which held adventure enough, in their way, to last for a lifetime.
'Don't say "learn 'em," Toad,' said the Rat, greatly shocked. 'It's not good English.'
'What are you always nagging at Toad for?' inquired the Badger, rather peevishly.  'What's the matter with his English?  It's the same what I use myself, and if it's good enough for me, it ought to be good enough for you!'
'I'm very sorry,' said the Rat humbly.  'Only I THINK it ought to be "teach 'em," not "learn 'em."'
'But we don't WANT to teach 'em,' replied the Badger.  'We want to LEARN 'em--learn 'em, learn 'em!  And what's more, we're going to DO it, too!'
'Oh, very well, have it your own way,' said the Rat.  He was getting rather muddled about it himself, and presently he retired into a corner, where he could be heard muttering, 'Learn 'em, teach 'em, teach 'em, learn 'em!' till the Badger told him rather sharply to leave off.
But when their infants were fractious and quite beyond control, they would quiet them by telling how, if they didn't hush them and not fret them, the terrible grey Badger would up and get them.  This was a base libel on Badger, who, though he cared little about Society, was rather fond of children; but it never failed to have its full effect.

V. DULCE DOMUM (excerpts thereof)

The sheep ran huddling together against the hurdles, blowing out thin nostrils and stamping with delicate fore-feet, their heads thrown back and a light steam rising from the crowded sheep-pen into the frosty air, as the two animals hastened by in high spirits, with much chatter and laughter. They were returning across country after a long day's outing with Otter, hunting and exploring on the wide uplands where certain streams tributary to their own River had their first small beginnings; and the shades of the short winter day were closing in on them, and they had still some distance to go. Plodding at random across the plough, they had heard the sheep and had made for them; and now, leading from the sheep-pen, they found a beaten track that made walking a lighter business, and responded, moreover, to that small inquiring something which all animals carry inside them, saying unmistakably, 'Yes, quite right; THIS leads home!'

'It looks as if we were coming to a village,' said the Mole somewhat dubiously, slackening his pace, as the track, that had in time become a path and then had developed into a lane, now handed them over to the charge of a well-metalled road. The animals did not hold with villages, and their own highways, thickly frequented as they were, took an independent course, regardless of church, post office, or public-house.

'Oh, never mind!' said the Rat. 'At this season of the year they're all safe indoors by this time, sitting round the fire; men, women, and children, dogs and cats and all. We shall slip through all right, without any bother or unpleasantness, and we can have a look at them through their windows if you like, and see what they're doing.'

The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered round the tea-table, absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture, had each that happy grace which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture--the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation. Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smouldering log.

But it was from one little window, with its blind drawn down, a mere blank transparency on the night, that the sense of home and the little curtained world within walls--the larger stressful world of outside Nature shut out and forgotten--most pulsated. Close against the white blind hung a bird-cage, clearly silhouetted, every wire, perch, and appurtenance distinct and recognisable, even to yesterday's dull-edged lump of sugar. On the middle perch the fluffy occupant, head tucked well into feathers, seemed so near to them as to be easily stroked, had they tried; even the delicate tips of his plumped-out plumage pencilled plainly on the illuminated screen. As they looked, the sleepy little fellow stirred uneasily, woke, shook himself, and raised his head. They could see the gape of his tiny beak as he yawned in a bored sort of way, looked round, and then settled his head into his back again, while the ruffled feathers gradually subsided into perfect stillness. Then a gust of bitter wind took them in the back of the neck, a small sting of frozen sleet on the skin woke them as from a dream, and they knew their toes to be cold and their legs tired, and their own home distant a weary way.

Once beyond the village, where the cottages ceased abruptly, on either side of the road they could smell through the darkness the friendly fields again; and they braced themselves for the last long stretch, the home stretch, the stretch that we know is bound to end, some time, in the rattle of the door-latch, the sudden firelight, and the sight of familiar things greeting us as long-absent travellers from far over-sea. They plodded along steadily and silently, each of them thinking his own thoughts. The Mole's ran a good deal on supper, as it was pitch-dark, and it was all a strange country for him as far as he knew, and he was following obediently in the wake of the Rat, leaving the guidance entirely to him. As for the Rat, he was walking a little way ahead, as his habit was, his shoulders humped, his eyes fixed on the straight grey road in front of him; so he did not notice poor Mole when suddenly the summons reached him, and took him like an electric shock.

We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal's inter-communications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have only the word 'smell,' for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning, warning? inciting, repelling. It was one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again; and with it this time came recollection in fullest flood.

Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again, that day when he first found the river! And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day's work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.

The call was clear, the summons was plain. He must obey it instantly, and go. 'Ratty!' he called, full of joyful excitement, 'hold on! Come back! I want you, quick!'

'Oh, COME along, Mole, do!' replied the Rat cheerfully, still plodding along.

'PLEASE stop, Ratty!' pleaded the poor Mole, in anguish of heart. 'You don't understand! It's my home, my old home! I've just come across the smell of it, and it's close by here, really quite close. And I MUST go to it, I must, I must! Oh, come back, Ratty! Please, please come back!'

The Rat was by this time very far ahead, too far to hear clearly what the Mole was calling, too far to catch the sharp note of painful appeal in his voice. And he was much taken up with the weather, for he too could smell something--something suspiciously like approaching snow.

'Mole, we mustn't stop now, really!' he called back. 'We'll come for it to-morrow, whatever it is you've found. But I daren't stop now-- it's late, and the snow's coming on again, and I'm not sure of the way! And I want your nose, Mole, so come on quick, there's a good fellow!' And the Rat pressed forward on his way without waiting for an answer.

Poor Mole stood alone in the road, his heart torn asunder, and a big sob gathering, gathering, somewhere low down inside him, to leap up to the surface presently, he knew, in passionate escape. But even under such a test as this his loyalty to his friend stood firm. Never for a moment did he dream of abandoning him. Meanwhile, the wafts from his old home pleaded, whispered, conjured, and finally claimed him imperiously. He dared not tarry longer within their magic circle. With a wrench that tore his very heartstrings he set his face down the road and followed submissively in the track of the Rat, while faint, thin little smells, still dogging his retreating nose, reproached him for his new friendship and his callous forgetfulness.

With an effort he caught up to the unsuspecting Rat, who began chattering cheerfully about what they would do when they got back, and how jolly a fire of logs in the parlour would be, and what a supper he meant to eat; never noticing his companion's silence and distressful state of mind. At last, however, when they had gone some considerable way further, and were passing some tree-stumps at the edge of a copse that bordered the road, he stopped and said kindly, 'Look here, Mole old chap, you seem dead tired. No talk left in you, and your feet dragging like lead. We'll sit down here for a minute and rest. The snow has held off so far, and the best part of our journey is over.'

The Mole subsided forlornly on a tree-stump and tried to control himself, for he felt it surely coming. The sob he had fought with so long refused to be beaten. Up and up, it forced its way to the air, and then another, and another, and others thick and fast; till poor Mole at last gave up the struggle, and cried freely and helplessly and openly, now that he knew it was all over and he had lost what he could hardly be said to have found.

The Rat, astonished and dismayed at the violence of Mole's paroxysm of grief, did not dare to speak for a while. At last he said, very quietly and sympathetically, 'What is it, old fellow? Whatever can be the matter? Tell us your trouble, and let me see what I can do.'

Poor Mole found it difficult to get any words out between the upheavals of his chest that followed one upon another so quickly and held back speech and choked it as it came. 'I know it's a--shabby, dingy little place,' he sobbed forth at last, brokenly: 'not like--your cosy quarters--or Toad's beautiful hall--or Badger's great house--but it was my own little home--and I was fond of it--and I went away and forgot all about it--and then I smelt it suddenly--on the road, when I called and you wouldn't listen, Rat--and everything came back to me with a rush--and I WANTED it!--O dear, O dear!--and when you WOULDN'T turn back, Ratty--and I had to leave it, though I was smelling it all the time--I thought my heart would break.--We might have just gone and had one look at it, Ratty--only one look--it was close by--but you wouldn't turn back, Ratty, you wouldn't turn back! O dear, O dear!'

Recollection brought fresh waves of sorrow, and sobs again took full charge of him, preventing further speech.

The Rat stared straight in front of him, saying nothing, only patting Mole gently on the shoulder. After a time he muttered gloomily, 'I see it all now! What a PIG I have been! A pig--that's me! Just a pig--a plain pig!'

He waited till Mole's sobs became gradually less stormy and more rhythmical; he waited till at last sniffs were frequent and sobs only intermittent. Then he rose from his seat, and, remarking carelessly, 'Well, now we'd really better be getting on, old chap!' set off up the road again, over the toilsome way they had come.


The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delay, and soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now smilingly received him back, without rancour. He was now in just the frame of mind that the tactful Rat had quietly worked to bring about in him. He saw clearly how plain and simple--how narrow, even--it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one's existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.

Review: Two Against The Odds

Two Against the Odds

by Joan Kilby

I don’t normally read romance novels – no, really I don’t! Well, except for King of the Desert, Captive Bride which was from a school fete, and the hilarious brain-candy one that was an internet freebie from my internet freebie phase1 and which I have actually read at least twice due to the hilarious brain-candy nature of the plot.2 But despite reading them for minor hilarity, romance novels are not my genre of choice.

Which is not to say I don’t appreciate either pulp fiction or romance plots – fanfic certainly falls into the first category, and Bujold’s Sharing Knife series certainly fall into the latter – but romance novels are just not my genre. I think it’s the ‘real world’ aspect that throws me – I find it hard to suspend my disbelief to a sufficient level while reading real world fiction.3 I do however follow the RSS feed of a romance novel book blog []. And that’s how this particular gem came across my radar.
Two Against the Odds stars an artist… and an Australian Taxation Office auditor.4 Having just started working at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) a scant few months before, I just could not resist. One online purchase and a couple of days later, and my copy arrived in the post.

It was hilarious. Now, I haven’t worked for the ATO for very long, and I don’t work in audit at all, but oh dear…

We’re not like this, I swear.

I certainly don’t recite parts of the Taxation Administration Act 1953 to lessen unwanted arousal – and dammit, if I did, I’d get it right! There ain’t no ‘party of the first part’ in the collected tax Acts – and I searched both the ITAAs, the TAA and the other various pieces of taxation legislation.5 I'm also almost certain that ATO auditors don't get bonuses for successful prosecutions. Mind you, I am pretty certain that any ATO auditor who behaved like this one would have been fired. That part of the book was accurate.

As far as the plot goes – well, it was all fine. Like I said, this is not my genre, so I didn't really get that into it. Lexie is an artist, who likes new age things and doesn't like thinking about realities. She certainly doesn't like thinking about the notices the ATO keeps sending her that mention something about a $20,000 tax bill. Rafe is ten years younger and would rather own a boat than be an accountant, but he's a far more practical soul and knows he needs the money. Naturally, they are thrown together in the course of his audit and the inevitable consequences ensue. (Which is not so good in terms of ATO impartiality.) There are added complications involving Lexie's quest to win the Archibald Prize, the terrible state of her parents' marriage, and her awareness of her ever-ticking biological clock. However, I think it will not be a spoiler to say that – eventually – they all live happily ever after.

This is not a very serious review, but that's because I didn't read this book for the fiction. I was entertained, but I was entertained mostly because of where I work. If you want a more serious review from someone who appreciates the genre more than I do, then check out the review that turned me on to this book here.

'You're being audited.'

That's hardly his most winning opening line, but Rafe Ellersley isn't here to make friends. He'd promised himself—and his boss—that this audit would be different. This time, he would be the consummate Australian Tax Office investigator. Cool, detached, professional. He'd bring Lexie Thatcher, tax-dodging artisan, to justice with ruthless efficiency. No more bending the rules. It's the only way to save his job.

But Lexie proves a far greater challenge than he's been prepped for. Her world is a crazy canvas of chaos and confusion, complexity and color, unlike anything he's ever known. So who can really blame a tax guy like him for what happens next….

1I also acquired two pairs of latex rubber gloves, which have been useful in various hair-dyeing experiments.
2OK, well there’s this girl whose father has gambling debts, so he sells her to a disfigured nobleman; meanwhile, there’s this irritating Yankee, who is the despised cousin of the disfigured nobleman. So obviously she falls in love with both of them, and OMG! trauma! – she calls out the name of the cousin while having sex with the disfigured nobleman. Only it turns out that he was actually in DISGUISE and was the Yankee ALL ALONG! So there’s no problem with being in love with both. Meanwhile other vaguely plot-related stuff happens and her father is not really her father after all. They all live happily ever after, even her wastrel brother, who has to stick with having the horrible gambling father.
3Same problem I have with the theatre. I can’t watch plays; I get upset because they don’t spontaneously burst into song!!
4DISCLAIMER: I work for the Australian Taxation Office, but this review (and my entire internet presence, for that matters) reflects my personal views. I in no way represent the ATO, nor the views of the ATO, and frankly I’m not sure that the ATO really has a lot to do with literary criticism anyway.
5In fact, based on an Austlii search, there is only one Act in the entirety of Australia that contains the phrase 'party of the first part' and it's not even Commonwealth legislation. It's in the Bungendore to Captain's Flat Railway Agreement Ratification Act 1937 (NSW) and only in the Schedule, not even in the main body!

Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris

...doing a comedy medley of show tunes at the Tonys. Need I say more?

And there were fumes...

I've been meaning to clean my horn1 for about the past year, ever since I noticed that it was the leadpipe and not the mouthpiece that smelled a little interesting.2 But since cleaning the leadpipe requires substantially more effort than cleaning the mouthpiece, I've been putting it off and putting it off and then justifying putting it off because I didn't want to risk completely screwing it up. But then there was the period in which I didn't play from the end of October to the middle of March…3

When I finally picked up my poor horn again, all the valves had frozen – copious amounts of valve oil got them going again but the Bb valve did kept getting stuck (which was inconvenient since I was playing something with a lot of middle Gs and F#s). Talking shop during rehearsals with a friendly fellow horn player convinced me that washing the horn out wasn't beyond my capabilities – so after putting it off for another couple of months, I took advantage of the long weekend and rehearsal-free Monday to take the plunge.

Some brief web-trawling provided some helpful hints on horn-cleaning and the recipe for a potent cocktail of leadpipe disinfectant: 5 parts Dettol, 1 part Listerine and 4 parts water.4

Gathered supplies + disassembled horn.

Once my supplies were gathered, I disassembled my horn and submerged it in my conveniently sized mini-bath.


The slides were all snaked out with the bendy botttlebrush. I was actually kind of crushed that no goop came out of the leadpipe. After all, the first time I ever cleaned out my student Yamaha 567, I ended up with a 6-inch piece of green slime! (That sort of thing does give you bragging rights of a kind…) But, since the leadpipe stank so much, I Dettol-ed the horn anyway. And the slides too for good measure.

(Please ignore the accidental cleavage in this shot.)

Then I was quite excited to find that the shower head actually came off my flexible shower head attachment. Which meant that to clean out the Dettol mixture from the horn, all I had to do was whack the pipe onto the leadpipe and turn on the tap. (That part was fun!)

(Then, I thought "why not?"… and brought out the Brasso. Meaning that not one, but TWO cleaning products were endorsed by the Queen!5This was the point in the process where the window was opened up wide and the fan was put on. Dettol + Listerine + washing up liquid + Brasso = OMG! FUMES!!)

Finally, I oiled and greased it all up and put it all back together.

End result: shiny horn! (Plus cat.)

The valves work better than they have in ages and, once I actually used the Unibal oil on the key mechanisms, they are quieter than I remember them being in years!

There is of course a downside – there's still a definite odour of Dettol. (I'm leaving it out to air in the hope that the fumes will have dissipated by my next rehearsal.)

1It's an Alexander 1103. It's somewhat battered but it's mine :)
2It wasn't completely festy and disgusting, but it wasn't altogether pleasant either.
3Shh. I had exams. And a hideous essay. And then work. And I was between orchestras. (OK, I'm a Bad Musician. I know.)
4See How not to clean your horn… for hilarity, good advice and some pain in sympathy. Also Adventures in horn hygiene for more good advice.
5Dettol is too.

Spoiler tags

I finally worked out my spoiler tag system so that it works in Blogger and when feeds are displayed in a feed reader. It's not as pretty as the design I wanted to copy, but it works. Finally.

Script is as follows:

This goes in the css style section:

.spoilerz { color:#ccc; cursor:pointer; }
.despoilerz { color:blue; cursor:pointer; }

This script goes somewhere before </body>:

<!-- spoilerz scripting -->
<script src=""></script>
.ready(function() {
.live('click', function() {
<!-- END spoilerz scripting -->

Then the text is formatted as follows:

<div style="color:#ccc; background-color:#ccc;">
<div class="spoilerz">
Text to be spoilerified.

Like I said, not brilliant, but it should at least work.

Thus, a test: click on the gray box and all should be revealed...

Please let this work.......

John Birmingham about trolls

I have only read one of John Birmingham's books -- World War 2.1: Weapons of Choice -- and, to be frank, I found it pointless and irritating. I believe it was intended to be pulp airport literature and that may have been my problem with it (although I zipped through three Dan Browns happily enough!). I do remember one of my main problems was that he kept introducing characters and then killing them off, without there ever seeming to be a reason for introducing them in the first place.1 BUT: I have never read any of his other books and I know some people love He Died With a Felafel in his hand and its subsequent movie. So, let's give literary merit the benefit of the doubt and that of other people's taste than mine and move on.

Now, Birmingham is someone whose tweets and articles are occasionally retweeted into my twitter feed. He's normally quite good, by which I mean to say: his political convictions are not too far from mine. (Also, he hates Andrew Bolt and that's all to the good.)

Anyway, there was an article that he wrote recently which I wanted to post. In praise of artful bludgers is from the Brisbane Times website and refers, among other things, to middle-class welfare, dole-bludging, and pathetic small-minded trolls. I think it's worth reading.

1Interestingly, it seems Andrew Bolt had a cameo as an SAS demolitionist. This does amuse me.

Off The Shelf Challenge 2011

I'm starting to think that I may well be signing up for too many challenges. But it's not like they don't all overlap anyway...and it's good motivation, so there.

So: new challenge = the Off The Shelf Challenge, hosted by Bookish Ardour. The aim is to read the books on your to-read pile. As mine is slowly reaching gargantuan proportions, this can only be a good thing.

I have chosen the second level -- Trying: Choose 15 books to read -- and, in a spirit of unusual optimism, I am going to list them all now:

  1. The King's Daughter -- Mary O'Connell
  2. The Planets -- Dava Sobel
  3. Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA -- Brenda Maddox
  4. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell -- Susanna Clarke
    • (These first four are all gifts from various years from my cousin, who is wonderful and gives books to an ungrateful relative who forgets to read them. Mea culpa.)
  5. Rum Rebellion -- H.V. Evatt
    • Rightly or wrongly, Evatt is my hero and so when I saw this 1936 tome in a second-hand bookshop, I had to have it.
  6. The Prime Minister Was a Spy: an Australian mystery explained -- Anthony Grey
    • About the mysterious disappearance of Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt. I'm suspect he's taking the "kidnapped in a Chinese submarine" line rather than the "abducted by aliens" line, but I live in hope...
  7. A Woman's Place: Women and politics in Australia -- Marian Sawer & Marian Simms
    • From my mother's collection of 1970s feminist literature. (To be honest, the main reason I'm reading this is because it's written by not one, but TWO Marians.)
  8. The honest politician's guide to crime control -- Norval Morris & Gordon Hawkins
    • Recommended by both my parents as an adjunct to my studies of law.
    See. Gargantuan proportions. And this was taken back in July!!
  9. The Devil's Advocate -- Morris West
  10. Am I Too Loud? -- Gerald Moore
  11. My Brilliant Career -- Miles Franklin
  12. Birds, Beasts and Relatives -- Gerald Durrell
  13. Bugles and a Tiger -- John Masters
    • An Indian Army memoir, given to me by a friend. It promises to be hilarious.
  14. Geomancer -- Ian Irvine
    • A piece of trashy fantasy to round out the list. I read a series of his when in high school and enjoyed it, and this one was $1 at a fete. It's been sitting on my shelf for too long.
  15. Uncommon Law: being 66 misleading cases revised and collected in one volume -- A.P. Herbert
    • Legal humour. Yes, I know.

There's a link over at the hosting website for adding reviews and a link to declare completion.

Challenge: A Year of Feminist Classics (2011)

Another challenge! This time it's about reading a selection of classic feminist tomes, one (or two) for each month. The people of A Year of Feminist Classics are going to have discussion questions on their blog, so that should be fun. (And, you know, academic!)

The book list is:
  • January: A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollestonecraft AND So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba
  • February: The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill
  • March: A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
  • April: Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • May: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  • June: God Dies by the Nile by Nawal Saadawi
  • July: The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  • August: The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  • September: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
  • October: Ain’t I a Woman? by bell hooks AND Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism Anthology
  • November: Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
  • December: Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
I might not read all of them (hell, I might not read any of them -- or in fact, I might not be able to get hold of any of them) but it's an interesting concept.

100 Books In A Year Reading Challenge

Alright -- another reading challenge. Since I read 126 books this year, 145 the year before, 155 the year before that, and 204 in the year before that1, I reckon this is also doable.

This challenge is hosted by Book Chick City and the rules are as follows:
  • Timeline: 01 Jan 2011 - 31 Dec 2011
  • Rules - Read 100 or more books in 2011
  • All books can crossover into other challenges you have on the go.
  • Only print books and ebooks count (no audiobooks).
  • You can also follow each other's progress and chat about the VC books you read on twitter too - just use #100BooksInAYear :)

And since today is the last day of 2010, I guess I'll start tomorrow :)

1Records do not exist before 2007. But I hate to think how many books I must have read in my entire life.

Review: The Picts and the Martyrs

The Picts and the Martyrs (or, Not Welcome At All)

by Arthur Ransome

[N.B. If you haven't read Swallows and Amazons, go read it first. This will not make sense otherwise. Or there's a rather good audiobook version read by Bernard Cribbins, if you'd prefer.]

Dick and Dorothea arrive at Beckfoot, the home of Amazon pirates Nancy and Peggy Blackett, to find that Uncle Jim has taken his sister, Mrs Blackett, on a recuperative sea voyage. The Amazons have been left to their own devices, under the watchful eye of Cook. Although strict promises have been made of no camping or adventures, the four have planned a fun fortnight of sailing Dick and Dorothea's brand-new boat, the Scarab.

A spanner is thrown in the works by the unexpected and unwanted appearance of the dreaded Great Aunt: Nancy and Peggy's Aunt Maria. The G.A. is a regular tartar who disapproves severely of the way Mrs Blackett handles her daughters. That they have been left alone is bad enough, but Nancy and Peggy know that she would be even more appalled to find that they had visitors staying. In order to spare Mrs Blackett from further wrath, Dick and Dorothea must relocate.

Nancy's solution seems simple; there is an abandoned hut nearby, and Dick and Dorothea are to move there for the duration. They are to become Picts, '[c]hased out, you know, but keeping alive underground. At least not exactly underground, but in secret.' Meanwhile, the Amazons become Martyrs to the cause of placating Aunt Maria: wearing best frocks, playing the piano, reciting poetry and being proper young ladies under their full names of Ruth and Margaret.

This is the first time that Dick and Dorothea have lived by themselves and the learning curve is steep. With the help of a boy from the neighbouring farm, a cookery book, and Dorothea's recollections of the excessively competent Susan Walker, they go from accidentally letting the milk go sour, to preparing and cooking a rabbit from scratch. As Dorothea muses to herself, '[h]ousekeeping was not as simple as people thought who had other people to do it.' Although the housekeeping falls automatically to female Dorothea, it is only 1943 and Dick does do his fair share (including gutting the rabbit, which was fairly traumatising).

Despite some initial problems -- and a minor instance of very necessary burglary -- all seems to go well. But as with all of Nancy's schemes, things do not always go quite as planned. As their uncle's friend Timothy says, '[t]he trouble with Nancy's velvet glove is that it's usually got a knuckleduster inside it. And you never know who's going to get hit.'

Rating: 3 – worth reading / watching