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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Year of Reading Backwards: Books 3 & 4: 'Animal Farm' (1945) & 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' (1949) by George Orwell

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I've been a bit slack keeping you up-to-date with my reading progress this year haven't I? I've been reading furiously as usual but somehow finding time to write about the books has been more difficult than finding the time to read them! You may remember that some time ago I decided to read George Orwell's anti-totalitarian classics, 'Animal Farm' and 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'.

I have a bit of a phobia about reading 'syllabus books' so had avoided reading these titles for years. I've always resented being compelled to read a particular book and I've never been really into the idea of pulling a book apart and putting it back together. Instead I like to experience a book as closely as possible to the way the author intended - I even wait until I've finished the book before reading the introduction and endnotes!

Anyway, I think I left my run too late to read 'Animal Farm'. The characters, plot and moral of the story are just so well known that I had a strange sense of deja-vu all the way through it. Reading 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', however, was a revelation. I was hooked from the first sentence...'It was bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen'. Although Orwell has been criticised for not writing very rounded characters, I really warmed to the main character Winston as he struggled to carve out a little piece of happiness for himself in a world where individuality and privacy are outlawed. The moments of happiness he shares with fellow worker Julia in the countryside and above the quaint old second-hand shop are like moments suspended in time as we are always aware that the life they have set up is as fragile as the glass paperweight Winston carries around with him.

As the reality of their situation starts to catch up with Winston and Julia, the second half the book develops a more serious, philosophical tone (I can well imagine my 16 year old self throwing the book aside at this point) and the sense of inevitablility that has built throughout the book comes to a climax. Will they or won't they agree to follow the party line and admit that 2 + 2 = 5?

More than sixty years on 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' is still shockingly relevant in both its description of totalitarian rule and its investigation of what makes us tick - the pull of memory, the need to connect with others and most importantly the need to have a place where we can feel 'utterley alone, utterly secure, with nobody watching you, no voice pursuing you, no sound except the singing of the kettle and the friendly ticking of the clock.'

If you haven't already read it perhaps 2011 should be the year you do...

Favourite lines...

'Winston was gelantinous with fatigue'. (I read that sentence while I was in hospital with Henry having not really slept for two nights so it really hit home!).

'He wondered, as he had many times wondered before whether he himself was a lunatic. Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one'.

'It was a heavy lump of glass, curved on one side, flat on the other, making almost a hemisphere. There was a peculiar softness, as of rain-water, in both the colour and texture of the glass. At the heart of it, magnified by the curved surface, there was a strange, pink, convoluted object that recalled a rose or a sea anenome...What appealed to him about it was not so much its beauty as the air it seemed to possess of belonging to an age quite different to the present one. The soft rain-watery glass was not like any glass he had even seen. The thing was doubly attractive because of its apparent uselessness...'

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Trip to Daylesford

One of the things I really love about living in Melbourne is that you can jump in the car, drive for an hour or two and end up in the most beautiful country towns. Last weekend we left town and headed for the hills. We have family living in lovely seaside climes so often get away to the coast but it's been a long time since we'd been truly land-locked. I can't tell you how long I've been wanting to go to Daylesford. Having grown up not all that far away as the crow flies I have circled it for years visiting Kyneton, Woodend, Macedon, Hanging Rock and Trentham without actually making it to the 'Spa Capital of Australia'. Was it worth the wait? Oh yes! Daylesford is my kind of place - beautiful mountain scenery......this is the view from the Convent Gallery...

Great secondhand bookstores and market stalls -we particularly liked the Paradise Books (14 rooms of books!) in the Vincent Street where we were greeted by this lovely black cat...

Fabulous local produce prepared and served with love at places like Cliffy's Emporium (below)which has a daily/seasonal/ local produce menu and Koukla where we had great wood-fired pizzas using local ingredients including some delicious slices of Tuki lamb sausage.

We also visited Lark whose fortunes I've followed for a number of years through Alison's blog. The kids absolutely loved the place and Isabella discovered swap cards ( she'd never even heard of them!) and bought an album and 18 cards to start her collection.

Inside the oh-so-sweet retro world of Lark...

But the piece-de-resistence for me was definately artist David Bromley's extraordinary, 'A Day On Earth', an enormous old factory shed full of industrial antiques, quirky set pieces (including an army tent and several rooms displaying mid-century modern furniture) and, of course, his own remarkable paintings and sculptures. We visited 'A Day On Earth' on our last day when the fog was so thick that you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. The wind was freezing so we rugged up in hat, scarves and jackets and made a dash from the car.

While I was in element from the moment we arrived it was interesting to note Henry and Isabella's reactions. Henry loved it and literally had to be restrained from touching and exploring everything...

A mini cover inside and out with Bromley's children's paintings (it also had a little half size trailer!)

Isabella on the other was what she described as 'a bit freaked out'. The poor love just didn't know what to do or think about such a seemingly random accumulation of 'stuff'. I tried to explain to her that an artist is someone who has a particular way of looking at the world and that we were actually quite lucky to see what went on in David Bromley's head. That just seemed to freak her out even more! I assured her that it was OK to feel uncomfortable sometimes because it reminds us that everyone sees the world in a different way. She seemed to settle down a bit after that but she complained of a stomach-ache for the next half hour (an anxiety sufferer in the making I'm afraid):(

Over-sized blocks featuring David Bromley's nostalgic children's series...

...this section reminded me of a play set and I half expected actors to emerge from some hidden door...

If you do get the chance to visit 'A Day On Earth' I highly recommend it - my photos really don't do it justice. If you're in Melbourne he also has a studio in Chapel Street, Prahran which is even bigger!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Big Issue!

Fifteen years ago today the first copies of The Big Issue hit the streets of Melbourne. Since that time the plucky little magazine has sold millions of copies, gone national and enriched the lives of 1000s of homeless and marginalised street vendors and their customers. Long may she reign (and don't forget to buy a copy next time you see a vendor!).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy World Wide Knitting In Public Day

After a week of very cold temperatures we were blessed with sunshine today so we headed into town to be part of the Light In Winter Festival. This year the festival is centred around an enormous pyramid-shaped 'light sculpture' which the community has been invited to decorate with lanterns, fabric, knitting and crochet. Today was also World Wide Knit In Public Day and the first ever International Yarnbombing Day so there were plenty of knitters out and about which was great to see. Bella was mortified when I whipped out my needles but Henry entered into the spirit of things by creating a very handsome lantern for the pyramid.

In search of further woolly inspiration we also went to one of my favourite wool shops, Morris & Sons. While I was running maniacally from one beautiful yarn to another Henry and Isabella made themselves comfortable in 'Manland' - a corner of the store furnished with comfy 1950s armchairs where the menfolk can relax while they wait for the wool manics to make their final choice!