Not reading, Not writing

Journal: 028

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Mallee Sunrise (near Ceduna)

Eighty percent of east-west freight goes by rail, so when there’s a derailment road freight goes mad. In the two weeks since my last book review, The Glass Canoe, I have done trips ex-Perth to Port Augusta and to Melbourne, with a bare minimum 24 hour break in between. And that only served to make me late into Melbourne, 7.00 pm Friday. I thought I would get to spend the weekend at mum’s, but the carrier had my two trailers off-loaded and re-loaded in four hours and off I went again.

Mum was due to spend a week with B3 at Bendigo anyway, so he ran down and picked her up and I caught up with them the next morning for breakfast and some shopping at a little farmers market. No interesting second hand books, but very nice locally grown apples, plums and grapes. And a jar of home-made peach jam.

Coffee and a shower and I was off up the Calder Highway – slightly longer than the Western Highway through Adelaide (map) but infinitely more peaceful. Of course Dragan was soon on the phone to put an end to that. The western end of the Nullarbor was closed due to bushfires and the customer was considering offloading me in Adelaide. After four hours sitting at the Yamba, SA roadhouse I was allowed to proceed.

We often drive through bushfires, especially out in the desert where there’s no one to stop us, but eleven years ago there were fires in the scrub country on both sides of the Great Eastern Highway west of Coolgardie. At the time I was delivering cement out of Perth to Kambalda, about 80 kms past Coolgardie, four or five trips a week, and over the course of a number of days I could see the fires along the hills about a kilometre back from the road.

On Dec 30, 2007 my diary records that I was between Coolgardie and Kambalda, “Engine too hot to go up hill. Westrac out – unable to fix it.” While I sat beside the road I talked on the CB to the trucks coming past. The highway had been closed at Coolgardie and all Perth-bound traffic was being turned around and sent via Esperance (map). I let my engine cool down then ran in to Kambalda and was offloaded by about 10.00pm. Luckily for me, my engine played up again and instead of trying to sneak around the roadblock, I pulled over and went to sleep.

The next morning word on the CB was confused. The fires had intensified and Coolgardie was closed indefinitely. A convoy of trucks had been allowed through overnight, had been turned back when fire and dense smoke crossed the road, some forced to abandon their trailers. I joined the stream of traffic southbound to Esperance and it was only slowly, via the CB and ABC local radio that we learned 3 truck drivers had died, burnt to death in their trucks (Boorabbin Fire. Official Report).

Ever since, Main Roads have been (understandably!) hyper cautious, closing roads at the earliest warning. There was no sign of fire when I came through this trip, though apparently fires had threatened Kambalda (which is 40-odd km off the main highway).

These last couple of days I have been getting my truck ready for inspection as part of my National Heavy Vehicle scheme accreditation, which is turning into a saga in its own right. I could say I haven’t read or written a word, which is what it feels like, but I’ve read all your posts, lots of Oz politics and Trump and Brexit, but barely a word of The Georges’ Wife which I’ve started a couple of times in the past two weeks. Hopefully, this coming trip I’ll get a proper 24 hour break and be able to settle down to a long read.

Two books from the last two or three trips –

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The Quality of Silence (2015) is an action thriller set in mid-winter Alaska. It wasn’t too bad;  Lupton writes interesting and likeable characters; and her protagonist Yasmin – “a beautiful, troubled astrophysicist” – hijacks a semi trailer to get her, and her precocious, deaf, ten year old daughter, Ruby, to her missing, environmental activist husband in the deep north. Once the truck was wrecked, I skipped to the last disc. The ending was as unlikely as you’d expect.

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Jane Harper’s Force of Nature (2017). Harper writes moderately entertaining Australian crime fiction, but she butchers Australian geography – see my review of The Dry (here). This one was supposedly set in the ranges three hours east of Melbourne, the Australian Alps with its majestic eucalypt forests and ferny understory, which she describes as ‘hilly with lots of trees’ (I paraphrase). How she can be considered for literary awards I do not understand. The plot? Five women on a weekend survival course get lost in an area where a serial killer has previously lived/worked. Only four of them emerge from the bush. The fifth has been an informant for federal white collar crime detective Aaron Falk so naturally he goes up into the mountains to search for her.

Recent audiobooks

Sunni Overend (F, Aust/Vic), The Dangers of Truffle Hunting (2016)
Nele Neuhaus (F, Ger), Snow White Must Die (2010)
Kerry Greenwood (F, Aust/Vic), The Spotted Dog (2018) DNF
Isabel Allende (F, Chile), In the Midst of Winter (2017)
Kate Atkinson (F, Eng), Started Early Took My Dog (2010)
Bernard Cornwell (M, Eng), Agincourt (2009)
John Sandford (M, USA), Storm Prey (2010)
Rosamund Lupton (F, USA), The Quality of Silence (2015)
Elizabeth Berg (F, USA), Talk Before Sleep (1994)
Chris Lynch (M, USA), Irreversible (2016)
Patricia Cornwell (F, USA), Point of Origin (1998)
Fiona Barton (F, Eng), The Child (2017)
Jane Harper, (F, Aus/Vic). Force of Nature (2017) read by Stephen Shanahan
Tom Woods (M, Eng), No Tomorrow (2014)
Erich Maria Remarque (M, Ger), All Quiet on the Western Front – BBC play, 2014
Monica McInerney (F, Aus/SA), The Alphabet Sisters (2004)
Ashley Claudy (F, USA), Outside the Ropes (2014)
Fern Michaels (F, USA), About Face (2003)
Kevin Wignall (M, Eng), To Die in Vienna (2018)

Currently reading

Haruki Murakami, The Strange Library
David Ireland, The Glass Canoe
Elizabeth Jolley, The Georges’ Wife

DVDs sitting beside the television

Cleverman series – interesting way to look at racism in Australia
Luis Bunuel, The Exterminating Angel – I love 1970s arthouse cinema; Bunuel, Fellini, Lina Wertmuller.

 

29 thoughts on “Not reading, Not writing

  1. How lovely of your brother to whip down to Melbourne to pick up your mum so you could all catch up. Good family eh?

    I’m very glad Main Roads are now more cautious about trucks driving through bushfires. Honestly, what were you thinking in past times!?

    I can’t comment on Jane Harper because I haven’t read any of her books. I hear such varying opinions though, that I feel I should read her one day. Just too many other books with higher priority.

    Re Cleverman, if you are interested there’s a raft of articles about the serious in the current issue (no. 89) of the online cinema journal, Senses of Cinema. You do have to wade through some academic jargon in them though I think.

    BTW Good to hear from you – I have been wondering.

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    • There’s a physical memorial near the spot, impossible to miss, so I’m reminded every trip to take fewer risks. Though as it happens those drivers did only as the authorities told them.

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  2. You got through a lot of audio books – is that what you use to keep you focused while driving? Some audio books seem to work better than others on the car system – I find its a bit of trial and error

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    • I don’t mind silence from time to time and I listen to music or news programmes between books and in the cities, but it is very relaxing and sometimes informative to be read to as I drive along.

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      • The places I drive radio is often not available, or only the ABC on AM band which I listen to the football on over remarkably long distances – up to 2,000 km at night. I do try and swap my audiobooks around between genres, locations, and male/female voices.

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      • Haha GTL, that flickering candle gif with RIP on our last blog posts made me laugh! Maybe we should all draft our own and teach our next of kin how to hit publish!!

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      • WG, you do your trips with Mr Gums. When I’m driving Milly somewhere – just short trips these days – we mostly talk and so the radio is off. On my own I quite enjoy silence, especially first thing in the morning.

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  3. Isn’t Force of Nature set in a fictionalised version of The Grampians rather than the Southern Alps? I quite liked the book as a bit of escapism but you’re right, she’s no Peter Temple and that’s probably because they’re working in different areas of the genre… Temple is much more noir-ish in my opinion.

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    • How embarrassing! The Grampians are 300 km west and I heard 300 km east (of Melbourne). Now I have no way to check. I agree that Harper is ok as escapist reading, but if she aspires to literary then I will continue to criticize her.

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  4. I’ve been wondering where you are! What I’ve learned over the years, though, is if I go to someone’s blog and ask them where they are, I never hear back. If they were on their blog, they’d be blogging, you know? That story about the truckers burning up in the fire made me deeply sad and horrified, and to be honest, when I don’t hear from you in a while I worry that something bad has happened. Granted, you live in Australia so I picture a giant spider ate you, but the more you share your diaries, the more I start to picture dangers just like everywhere else all around you.

    You’ve listened to so many audiobooks! After a while, my brain won’t listen anymore. I think it’s because I get so wrapped up in audiobooks that I listen to them longer than I would read a book, so I get mentally exhausted.

    I thought the book about the woman and her daughter in Alaska sounded interesting, but I have to be honest: a description like “a beautiful, troubled astrophysicist” will turn me off from even opening the book. I don’t know why authors try to use physical appearance as a way to tell us something about a character. What, she’s beautiful, so we should be extra sad that she’s troubled? The beautiful/troubled thing is a fantasy trope, one that exhausts me. It’s lazy.

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    • The giant spiders are a problem, but generally I manage to run over them before they can get the cab door open.

      I listen to books almost endlessly, and also mindlessly – there’s not a lot of substance to most of them – with an hour or two of music between each book so I can get the old characters out of my head. The great joy is coming across a good book that goes on for ever, 1Q84 for example, which is 18 hours.

      I wonder about what would happen to my blog if I had an accident. My kids would put it on facebook, but none of them could do a blog post.

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      • You just made me cackle at work when I pictured you running over spiders trying to get into the cab. I’m not supposed to blog at work 😉

        You should teach your kids how to make at least ONE blog post — in the event of your death, it will be necessary. 😛

        Perhaps that’s something new that should go in a will: that your next-of-kin share one final blog post about your death, written in a dignified yet humorous way, because who wants their final blog post to contain a list of living relatives and a gif with a flickering candle next to the letters RIP?

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      • The most responsible child, who shall remain unnamed, is my executor so I’d better add that to the list of things she has to do. All very theoretical, I’ve been meaning to see a solicitor (lawyer) for years. What I really worry about is how she’ll get the truck and trailers together and get a proper price for them so she has at least a token inheritance, but I’ll make sure she knows also not to have a flickering candle GIF.

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  5. It is mind-boggling to me to get out of the car/ truck after a long trip and then get back in just four hours later. I don’t know how you do it… But I’ve had a few of those thoughts about all sorts of jobs recently, as I’ve listened to people describing their day-to-day work. It started with one of my clients saying to me, “I don’t know how you manage to sit and listen to people talk all day…” and then, the very next day, I was chatting to a friend who was telling me about her day at work – she is an ‘organiser’ and helps people downsize, move house, de-clutter etc. As she was describing what she’d done that day, I thought, “I don’t know how she does that every day…”

    Clearly you’ve had ample time to listen to some books! I saw you had a Kate Atkinson one there – I checked to see if my library had it but alas, only an abridged version (which I bypass).

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    • Abridged versions annoy me too. One of my local libraries has abridged versions of Jane Austen! Who would even do that? The four hours was good and left me with enough time to run an hour or so up the Calder before my mandatory 7 hour break and breakfast with mum. Sitting in an office would be my idea of a very bad time, let alone having to listen to people. Good thing we’re all different.

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