Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Town like Paris

Having just finished a fairly intense read (highly recommend previous blog) when I saw this on a friends shelf I just had to read it. Bryce Corbett is an Australian author and journalist, an fellow blogger, who has documented his entry into Parisian life over a 6 year period of highs and lows. He has a way with words that could grant him the honorable title of one the great Aussie story teller's, only he's telling stories about Paris (mostly). As one review has sumarised:
Fleeing London, in search of adventure and determined to sample some of the famed delights of the City of Light, our hero arrives in Paris with only a suitcase and a determination to have the time of his life. He launches himself into la vie parisienne, throws himself at the local female population and quickly discovers his down-home Aussie charm has no currency in France. Like the monotonous series of rejections he receives from Parisian women, our hero’s attempts at assimilation are similarly rebuffed. Undeterred, he teams up with a bunch of like-minded ex-pats and the ensuing years pass in a blur of bachelor-inspired hedonism. Paris is their playground—and they discover, to their delight—it is a city with a seedy underbelly. As a detached observer who is nevertheless thrust into the daily business of getting by in France, the author is exposed to some of the more unfathomable idiosyncracies of the French. And just when he thinks Paris has offered him all she has to give, he meets a Paris showgirl—an Australian beauty whose sequin-clad high-kicks are the toast of the Champs Elysees. Before he knows it, he is in love …
For me, I was easily taken to the streets of a Paris I only know as a tourist, and was encouraged to dream of them as my own. He had to find an apartment, then win it with his way with words, then he took us on the journey of finding a local GP and familiarising himself with his quartier. each step along the way was an experience. I enjoyed being inside the head of a 30 year old male trying to find his way - celebrating his 30th with a tomatoe throwing event in Spain, taking opportunities to mingle with the rich and famous at embassy parties, and trying to make sense of the opposite sex. I was happy with the ending - fairy tale stuff.

I have spent more time in the country of France than I have in the city, and I think most of his analysis should be considered an analysis of the Parisian, not the French way of life. All in all though a good easy read, entertaining, transporting and one for a good chuckle when sitting in a train!

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures

I'm ashamed of what I don't know about what's happening in the world around me. I have worked and lived in my own little world, really only paying attention to the one off big events like tsunami's, earthquakes, and elections. But I have not taken time out of my own comfort zone to learn or pay attention to what's happening for countries under ongoing conflict and terror. I picked up this book for two reasons, it's title is pretty catchy, and then, I should see what I can learn.

Heidi & colleagues in a UN Pakistani Battalion Communications transport vehicle
Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures is a catchy title, but not one that truly describes it's contents. It's much more about the lives and experiences of three young Americans who throw themselves into a world of trauma, violence and horror for the sake of making peace. They went in naive and came out battered, bruised and cynical. Their lives changed forever and somewhere along the way their faith in their country, their god, fellow human beings and themselves was also shaken to its core. They were involved in managing communications, thereby being fully informed of all horrific news and events, they were sent into prisons to advocate for those who were literally left for dead, they walked through check points not knowing if they'd be walking out again, and were sent out to search for evidence in mass graves that would haunt them forever.

There were went to Cambodia, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Rwanda and Liberia. It was the 1990's. I was old enough to know better, but I am ashamed to say I hardly knew where these countries were. I even had a colleague go to Rwanda for 12 months to work with orphans in the late 90's - and I don't recall understanding then what the significance was. Now I do.

A few quotes that stand out for me:
"My life here is coming undone quickly, I'm in the middle of someone else's nightmare and even my boyfriend is a spy and there are tapes and bugs and radios everywhere and every clean-shaven white man in Mogadishu knows my name and my room is a fucking secure intelligence hangout and I can't trust anyone" Heidi p 152.

"We went to Haiti and walked unarmed into the offices of the men with guns and dark glasses and told them to their faces that they couldn't go on doing what they were doing, that it was unacceptable and had to stop. I played a high-stakes game with an empty hand and felt clear-headed and alive. We all assumed that sooner or later the assassins would be forced from power - by America, the only country that could do it. But after Mogadishu, the macoutes paid to see President Clintons hand., called his bluff. Just a gang of thugs on a dock and he folded. I still cant quite believe it." Andrew p 186.

"And then one morning, after a very long time, you hear a rose bloom and the sun no longer makes you sad and you feel clear and privileged to have shared a life. You take each moment and hold it on your tongue and taste the bitter and the sweet and the sour and know that life is beautiful and you're grateful for the gift" Heidi, p289.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend Reading

Besides being a little busy bee in the garden, I've given myself some time for reading pleasures. Firstly I have enjoyed catching up on blogs and book reviews. Then I have progressed some of my current books.

I'm currently reading 3 different books, all of different materials. I'm reading a little bit each day of the Good Life (previously blogged about), simultaneously I'm plodding through the months in the UN Peacekeepers book "Emergency Sex". I've also started Keri Hulmes "Stonefish" which is a little weird, but no weirder than the Murakami novels. I've previously read her novel "the Bone People" and really enjoyed it (as part of bookclub) - Stonefish won the Booker Prize, so I'm pretty keen to continue with it.

In my blogging though, I've been tempted by the following books.

Recycle, Re-use, Reduce and more

Broccoli...................... Bok Choy


Possibly a lemon?............. Ruby Grapefruit ............ The old Lemons

Dill ................Esky Potatoes & Mint................. Timber Clothes-horse

I was spurred on this week to think about the idea of re-using things to avoid purchasing un-neccessarily, especially purchasing plastic or un-natural items. So this weekend I have successfully
  • given rogue dill plants a second life and saved them from their self sown location which put them at risk of the lawn mower... and I've potted them into old yoghurt tubs. I already have one beautiful dill plant which is ample sufficient for this household, so maybe I'll find these good homes.
  • continued on my renovation project of rescuing the wooded clothes horse. We procured it from a church auction about 17 yrs ago - then it was wobbly. Recently the (probably lead based) paint started leaving marks on our wet clothes. Instead of replacing it with a plastic coated wire rack, I'm patiently hand sanding and will give it a natural coat of wax.
  • prolonged the life of 4 pairs of shoes by cleaning and polishing the leather. I'm usually very bad at this, but (for at least one pair) it was either look good or go out. I'll get another year out of those boots.
  • I've also re-used esky's in the garden - seen here I have potatoes in a red esky, and mint enjoying the old metal esky.
Further to my re-use activities, I've been having conversations about the use of plastic shopping bags. There are moves to make it illegal for grocery stores to use these anymore - and people are worrying about what they will use in the kitchen rubbish bins now. So here are some of my thoughts so far:
  • put your kitchen food wastes into the compost bin - this reduces the amount of wet stuff that needs to go in the rubbish
  • put all possible recycling in the recycling bin - we have a large wicker basket at the backdoor to collect the weekly recycling in and then we empty that into the recycling bin on weekends
  • I think there are possibly 2 forms of rubbish then left for the bin - one is what I would call dry - ie the plastic bags off food products that aren't usually recyclable, and the other is smelly stuff - like the plastic wrap off some food items and meat trays.
  • Dry stuff - either just throw it in loose - but if you dont like to do this, wrap it up in newspaper or ....
  • For stuff that needs to go in a bag - look at what bags you do already buy - like the potatoes, the tomatoes, the toilet paper sometimes comes in a big plastic wrap, nappies, dog/cat food, cereal, rice, pasta etc....
I challenge you to try it - I'm trying the cereal plastic bag in the bathroom bin, and a dog food bag in the kitchen this week. And, if you need to know how to close it off when done - recycle the rubber bands on the junk mail!

Monday, June 8, 2009

New Earthy Blogs to Visitt

I feel simply organic and earthy! I've recently been involved in a couple of community gardening and other earth-care activities, where I've met some lovely people and been directed to some really encouraging websites. I'm going to add these to my blog roll soon, but until I do, here's the list.

Long Weekends

It's difficult to believe but we're now half way through 2009. I often find myself reflecting on this during our June long weekend, wondering what I've been doing with my life this year, and if I continue doing what I'm doing - will I be proud of myself at the end of the year? Well, if this weekend is a reflection of what I've been doing, I'm OK. I went away with some girlfriends to their bush property for a few nights. We're going to be entering a bushwalking/orienteering event in July and we decided we'd go away to practice. We had a great time, enjoyed beautiful clear crisp days and colder, "red wine by the fire" nights. We feel alot more confident in our walking and our teamwork, and have worked on a few competition strategies.

While I was away I finished "Unaccustomed Earth", and started 'how to live the Good Life". The Unaccustomed Earth was an enjoyable read, although I'm not sure I'm OK with the ending - but I guess the author wanted us to see how unpredictable and undirected life can be. Throughout the collection of short stories - about Indian families who have immigrated to US and UK - I felt like I was having coffee with the lead character, listening to their life story. The last few chapters bought together some of the characters in earlier short stories, and shared how their lives crossed paths again. Another good book starring Indians and especially expressing the experience of Indian Women.

How to live the Good Life is a diary telling us about the experiment of the family who wanted to change the impact of their life on the planet. They also have this blogsite which continues their story. I've started, and discovered the author is very engaging and funny. Each day she provides insight into her struggles, her mans adventures in recycling, and her sons experience surviving without lollies. I'm going to take my time through this book becuase I want to learn from her experiences. I want to try some of her suggestions. Just a couple of quotes so far:

This book is unremittingly positive in nature, and gives practical information on how we adopted a sustainable lifestyle without huge cost and without great sacrifice.... its an indepth look at how we live and how we could be living. ..Domestically sustainable.

The rainbow lorikeets are eating the sunflowers, and as [we've] discovered, the king parrots are enjoying the blue lake climbing beans. For the last few days I've been doing the haka around the block scaring the .... things off.... but I am feeble, and cannot compete with the numbers, their stealth and their quiet skill in denuding plants of their protein.... Trev is seen in the garden with a Bart Simpson grin and a homemade shanghai....

Once returning home from my trip, I had a full day to spend on my own garden - and wow did I achieve. I simply cant recall everything I did today but it involved feeding and watering my citrus tree's and all my pot plants and roses, composting and mulching a renewed garden bed ready for planting, weeding.... and weeding, pruning hydrangea's and other things hanging in the wrong spots, and harvesting. This weekends pickings include
  • lettuce
  • bok choy
  • spinach
  • beans
  • rubharb
  • celery
  • carrots
  • and the seasons last guava's