“31 songs” Continued. (The early Gloria years).

After the list of 5 songs in my previous post, I’ve given the topic more thought and can add the following to my own “31 Songs”.

There’s still a significant short fall – but one day maybe I’ll be able to get to that arbitrary number, based on Nick Hornby’s book.

Part of the difficultly is narrowing a one time favourite group’s output to one song more significant than the rest.

 

6) Bad, U2.

I’m not sure why I went to see the U2 film Rattle and Hum. Around that time I often filled an evening by going to see films at my local cinema, and R & H was just one more on their programme. However it become more than  a film. I was the only one in the theatre, the volume was turned higher than usual, and it seemed like I was at a personal U2 concert. I immediately became a fan, something that changed my life completely because I later met Gloria at the first (and last) meeting of a failed U2 fan club. This song has always been a favourite.

7) Gloria, U2.

I had to include this one, the song that gave Gloria her nickname. We were friends for over a year until I knew her real name, and I didn’t find that out until our relationship progressed beyond friendship and we became a “couple”. My family still address her as Gloria.

8) Roaring Jack, were a group I discovered during my time at University. It was during the early stages of my friendship with Gloria and coincidentally we independently discovered them around the same time.

I was introduced to their music by a classmate. Gloria heard about them from the owner of her local record store. Almost weekly I drove to Sydney to see them perform at a Newtown pub on Thursday nights. Unfortunately Gloria missed out because of work commitments. We were eventually able to see them perform together at the Harold Park Hotel sometime around new year (of which year I don’t recall).

As I said we independently discovered them, and also unknown to each other, for many months both of us never missed  daily listening to one of their albums.

9) The Waterboys were another independent joint discovery, although we both came across them before we met.
I found them through their album Fisherman’s Blues. When I met Gloria she had all of their albums. There are a lot of songs I could have chosen from their catalogue that are more representative of their work, but I chose this one for Gloria.

 

The last songs for this post are the hardest to select. There are several groups I could choose from – most of them Irish. Groups like The Hothouse Flowers, The Saw Doctors, The Black Velvet Band, but I decided on the following:

10) In a Lifetime, Clannad.

It was hard choosing a specific Clannad song, but as this one features Bono from U2 it seemed the most appropriate and well known choice available. Unfortunately it seems that the original video (at least this one) hasn’t survived very well. The picture quality isn’t the best.

11 and 12 ) Capercaillie

A group that Gloria discovered first as another Celtic group with similarities to Clannad, but I probably took more of a liking to them than she did over time. We saw them twice live in Sydney. But how do I select a representative song? I couldn’t, so I chose two including this one from Karen Matheson their singer. I probably could have chosen almost anything they’ve released.

 

13) Lord of the Dance

It took a while to find a reasonable video of this. Gloria and I saw the show twice in Sydney (the video is of a later version). I’ve been typing this as I listen to audio from the video and find myself tapping the keys in time to the rhythm of the dancing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Costs and Pitfalls of Book Buying.

I have far too many books – and still I buy more.

When I develop a new reading interest, or a new interest in general, I’m not satisfied to dabble around the edges, I jump right in and obtain as much as possible related to that interest.

In recent years I became interested in some aspects of military history. At first I just wanted to find out why Anzac day was such a big deal in Australia. Like many Australians, my knowledge and understanding of the Gallipoli campaign at the heart of Anzac day was minimal. As the centenary of the original Anzac day (25th April) came around in 2015, I decided to put an end to my ignorance and I read several books about the campaign that attained mythic status in Australian culture.

From there my curiosity about other aspects of WWI was sparked, and my reading widened to other battles and their historical consequences.

But that wasn’t enough. I moved on to WWII when I discovered some family involvement in the North Africa and Sicily campaigns of 1943.
I was able to untie some of my dad’s tangled childhood memories to find the facts behind the tragic loss of his cousins Albert and Horace during those campaigns; even being able to track a report of Horace’s desperate cries for help, followed by the sound of his drowning, after his glider crashed into the Mediterranean.

I sought out and bought as many books as I could find that might increase my knowledge of Albert and Horace’s experiences of war. A lot of the books were out of print so I needed to track down second hand copies. A helpful resource was https://www.bookfinder.com/

Through that site I was able to find books covering my topics of interest that have been long out of print. Unfortunately some were outside of my comfortable price range, but most weren’t.

As I’ve written in several recent posts, my current interest is crime fiction, a very popular genre with far too many reading options. The only way I could realistically launch myself into reading crime was to find someway to limit those options. I chose to be selective with the authors I read.

So far I’ve followed two paths. Firstly there are the two authors who helped me get into the world of crime in the first place. I’ve already written about Lynda La Plante and Ann Cleeves.
Secondly, because my greater interest has been fuelled by the strength of character and place in Cleeves’ books, I looked around for British writers basing their work around Derbyshire, the English county where I spent my pre-teen years. I’ve also written quite a lot about the three writers I’ve been following.

To date Sarah Ward has three published books, Steven Dunne seven, and Stephen Booth at least seventeen. It would be a very costly exercise to get all of them, so when available I’ve helped the process through purchases from charity and second hand book shops, while keeping an eye on the prices of new books in online stores. Occasionally books will be discounted and a little money can be saved if I’m viewing the right site at the right time.

book list 2Ideally I’d be able to find all of the books at a local bookshop, giving them support instead of some overseas mega-store, but they rarely (if ever) have the kind of books I want, that cater to my sometimes obscure tastes (how many Australian readers are looking for Derbyshire crime writers?).

I now own all of Sarah Ward’s books.

I have the first three of Steven Dunne’s books. The first I could only find second hand online, the second I bought new and the third I also found second hand in a Canberra bookshop.

Stephen Booth’s books have been a mixture of new purchases from The Book Depository , Some from charity shops and two I bought online through the book finder address cited earlier. Those latter purchases have been examples of the perils faced when buying used goods on line. When I received the books they weren’t the editions that had been illustrated (they were older) and their actual condition didn’t match that of the written description on the website.
Bringing the problems to the attention of the supplier doesn’t always lead to the customer finding a satisfactory outcome.*

After two disappointing experiences, I’m now reconsidering the buying of second hand books online unless they are completely out of print and can’t be obtained any other way. In the recent cases I only resorted to the second hand orders because the number of books in the Stephen Booth series pushed the overall cost of new ones into uncomfortable territory, and I was eager to get his earlier books for an affordable prices as soon as possible.

At the moment those early books are some of the more expensive, unless I compromised by buying American editions. However an American version of a Derbyshire book, with American spellings and the possible “translating” of Derbyshire turns of phrase into Americanised approximations… well it kind of defeats my purpose of choosing Derbyshire based stories.**

I’m resisting the temptation to order more books for a while.  Over the Christmas break I could be away from home from time to time, so won’t be around to make sure any book deliveries are received securely.

Anyway, I have more than enough crime fiction to keep me going for a few weeks before I need to order again in the new year.

Apart from filling in some of the existing gaps in my collection, next year there will be at least two new books to look forward to: Sarah Wards fourth DC Childs book The Shrouded Path is due for release in the UK autumn, but before that will be The Devil’s Dice, the debut book by Roz Watkins released around March 2018.

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The image illustrating this post is part of the book list I keep in my wallet to help me keep track of what I already have so I don’t double up on any title.

*Although one bookseller went above and beyond my expectations to sustain their reputation for good service – sending me a book autographed by the author as a replacement for a copy that had been an ex-library book and was marred by stickers and ink stamps)

 

** To keep things in balance, I have no problem buying American editions of books by American authors, where American-English is in keeping with the authors intent.

What I Did on the Weekend (Saturday and Sunday)

Saturday took a different path to the one we’d expected. Instead of another day in Canberra and a visit to the swap meet we decided to have a look at lap tops and tablets at the local computer shop.
We’ve been connected to the National Broadband Network for about a week now, and will be paying for the internet access it provides whether we use it or not. Until recently we’d never had the internet at home, and we wanted to see some of the options available. Our home computer is about 7 years old and not compatible to the Wi-Fi connection provided through the NBN.

The salesman was surprisingly helpful and was able to explain things simply without any confusing, show-off computer-speak. He worked out prices for the two options we favoured and we went away to decide between them. Later that day we returned and bought a laptop, anti-virus software, and Microsoft Office.

We went home, eager to set it all up.

But!

Firstly instead of merely turning on a computer that was immediately usable (as had been the case with previous computer purchases) we had to go through a registration and set-up process. It seemed simple enough, but took longer than I liked. Part of the process was selecting the kind of “English” keyboard layout we wanted. Foolishly I selected UK English, not realising that I wasn’t choosing something associated with spelling, where a choice for American English would have given me the foreign versions of English that are becoming increasingly and annoyingly common even outside of the USA.

Instead I was choosing a keyboard layout that meant the @ and ” keys were reversed. Annoyingly it seems like its a selection I have to correct every time I turn on the computer. The UK Keyboard layout has been made the default and I can’t seem to change that setting.

And then I had to try installing the anti-virus. I won’t go into detail, but I tried unsuccessfully several times before I realised I was following the MAC instructions instead of those for PC. That realisation didn’t help because I couldn’t find the PC instructions on the installation leaflet. By the time I realised I could go no further the computer shop was closed, so I had to put it all aside and wait until the next day to try and get the problems resolved.

I had a very restless night. I easily get stressed about technology that doesn’t seem to work as easily as it should. The next day I took everything back and after an hour with the salesman, most of the issues were resolved and I could return home to start using the new computer. (I still had to install Microsoft Office – something that presented a few new problems, but nothing I couldn’t eventually work out for myself).

We’ve now had home internet for about three days, and have realised that we weren’t missing out on a lot by not having it.

We’ve watched several YouTube videos. I’ve played around with my emails and blogs. We’ve checked the weather and viewed the weather radar, watching rain approach our town on screen before hearing it on the roof.

Overall there’s not been a lot that we’ve been able to do with it yet.
We don’t paly games, we’re not interested in Netflix, there’s no one to Skype… but it will make things easier when I’m away from work. I can keep my email inbox cleared, so I don’t return to countless unread messages after two or three weeks.

One of the few immediate benefits was being able to subscribe to Sarah Ward’s newsletter. I tried to do it from my work computer, but my employers security system didn’t like the subscription site. Newsletter subscribers are sent occasional short stories by Sarah. That’s something I’m looking forward to receiving.

Phone Problems and Disrupted Crime Reading

Yesterday I was looking forward to finishing the last few chapters of Sarah Ward’s second book, A Deadly Thaw.
I’d been reading it over the weekend and had to put it down just as I reached that final climactic section where everything was starting to be resolved and revealed to the reader.

But my plans were disrupted by my phone company who were very unhelpful when we found we no longer had a working phone service at home.
I more or less spent a whole day at work trying to contact our service provider to speak to someone who was willing and able to help. At lunch time I even had to drive home to try something one of the customer service people suggested (a 30 km round trip) – and then, when it didn’t fix the problem I had to return to the office and try to contact them again.

After all of that I didn’t have the time or the desire to pick up my book. Fortunately, at about 8pm the phone rang and a technician from the phone company advised me that the issue with the phone service had been resolved.

I won’t go into all of the annoying details of the hours of wrestling with their customer service department. All I can hope is that our phone problems are behind us, and that tomorrow I can get back to my book and complete what has been an increasingly enjoyable reading experience.

Hopefully I can write a “review” of the book in a day or two.

History Mine: a personal history of history (3)

This year I renewed research into my family tree after stumbling across a website giving free access to basic genealogical records. Through that site I was able to track my ancestry back to the mid-1700s to a time before white settlement in Australia, making my PERSONAL history older than the official history of my adopted country.

Tamworth CastleFinding those more distant ancestors helped me make sense of something I recall from my childhood.
Tamworth in Staffordshire is about 25 kilometres from where I lived, but I only recall going there once. My only memory of the place is an outdoor public swimming pool where I braved a high diving board. Around the time of that visit I’m sure I heard something about a bible associated with my family being held in the Castle museum, but I was told no details.

Over time I began to think I must have dreamed up that story or misunderstood. Why would a bible associated with my family be in a museum in that town?

I was surprised when I discovered that part of my family on my paternal grandmother’s side had strong links to Tamworth in the mid-late 18th century. That finding gave some support to the bible in the museum memory, and the possibility of the claim being true. I’m now waiting on a reply from the museum, to see if they can give any confirmation of the story. I’ve supplied my ancestor’s names to see whether there is any match with the several family bibles they have in their collection.

One family story I was able to confirm was that one of my forebears was the bailiff at a large country house. I made that discovery through Census records where the house was listed as his residence. It was only after seeing that record that I remembered that my grandmother had mentioned it in a letter more than 30 years ago, in which she’d told me the little she could about our family history.

That house, owned by the same family for the last 600 years, is now a venue for conferences, concerts and a variety of other activities. I contacted them about my ancestor who worked for their family, but received no reply.

Calke AbbeyHe wasn’t the only family member to work for a large estate. My great, great grandmother was apparently a seamstress at Calke Abbey in South Derbyshire.

Again I’ve tried to find more information. At first things seemed hopeful, but after an initial promising, prompt reply I’ve heard no more. A lot of the work at the property is done by volunteers, so it’s not as if they have someone designated to help with enquirers like myself.

I’m sure it would be much easier if I could visit these places in person, but that brings me back to the point I made in an earlier post: the problem of becoming interested in the history of a place and people after moving to the other side of the world.

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photos from Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamworth_Castle
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catton_Hall
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calke_Abbey

History Mine: a personal history of history (2)

I’ve now been in Australia for almost 45 years after my parents brought the family half way around the world. They saw a potentially better future for my sister and me outside of Britain, so they made the decision to leave their own parents (my grandparents) and everything they’d known, to follow that hope of better opportunities.

At the time we were labelled migrants, or “ten pound Poms” – a reference to the token 10 Pound payment each adult had to pay to be included in the Australian immigration scheme of the time. Today, if we were from a different racial background, our reason for making the move would have us considered as “economic refugees”, and we’d be spirited away to a detention centre.

The move excited me. It was a big adventure. But I didn’t really appreciate the finality of it all. How I’d suffer for years from homesickness, wishing I could again see the people and places associated with the first 13 years of my life; and how my desire to learn more about where I came from would grow.

here to there

I was born in Burton-on-Trent and until our move to Australia lived on the Derbyshire side of the river Trent.
I knew nothing about the history of the area until I was in my 20s, when I was able to learn a little from a few books I was able to track down. Finding those books wasn’t easy in pre-internet years. It took a lot of letter writing to British libraries, museums, and local government offices trying to find someone to point me in the right direction. I then had to find a bookseller able to mail out the books I’d discovered, IF they were still in print.

It was many years ago, so I don’t remember who gave me the most help, but someone sent out copies of documents relating to the village where I grew up: documents that included a reference to my great grandfather who had been a men’s barber within that town as well as the local truancy officer. There wasn’t much detail about him, but seeing his name on a document dated in the 1800s gave me a small sense of connection to the town’s history.

Three of my Grandparents were still alive, so I asked them to tell me what they knew about our family background. I still have the few letters in which my Grandmothers told me what they knew; mostly names, but occasionally a cryptic piece of information that at the time didn’t mean much.

Using all of the names and dates, I drew up a family tree dating back to the 1870s, the point where my Grandmas’ memories (and a family bible) ended. The only addition after that point came when my sister went back to England for a few weeks. I asked her if she could get copies of the birth certificates of the two most distant ancestors I knew about.
She came back with two documents. I found one of them wasn’t for the right person, but the other one was – and I was able to extend the family tree back another generation thanks to its information about the parents of the baby being reigstered.

And then my research came to a stop again. For the next 30 years.

History Mine: a personal history of history (1)

My interest in history developed too late: after my parents moved our family from England to Australia. It was only then that I started to regret not taking a greater interest in the historical landscape of the place I’d left. Wishing that I could again visit castles, churches, cemeteries and grand houses that I’d taken for granted as a child.
They were only old buildings to my pre-and early teen self. I’d had no awareness of (or interest in) the people and events associated with them. That only came when they were no longer accessible.

It was hard to get excited about the “history” of my new country. In England I’d been to houses older than Australia’s recorded history*.
Maybe it was partially “home-sickness” that started to draw my mind back, reminding me of what I’d lost and giving it a significance I’d not previously considered.

If only I could see Tutbury Castle again, now knowing of its connection with Mary Queen of Scots. And the nearby St Mary’s church, parts of which date back to the 1100s, where my friends and I raced around the graveyard to see who could find the oldest grave.

Then there was Kenilworth Castle and Stonehenge, visited on different school trips – and the Tower of London where my family seemed to queue for hours to catch a glimpse of the crown Jewels, and where I was very unimpressed when I saw the Bloody Tower, which wasn’t really tower, and didn’t have people sitting around swearing at each other as I’d imagined as a young child.

I could probably list more of those places I visited without appreciating. And I could look back at things closer to home – such as the WWII air raid shelters alongside my school, the entrances of which were all sealed, apart from one, which no-one dared to enter beyond the first few steps, for fear of what may still be down there.

So, separated from those physical reminders of centuries of history, I’ve had to make do with books about that history.

Unfortunately those books can only provide a distant view that lacks some of the thrill of seeing and touching where history was acted out. And that distance is greater when it rarely touches upon the local links I recall, when local histories of places I lived aren’t easily accessible.