gary the bike

My Australia Day aka Invasion Day was perfect. This post is full of references to Melbourne suburbs, that’s about as Australian a celebration as I can muster though. Oh and I wore my $5 MELBOURNE helmet — and apart from stabbing myself when I tried it on (which meant I travelled for about 30 minutes oblivious to the blood that had streamed down my forehead, nice touch!) — I thought it was one of the best-fitting and comfiest helmets I’ve ever owned.
Photobucket
On Saturday morning I got up early (despite late Bikram the night before) and headed out to Yarraville to pick up Gary, my new bike, courtesy of Fleur. I was meeting Amy, and a good thing too, as Gary’s saddle arrived somewhere around my belly-button, making it impossible for me to ride him — but Amy is a super-cyclist, and she guided me to a bike shop where the lovely Peter struggled and eventually succeeded in replacing Gary’s bizarre bolt system on the saddle stem.

Me and Gary and Peter
Photobucket
We were so thrilled with our success that we had to celebrate by sharing a breakfast at Wee Jeanie.

Delightful Amy
Photobucket
Delicious baked eggs with feta and mushrooms, buttered sourdough on the side… oh Melbourne breakfasts, you are the best!
Photobucket

We started off at last, crossing the Maribynong River into Footscray and heading towards Docklands (it was overcast the whole day, so most of my pictures are underexposed and a little askew due to being take with my iphone whilst on the go).

Photobucket
We joined the Capital City Trail — which I am now in love with! — and followed it up towards North Melbourne. Then we headed over to Collingwood, our original destination, only I was having so much fun I didn’t want to stop, so after a quick pause for refreshment and a picture:

Photobucket
…we then crossed Abbotsford to rejoin the Capital City Trail at Gipps St and the Yarra Bends (where I once got lost running). We followed it for about 10km to Southbank, me snapping pictures (most of which featuring Amy’s pink backpack) all the way.

Photobucket
I discovered some of Melbourne’s truly ostentatious homes, many of which had their own boats docked in front of them…
Photobucket
It’s not Australia Day without cricket!
Photobucket
Getting closer to the Melbourne city skyline
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

When we reached Southbank and its throngs of tourists and locals all enjoying Australia Day (mostly with BBQs), we decided we were actually very hungry and wanted another breakfast. Amy stopped to think for a second,
Photobucket
then swerved off down a secret passage
Photobucket
And we landed at the charming BondStore.
Photobucket
Here we rested
Photobucket
Enjoyed a soy chai latte
Photobucket
And then shared this DELICIOUS rare roast beef sandwich — well worth breaking my 90% vegetarian diet for!
Photobucket
Amy lives in Southbank, so she guided me to the edge of the Docklands, and then sent me on my way, like a wise wizard sending a hobbit forth by himself. I followed the City Capital Trail yet again, up as far as Royal Park — where I got a tiny bit confused for a few minutes, but then finally was zooming home to Princes Hill, barely able to sit down in my saddle but victorious nonetheless. It clocked up to 36.5km! woo!
Photobucket

However I barely had to time to rest and recover, before I had to grab my yoga bag and walk to Fitzroy for Bikram. Oui, le Bikram. I actually really enjoyed it, I feel like the classes are getting shorter and shorter, so I suppose there must be some kind of progress. I walked home feeling pretty spaced out after so much exercise, and barely had the energy to make dinner and do laundry (both were mandatory however). I fell asleep reading Journey to the Centre of the Earth (I just finished Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and absolutely LOVED so I am on a Jules Verne kick at the moment) which led to some bizarre dreams…

Advertisements

life and times of rosie in spain

Things I ate: a gazillion swordfish steaks. My new favourite meal when eating out. Fish and seafood are not often appealing to me, but the below converted me in seconds!
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
See also my new favourite drink: café con leche con hielo. I don’t know if I can get away with ordering this anywhere else than Spain, but you get a cup of milky coffee, throw in some sugar, stir, then transfer to a glass of ice cubes, which instantly chills your coffee and ta-dah! icy refreshing beverage.

Books I read: Mr Briggs’ Hat, Miss McKenzie, Dark Night’s Work, and in nostalgia-land: Little House in the Big Woods and Little House in the Prairie (I’m re-reading the series, which was a favourite and which I must have read dozens of times. As an adult: Wow. Ma and Pa kicked ass.)

Places I visited: Segovia and Avila. Segovia was gorgeous. Avila was so-so; I’d chosen it as a destination because I’m somewhat infatuated with gothic architecture and I had read Avila and its cathedral were some of the oldest gothic architecture in Spain. But I wasn’t allowed inside the cathedral 😦 I plan on posting lots of pictures of Segovia because it was so pretty, but for now it’s not practical from my ipad.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Hikes I have fantasized about: the Camino Frances — I grew up hearing Mummy wax lyrical about how she wanted to walk/cycle the trail of Saint Jacques de Compostelle. Most of the towns I lived in or visited when growing up in France were located on the road to Santiago de Compostela and had their coquille de St Jacques discretely on display on various historic buildings, and even now my family lives very close to the Camino (apparently its English name is the Way of St James? Who knew) and you often see pilgrims around. I had the idea vaguely at the back of my mind when I came to Spain that I might walk back up to home — I’d love to run home, actually, but that just isn’t an option! Ah the things I would do if I wasn’t frustrated by my body’s physical limits.

I’ve discussed the Camino plan a little with Juan, who is very supportive of the idea. However, I’m a little dismayed to discover that its a popular ambition not just with pilgrims but with just about everyone in the world, especially in July. I wanted to be a special snowflake! Still, I’m keen on the idea of walking from Burgos back to Cazals. However, before I leave Spain, my favourite traveling companion will — providing he doesn’t get sent off somewhere in the next 48 hours — take some time off from saving the world with MSF, and meet me here next week. Huzzah for surprise catch-ups with superheroes…

In reckless anticipation (given the nature of working for MSF it might not happen), here is a photo of us from a year ago in San Sebastian. We drank a bit too much and then got very sunburnt on the beach, which made wearing our motorbike gear extremely uncomfortable.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

the wind in the willows

In the midst of my Jerome K Jerome gluttony (having downloaded and read so many of his books recently), I suddenly had an urge to read The Wind in the Willows [insert refusal to apologise for reading so many children’s books here]. Just as Jerome is always read in Hugh Laurie’s voice, The Wind in the Willows is always read in Alan Bennett’s voice. It’s strange as I can’t have listened to that tape for a good 18 years at the very least, but can remember every intonation and modulation of his voice as I read it now. Isn’t memory funny that way?

I loved this passage. It’s really long, so I’m putting it behind a cut, but I felt it captured my irrepressible desire to keep moving so well…

Continue reading

authors

Recently I worked out how to stream Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra, although I can’t use my ipad for anything else if I am streaming the radio. However I can hit record if I’m about to head out the door, which is pretty cool! Anyway, yesterday I was happy enough to hear a reading of Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K Jerome — Three Men in a Boat has to be an all-time favourite of mine, and I hadn’t succeeded in finding the Bummel one in bookshops, although I’d heard of it. I’m delighted to report it is FREE on Kindle! So I’m reading that right now (in Hugh Laurie’s voice, which is the ONLY way to read JKJ).

My previous Kindle read was The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I had hoped to snap out of my obsession with Lang’s Fairy Tales (they are so delicious though! I have no regrets!). I did remember attempting to read TTOTS when I was maybe 8 or 9 (I used to storm Mummy’s bookshelves for things that looked interesting, as I had no real concept of what might be suitable for children. Fortunately this generally worked OK, although I did have a few traumatic reads… The Liar by Stephen Fry comes to mind!). Ghost story featuring young children, in a grown-up-looking yet short volume? I thought I would love it, but I never got anywhere with it.

Reading The Turn of The Screw now, I finally understand why I abandoned it in my tender years. I was a strong reader and had read several classics already at that point, and I am not exactly a weak reader now despite my tendency to indulge in children’s literature on the Kindle, but for the life of me, I could NOT read Henry James. I have never read anything as convoluted and painfully structured in my life! I don’t understand how this style of writing can become a classic when it is SO. HARD. TO. READ. In fact yesterday when I was finishing it, I highlighted a typical sentence which made my brain hurt:

Steadying myself with it there as I had repeatedly done at those moments of torment that I have described as the moments of my knowing the children to be given to something from which I was barred, I sufficiently obeyed my habit of being prepared for the worst.

Normally when I read, my eyes drop across the paragraph diagonally and I sort of photograph the content and read the entire thing at once. I don’t know how to explain it very clearly, but obviously this does NOT work with Henry James. It’s like taking a photograph of a huge knotted tangle and it literally makes my head hurt. It happens occasionally with other books, that a paragraph is written with a higher degree of complexity and I need to go back and re-read it word by word. But even this method leaves me looking like this:


Am I that much of an idiot? Has my reading comprehension been that severely taxed? I have never found anything this hard to read in my life — not even classical Chinese (although were I to read a whole book of it, perhaps not)! Confession: in the end, I only got through it by reading the summary on Wikipedia, so that I knew what the hell was going on. Like subtitles! That said I would love to see a film or a play of the book… because the story was awesome.

A little too easy to read was Ben Elton’s Past Mortem, which I read from 2am to 6am and then complained about on Facebook. It was so totally transparent and yet I couldn’t put it down — I was hoping for a twist? Instead everything went exactly as I expected and all I ended up with were several extremely graphic descriptions of several very nasty murders… I think I’m done with Crime Fiction for the next few months. I picked the Ben Elton of the shelf here in my house (yes! a paper book!) as I thought it would be a fun relaxing read… I guess not.

summer/winter

Taipei gave me hope by bringing out the sunshine this weekend, and Sunday’s China Hash was grueling but fun. Apart from a chunk which I had to walk, because my knees were having a little tantrum: “you said you would walk! you said you would take it easy! instead you’ve been running like a moron, climbing up and down cliff faces, I mean what the hell is wrong with you? AND you ran the LONG?!” They quietened down eventually.

Monday’s sunshine was even more glorious. I sat outdoors all afternoon, reveling in the heat. This winter has been tough; I’m definitely a bit of a SADS person and the recent blue skies and warm sun were a much-needed reminder that I can be a happy, positive person.

Today sadly it was back to overcast, wet, cold weather. I cycled almost-21km at the gym, but couldn’t bring myself to change into my swimming gear afterwards because I didn’t want to get cold and shivery. Why must the pool windows be kept open in all weather? urgh.

I had a lovely long afternoon catch-up session with Catherine. We generally spend an afternoon or two together every week, and I am going to miss her a lot when I leave (22 days!). Fortunately I am going to be with the Supermate in Hong Kong, so I am still covered on the Awesome Girls front.

I have been looking at Glucosamine + MSM for my knees, but it’s quite pricey, NT 1800 for a month’s supply. And even if I could afford it, those bloody idiots at INGdirect.com.au are still not letting me access my money! I hate banks but until now thought that ING was a decent exception to the rule. Well, that’s over now, I hate ING too. Can’t wait to be a proper Hong Kong HSBC user…

Lastly, I am over the moon because I have found all the Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for free on Amazon. Currently reading one of my favourites, The Olive Fairy Book, and even though they aren’t illustrated, I am amazed to discover I have every engraving memorized, even though it’s been about 15 years since I read the books. I know exactly where every engraving was for each tale, and I can recall every one of them with absurd detail… I really did love them and they strongly influenced my own artistic endeavours for most of my childhood. I was reading Jackal or Tiger?, which had a couple of my absolute favourite pictures, and suddenly had an amazing visual of the engraving where the Fairy of the Forest is laying on the ground, with her foot cut off and the drops of blood falling into the cauldron… powerful stuff!

Actually you are all very lucky, cos I have found the two best Jackal or Tiger engravings on Project Guthenberg. Here you go!

Hope Road

I got a comment on Thursday night from John Barlow, asking if I would like to read his book Hope Road, describing it as a cross between Kerry Wilkinson (whose book Locked In I had read a few weeks ago) and Kate Atkinson (whom everyone knows I adore). Never one to pass on a free detective novel, of course I took him up on the offer, and after finishing the excellent Friar and the Cipher, devoured it this weekend.

Barlow is definitely selling himself short comparing himself to Wilkinson…  he is a different calibre of writer. I really enjoyed Hope Road, much to my relief, as I would have found it awkward if I hadn’t! It was well-written, with likable characters, a discrete and dark sense of humour, and a plot with twists that kept me guessing till the end. 

It’s funny how you can (well, I can) accept slightly unusual characters or plot lines when a book is well-written. I always think of the extreme of Kate Atkinson’s books, because she can really push the line in terms of realistic plots, but it doesn’t matter because her characters really come to life, and are genuinely likable — if those characters are believable, then you’re more likely to accept the incredible things that happen to them. This (my) rule applies to both Wilkinson’s book and to Barlow’s — Wilkinson got so bogged down in clumsily-written realistic details, which brought nothing to the plot and slowed the pace. Plus his “heroine” Jessica was really annoying and was a bit of a Mary-Sue.

When I started Hope Road, I groaned when introduced to hot woman-slash-tough cop Den Danson (I hate corny names with double initials), thinking this was going to be yet another Mary-Sue. But actually she’s only a supporting character, and the main protagonist is a complex, interesting guy with a lot of shady history. I really took to John Ray and I want to know what happens to him next, so I am looking forward to reading the next in the series. I did find the large number of characters a bit confusing as they aren’t always that strongly framed, but I am willing to see how that aspect develops in the next book. I suspect it’s not that easy to draw up a minor character in just a few lines and it’s a skill that has to be honed.

Before I started reading e-books I generally took the writing for granted when it came to crime fiction, and apart from Patricia Cornwell (whose AWFUL AWFUL writing has been known to cause me to yell in outrage — how that woman is so successful I do not know, and can only ascribe to whatever it is that makes Twilight and the Da Vinci Code bestsellers) judged them based on their plot alone. But recently I have been subjected to a few free/cheap self-published novels (many of which I abandoned after the first painful chapters) and now have a more critical eye… anyway, John Barlow definitely gets a pass from me (knowing me for the important literary critic that I am, I am sure he is relieved to hear it).

achey achey

Strictly speaking I haven’t actually done anything for me just yet, as I’ve only been awake for a few hours, but my whole body is SCREAMING from yesterday’s workout and that soreness feels so good. I have missed exercise horribly — I cut down to just running about 18 months ago, when it became too expensive to keep seeing a personal trainer, and dropped the gym fairly rapidly after that. It was a huge saving but I do sometimes wish I had access to a treadmill, so I could try some gentle running and see how I go, with the option to stop immediately if it gets too much for my knees or shins.

Anyway, for the time being I am happy to spend the 40 days until I leave working out at home with the Nike app, but I think once I am in Hong Kong I will need to get a gym membership. Hopefully I can go to the same one as Cici and we can be Supermate-Supergymbuddies.

It was brought to my attention last night by a certain Alasdair (big-up Brussels!) that my 100 Push-ups challenge has slipped out of sight. I had lost interest after being kindly informed that my form was wrong, but I think, based on the gazillion modified push-ups in the workout I did yesterday, that I could probably start again and do ok.

Today however, I am going to bask in my DOMS and not do a thing! Mummy has given me access to her eBooks account and now I can read all her books on my iPad, which is exactly how I plan to spend the rest of the day — after reading 4 or 5 terrible cheap/free self-published crime thrillers on Kindle, it’s a sheer delight to be reading Death Comes to Pemberley, even if the concept of a detective novel/Jane Austen mash-up is so very, very middle-class! I’m halfway through it and enjoying it immensely.