i am not a number

Many years ago, prior even to my own existence, there was a British TV show starring Patrick McGoohan titled The Prisoner. Actually, McGoohan not only starred in it, he also created, wrote, produced, and directed it; clearly a passion project which contrasted individual needs with those of the group. It was rather surreal and ideas driven, with a certain eccentricity and a key logo being a penny farthing.

I had initially thought it was all filmed on a specially created set, but discovered later that the village where it was set was real. Portmeirion is a town in North Wales, on the River Dwyryd that was built during the mid 20th century. There is an extensive quote from Lewis Mumford in the wikipedia article noting:

an artful and playful little modern village, designed as a whole and all of a piece … a fantastic collection of architectural relics and impish modern fantasies

In the series and in the descriptions it looks deliciously quirky and eccentric. I don’t often visit places from TV or cinema but this one particularly appeals both as a reference to The Prisoner and interesting destination of its own.

Pathway beside canal in Oxford, OK.It looks like I may get to travel to Europe in 2020 as my partner will be undertaking a study trip supported by The Churchill Trust. Consequently I am putting together my own self-funded trip that will occasionally intersect with her’s as she’ll be working. The challenge is find places to visit that I’m happy to visit by myself, and the village of The Prisoner might just fit.

Location-wise, it’s not far from Dublin, possibly a few hours by bus and ferry, which is significant as it is the host city for IFLA in 2020 and I’m hoping to make the first few days of it. The last time I went to an IFLA conference was in Milan in 2009 and I think that was just after the IFLA Australia conference had been cancelled. I have good memories of the Milan conference, aside from the heat, and good friends and connections and would love to go again, hopefully Dublin will be a little cooler.

The challenge of visiting a town in Wales is to avoid another Welsh town, namely Hay-On-Wye, rumoured to have more bookshops per capita than anywhere else. I was last there in 2008, visiting many bookshops and bought more than a few books. Afterall, it’s the one place where buying books is its own form of souveniring :-)

the humble spittoon

For the recent Hunter trip, I volunteered to be the designated driver. In part because I wanted everyone else to relax but also because I wanted to be able to taste everything and appreciate the taste. While getting tipsy can be nice as you continue to imbibe throughout the day, it can cloud your judgment and inhibit your sense of taste. Consequently, the wines tasted at the end of the day always seem amazing and we must buy lots! :-)

small spittoonThis meant that at each winery we went to, I kept out an eye for the nearest spittoon. Curiously, the wikipedia article focuses on the use of spittoons for chewing tobacco, however in Oz at least, they’re usually used for spitting wine into, also called a spit-bucket.

Spittoons come in various shapes and sizes though the large ones felt awkward to use, especially while sitting down. Of course, it was challenging to spit cleanly every time. There was a lot to be said for a small, handheld version with an inward slope for preventing embarrassment.

large spittoonI was mostly successful in taking a sip of wine, chewing it over in my mouth for a while, then spitting it into the handy receptacle. Once I had a couple of sips, I usually tipped the remainder of the tasting glass into the spittoon as well.

Sometimes I’d swallow as some wines change as part of the process eg Chardonnay may taste ok swirling in the mouth but frequently, too frequently, has an icky aftertaste when swallowed. Also, when drinking a really nice wine, it seemed a waste to tip it.

We still bought a lot of wine but I think I’m a little more confident this time of the choices made. Maybe :-)

a trip to the hunter

I recently had a weekend away in the Hunter Valley and was shocked to realise it was my first trip in five years. I used to visit annually and so much has changed: new roundabouts, new buildings going up, feels like there’s more restaurants, some wineries I hadn’t heard of, plus a few wineries under new names.

We did a couple of tastings on Friday, a couple of long member tastings on Saturday as between us we had memberships for a few wineries. Finished off on Sunday with a couple more regular tastings. This trip for me, like most trips, was a mix of old and new and enjoyed wine tastings at Ernest Hill, Tinkler Family, Tulloch, Briar Ridge, Usher Tinkler, and Tamburlaine.

signs summarising annual wine vintages

sign detailing the 2014 wine vintage in the Hunter Valley.A nice feature at Briar Ridge was a wall full of wooden signs which, on closer inspection turned out to be a summary of each year’s vintage. They provided a breakdown of number of litres per wine type (gallons on the early ones), as well as a summary of the vintage, conditions and weather. A few of the wineries talked about 2014 being a great year for Hunter wines and this reflected in the summary too.

I was curious that Usher Tinkler had opened his own winery as I was visiting the Tinkler family vineyard around the time he won Young Winemaker of the Year in 2007. I particularly liked his work at the time with Poole Rock and now with his own winery he seems to be experimenting with various blends, some of which worked rather well.

We managed to buy some wine at all the wineries we visited and I like being able to buy wine directly from the people making it. Interestingly the weather was significantly different outside the Sydney basin; cold enough to wear a jumper and enjoy a wood fire. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to return next year.

out the back a ways…

Just back from a relaxing weekend in Orange. I even made it into Orange itself this time. Once or twice a year, we head out to my partner’s dad’s family who live on a few acres about half an hour out the back of Orange. Connectivity is interesting…it is possible to get a signal in some spots and it usually involves balancing the phone on a window sill pointing in the right direction. Using this method I was able to download the weekend SMH…though it took about 20 minutes as it kept dropping out.

view of trees and rows of grapes for wine out the back of Orange.

It’s a peaceful place with little else to see, just dry Australian landscape. The photo above shows the view that I looked out on every day. My partner’s dad has a few rows of grapes and produces a nice, drinkable red each year. I gather it may not have been quite so drinkable but every vintage I’ve been lucky enough to try has been tasty. I even helped pick the grapes last year. I failed to help pick the year before as I slept in and they were all done by the time I woke up. Oops.

Normally we don’t get out much and it’s time to chill and read and chat with family. This time we popped up the road yesterday to Mortimer’s Wines for a tasting, having driven past many times. We were the only ones there and it seems the busy period finished the week before. A comfy, generous tasting with a good chat with the chap there talking about the wine. Somewhat unexpectedly, I later realised there was something of a connection with my childhood, growing up in Bankstown…and a sportzing reference at that! The winery was started by and belongs to, one of the Mortimer brothers, who were well known rugby league players with the Canterbury Bulldogs in the 80s. 3 of the brothers played in 4 grand finals together. Peter Mortimer went from footy to wine and I gotta say the wines were rather tasty and we bought several: a decent pinot noir, some tasty shiraz and wonder of wonders, a delicious Chardonnay.

All in all a happy, relaxing weekend.

…a different pace

Trying new things. A different pace. Otherness. But not in the usual sort of way. Nor the usual sort of conversation. Stepping out of my comfort zone. A new thing.

Cruise. Ship.

Eep! That’s a whole other direction for travel. I may be turning 50 this year but I thought cruising and coach tours were still 20 years away. Does a backpack work on a cruise ship? Do I take more stuff…or less stuff…actually I don’t think I can take less stuff as I travel fairly lightly when backpacking. Still. I have realised that I should not stay in hostel dormitories. I personally, am comfy in a dorm: 4 beds, 6 beds, 10, or 12 or so. However I am a world class snorer and have slowly realised that others are less happy about my presence in dorms. Now I book rooms. When tramping, I’m the poor schmuck that needs to sleep in the kitchen at trail huts lest I disturb the bunkhouses.

Anyway, back to cruising. On a boat. I’ve been on a cruise. Once. Many years ago. 2003 or thereabouts. In China. Down the Yangtze River. 2 days. Only 2 days. I think that was pre-flickr or pre-my-digital-photo-stuff…I really must digitise those photos one day. Perhaps when I’m old and bored and decrepit. By the way, I strongly recommend going to China.The food. Oh gawd, the food! Fantastic! Variety and flavour and texture and taste. Oh my. I went with friends on an Intrepid trip and it was fab.  A guided tour yes but lots of public transport, not coaches, and hanging locally. For organised stuff, Intrepid has worked well. I later went to Borneo with Intrepid and those photos are online.

Cruising. It has been suggested that a cruise in Europe might be nice. It might be. For some things I like to think I’m young and sort of hip but even saying “young and hip” suggests a certain age. Others use different phrases. Others. Yet, I’m coming around…Viking has been suggested and I have read bits about Viking and they sound sort of what I’d like. No night clubs but a late bar just in case. Decent food. They handle my usual breakfast. A more intellectual approach…maybe not, it was sounding good until that point :) It is unclear what whiskies they have on board, or craft beers for that matter…I figure I can probably pick up a nice whisky or three duty free. I dunno yet whether Intrepid do cruising but that’s a google away.

Hmmm…a different direction indeed.

 

techie librarian; meatier than a seahorse

 

Tag lines…whatever do you use for your tagline: the subheading of your identity, the punchline by which people establish a connection. Mostly I pay them lip service, smiling occasionally at a clever one. My own tend to refer to variations of: techie, librarian and eclectic, sometimes all 3 at once.

In a rather wayward conversation, spinning down a rabbit hole of curiousity, as things are wont to do when Matt Finch is involved, a recent conversation turned from roasting penguins to eating seahorses.

I participated in a workshop as part of NLS8 and the first activity was for everyone to sketch a scene, in 90 seconds, on a piece of A4 using at least one of three figures on a screen: 2 humans (or human-like) and a penguin. As is my wont, I immediately gave into the dark side and sketched the two humans roasting the penguin. The second half of the activity was for each table to construct a cohesive story using those scenes as panel. They were two quick activities that worked really well as an icebreaker and got you thinking at how easy it was to come up with ideas under pressure.

The seahorses came later…or rather many years earlier:

to which I responded with my “meatier than seahorse” remark and commented elsewhere that while I have never eaten penguin, I have actually eaten seahorse.

Many years ago, 2003 I think (really must upload those photos to flickr), I spent a few weeks on an Intrepid trip in China with friends. We started in Beijing and went to the Beijing night markets, a place where you can eat just about anything including silk worms and even scorpions on a stick. Scorpions were a wee a but scary but we figured had to be ok as noone was dropping dead. As far as we can figure, they’re bred without their stinger.

While trying to order something else, there was a language issue, and I ended up with seahorse on a stick. I think the scorpions were about 20 cents for five whereas the seahorse was a few Oz dollars for one. Our tour guide tried to talk our way out of it but the shopowner insisted. So I paid for it and ate it. There wasn’t much flavour as it was primarily shell with perhaps a tiny morsel of meat.

Matt suggested “meatier than a seahorse” as a bio and it immediately rang the right sort of bells, both physically and metaphorically. I am now using it for all my taglines :-)

documenting snails

I’ve been using the nick of “snail” for a bloody long time now, at least 25 years or so and this year may even be the 30th. My memory of those times is rather hazy but 1987 was my first year of uni and the year I found usenet which became a home of sorts for many years to come. That means I have been calling myself “snail” for around three decades. Now that is scary.

My original life plan had been to go to uni and study computer science for 3 years, graduate, work for  a couple of years then spend a couple of years travelling the world. I did all those things but the timeline was much, much longer. I didn’t officially graduate in compsci though I did complete all 3 years and ended up with a BA with a double major in Philosophy and History & Philosophy of Science. Followed by a Master of Information Management (Librarianship) to celebrate my 10th year, or so, of uni :)

Somewhere along the way, I started collecting snails.

plush snail

I think it was in 1999 when I finally made it overseas for the first time. Not quite a 2 year trip as I originally planned but a decent 4 months at least and made it to the US and Europe. I spent quite a bit of time in London on that first trip and may have overused my sister’s generosity in letting me stay at her place as she’d been living in London for some years. I spent most days out exploring and I happened into a manchester shop as you do. I still vaguely recall that shop and the bin of stuffed toys downstairs. In that bin was this snail and I think it was only a few quid and I had to have it. So I bought it and it has been with me ever since. It normally resides on the bookcase beside my bed. That was my first snail.

For some years now, I’ve been wanting to document all my snails, as I think I have close to 40 now. I’ve taken photos of most of them with a few to go. I used to have an actual, rocking horse snail ie a real rocking snail for toddlers. However it felt a wee bit weird as I don’t have kids myself. Plus it was fairly large and I never did find the right spot for it. Ultimately, when my cousin had a baby, I gave it to them and they assure me their daughter loves it.