writing

I was good at creative writing as a child, love to craft stories of imagination. All through to the end of year 10, fiction was my favourite form of writing.

Final years of school was analysis and essays; critiques and opinions, arguments and assertion…or perhaps the other way round.

Fiction only existed in its ability to be ripped apart. Not built. Not constructed.

I keep meaning to return. I’m 50 now and still haven’t made it.

My writing is mostly reports, briefing papers, dodgy blogging. Creative outlets remain clogged. How did I write what I used to write?

Do I need a starting sentence, a topic, a thought? I am not good at beginning on an empty page.

I do not make time to sit, to write.

I am easily distracted, shiny things, anything.

Perhaps I need structure. I tend to live in the structure of others…it is still that I define myself, find myself, see myself in the company that I like to keep. Where I am, who I’m with, the things around; that is where I seek definition.

I internalise too many things and find it hard to engage with the world, to open up. Too much time alone, yet at times not enough.

So many contradictions in who I am. How I see myself now can be at odds with how I saw myself yesterday and how I will see myself tomorrow.

Moments I am bursting with ideas, others naught but self absorption. The balance is too often out.

All the things, all the time, all the places.

a few fillums

It’s cold and wet in Sydney which means it must be time for the Sydney film fest. Not sure how many movies I’m seeing this year though starting tonight with a thriller from Michael Winterbottom, The Wedding Guest.

A couple of weeks ago, we went through the programme working out what movies we wanted to see. That was the easy bit. The hard bit was going through the schedule and choosing amongst all the timetable clashes to emerge eventually with a list of films and tickets.

Then the other day, filmfest announced a few more films that were at Cannes including a new flick from Ken Loach. Alas I can’t squeeze it in as I’m already seeing other films at either of the two screening times including a Russian splatter-fest. The Loach at least, should get a release later in the year so I can stick to the splatter this time round.

Splatter and me are sorta weird. I’m not fond of horror and feel faint and queasy at the sight of realistic depictions of surgery and wounds. Somehow I can handle splatter and zombies and even love them. Speaking of zombies, Jim Jarmusch has a zombie movie in fest but alas I couldn’t line up a screening so will wait for its commercial release.

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.

june again…

Here we are in June once more; someone putting out the #blogjune call. Some years I do, some years I don’t. Some days matter and some don’t.

For now I shall relax and look forward to a day of wine tastings. Popped into a couple of nice wineries yesterday, Ernest Hill and the Tinkler family vineyards, buying a few bottles at each.

Also trying out the app version of wordpress for quick blogs on the move. May be ok, may not.

one book short

Many years ago, I used to read wine reviews in the SMH authored by Huon Hooke and liked his approach: a mixture of info and chatty. From there I ended up buying the Penguin Wine Guide which was co-authored by Hooke and Mark Shields at the time. I blogged some years ago…ok, nearly a decade back, about collecting the Guides. In that post, I commented on visiting Berkelouw’s Book Barn in Berrima and managing to pick up a guide or two. Alas my last trip wasn’t so lucky and it’s been many years since I last saw a Penguin Wine Guide I didn’t have.

Cover of 1993-94 Penguin Wine GuideThere are 22 editions in the series that I’m aware of with three published in the time since that initial post in 2010 bring my total collection to 20. I have used sites such as abebooks for tracking down other collectable titles, yet oddly never thought to search for the remaining wine guides. Popped them into the search box and found the 1993-94 edition in Germany of all places. I think postage was more than the book on that one and it arrived a couple of weeks later.

As far as I can tell I have but one remaining, the first in the series: 1990. I wasn’t sure if it existed and online searches didn’t bring up a great deal. Nor did I have the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) which would have narrowed it down. Following a few searches I discovered that the State Library of NSW had 14 of them, thankfully including the 1990 edition. I was able, as a member of the Library, to request the 1990 edition for viewing. I figured this would confirm that it actually existed and I could take a photo of the bibliographic data to improve my chances of finding my own copy.

Shortly before it arrived, I remembered another tool, that any member of the State Library has access to: Books in Print. Using that tool I was able to confirm that the ISBN was 0140146261 which made it easier to find as each edition has its own ISBN. This was confirmed when I got to view the actual book and take photos of the front cover and bibliographic data. No luck finding it so far though I did have a near miss recently. It popped up on amazon via a third party reseller but didn’t appear on the reseller’s own website. Plus the reseller’s amazon account wouldn’t deliver to Oz even though the reseller itself did. I asked a good friend in the UK to take delivery and I figured I had plenty of time as no one would want such an old edition. Unfortunately it has disappeared in the last day or so and I sorta suspect/hope that it may have been an erroneous entry.

Wine Guide Bibliographic data

I shall continue to look out for it in secondhand bookshops and perhaps set up some alerts online. On the other hand, I’m pretty happy that I’m only one short :-) I remain amused by the date expressions on each edition:

Cover of 1990 Penguin Wine Guide1991
1992-93
1993-94
1994-95
1995-96
1996-97
1997-98
98|99
1999|2000
2000-2001
2001-2
2002/3
2003/2004
2004/2005
2005|2006
2007
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013

reading stuff

My reading is going gangbusters. I am constantly reading and finishing books at a decent rate. A chunk of this is a certain mindfulness – ensuring that I make time to read rather than reading incidentally. The latter method tended to result in less novels and a tendency to casual dipping: twitter, facebook, newspapers, and various tech and gaming feeds. These days I check feeds occasionally, a few not a lot, less newspaper reading but still up to date with facebook and twitter.

Reading books. Lots. This week there was a Readers’ Advisory Seminar for librarians with a focus on SF, how could I say no. Actually I did originally but it was suggested I should attend at least for the first paper on ebook lending. I managed to get in at the last minute and that talk was good though more related to public library models for ebooks.

The second talk was for an Australian author I’d never heard of by the name of Daniel O’Malley. Turns out he won the Aurealis Award for his first novel, The Rook in 2012, and he’d since written a sequel, Stiletto. I thought I should have a look and try to read the first prior to his talk, was completely sucked in and had read both by last week. The first book has been turned into a TV series and I gather will screen on Stan later this year. He’s almost finished the third book in the series and I’m hoping that comes out this year too. He was also an excellent speaker: witty, friendly, self-deprecating, and engaging. Rather than being a talk about himself and his books, it was as much about the genre and genre generally, a liberal sprinkling of other interesting books to read; ideas aplenty.

I am slowly learning that I don’t need to finish books. This is harder than it sounds. It is a struggle. A book may not click for me, or I may find it dull, or it’s not quite to my taste. I can have several books on the go at once but if I hit a roadblock on one, they all come to a grinding halt; stuck in limbo. I will be stuck in that space for weeks and months. Finally I will either finish the problematic book or give it up; suddenly I am reading ferociously once more. I am increasingly mindful of the need to give up quickly and move on. So far it is working and I am reading so much more and the flow from book to book has less obstructions.

Malazan. Oh Malazan. The initial series written by Steven Erikson was a 10 book series: challenging: riveting, fantastic. Some of the best stuff I’ve read. I have read that series twice. The world on which it was built was a joint creation between Erikson and his mate, Ian Cameron Esslemont. Erikson published first with Esslemont crafting stories later. I have been collecting them all in nice editions from Subterranean Press in the US and PS Publishing in the UK: fancy printings, signed by the authors. I have read all the Erikson stuff but never quite got round to trying the Esslemont stuff so I’ve been buying nice editions of books by an author I was yet to read. I am unsure whether it’s due to a new author or trepidation about returning to Malazan which requires a lot of attention and careful, precise reading.

Esslement’s first Malazan novel is Night of Knives and at 280 odd pages is almost a novella by Malazan standards. I started it a couple of days ago and now, I’m two thirds through. Love being back in the world again. I am already looking forward to reading the next book, though Esslemont’s later titles are more substantial and some have been printed in double volume slipcases. I am looking forward to being lost once again, in Malazan.