John Adams.

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A couple of weeks ago I began watching the HBO mini-series “John Adams”. I am not American so my knowledge of American history, of that era, is basic. I knew George Washington was the first President of America and that Thomas Jefferson wrote some of the Declaration of Independence. In all honesty I knew nothing about John Adams. If I’d been asked in a quiz who the second President of America was, I wouldn’t have had a clue. I really enjoyed the mini-series and am glad that I watched it. It was absolutely interesting for me. His friendship with Thomas Jefferson was amazing, given that they often had opposing views, and when Jefferson became President, they never saw each other again, although they did reconcile when they began writing to each other in their later years. Coincidentally or not, depending on how you want to look at it, they died within four hours of each other on the 4th of July, 1826, on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Both men apparently asked, shortly before they died, is it July the 4th? I found that quite touching – how can it not be? Both men lived well into old age, Adams was 91 and Jefferson 83, if I remember correctly. Most people then, died before they were 60, so the two certainly defied the odds of their era. What I enjoyed learning about John Adams was that he was well aware of his weaknesses. When asked to write the Declaration of Independence, he refused, because he knew he would have overcomplicated it and been too opinionated. Instead, he persuaded Thomas Jefferson to do so and through Thomas Jefferson we have “All men are created equal”. Yes, he was a slave owner, but we have to look at the man in the context of the times he lived in – and the area of America he was born and died in. This is my opinion and it’s not my place to judge or condemn him. Slavery was wrong, but it happened. It’s history and we need to keep history alive and not try and get rid of it, because we don’t like what happened 200 years ago. We need to not repeat past mistakes, but unfortunately as humans we often seem to be incapable of that. It’s a very good watch, great acting and if you enjoy history but don’t know much about American history, John Adams is a good place to start. I found a Kindle book – The Letters of John and Abigail Adams, so I am going to get stuck into that. Adams was devoted to his wife Abigail and they had, from all accounts, a long and faithful marriage. When John was in France, he was there for a reason, it was for his country, and where other men might have had an affair or even a few, he did not. He was aware of his weaknesses, but being faithful to his wife was certainly not one of them. An amazing man indeed and a really good mini-series


Every Breath.

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I have watched just about all of the movies based on Nicholas Spark’s novels, but I have never read any of his novels. I chose Every Breath to read, simply because “Tru”, the man that Hope falls in love with is from Zimbabwe – and I was born and grew up in Zimbabwe. Yes, that’s why. I don’t think there are many mainstream Western authors who have written about Zimbabwe, so I enjoyed reading this novel about a man from Zimbabwe who falls in love with an American woman. I think the first movie based on one of his books was Message in a Bottle, and the movie reminds me a little of Every Breath. Just a little. The story is a bittersweet love story, as many of Nicholas Spark’s stories are. It was a sad read, with some romance, but life, let’s face it, is not always “happily ever after”. Life is made of good parts and sad/hard parts between the time we are born and the time we die. Some people have it sadder and harder than others. If you want to read a novel that is lighter and happier than this, simply for escapism, this is probably not quite the novel to read. Still, it is a novel about life and life is not always easy or how we’d like it to be and as I said initially, I chose to read it because part of the novel was about Zimbabwe. Probably a 7/10.


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I began reading this book at the beginning of January and have finally finished it.

Not because I was struggling with it, but because January was a busy and stressful month with a husband in hospital for two weeks and then a few days after he’d gotten home, he fell down the stairs, suffering a concussion, a badly bruised eye, where his head hit the landing. Luckily he didn’t suffer any other injuries, but he obviously put out his hands to try and stop the fall, so his wrists have been sore, and his one knee is also sore, a knee that got broken in a motorcycle crash nearly 30 years ago. In South Africa we have planned power outages, which we call load shedding. All I am going to say is that these power outages are the result of our Government’s incompetence. The power cuts aren’t always set in stone and that Sunday night I hadn’t checked the schedule as we hadn’t had any cuts over the weekend, but at 10 pm, the power and lights went off, just as my husband was walking into the bedroom next to the stairs. He took a couple of steps extra and down he went. That was just over two weeks ago. He is certainly better than he was in the first few days after the fall and as I mentioned, fortunately he didn’t suffer a more serious injury. So,this weekend just gone past, we had a good weekend, mostly relaxing.

I finally finished Beartown. It was written well, about a small town that lives for Ice Hockey and what happens when and after the star of the team does something awful. Are there towns really like this, with similar people? I’d say yes. I grew up in a small town, not in America though. The town I grew up in wasn’t defined by a particular sport, but it had it’s cliques for sure. The farmers, the “townies”, the church goers, the club goers/drinkers. There were the popular kids at school and the the less popular. Fortunately I grew up in the 80s before the internet and social media, but being a teenager is tough, whether you popular or not. We all have our challenges and unfortunately and sadly, some people do have it harder than others. I got drawn into their lives, especially towards the end and now I have started the next book in the series, Us Against You. Hopefully I won’t take six weeks to finish this one!

Beach House For Rent

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I had been wanting to read this book by Mary Alice Monroe for a couple of years at least, but was unable to purchase it on kindle. For reasons I don’t know exactly why, if you live in a certain country, you may not be able to purchase certain kindle books. For whatever reason I was able to purchase the first book in this series, The Beach House, on kindle and the next two, but the fourth one I was unable to. I looked for the book in a couple of bookshops, but Mary Alice Monroe does not seem to be stocked up on South African bookshop shelves, at least not where I live. Finally last year, before Christmas I ordered the physical book.

I had quite enjoyed The Beach House and I never knew much about sea turtles until I read Beach House, as I have never lived near the ocean. I grew up in a landlocked country. Sure, I knew about the likes of dolphins but sea turtles? Nope. Anyway, it’s chick lit reading for the most part, with the back drop of turtle conservation. It’s set on The Isle of Palms an Island in the outer banks of South Carolina and is about a daughter who returns to her Mother’s beach house after many years away, and it’s about how she reconnects with her mother and island life. So, I eventually got around to reading and finishing Beach House for Rent. Much like The Beach House it’s easy reading, and I enjoyed it.

I haven’t read many books this year. I’ve just been distracted, these last few months especially, but such is life.

Hopefully the second half of this year will be better and I’ll get over my reading slump.

Weekend Watches.

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When my husband and I moved nearly three years ago, in order to be able to afford the increased rent of our new home, I had to cut down on some subscriptions like Discovery Vitality – an awards subscription which encouraged you to get fit and eat healthy, so if you ran lots, you logged in your miles using your fit bit or whatever you used, and you got movie vouchers, cappuccino vouchers, air ticket vouchers etc and if you got to the highest level your rewards were good. I also cancelled my cell phone subscription and my premium tv package. So, I have not watched TV for nearly three years. Which I have no problem with. I have Netflix on the one device package and I keep current with the news from You Tube and the internet. I guess I do miss some of the sports on the premium tv package, like tennis, rugby, cricket and cycling, but I can get commentary for example, on rugby, on You Tube.

During the last two years of course there hasn’t been much South African rugby, because of a certain pandemic, so it’s good to see it going again. There’s no more of the “Super Rugby championship” with New Zealand and Australia and now the South African teams are playing in the United Rugby Championship against mostly UK teams and an Italian team I think. Yesterday evening I listened to commentary on the Sharks vs Leinster game in Durban and being a Sharks fan was happy they won. I follow rugby commentary on Rugby Ascendant https://www.youtube.com/channhttps://www.youtube.com/c/ForeverSports/videos – Chris Wyatt is a retired US army colonel who is a rugby fan and covers rugby games from around the the world. For a South African perspective I occasionally watch https://www.youtube.com/c/ForeverSports/videos.

Chris Wyatt also has a channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/ChrisWyattAfrica and he covers world news with a focus on African, particularly Southern African news. He’s definitely worth checking out and I enjoy watching his livestreams when I can, to keep up to date with current affairs.

I also watched “The Engineers who died to keep the Titanic’s lights on, on You Tube, on the Timeline – World History Documentaries channel. This film was about the engineers, firemen and boiler men of the doomed ship. It was interesting and these men were the unsung heroes of that night, doing their best to keep the Titanic afloat for as long as possible, to save as many lives as possible. There was very little of the glamour and romanticism that James Cameron’s Titanic portrayed and certainly shovelling coal was from glamorous. We hear of all the famous characters most of the time, but do we remember the names of those men? Hard working class men, earning little and doing what they had to in life to make a living. Worse maritime disasters have happened since, but there’s something about The Titanic that has kept the story of it alive for so long.

Travel Light, Move Fast – Alexandra Fuller.

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In the years following the late President Robert Mugabe’s disastrous land reform program which began in 2000, I have read many Zimbabwean memoirs and a few Zim novels. I was born in Zimbabwe and my parents were living in the country when the “land reform” began, and even though I don’t live there anymore, and haven’t been back there since my Dad died, well over ten years ago, the country is still close to my heart? “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight” was Alexandra Fuller’s first book, published in 2001 about her childhood in then Rhodesia, during the war years during the 70’s and after 1980 in a newly independent Zimbabwe, free from white minority rule. Born in England, her parents moved to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1972, which is where she then grew up. After 1980 her parents moved to Zambia where they finally settled down.

Travel Light, like her first memoir, is all about raw honesty when it comes to her personal life and her family’s dysfunction. I think she is quite brave to write about herself and her family the way she does. That she loves Africa is very evident, but her home is now in Wyoming, the home state of her ex husband, who she met in Zambia while he was running a white river rafting business. Travel Light is about her father’s death in Budapest (the poor man’s Paris), while he and her mother were on holiday there, because they couldn’t quite afford a Paris holiday. Rushing to Budapest, she spends ten days there, with her mother, and by her father’s bedside in hospital, before he passes away, succumbing to pneumonia. Back in Zambia, Fuller, her mother and sister grieve for a husband and father, and come to terms with the shifting dynamics in their relationships due to the passing of the patriarch of the family. It’s a good read, but I do feel that Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs was better.

Johnny Clegg

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The first month of 2022 is finished and it felt like it sped by. I have gotten some reading done though. Just before the end of last year I finished Footprints of the Lion, by Beverley Harper. It was a Wilbur Smith type of book, an African adventure set during the second Anglo – Boer War between 1899 – 1902. It is about a white family of British/European descent who have settled in South Africa, in Natal and of their trials and tribulations. They live on a farm, and get caught up in the war, fighting for the British. I enjoyed it well enough and it had a little of that fact meets fiction element when Winston Churchill is brought into the action as a young journalist and his now well known escape as a Boer prisoner of war, and who meets some of the characters in the book. There is mix of romance, family drama and war, so all in all, quite a good read.

A few days ago I finished Johnny Clegg’s memoir of his early years. Most South Africans, undoubtedly and regardless of their backgrounds know who Johnny Clegg is. He is a South African icon when it comes to music. Music that has the power to bridge the gap between South Africans of all races. I’ve always loved his music, but never knew much about his personal life and how he became such a great musician and singer. This book takes you into his journey growing up, in his own words, from a young boy, born to Jewish parents, becoming a teenager, discovering Zulu maskandi guitar music and his love of Zulu culture. It really is a book written from the heart and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I live in Pietermaritzburg, which is a city (that has seen better days) in Kwa – Zulu Natal and I have been to the Msinga area where his best friend is from, so when he describes his visits to his friend’s rural homestead, I can picture it in my mind and it is as African as Africa can be out there, away from the hustle and bustle of the towns and the city. If you want to learn about some of Zulu culture and life in the sixties for a teenager growing up in downtown Johannesburg and why Johnny Clegg chose the path in life he did, this book is well worth the read.

Towards the end of the book he writes and it really resonated with me, Africa is the cradle of humankind, after all, and it is the continent from where humans made their way north, south, east and west. There are many reasons for people to move from the place of their birth to another place. I think through my own personal and musical journey I tapped in to some these stories of displaced and uprooted wanderers, seekers, searchers and warriors and the “Scatterlings” lyrics reflected this:

Copper sun sinking low
Scatterlings and fugitives
Hooded eyes and weary brows
Seek refuge in the night
They are the scatterlings of Africa
Each uprooted one
On the road to Phelamanga
Where the world began
I love the scatterlings of Africa
Each and every one
In their hearts a burning hunger
Beneath the copper sun

Although I enjoy listening to Scatterlings of Africa, and the rest of his music with Juluka and Savuka, Spirit of The Great Heart is definitely my favorite.

Year end book buys and Netflix/You Tube watches.

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I have some serious reading to do in the coming months. I ordered some books online a couple of weeks ago – actual physical paper books. I got my first three today, and then I ordered some more. My year end gifts to myself. I also got a couple of books with my husband in mind. He doesn’t read fiction anymore, so the one book, which I won’t mention, in case he does happen to read this, is an autobiography and I will give that to him on Christmas Day. The second book, I will give to him now to read is The Last Rhinos by Lawrence Anthony. The third book I got myself to read is The Last Survivor by Tony Park. All South African themed books.

The books I ordered today are novels and not South African. Living in South Africa, I do enjoy South African and Zimbabwean books particularly, but I do also need to read other books from around the world be they fiction or non – fiction. So, the books ordered – 1) Don’t Tell the Bees that I’m gone by Diana Gabaldon, the latest in her series of Outlander books. 2 )Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe – I have been wanting to read this book for at least a couple of years, after reading The Beach House and really enjoying it. For whatever reason I cannot order Beach House for Rent, for kindle, because I am a South African amazon user, I guess there are other countries as well that are unable to do so. I think it’s silly, surely Amazon and especially the author would want to make their books more widely available around the world? 3) The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.

Netflix – I finally finished watching Vikings. I started watching it a few years ago, and then during the last few months I finished the last three seasons. It was often brutal and gory, but when it comes to downright brutality Game of Thrones wins hands down. Towards the end I really got into the characters, despite the brutal lot that they were, but they were products of their times, like we are ours. While I have been tapping away now, I’ve been watching Heartland, the Canadian TV series. It’s my chillout series. Scenic views of the Canadian mountains, forests and a horse ranch are good for the soul, and the stories are family themed and wholesome, which makes a break from the likes of Vikings! I did read the other day that a Viking Spinoff will be aired next year, so will be interesting to see if it’s as good as the original. As for Squid Games, I watched the first episode and don’t really think I am that interested in finishing it. Just wasn’t that taken with it. Occasionally I watch a You Tube movie if it looks interesting. Yesterday I watched Point Last Seen starring Linda Hamilton, based on the life of a woman called Hannah Nyala, who suffered from spousal physical abuse. It really got me teary at the end, but worth the watch.

So, happy weekend reading and watching, whatever you are doing.

Monday Book Musings.

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Yesterday afternoon I was tidying up my “study/office”, sorting out old journals and my ramblings from before the days of the internet and social media. I kept a notebook for several years from 1992, a record of the books I read. No reviews or any notes, just the books I’d read and the authors. Most were novels and a few books based on true stories. I haven’t looked at it for quite some time. I’ve read a lot of books and I certainly don’t remember every single book I’ve read, so it was interesting to look at the list of books that I’d read back then. Of course, there are “special” books that I haven’t forgotten, but many I have forgotten and when I look at the titles and authors of the books, nothing comes to mind.

In the 90’s I read a lot of Dean Koontz book and yes I read Eyes of Darkness, where apparently he “predicted” Covid19 (which he did not, some things are mere coincidence). I have started reading it again, to see what all the fuss was about, about the “prediction” and how it is woven into the story, which admittedly I cannot remember anything about. I really enjoyed his books back then, and preferred him over Stephen King, to be honest. Another author whose books I read quite a lot of was E.V. Thompson, who wrote historical novels, the ones I read were about Cornwall in the 1800’s and Cornish settlers to Southern Africa. I remember enjoying the books then, but (again) cannot remember much about them now.

So here are some of the books I remember –

Woman in the Mists – Farley Mowat, one of the few factual books I read back then, about Dian Fossey who lived for many years in the mountains of Rwanda studying the mountain gorillas and eventually forming close relationships with them, until her tragic murder in 1995.

April Fools Day by Bryce Courtenay, about his son who was a hemophiliac and got HIV through a blood transfusion, during the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 80’s.

I remember reading several Robin Cook novels, which were medical thrillers and books by Frank G. Slaughter who wrote medical dramas.

Of course being born in Zimbabwe and having lived most of my adult life in South Africa, Wilbur Smith books were always a favorite.

The Physician – Noah Gordon, a historical novel about “medicine” in the 11th century.

A few books by Minette Walters, an English author who writes murder mysteries.

Also some books by Joanna Trollope who writes family/relationship dramas for the most part.

Remembering those books takes me back to a different time in my life, when I was in my early 20’s, in the early 90’s, thinking about the choices I made, the things I did, mistakes I made and of all the expectations I had about my future. Now, here I am, in my late forties. There was no social media back then, no internet as we know it now, and because of that, I spent many a night in the nurses home where I was at the time, reading and getting lost in books. Now, because of the internet and social media, Netflix/streaming etc, there is so much more to distract us from reading books. I don’t read as much I did back then. I want to, but I don’t. That’s how it goes though, we go through different stages in life. Right now, I am trying to read more again, but then again I have had a couple of weeks off work, with one more to go, so I have had a little more spare time to read. We’ll see how it goes once I start work again.

Anyway, time to finish up, and go read. Once I’ve finished watching the first episode of the second season of The Morning Show starring Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon. I really got sucked into the first season, so let’s see how the second season goes. I finished watching Outlander season four and enjoyed it thoroughly, so will try and read the fifth book before I watch the fifth season.

Anyway, happy reading and watching.

Lazy Days

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On Tuesday I went to the Pietermaritzburg SPCA bookshop. Our two current dogs ( or fur kids, as my husband calls them) are from that particular SPCA, so it’s good to be able to support them. It’s the third or fourth time I have been to the SPCA bookshop in the six years we have moved out of the city center. When we lived in the city I would go to the Hospice bookshop to buy second hand books, but now compared to where we live, the Hospice bookshop is at the other end of the city, and not just a quick drive, it would probably take at least 20 minutes in peak traffic. I am really over the hustle and bustle of the city traffic and it’s often reckless motorists so as a result, I hardly go to the Hospice bookshop anymore, which is a pity, because that particular hospice is a lovely peaceful place, and I always enjoyed going there and browsing in their bookshop and thrift shops, knowing also that I was supporting a worthy cause. The SPCA is much closer to our current home than Hospice, so that is where I have gone in recent years when I want to buy “real” (paper) books since living on “this side of the tracks” so to speak. I have bought plenty of e books, mostly via Amazon, half of which I haven’t read to be honest – when I first started getting books on Amazon, buy as many free books as I could was quite a novelty! I’ve got a great selection and variety of e books, if a book sounds interesting, no matter the topic (for the most part) I will read it. Maybe we have too much choice in this day and age?

Despite the popularity of Kindle and other reading apps, there is something special about walking into a bookshop, especially a second hand bookshop, with that “old books” smell around you. In a book shop that sells unused/new books, (with their expensive prices, sadly) one might go into browse, but often one goes in with a particular book in mind. Fair enough, I know authors, publishers and commercial bookshops have to make a profit in order to make a living, but for people who are not high end earners, buying new books by current mainstream authors is most likely out of their reach. I enjoy Tony Park’s novels for example, an Australian author who writes Southern African adventure fiction. His new paperback versions are at least 200 Rands (about U.S$14) and on Amazon they are R50 ($3) cheaper. So when a person is counting their pennies, no doubt Amazon will be the recipient of their hard earned money and not “the bookshop in the mall”. So, unless there is a specific new book I want, and I want to actually have a paper book in my hands and turn it’s pages, I am more than content with second hand books. I love walking into second hand bookshops without any particular author or book in mind. It’s like hitting the jackpot or going on a treasure hunt, you never know what you are going to walk out with. Sometimes you walk out with a gem and that is why second hand books shops are just so special. Most of the books at the SPCA are around R15 – 20, about a dollar, which is a great bargain and one is supporting a worthy cause.

On Tuesday my haul was –

  1. The Valley – by Di Morressy
  2. Notes From a Big Country – Bill Bryson
  3. Where the heart is – Billie Letts
  4. What Dawid knew – Patricia Glyn
  5. The Triumph of the Sun – Wilbur Smith

1) I have occasionally seen Di Morrissey books advertised on amazon. She is an Australian author and The Valley is a fictional book which appears to be a family drama set through several generations, and it looked interesting.

2) No doubt most travel readers will know who Bill Bryson, and his humorous ramblings. I have read several of his books and watched A Walk in the Woods, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, so it should be a fun read. I have started the book and am already enjoying it.

3) Where the Heart Is, from the cover has the Oprah’s Book Club stamp of approval on it. Sure, it caught my because of Oprah, but the story sounded interesting, so I thought I’d give it a try.

4) Patricia Glyn is a former South African TV and radio presenter and she has written several books as well, and this book is about experiences and travelling/documenting the life of an old Kalahari bushman. I read one of her previous books called Off Peak, where she travelled with a South African expedition to climb Mount Everest. I went through a bit of a Everest book binge about 5 years ago and enjoyed Off Peak, so I am sure I will enjoy this book.

5) Anyone who reads historical South African fiction will surely know Wilbur Smith. He has written 30 books since 1964, but since 2015 he has co authored 9 novels, and written an autobiography. At 88, obviously by co authoring, he is obviously giving younger authors a chance at writing for a well known, well published author and keeping alive his African sagas. I have read most of his early books, and one of his co authored books and enjoyed them, so look forward to this one, published in 2005.

While I’ve been sitting here at my desk, tapping away, I’ve been watching series four of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. I ‘ve read the first four books in the series and the tv series has not disappointed me at all. So, I will need to read book no 5 before the new series comes out on Netflix (South Africa). I would rather read the 5th book first, before watching the 5th series.

Anyway, for everyone who has taken the time to read this, thank you and hope you all have a good reading or watching weekend, wherever in the world you may be.

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