Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Review: Aethelstan by Sarah Foot

Aethelstan: The First King of England
Aethelstan: The First King of England by Sarah Foot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Sarah Foot's Aethelstan is one of the few biographies written about the life of the West Saxon king, Aethelstan. The book covers every aspect of his life: Lineage, upbringing, travels, royal expenses, his Court, his private life and religious devotion (Aethelstan never married), and his success as a king who would rule all of England.

However, the mistake I made in reading this book, was that I chose to read it immediately following Neil Oliver's brilliant A History of Ancient Britain. I found myself constantly comparing how different the two were in the way they'd been written. Foot's biography, whilst containing a hefty amount of information, just isn't presented in a particularly interesting way. It feels hefty, daunting and, at times, completely overwhelming. It isn't free-flowing and it feels very academic.

I would not recommend this to anyone but the most ardent history-nerd who harbours a special interest in this particular era.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

LetterMo 2014: Let's do this!

Since I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, this year I have decided to take part in LetterMo

LetterMo began in 2010 and takes place in February each year. A participant is required to send a piece of mail on every day the post runs. As Australia Post operates Monday to Friday (we do not have weekend delivery in Australia), this equates to 20 post days, and therefore 20 pieces of mail. 

If you read this blog, you would have noticed that I am somewhat partial to letter writing. I thought LetterMo might be a good opportunity for me to send some snail mail to those people with whom I would normally either text, email or Facebook (and let's be honest: I hate all those things).
But, alas! I am also a slave to the wage, and during the week I simply do not have the time and/or energy to write a full-length letter (and for me, a full-length letter can be pretty darn long). So, I have decided to incorporate postcards into the challenge. On the days that I work, I will send a postcard to someone. On the days I am at home, I will send letters. I know this is the ONLY way I am going to send something every day.

Postcrossing cards will not be included. Since I send these out every week anyway, including them would kind of feel like cheating.

At the end of the month of February, I will share with you my success - or failure, whichever it may prove to be!

If you'd like to have a crack at the LetterMo challenge too, you can find out more information here.
But HURRY! It starts next week!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Place of Stone: Kanyaka Station

It was the Australia Day long weekend this weekend, which meant that we had a little bit of extra time up our sleeves to get out and about, and do a bit of investigating.
Yesterday we ventured out to the old Kanyaka sheep station between Quorn and Hawker, to have a look around, take the Bailey-dog for a walk (and a sniff!), and snap some photographs.
I find Kanyaka a particularly interesting location due to its rapid expanse in the mid-1800s, with 40,000 sheep being shorn at the woolshed in 1864 alone. But, the boom wasn't to last, and drought immediately followed with the loss of at least 20,000 sheep over three years. The isolation and the harsh conditions meant that eventually, Kanyaka had been to be abandoned, and its buildings left to ruin.
Their stone skeletons, however, remain.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Postcrossing Adventure: Week 11

Week 11
// outgoing:

Subconsciously, I must be craving the ocean, since I sent TWO postcards this week, both featuring the beach. It's understandable. It has been very hot here, afterall!
I sent kangaroos beside the seaside to the Netherlands (AU-331943), and one of my own photographs of Talia Beach on the Eyre Peninsula (which I had printed as postcards) to Taiwan (AU-331944).

// incoming:

The manner in which the Postcrossing cards appear in my letterbox is a mystery to me. I understand the concept (send a card to stranger, get a card from a stranger in return), but I seem to always have more cards received than what I have sent, or even pending to be registered. I have to trust that Postcrossing has it right, and I'm certainly not complaining as this week I received another EIGHT cards: Two from the USA (US-2571621 and US-2571673), two from the Netherlands (NL-2272922 and NL-2277681), and one each a piece from Finland (FI-1978209), Germany (DE-2810503), China (CN-1179908), and Russia (RU-2306764).
My favourite note this week came from Seren in the USA, who wrote:
"I'm an avid letter writer and mail artist living in Columbus, Ohio, USA. I've been a Postcrosser for over 8 years and I love it. I really enjoy mail. Having a full mailbox is like going to a great party full of really interesting people. I get Postcrossing cards of course, but I also get a lot of art from my 'friends'...People I've never met other than via mail."
Postcrossing postcards sent to date: 25
All time: 85
Postcrossing postcards received to date: 33
All time: 95

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: A History of Ancient Britain by Neil Oliver

A History of Ancient BritainA History of Ancient Britain by Neil Oliver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is something completely enchanting about Neil Oliver. Whether it is watching him weave his magic on the television, or reading his books, his passion for his subject is paramount. His enthusiasm is contagious. His knowledge utterly enviable.
He is a fascinating story-teller of tales that are true.

As the written version of the BBC's documentary series of the same name, A History of Ancient Britain is certainly no exception. Although it is quite lengthy and absolutely packed full of information, it doesn't feel "bogged down" in detail. A History of Ancient Britain is perfectly fluid, and easy to read and understand. It takes its reader back to the earliest pre-history, when humankind first stepped foot on the British Isles and made it their home, and then traces the evidence of their presence, customs and beliefs right through to the end of Roman occupation.

It is a mind-boggling and truly awe-inspiring journey.



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Summer Surprises (in the garden)

[Where the lawn used to be!]
Oh! It has been so HOT!
We've just come out of a heatwave that lasted over a week and saw temperatures nearing the 50 degrees Celsius mark (that's 122 degrees Fahrenheit) just about every day. We spent the entire week inside, in the dark, with the air conditioning on. The temperature wouldn't fall below 35*C at night, so to stay cool and to limit our electricity use, we camped in the living room, ran the air con on low at a very comfortable 24*C, and shut out the rest of the house.
That's another good thing about these old stone buildings: They're not open-plan, as is so popular with modern design, so there aren't large, open spaces that require a lot of energy use to keep cool.
The garden has suffered a little, as is to be expected. I only water the lawn once a week, just to keep it alive (but not thriving). However, the rest of the garden has not suffered as much as it has in previous years thanks to some well-timed pruning and a heap of Lucerne hay as mulch.
In early December I cut back the hardy Hardenbergia to the point where it was nothing more than a twiggy vine. It is now bursting with new growth! It certainly doesn't seem to mind all the sunshine we are having, that's for sure.

There are other small surprises in the garden too, including bulbs in flower, sweet alyssum, and button daisies peeking through the mulch. The mulch has been a miracle worker: I only water every few days, and yet the ground stays moist. I have used other kinds of mulch in the past (pine bark, and pea-straw), but Lucerne hay is proving to be the most effective. I would recommend it to any gardener, especially those living in dry, hot climates.
It is always nice to find plants thriving and in bloom, but even more so on a day that is 50*C.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Postcrossing Adventure: Weeks 9 & 10

I am back! I can't believe it has been a fortnight already since my last post. We were without internet at home for around ten days, and I was quite surprised by how reliant I have become on the World Wide Web when I just didn't have it.
Having said that, though, we are now back online, and a whole lot faster than before. Our previous internet connection was so slow it made blogging quite a challenge. Now that we have catapulted ourselves into 2014 with 2014 internet speeds, the blog posts should be a little more forthcoming.
But right now, I need to show you my Postcrossing outgoing and incoming for the past two weeks...
Week 9
// outgoing:
Finally, the postcards I sent in December have arrived at their destinations and been registered by their recipients, which means I have a bit more flexibility in the number of cards I could send out this week. So as to not overdo it, I limited myself to two cards, and sent a postcard that I picked up on our recent trip to Sydney to China (AU-330087), and some adorable Australorp chickens (I really want some as pets) I have sent to Belarus (AU-330088).

// incoming:

Postcards finally started coming in again by the end of week 9. I received four cards: 2 funky ad cards from Singapore (SG-126947 and SG-126951 - from the same person, no less!), a card featuring art by Paul Gauguin from Germany (DE-2777596), and a temple from Taiwan (TW-1123767).
Week 10
// outgoing:

This week my recipients asked for tourist cards and cards that are meaningful, so I sent some golden reflections over Balcanoona Creek here in the Flinders Ranges to Germany (AU-331757), whilst the legendary Mr Eddie "Koiki" Mabo has been sent to Russia (AU-331758).

// incoming:

I was absolutely floored when EIGHT cards arrived over the course of this week, and from a fantastic selection of countries to boot.
From Thailand I received the Penguin Classic A History of the Countryside (TH-156017), and a temple in Sukhothai (TH-156015); a colourful landscape (JP-484855), and an illustration (JP-484863) arrived from Japan; an interesting abstract card came from South Korea (KR-85776); a lovely handmade card was sent to me from Germany (DE-2777079); a totally non-scary anime demon girl was sent to me from the Netherlands (NL-2266664); and a stunning landscape card arrived from China (CN-1171321).
This week my favourite message came from Alina in Germany, who wrote:
"I'm 19 years old and I live near Germany's oldest town Trier. Trier has many World Heritage Sites! I'm a student at a highschool for design and media engineering. In my free-time I enjoy reading, baking and creating Mail Art. Like you, I'm a vegetarian. I've lived on that diet for about 14 years because I love and respect animals. Since November I've been living a vegan diet. It works very well for me and I'll continue doing it. I've read your blog with great joy. I loved everything about it! My cat Eddie lived with my family for almost 10 years. 4 days ago he died due to cancer. It broke my heart and I miss him so much already. I hope he's fine wherever he might be now."
[Here's to Eddie and all those wonderful animals that come into our lives and complete them!]
Postcrossing postcards sent to date: 23
All time: 83
Postcrossing postcards received to date: 25
All time: 87

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Postcrossing Adventure: Weeks 7 & 8

Week 7
// outgoing:
I sent out another TWO cards in Week 7: A Holden panel-van has gone off to Finland (AU-327775), whilst an Australovenator (kind of like a T-Rex, but Australian) named Banjo is for school children in the Czech Republic (AU-327776).
I received no cards.

Week 8
// outgoing:

Just the single card this week: Australian soldiers from the 4th Australian Light Horse (Battle of Beersheba 1917 - joint stamp issue with Israel) is on its way to the USA (AU-328469).
No further Postcrossing cards were received this week either.

Postcrossing postcards sent to date: 19
All time: 78
Postcrossing postcards received to date: 13
All time: 75