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Saturday 20 March 2010


The Curve-billed Thrasher sits on the back wall just above the compost heap singing the strangest song as he watches out for grubs and lizards. The American Robin hops about in the yard rooting for insects on the ground before he heads back to the mountains for the summer. And the splendid Sandia Mountains are a continually changing backdrop from sunrise to sundown.

I saw a roadrunner yesterday. He was speed walking around the car park. When he stopped to look around and sniff the air, his long tail lifted up high like an antennae, and as he started zooming around the place again, the tail dropped down anchoring him to the ground.

How can I read a book when there’s so much to see from the car window and the back yard teams with all kinds of life that I never see at home?

I brought six books for my sojourn abroad for all the good it did me. One, I read on the journey to keep me from dying of boredom (it did little more); another I started but left on the table where Alice picked it up and is now engrossed in a yarn that didn’t do it for me. The rest are still in my bag and that is where they’re going to stay for the duration.

Yesterday, my sister packed the car with bits and bobs to take to the Goodwill in an effort to cut down on the inevitable clutter that seems to multiply and grow like weeds in the garden. We helped carry the bags in for which she received a receipt (giving is tax deductable, helping both the community and her pocket) and then walked around the front where we proceeded to buy the equivalent amount to take back home with us. We had great fun perusing the aisles of dresses, tops, trousers, coats, hats, shoes along with shelves crammed full of household goods, toys, bric-à-brac, and books galore. Eventually, I decided on a Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities, I’ve been meaning to read since forever. I also found Harlequin by Morris West, written in 1974 and set in the tough world of international finance; it has lost none of its relevance seeing as how us mere mortals continually repeat our past mistakes. I couldn’t resist a copy of American Wholefoods Cuisine by Nikki & David Goldbeck to give me some inspiration in the kitchen. All in all I spent $2.97!

There are over 2,300 Goodwill donation locations throughout North America that help fund job training programs, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges. The other side of the coin is that for a fraction of the cost, people on a budget can dress their families and fit out their homes without breaking the bank.

As we made our way back to the car, loaded down with bargains, laughing ourselves silly, a roadrunner dashed about in front of us, tail up, tail down, lost in a world of his own. And back home, the Curve-billed Thrasher was still warbling away while we put the kettle on for yet another pot of tea.

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Friday 12 February 2010

Blooming holidays!

You’ve decided where to go, booked flights, organised hotels, packed and weighed your bags, sent the cat to longsuffering relatives, persuaded the dog to take up residence in a home with bars across the windows, and all you have to do is make sure you have something decent to read. Simple? No, definitely not!

To Pisa, Italy, I brought three books: one was ok, the second was awful, and the third I had read before (a ghastly mistake) so I set off for the largest bookstore in town. The English section comprised two sets of shelving in which Charles Dickens and Dan Brown featured among the usual chick-lit and dross of the lowest order; I chose the former and spent the remainder of my holiday with Hard Times tucked under my oxter (not a bad choice as it turned out. I can now visualise Miss Haversham at the table of her wedding feast and the genial Pip as he grew up with a cast of the strangest characters). Note to self: plan better next time.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, with five books in tow, none of which I could read on the flight as I was seated next to Bill for the long haul with whom I talked non-stop, laughed, watched the same movie, and left in Chicago with a nod of regret. No sooner landed than I headed for Borders that was full of luscious temptation that I didn’t resist; next was Barnes & Noble, another house of sin for the likes of me. More books to read but still I didn’t manage a single page due to (a) the time difference that had me in bed by eight; (b) so many relatives dying to catch up on old times; (c) the view from the back garden of humming birds flitting around the feeding table; (d) the wonderful dry heat that did me a power of good. I eventually managed to get stuck into Henning Mankell who kept me highly entertained with his grumpy detective, Wallander (who could do with a good holiday himself), and a bloody crime to be solved by fair means or foul.

My flight home was just as fortuitous with Harry, another of Chicago’s sons, for company who helped me carry my suitcase, bursting with unread books, to a waiting bus.

Next week I’m off to Marbella with three gals from the book club for seven days of fun, fun and more fun. We’ve agreed to take two books each to share after reading so basically that’s one book a day if all goes according to plan. It should be enough, but then again, what if none of them are any good??? Oh the trials and tribulations of being too far away from my favourite bookshops and that steady supply of literary surprises growing like sturdy trees beside my bed, on the sideboard, near the couch and strewn on the hall table.

Having a good book to read is like a security blanket for bibliophiles without which we’d turn into nasty, spiteful, frustrated bores longing for an English box of Cornflakes off which to read (as if we needed to know) the ingredients, nutritional value (ha!), country of origin, and other useless information. Reading is reading when it boils down to it and going mad in a world without books doesn’t bear thinking about.

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