The Gorilla Hunters by RM Ballantyne

There were old tea chests in a spare room at my grandparents’ house. In them, my younger brother and I found 78 RPM records, 1940s Film Fun Annuals and Biggles books, which had belonged to my father and his brother as boys. But for the 10-year-old me, the greatest treasure was a mint copy of The Gorilla Hunters by R.M. Ballantyne.  Continue ReadingThe Gorilla Hunters by RM Ballantyne

The Books You Read At School

Ask anyone who, like me, was a kid in Australia the 1970s, “What were the books you read at school?” and we’re likely to recall at least three novels. There may be more, but for me, these three are the classics, the ones I had to read, analyse and write essays on in English. And, in their different ways, they left a deep impression on me. Perhaps that’s why I still have copies of them in my bookcase – though none are school days’ originals! Continue ReadingThe Books You Read At School

Mona Lisa Smile

A faded photo of my dad from the 1970s inspired this microfiction. He had a faraway look in his eyes and a Mona Lisa smile on his much younger face. As art lovers have done for centuries with Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, I wondered what was on my dad’s mind when the photo was taken? Continue ReadingMona Lisa Smile

Queens Park Dog Walkers

One day in 2001, I saw Amy the yellow lab in Queens Park with her owner, “The bloke with a beard”. He told me that ‘John had died’ and ‘Amy was missing him’. It took a few moments to realise he was talking about one of my fellow dog walkers, “The old bloke who walked Amy the lab for his neighbour”. Continue ReadingQueens Park Dog Walkers

English Pubs and Last Orders

I loved pubs when I lived in England in 1980s & ’90s! Unlike Australian pubs of the day (which thankfully have improved since then!), the English pubs I frequented were social meeting places, for men & women, not just somewhere for blokes to get plastered & start fights (though those pubs did exist!). Continue ReadingEnglish Pubs and Last Orders

Large Print Editions

After watching the movie versions of Their Finest by Lissa Evans and The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman, I was pleased to track down the books in my local library. The librarian, however, quizzed me with an arched eyebrow, “They are large print editions, is that okay?” Continue ReadingLarge Print Editions

32 Years of Diaries

In a loft cupboard at home is a cardboard box containing all the daily diaries and travel journals I’ve kept since I set off backpacking from Australia in 1987. The travel journals are typically student exercise books, with each day’s sights and highlights recorded over two or more pages. By their nature, daily diaries of work and everyday life are less exciting than travel journals and it took me many years to settle on a format which gave me room to jot down the day’s main events without feeling like it was a chore to do so. Continue Reading32 Years of Diaries

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

As the idiom says, you should never judge a book by its cover (though this book’s cover with the dog would catch my eye in a bookshop). But I’ve found the first sentence to be a fair judge of whether or not I’ll enjoy a novel:  “I could smell him – or rather the booze on his breath – before he even opened the door, but my sense of smell is pretty good, probably better than yours.” Continue ReadingDog On It by Spencer Quinn

My Favourite Libraries

A friend shared a Facebook post by Architectural Digest inviting the reader to “Step Inside the World’s Coolest Library”. The futuristically designed library in Tianjin, China, aptly nicknamed The Eye, is cool, lined from floor to cathedral high ceilings with bookshelves that follow the curved contours of the building and, most importantly for the avid reader, are stocked full of books. Continue ReadingMy Favourite Libraries