My Books of the Year for 2014

I was reading a lot about landscape again this year, and walking. And landscape and walking, preparing to walk in the Lake District and in Scotland, especially in Skye. I wasn’t disappointed.

Non-Fiction

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Winner – Four Fields by Tim Dee

Four Fields is an exploration four different landscapes, from the fens of England to the wind-swept aridity of the African veldt. It’s what my daughter would disparingly call ‘landscape memoir’ or I might call topographical writing. It’s beautifully written, more like poetry than prose often, and in touch with the human and the natural and with a recurring them of birds (Dee is a birder after all) My favourite landscape of the four explored was the fens, mainly because I finally got to see that landscape earlier this year, but it is all beautifully handled.

You can read a review from the Guardian HERE They called it ‘enthralling and unexpected and one from The Independent HERE

Highly Recommended

Swimming to heaven: the lost rivers of London by Iain Sinclair

This began as a monologue delivered as a speech, a pocketbook about the rivers that used to run through London, where they are now, and why they matter still. Sinclair is a poet and walker, I read London Orbital, a while ago, which describes his circular walking journey of London tracing the M1?, and loved it. This is lesser, but any lover of river literature: I’m calling them river

Amsterdam: A history of the world’s most liberal city by Russell Shorto

Travelling to Amsterdam for the first time I’m glad I read this. It’s a kind of sweeping social history of Amsterdam from its earliest founding to modern times, always with an emphasis on what it was that made this city somehow different from everywhere else in Europe, sometimes radically so.

And, I can’t leave the list-making without mentioning Walking with Wordsworth by Norman Buckley, our trusty guide to the Lake District and the only physical book I took on that trip. The walks featured all follow the Wordsworth trails and travels, and are all easily done in a day.

Fiction

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Winner - A Million Windows by Gerald Murnane

Gerald Murnane is difficult. Or I find him so. A beautiful purist who pretends to be exploring the writing of fiction while he’s really exploring his old themes: love, landscape, our place, that place just at the edge of the fields with the road and the sun flashing off the windscreen of a car driving somewhere. However, whereas I found his most recent A History of Books almost unreadable, I found this also strangely moving as perhaps one of our best writers, struggles to capture the uncapturable past.

Highly Recommended

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

I would never have picked this up to read: ‘Meet Balram Halwal, the ‘White Tiger’: servant, philosopher, entrepeneur, murderer … See. I read it because I was writing something about it for a publisher as it is coming on the Year 12 English course next year. And it was better than I thought. A first person narrative that is part thriller but mostly expose of the modern India; a place in the fulcrum of a great change: or this is what the novel says. I’ve never been to India. And there are places described here that I definitely dont’ want to visit. But, after reading this book I also feel that there’s something happening across the Indian Ocean that’s pretty interesting

Poetry

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Winner – Bluewren Cantos by Mark Tredinnick

I like Mark’s Tredinnic’s poetry, an Australian poet based in NSW. He won my poetry award two years ago with Fire Diary, and this is just as good, a lovely looking and sounding collection of poems roughly connected with the ideas of birds. There’s a bit of a theme emerging here perhaps.

Highly Recommended

Swamp by Nadi Chinna

Topographical poetry is the NBT (next big thing) says I. Or is it pyschogeography? Hopefully. This series of poems is based on an imagine walking of the old, built over lakes and swamps of Fremantle, WA.

 


Evan Jones – Selected Poems

A ‘selected’ poems is always an achievement. A ‘collected’ probably more so. So, nice to see news about a forthcoming ‘Selected Poems’ from Evan Jones, to be launched at Readings in a couple of weeks. I’ll be there!

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Evan Jones launch


Walking in nature

I’ve spent the last five weeks or so travelling, in England and Scotland mainly, doing lots of walking, thinking and some writing. The walking has helped a lot, even though I’ve come back with a sore knee which I think was due to all the steps on Arhur’s Seat.

I’ll post some more about this later, but the two most memorable places for me were the Lake District, with its wonderful walking and Wordsworth connections and Skye (see below) for the sheer beauty of the landscape.

Walking in nature is refreshing, reviving, consoling and inspiring. And, even if it makes your legs sore, or because it does, so so important.

Skye, Scotland


The solace of wild places

After the tragic and inexplicable loss of two of our best friends I’ve been finding some solace in seeking out the natural and the wild places. Not truly wild perhaps, and very much on the edges of the city and suburbs, but mostly untouched, and uncrowded. I’ve been lucky enough to be on leave from work so have had some time to walk and think. There’s something about the nature of walking that is both meditative and therapeutic, especially walking in nature. I’ve written about that before as have many others. I also enjoy cycling, for the harder physical exercise and the social side, but when you’re riding a bike you have to concentrate on that. Walking is different.

So, I’ve been walking some of my old favourite walks on the Mornington Peninsula, mostly by myself, but sometimes with friends. And it’s helped a lot. I usually take my camera, so here are some of the images from the last couple of weeks. Poems are coming, particularly one I’m working on about entering the Estuary at Mt Martha and coming into that world out of the shoreline.

 

Merricks to Red Hill walk
Pines. Merricks to Red Hill trail

Milky
Milky waves. Shoreham Beach.

Crunchie Point
Crunchie Point, Point Leo

Point Nepean
Storm coming, Point Nepean.

Point Nepean
Walking among Moonah Trees, Point Nepean

The Southern Ocean
The edge of the Southern Ocean

Point Nepean
Fortifications, Point Nepean

Bird Rock to Fossil Beach
Near Fossil Beach

 


Remembering Liam and Frankie Davison

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I was shattered at the news last Friday of the death of our closest friends, Liam and Frankie Davison in the Malaysian Airlines disaster in the Ukraine. He was a fine novelist and short story writer, and a wonderful human being. We were friends for over forty years, since Teacher’s College. He was my mentor, my listening post, my fellow editor at Peninsula Writing, cycling friend, just friend. At some time, when I’m a bit stronger, I intend putting up something more substantial online to honour his writing and try to bring together various pieces of writing. Meanwhile, you can read an obituary by Nat O’Neill HERE, read some of Liam’s writing at his Gillhaney blog HERE or read his most recent piece in The Griffith Review HERE.

There was also a piece about Liam’s writing in the Sydney Morning Herald by Gregory Day HERE.

Some details about the memorial service on Sunday are below:

Sam and Milly, along with their extended family, invite friends to gather at Toorak College on the upper playing field overlooking Port Phillip Bay on Sunday 27 July 2014 at 2:30pm, to pay tribute and share our love for Liam and Frankie.

Liam and Frankie’s family’s have been extremely touched by the love and support received over the past week. In 2011 Frankie and Liam visited The Annapurna Self-Sustaining Orphan Home in Pokhara, Nepal, where they were both touched by the incredible work being done there. These efforts rely largely on donations, in which the Davisons were instrumental over the last few years.

A trust has been set up for the Orphan Home in Liam and Frankie’s memory. Rather than flowers, we ask that those wishing to continue their support to the Davison family make donations to this fund.

With much love and thanks.

Annapurna Self-Sustaining Orphan Home, Pokhara, Nepal

Account Name: Amelia Davison Annapurna Orphanage

BSB: 06 3550

Account Number: 1036 2702

 


Crossing the Yangtze

I love rivers. A couple of years ago in China I had a spare afternoon and a driver, and no-one else had any better ideas so I asked if we could see the Yangtze River, which wasn’t far away. So we drove down there, drove over and drove back. I didn’t get out of the car and certainly didn’t taste the water like I didn’t taste the water like I did when I came to the broad majestic Shannon years ago. Anyway, I took lots of photos and today found them again and spliced them into a movie. The sci-fi effect is linked to the odd dislocating experience of this surreal river crossing. I’m glad I’ve seen it.


The Eye

I’m sure this will be a poem sometime: sitting in the bird hide in the Briars late yesterday afternoon, after a walk in the cold and wind, just enjoying being inside and watching some cormorant drying their black wings, suddenly a white egret flying in and sitting inches away, feathers rustling, holding itself close against the wind and the cold, it’s bright, unblinking eye.

Egret in the Briars
Egret in the Briars


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