South – Ernest Shackleton

June 25, 2015 at 03:50 | Posted in books | 1 Comment
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I downloaded this to my Kindle ages ago., when it was on some sort of special offer. It then kind of sat there for months (or even years), but finally I was idly browsing my e-library, and remembered it. And read it, of course.

It is the account of Shackleton’s extraordinary Antarctic expedition in 1914. His plan was to traverse Antarctica, with one team setting stores on the Australia side of the continent and then retreating, and Shackleton then traversing from the other side with dogs and sleds, picking up the stores left by the other team as they crossed.

Things went rather awry right at the start when his ship got unexpectedly trapped in ice in the Weddell Sea. After several months in trapped in the floes, the ship was eventually crushed, and Shackleton and his team started a very slow and painstaking crossing of the frozen sea on foot, and then in small boats they had hitherto been dragging along with them. This took more months, all the time living in tents on the ice. They finally landed on the remote, frozen Elephant Island, and set up camp there. More months passed, and eventually Shackleton and some of his men set out to cross the wild Southern Atlantic Ocean in their tiny boat, taking many weeks to successfully reach South Georgia, where there were whaling stations. They landed on the other side of South Georgia, however, so Shackleton and his men had to then trek across the un-mapped, mountainous island to get to the whalers.

Shackleton then chartered ships and managed to effect daring rescues of the men left behind on Elephant Island, as well as the team on the other side of the continent.

The whole thing is quite extraordinary. Rather dry to be sure – there’s  a lot of longitude, latitude and weather reports. However, the extraordinary hardships they went through, living in flimsy tents in the bitterest conditions, climbing each night into sleeping bags frozen solid with ice, extraordinary thirst and hunger, navigating across some of the wildest oceans in the world in a boat not much bigger than a tinnie – absolutely extraordinary, and quite riveting. If you’ve ever thought you were cold, or hungry, or faced a difficult challenge, you will change your mind after you read this book. It’s pretty inspiring.

These men were cut off from civilization for three years, with no contact with the outside world – no radio, no messages, no possibility to call for help. And in that three years, World War 1 was raging, breaking out in the same week the expedition set out. When the men finally returned, they then threw themselves into that conflict with barely any time to rest.

Another cycling pot-pourri

June 19, 2015 at 12:00 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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Some more bits and bobs from my travels, none of which are interesting to justify an entire article..

Public Bike Share in Sydney

bikehiresydneyWho knew there was a bike share scheme running in Sydney? I came across this outside the Ibis hotel in Darling Harbour. Three dusty bikes, looking little used. Apparently helmets are available for free from the hotel reception. So that’s all right then.

At $11 for an hour, it seems a little steep, and there’s only two stations in Sydney. But I suppose if you wanted to spend $11 to get from the Ibis to the Holiday Inn it could be handy…

The CoS, of course, would like to implement a proper municipal system, but won’t do so unless there is a relaxation in helmet laws, in order to avoid the white elephants installed in Brisbane and Melbourne.

Chatswood Bike Lanes

bikelanechatswood bikelanesqueezeThere’s a bike lane near where I work – or at least the sign for one. although whether this counts as a real one is not 100% clear, as according to the road rules it has to have a ‘start’ sign as well. This is the type of ‘door zone’ lane that has been associated with at least two fatalities recently, and cyclists generally would be well advised to avoid them – either take the lane or ride on that nice empty footpath.
However, Chatswood council do like to dial things up a bit, by not only installing such lethal infrastructure, but by then narrowing it at an artificial pinch point. One imagines that this pinch point was initially there to slow motor traffic, but clearly to thus inconvenience drivers is unacceptable. So instead drivers are invited to power through with a full width lane, whilst cyclists get even more squeezed against the parked cars. Removing two car parking spaces to give cyclists space was also clearly not on the agenda…

Bike on Bike action

bikeonbikeblog I once again recently ended up with a bike stuck at work, so needed to bring two home at once. It’s something I’ve done many times, but it does make me somehow happy to ride along with a bike on a bike.



Adding Utility

bikebasket Chillikebab jnr wanted to up the practicality of her bike, so used some of her birthday money to buy a basket. Top choice, I say, and perfect for collecting interesting leaves, twigs and other artifacts from the park. Clearly a budding utility cyclist.


Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

June 8, 2015 at 20:53 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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miceandmenThe Chillikebab family went on holiday recently (well, not that recently really, but I’ve not been keeping up with my blogging recently…), enjoying a peaceful week in a rental house on the South Coast. The sun shone (mostly), the beaches were sandy, the beer was cold and there was time to relax. I always enjoy browsing the books on offer in such houses; usually a mix of yellowing paperbacks from the 1970s, strange non-fiction titles on random topics (‘How to build a Minibike’, ‘Advanced Topiary’, ‘Midwifery Careers for Modern Girls’ and so on), and a few bodice-rippers left by previous holidaymakers.

One of those yellowing paperbacks was Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’. I pulled it down from the shelf, settled down into the soft brown cord of the 1970s sofa and began to read. (I’d like to say I was driven by a great literary urge, as desire to improve myself, but in reality it has as much to do with the fact that it was a rather slim volume…)

This book is of course a classic, and with good reason. On the one hand a story of loyalty, courage and love, and on the other a horrifying tale of blank, hollow lives lived as victims of circumstance. It is concise and pithy, with rich characters and sparse, taut dialogue. As George and Lenny chase their dream; to own their own rabbit farm, it is always obvious that they will not succeed; there is a kind of awful inevitability about the ending that makes it no less arresting when it does.

If you haven’t read this as an adult, and only know of it from adaptations or schoolwork, it’s worth picking it up.

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