Week 3 of Childhood

Only one book to add this week as I was reading something off topic.

No Lily-livered Girl – Phyllis Johnston

No Lily-livered Girl is the story of four years in the life of May Tarrant. At fourteen, in 1912, she is apprenticed to a dressmaker in Hamilton in the North Island of New Zealand. Her ten-hour working day is wearisome, town life is strange, and she is homesick for the farming country she has left. A courageous old lady recognises May’s strength and tells her, “You don’t look a lily-livered girl!” That her opinion was right is demonstrated as May makes friends, including a young bank clerk named Ken, enters the world of competitive swimming, and copes with a traumatic experience. The start of World War One brings another crisis to May, and when she is seventeen this determined young woman returns to the King Country and makes the biggest decision of her life.


This finishes up the May Tarrant series. I spent several years growing up in Hamilton so it was interesting to read about the early days. Things have certainly changed in 100 years. One thing I enjoyed with this book was May’s battles with her mother regarding ‘proper’ behaviour, and the desire as a young adult for independence. Something that teenagers today can still identify with. Current events are more to the forefront with WW1 having an impact. Mostly enjoyed it.


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Week 2 of Childhood

It’s been rather relaxing focusing on YA/children’s books this week. A nice way to escape from the stress of the adult world.


Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

The Walker children – also known as Captain John, Mate Susan, Able-Seaman Titty, and Ship’s Boy Roger – set sail on the Swallow and head for Wild Cat Island. There they camp under open skies, swim in clear water and go fishing for their dinner. But their days are disturbed by the Blackett sisters, the fierce Amazon pirates. The Swallows and Amazons decide to battle it out, and so begins a summer of unforgettable discoveries and incredible adventures.


This was the first time I’d read the book. I was long familiar with the title but had never picked it up to read, and finally decided that I should. I’m glad I did because I did enjoy it. Published in 1930 it portrays a very different way of life. There’s no way parents today would allow their children to sail to an uninhabited island in the middle of a lake and to camp on their own – they’d be considered negligent! That’s not even taking into consideration the rules and regulations regarding the camping. But how wonderful to have that independence, to have your abilities and common sense trusted by your parents, all the while knowing that you had adult support in the background. Some parts with the sailing terms bored me a little. Loved the sense of adventure, use of imagination and seeing children entertain themselves. Looking forward to reading more of the series.

Black Boots and Buttonhooks and A Comet in the Sky – Phyllis Johnston

These two books follow on the story of May Tarrant from last week’s No One Went to Town, taking the story up to 1910. I know I read Black Boots and Buttonhooks at school but couldn’t remember any details. A Comet in the Sky was new to me, and not easy to get hold of. They continue to be an interesting look at New Zealand’s pioneering history. Of particular interest was the setting up of the dairy co-operative. My dad worked at a co-operative dairy factory although I’m don’t know what the set up was like. Interesting to see how the one at Piopio was formed.


No movies to watch, but I watched the first series of Angels. This 1970s British nursing series was influential in me choosing nursing as a career. I have fond memories of watching it with my mum. It had been over 25 years since I’d seen an episode and despaired at it ever coming out on dvd. But, it did a couple of months ago and doing my periodic check to see if it was available, found it on Amazon. Much excitement from me and immediately ordered it. I pretty much devoured the 15 episodes this week. There’s always the risk of an old programme not living up to expectations, but I didn’t find that. I don’t have strong memories of any particular scenes except for one, so it was very much watching it afresh. Shirley is still my favourite and I’m still not particularly fond of Jo. My own nursing training 40 years after this series is set was quite different, and it’s fun watching it from that perspective. I always wanted to wear a uniform with cap and apron – no such luck!  There’s plenty of cigarette smoking, not something you see much of on screen these days. Single room wards, manual handling and strict visiting hours all very different to working now.  I hope I don’t have to wait too long until the next series is released.

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August’s Theme is Childhood

The new theme for this month is Childhood. The three books I read this past week were YA books, two of which I had read when I was considerably younger than I am now.

The Twelfth Day of July – Joan Lingard

Sadie is Protestant, Kevin is Catholic – and on the tense streets of Belfast their lives collide. It starts with a dare – kids fooling around – but soon becomes something dangerous. Getting to know Sadie Jackson will change Kevin’s life forever. But will the world around them change too?


Across the Barricades – Joan Lingard

Kevin and Sadie just want to be together, but it’s not that simple. Things are bad in Belfast. Soldiers walk the streets and the city is divided. No Catholic boy and Protestant girl can go out together – not without dangerous consequences . . .


Published in the early 1970’s The Twelfth Day of July and Across the Barricades are the first two books in Lingard’s Kevin and Sadie series about a Catholic teenager who meets a Protestant teenager and form a friendship despite the tensions between the two groups in Belfast. Lingard presents a neutral viewpoint, both sides do things that can be considered ‘wrong.’ It’s easy to see how easy it is to keep spreading hate and that true courage comes from standing up for what you believe in.

I remember reading Across the Barricades in high school in the late 1980s. I don’t know if I read The Twelfth Day of July. All I remember from my first reading in the forbidden friendship and that I enjoyed it.  I don’t think I paid a lot of attention to the political situation in Northern Ireland at that time. Belfast was simply a place many people wouldn’t think about going on holiday. Do they still hold up? I think they do although I’m sure some young people today would consider them boring, as they are rather slow paced and not a lot of ‘action’.  However, many of the themes in the books can be applied to so many different situations. The difficulties one faces when beliefs become different to those held by families and communities, the innocents that get caught up in any conflict, that you can’t simply judge an individual by their religion – not everyone is an extremist.

No One Went to Town – Phyllis Johnston

A story of New Zealand pioneers based on stories told by the author’s mother and uncles. The Tarrant family are farming in a remote area in the central North Island in the early 1900’s. Supplies are ordered and delivered by surveyors working in the area and the only time anyone goes to town is in the event of a serious accident. Simple accidents are dealt with on the farm, often without any form of medical assistance such as stitching up a leg with needle and thread.

In some ways it is similar to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books with the description of daily life and events, I just don’t think Johnston has the same skill as a writer. I read this book for the first time when I was around 10 years old and enjoyed it then. I do still enjoy it as an adult. It’s a shame that it’s no longer in print because I do feel it’s important to remember our pioneers. I love history anyway, and so often books like these give a sense of what life was like more than just reading a non-fiction book. There are 3 more books in the same series, two of them I know I have never read.

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Week 4 of the 1940’s

Okay, this brings up the final week of the 1940’s and I haven’t really anything to show. I am partially through one book and that’s it for this week. Sometimes real life just doesn’t go to plan. I have been successful in moving several books off the pile and one movie. Some of the books had been gathering dust for a few years.  I found it difficult in some ways because I felt trapped into only being permitted to read certain books. Obviously I’m going to need to give myself permission to read off the topic if I need to. I need to find the balance between challenging myself and risk losing interest.

The English Patient – Michael Ondaaje. Set in 1940s.

Haunting and harrowing, as beautiful as it is disturbing, The English Patient tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian monastery as World War II ends. The exhausted nurse, Hana; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless burn victim who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning.

I am enjoying it so far, and aim to finish it off tonight. Will try to remember to update next week.

Next Month’s Theme will be Childhood.

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Week 3 of the 1940s

A day late and not much to show for the past week. One of the downsides of working nights is not getting much done other than sleeping, but I did manage a book and a movie.


April in Paris – Michael Wallner (Set during 1940s)


When people on Paris’s bustling streets look at Michael Roth, they see little more than a Parisian student, a quietly spoken young man with a book under his arm, handsome but guarded. What they do not realize is that he is carrying a painful secret, one that he cannot even reveal to the woman he loves.

For Michael is no ordinary Frenchman but a German. He has been sent to Paris to assist the Nazis in dealing with Resistance fighters. Desperate to escape his daily life, he steals into the world of the oppressed Parisians, and into the path of Chantal. But as Michael falls for the bookseller’s beautiful daughter, he discovers that a person’s past always catches up with them. Soon he will be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice and choose between his country, his life and his destiny.


I wanted to like this more than I did. Most of my problems with this book stem from not buying the romance. Written in the first-person, we’re told by by Roth often enough of his feelings for Chantal, but I just couldn’t ‘see’ it. The whole affair seemed rather cold, not some extraordinary life-changing romance. A bit of an issue when it underpins several major decisions by him. I would have liked to have seen a little more internal conflict.


Bad Blood (1982, set 1941)

Based on a true event, New Zealand farmer Stan Graham after a police dispute regarding the confiscation of firearms kills 7 men and flees into bush sparking a 12 day manhunt.

In parts it was easy to feel some sympathy for Graham – the isolation he and his family experienced, his increasing paranoia which wasn’t helped by his wife, the poverty and less than supportive neighbours. But, I certainly didn’t want him to triumph. It disturbs me that in parts of the country he was lauded as a bit of a hero.



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Week 2 of the 1940s

Have been thinking over this week that a month is going to be too long in some cases, so may have look at revising the length of time for each theme. The 1940s works for this month as I do have plenty of suitable books and movies (must get watching!) I think a month for some topics and a fortnight for others would be better. Anyway, on to the past week where I watched nothing but read three books.

Pied Piper – Nevil Shute (1942)

John Howard is determined to brighten up his old age by taking a fishing trip to France. However, during his stay the Nazis invade and he is forced to try to escape back to England with the two small children of some friends who are forced to stay behind in order to help the Allied war effort. As the conflict grows closer the roads become impassable and Howard also comes across five more children who need his help. He ends up leading this motley group of youngsters through the French countryside, constantly beset by danger yet heroically protecting his charges.

I enjoyed this. Even though from the start you know Howard gets back to England, it’s nice to see how it all unfolds. Howard is just a thoroughly decent man.

No Highway – Nevil Shute (1948)

Theodore Honey is a shy, inconspicous aircraft engineer whose eccentric interests in quantum mechanics and spiritualism are frowned upon in aviation circles. But when a passenger plane crashes in unexplained circumstances, Honey must convince his superiors that his unorthodox theories are correct before more lives are lost.

Some of the technical stuff when over my head a little, but didn’t spoil my enjoyment overall. Likeable characters, some thrilling moments and a little bit of romance.


The Railwayman’s Wife – Ashley Hay. Recently published, set in 1948.

In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway’s library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank Draper is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive.

Enjoyed this. Slow moving and melancholy. No quite the happy ending I was hoping for, but worth the read.


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July’s Theme is 1940s

Having already read one book in this era, I have decided to make the 1940’s my first monthly theme. I have quite a few books and movies that fit so it’s the perfect start.

In my first week I have read The Separation by Christopher Priest. A book that deals with alternate realities, identical twins, doppelgangers, and WW2. I did very much enjoy this even though I’m not quite sure which was the “truth”. This book was a recent purchase.

Even though not strictly 1940 (published in 1939) I read What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute which had been waiting to be read for about 18 months (still had the receipt in it!) I grabbed it because I wanted to read another WW2 book. It’s a prophetic novel on the bombing of Southampton destroying the infrastructure and leaving the inhabitants vulnerable to the spread of diseases such as cholera. The story follows one family’s fight for survival. I’ve read several of Shute’s novels and have always enjoyed them. I initially found the wife (Joan) irritating with her whining about having to care for the children on her own when the nurse and maid left, but through out the book becomes less whiny and shows her strength. My one grumble with the book was with all the concern regarding water, that no one seemed to think about catching rainwater!

I haven’t watched anything yet, but have discovered the joys of internet radio – yes, I’m a bit behind! I’ve been listening at times to Radio Swing Worldwide http://radioswingworldwide.rad.io/  It’s not an era I have much of in the way of music.

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