Archive for April, 2008

Haiku #39: Swamphen

A regal swamphen
Struts majestically across
Muddy river flats.

(C) 2008 Trevor W. Hampel

All rights reserved.

Read more of my poetry here.

Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen


The value of books

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx.

I agree.

I love books. I have a large and ever expanding library of books. I collect them. They are my constant companions. I have piles of them alongside my favourite reading chair in my office. I have a pile of them alongside my bed. I constantly have four or five or more on the go at once. I have many more that I regularly refer to in my daily activities, especially in relation to my writing, books such as dictionaries. Others I dip into at random, enjoying a page or two as the mood or occasion takes me. I take books with me when I travel. Hardly a day passes without me having read something.

More recently, since getting back into study again, the local public library and the university library are frequent haunts. The regular stream of overdue notices are not a sign of tardiness; it is a reluctance to give up wonderful books that oh so briefly come into my life. In this context I rarely if ever borrow book; parting with them is such sweet sorrow.

I live to Read, and I read to Live.

Good reading.

PS: The bit about the dog is a mystery to me. This is a typical Marxism: not having ever been inside a dog, I couldn’t even begin to imagine that world. It must be terrible though. Imagine NEVER being able to read.

What I am reading: “The Canterbury Tales”

One of the required units of study for my Master of Arts course in Creative Writing is a unit on English Literature. It covers some of the great themes of English literature from Beowulf through to modern times. With such a broad scope there quite a deal of reading involved.

One of the texts I needed to read was Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. It had been over 40 years since I last read any of these fascinating tales. It was initially a struggle to come to terms with the version of English used at the time. As I got into it more, and as we read aloud from the text during the tutorial, I become more comfortable with reading it.

We weren’t required to read the whole work; that’s a major study in itself. We read sections only, dipping into several of the tales to sample some of the major themes. As I became more accustomed to the language being used I was amazed at the accomplishment of this important poet and storyteller. Some of the tales are hilarious and most that we read are good yarns. It was good to revisit them again after all those intervening years.

What I am reading: “Othello”

I recently revisited William Shakespeare’s Othello as part of the required reading for one of the units I am doing as part of my Master of Arts in Creative Writing course. It had been over 40 years since I last studied this play. I didn’t know how I would react to it after such a long break. I need not have worried.

I managed to read the play in two sittings. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The subsequent lecture and tutorial was quite stimulating with some excellent discussion on the many issues raised in the play.

The thing that struck me most forcefully in this study was the sheer nastiness of Iago. I had forgotten just how evil he was portrayed by Shakespeare. I am struggling to think of a more fundamentally evil character in English literature. The only character I can come up with is Hannibal Lecter in the film Silence of the Lambs. I am appealing for any readers to correct me in this; please leave a comment.

I was also amazed at the gullibility of Othello in falling for all of Iago’s manipulations. A major, tragic flaw in an otherwise outstanding character. Then there is Desdemona; her innocence is tragically only outweighed by her naivety.

What I learned from having a job for a day

Robert over at Middle Zone Musings is having another Group Writing Project. This time it is about what we learned from odd jobs. The same group writing project is being held over at good word editing and is called Lessons from Odd Jobs.

What I learned from having a job for a day

I haven’t had many jobs in my life. In high school I paid for my first transistor radio by spending a great slab of my summer holidays cutting apricots. These were then dried ready for sale in shops. It was hot, sticky backbreaking work. I was paid 12 cents a tray. Each tray was about a square metre in size and took about a half hour to fill. I didn’t get rich quickly.

My second job lasted 35 years and it was spent behind bars in a classroom full of noisy children. More recently I’ve done some relief driving for a friend’s courier business. That’s it. The sum total of my working life. Except for one day.

In my second year of teaching I was the Head Teacher of a school in outback South Australia. Real frontier stuff. I had the grand title of Head Teacher. I was the only teacher. For a dozen children. Being the only government worker for nearly eighty kilometres in any direction I was offered a job for a day. Returning Officer for the government elections. I ran the polling booth in the classroom, opening at 8am and closing at 8pm and then waiting until nearly midnight for the ballot box to be collected.

So – what did I learn from having a job for just one day?

Patience sometimes has its own reward

I learned patience that day. If I remember correctly, I only had the grand total of 16 voters turn up for the day, and that included me! But sometimes patience has its own reward; I was paid more for that one day’s work than I earned as a teacher in about three weeks!